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Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Top Gaming Blogs

As one of their Game and Book experts, one of the things Recommend has asked me to do is to identify and vett various other experts, particularly in fields I am qualified to do so. One of the first experts I recruited was the indefatigable Jeffro Johnson of Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog, who is also one of the two star bloggers at Castalia House, because there are very, very few people who know as much about role-playing games as he does.

Jeffro immediately grasped the utility of the Recommend system, so much so that I have already had to urge him to slow down and pace himself. But among the score of recos he has already posted, he has created an interesting list entitled The Top Gaming Blogs of 2014, which is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in games. Lewis Pulsipher is on there, of course, but there are a number of other sites with which I was previously unfamiliar.

The other new Recommend expert is less known for his excellent game design than for the fact that he is Archon of The Escapist, but regardless, he qualifies as a Game Expert twice over. He's got his first reco up and it's a good one on the classic X-Com: UFO Defense.

If you're not on Recommend yet, or if you're on it but haven't really started using it yet, I'd encourage you to give it a go. They haven't even officially "come to America" yet; but have already achieved pretty solid penetration in their native France. I don't know if it is going to grow into something Twitter-big once they enter the US next year, but it is going to be significant. They've now got the five-rating system in place, which was a needed improvement, and they'll have the Android app out in the near future. And, in due time, a proper game-style Achievements and Leveling system.

They're also working on the expansion of the categories; there will be gun categories, among others, and I will be looking for experts in a variety of new categories soon. But we're only looking for serious and proven expertise, not merely serious interest. For example, Jeffro, Archon, and I are all able to rapidly post recos because we have large quantities of our own previous writings on the subject from which we can draw. But that's merely an indicator, it's not an absolute requirement. In any case, if you think you've got that kind of expertise in something, then by all means, make your case in the comments here.

Jeffro demonstrates his depth of knowledge in this post, in which he wonders why so many of today's gamers and game designers are not merely ignorant, but don't even know they're ignorant:
Why is it that Gygax had a diet of fiction that spanned more than half a century, but the designers that followed him and the younger generation of gamers that played his stuff did not for the most part? What kinds of things do we fail to see simply because we’ve never bothered to survey the past…? And what the heck happened during the seventies to turn everything upside down? Something happened. The fact of it doesn’t require a conspiracy theory to explain it, but it does make me wonder about what all’s gone on since.

Remember: people that haven’t read from the Appendix N list tend to assume that Gary Gygax was a weirdo for using the term “Fighting-Men” instead of something like “Warrior.” They will even go so far as to say that the reasons for his word choice there are unknowable. It’s a small thing, sure… but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. These people are not only ignorant, but they don’t even know they are ignorant. They are simply not equipped to make an intelligent critique of classic D&D, much less assess Gygax’s contribution to gaming.

That “Wisconsin Shoe Salesmen” precipitated a watershed moment in gaming history. His influence is not confined to tabletop games, but spills over into computer gaming and fantasy in general. While many tropes of classic D&D have by now become ubiquitous, the literature that inspired them has since dropped into obscurity. This is interesting and bears further investigation. 

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22 Comments:

Anonymous Rhys O'Reilly December 06, 2014 7:31 AM  

Thanks to this post I just learned about Appendix N and now have a lot more books on my reading list.

Blogger Bies Podkrakowski December 06, 2014 8:00 AM  

I remember the sequel X-COM: Terror from the Deep with mixed feelings. At first exciting, then slow grind through missions, till I get bored with repetition. Never finished it. Only years later I learned there was bug which stopped triggering the final mission. Shame, because I heard it was good.

Blogger The Packetman December 06, 2014 8:20 AM  

If I were to recommend firearms experts, I'd pick Tam Keel at booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com

She already has a couple of paying gigs writing about firearms (not to mention having worked at an FFL) and is well-respected in the gunny community. Plus, she's certainly no Dick Metcalf!

Blogger Cataline Sergius December 06, 2014 8:40 AM  

While many tropes of classic D&D have by now become ubiquitous, the literature that inspired them has since dropped into obscurity.

Very true. Jack Vance's The Dying Earth was probably one of the most influential books in fantasy that apparently no one has ever heard of.

Wizards suck from dramatic stand point. The only thing you can do with them is make them an adviser because they can change reality, literally with a wave of the hand.

Deus ex machina kills dramatic tension.

Vance came up with a brilliant idea for limiting this. Magic words are so alien to our plane of existence that they can barely be kept in a magic user's head at all and once uttered, vanish from his mind completely.

Brilliant for drama.

And those few kids that read Vance now, are convinced that he is the one that ripped off Gary Gygax.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus December 06, 2014 9:21 AM  

"And those few kids that read Vance now, are convinced that he is the one that ripped off Gary Gygax."

So true. Then they look at you as if lobsters are crawling out of their ears when you tell them they have it backwards.

Anonymous Will Best December 06, 2014 10:26 AM  

I would argue the reason is pretty obvious. People have greater access to more crap these days. And then the internet gives you even more access to discuss the crap that you already did. Which reduces the amount of time to do more crap.

I could probably read 2 more books a week with the time I spend on the internet browsing various blogs and commenting.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 06, 2014 11:21 AM  

One thing that was lost (read: intentionally discarded) in the Sixties was a common body of knowledge shared by all reasonably educated people. You could assume that any intelligent person you talked to knew the basics of Greek and Roman history, Shakespeare and other classics, the great painters and composers, etc. But it went beyond academics; you could also assume he knew how to write a letter, how to make social introductions, how to dance common social dances, and so on. All the stuff that provides the social foundation for a society and ties people together (so it relates to the diversity/segregation post as well).

I, on the other hand, growing up in the 70s/80s, didn't learn any of that stuff. But I'm ready if they ever have a 1980s version of Name That Tune. So I've got that going for me, which is nice, but it doesn't tie me to other generations or to my neighbors, who may have a completely different body of knowledge.

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 12:45 PM  

Jack Vance's The Dying Earth was probably one of the most influential books in fantasy that apparently no one has ever heard of.

An early issue of Dragon magazine has D&D stats for Cugel the Clever. His alignment is given as neutral, but after reading TDE series, I would go with chaotic evil. The man is a total bastard who fucks up any community he enters.

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 1:02 PM  

Speaking of Appendix N, Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword will be available in Kindle format at the end of the month:

http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Sword-Poul-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00PI181JI/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417888661&sr=1-4&keywords=poul+anderson

Now they just need to release Three Hearts And Three Lions in the same format.

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 1:07 PM  

Speaking of Appendix N, Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword will be released in Kindle format at the end of the month:

http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Sword-Poul-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00PI181JI/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417888661&sr=1-4&keywords=poul+anderson

Hopefully Three Hearts And Three Lions won't be that far behind.

Blogger Captain Atom December 06, 2014 2:49 PM  

Tor.com has an "Advanced reading in D&D" series, where a couple of faggy male authors discuss how misogynist and racist the books are.

All the commentary is SJW wimmens studies 101. Where do dudes like this come from?

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 2:59 PM  

Tor.com has an "Advanced reading in D&D" series, where a couple of faggy male authors discuss how misogynist and racist the books are.

All the commentary is SJW wimmens studies 101. Where do dudes like this come from?


Their single-parent moms put the rubber-band on their balls at an early age. Pity them. Andy pity how far D&D has fallen.

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 3:04 PM  

And, not "andy". Must have been thinking of WKRP In Cincinnati.

Anonymous My Dead Gramps December 06, 2014 3:44 PM  

Heh, he must be rolling his grave.

Anonymous Wyrd December 06, 2014 4:32 PM  

Go to bed, old man!
-Cave Dwellers, MST3K

Anonymous Nathan December 06, 2014 4:48 PM  

Been trying to get at least one review up per week for the last month or so. Have managed about 10 so for. Reco's easy to make reviews for, although I miss the old "disappointing" category. That said, it's not quite so easy to browse the recommendations in a category. Having my network and a popular network are useful, but looking outside those two is frustrating.

Anonymous VD December 06, 2014 8:26 PM  

Having my network and a popular network are useful, but looking outside those two is frustrating.

They're working on it. The trust algorithms can be tricky.

Anonymous kfg December 07, 2014 12:02 AM  

I have actually described myself as Jack of Shadows on many occasions. I don't think there's been one person out of 100 that I didn't have to explain it to, even among readers of SF&F.

I've only skimmed a bit of Merrit. The weather's crap here in upstate NY. I'll put him on the list.

Not SF or F, but I've recently inherited a library of Gerald Warner Brace from one of his former proteges. I wonder what the SJWs would make of it.

@The Packetman:

I miss being able to comment at Tam's place. Not that many bloggers into both guns and bikes. Even fewer with the intelligence and wit.

Good taste in cars too.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza December 07, 2014 7:01 PM  

Rock on Escapist!!

Anonymous Shenpen December 15, 2014 8:16 AM  

OK so where did Fighting-Men come from?

Did the ridiculously unrealistic fighting system of D&D come from these books? I.e. that HP increases with levels but damage does not, so when two high level fighters fence with a swords, it is the death of a thousand cuts, not a more realistic fencing for 10 minutes then one mistake = one killing blow.

Come to think of it, as AC does not increase with level either, Gygax was apparently not thinking about fencing at all, he must have had an entirely different idea of fighting, I think 2nd Edition Players Handbook there is a picture of two Viking looking fighters practicing - armor, shield, axe. Perhaps it would indeed be a death of a thousand cuts in that setup.

Maybe this DID come from a novel... high level warriors surviving fights with many small wounds. Was it ever so in a novel, a fight between a high level warrior and a monster or another one ending up in many small wounds? Instead of the more realistic one or two serious blow?

Anonymous Shenpen December 15, 2014 8:19 AM  

Cataline Sergius - why not the much more "realistic" Mana Points i.e. fatigue system? Why not simply make casting spells a physically and mentally taxing task so that a prismatic spray is as exhausting as running 5K?

Anonymous heroes of the storm boosting June 04, 2015 1:29 PM  

I do think knowledge about role-playing games is very useful in the industry. Creating a discourse that gives a clearer view over the bloggers' gaming society is needed. It is one of these filters that saves us time when we really want to find something useful and eye-catching.

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