Thursday, July 2, 2009

What the heck is happening in this RPG picture? The Legend of Weathertop

This is it, the first RPG product I ever encountered. I bought it at the school book fair. This was a gamebook, one of those books that combined dice rolling with Choose Your Own Adventure style numbered entries. If I remember correctly it was a hex crawl followed by a dungeon crawl. You had to find the entrance to a cave and find the scepter at the bottom. I remember playing it until it literally fell apart. At the time Dungeons and Dragons was not allowed in my house so my friend Corey and I took the rules from gamebooks and made up our own adventures for them. This series of books was especially interesting because while it had its own rule system it also had stats compatible with ICE's MERP. We had never heard of MERP andhad no idea where to find it. In fact I would not encounter a rulebook for it until I went to the Orc's Nest in London several years later.

Even though we never played it MERP would be the wedge that opened up D&D for us. We did find some sourcebooks for MERP in bookstores. These detailed different locations in Middle Earth. Tolkien was very much encouraged by my mom, and we eventually wore her down because some of this books had stats to make them compatible with D&D. Obviously D&D could not be evil, it went along with Tolkien.

Looking back it is funny that gamebooks are pretty much gone. I actually went looking for some for my nephew the other day and they don't seem to carry anything like them in the stores. Back then they were actually a better approximation of RPGs than the computer RPGs. In fact many of the computer games used a similar numbered entry system. Although I am sure that this was for copy protection and memory management reasons.

So that is what was going on when I encuntered the picture. What do you think is going on IN the picture? I'll post mine later, I want to hear yours. I have been looking at this thing for 24 years, I have had a lot of time to come up with stuff.

D&D and Anime

One of the most common arguments I have seen against 4th Edition D&D is that it has abandoned “pulp style” for “anime style”. Usually this charge is leveled by members of the “old school” community that seem to feel that only books listed in Appendix N can ever influence D&D. I find this charge to be ridiculous. Anime is the modern day pulp. This is quite literally true in the printed form of the style, manga.

Manga tend to be printed on cheap paper in digest sized books. Manga stories are a goofy mish mash of styles with little to no regard for scientific or historical accuracy. This was at the very heart of most pulp adventures in the early part of the last century. Manga stories, especially the fantasy ones, are often violent and tinged with sexuality. Violence tinged with sexuality is the very basis for Conan and his mighty thews. Many people express a love for the baroque, florid writing style of the pulps (time has worn away all the crappy, hack jobs). The best of manga has fantastic, expressive art. Manga, like pulp before it, is the low budget, accessible fantasy of its day. Anime is similar to the old sword and sorcery films in the same way.

Manga is the pulp of today. Having D&D inspired by manga and anime is not some grand betrayal, it is a proud tradition. This is the fantasy of today's high school kids. You cannot expect them to be constrained by seventy to one hundred year old “literary” conventions. Many of those stories have been out of print, or at least not very accessible, for years. Kids today don't know about them. In fact it would be hard for them to know about them. Why should they? They were the low budget escapism of another era, not Charles Dickens.

It is important for D&D to be grounded in the fantasy of the time. In the 1970s it was the pulp adventures dating back to the 30s. During the late '80s and through the '90s it was vast fantasy epics. These were in many ways inspired by the D&D campaigns their creators had grown up with. If fact I would go as far as to say that by the time TSR fell D&D was in danger of sinking into a closed, creativity feedback loop. Fantasy was based on the D&D model which was based on the fantasy it was based on. The introduction of the manga and anime styles is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Kids today are doing exactly what you did. They are living out adventures in a fantasy world inspired by the media they consume. And they seem to be having a good time doing it. D&D is a tool, not a religion.

Word Game: Angry and Sharp

Angry will not be put in the same category as “apple”. Starting with the same letter is not enough to qualify a word for the same category. The qualification must be based on a variety of factors including the part of speech and the composition of the word as noted in Joe's argument. However, whether a word fits in a category will not be decided by a mechanical scoring process where pros must outnumber cons. The number of pros and cons can be persuasive though.

The next word is “Sharp”. Should "sharp" be in the same category as "apple"?

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