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The Dungeon Master short-story
September 27, 2010 12:14 PM   Subscribe

"The Dungeon Master", a short-story about Dungeons and Dragons by Sam Lipsyte in this weeks New Yorker.
posted by stbalbach (69 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Haven't read the story yet, but dropped in to say that Lipsyte's novel The Ask is well worth reading.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2010


It's a good story on its own terms, I think, but seeing it in the New Yorker is a little awkward--like giving the rich, popular kids another chance to poke fun at the dweebos.
posted by nasreddin at 12:29 PM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's levels of dysfunction you can expect with kids in general, but the whole dead sister bit was ugly, ugly, ugly.

Although I think some elements of some types of gaming lead to bad social interactions while playing (especially games where the players are expected to read the GM's mind for play to function), mostly, it's just the same truth you find anywhere: assholes bring their assholishness to any and every social interaction - gaming is just another place where it happens.

It does, though, mirror social situations in which people are expected to have high commitment, and so, put up with way more shit than they should.
posted by yeloson at 12:29 PM on September 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


That was... all right.

It seemed a little too... I don't know, kind of cut from characters and settings that have existed for a while. So it feels familiar, but it's all a little vague as to what year it is and where they live and stuff like that. Like he expected me to fill in the details myself.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:31 PM on September 27, 2010


I think there's a great novel about Dungeons and Dragons, role-playing and games in general to be written.
posted by empath at 12:32 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


rich, popular kids another chance to poke fun at the dweebos.

I don't know, I think more dweebos or former dweebos read the New Yorker than Captains of the football team or whatever.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:32 PM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Better safe than sorry,” Marco says.
“Is that an old paladin saying?


This is great.

seeing it in the New Yorker is a little awkward--like giving the rich, popular kids another chance to poke fun at the dweebos.


You've not read Lipsyte before, have you? He's about as far from being one of the rich, popular kids as anyone out there.

Home Land is excellent.
posted by dersins at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]



I think there's a great novel about Dungeons and Dragons, role-playing and games in general to be written.

I am trying to make a feature film about it. I posted an early version of the script on Projects a while back.

posted by drjimmy11 at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seemed a little too... I don't know, kind of cut from characters and settings that have existed for a while. So it feels familiar, but it's all a little vague as to what year it is and where they live and stuff like that. Like he expected me to fill in the details myself.

And even what edition they're playing. It's like the hypothetical reader is supposed to be able to identify with the story and associate it with his (definitely his) own memories of adolescence, whether those take place in 2009 or 1980. It's kind of an awkward technique.
posted by nasreddin at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2010


You've not read Lipsyte before, have you? He's about as far from being one of the rich, popular kids as anyone out there.

Not saying he is. My point was about the context--New Yorker fiction tends to be either about "how we live" (Upper East Side college professors with unhealthy fixations on their female students) or "how they live" (immigrants, black people). This story seems to be firmly in the latter category.
posted by nasreddin at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


Is this modern literature, then? The unraveling of a moment, with nothing developed to anchor the lose ends, bizarre moments of inhumanity and madness competing with outsider views of the banal? Everything regressing to nowhere in particular...

I guess my perception just wasn't clear enough to divine a point. Now I'ma gonna go find me a John Barnes book, which, though they always end in a miserable place, at least end to some measure of satisfaction.
posted by LD Feral at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's about as far from being one of the rich, popular kids as anyone out there.

Yeah, but I don't think a lot of the people reading his stuff are reading it from the same point of view as he wrote it, and there is a pointing-and-laughing element to his current popularity. I definitely got the sense from reading some interviews with him that he finds the protagonist of The Ask a lot more sympathetic than most of his readers did.
posted by enn at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that it is actually possible to play Dungeons and Dragons without being horribly neurotic and socially dysfunctional, but the odds are against it.
posted by grizzled at 12:45 PM on September 27, 2010


I think there's a great novel about Dungeons and Dragons, role-playing and games in general to be written.

Here you go.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:50 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come on grizzled, if you're going to be needlessly insulting, then have a bit more conviction about it than that half-assed comment.
posted by oddman at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Is this modern literature, then? Everything regressing to nowhere in particular...

Sort of like real life has no plot or ending but is fragmented and meaningless. Modernist literature rings true, it's more than just a fun story. If you want to escape reality there is D&D. If you want to experience reality there is "The Dungeon Master".
posted by stbalbach at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dungeon Crawl
March 26, 2010
By Malcolm


You go to a tavern to meet a wizard, who hires you to enter a dungeon.

“That’s how it’s done,” said Mum. “It’s not a skilled trade but the coopers aren’t taking anyone now, and they’ll not have you as a hand at Nykmore’s place after your misadventure with his Maevy.”

“All right, Mum.”

“And take your brother.”

“What? He can get his own job!”

“Oi! You’re not the only one who needs a trickle of bob to beat the winter, Hedge Verkson!”

* * *

“They built the Geovoric Phyle in 11,200s,” said the wizard. “Those golems never stopped digging, not till they fell into the fires below the world. They ate rock and shat magic before our race split off from the trolls.”

She scratched under the strap holding her beard in place, knocking it askew. Dahara was an Adept of the Third Entombed Senate’s magic so she needed to wear it as part of the job. The Third Deads were notorious patriarchs. She smoked a man’s pipe too but didn’t seem to mind that as much, though the barman wrinkled his nose at her whenever the air stirred.

She bought beer for Vrake and I: a fair sign we had the job.

“Uh, did the True Ancients ever, ah, move in?” Vrake smiled and leaned in. Apparently her beard was no obstacle to his imagination.

“No no. They were already in decline by then. The Outer Gaunts claimed the upper levels, but the Erlkon knocked them lower, past the generators on the 29th. Demon Birthers. I’ll show you the wreckage on the way down. Humans didn’t get there till the Fifteenth Eon. First Heroic Age, don’t you know? You pay the bard’s due when he comes around and he’ll sing it. Shit lads, I just need you to clean out some generators in the West Gallery. You don’t need the tell of it to work. It’s just like moving hay — same pitchforks, even.”

* * *

Past the old falling false ceiling called Curiosity’s Bane we strolled, then through the Blaspheming Mouth, long locked in place by an old Half-Erlkon sorcerer: my times-nine granddad, according to Mum (who said the Mouth told dirty jokes and I’d learn them when I got married). The secret doors were thrown open, marked with knife scratches. Formerly sequestered by false walls, gears lay tumbled and stretched into the halls, unrusted thanks to sorcery but oddly curved, like a man relaxed too long in hay so it cradles and clutches him. Stiff stillness.

As I stepped over the Mouth’s lower lip Dahara said, “Even if you avoided its bite to walk through, the death ray would get you, the lift would drop you past a Trickster’s hoop and the the floor would roll you into an unholy room at the bottom. By the time your mates met you again you’d be a shambler with new eyes, hair, even sex. They’d chop you up, thinking you were a threat from the lower levels. That way, your priest couldn’t bring you back. They can’t resurrect little chunks of a man.”

But the black nullenergy crystal was shattered, the hoop (harvested from god’s bone) cracked and tossed askew, and the lift would leave us in a re-blessed shrine. I snatched a sliver of grey bone as the lift descended. “Why so bloody elaborate? Killing you, just to plot that you’d stay dead?”

“Aye.” We slid forward when the lift’s floor turned into a ramp — the only working part of the trap besides the lift itself. “Remember, these places had mad minds of their own, even whispered to each other through vibrations in the rock. They knew nothing but their halls, the intruders who dared them and the maintenance organs and materials they used to repair and repel. I suppose as they saw invaders dream up new strategies, mock the old pits and springs, they developed more elaborate responses. It was their sole mental exercise: all the games they could play.”

* * *

The Demon Birthers were brass blocks as high as two men. Their oval bone doors were covered with carved squiggly lines. “Runes,” said Dahara. “I don’t know what they mean.”

She tapped a door open with her walking stick and we saw the pile of half-formed bones inside. Hell-essence, she said, drawn from the Academic Realms and shaped into demons that burst out such doors to do battle, still covered in their birthing ichor. The golems dropped generators on every level. These had long since exhausted their capacity. “It’d be beyond you anyway,” she said. “Professionals finished them with slayswords and wyckbolts and Demon Smiting Boxing. Like the sagas.”

We were in for a simpler job: three nearly-spent Koboldic Ireshunts: waist-high spheres of filthy silver. “Probably designed to make servants.” We posted our pitchforks in front of us and waited for the signal: a banelight or other trivial spell to arouse the sensor and send them spewing out. Then it was five bob a head.

She took her place and cast. Blue light and a few sparks.

We saw the first ones drop from an unwinding orifice with steaming wet skin and the small screams of newborns, hoarse with monstrosity and warped jaws. Soft horns deformed against the old stone. We turned our pitchforks over to thrust and thrust as all the evil congealed and shambled forth, and we kept a steady, stomping beat like working men.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:55 PM on September 27, 2010 [24 favorites]


Come on grizzled, if you're going to be needlessly insulting, then have a bit more conviction about it than that half-assed comment.

Ah, but the psycho gamer is such a lazy stereotype -- let's not fault grizzled for failing to provide a more energetic affirmation of it.
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:02 PM on September 27, 2010


I think there's a great novel about Dungeons and Dragons, role-playing and games in general to be written.

I quite liked The Sleeping Dragon when I read it in junior high, though I have no idea how it'd hold up now.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the fact that this is supposed to be a weird game and that there are other normal games. But of course there is a Warthog in the Monster's Manual sheesh.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is this modern literature, then? The unraveling of a moment, with nothing developed to anchor the lose ends, bizarre moments of inhumanity and madness competing with outsider views of the banal? Everything regressing to nowhere in particular...

I liked it. And yes, it fits tidily into the mainstream as far as banality/anomie/plotlessness goes.

My own nerdy past was free of psychosis, which is nice, but for those who doubt this (true, AFAICT) story is terrifying.
The end result of all this was that our only friends were people who could stand constant gamer talk cross-sectioned with the kind of people who were as addicted as he was. Thrilling combination! We had such parties. Our gaming sessions were frequently interrupted by the downing of a whole bottle of whiskey while Jake was in the bathroom (he had, prudently, outlawed drinking during gaming), gamers tripping on acid and flipping their shit when we went on dungeon crawls (“oh shit, guys, this is bad, real bad, we have to get out of here, right now, I'm not dealing with any trolls OH SHIT TROLLS THEY HAVE FACES LIKE LITTLE PEOPLE”), dealers arriving with twenty people in tow to sell in our living room, and massive smoke breaks every half an hour. The woozy alternative states made gamers easily distractable, which Jake would take out on me, dressing me down in front of all the players for “distracting” them by making jokes, dressing cute, expressing ideas, discussing my day, doing my homework, and bringing everybody beverages and pieces of cake I had baked just for that gaming session. Once I arrived for a gaming session and everybody was busy making characters, so I went to my room to do more homework and Jake burst in red-faced and horrified. “We¹re gaming, dear,” he said vilely. “It looks like everybody's just make characters.” “Well, it¹s rude for you not to be there.” “But I have a character, I don't need to make one.” “But you need to know what they're making. Stop being so antisocial and get out here. It's like pulling teeth, trying to get you to make friends.”

Once I asked him why he yelled at me more than the other gamers, and he responded, “You're my wife. I expect better out of you.”

posted by Sebmojo at 1:18 PM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


It seemed a little too... I don't know, kind of cut from characters and settings that have existed for a while. So it feels familiar, but it's all a little vague as to what year it is and where they live and stuff like that. Like he expected me to fill in the details myself.

And even what edition they're playing. It's like the hypothetical reader is supposed to be able to identify with the story and associate it with his (definitely his) own memories of adolescence, whether those take place in 2009 or 1980. It's kind of an awkward technique.


I think there are a ton of clues that it takes place in the late 70s or early 80s. Articles about the "dangers" of D&D, a tracking system in school, lack of any references to computers or the Internet, the narrator mentioning Vietnam, etc.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:27 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the fact that this is supposed to be a weird game and that there are other normal games. But of course there is a Warthog in the Monster's Manual sheesh.

If we're talking 1st ed, it's a fair thing for a character to think. There just weren't that many non-mythical creatures. I always found it odd that they felt the need to include "hippopotamus". What is this, the Auduban?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:42 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


A character in this story, that is. Have to watch my terms when discussing rpgs, evidently.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:42 PM on September 27, 2010


I've played many good sessions with socially adjusted players and excellent non-control-freak dungeon masters, but the problem with that sort of situation is that it wouldn't make for very entertaining fiction because a narrative about a basement dwelling mouthbreather is generally more compelling than how crazy awesome it was when I killed that skeleton with a potato.
posted by sawdustbear at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


I played with a couple different groups, and one of them was definitely very similar to the one in this story. I empathized a little too much with narrator. I think it's pretty profound, examining the fantasy lives that teenagers create for themselves. Most of the people I played with had a pretty healthy attitude about role-playing, but there was always a subtle (or not) air of desperation over the proceedings. I haven't played since I was 16 or so, but I sometimes do still miss the escape of it.
posted by ryaninoakland at 2:16 PM on September 27, 2010


In my youth, I gamed with my friends, who were mostly ex-Crips. We had a lot of social function, surprisingly- I guess because we all saw enough real violence that we never invested any real social status games into our roleplaying and found it to be a fun escape. We'd hang out at the beach on Friday, go to a music show on Saturday, then play D&D or Feng Shui or Mage or whatever on Sunday... or however that particular weekend turned out.

That isn't to say I didn't sometimes run into groups that mirrored a lot of that story. We chalked it up to "white people are crazy" in our 16 year old wisdom - though it's been really sad since those days to see how many groups in general echo that mold, and how many of those are adults.

Two years back, I heard a friend who games with another group, tell me about a literal fistfight that broke out at the table. These are people in their mid-30's, computer animators, editors, generally geek-professional types.

The two things I see producing that level of drama are a) when people want different things out of the game, at the same time, and no organized way of dealing with it, and b) the constant admonitions in game books and advice columns that if you're not having fun, it's because you're not "trying hard enough" (See also: marriage counseling that advocates praying harder...).

RPGs work on honest communication. Once you don't have that, nothing will turn out well.
posted by yeloson at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


If you want to experience reality there is "The Dungeon Master".

There is also reality.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:32 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]



In my youth, I gamed with my friends, who were mostly ex-Crips.


um.
More about this please? That is possibly the best idea for a web-series I have ever heard.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:39 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most of the people I played with had a pretty healthy attitude about role-playing, but there was always a subtle (or not) air of desperation over the proceedings.

That's one of the things I love about Call of Cthulhu. If you're in a role-playing game as an escape from reality, why on earth would you want to escape to H. P. Lovecraft's universe of uncaring, alien gods?

It puts the focus on playing for the fun of it. Often, the game is at its most fun at the moment of the characters' greatest doom.

I always found it odd that they felt the need to include "hippopotamus". What is this, the Auduban?

Tell the truth. If you didn't already know of the mighty river-dweller you'd have thought someone had made it up.

In fact, the real-world animals are some of my favorite entries in any RPG monster book, because they put the fantastic in direct comparison with the mundane. And the mundane wins more often than you might think. A bear is badass no matter what world you're in.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


In my youth, I gamed with my friends, who were mostly ex-Crips. We had a lot of social function, surprisingly- I guess because we all saw enough real violence that we never invested any real social status games into our roleplaying and found it to be a fun escape.

Remembering the story some months back about how D&D is popular in prisons, this rings true for me.
posted by JHarris at 2:44 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


how crazy awesome it was when I killed that skeleton with a potato.

sawdustbear: "... how crazy awesome it was when I killed that skeleton with a potato"

Well, don't hold out on us!
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, that's my story "Dungeon Crawl" in the comments! Glad some folks like it.

I'm actually running an old school AD&D game to play with its ideas some more now, right down to using a DMG signed by Gary Gygax. City of Brass cover. Naturally. But I'm really going over territory alluded to by China Mieville.

As for the New Yorker story, I have mixed feelings. Certainly he's acknowledging class, but it almost seems like this token effort kind if buys him the right to treat his characters shallowly, like being thrown a bone for being "not gifted" pays for a load of dramatic horseshit. Meditations on class from the top side always seem to be about some kind of dangerous coarseness, as if Eric the top shelf gamer isn't tossing off a bolt in his bunk too. But it's a great story, tight and good at letting procedure dissolve into the background. I can't fault it, even though I can see it immediately inspiring some people to make pedantic statements about games and social interaction and shit. Play more sports - this stuff is tough all over.
posted by mobunited at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


if you insist, ShawnStruck.

So there we were - at the start of our first 4th ed session. Absolutely pathetic level 1's. A dwarf, a half elf, two tieflings and a fat dragonborn who just got laid off as a mess cook(that's me) walk into a room and there's really no punchline because all we have are good intentions, a yearning for glory and maybe one magic weapon between the five of us.

Skeletons appear! Oh god, skeletons! We're besieged by skeletons and we're not doing that well because we've just made these characters and everyone forgets about their buffs!

Over an hour later, we've gained some ground and there's only one skeleton left. But our entire party is near death, our dice are being uncooperative, and we're all meatheads, and of course no one wanted to play a cleric, so no luck on the healing.

We've fought so hard and one stupid skeleton is about to take us out. In our first battle! We'd barely left the goddamn farm, much less attain fame and glory and adoring wenches.

And I look down at my character sheet and realize that I've run out of arrows.

Well, at this point, I'm still a much better cook than I am a ranger and I've got dinner supplies. I reach for a potato and my sling.

The skeleton never knew what hit him. He goes down in a pile of bones.

I'm a hero. Me and my potato.




And that was the moment of magic where I totally got it. It wasn't a particularly lofty moment, and we've battled bigger monsters since then and traveled between worlds and gotten pretty good at adventuring. I never run out of ammo now. But still, that moment was perfect.
posted by sawdustbear at 3:22 PM on September 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


...two tieflings and a fat dragonborn...everyone forgets about their buffs!

I have no idea what game you were playing.
posted by dersins at 3:26 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


let's not get into a 4th edition argument here, dersins.
posted by sawdustbear at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


More about this please? That is possibly the best idea for a web-series I have ever heard.

We met through a combined love of hiphop, anime, and comic books, which is really not that unusual for hiphop heads, even in the 90's before anime was on every tv station. (News only to people who buy into the persistent myth that people of color aren't geeks).

All of us had various game books before we met- so it was a pretty easy shift to get into gaming since we were all interested and only had gotten to play sporadically in the past.

Pretty much the only real differences in our play were:

a) Social functionality as the norm. We hung out outside of gaming, we hung out with non-gamers, we were non-ostracized geeks.
b) 90's hiphop slang was the standard mode of communication.
c) Hey look, both fantasy and sci-fi settings that aren't all white people!
d) Really tight teamwork in dangerous situations- the implicit understanding of cooperating and making quick decisions when stuff pops off meant there wasn't the 20 minutes of planning on what to do when you open the door kind of stuff.

That was the best long-term gaming group I ever had- we did a two year campaign of Feng Shui.
posted by yeloson at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


There's no such thing as 4th edition. They stopped publishing D&D books just before the time certain people like to claim something with the unlikely-sounding title of "Unearthed Arcana" came out.
posted by dersins at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have no idea what game you were playing.

Desperately reaching in one's bag to find a random item to fight off a monster? Don't tell me that's not perfectly old school.

(Advanced play: using Heat Metal on caltrops and throwing them into the mouth of the big bitey thing that's chasing you)
posted by yeloson at 3:55 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sam Lipsyte's a friend of comedian Marc Maron and has been a guest on a couple of the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcasts: episode 10 (mp3, interview starts at ~11:45) and episode 52 (mp3, at ~28:20).

Maron loves Lipsyte and his books, but even without knowing about Lipsyte's work I found their talks pretty interesting (actually made me get "The Ask" and "Home Land"...both in unread pile by bed).
posted by Glee at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's no such thing as 4th edition. They stopped publishing D&D books just before the time certain people like to claim something with the unlikely-sounding title of "Unearthed Arcana" came out.

Yawn.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:18 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


In a similar vein: Belinda Rule's The Secret of the Dark Elves in the current issue of Meanjin.
posted by robcorr at 4:54 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a link to sessions inspired by that story of mine.

There's this idea that the essence of old school D&D is that you have to fight off a dozen murderous cats with an ass jawbone or something. This is interesting on a couple of fronts. First off, I've been trying to play AD&D1e as written with all rules, changing stuff gradually to meet a technical need of halting point instead of how it would play out. Interestingly, there's a whole whack of robust social/reaction systems that have made much of the adventure tense conversation, flight, fright, friend-making and mugging.

The rules as written don't actually support a world of relentless hostility -- but the rules that prevent it are typically seen as unimportant systems. There's this movement in gaming to clone older versions of D&D and they virtually all pay little attention to this aspect of the game, and newer editions move more and more toward a world filled with uncompromising enemies -- either people who will kill or be killed, or folks to be conquered through a social system framed as a "challenge," or a struggle for some kind of control -- social control, narrative control, some kind of bullshit control.

Meditating on the idea of control between looking at this thread and chores made me think back on the story -- and something I didn't notice before:

Eric's game is terrible.

Well, we don't know this from straight testimony, but the protagonist doesn't really seem to care about it, does he? It's wish-fulfilment that rings hollow to him. And so I have to sort of step back and say this story has a smarmy aftertaste, because it's also an indictment of fantasies based on the illusion of control. My guy always wins, or if he loses, the universe somehow bends to respect that loss. In RPGs the bourgeois fantasy of a control that is total -- that extends from that class' expectation to inherit the earth -- is currently a big thing. You can't just accomplish your goals -- they have to shake the world. You need to be able to dominate the story through big gestures in the narrative or through meta-control: the typical pose of people who assume they'll inherit the earth.

The crazy Dungeon Master's game is not fun. It's hurtful and maybe even abusive, but there's something more memorable and sincere, and a truer reflection of the situation outside the fiction. These are people in malformed worlds, where menace is embedded in the banal. It's real. It's awful and nobody should do it and it's true and it's better than Eric's shitty game that exists only in the margins of something more powerful.
posted by mobunited at 5:41 PM on September 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wonderfully stated, mobunited.
posted by nasreddin at 6:07 PM on September 27, 2010


Holy hell, do I hate literary fiction. When did good writing turn into misery porn?

I'd rather escape into Lovecraftland than into the dreary, ennui-ridden, yet equally fantastic world of modern fiction.
posted by MrVisible at 6:27 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy hell, do I hate literary fiction. When did good writing turn into misery porn?

I'd rather escape into Lovecraftland than into the dreary, ennui-ridden, yet equally fantastic world of modern fiction.


Flowers in the garbage, man. Flowers in the garbage.

Read Mobunited's post, just above.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:34 PM on September 27, 2010


BURN OUT THE JARL.
posted by clavdivs at 7:07 PM on September 27, 2010


"(Advanced play: using Heat Metal on caltrops and throwing them into the mouth of the big bitey thing that's chasing you)"

Extra Advanced play: Throw yourself into the mouth of the giant shark that just swallowed your friend, then open your portable whole (with a hell of a lot of treasure inside) and burst the shark open from inside. Yeah we lost the treasure, but everyone in the party lived and it was an epic kill.
posted by oddman at 7:07 PM on September 27, 2010


mobunited,

I don't think it's that the clone games don't realize there's importance in parley, alliance, trickery, etc., but rather that they're from the philosophy that the Referee is the one to handle all that.

Granted, they're basically committing the same mistake that later D&D did, which is, by not writing down that expectation that social bargaining is actually an option, that people will just assume that it isn't and you end up with rar-rar mindless attackers again.

a struggle for some kind of control -- social control, narrative control, some kind of bullshit control.

Shrug. I think you're misinterpreting the idea behind those kinds of rules. A lot of those have the same logic as the reaction tables you're talking about- the idea that, yes, the players have a CHANCE of actually negotiating, that if we decide to roll, the GM said, "Yeah, you might just convince them of that, here's the difficulty".
posted by yeloson at 7:38 PM on September 27, 2010


...two tieflings and a fat dragonborn...everyone forgets about their buffs!

I have no idea what game you were playing.


Tieflings have been a playable race since Planescape came out during the latter half of 2nd Edition's run. Which for the record was the best campaign setting TSR ever released.
posted by Caduceus at 8:22 PM on September 27, 2010


Is this the place where I get to say that the new New Yorker iPad app is frigid' phenomenal? It's exactly what I wanted it to be. Hopefully they'll add subscriptions at some point.
posted by painquale at 9:03 PM on September 27, 2010


iPad app is frigid' phenomenal

Typing on your iPad, I presume?

So am I, but I'm very disappointed by the app.
posted by robcorr at 11:49 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stereotype much, New Yorker?
posted by jet_manifesto at 5:55 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meaningless though it is, I am morally obligated to reply on the above comment which I will reproduce here in all its emptiness:


Come on grizzled, if you're going to be needlessly insulting, then have a bit more conviction about it than that half-assed comment.
posted by oddman at 12:52 PM on September 27 [6 favorites +] [!]


It is noteworthy that even though we are officially admonished to "focus comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand--not at other members of the site" this principle is often violated, and in this case, it has been violated to the delight of the multitude, or at least of the six imbeciles who voted for this as a favorite comment. All bullies require their hangers-on for best effect.

My original comment was not directed at any member of the site, although some may have thought that it applied to them if they are D&D players. My comment was actually about the topic of this discussion, a short story in which a group of D&D players is depicted in a very unflattering light. My reaction is that this depiction is plausible based upon my own previous experience with hard-core SF/fantasy fans. The reply to my comment is a mean-spirited attack on myself, which is applauded as the height of wit. Thus, the rotten core of metafilter is revealed, crawling with maggots.

Your problem with me is that my gratuitous insult lacks conviction. I have apparently not been insulting enough. Of course if I were to be insulting enough, I would have to violate the rules of this web-site so severely that my account would be cancelled by the ever-watchful editors. That is probably your intention, to trick me into an unwise response. But in any event, you are successful. You have convinced me that it is a waste of my time to attempt to communicate with a group of egotistical, self-obsessed, juvenile, arrogant idiots like yourselves.

I hope you find my this comment to have more conviction than my previous one. If not, well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

That is all.
posted by grizzled at 7:10 AM on September 28, 2010


oddman, this works well.
posted by stbalbach at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2010


yeloson: Thanks for that Pam Noles link. That essay deserves an FPP all its own. Too bad it's four years old.
posted by 256 at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2010


There's no such thing as 4th edition. They stopped publishing D&D books just before the time certain people like to claim something with the unlikely-sounding title of "Unearthed Arcana" came out.

What do you mean by this "Unearthed Arcana"? AD&D is not and never was D&D. TSR had done its best to destroy D&D by the creation of AD&D, although enough people kept the flame alive that the Rules Compendium was published. (Seriously. The reason for the name change was, I believe, so Gygax could cut Arneson out of the royalties by claiming it was a different game).

Now can we stop the grognard duels? I'm quite happy running 4e with two players in one of my current groups who've been playing D&D longer than I've been alive.
posted by Francis at 8:25 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's a time-limit on FPPs, though I'm sure it's probably been posted somewhere before. If you're interested, here's my own FPP on gamer culture and diversity.
posted by yeloson at 8:28 AM on September 28, 2010


I think that it is actually possible to play Dungeons and Dragons without being horribly neurotic and socially dysfunctional, but the odds are against it.

I think that it is actually possible to be human without being horribly neurotic and socially dysfunctional, but the odds are against it.
posted by Francis at 8:59 AM on September 28, 2010


Thus, the rotten core of metafilter is revealed, crawling with maggots.

Revealed? Wait, I've been crawling with maggots for years, this ain't a new thing.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2010


I think that it is actually possible to play Dungeons and Dragons without being horribly neurotic and socially dysfunctional, but the odds are against it.

Oh come on, that's such a lazy stereotype!

There's no such thing as 4th edition. They stopped publishing D&D books just before the time certain people like to claim something with the unlikely-sounding title of "Unearthed Arcana" came out.

*sigh*
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2010


I've been meaning to talk to you about that, Greg. You need to writhe a little more.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2010


Thus, the rotten core of metafilter is revealed, crawling with maggots.

Maggots? Maggots. Maggots, maggots, maggots. Maggots.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:41 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


.....roll 20 sided
posted by clavdivs at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2010


Y'know, my warforged ranger, out of surges, dailies and encounter powers and generally smacked around, was at -12 HP on Sunday. Almost lost 10 levels and a year and a half of glory! Aiee! But between warlock fey switching and the dregs of the paladin's healing, I got back up.

The prior Tuesday I rolled a random encounter with orcs, where they almost killed the half elf fighter/thief in two surprise segments, but the monk with the halberd managed to intercept during normal, minute long combat rounds and kill the orc before it could invoke extra attacks via weapon speed factor comparisons.

So I really am not an Edition Wars kinda guy. Now I make games and game supplements as part (for much of my adult life it was all) of my income, so I have a motive for being omnivorous, but I generally think folks could kind of ease up, y'know? I mean, you can go find boards where you can argue that playing games you dislike is like having brain damage and abusing your spouse and lose forever. They will take up your cause when they aren't moderating the shit out of you over party-line issues.

What I really wish is that people would at least have preferences stemming from something resembling a creative vision instead of arguing that there's some objective crap. I mean, I think a lot of contemporary games are theatres for middle class insecurity promoted by people with banal, dated ideas of story, but my contempt for those games is a difference of vision, not the idea that there is a Platonic Game Template that is attainable in any progressive fashion.
posted by mobunited at 10:27 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


iPad app is frigid' phenomenal

Typing on your iPad, I presume?


Ha! Yes.

I'm very disappointed by the app.

It's getting a lot of bad reviews, but they're mostly aimed at the pricing structure and the presence of ads. Do you have other problems with it? Both are imperfect, but once you look past them, it's an excellent experience, and not just a glorified pdf like other magazine apps.

This Sam Lipsyte short story has a button you can push to hear the author read it as an audiobook. That's pretty awesome. (I wonder if it will be standard?)
posted by painquale at 11:25 AM on September 28, 2010


You know, I enjoyed the story when I read it, and I tried D&D once (with a few friends who were curious, and frankly the whole thing bored me to tears, but to each their own.) What I want is more stories that perfectly encompass the genuine terror that goes through your mind as a pre-teen when you realize you've committed to a real-world action that, in the next second or two, is either going to come out fine or result in (at minimum) a hospital stay for somebody.

Case in point: I will never forget the day we pulled what looked like a pedal go-kart out of someone's garbage pile. It wasn't well-made even when it was new -- the frame was barely screwed together, and made of bent lawn-furniture-grade aluminum tubing. The pedals were broken, and the wheels were smooth plastic, so it seemed perfect for towing with a bicycle.

After much fun towing each other up and down the street, one of us -- I don't remember who -- realized that if we stopped the bike and grabbed the rope, we could pull it tight as the kart passed by, making them spin out and slide sideways. A few tentative experiments were promising, so we ramped it up a few notches. I pulled my friend as fast as I could, skidded to a stop, and grabbed the rope as my friend turned the wheel hard right. Thus perfectly timed, he went into a sideways arc at high speed, and with my eyes locked on his progress, it was only as he reached the apogee of the arc that I realized he was about to slide side-first into a parked car, with his head at bumper-height.

Remember, this was the 70s, so bumpers were chrome and heavy, and overhangs were long, so that kart was going to pass under the car -- but his head was not.

The terror I felt as I pulled on the rope, as hard as I could, to shorten the arc was the most perfect, distilled terror I ever felt as a child, and it stays with me to this day. It was clear, straightforward, and gut-wrenching, although felt rather than expressed in words: my friend is going to have brain damage, and it's going to be my fault. Only this year have I felt anything similar, after I accidentally let my dog get past the front door, and he ran into the street to get hit by a car*.

Somehow I pulled it enough, and only the back of the chair caught the rear bumper in passing. My friend had no idea what had nearly happened, as he'd been concentrating on not falling out, and so immediately wanted to do it again.

Which, being kids, we did. One of the kart's bolts disintegrated a few passes later, from age or from the abuse we were subjecting it to, and we couldn't get it back together. Back on the trash pile it went.

*he almost cleared the car and the front bumper hit him in the rear legs, so his small body swung around -- no injury whatsoever, thankfully.
posted by davejay at 11:44 AM on September 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


In RPGs the bourgeois fantasy of a control that is total -- that extends from that class' expectation to inherit the earth

It's not exactly fair calling it bourgeois though when communist thought posited that the working class would inherit the earth.

Instead, it goes to heaven.
posted by ersatz at 2:17 PM on September 28, 2010


painquale: Do you have other problems with it? … This Sam Lipsyte short story has a button you can push to hear the author read it as an audiobook.

Actually, that's one of the problems—it won't play on my iPad. But I'm running the 4.2 beta so it's probably not their fault.

My main problem is the size of the download. If I could subscribe to it like a podcast and have iTunes slurp it down and sync, that wouldn't be a problem, but I've got to manually start the process and lt the iPad sit there until the 170MB is done.

But the articles are formatted very well. It's a pleasant reading experience.
posted by robcorr at 5:51 PM on September 28, 2010


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