Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Definitive Explanation of Alignments - Almost... Plus: About Blogs!

Advanced Gaming and Theory's June 9 post is all about alignments. It's always grated on me that people seem to think alignment is... well... I don't know. Every version of D&D treats alignment differently for some dang reason.

(And wouldn't you know it... I left a note about my criticism on the blog, and the criticism was listened to and the blog was changed for the better! Egads! Egads! I'm not used to people actually listening to me! But the actual article was merely a springboard for many of my points, so... go read the article, it's really good, and also note the points I make below, they're really good too, but realize they remark on content that has been since changed...)

AG&T's post starts off strong and reading through the description of the Law vs Chaos axis, I get the feeling that we finally have gotten something definitive on alignment that's both usable and makes perfect sense.

Then the fact that this is for AD&D 2E gets in the way. AG&T is a 2E resource blog, meaning it's for 1E but with the evocative parts sanded off for general consumption. I originally meant for that to be a joke, but take a look at what happens when the article shifts to the Good vs Evil axis... it falls apart and ceases to be description or analysis. It says that evil will always lose, it turns into a "soapbox" (AG&T's words) about how Evil is just not good (so to speak) to play, and the article really just derails and ceases to be a useful discussion of alignment at that point. But because the article is about the nine-point alignment system, it's impossible to use the Law/Chaos portion for the games that use just that axis for alignment purposes.

I call for Mr. Ripper X (dude, it's really awful to write such in-depth, and usually well thought-out articles on a regular basis and have the byline be some ridiculous pseudonym... sign your damn work) to re-think and revise, because he's onto something here and there will be value in doing this right.

This does remind me about one of the reasons why I hate blogs in general, and why my daily reading of about a dozen blogs now is frequently nothing more than an exercise in frustration. Blogs aren't written rigorously (and make no mistake, my blog is no better than the rest and worse than some in this regard). Sometimes they are useful or profound, but the format doesn't promote such a thing. They are flashes of thought, thrown out there for discussion. That's not a bad thing by any means, but it seems that yesterday's blog is yesterday's news, never to be revisited and never to be developed further. I think that's why I like Grognardia so much. It was the blog that showed me that blogs weren't just flighty piles of mental flatulence (and made me think that perhaps I could have a blog myself that wasn't a worthless pile of poo - although that's for you, the dear sweet reader, to decide). And Maliszewski's ideas build. I really think (hope) he's building to something real (as in, beyond the scope of having a blog) with everything he's talking about, something that will reflect the discovery and pontification he indulges in within his blog.

But I think a lot of us out here in blogland should recognize what we're doing. There are a lot of good raw ideas out there... but there is no reason they should be left as raw ideas. Taking our blogs as statements of intent, we should be writing actual articles on these subjects, and then finding a forum (no, not a web forum!) to properly publish them.

I find it rather insulting to the concept of "publishing" that these blog posts are considered "publishing" by blogspot (or blogger or what the hell ever the name of this site is)... this button down here that says "Publish Post"... who the hell are we kidding? Let's face it, blogging encourages laziness. How many blog posts do we see in our little "old-school" sphere that consist of nothing more than linking to someone else's blog when we find a particular entry interesting? If you're already linking to a blog, your recommendation that readers of your blog read their blog is implicit, and it's just taking up space and acting "current" (I didn't do a blog today, oh noes, I'm going to lose readers/I'll look like I've got the lazies/My relevance is going down the intertubes!!!!!) to then point out a particular post on an already-linked blog... unless you have further commentary on the matter. Turning someone else's thoughts into a starting point and springboard for your own thoughts, well, that's "the blogosphere" (stupid, stupid, stupid word) working as it should. But it only works if it is just a starting point and a springboard.

So if everything works as it should, you've either got a a solid, worked and re-worked essay that you've done yourself, or you've got an article that's been made by several people who have all gone in different directions andexpanded upon the potential of the original idea. What now?

Publish. For real. Fight On! takes open submissions. So does Dragonsfoot's Footprints. Note that both of those are D&D-oriented without using any license. Matthew Finch wants to get an OGL counterpart to Fight On! off the ground. Those non-paying "for the cause" efforts for traditional games might make it easier to publish collaborative efforts without worrying about rights issues. There are the usual avenues for those who want to move into "more serious" or even "for profit" offers. Anything, anything, to make things carry more weight than the numerous thoughtless, or thoughtful yet underdeveloped, written work found on livejournal, blogspot, and whatever the hell else is out there.

Because the internet isn't real, and the stuff found solely on the internet isn't real stuff. I don't believe in virtual reality. Nothing that goes away without electricty is real. It's just stuff with the potential to be real, it's a tool to help unreal things become real. And few things are as tragic as unfulfilled potential.


  1. Oh my. This ended on a phenomenally stupid note.

    If you really believe paper inherently carries more weight than a blog, pdf or conversation, you're so far off from my frame of reference it's not even funny.

  2. Well, I don't agree that communicating ideas on the web is less real than communicating those ideas on paper. (And don't forget that Footprints is a PDF, which means it's "virtual reality" unless you print it out, which can be done with a web page, too...)

    Nevertheless, I think the points about ease of "publishing" and its effect on quality are valid. I don't think the dichotomy is really print vs. electronic, although that affects the overall ease. Again, I cite Footprints; what makes publishing an article in Footprints "weightier" than publishing a blog post is the fact that Footprints has an editor that vets the submissions, and a reader base that expects a higher degree of quality than is allowed for blog posts. You could also argue that Footprints is designed to have a limited amount of space, which makes a difference.

    Jim, I thought your comment about real names was interesting, too. That's something I've been thinking about. My "musings" site started as a lark, without much thought given to it. I sometimes regret that I started off using the name "Philotomy," for a couple of reasons. (Oddly enough, my real name is on the bylines of material in both Fight On! and Footprints. I'm also working on a project for TLG which will -- assuming it makes it all the way to publication -- have my real name on it. At some point I'll probably want to start associating my real name and my online name.)

  3. And don't forget that Footprints is a PDF, which means it's "virtual reality" unless you print it out, which can be done with a web page, too...

    See the part of the post where I note that blogs are not rigorously written. :P Although your explanation does explain why I had the brain fart about that.

  4. If you really believe paper inherently carries more weight than a blog, pdf or conversation, you're so far off from my frame of reference it's not even funny.

    There is nothing inherent about paper that makes it superior, but generally the effort and investment needed to physically publish generally means it's weightier. I would have thought places like lulu.com would have started making print products complete crap more often as well, but I've not seen that happening. Not with things I've bought, anyway.

  5. Jim I agree with your points in regard to blogs. I do find that many blogs, including my own, are often littered with filler material. There have been more than a few posts I've made simply because I felt it was time to blog!

    Also, I do agree that for the most part, blogs are about recent posts. I spend hours bouncing around reading blogs, but I rarely, if ever, read the older posts in most of the blogs I frequent.

    Sometimes I visit a blog and wonder why there hasn't been a post in four days. It's a silly notion, really. I recently had a nearly week long hiatus without any real posts. I was actually concerned abot it, until I realized it's better to post real meat than just throw up an article to let readers know you are still there.

    On the other hand, I do apprecciate the grass roots feel of blogging, where readers are your best critics. I recently took the advice of some of my critics and submitted one of my articles to Fight On!. If it takes me another three months of drivel to put together one more article worthy of submission, I apologize to my readers beforehand (but will happily continue plunking keys until then, knowing there is perhaps a reason for this blogging business).

    Keep up the great blog, James.

    ~Sham aka Dave

  6. Actually, I changed the article because I thought that you were right. Thanks for your input!

    I have been online for many, many years. Back when a nick use to mean something. I am still of the opinion that one should never use their real name, because it is just dangerous. I've had my share of stalkers, death threats, and complications with spooky people whom I don't want to be able to find me by simply picking up a telephone book.

    I wouldn't write my name on a bathroom wall, nor would I do so on the internet. Ripper X works for me, it always has. I'm also part of a writers guild which meets up from time to time, even then it is just Rip.

    In regards to blogging, I was kind of press-ganged into it. I am still experimenting with content, and am getting to the point were I'm trying to eliminate filler, but as far as reading, I think that Trollsmyth is just a godsend. His site quickly tells the reader what they need to know about what is happening in the web.

    I've seen the Internet do a ton of evolving, 1 year translates into 10 in real-time. Usenet turned to Chatrooms, then to BBS, and finally to the blog. We are still experimenting with how far we can push this thing before we need to create something new, something better. Trust me, it will come. I'm still surprised that the BBS is out of vogue, I really liked them! Granted, it takes a lot of work from lots of people, which I suppose is the reason why they have been replaced, but I have many fond memories of them.

  7. The fundamental difference between paper and a blog is that paper, by and large, incorporates an EDITOR. Someone who can say, "This is shit, I'm not publishing it." Thus encouraging greater effort. A sense of, oh I don't know, let's call it "quality."

    I recognize your frustration, Jim. Two years I've been blogging; I can't find even remotely a dozen D&D blogs to read. I only found you last week.

    Thanks for the link to Grognardia; since it is wrapped around a fair bit of text, I can't fault you for merely linking to other blogs.

    As far as alignment goes, dump it entirely. You'll feel better.

    As far as publishing goes, I do so professionally, elsewhere, and on subjects not about D&D. I would consider publishing in D&D, but 2 cents a word (the upper end of the scale) is somewhat less than minimum wage.