Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Mr. Ron Edwards

I was quite interested to find you had an article in the new Fight On!

Luckily I advertised in the new issue so I received one of the advance "contributor" copies earlier this evening. After checking that my ad is OK, the first (and thus far only) article I read was yours.

Your essay on the pussification of the presentation of D&D and the timidity of the Old School Renaissance in addressing that was interesting, and I agree with much of it. Just today, someone who really should know better is showing the exact signs of capitulation that you're talking about. My response there came before reading your article.

But near the end of your article, you mention me, and I wonder if you really know what you are commenting on.

Are you familiar with this blog post I wrote last year? How about this one? Or how I spent a large part of the first date I had with the woman I now live with talking about Carcosa?

But let's talk about allowing the Creature Generator to be edited by the larger publisher that I allowed to take over the project.

I released the original edition of the Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra on April 23, 2008. I sent copies to several publishers who also deal with old-school releases, among them Goodman Games. On May 1, Joseph Goodman contacted me about the possibility of Goodman Games re-releasing it for general retail distribution.

I had several conditions that were not part of the original offer, and on May 31, 2008 I received a contract offer I found agreeable. On June 2 I sent it back, signed.

One of my conditions, and I hope I'm not violating my contract here, is that I have final approval over the text. I didn't just allow changes to be made, I had to actively approve them. But we''ll get to that in a moment.

Let's talk artwork.

Here is the original Creature Generator cover (click for larger version):

I thought this was awesome. And Aino isn't just some random person on the internet that I recruited to do some art for me. We have been known to be seen in public together on occasion. She was cool enough to work with me for my vision for the book, which was inspired by the similarly-nude artwork in the original Monster Manual. (and let's face it, this was the only way I'm ever going to see her boobs)

I also talked about the interior artwork for the book extensively in past blog posts here.

And not a bit of it was used for the Goodman Games version.


One, Goodman Games has its own stable of artists that it uses. Two, the interior artwork in the original version wasn't exactly exemplary (I think we can all agree that Aino's piece in Death Frost Doom is superior to any of her drawings in the original Creature Generator?). Three, leaving all commercial considerations aside and not worrying what distributors or retailers would think about the above cover art... it was not suitable for a professionally printed book.

Those that have the print version can attest it doesn't look as good as the image above. It was not delivered to me at a high resolution. The various graphic elements that were pulled from who-knows-where were not hi-res, so the entire picture was not hi-res. To be suitable for professional publication, it would have had to be re-done from scratch. And it wouldn't be me commissioning it this time.

You really want to say that I pussed out in not insisting that Goodman Games use this cover art (which does not and never did exist as a whole in color) for their release? Seriously?

Now let's talk about the text. Pretty much the entire introduction was indeed rewritten. In fact, someone over there at Goodman Games took it upon themselves to rewrite that introduction themselves. There was no way I was having a book with my byline released with text I didn't write (and I thought the version submitted to me was not so great), so I rewrote it myself.

And it did need to be rewritten. The original introduction was a profanity-laced rant against Wizards of the Coast, having pretty much nothing to do with the Creature Generator itself. In my rewritten version, I was able to promote my dedication to traditional D&D without coming across as a complete asshole. What else changed?

I added a few more entries to the animal table. If you have the original version, add Caterpillar, Cockroach, Flea, Ladybug, Mosquito, and Termite to the Insect column (and roll d3 then d6 on that column).

In the Creature Motivations table, under the "Mating" entry (inspired by Alien), it originally said this: "Very important: Referees should not use this as a license or even a suggestion to rape characters in play, and the creature won’t be trying to fuck characters in the middle of combat." That last clause was removed.

Under the "Putting It All Together" section, "it’s not just a glop of thrown together shit," became, "it’s not just a glop of thrown together-together ideas."

Those are the sorts of changes that were made to the text. That's the editing.

The only change that was made that I perhaps should have stood up to was that the "Racism" section at the end was changed to "Prejudices." But the actual text about making opponents human and using racism in the game as a narrative element and not being afraid of creating objectively different strains of humans instead of mindlessly using orcs or goblins, and the line, "The game is fiction, and a referee should never allow comparisons between his real-life attitudes and how he handles orc analogues in his game," are all intact. The only difference in this section is that it talks about using "prejudice" instead of saying, "racism."

But I didn't see it, and don't see it now, as really a big deal and I don't think it waters down of the content of the book one little bit.

When Goodman Games took the book over, I had sold 19 copies of the Creature Generator (and sent off over 30 more to Insect Shrine pre-orderers as a gift). Under Goodman Games' stewardship, it has of course sold many, many times that amount. And the actual content of the book, the entire point of the book, to make new and unusual monsters, was unchanged save for the removal of profanity which had nothing to do with the aim of the project to begin with.

And that's fun and games. I took a bath on my printing of the Creature Generator and was happy (more or less) to do so because it was my project. I set it up and released it to the best of my ability at the time. When handing it over to Goodman, it's not like I was suddenly rolling in the money. Everyone here knows freelance rates in this business, especially for first-timers, don't exactly add up to a living wage.

I mention this because right now I'm having a go at doing this full-time. No safety net. Not a hobby. Attempting to make a living selling this stuff. And here are two details of one of the pieces of art (the Goblin Kitchen) to appear in my next release (Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill):

... drawn last year by a girl who was 17 at the time.

Here I am, Ron, an "obvious example" of a guy conforming to "Victorian societal values" and "dialing back" offensive material in order to "protect the hobby."

You sure nailed that one, didn't you?


  1. I cant see the forest 'cause I just got poked in the eye by a tree branch ;)

  2. Man, just when I thought that dude passed into obscurity. So, what has Ron Edwards done recently that's of merit?

  3. He's been in Fight On! :)

    I am reminded of this article:

  4. I suspect that Edwards did not target you by accident or out of ignorance. Indeed, I imagine this was exactly the sort of response he was hoping for. Controversy gets people talking. :D

  5. So, if this dude is known as an attention-seeker, how did he get published then?

  6. Am I a bad person for stopping at the line "Which finally brings me to my own little
    latest offering, now available from Adept Press"?

    The line before that, "Role-playing originated precisely in individuals publishing what they wanted to publish, and violating this principle harms no one worse than ourselves", confused me a little. Is anybody holding back? I put exactly what I wanted into my own stupid little book. Hell, the primary audience was me. I didn't include anything that I wouldn't use at my own game table. But if anybody in the OSR is actually not publishing stuff they want to out of fear of a moral backlash, the guy has a point. But my question remains, does anyone know of anybody self-censoring?

  7. I wish you had self-censored that last piece of artwork. I'm about to lose my dinner (and the last two glasses of scotch that went with it..).

  8. This Just In: Ron Edwards misses the point.

    Film at 11.

  9. Those pics remind me a bit of illustrations in old black metal fanzines, though much better in quality and having a context.

    I like monsters doing monstrous things, as long as there is context, even when it's apparently preparing brain salad.

  10. (after Korgoth)

    This Just In: Someone promoted their product and sparked controversy about a rival product in a magazine article. Film at 11.

    PS. Intrigued about DeathFrostDoom.

  11. The second illustration for the Goblin Kitchen could be a cover sketch for the next Cannibal Corpse release.

  12. I told Laura to use the cover of Butchered at Birth as a reference for the Kitchen.

  13. Hah.

    Ron Edwards is one of those really smart, really innovative people who has a perfect knack for coming off as a complete and total douche. His Sorcerer RPG is, while not exactly my cup of tea, fairly interesting. I still think his supplement Sorcerer & Sword packs more information about Sword & Sorcery genre RPGing than many products several times its size.

    And yet I fight the urge to throw his stuff across the room every time I read it because it's so laced with his elitist blather. I think he needs to go and join Mark Rein * Hagen wherever he is these days and form a commune of brilliant and yet stupid game developers who don't know when to keep their traps shut.

    Ah well...

  14. I know who James Edward Raggi IV is, but who is Ron Edwards?

    Funny the pass code is DieDuc

  15. It is kind of weird/interesting but at the same time utterly dismissible when random people come out of the woodwork to make proclamations about how it "should be."

  16. So...Ron Edwards is mad because there aren't line drawings of boobs in game books these days? Someone should tell him about the in-ter-net, a mysterious place with more boobs than he can shake his stick at.