Old Guys Still Get a Bad Rep.

Do what lights you up. Spend energy, money, and time toward people and things you love. Life is too short to waste it on hating things. Ultimately it doesn’t accomplish much of anything.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

Some of us have been around long enough to know this, especially in the tabletop roleplaying game sphere. I know a lot of us are looked upon by the younger gaming crowd suspiciously, questionably, even with disdain sometimes. The term “Old Grognard” has become akin to an unfortunate stereotype on social media.

I mean, I have a kind of a thick skin when it comes to social media and the internet having been a veteran of many flame wars and troll battles. My recommendation is- Don’t feed the trolls. Disengage. Delete. Ignore. But when it comes someone disparaging all of us OGs (*Old Gamers,) I feel compelled to say something.

Diversity and inclusion have to extend both ways, or at least an attempt needs to be made.

Look, I get that some of us “old” codgers need some encouragement to give up our old, tired ways and long held beliefs. Up until about seven years ago, I was a straight-up ass at times. I’ve said my share of absolutely dumb, hateful, regrettable things in my time. Many of them were unintentional. Still, there are regrets.

The important lessons here are that I’ve learned from years of mistakes. I’m honestly not a racist, homophobic, transphobic arse. I never have been. I don’t hang with Nazis. I have a pretty diverse number of friends from all over the place. Honest, as long as you’re not a hater, we can probably find common ground.

I get it. Old cishet white guys have made a mess of things.

And yet somehow we keep putting them in charge of the United States. (Don’t get me going…) I can’t fix them or their actions any more than I can change the color of my skin. All I can do is the best I can and try to teach my children to do the same.

The same applies in the sphere of TTRPGs as well as many other things in life. It’s not my place to apologize for what others have done. I can’t learn their lessons in life for them. Just like I can’t create world peace by unifying the world under one Creator/Source/Universe or set of divine principles. That’s why it’s called “free will.”

What I can do is a whole different matter.

I love life. And the day I really embraced the notion that ultimately we are all linked together cosmically changed me. My Higher Self knew this. I just had to remember it. (*This is me speaking from the heart. No, I’m not in some New Age Cult or anything.) Here’s the number one message I have for anyone who feels the need to try to influence the behaviors of others by cramming politics, religion, or hate down their throats- DON’T!

I love you, family. All you can ever do is stand up and present your views. What others decide to do with it is up to them. Yeah, it kinda sucks sometimes. But sometimes it’s just enough to help someone turn the corner.

Other times, it’s just better to walk away.

They’re here to learn, too. All of those enraged, hateful, spiteful Internet trolls? Yeah. We don’t have to cancel them. Just don’t give them an audience. Don’t buy into the product. Listen to people you do resonate with.

Do what lights you up. Spend energy, money, and time toward people and things you love. Life is too short to waste it on hating things. Ultimately it doesn’t accomplish much of anything.

“The best revenge is no revenge.”

Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten who said it, but it’s true. When it comes to social media, Unfollow, Block, and Ignore are your best friends. Heck, it’s anonymous to report people on every platform I’ve been on. If someone is being overly horrible toward others, Report them, please. It’s the platform’s job to police itself.

Wait, are we still talking gamer stuff?

Believe it or not, yes I am. I see examples from all sides of the conflict in the #ttrpg space every day. Every time I log on, I’m reminded that, yeah we have some “Old Grognards” in the community that are awful toward others for race, gender, sexual preference, and so forth. It’s not the f*ck okay!

Then we have just as many folx who want to see them canceled. Heck, some probably want to see me canceled. (I’d rather deal with them than the guys who want to tie me up in the woods…) It’s not about the crusade to stamp out everything that offends. It’s about building up a community and showing some caring regard for one another no matter who they are. (*As long as no harm is intended toward others.)

I’m not perfect. I am more than happy to make amends when I stick my foot in my mouth. Many OGs won’t. In fact, the OGs who never apologize are usually the ones who get “us” in trouble. The broader stereotype makes every action by a handful of misguided individuals reflect poorly on the rest. (*If you only knew how many times I had to retype that.)

Ready to go back to talking RPGs again.

I get pretty wound up about this topic. Sorry. All I can do is try to set a good example of being a good example. All I ask is that others try to do the same. Please, support one another regardless. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Try to show some empathy.

If peace, love, joy, and prosperity FOR ALL aren’t your thing? Well, please feel free to block, unfollow, and ignore me, too. Heck, if I’m somehow offensive, feel free to report me. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you with all my heart. Love my #ttrpgfamily. Take care.

Elitism in RPGs

I literally almost started screaming at my phone recently when I noticed someone comparing casual RPG gamers to the wonderfulness of Critical Role.

Headed into somewhat grim and perilous territory.

Maybe I should just learn to stay off social media. I saw something the other night that really spiked my blood pressure. I got the impression from someone talking about the #mattmercereffect that us grumpy old “kitchen table” gamers where somehow of a lower caliber than the Critical Role crowd. I am still just shaking trying not to flip the f%*k out when I hear stuff like this.

I meditate. I pray for peace. Somehow this is one of those shadow elements of my personality that just keeps coming up for me to deal with. I have lots of contempt for statements that lead to elitism, hate, and divisiveness anywhere, but especially in my favorite hobby.

I used to get so angry back in my WoW days when I would hear anything to the effect of “Casuals are ruining the game!”

Because apparently there are people who play World of Warcraft 16 hours or more per day “professionally.” And the rest of us should just log off and close our accounts because we’re not fit to lick their boots or some junk. Whatever.

Yeah… screw that. I don’t play WoW any more because of toxic elitists. Yeah, you’re great at your game. Good for you. Moving on.

I don’t want to ever, EVER see D&D turn into that because of Critical Role or any other actual play podcast. Seriously, we’re all equal here. We’re not starting that elitism crap on my watch if I have anything to say about it.

Running a game at my kitchen table for my family every other week on Sunday is just as valid in terms of loving/teaching the game as anything on TV or the Internet. I’m not trying to disrespect Critical Role. Thanks for generating interest in the game and teaching people how to play.

Picture 1986. 14 year old me teaching the game and learning other games. 1991 college freshman at conventions running games for anyone who would sit down at the table. There were no cameras anywhere to be found. In fact, we used to be stigmatized, ostracized, and beat up for being game nerds back in the day.

Actors.

I used to be big into theatre and stagecraft back in high school. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time running D&D. My stage days are long gone. My love of the RPG hobby and my family are still present. I do all kinds of voices and create all kinds of characters.

Critical Role on the other hand, is a performance by actors. Yeah, they have characters. Much beyond that it looks like an advertisement for Player’s Handbooks and whatever else they want to push for product. If it’s a bunch of actors doing improv under the guise of a playing D&D, that’s called, “acting.”

That doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else in the hobby. In fact, I would go so far as to say you won’t find Matt Mercer anywhere near a game table if there isn’t a camera around. I like to pick on Matt because I know he’ll never stoop so far as to read or comment on anything I say. I’m small potatoes and he’s a big time Dungeon Master, ya know?

I think the #mattmercereffect is not so much unrealistic expectations put on the DM as it is another silly way to divide people.

I could be wrong. I stopped watching the mainstream news years ago. I stopped watching most TV and movies when I took up meditation and some other things years ago. Honestly, Hollywood has very little influence over my life these days. Yes, I still dip into TV now and again to watch anime and I did see Vox Machina on Prime. Meh? It was okay.

I’m a big YouTube fan, but I watch an absolutely fantastic variety of things on there. Yes, I’ve seen interviews between Todd Kenreck and Matt Mercer. I absolutely adore Dael Kingsmill and Ginny Di. There are a ton of RPG channels that I follow. Some are actual play podcasts, some are just random Op Ed stuff like I do on my blog every day here.

Again, no one is better or worse. I could fire up my own YouTube channel any time and talk about RPGs and other cool things until I’m blue in the face. It could happen. I think other channels probably do it a lot better. Some day I’ll put together a recommendation list of RPG YouTube channels.

My point is: just because you play D&D at your kitchen table in a casual way does not make you better or worse than a trained actor playing D&D professionally on TV. I would bet there are hundreds of DMs and GMs that would give up an arm and a leg to be running a game like that, sure. (Shit, give me a contract and I’ll do it.) But realistically, I just want to enjoy the hobby and I think most people would agree regardless of playstyle.

Onward and upward. I stopped shaking finally. Let’s look for ways to come together at the table, please? Thank you. I appreciate you.

Old School Somewhat Conflicted GM

It’s sad to think some people lean on OSR style games to justify the same old attitudes of hate, fear, and separation in the real world.

This is now my third take on this article.

I keep getting partway into this particular subject and then bailing out. This is mostly due to the fact that I am concerned about offending someone. I want you all to know I am grateful you are here. Thank you!

I see something of a conflict between new and old gamers, at least on social media.

This usually takes place in the form of the D&D edition wars. Some people learned the game in Fifth Edition. Some of us have been around since BECMI or even White Box D&D. And of course every edition in between then and now has its own rabid fanbase.

Some designers even miss the old editions so much that they’ve redrawn the old rules in newer books. Collectively this is called the OSR movement or “Old School Renaissance” I usually say Old School Rules or Old School Revival. It’s all basically the same idea. Someone takes the original Basic, First Ed AD&D or Second Ed AD&D and puts it back out under their own banner with a few minor adjustments here and there.

The conflict “is not what you think” as one of my favorite YouTube channels likes to say.

The biggest problem I’ve seen lately seems to stem from one of two sources. “Old” gamers who have gotten frustrated with all the immense rules changes and add-ons in 5E who want to go back to simpler times. This is in contrast to the 5E players who have grown up in a more social and political environment who see the older editions as inherently racist, homophobic, or transphobic.

I’m going to pick on @matthewmercer for a moment only because I know good old Matt won’t ever read this or comment on it. (I’m too far below his station.) “The Matt Mercer Effect” as it is called causes tension and sometimes divide at the table because us “Old Grognards” have been running D&D for literally decades without a camera on before Critical Role came around. I’m not saying anyone’s take is better or worse. But sometimes it is a bit daunting to compare one’s own game to the shiny TV/Internet version of D&D. Honestly, I think a lot of new players are intimidated by anything that isn’t D&D 5E or Pathfinder 2E.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com
Please understand: These are my observations and opinions based on said. Please run your game at your table your way.
Also, I do not hate Critical Role, Matt Mercer, or anyone else for race, gender, political orientation or sexual preferences. Let’s focus on love, please.

Someone mentioned that most of us “Old, (bitter,) Grognards” hate Critical Role. I see a degree of pretentiousness on both sides and it makes me sort of sick to my stomach if I’m being honest. The “new kids” seem to think that only actual play podcasts like Critical Role are “real roleplaying.” All of us old guys shake our heads when we watch these younger pups with their political correctness and handholding ways. (I get that I sound divisive and dismissive there, but I’m trying to make my point.) Both sides are right and wrong at the same time.

I’m going to be blunt for a moment. The RPG industry was built by old, mostly cishet white guys. HOWEVER, that is not to say it has remained that way or has to remain that way. If the last couple of years have taught us anything it’s that the industry can change. People can change. We’re evolving.

1977 D&D is not even remotely the same animal as 5E D&D. If Gary Gygax and Matt Mercer could swap places for a day and each run the other’s game, I daresay people would be crying and running out of the room from both tables with bruised egos and hurt feelings all around. D&D’s origins are steeped in ___phobic or ___cist behaviors. Again, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

14 year old me was confused by the race relations table in AD&D Unearthed Arcana.

Please hear me out on this one. A LOT of older D&D games contain a high degree of racial tension between the Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings (The demi-human races that used to have their own classes.) and the “dark races” such as the Orcs, Goblins, Drow, Duergar, and Draconians. The origins of those racial tensions go all the way back to Tolkien and WotC is just now getting around to really changing the basic premise behind races in D&D which I will save for another article.

I’m sort of ashamed to admit it, but I’m a big fan of some of the older campaigns that had some pretty ugly racial blunders in them. My beloved Oriental Adventures, Birthright, and even good old Greyhawk were pretty much a product of an older way of thinking about race. I prefer to keep the stuff I love from those settings and toss out the rest. That’s just how I do it, not that it’s for everyone. There is never a good justification for hate when it comes to race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. So, just don’t.

So, yes, OSR gets a pretty bad reputation, mostly from people who use it to justify the same old, tired, closed, narrow mindsets that include hate toward other members of real world human society. It’s really sad to think that we’re in a global age of communications and people can still be stuck so far in the past. On the bright side, we have to learn sometime. Many of us have evolved in our way of thinking as it applies to people in the real world and in games.

On that note, I’m signing off for the night. Please keep praying for peace. Please be kind to one another today. Please keep gaming. Gaming is good. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you.

Can We Just Get Back to Gaming?

If something is making you or someone else uncomfortable at the table or even out of game, please speak up. Throw up a red flag. Use the X card. Hopefully we covered it in Session Zero, but if we missed it, PLEASE SPEAK UP! Even if you have to pull the GM or another player aside in the middle of play and stop the game. It’s better to halt play than suffer in silence. As a GM, I’d rather kick one bitter old veteran player than have a new player go home in tears. I’m not in the RPG hobby to make people uncomfortable. No denial. I just want to have fun.

I’m probably going to get called all kinds of “-ist” and “-phobe” for this one, but hear me out, please?

I saw someone today whom I was following on Twitter blocked me presumably for political reasons. This person claimed to be a gamer. The account was actually listed under “So-and-so” Games. (Real name kept confidential.)

Yet I would constantly read this person’s post about how someone is a transphobe because they refused to acknowledge a specific pronoun. And how this other person was a racist because of this political affiliation. Furthermore we shouldn’t follow @X, Y, or Z because they’re one of those reviled Republicans.

Sorry, not what I signed onto RPG Twitter for.

RPG Twitter still makes UFO Twitter look like a government run haunted house, but lately things have been getting a bit touchy over in RPG land, too. Admittedly, it’s not as serious as infiltration by a three letter government agency, but it’s getting about as bothersome at times. Folks, I left my baggage over in UFO Twitter. I only go back there to visit a few friends.

I came to RPG Twitter to talk tabletop roleplaying. I want to talk punching Orcs in the face and slaying dragons. I want to talk mecha battles and starships. Sign me up for my Morpher or my cape and armor. Maybe it’s the “Old Grognard” talking, but when did rpgs become about transgender politics and political parties?

I’ve said before, I should come with a trigger warning.

Look, I can’t help that I was born the was I was born any more than the next person. Here’s the thing- I don’t care if you’re Black, Lesbian, Trans, Neurodivergent, Atheist, Disabled or much of anything else as long as you’re not hurting anyone. As long as your whole thing isn’t hate, harm, or abuse of some kind, you’re probably okay to come game.

Republican? Who cares? Democrat? Same. Green Party? Dude. Nazi? Stay the Hell away from my family. It’s easy. We just don’t discuss real world politics in game, EVER! It’s a rule.

Same with religion. I’m spiritual, not religious. There’s a difference. Sure, we have clerics in fantasy roleplaying. But that’s different than real world religion and spirituality.

I might slip a moral into my story occasionally as a GM, especially when I’m gaming with my kids. If they pick up on it, we’ll talk about it. Easy enough. My wife does life lessons in her classroom, too. I promise she has no sinister agenda at school or in our gaming sessions.

I don’t come to the gaming table or rpg related social media to discuss that serious real world stuff. I’m a married old white guy with kids. I don’t vote Republican or Democrat. I don’t try to hide it, but I don’t try to push it down anyone’s throat, either. You do you, okay?

Let’s talk about what we’re for, not what we’re against, okay?

I’m all FOR Universal love, peace, understanding, prosperity for all, and joy. Let’s all get along, even if we disagree on some points. Let’s thrive together and have some fun along the way. Now you know where I’m coming from.

That’s one of the biggest problems in the United States right now. People, especially our politicians, are in a hurry to tell you, “I stand against this because my opponent stands for it.” But never, “I firmly stand for this because I believe people will benefit from it.”

Contrary to that, I will definitely say, “I’m NOT here to offend people.” Trolls and haters can go for a walk and self-reflect. If I manage to cheese you off, please come talk to me?

So, what do people stand for, exactly? Be proud of who you are in the real world. Great. I certainly hope you are as long as you’re not extremist about it. I stand for being kind, gentle, generous, loving, and decent to one another. Love, joy, and prosperity should be very high one everyone’s priority list on any given day, but I can’t force it.

Honestly, family. I get that we have a shit-ton of problems in the real world. There are plenty of communities out there that are far better equipped to deal with some of them than the ttrpg family. My best advice for rpg groups where everyone isn’t familiar with one another:

In Other Awful RPG News…

I know we’ve had a major problem on RPG Twitter come up where a guy abused his power as a GM and social influence for sex and that shit is NOT OKAY! This person was an actual play streamer and GM for several groups. He welcomed a lot of us, me included, into the RPG Twitter sphere. He used his influence/authority to try to get sexual favors from female players. At the very least, he was making some very uncomfortable advances toward his female players. We’ve had a few other people stand up with him. Again, there is no part of his/their behavior that is okay.

Don’t defend the abuser. Don’t attack victims. NEVER BLAME THE VICTIMS! How many times do I have to say that on this blog? It’s not just ET contact experiencers. It’s anyone who has experienced major trauma.

If something is making you or someone else uncomfortable at the table or even out of game, please speak up. Throw up a red flag. Use the X card. Hopefully we covered it in Session Zero, but if we missed it, PLEASE SPEAK UP! Even if you have to pull the GM or another player aside in the middle of play and stop the game. It’s better to halt play than suffer in silence. As a GM, I’d rather kick one veteran player than have a new player go home in tears. I’m not in the RPG hobby to make people uncomfortable. No denial. I just want to have fun.

I stand in SUPPORT of the VICTIMS. Likewise, I stand with my trans, gay, and lesbian friends, too. Yes, Black Lives Matter. So do Asian lives and Jewish lives. This all goes back to one basic thing. Can we all just please be good to one another on this planet? We’re all we have.

I love you all. I’m grateful for you. Please be good to one another this week. Please stand in the good and the light wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Take care. See ya soon.

“Old Grognard”

I don’t consider myself to be a grumpy old man gamer, aka “Old Grognard.” Rather, I’m an older, slightly more mature, experienced gamer.

I don’t find this term offensive. Do you?

Yes, I’ve been around a while. Back when I first started using the Internet, there was this thing called “Usenet News” that I got all of my RPG news and reviews on. It was a forum like any other. Many of the same truths and toxic attitudes still prevail today. Thus began my love-hate relationship with forums.

I love Instagram. Every community I’ve joined over there has been helpful, supportive, and fun. I love you guys. Keep up the good work.

My Facebook RPG experiences have been somewhat limited, as have my forays into Reddit and Pinterest. Really not much to comment on there. Is YouTube considered “Social Media?” If it is, I watch a lot of videos on there. Again, I like pretty much all of the content I consume, or I wouldn’t be watching it.

Then there’s Twitter. After the Ufology community showed its true, very ugly colors, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be deleting my account. So I started hanging out over on the #ttrpg side. Thus far, I have found it to be a warm, supportive, positive group of peers 98% of the time I interact with anyone. (Okay, I’ve had one less stellar experience, but it was mostly miscommunication.) I love all you beautiful people over there #ttrpgfamily. I’m grateful for all of my followers.

I’m not that old.

I mean, I’m 49. My roots go back to T$R Marvel and BECMI when it was new. I’ve been in the hobby for almost 40 years. Yes, there were good old days.

But that doesn’t mean I’m stuck there. Yeah, I know guys older than me who will never give up their lead minis and boardgames with cardboard chits. They’re reluctant or downright intragnizent when it comes to learning/playing anything new, even if it’s a reprint. Change is truly frightening for some folks. That’s before we start adding technology to the works. Yeesh.

D&D has plenty of throwbacks, and so do I.

Lately, I’ve been encouraged by a friend to get back into more rules-lite, Old School Roleplaying. I’m monkeying around with Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mutant Crawl Classics (Goodman Games,) and Frontier Space (DwD Studios.) I really like that kind of old world BECMI, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers feeling.

That’s not to say I’m abandoning 5E D&D, Pathfinder 2E, or anything. Still tons of fun to be had with any game. If nothing else, playing older games makes me appreciate both eras of play and those play styles that much more.

RPGs have evolved over the years, and so have I.

Beer and pretzels was a style of play back when I started. We did some goofy things running around in dungeons just for the fun of it. We hacked and slashed our way to finding incredible treasures and fought freaky, sometimes bizarre monsters. Some of those dungeons made very little logical sense to begin with. I enjoyed those games as much as I imagine people do Critical Role now.

As the years progressed and we matured as people and as players, some games turned more dramatic. We still talk about those with the same affection and fondness as we do about the half-crazed dungeon romps. Characters and stories mean more nowadays. That’s cool. I think there’s room for both yet.

There’s room for all.

I don’t consider myself to be a grumpy old man gamer, aka “Old Grognard.” Rather, I’m an older, slightly more mature, experienced gamer. I’ll allow pretty much anyone at my table. I’m here to have fun however that comes about. I don’t hold any grudges, and I don’t begrudge any particular play style. Just enjoy the game. That’s what we’re there for. No worries as long as someone’s not ruining it for everyone else at the table.

Yes. I’m sure I’ll still get lumped in with the other old Grognards. I’ll still gladly play Man O War or whatever else they want to pull out when I’m hanging out with those friends, too. Likewise, if I’ve got a group of 20-something 5E players, we’re going to probably be a bit more character intensive.

On the other hand, I’ll offer up some Old School concepts to my younger audience. It’s fun to watch younger players racking their brains to come up with solutions to old school traps and puzzles as long as I don’t overwhelm anyone. There’s also some oldie-but-goodie treasure to be given out and even a few bizarre, somewhat goofy monsters to fight that may not appear anywhere in the newer books.

Lots more to come. I’m going to be putting out some add-ons to old school games that came to mind recently. I’ve also got a few newer projects I’ve been working on for fun that I’ll be putting up somewhere here eventually that are kind of old new school or new old school…however that’s supposed to work. (You know what I mean.) I’m still contemplating various aspects of FATE, Pathfinder 2E and Starfinder, too. The RPG world is never boring.

Next time, let’s talk a little about Hex Crawls. What are they and what do we do with them? Game on!

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