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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Slate offers up a really bad article about the morality of D&D, denigrating it as a hack-n-slasher, a tabletop first person shooter of the worst order.

How bad is it? At a minimum, anybody criticizing the game system's morality should at least make a nod to the alignment system. You know, that critical part of the rules system that requires the roleplayer to adhere to a certain ("Dude, at least it's an") ethos and morality?

Not even discussing that limitation makes a complete hash of his argument. His "narrative arithmetic" presumes everyone is playing to an evil alignment. That's not the way me and my nerd posse rolled, man.

That's not to say that the alignment rules weren't sometimes twisted into balloon animals, nor that some players harkened to evil characters. But don't pretend the rules weren't there. Good-aligned characters wouldn't--couldn't--engage in sociopathic violence without severe, even campaign-ending, consequences.

Moreover, the books and adventures explicitly gave or at least recommended experience bonuses for non-violent play, and punished hack-n-slashery. The hypothetical orc slaughtering in the one room might wake up something really nasty down the corridor, for example.

Now the one point the writer does have is that Gygax's system came prepackaged with real flaws--the rules were full of parenthetical digressions, random excursions and long-winded (if usually interesting) explanations that could slow actually learning the game to a crawl. And the rules themselves often ran the gamut from Baroque to Rococo--alignment languages? WTH?

Don't get me started on the First Edition weapon speed rules or segments, rounds and turns. Gaming Logorrhea, thy Father was E. Gary Gygax. There were, and are, simpler game systems. GURPS is all right, but the original Traveler was even better. But it was and remains a very sturdy game platform that has stood the test of time for a reason--because it works.

But to portray it as Grand Theft Auto with dice is one of the dumbest accusations you can level at Gygax.

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