Reverse Joesky, rant, and what this blog is about
First, since Matt Kish was a hit, you might also be interested in the art of J. M. Mathieux-Marie:
She’s mostly known for evocative but not quite fantastical architectural prints, with occasional forays into dancing shellfish, always with dazzling chiaroscuro, which is mighty hard to pull of in drypoint, letmetellyou. But it’s the Piranesi-Giger mashups that keep me coming back. Here:
So having paid my Joesky tax up front, here’s the rant:
I’ve been doing this blog for a bit, but without any clear idea of why – I don’t have a current campaign to pimp, I’m not even constantconning, and D&D isn’t my favourite game by a long chalk. So why am I here?
You’ve seen Jeff’s ultimate-flamebait post, what sucks most about 1e AD&D, right? My vote is that level limits for demi-humans is worst, which the smart and creative Chris Kutalik thinks is just plain wrong. Here’s why I’m against them and why I’m writing this right now:
Demi-human level limits are limits on how much fun the game can be. Especially if, like me, you don’t play exactly according to the rules and you just keep adding hit dice and cheese right up through level 10000000. And the justifications for them that I commonly hear all seem to sacrifice the emergent potential for fun in favour of some DM-fiat vision, and I hear these justifications from exactly the people who say that’s what they never want to see.
Why would you want to limit demi-humans? For “balance?” Pshaw. If you’re going to “balance” do it on game day one, not 3 years into the campaign. Because you want a “humans first” game or dislike “Star Wars Cantina adventuring”? That’s a valid artistic choice, but then don’t let players choose those races at all. Because higher-level elves will somehow inevitably overpower higher-level humans? My thinking is that above level 15 or whatever you’re superhero gaming anyway, and any hope you had of keeping the gonzo out is a long lost cause.
Here’s the thing: level limits model one of the ugliest lies of racism and are specifically what I don’t go to gaming for. A level limit says – no, encodes in the laws of your imaginary universe – you can never be better than this because of how you were born. This glass ceiling represents your maximum potential.
Don’t tell me that – don’t tell me what I can’t imagine – unless that somehow is the artistic point of your game (as in, e.g. CoC, where the limits of imagination are a central theme). Because if you tell me I’ll be crippled by playing an elf, that really, really makes me want to play a kobold or a slime or a gelatinous cube or an iron spike. Specifically, don’t tell me I’ll be limited later because I chose to play a certain kind of character at the start and the gameworld just isn’t flexible enough to let me find my own place in it, because you like Frazetta paintings and he painted human heroes. Because that is an affront to what I consider the whole point of this ludicrous not-earning-a-living-or-raising-children roleplaying nonsense.
Which brings me to the point of this blog, and what I think the challenge – the point – of roleplaying might be. Only this: imagine bigger. Roleplaying lets you play out the possible consequences of any damn thing you can imagine – as S. John Ross said, it stands alone in offering tactical infinity. It costs nothing to make your dragon a million miles wide, apart from an expansive hand gesture. So tear down walls, or build more interesting ones. Try different stuff – non-Western, non-medieval, non-material, nonsensical. Get a wider canvas.
To that end, I intend this blog to be a random grab-bag of provocations and badly-digested bits of inspiration. Its challenge is aimed mostly at myself, but I’d love it if you played along too, and showed me where I’ve stopped short and how hard it will be to keep up with you. It’s dedicated to imagining something other than 10′ corridors, or if it’s imagining those, then it’s dedicated to imagining why and how you can be creative in exactly that space.
That needn’t always mean gonzo, though sometimes it does. Often it means historical sources, archaeology and architecture and art. It doesn’t mean knocking down all walls at once – creativity often thrives against constraints – but it does mean trying to look critically at some of the stuff that’s generally taken for granted.
Most of all, it doesn’t mean insulting other people’s creativity, although I may express myself passionately at times. I will contradict myself. Not everything will fit inside one grand plan.
Finally, I promise not to write a complete fantasy heartbreaker game system here, until I do. I might, however, write a fantasy heartburner or windbreaker.