Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confessions of an Oz/Gaming Snob

NOTE: This is the post that Blogger ate last week. They didn't get around to reposting it, so I am.

Just about any fandom has its share of snobs and elitists. This becomes especially problematic when the elitist attitudes drive off the n00bs, or even the more casual fans.

On the gaming side, this manifests as a sort of stigma against D&D. We deride its hack and slash focus and the excessive lengths some players will go through to "win" at RPGs. While we acknowledge that D&D is one of the most common introductions to RPGs, we wait for those players to branch out and start playing "real" RPGs.

I actually found myself harboring this attitude. When I met Kevin Andrew Murphy at DunDraCon, I discovered that he had been working for Paizo Publishing (home of the Pathfinder RPG, a successor to 3rd edition D&D) and made some comment about how I had "grown up" out of D&D some time ago (no offense).

He then proceeded to explain to me that D&D isn't just a stepping stone, but should in fact be viewed as a lingua franca, a common experience that unites all gamers. Even if D&D wasn't your first game, you've likely played it at some point in your gaming career.

So I try to keep an open mind on this, especially since I am playing in one D&D game and have recently launched an exploration of The Castle of the Mad Archmage using OSRIC. It can be hard at times, though.

When I first saw this video, I was initially unimpressed. The tune was catchy and the visuals were good, but the lyrics were all about hack& slash play (including the oft-repeated line "hackin' them all up"). While I try to avoid telling people that they're doing it wrong, the lack of context was bothersome to me. They seemed to be fighting monsters for the sole reason that the Dungeon Master put them there to be killed. We don't see what this fighting accomplished or why they were fighting in the first place.

On the Oz side, we have The Movie. The 1939 MGM musical with Judy Garland. It's been broadcast on TV regularly through the years and has sustained several DVD releases. But, like D&D, it's got that reputation as the "Lowest Common Denominator" of the fandom. We keep waiting for people to eventually pick up the books that made Oz into a delightful and rich fairyland.

I have no problem with this. It was a good movie and I enjoy it myself (Though it has been a while since I've seen it). But I will say that a rich fairyland will make for more interesting gaming. That said, you certainly don't need to restrict your adventures in Oz to L. Frank Baum's work. If you want to adventure in Movie-verse Oz or Wicked Oz, go right ahead. But you will have to put some of the meat on those bones yourself. Thankfully, AiO gives you the tools to do just that.

3 comments:

Joel said...

Speaking of tools, I heart the simple, yet thorough, system used in AiO. Have you ever considered publishing it separately? I'm also curious if either changing the number of dice (from 2d6 to 3d6) or even changing the dice (from d6 to, let's say, d10) would necessitate changing the rules.

Doug Wall said...

If you change the dice, you change the probabilities, so you'd need to change a couple of things. Like "What is the average stat (the point at which a character has a 50% chance of success)?" Under the current rules, that's 2, but would be different under another dice scheme. If you go to d10s, you also have to account for the increased range those dice provide.

I don't know if I would try to sell the system apart from the setting. There are enough universal/house systems out there already that I'm not sure I could effectively compete. Also, there are some pieces of the design (particularly combat and magic) that would take some serious re-working to genericize, because they were designed specifically to emulate Oz.

Joel said...

Thanks for the response, Doug!

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