Courtesy of former TSR/WotC fiction editor Phil Athans.
"It is true that the story was the foundation of Dragonlance and came out of the personal desire of both my wife [Laura Hickman] and myself to use role playing games as a medium of storytelling. You have to remember that at the time adventure games were largely of the ‘kill the monster, take its treasure, buy more weapons to kill bigger monsters’ variety. We wanted to introduce meaning into gaming through story."
Which got me thinking:
How sad that they probably meant well but simply couldn't understand that "meaning" in gaming can only be collaboratively constructed from the bottom (individual players and GMs) up, never simply decreed from the top down. Indeed, the fact that Hickman was apparently unaware that campaigning not of the "kill the monster, take its treasure" mold had been alive and thriving at countless gaming tables across the world for years before he made this statement evinces a startling degree of myopia that went on to handicap his subsequent designs severely.
It's really a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire nature of the medium. A tabletop RPG writer can, at best, hand the players a solid set of tools and a bit of good advice. If you try to build the whole house for them, it will only ever be your home. And they'll sense as much.
That's just the sad part. When you throw millions of dollars behind a misunderstanding this basic, that's where things get tragic. TSR finally learned this lesson when they found themselves forced to sell all their assets to Wizards of the Coast in the late 1990s.
After the sting of the tragedy fades, you move onto the bittersweet ironic amusement phase. In this case, that means the ability to do just what this post is doing now: Look back on how a simple bit of mistaken but well-meant idealism gone out-of-control toppled a once invulnerable titan of the fantasy gaming hobby after little more than one decade in earnest practice.
Which leaves one where? Sadder but wiser? I would hope so.
Hickman, continued: "In practice, however, it became a ‘chicken and egg’ sort of issue. The game was being developed ahead of the story—which actually adversely affected the story itself."
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