Saturday, December 26, 2015
ALTERNATIVE HISTORIC PATHWAY FOR AD&D
RPG Pundit keeps hammering on the storygame movement how it is not the RPG's, because the DM lacks the creative authority, but the Narrativist environment was exactly the place, where D&D was developed. Role Playing was a free form improvisation, that occurred on the spur of the moment in table top miniatures wargaming, when a player wanted to get into the character of one of the miniatures on the table. Two players would play out scenes, in a recorded case one was a Prussian colonel, and the other an anarchist student spying behind the German lines, and they had a duel, which was resolved by the toss of a coin. The concept of a DM evolved later. Many of the wargamers were educated and knowledgeable intellectuals, who brought their knowledge into the spontaneous game design. For instance, what we know today as Encounter Tables, was previously used as Narrative Randomizers in the experimental literature of the American literary scene of the 1950's, where there was a fascination with a random story, which eventually spawned the choose your own adventure genre.
Once Gygax made the game his own, this kind of growth stopped. Had Gygax the wisdom of a higher being, he would have shared spoils of the creative process and brought the other gamers on board, if only for a focus group to keep developing the hobby. Today, the defunct Forge movement and the Storygame movement, over whose alleged demise there is much unhealthy gloating by RPGPundit, were the closest embodiment of the open forum improvisational tradition that brought us D&D.
This game did not evolve conceptually beyond that. Planned obsolescence became a part of the marketing strategy by the WOTC. The simple reason that good always triumphs is that evil can't see past itself, and WOTC stock is worth .025 cents per share today.
How could the D&D been marketed differently? The TSR/WOTC mindset was that you can sell six times as many books, if you market to munchkins as opposed to the DMs. Also, better DMs buy modules than roll their own. This is where the company that sells D&D went bankrupt, both morally and fiscally. You see, almost every player is a closet DM, who wants to build their own world. When you houserule or modify the rules of the game, you are world-building. How can you market creativity, you ask? Remember those guys, Da Vinci, the Cistine Chapel and Michelangelo. Those guys were the successful DMs of their days. You see, the painting was only a byproduct of their drive to KNOW the world and to ACCURATELY recreate it on the canvas. That is why Da Vinci was both an engineer and a naturalist, and also studied anatomy and was a combat veteran. He did this so that his paintings looked REAL. You paint a battle scene, you know how the weapons and armor works, how the wounded sound, you are painting from experience.
DM's are a variety of writers, and they too attempt to recreate the world in a fantasy form that has some essential truths in it. This is an outgrowth of a very essential sensory-neurological process in which all conscious beings engage, called the Environmental Recovery Problem - how a living organism creates a mental picture of the world it lives in so that it can function in it. The depth of this process is the reason why those wargamers in the Lake Geneva club and elsewhere put their most advanced knowledge into developing the mechanics of the new game. The world-building that the DM engages in, is really a form of philosophy, and had the TSR/WOTC become a published to the D&D hobby at THIS level, they would have still been in business as a published more successful than a game company that they are currently. Specifically, any DM is a story teller. How do you become a good story teller? How to model this and this process in the real world. Sociology? Psychology? Mathematics?
Hire experts to write material on these topics, in a language accessible to the layman? This is what COULD have happened, had the D&D stayed a game for the grad school intellectuals. The games that took place at the Lake Geneva club were at THAT level. By stripping out the context and the discourse in which these games were taking place, Gygax dumbed down the game significantly to begin with, and from gitgo, he was marketing D&D out of its context, but had he kept it relevant to the original crowd that developed it, the version of the future I envisioned would have been possible. Also, had Gygax engaged with the clubs to develop his company, the TSR would have been in much better shape than it was historically.