Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oz: Dark and Terrible

As I try to keep abreast of both roleplaying and Oz, this particular item got my attention.

As I said in my interview with Blair Frodelius over at the Daily Ozmapolitan, I don't generally care for dark takes on Oz. I think they're missing the point. It seems to me that they're trying to make Oz more "grown up" and "mature", which really isn't necessary.

For one thing, although Baum did include a lot of whimsy and silliness in the stories, he always treated his characters with respect, never sacrificing them for cheap drama or cheap jokes. Danger was always real and escape was always earned. Oz was never a land where major crises were resolved by some last minute deus ex machina, and The Nome King would never allow himself to be defeated by Delicious Fruit Pies. So they should pass nearly any test of "grown-up-ness" you'd care to apply.

"But it can't be mature until there's sex, violence and lots of explosions!" seems to be the opinion of a lot of people. "If it's not rated R, it must be kid's stuff." But not C.S Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, he once wrote: "Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

I do wish them the best, and I hope they bring some new people to Oz. My main criticism is on "dark Oz" in general, not Oz: Dark & Terrible is particular. I'll save comments on the game itself for after I have actually seen it.

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