Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interesting Tracy Hickman quote.

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."

Ouch. Nevermind...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh, man! I haven't thought about these in ages!

I only ever saw one issue of this back 1992 at a chain bookstore in the Inland Center mall in San Bernadino. I'd completely forgotten about it until tonight. The Acaeum rules.

Now I wonder how I can find myself some copies. eBay seems to be no help at all.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Imagining D&D, courtesy of Grognardia.

James Maliszewski at Grognardia asks "When you think about Dungeons & Dragons, the cover of what product comes first to mind?"

For me, that's easy. It's the first D&D book I ever owned, read, and used. Although I'd argue this particular cover pretty much perfectly depicts the game under any circumstances.

Runner-up? It has to be the Player's Handbook. No contest. And if had to ask "Which one?", you're probably at the wrong blog.

Anyway, to make up for boring you all with the two most obvious choices ever, I'll close with some of my favorite Dragon Magazine covers from when I was first getting into the game. These are pretty much guaranteed to be unique choices, since most of the Dragon nostalgia is focused on its early years. I imagine a lot of old school players weren't even reading Dragon during the 90s.

For me, the best covers were more than just portraits. They had a great in media res quality that made you feel like you were looking through a window into a fantasy world where something marvelous was happening. And they practically forced you to ask questions. Who are these people (and/or creatures)? What are they doing? What do they want? What is this place I'm seeing and what would I find if I could visit it? Certainly, I've gone back and read many great Dragon issues that pre-date my early 90s start in the hobby, but these are some of the covers that I'll always remember best.