It would appear that there’s yet another tempest of fecal matter in the offing around the phenomenon of the Old School Renaissance. This time the poop-flinger is none other than Tim Kask, the first editor of The Dragon, an ancient and slightly obscure figure from the early days of gaming. A guest editorial of his was posted at Lord of the Green Dragons, and it… looks like a really bad troll, actually. Seriously, I get better stuff from the incoming SomethingAwful links.
Now, I rarely jump in on these blogosphere tiffs. Usually, nothing is resolved and the end result can only be something really ugly. However, in this case, I do not think it can get a lot uglier than what Mr Kask wrote there, and he has managed to personally rouse my ire.
Also, when someone drops their pants, paints a huge bullseye on their buttocks and moons, what am I supposed to do?
Mr Kask’s post is a collection of personal attacks against people he doesn’t feel a particular need to name for claims he does not feel a particular need to source. This is slightly frustrating, since though I can identify some of the people, the more outlandish assertions made in the post cannot be verified. Who, for instance, are the “[t]wo particularly obnoxious individuals [who] have set themselves up as some sort of Star Chamber in which they pass judgments that others are actually supposed to care about and heed”? While the scene clearly has no shortage of obnoxious individuals, I cannot quite place these descriptions. Keeping your targets anonymous, of course, allows you to invent whatever villainy you’re accusing them of.
Most of his shots seem to be aimed at James Edward Raggi IV, presumably due to this post, who, despite being around half Mr Kask’s age, acts rather more mature in his response. Then, I’ve seen more mature displays than this diva show from my nine-year-old cousin. There’s also a swipe at Eero Tuovinen of Arkenstone Publishing, who’s “an obscure self-styled publisher from a small European country”. The man has a company that publishes (and imports) games. What, pray tell, is he then supposed to style himself? As for “small European country,” it’s called Finland, and I’m debating whether this additional descriptor is his way of trying to make Eero recognizable without naming him or just some strange jingoistic anachronism or what. There’s also the line “We built a market in five short years that virtually dwarfed the hobby of five years previous. In addition, we did not do it with a government subsidy or grant,” which has this lovely unstated suggestion of “unlike those godless Communists.” In fact, the whole diatribe becomes even more hilarious than it already is if you imagine it read in the voice of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Then there’s this gem: “OSR (whichever phrase you prefer), is, on its surface, an oxymoron. For something to be “reborn” or revived, it must first be dead. The original spirit of D&D never died; it just was buried under all the crap that came out with editions after the second.”
If you take an extremely myopic view of things, that is largely true. However, from the viewpoint of the gaming community at large, it was dead. AD&D 2E was dropped the minute the Third Edition came out. The older editions were ten years or more out of print and difficult to find on the secondary market. Awareness of them waned. New stuff wasn’t available at the game stores, and the majority of the gaming community had turned to other games. On account of no games being actually available, there was no influx of new players to the old systems. Sure, there was always Dragonsfoot, but that forum quickly garnered an apparently well-deserved reputation for irrational hostility towards new things, and if that’s your idea of keeping a game alive, it’s time to call in Dr Kevorkian. Now, the Old School Renaissance has reinvigorated old-school Dungeons & Dragons, brought it back to the limelight and to store shelves. What, in this, is such a horrid thing that it needs to be attacked and denigrated? What about it is so complicated that it cannot be understood? It’s not defined by anyone in particular, and if it has leaders, they are such by the power of the vox populi. The internet is quite democratic in this. It is also democratic in that even if you were the first editor of The Dragon and were there when they figured out how to use fire, you will get called on your fabrications.
Since OSR is defined as the recent increased interest in old and out-of-print editions of D&D, playing them, rereleasing their rules, and writing new material for them, it’s a mite nonsensical to try opting out of it. It is what it is, the label is stuck, and complaining of things, especially in Mr Kask’s tone, will bring with it a number of other labels that are far less complimentary. Also, I question the marketing sense of declaring your contempt for the competition mere paragraphs before announcing that you, yourself, are going to soon release something that’s presumably going to be targeted at the same audience. If a part of that audience is, say, heavily invested in the hobby, like gamers tend to be, they might take it badly. I’m not going to claim there was much chance of me buying whatever it is Mr Kask is selling to begin with, but this little rant kinda sealed the deal. There’s a certain irony in thousand words of drivel fermented in bitterness that keeps proclaiming that the fun is what matters.
Overall, what we have here is a petty and small-minded attack completely untroubled by facts, common courtesy or reason. Note, if you will, how Mr Kask fails to actually counter any of the arguments or observations that he attacks, even noting that some of them are true, but still somehow “asinine” or “moronic”. Most rants are actually trying to make a point somewhere, while this one is just trying to convince the reader that some conveniently anonymous people are morons and that the Old School Renaissance is somehow bad, based on him saying so.
I am going to remain neutral on the topic of whether the OSR or TSR have produced better material, as I am unfamiliar with far too large parts of both corpuses to pass objective judgment. However, the latter just went on the lead for having produced more annoying spokespersons.