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Recently, because of some criticisms I made about things said by E. Gary Gygax in a Silven Crossroads interview, I have been accused of not respecting the co-creator of D&D.
Well, I do respect him, but in an adult, rational
way, not in a frothing-at-the-mouth fanboy way. You can respect someone
and still disagree with them.
Let me give you a little background about myself, it'll help explain where I'm coming from with this article.
The Short Form
I jumped from basic D&D to AD&D very early on in my
24-year gaming career and stuck to it for a very long time, even years
after 2E came out, and I still have my 1E DMG as a reference.
The Long Form
I started playing D&D with my cousin David back in 1980 with
the purple Basic D&D box set. Then I graduated to the blue Expert
set. I played and ran The Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread. Then one day I saw the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide on a bookshelf. "Wow, Advanced D&D! It must be even better than regular D&D." I looked through it. Tons and tons of charts on advancedeverything.
Then I got to the artifacts section. All of these magic items with
history and lore ... and all these blanks for you to fill in what
powers those artifacts had in your world. "You can make your own magic
items for your game? Wow! This is better than regular D&D!" (Hey, I
was nine, the idea of making my own items in the game hadn't occurred
to me yet.) I had to have the book, and my parents agreed to buy it,
along with the AD&D Monster Manual and (eventually) the World of Greyhawk box set.
We played like mad. David, my friend Jason, the
twins James and Russel, their brother Ken, and a lot of people I've
forgotten from the early years. In 9th grade our group broadened to
include some people who later turned out to be jerks, and I gave up
D&D altogether, deciding (foolishly) that all gamers were jerks,
and (foolishly) selling all of my D&D stuff, including my
Fast forward two years to 11th grade, and Jason (who
kept on gaming) drags me into a different group, this time of older
people (one a high school senior, the rest all college-age). I start
gaming like mad again, re-buying all of the 1E books that I had sold
just two years before. We mainly play AD&D (with a little Traveler and Tunnels & Trolls
now and then). Sessions from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., getting grounded for
gaming until 5 a.m., and so on. It's awesome. I graduate from high
school. We keep on gaming. 1989 rolls around and TSR releases 2nd edition AD&D.
In general, we don't use 2E ... I get the 2E PH because it collects a
ton of the 1E spells from various sources into one book, but don't
bother with the 2E DMG because I don't like the visual look of the
books and they moved everything around in the 2E DMG (while I know
exactly where everything is in the 1E DMG). We play 1E with 2E spells
for three more years.
I go off to college. I don't have time for a weekly
scheduled game and can't find a live group anyway, but things still
remind me of ideas for gaming ... make a new magic item out of this
thing, craft a new spell based on that, a new monster based on
something else, etc. I have the gaming bug, but not the outlet.
Eventually I start playing Play By E-Mail (PBEM) D&D games, and eventually run my own
using the 1E rules, though I pick up the 2E DMG and MM so I can answer
rules questions that come up in the D&D newsgroup, plus post a few
things on my ftp site. I get a job as the online guy for a video game
company. I get a job as the online guy for TSR. My PBEM finally peters
out after about four years because my TSR job takes up too much of my
time. I start fully using the 2E rules in my notes and the adventures I
write for the RPGA. WotC buys TSR, I move to Washington. Monte Cook starts up a 2E campaign,
which runs for about 18 months. I get my designer job at WotC, mainly
doing 2E work but also Alternity. WotC starts working on 3rd edition D&D and I eventually start writing for that.
Of all the D&D books I own, the only 2E books I have are the ones I wrote plus three Birthright products I plan to use for a home campaign at some point; I don't even own a 2E PH, DMG, or MM any more. By contrast, I still
own a 1E DMG. Why? Because even after over 20 years, it's still an
incredibly valuable resource for information and game insight. I use
the DMG as a reference when needing information on gems and their
properties, or for dungeon dressing, or types of insanity, or
personality types fro NPCs. There's a reason why Monte used the 1E DMG
as a model when he was writing the 3E DMG ... because the 1E DMG is a damn powerful book!
Back on Topic, Please
I don't know Gary Gygax as a person. I know what
I've heard secondhand through people who used to work with him, and I
know what he posts online. I know the books he's written and the
articles he's penned. I know there's a lot of history with him and TSR
and the D&D/AD&D game, and some bad blood.
He and Dave Arneson
created a game that I've been playing for 24 years. That's over 2/3 of
my life. I've been gaming longer than some people reading this article
have been alive. I'm not like some of the people out there who've been
gaming since the White Box,
but I can't help that I was only three years old when that came out. My
point is, D&D has been a big part of my life ever since I was a
young child. Some of my oldest friends are my friends who I met through
gaming. Most of my current friends are people I met through gaming or
because of gaming (because I met them as co-workers at a game company).
I can't thank Mr. Gygax and Arneson enough for that.
I respect Mr. Gygax for putting his money where his
mouth is and printing up a little game that he thought people would
like. I respect him for essentially creating a new type of game
industry, an industry that has not only kept me entertained for decades
but kept me employed and financially comfortable in the bargain. I
respect him for his knowledge of the old game and his insight into the
early days of TSR (and its previous incarnations as Tactical Studies
Rules and Guidon Games).
One other reason I respect him is that if he has an
opinion, he's not afraid to share it. That's something we have in
common. It gets us both into trouble. He has a long history of making
people angry because of things he's said; I have a similar (if shorter)
history of doing the same thing. He's opinionated and speaks his mind,
and I really respect that (better to have an opinion than not).
And because he speaks his mind, there will be people who disagree with him.
Disagreeing does not mean a lack of respect.
Disagreements and Areas of Expertise
Like I said above, Mr. Gygax knows a lot about the old days of
D&D and of TSR, and of course he knows the original Greyhawk better
than anyone (it's his home campaign world, after all). He knows about
raising a family. He knows about business partners selling out their
shares to a rival investor. He knows about dealing with Hollywood-types
to make a cartoon based on an intellectual property.
I haven't done any of those things. If he says
something about any of the above topics, I'm not going to contradict
him because I don't have any personal experience or insight. If I do
contradict him, I'll quickly show my ignorance because I don't know
what I'm talking about.
Mr. Gygax hasn't had extensive talks with the 3E designers about how the rules work. He has admitted that he doesn't care for the new rules. I have had extensive talks with Jonathan Tweet, Monte, and Skip Williams
about 3E D&D, how the rules work, how they interact, and the
reasoning behind it. If he posted the answer to a 3E rules question and
I posted a differing opinion, I'm not being disrespectful (unless I
call him a dumbass or something rude like that, and I generally don't
do that when posting rules answers...).
Likewise, Mr. Gygax hasn't spoken with Ryan Dancey
(the man who came up with the idea of the OGL and d20 licenses) about
why the d20 and OGL licenses are a good idea for WotC and the D&D
business (at least, as far as I know he hasn't). I have talked to Ryan,
not only as part of a meeting with WotC R&Ders concerned about the
license, but also privately and in social situations. I understand his
reasoning for proposing the licenses, I understand the business effects
of the licensing, and how it benefits the licensor (WotC) and the
licensee (the other company). So when someone who has as large an
audience as Mr. Gygax has says things about the OGL that I feel are
erroneous, I feel it's important to make sure people have the correct
information, else they might perpetuate that erroneous information.
Does that mean I'm disrespecting him? No.
I'll admit that my rebuttal comments
on Mr. Gygax's OGL interview are not as diplomatic at the end as they
are at the beginning. For that, I apologize. My life has had a lot of stress
recently and my insomnia has been kicking in like mad. Not an excuse,
though. So ... I apologize for the negative tone in the last parts of
my rebuttal. It doesn't change that I disagree with him about the OGL,
but that disagreement doesn't mean I don't respect Mr. Gygax.
Again, I can disagree with his viewpoint, and
publically state my points of disagreement and even the reasons why I
disagree. That doesn't mean I'm disrespecting him. And if he has a
rebuttal to my rebuttal, it doesn't mean he's disrespecting me. I welcome debate, especially on things I think I'm absolutely right about; it's the best way to show me I'm wrong, in fact.
And just because I disagree with him doesn't mean that it's appropriate to say I'm "a complete @#%$," "an idiot," "not
worthy to wipe dogshit off Gary's boots," "a talentless hack, an egotistical skinhead scumbag," "a punk of the first order and will never amount to anything remotely approaching a pimple on Gygax's ass," that I should "drive yourself off a
cliff," that I'm "one of the useless people hired by the Blumes back in the teat-suck days," and that "if SKR's mother could see how he turned out, she'd wish she could go back in time and do us all favor and abort him."
One last time: I can disagree with Mr. Gygax's views
without disrespecting him. If you disagree with me disagreeing, fine.
Tell me how I'm wrong. There's no need for you to make personal
attacks, and please leave my family out of it.
P.S.: Just about every named RPG-industry person
I've mentioned in this article is someone I've disagreed with at some
point. Monte and I disagree on how some D&D rules should be played.
I've disagreed with Jonathan on rules issues, and with Skip on how some
monsters and spells should work. I've disagreed with Ryan about what
should or shouldn't be in D&D books and about the merits of the
OGL. I've disagreed with Rich Baker on D&D issues, FR issues, and even personal issues. I've disagreed with Jeff Quick about religious issues, Bill Slavicsek on Hasbro/WotC business issues, JD Wiker on socio-policital and game design issues, and Cindi Rice.
But it doesn't mean I don't respect them, or don't want to hang out
with them. Some of those people are my closest friends. Disagreeing
with people makes life interesting ... what's the point of surrounding
yourself with people who agree exactly with your opinions? What would
you have to talk about?