Monday, September 3, 2012

Debunking Some Fallacies, Part I (of several)

Debunking Some Fallacies, Part I (of several)

The internet contains a wide expanse of information.  I occasionally lurk at sites to read threads related to D&D history, TSR history, opinions about RPG-this-and-that ranging back in time and forward to the present.  Included in such varied topics are speculations, accusations and misinformation; and of course outright lies, half-truths and over/under speculation about myself as a person and as a designer.  Human nature doesn't change; and it can sometimes reach primal and cowardly levels when funneled via the anonymous connection of the internet.

There are so many junk posts, so much innuendo and outright balderdash that my mind actually reels while attempting to formulate responses to such matter.  I literally flip the "I must respond to this" coin in my brain every time I see such stuff, but I  more often skew that "mental toss" with, "Nah, it's not worth it."  Let those who believe the myths continue on their merry ways.

Not anymore...

Rather than post related links, I'll go on record here at correcting some of the more atrocious ideas about myself, EGG, TSR, etc., floating about the internet; and since I am aware that some of these commentators actually do read this blog on occasion, I am sure these related clarifications will catch up with them.

Wrong, Wrong and Triple Wrong…

That… My CU "Stats" (that is, a set of terms I borrowed and amended from Mayfair Game's "Role Aids" line of AD&D compatible products) is owned by me, and that this proprietary ownership is used as a reason that there was no freely available system prior to OSRIC which emulates the AD&D system.  The CU Stats that I supposedly owned and had not released-idea is then used as reasoning for the need to release OSRIC (and as grouped with other supporting reasons for its release).

Here's the related quote: "By the time OSRIC launched, there was Rob Kuntz and his little venture with a "CU" game system. That was fully 1e-compatible but it was a system RJK owned, so it still wasn't facilitating a free market in 1e print products."

Must I educate and reeducate these people "in the know" who just don't get it? TSR lost their initial lawsuit with Mayfair Games [The complete text of TSR  vs. Mayfair 8 April 1993 is here: And a very brief summary of this case can be found at:] over copyright violations perceived in MG's compatible products, this because TSR could not copyright mechanics as published in their game rules.   A game functions on mechanics.  You also cannot copyright terms that have become commonplace, such as elf, dwarf, dragon, etc.  Mind Flayer, Umber Hulk, yes.  Unicorn, nope.  Mordenkainen's Disjunction?  Yes.  Fireball?  No.  Some specific IP is proprietary to WotC (and is listed in various versions of their SRDs).

Here is part of a related article I published to Pied Piper's website in 2006:

Pied Piper Publishing’s Philosophy
and Mission Statement

"Preface:  A Short History of D&D’s™ Compatible Products

"Dungeons & Dragons™ has come a long way and in many formats from the time when its first doughty fans and creators were assembling the wood grain box sets in EGG’s basement.  We all thought then that it was such a great concept and fun to no end and wanted to get it as fast as possible into the hands of eager fans.  That small but dynamic beginning has lead to a multi-million dollar industry, has spawned imitators of the games, and has driven the creation of volumes of fan-based material, as well as spurred the publication of semi-professional, licensed and compatible material for it.

"One of the very first licenses approved for AD&D™ was for Judges Guild.  During that time I was put in charge for a short period to oversee and edit the line, making sure that JG was representing the license as agreed upon and that the material was consistent with the rules as already published and forthcoming.  Judges Guild exceeded their intent of presenting the compatible material in the best possible light; and that only continued to promote the game in a good way because of that, building awareness of AD&D™ and creating a strong secondary arm to further invigorate TSR’s already strong sales of the brand.  They did such a good job of this in fact that Bob Bledsaw of JG is specifically thanked in the credits and acknowledgements of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

"Mayfair Games came upon the scene later with their compatible products, in turn creating a contention between them and TSR  which extended in and out of court for many years afterwards until the Mayfair line of AD&D compatible products was eventually bought out byTSR.  During their run of many years Mayfair produced a copious amount of professional looking product which varied in content from average to excellent. Many of these products are still sought after by collectors today, noting that they were in widespread cases appreciated by a good portion of consumers in the AD&D™ community who were clamoring for more and more material, whether it was compatible, licensed official, or official.

"In 1986 I launched my own FRPG firm, Creations Unlimited, and basing the main game terms upon the Mayfair model brought to market with these CU STATS 5 product* and had in the works a 6th, the City of Brass. The company folded due to many industry problems, which included TSR doubling their own product offerings while reducing prices, which in turn drove distributors to buy their lines rather than more pricey and often unknown and untested small publisher offerings.  That coupled with the DRAGON Magazine’s cut in subscribers around that time and TSR not allowing Creations Unlimited to advertise in the pages of the DRAGON due to the use of AD&D game terms in our products, sealed the fate of the company.

"In noting the two latter examples, I will emphasize that in neither case was TSR successful in stopping the publication of compatible materials, only in curtailing the dissemination of same.   The main reasons for this are best found in the various matter involving the different court rulings for or against Mayfair and TSR, but by the time Creations Unlimited appeared on the scene TSR and Mayfair had had enough of the courts and were both properly informed on where they stood and how they should operate in lieu of the prior judgments."…

[*Note:  The five products were The Maze of Zayene (pronounced: 'Zay-Een') series (1-4) and Garden of the Plantmaster.  These products used the modified Role Aids stats that I refer to as "CU Stats."]

In essence the OGL is not needed to publish compatible OD&D-AD&D-D&D material. Mayfair Games proved this long before said license existed.  So did Creations Unlimited (my company, 1986-1988; and this is where I derived the "CU Stats" from (and not "game system" as erroneously quoted)).  Both companies used compatible statistic versions that cannot be copyrighted as we can not own the common terminology, just as TSR could not own it then, and just as WotC cannot, now.  It's free.  Get it?  The OGL was a hoax meant to lure designers and players alike and to re-solidify WotC's market share.  They would print the hard bound rules and 3rd parties would create the adventures under license.  This reinforced an ongoing misconception that WotC was/is in control of each game-iteration's mechanics, which is just what they want you to believe.  It's control by agreement.  The only thing you got out of it was some instant prestige and the nice d20 logo.  In fact, Kenzer Company (David Kenzer is an IP Lawyer) did not jump on the GSL like others did when WotC paraded it prior to 4E.  Instead they merely marked their books, "Compatible With D&D 4th Edition ™."  

DEBUNKED.  I cannot own, and/or then release to the public, something that is free to them.  It cost Mayfair Games $14,000 in legal fees to discover this, but they won…

Was this the Culprit that spurred people to
believe in set in stone RPG patterns?  Likely not...

What is "Gygaxian D&D"?  I keep on seeing this phrase.  Has someone got a Oiuja Board connection with EGG and is interviewing him via the aether?   All of this deconstruction and reassembling is silly.  I'll tell you how he played and DMed as I was his co-DM and player in Greyhawk and DMed his PCs in El Raja Key as part of the ongoing play-tests of OD&D, 1972-1975; and it's nothing like you people have contrived to believe in.  Keep popping the Kool-Aid, but avoid the milk if you want to be pure Gygax, as he never favored the latter drink, saying at one time to his 2-year old son, Luke, who wanted milk, "Ach!  Milk!" in a futile attempt to dissuade him from drinking what EGG refereed to as "cow's blood."  He later acquiesced some years before his death and took to buttermilk.  Let's see: that covers a period of me noting his milk abstention, 1969-2006…  Within that time spread also fall my recollections of him as a player and DM…

Preamble Time:

Here we go with the continued deconstruction, like RPG is a science project or something that can be dissected and then reassembled. When will the clowns learn that an RPG is a living concept?  Period.  The more you vest in "this must be the way it is done, because Rob, or Dave, or Hargrave, or EGG the Magnificent," did it that way, you have reached the dead end of creative and spontaneous thought and action, the very essence of the original game as composed for creative individuals.  An RPG (in action) consists of applied technique and applied creative force.  These two facets, one perforce mechanical and the other intuitive, discretely work in conjunction with each other.  They cannot be separated without derailing their combined process and thereafter causing immersion in the sludge created by such separation.

IOW, you cannot apply the limited dimensional processes associated with scientific inquiry in order to discover the basis for an intuited creative process or its outcome. If you insist on this course, the best you will arrive at is a formula based perception spurred on by reapplied techniques that for the most part have not been intuited but which are, instead, derived second hand.  This route, if persisted with, more often results in the abandonment of original form for regurgitated formula. Technique and creative force must join and stay joined in order for understanding through experience, rather than imitation, to occur.  The positive outcome of this in design is progressive rather than circular or stagnant.  It's not, "How was it done?" Period; end of story. It's understanding the process through experience and as ported by continuous motion to test and to even improve upon a model at hand. The creative process one undertakes can be positively compared to forwarding concepts by remolding them into new, or expanding, possibility streams which are then reasserted in an open form(at) where further inquiry can, and should, take place--that is, in the latter case, if you are a thorough designer.

An RPG has infinite creative range unless its structure is changed to a closed model; and alas, and no skin off my back, closed models seem to be the vogue of many "designers" touting their "RPG theories" on the internet these days.

Quote (from a well recognized OSR designer):  "My new thinking is influencing [sic] by reading all the old school stuff and coming to the realization that Arneson, Gygax, Kuntz, and the other [sic] really detailed their dungeons room by room."

DEBUNKED.  We used notes, an open form process (which I'd be happy to describe in an interview, but do bring a video camera as I am no longer doing written interviews) and that depended on sculpting a bit more in afterthought.  Story and mood and the conceptual range of the encounters as imagined were not hard to achieve on the fly, as all three of us were design-minded storytellers with quick wits, had secondary and tertiary stratagems in place, but more importantly--and I emphasize this--we did it our way.  Each one of us.  That's singular in every case, as my partner in creative freedom this month, Gary Cooper, indicated in the previous video post, …"For there is no collective brain."

If I were to invert the OP's idea, I could state that, "We three indeed did it the same way… that is, differently…"  Isn't that how it's supposed to be?  Rather than looking without, discover within.  

NEXT UP, Part 2, wherein a well known OSR designer actually refutes that I am a vision-worker even though I never claimed to be one… Boy am I having fun with that one!... Plus a few asides.


netlich said...

I simply want to say "thank you".

I know the internet noise will not quiet down and in fact might spike up for a while - but for me this was a much needed post.

HitAdjacentAlly said...

Thanks for posting this. I get so tired of the "OSR mentality" sometimes, even though I'm a proud proponent of the old games. I love how everyone assumes things about the original version of the game and knows jack-all about it. Once again, thanks for the amazing post, and for trying to set a few of those crazies straight.

Clovis Cithog said...

regarding the Old School
. ..
As longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer observed,

“every great movement begins as a cause,
eventually becomes a business,
then degenerates into a racket.”