3:00 AM Rantings of a Mad Man

Back in my day, the ancient past known as the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you wanted to meet one of the superstars of roleplaying games you had to write them a letter or go to a convention. Conventions were few and far between back in those days, at least ones that drew in the BIG names. Or you could send fan mail. Later there were Internet forums and email, but originally we had to do it the hard way.

Seemed like a good idea. Might take it down later.

WTaFH am I doing here? No really? What am I doing here?

Do I even belong here? In this space? With all these HUGE names in gaming?

I just don’t know any more. Some of y’all make more in a day than I will this year off selling RPG items no less. Should I even be here on #TTRPG social media hanging out? Seriously, I’m losing my damn marbles here.

I mean, yeah I’ve come up with some (*what I think are) fairly interesting articles..

Fell asleep on my keyboard right about here. 6:47AM

Thud!

It just stymies me how I am still somehow, in some small way, considered a part of any community on the Internet. I mean, I follow some pretty big names on Twitter. To my knowledge none of them followed me back, but I could maybe be wrong about that.

Okay, after a little research, a couple of what I consider to be HUGE names actually did follow me back. Much love for you. Y’all know who you are. Thank you!

Old timey story incoming.

Back in my day, the ancient past known as the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you wanted to meet one of the superstars of roleplaying games you had to write them a letter or go to a convention. Conventions were few and far between back in those days, at least ones that drew in the BIG names. Or you could send fan mail. Later there were Internet forums and email, but originally we had to do it the hard way.

Back then, some of the BIG names in gaming were giants because there weren’t that many of them. Artists, too btw. You were lucky if you could find Gary Gygax himself, Jim Ward, Lester Smith, Ed Greenwood, Tom Moldvay, Zeb Cook or Keith Parkinson in person. But if you did, it was awesome!

Even more fortunate was if you got to sit down at the table with one of the legends. I never had the pleasure, but I knew a few guys that actually sat at the table with Gary Gygax at Gen Con back in the really olden days. Can you imagine? Playing D&D with the creator himself. Wow…

Nowadays, our heroes are slightly more accessible.

Maybe it’s because of the Open Game License? There are far more creators out there in the world to run into than ever before. That’s one possibility.

The other, bigger monstrosity is social media. Facebook/Instagram (Meta,) Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter among others have helped us keep in touch with friends and families all over the bloody place. Seriously, I have like, a thousand friends on different platforms and I have no clue who they are. (Feel free to say Hi any time.) YouTube is somewhere between social and a regular medium.

Then we’ve got just as many creators selling themselves on crowdfunding such as Kickstarter. One of the best ways to promote anything is on social media. YouTube videos help. Sometimes blogs like this one help spread the word, too. (*Okay, maybe not mine, but there are some. I know there are.)

Ever since this crazy new electronic age began, I’ve actually bumped into a few of my idols out there online.

I think our “greatest” technological innovation has been great for helping us connect. It’s also been horrible psychologically for some of us. One of my recent forays into #ttrpgTwitter led me to an account with almost 15,000 followers.

Holy buckets! Publishing credits with some major names in the industry. That’s saying something. I realize it’s easier these days to break in as an RPG writer, designer, editor, etc. But still, to actually receive a paycheck from Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, or even Goodman Games would be dream come true for many of us.

So, I’m out there in the Twitterverse with some of these truly amazing folx and I’m wondering. How do I fit in? What am I know for? (uh… nothing yet, really.)

I learned that I share a birthday with Matt Mercer. That’s kinda cool. I’m older, but still…

If anyone needs me, I’m going to be curled up in a ball under my desk with a pot of coffee, a bowl of homemade Chex mix, and this here laptop. You might hear me rolling dice or see me when I sneak out to go to the bathroom. I’ll figure the rest out as I go.

At least I came out from under the desk.

Thanks for being here. See you in the funny pages on Twitter. I appreciate you!

Is this me? Is She Speaking to Me?!?

That’s actually very good advice! Note she said “project leads.” I would take that to mean likely larger companies. Yeah, at this point in the year 2022, we have better options than all-male, all-white RPG design teams at Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Renegade, and other big game companies. I agree.

WtAF did I walk into this time?

Okay. It so happens I followed this person before this post on #TTRPGTwitter .

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Here’s the link if you’re on Twitter.

**WARNING!** Before anyone freaks out- There are parts of this statement that I wholeheartedly agree with and a couple of things that I think require careful examination and discernment. I’m not offended by any of it. (Some of the comments on Twitter were another story.)

I’m a “Male creator in the #TTRPG community.” (Sorta-ish.)

Okay. So far so good. No secrets there. I’m a pretty standard issue older white guy. Tabletop Roleplaying Games are very much my jam for 40+years now.

She’s calling on me “not to work…” Whoa. What? Let’s stop the bus for a second. I’ve been unemployed for a year and a change now. Um- I’m sorry. But if someone offered me a real, cash-paying job at Wizards of the Coast or some other game company? At this point I wouldn’t argue.

Now, obviously people aren’t beating down my door to offer me a job. I’ve never gotten to hold one of the rare, highly coveted writing jobs at one of the “real” established game companies. Make no mistake- It’s on my vision board. It has been my dream for 36-ish years. I believe it will happen eventually.

Make no mistake, I have zero issues working with anyone on an RPG. (*Okay, except bigots, homophobes, transphobes, haters and other such -ists.) But People of Color? Women? Trans folx? Sign me up. Awesome. It’s about the GAME! (and maybe a paycheck.)

Now to unpack the more of this statement.

“…not to work with project leads who consistently lead projects that only include white men and the occasional token non-man.”

Okay, cool. I think people took the ball and ran toward the wrong end zone with this statement online. I think what she means is don’t go work for white guys who only hire other white guys and the occasional person of color or woman/trans male/trans female. That’s the lengthened version if I read it right.

That’s actually very good advice! Note she said “project leads.” I would take that to mean likely larger companies. Yeah, at this point in the year 2022, we have better options than all-male, all-white RPG design teams at Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Renegade, and other big game companies. I agree.

The negative, harsh criticism from this post is unwarranted.

I’ve seen too many comments of “Don’t tell me who to work with” and “Don’t tell me who to hire.” Those comments are all for nothing. Guys, she’s not speaking in absolutes. She’s not trying to force anything. She’s trying to promote diversity and inclusion in game design teams. Good for her!

I would personally have said it a bit differently in an effort to keep things positive. I might not have the perfect phrasing, either. If I posted a similar statement here on my blog, it would look like:

Hey, if you’re looking for a job on a design team, please look for project leads who work primarily with diverse and inclusive groups. There’s plenty of work in large companies such as Wizards of the Coast to go around.

If you have the option to work on a project with a manager that encourages diversity and inclusion of ideas from all the people from every walk of life, culture, climate, condition, whatever- that’s awesome. Please do that. I think most people would argue that an abundance of varying ideas from different sociocultural perspectives is a good thing.

I have issues with the last part of the statement again.

“There are so many better, cooler, more fun projects to work on.”

Sure. I can start my own game company. I can struggle for years to get noticed or get my product noticed. Can I come live in the world where all of these amazeballs options exist, please? I guess if I’m doing shit for fun, maybe? (*I mean, yay fun, personal projects, but those don’t pay so well.)

Sorry, RPG family/community. It’s not that I have issues with @wildrosemage (Hannah) Quite the opposite. She’s an accomplished editor and designer. I admire her success. (*Law of Attraction rule: Never disrespect someone for their being prosperous. Positive success is a good thing.)

Oh, and damn near 15,000 followers on Twitter! Geez! What am I doing here? At least there’s almost zero chance my comments will be noticed once again. LOL!

Hannah’s very impressive Twitter bio.

The issue I have with there being supposedly being so many other projects to work on, like I have all these amazing options in front of me, is that the statement comes from her worldview. Obviously, she has options.

I can put good ol’ Matt Colville or Matt Mercer on blast on this blog any day of the week. No one will give a hoot. Why? Because I’m small potatoes right now. I could disappear from the internet tomorrow and very few people would notice.

Game companies are not beating down my door to hire me. Yes, I am very picky about who I work for these days. I’m also very reluctant to deal with criticism. In short, I’m a hot mess of a human being. I’ll own any/all of my shortcomings. Obviously, some folx have it a lot better.

Yeah, I’m still barking in the dark. Sigh. Nothing like a major case of imposter syndrome to end my day much the same way it began. Not even sure where I belong any more.

I am so happy and grateful for every last one of my readers.

Thanks for being here. I may be taking a social media break after this. I appreciate you stopping by. You’re a wonderful and kind audience. Thank you!

THANK YOU!!!

OSR Imposter Syndrome Part 2.

Well,. I’m going to go grab the Chex mix out of the kitchen and put on another pot of coffee. Hopefully some video game therapy will help me figure things out. I’ve been back and forth with this for over two weeks now.

My first thoughts were, “OMG What am I doing here?”

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Seriously, it makes me want to crawl into a hole for about a week and subsist off of coffee, Chex mix, and video games. I’ll come out long enough to shave my noggin, maybe bathe, pet the cats, and forage for not-Chex mix. (Vegetables or something.) Otherwise my family can come try to poke me with a stick to see if I growl at them.

Aw crud. This is the first full week of school. No crawling in a hole for me. Kids need rides to and from school. My wife needs clean clothes, clean dishes, and meals cooked. Guess I have to live with other humans, not in my cozy hole. Boo.

Why the fuss? Well, go on DriveThruRPG and search up Dungeon Crawl Classics. 1.397 entries! Yes, many of those are from Goodman Games, around 451 of them give or take. But still… That’s a lot of entries.

Can I even compete in this market?

Seriously? Is it even possible? With the announcement of One D&D, and the massive bloat that is third party 5E publishing, I won’t touch that market until at least 2025 if/when they announce a new open license agreement. There’s no sense putting out a whole 5E module just to have to rewrite it. IFF it actually sells.

I figure I’ll take my chances with DCC. at least it’s only 1,397 competing products. Maybe I can make enough credit to get more OSR stuff. I want to try monkeying around with some of the OSE stuff from Necrotic Gnome. I’ve heard good things for years about them.

Which is tougher: Fear of failure or fear of success?

Suppose I put a module out with my meager mapping and art skills. My goal is to make sure it’s carefully written, edited, and creature stats in order. I want to make sure all of the OGL licensing is in proper order. Oh, and I want the adventure to be fun, too.

As I’ve said before, my fear and loathing of criticism runs extremely high. At least with a game product I have the option of ignoring all of the negative comments and updating fixes based on the constructive ones. Still, I find the whole process terrifying.

What to charge? Pay What You Wish? Do those ever make money? $1.99? 2.99? $6.99? More? What’s fair? I wish I truly knew.

What’s the best that can happen?

Thanks for being you!

Well,. I’m going to go grab the Chex mix out of the kitchen and put on another pot of coffee. Hopefully some video game therapy will help me figure things out. I’ve been back and forth with this for over two weeks now.

I appreciate you stopping by. Hopefully things will seem brighter in the morning.

Does OSR Create Imposter Syndrome?

I mean, nothing new here, right? The RPG industry isn’t the first to run into this particular dilemma. How many truly original plots are there for movies, TV shows, YouTube podcasts, video games, comic books, and cartoons can there possibly be? The RPG industry is just one of the fresher faces on the block compared to other print media, radio, movies and TV.

Man, I thought this was going to be a gaming article.

Looking at the many various websites that have converted the old D&D material into Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC.) I was looking for old D&D modules from B/X and AD&D 1E that had been converted to DCC. I was also on my side quest for OA material that had been converted to Old School Rules. Turns out there’s a LOT of stuff out there. Like, a shockingly large amount out there.

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I’m just wondering what am I even doing here any more? OSR already felt a bit like we were reinventing the wheel. Now it’s more like I’m trying to reverse engineer a Lamborghini. It’s like I’m way in over my head AND it’s all been done before only better. I feel like I showed up late for the game, in the wrong season, for the wrong team, not even the same sport.

I get that the definition of “retro clone” means it has been done before.

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But, I was really digging DCC RPG anyway. I still do. I will probably even put some stuff up on the site here. But getting paid for it?

I feel like I’m barking up the wrong tree, in the dark, in the neighbor’s yard, three blocks over, and I’m a canary. Imposter syndrome? This is like a whole freaking plague of imposterism. Imposterishness? Imposteritis? Imposterior?

The idea was simple at first. Find a game I like. Find an OGL I can work with. Create material. Put material up for sale. Advertise and promote the material. Get paid, even if it’s a pittance in credit on DriveThruRPG. I mean, I can still do all of that, I guess.

I don’t remember the part where I discover new information, and then mentally trip, fall, stumble, and hit my head on the wall repeatedly.

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I mean, nothing new here, right? The RPG industry isn’t the first to run into this particular dilemma. How many truly original plots are there for movies, TV shows, YouTube podcasts, video games, comic books, and cartoons can there possibly be? The RPG industry is just one of the fresher faces on the block compared to other print media, radio, movies and TV.

There are probably over 100 different fantasy RPGs alone. Sci-Fi RPGs, Supers, Cyberpunk and Post Apocalyptic games are not far behind. I really feel sorry for folks operating in the Horror genre in any medium, much less RPGs. (Horror- literally competing with campfire stories in verbal tradition since man began creating stories. Yeesh.)

Retro RPGs are not entirely new, either. GURPS and Mythras are two examples of games born from much older roleplaying engines. GURPS isn’t new, either. The RPG industry is chock full of examples of people taking older games and repurposing/rebranding them to make money for themselves. D&D itself was an outgrowth of the miniatures wargaming hobby.

Disclaimer: I want to clarify this is not about a specific product, but a category of RPG products. OSR and OSRIC are a line of RPGs that closely mimic rules of original fantasy and other games from the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s. Dungeons & Dragons is the main focus of many of these games, but not the only one.

So, why am I here, exactly?

I’ll be in a better mood later.

The whole thing makes me wonder what do I have to offer? Like, at all? Should I go back to mopping floors or pumping coffee? (My back can’t really handle either, but sometimes I speculate. ) I’ve been at this for almost a year now. The self doubt has gone from creeping in to a flash flood. I just don’t know right now.

I’ve been posting daily to this blog in one form or another for almost six months solid. I’m not making a ton of money off of it. (Read: none whatsoever, much to the chagrin of my missus.)

Do I stop writing material for RPGs and about them? Do I just go back to running a game or two on the weekend for a few close friends and family members? It’s frustrating, it’s uncomfortable, and it likely means positive growth is coming in some way, shape or form.

Tonight, I’m upset. Tomorrow, I’ll meditate and be in a better mood. My inspiration will return. It’s just a small setback.

Back to the original question.

Why do we have OSR, anyway? I mean, I know a lot of well-meaning Old Grognards have a hard time accepting new editions of D&D. Okay. Back when reprints weren’t as commonly available, I can see that. But now? I own originals, reprints, pdf printouts, and digital copies of lots of old rulebooks. I also have a ton of bookmarks to sites that still rock the old game.

So, why is OSR a thing? It’s much the same idea as a throwback basketball jersey or reproduction Air Jordans. The idea is to take an old concept or product and alter it slightly and sell it for money. In RPG terms, same old rules, same old game, new title, art, and trade dress.

Where does the creative license come in?

Where’s the creative freedom in copying/rewriting the same old rules and slapping a new coat of paint on it? People like classic cars, too. I’d drive a rebuilt 1984 IROC-Z if I could. BUT… I wouldn’t be able to haul my family in it. In RPG terms, many of us run a current system/ruleset because it’s more widely available, popular and accessible to find a game.

If I walk into a FLGS on a Saturday and say, “Who wants to play in my 5E game?” I’m far more likely to get some takers than if I walk in and ask, “Who wants to play Tunnels & Trolls?” Many times, old fashioned bulletin boards or online groups/apps will help someone find a game for a specialized RPG such as Lancer. Likewise, it’s easy to walk into a club meeting full of Old Grognards and find a AD&D 1E game, Castles & Crusades, or White Box Swords & Wizardry, because those guys probably won’t need any explanation.

Why do I love DCC so darn much?

I chose that particular retro clone of D&D because it’s flexible, reminds me of multiple editions, and is a lot of fun to run. There’s nostalgia, cool dice, and lots of fun charts for everything/anything. It’s like Warhammer Fantasy and Rolemaster had a love child.

I love DCC because I can (re)create classes and concepts that I used to love. I can pump out new and different monsters or port them over from other games, D&D editions, etc. I own a sickening number of old monster books, especially from D&D 3rd Ed. They happen to work very well with DCC/MCC. So does Gamma World, strangely enough.

I’ll admit, I also have a strong sense of nostalgia and that’s present in DCC more than other games. I would still run Basic D&D per the Rules Cyclopedia if I didn’t have to come up with 5 copies of the game to distribute to my players. DCC is relatively cheap and easy to find, so is D&D 5E. Either works. One is easier to explain thanks to Critical Role.

The “Old Grognard Effect” does more damage to new players than Matt Mercer ever could.

Old Grognards of the world, OG roleplayers of the world, hear me please. There is a very ugly tendency amongst older gamers to exclude or act as gatekeepers to the hobby. The ugly act of discrimination affects the gaming table the same as anything else. Simply put- please treat people with kindness and understanding?

I hear a lot of stories about OGs gaming in public. Why do you go play at a game store with the same old group and the same old game if you’re not going to let other people join or even watch? Go hang out in the DM’s mom’s basement for five hours and continue to ignore the new players entirely.

Part of the appeal of D&D 5E is its current popularity. Please, let them learn about the “good old days” elsewhere after they’ve had a few sessions under their belts. Keeping new folx excluded from the hobby is ultimately self-destructive toward the hobby and industry. Please, don’t do it. Gatekeeping is unnecessary and kinda stupid.

The homebrew factor.

People have been hacking the rules and creating their own material for games since the dawn of D&D. B/X and AD&D 1E were a glorious and wonderful proving ground for funky new game mechanics, previously unseen or unheard-of monsters, and freakishly cool magic items. Some of us feel like D&D 5E is tied very heavily to the rules, even when they’re broken and dysfunctional.

We never needed a “Rule of cool” back then because all you ever needed was DM approval. It was the DM’s table, his rules. (I use male pronouns because unfortunately ladies were rare in the hobby back then.) Likewise, DMs could cook up some new, weird idea for a class, spell, magic item, or monster they could run it. If it flopped, it could be gone the next week or revised.

Heck, back then we didn’t have “Based on X Edition” mechanics. If someone built a game based on D&D, but set entirely in space? It was a “NEW” game. Most designers had the sense to rename the attributes, classes, abilities, magic and add spiffy rayguns. They wouldn’t rip the game off directly, but they could definitely steal concepts to make money. Sounds like what OSR games do. Hmmm….

Plenty more to discuss next time. Thanks for letting me rant. Feeling better now. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you.

Am I Doing This Right?

Still looking for that remote job. Wanna chat over Twitter? Sure. Want to exchange Instagram messages? Great. Message me on LinkedIn? Are you real? Wanna text? How well do I know you? You want to get together in person?!? Uh… Umm… M-maybe next week/month/year/never.

Please bear with me as I’m going to ramble a bit here.

I’ve been debating about posting this for a while now. It’s not entirely an imposter syndrome thing. Sometimes I just wonder if I’m doing things right?

I still have plenty of PTSD around criticism, so I’m not exactly out soliciting opinions of anything I’m doing. My inner critic is enough for me on any given day. I sure as shit never want to set foot in a “real” job ever again. If I can’t work remotely, I ain’t doin it. For the rest, there’s therapy. 😅

Today and several other days, I keep wondering if I’m social media-ing correctly? Is that a thing? I dunno. It is now, I guess.

I mean, I’m not trying to be the popular-est guy ever on social media. I’ve met some very amazing and talented people on Instagram and Twitter both. I truly treasure and appreciate so many of whom I’ve met so far. But am I making an impact? Would they say the same? I’m not entirely sure.

I’m not always getting 100% of the engagement I’m looking for on Twitter and Instagram. At least I’m not fighting/arguing with or getting-trolled-by anyone the majority of the time. That’s good, I guess.

I have a few people on Twitter that I follow who I’m pretty sure don’t recognize me as a follower or just plain don’t care. Lol? I guess invisible and anonymous is okay in some cases. I can still talk mad smack about Matt Mercer and he’ll never know. Bwah haha! (Just kidding.)

Having a life online and having friends out in the physical world are two different things.

Sure, we’d like to believe it’s both. You’ll notice I didn’t say, “the ‘real’ world” because for many, especially the last two years, online relationships are just as real as physical ones.

I have friends that I met, talk to, and hang with online pretty much exclusively. Kinda hard to go to coffee when we’re scattered all over the planet, literally, but we’re friends, regardless. As a big proponent of the Law of Attraction, I would say reality is what you make it.

Even if you have imaginary friends, and you have conversations with them in your head all day, they’re just as real as people you could meet on the street. And because emotion is energy in motion, eventually the Universe would likely pair you up with someone similar to the ones in you imagined along the lines of your vibrational frequency. (Theoretically.) So, no worries there.

I’m still struggling with meeting people out in public.

My therapist is working with me on this. Maybe talking about it helps, I dunno? Truth is, I still don’t want to hang with people out in the physical world. Some days, I don’t even want to leave the house. Hanging out with people in the physical world puts me in a state between panic and anger a lot of times.

Still looking for that remote job. Wanna chat over Twitter? Sure. Want to exchange Instagram messages? Great. Message me on LinkedIn? Are you real? Wanna text? How well do I know you? You want to get together in person?!? Uh… Umm… M-maybe next week/month/year/never.

Maybe I’m happier making friends online? That’s sort of the social media engagement I’d really like. I’ve met some very remarkable people online over the years. That’s a good thing.

Maybe that’s why this format works for me.

I’m okay addressing an audience in writing. It’s cool. I’ll probably never hear from the vast majority of my audience. And that’s okay. We’re cool like that, right?

I’m grateful for you. I appreciate you. Thank you for being here with me in this space. See ya soon.

Near Brush with Imposter Syndrome.

I take my writing very seriously, even for the hobby.

I’m plugging away on my latest sourcebook idea and I started doing a little research in an effort to avoid too much overlap with what others have done and make sure I covered most/all of my bases. I made a discovery that almost derailed the whole project. I froze in my tracks when I noticed a fairly big name in the industry did a sourcebook on almost the exact same topic. The. Exact. Same. Topic.

My thought process spun out for the better part of a week. I didn’t even have the heart to keep going. I was pretty bummed. I mean, who am I to compete with that guy? My book isn’t going to be nearly as cool or sparkly, right?

After agonizing for days over this, (because I take my writing very seriously, even for the hobby,) I finally broke down and spent the two bucks on DMSGuild to pick up a pdf copy of the book. Surprise!

Much to my surprise, it looks nothing like what I’m working on! I was actually kinda shocked that this came from what I consider a leading writer in the industry. I mean, yes, it’s clean, thorough, and well-composed. But it’s way shorter than I expected for the money.

*Side note, I’m not naming names because I don’t want to cause any undue ill will toward this person or sound like I’m trying to brag. He’s got some good stuff. I’m continuing on doing what I know how to do without borrowing a word from it. All’s well.

I learned something today. Actually a few of things, to be honest. First, I do belong in the tabletop RPG industry. This is my jam. Second, there’s more than enough room for newcomers, even at this point in 5E’s development. Third, it’s not a competition. We’re all crazy. Maybe a better way to say that last part would be, there’s plenty of room to stay competitive without stepping on one another’s proverbial toes. It can be done.

So, on that cheerful note, I’m getting back to work. I have tables to craft and flavor text to write. If all goes well, my new sourcebook should be getting uploaded to the DMSGuild in a couple of months. No more brushes with Imposter Syndrome. I promise.

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