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Author Topic: State of the curmudgeon  (Read 8389 times)
Clinton R. Nixon

Posts: 2624

« on: May 23, 2002, 08:46:18 AM »

Just this morning, I heard about some thread on RPG.net about the Forge. (It's actually about GNS.) I went and read it, and have some thoughts I'd like to share:

 - I don't fucking get the animosity. It's mainly directed from people there against posters here, but I see a little bit leaking from posters here towards RPG.net. It's as if I really liked steak, so I hated corn farmers. One is food, and the other is some people that help put food out there, but not even the same food. It doesn't make sense to me. If someone can explain it, that'd be great.

 - If someone denigrates the Forge somewhere, defend it if you must, but in all honesty, I'd prefer it if you didn't. I can't tell anyone what to think or say, but just ignore negativity if you can. I saw posts over there this morning that didn't even make sense - arguing with them would be futile. Anyone who reads the Forge knows they're wrong, and anyone who believes them - well, do we want people who are either liars or deficient here? We've got over 500 users, and get an average of 60+ posts a day. This sounds odd, but I don't see the need for additional growth, at least not exponentially.

 - The one problem with all the lies I saw posted is that they all have about 5% of truth in their core. I have seen people use GNS to put down games - not even necessarily here, but referencing here. I see it inadvertantly all the time - people new to the theory have about a three month period where they only half-way get it, and start trying all these new games that they've never tried before, usually narrativist in scope. Then they assume their old way of playing (often gamist) is bad, and they start using Gamist or Simulationist with this tone of self-deprecation and shame. I've heard people do it in real life - it's one of the reasons I pretty much ban all talk of the theory from my weekly game. (The other: talk about a way to derail a game.) Stop it, people. If you enjoy it, it's not necessarily intellectually inferior.

 - Some of the lies came from people I know are not idiots. I'll go ahead and use names: two of the most virulent things I saw posted there were from Peter Seckler and Kyle Marquis, both brilliant guys, and guys I respect as RPG-type people. (Check out their websites: http://www.the-never.net and http://www.angelfire.com/ma/rpg/index.html.) They're not saying baseless things. I highly recommend going to read the thread and listen to what they're saying and make sure you don't act like that.

 - Anyway, this breaks my rule of not talking about other gaming websites here. That rule is still in effect - I can't stop anyone from doing it, but just be careful what you say. Any baseless slamming of another site here will result in me coming down on the thread.

 - Lastly, I should thank Christopher Kubasik and Joshua Neff for both being upstanding examples of Forge members on that thread. They both rocked the house, and I appreciate it more than they'll ever know.

Clinton R. Nixon
Webmaster, The Forge

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Posts: 62

« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2002, 09:11:32 AM »

Clinton, I only half agree. You’re never going to win against the close minded die-hards – but if their version of the truth is the only version heard – what then?

Maybe a guerrilla war might be a better way to go. Back away from nonsensical flamewars, but where we see someone who seems reasonable, but misinformed - send in special forces to pinpoint and eliminate inaccuracies.

I also think that peeps have to be careful with language outside the forge. We may know what “Gamist”, “Narrativist” and “Simulationist” are here – but to the uninitiated GNS can come across as an aggressive taxonomy of players. I speak from experience. It was only when Ron took the time to talk to the peeps over at GO that the veil was lifted. I know that may require the patience of angels sometimes – but I’m glad Ron took thetime. It’s what brought me over here!

Joe Murphy (Broin)

Posts: 178

« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2002, 09:32:43 AM »


I have to ask, did I present myself badly, or otherwise talk out of my ass on the thread?

I did my best to ignore the animosity, as far as I can tell, though I did veer off the GNS topic and into a description of some Narrativism and so on. So I've left that thread for now.

Honestly, I would very much like to know if I talked out of my ass. It is very difficult presenting 'these topics' in other forums.



Posts: 5574

« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2002, 10:10:10 AM »

Nah, Joe you were great.  I just read the thread for the first time, what a lot of sound and fury which signifies nothing.

The problem with "defending GNS" is simply that people think that if you have a theory, it has to be 100% complete and 100% accurate and 100% understood.  We can try to explain it to them as best as we are able, but if they can find a chink in your armor they can say "a-ha, it is a bunch of nonsense after all" and dismiss the whole thing.

It becomes an impossible situation.  They have an infinite number of bullets, and if you get hit by one of them they're right and you're wrong.  

It all boils down to that most insidious of evils "opinion".  Certain people have an opinion about what x-ism means.  Since they've been taught since childhood that everyone is entitled to an opinion they assume that means that theres is just as valid as anyone elses.  Never mind that someone else may have spent years of analysis, strenuous debate among dozens of people, and lots of introspection to determine a definition, and they've spent all of 5 minutes thinking about it...their opinion is just as valid because its all "just opinion".

There's no discussion possible with people like that.  There were some folks who seemed interested in at least listening, maybe some of them will do their own investigation and decide for themselves if its something they wish to learn more about.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2002, 10:13:31 AM »


I'll answer this one. You and Josh fell into the trap of being diverted from the main points, and contra Sun Tzu, you did not necessarily know your opponents. I'll discuss both.

1) The thread was "What is GNS?" That's it. However, people then raised all manner of specific questions regarding Narrativist play (the favored target of some folks). You can't debate (a) GNS is or isn't worthwhile simultaneously with (b) Narrativism is or isn't characterized by X or Y. Once the discussion hit that phase, no discussion occurred.

Both you and Josh found yourself in the position of discussing steering techniques at the same time someone else was hammering the very idea of transportation.

The key to success in that situation is to permit only one topic and to direct interested questions about something else to some other resource.

2) Several people literally hate what they call GNS, which I think means more that they resent the community here and have beefs with various individuals.

When such an individual enters the argument, it's not like that fellow Mant, who struck me as eminently reasonable (Illusionist to be sure, which is not a terrible thing). No, when phrases about "theorizing without play," or "Ron ignored me," or whatever start being flung about, there is no debate. They are torching the battlefield so that everyone must jump and hop about, because when such jumping and hopping is happening, no one may actually discuss anything.

The minor version of this is the person who just can't let go of the Threefold/GNS divide. "Yeah, I know," they say, "But ..." and continue with the resentment about that issue. (By the way, Gareth, I thought you handled that beautifully.) Wayne Rossi isn't going to budge about that. Neither was that Sangrolu person. It's not what the Threefold said. The Threefold says [what the Threefold says] better. That's that.

The major version is simply slander or lies. "They don't really play, they just theorize." False. "They kick out anyone who doesn't agree with Ron." False. "They delete posts." False. "GNS has nothing to do with game success." False.

Occasionally, you guys did say, "Hey, that's not true," in a kind of friendly, protesting way. The required tactic is much harsher: you say, "False. Back it up. Show me the thread, describe what happened, point me to it." And refuse to discuss anything else until that is resolved. Lies are lies; unchallenged, they stand.

Every one of these individuals knows, as fact, that I am happy to engage in discussion with anyone either by email or on-line here at the Forge. They don't do it.

Now, one might say, all right Ron, you have all this figured out, why don't you chime in at RPG.net when these threads get going?

Because it's silly. Much as I appreciate the effort spent by Christopher, Joe, Josh, and Gareth this time around, and I do, I think that one solid post of sensible welcome is sufficient, as well as a confirm from the original poster that they know where to check it out. All that's necessary is for the link to go up. Inevitably, people engaged in the debate will come by here. They'll like it, or they won't. That's all that's needed.

Gordon C. Landis

Posts: 1024

I am Custom-Built Games

« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2002, 10:25:41 AM »

As most folks know, this happens, oh, every three months or so on RPG.net.  9-12 months back, I dove in a bit and tried the "defend" thing.  I have no idea if it did any good (and there were some rather bizarre and unsettling consequences in personal email, which I thank Ron and Clinton for setting my mind at ease about), but I'm definitely in the "one post, and an invitation for further, serious discussion" camp nowadays.  Realizing this has happened many times before, and will probably happen many times again, you have to figure out some way to stay sane . . .


www.snap-game.com (under construction)
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2002, 10:29:58 AM »

Since they've been taught since childhood that everyone is entitled to an opinion they assume that means that theres is just as valid as anyone elses.

  Not only that, most of the people in their lives have only given them opinions, leading them to believe no one knows what the hell they're talking about, so everyone's an expert by opinion.  

There's a very specific reason I come to the Forge and that is, when I ask a question, I'll get some thought out and valid answers, not what some guy thought he'd slam in between "roleplaying" via AOL chat and simultaneously checking alt.satanist.fetish.feet....  Not to say that's all you get at RPG.net, there's certainly some good ideas and folks, whose points are often flooded by the 15% of flamers out there.

Argument of opinion is an excersize in futility, that at its best, teaches you patience.  When one or both sides aren't listening, you are wasting time.  I realized that I am not going to roleplay with most of the people in this world, so there's no need for me to convert anyone, and second, anyone who is looking for what the Forge has to offer will find it, like it, and stay.

If anyone wants to give'em something worthwhile, just give'em a link to the article and let them read for themselves.

Christopher Kubasik

Posts: 1153

« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2002, 10:52:57 AM »

Hi everybody,

Ron and Clinton -- yes.  I'll go with the "link and invite" strategy from now on.  As Ron has pointed out, with a click of the button, whoever is curious can simply come over and check it out.

It will invariable save a great deal of time and frustration on my part, at least.  Trying to hunt down the counter-points in these matters is often like pursuing a pea-sized blob of intelligent mercury.

Take care,

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2341

« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2002, 10:53:47 AM »

Realizing this has happened many times before, and will probably happen many times again...

You know you're saying something significant when again and again people find themselves needing to attack and discredit it, losing sleep because they harbor a restless psychological discomfort with what you've said.


My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

Posts: 160

« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2002, 02:39:17 PM »

Funnily enough, I rarely pay any attention to GNS threads on RPGNet, A) Because it's not really my concern B) I understand that everyone brings their own issues to any such discussion, I've got mine they've got theirs and until those issues overlap we're not really going to be examining things from anything resembling a similar view. (That's also why I'm mostly silent on it here as well)
Seth L. Blumberg

Posts: 303

« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2002, 03:05:18 PM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
You know you're saying something significant when again and again people find themselves needing to attack and discredit it, losing sleep because they harbor a restless psychological discomfort with what you've said.

That is only true if you carefully recognize and maintain the distinction between "significant" and "accurate."

Not that that has anything to do with gaming, or with this thread in particular, so I'll just shut up now.

the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue

Posts: 23

« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2002, 07:44:08 PM »

As somebody who participated on that thread but doesn't participate here, I found the discussion enjoyable--I just filter out the nonsense from people who are, if you read the forums there, the usual suspects.  And while the thread drifted, I think it's because the initial question got answered pretty quickly and that's how threads work on RPG.net.  Threads work differently here.

I found myself able to get answers to questions and have a discussion there that I wouldn't try here, for various reasons--mainly because I had a captive audience who was willing to discuss matters (Josh, Joe and Christopher).  It was an informal debate, rather than the kind of serious ones I see here.

(And I hope no one got the impression that I was slamming the Forge at any point in the thread--I tried to go out of my way to not do that., since I have no beef with it--I mean, why should I?)

By the way, Christopher Kubasick, if you're able to email me, please do so at lesinvisible@hotmail.com  I absolutely /hate/ the private messaging service these boards use, and I'd like to answer your question.


Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2002, 10:43:27 PM »

Well, I just clicked over there and I was quickly reminded why I decided a long time ago not to read RPGnet. But to each their own.

I'm a little surprised at Peter Seckler's comments though...I met him at GenCon last year, even had a drink with him, and he seemed perfectly personable then. From later comments I do suspect he was attempting to be over-the-top and figuring everyone was getting it.

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Jared A. Sorensen

Posts: 1463


« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2002, 05:28:02 AM »

I really wish Pete would come over to The Forge and post sometimes, despite his distaste for the jargon and theory. His experience at GMing and his general philosphy (as I can surmise it) about playing would really help a lot of the discussions here. I urge people to check out his website (www.the-never.net) -- lots of cool stuff as well as in-depth character logs of his current game (which sounds like a helluva lotta fun).

- J

jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Walt Freitag

Posts: 1039

« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2002, 07:48:58 AM »

As most folks know, this happens, oh, every three months or so on RPG.net.

In that case I guess this marks a coming-full-circle milestone for me, as I washed up here in the flotsam from the last RPGNet GNS thread about three months ago.

What brought me here was not the information that the place existed or where to find it. On the other side of the coin, it also wasn't that either side's arguments won me over. For better or worse, what brought me here was the fact, evident over many posts, that the people representing The Forge were saying interesting and challenging things in an intelligent and rational manner. For better or worse, I don't believe the one solid post of sensible welcome approach would have done it.

Speaking as one of the barbarians at the gate from the last time around (I hope people here remember my blistering attacks at what I thought GNS was all about either with amusement, or not at all), there are a few things about GNS that I believe invite animosity. We can take these to other threads if anyone's interested.

- It's hard to understand. I won't say "too hard" because I'm aware that reality is under no onus to align itself in easy to understand configurations for our benefit. But the difficulty means that promoting GNS as a diagnostic tool for the average suffering role player may be unwise. There are good reasons why nobody sells home brain surgery kits.

- Its diagnostic advice is unpalatable for many, and may also be unclear. On the one hand it says the social contract is the key. On the other hand it says that certain popular game systems are incoherent. This appears to imply, though it's not stated or meant, that if you're using such a system, the social contract advice isn't going to help unless you also change systems. People don't want to change systems, because people are invested in the systems they currently play.

- Saying "if your game is functional then you don't need GNS; just ignore it if you don't need it" is unconvincing. People with what they believe are functional styles of play, who (rightly or wrongly) perceive GNS as recommending that others not play that way, are going to be annoyed. It's human nature, backed up by that "investment" thing again. If I like DeWalt power tools (naturally) and you like Makita power tools, should I care? Nah. But if I see you at the hardware store advising other customers that DeWalt power tools don't work, I'll get annoyed. Probably not annoyed enough to say anything, but annoyed. Why? Because if too many people believe you, DeWalt tools won't sell, stores will stop stocking them, fewer accessories will be developed, parts and service will become harder to find; my investment in my DeWalt tools will be devalued. Telling me, "well if DeWalt tools work for you, then there's no problem, my advice is for these other nice people over here" doesn't decrease my annoyance. If you're right and I know you're right I wouldn't be annoyed, but it's impossible to perceive that you're right when my only data point says you're wrong. In other words people have a reason, however logically thin (though emotionally powerful), to resent people being advised not to play the way they do, even if the advice isn't directed at them.

None of this is a fault of GNS itself, nor of any of its proponents. I think it's regretful that the hostility arises, but while some of its causes may be fixed by better communication, much of it arises from what the model itself does and is designed to do and there may be no getting around that. In any case, though, there's no need for the hostility to be mystifying.

- Walt

Wandering in the diasporosphere
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