Gygax's writing quality

232 views
Skip to first unread message

nigh...@slipn.com

unread,
Feb 16, 1995, 12:55:02 PM2/16/95
to
dr...@wbb.com writes:

>
> IN>health food. Gygax may have started roleplaying (except that much of the
> IN>work on D&D was done by Brian Blume and Dave Arneson), but D&D and every
> IN>game he has worked on or designed since then have been very low quality
> IN>in terms of both rules design, readability and proper grammar.
> IN> Saying that being consulted for a book by Gygax is a lofty height
> IN>is like saying that it was an honor to be consulted on the proper
> IN>spelling of a piece of graffiti on a restroom wall.
>
> What? What do YOU know about it? Actually, the Blume family ruined
> TSR, put it on a "corporate" track under which crushed any creative
> elements left (we don't know the game designers of TSR products any
> more, there are very few and they are kept anonymous wherever possible.
> TSR will keep their names off the cover if they can).
>
> And Gary Gygax did excellent work when he formed his own company, New
> Infinities Productions Inc. He turned out a number of generic game
> supplements such as TOWN OF BALDEMAR: a complete town with
> well-developed personalities long before the RPGA asked its members to

Did excellent work?!! Then why did the company fold in less than five
years? If it was that excellent, why didn't it dwarf T$R? Reason:
because the products designed by New Infinities, and by Gygax before
that, are unmitigated dreck, hackwork that doesn't follow any kind of
internally consistent logic in either game design, mechanics, or writing.
Stuff written at a level lower than that of turn-of-the-century pulp
writing. Poor mechanics, and an attitude of "this is THE ONE TRUE WAY OF
ROLEPLAYING".
I know a lot about it, Drac...I've been gaming since '77, and have
played, or at least read through, nearly every game system published
since '74. And while there were many worse than Gygax's stuff, there
were FAR MORE that are better.
And about 90% of what was in the original D&D three-book set came from
the campaigns of Brian Blume.
What it looks like to me, Drac, is that a simple hobby has become your
own private religion, and Gary Gygax is either your pope or your god.
Drac, ol' pal, you need some professional help real quick, or you will be
listed in the paper as "ROLEPLAYING GAMER SNAPS, KILLS DOZENS".
When a simple hobby becomes as important as it seems to be to you, it's
time for a reality check. (But any reality check from you would probably
bounce.)

Gary

Brandon Gillespie

unread,
Feb 18, 1995, 6:20:44 PM2/18/95
to
cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) writes:
> nigh...@slipn.com writes:

>> dr...@wbb.com writes:
>>> And Gary Gygax did excellent work when he formed his own company, New
>>> Infinities Productions Inc. He turned out a number of generic game
>>> supplements such as TOWN OF BALDEMAR: a complete town with
>>> well-developed personalities long before the RPGA asked its members to
>>
>>Did excellent work?!! Then why did the company fold in less than five
>>years? If it was that excellent, why didn't it dwarf T$R? Reason:
>>because the products designed by New Infinities, and by Gygax before
>>that, are unmitigated dreck, hackwork that doesn't follow any kind of
>>internally consistent logic in either game design, mechanics, or writing.
>
> In part, NIPI failed because of a lack of funds. NIPI had no money with which
> to advertise. While most of the work that came out of it was, regarding RPGs,
> not so spectacular, the books that Gygax wrote were pretty darned good. The
> undead module Gygax made was good, even though *I* can't now get my hands on
> it. 8-<

Lack of funds? Sorry, don't buy it. I have seen many game companies pull
themselves from the masses with virtually no starting money. If you have a
good product and the know how to manage it, you can make something run with
only an initial loan.

Of all the stuff I have seen Gygax create, not a single bit of it would be
something any sane editor would publish. The only reason he has as much
published as there is, is because he either published it himself or knows the
editor/publisher who did publish it (or did it through TSR, which was (at the
time) basically him doing it himself). His writing style is dry and booring,
there is no consistancy or organization, it just plain sucks. Sure, this is an
opinion, but it is an opinion which is shared by a large majority of people.

(my, this feels good getting into a flame war again on rec.games.frp.* (thinks
back longingly to the days of 'rec.games.frp')).

--
/\ Brandon Gillespie (http://www.declab.usu.edu:8080/~brandon/) /\
\/ "The gene pool could use a little chlorine" \/

Chris

unread,
Feb 18, 1995, 12:12:55 PM2/18/95
to
In article <24mm1c...@slipn.slipn.com> nigh...@slipn.com writes:
>From: nigh...@slipn.com
>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: 16 Feb 1995 11:55:02 -0600

>dr...@wbb.com writes:

>> And Gary Gygax did excellent work when he formed his own company, New
>> Infinities Productions Inc. He turned out a number of generic game
>> supplements such as TOWN OF BALDEMAR: a complete town with
>> well-developed personalities long before the RPGA asked its members to

>Did excellent work?!! Then why did the company fold in less than five
>years? If it was that excellent, why didn't it dwarf T$R? Reason:
>because the products designed by New Infinities, and by Gygax before
>that, are unmitigated dreck, hackwork that doesn't follow any kind of
>internally consistent logic in either game design, mechanics, or writing.

In part, NIPI failed because of a lack of funds. NIPI had no money with which

to advertise. While most of the work that came out of it was, regarding RPGs,
not so spectacular, the books that Gygax wrote were pretty darned good. The
undead module Gygax made was good, even though *I* can't now get my hands on
it. 8-<

> I know a lot about it, Drac...I've been gaming since '77, and have

>played, or at least read through, nearly every game system published
>since '74. And while there were many worse than Gygax's stuff, there
>were FAR MORE that are better.

Since this is little more than you stating your opinion....

> And about 90% of what was in the original D&D three-book set came from
>the campaigns of Brian Blume.

And this is something to hold up as laudable? Mayhaps for its time, but
certainly not for the '90's and beyond...

Best,

Chris


The world is full of kings and queens
Who blind your eyes then steal your dreams
It's heaven and hell

They'll tell you black is really white
The moon is just the sun at night
It's heaven and hell

Bod

unread,
Feb 20, 1995, 6:25:51 AM2/20/95
to
In article <3i97r4$n...@hermes.unt.edu> la...@ulantris.csci.unt.edu (Lane) writes:

> And DnD is just a piece of artwork? Please, DnD is a piece of shit. Its
> rules have close to zero consistency, and the only reason it is around still
> is because T$R can throw money into flashy productions and outsue and buy
> out its competitors.

And how did it get the money to "throw into flashy productions"
and "outsue" and "buy out" its competitors, pray tell?

(And exactly which competitors has it bought out, anyway?)

--
Bod
b...@hogshead.demon.co.uk
"I have so much to do that I am going to bed" --- fortune cookie, 26:AUG:94

Chris P McKinnon

unread,
Feb 21, 1995, 4:40:44 AM2/21/95
to
Bod (b...@hogshead.demon.co.uk) wrote:

: (And exactly which competitors has it bought out, anyway?)

SPI - Publishers of DragonQuest... Bought it out, re-released DragonQuest
3rd Ed. (candy coated again - nothing nasty), and then made the game into
a board game...

--
==============================================================================
Enigma = "Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun..."
Chris McKinnon = - Ash, Army of Darkness
cmck...@uoguelph.ca =
==============================================================================

Jonas Carlsson

unread,
Feb 21, 1995, 6:00:44 AM2/21/95
to
In article 793304...@hogshead.demon.co.uk, b...@hogshead.demon.co.uk (Bod) writes:
its competitors, pray tell?
>
> (And exactly which competitors has it bought out, anyway?)
Well: SPI for one... Also, they've 'bought off' Mayfair and GDW (settled out of court, and bought their entire stock of the 'offending' products.)

Jonas

John Martin Karakash

unread,
Feb 21, 1995, 2:21:26 PM2/21/95
to

|>> And DnD is just a piece of artwork? Please, DnD is a piece of shit. Its
|>> rules have close to zero consistency, and the only reason it is around still
|>> is because T$R can throw money into flashy productions and outsue and buy
|>> out its competitors.
|>
|>And how did it get the money to "throw into flashy productions"
|>and "outsue" and "buy out" its competitors, pray tell?


Actually, the reason for TSR's extreme longevity is its
position as the first major role-playing game. It's hard to
beat momentum like that. They have a large budget for advertising
and their name (among the unenlightened) is virtually synonymous
with roleplaying.
TSR actually has bought out one or two lines (Dragonquest
being the only one to come to mind on short notice). But their
main method is simply using up retailer's RPG budgets with
'sure sellers'. But I don't blame the retailers or TSR for this!
And they haven't sat on their hands, either! The more
experienced gamers were 'graduating' to other games and this
worried them a lot. So they have tried to widen their appeal
with new gaming worlds that offer real depth (or at least a
change of pace). They have also marketed quite a few non-D&D
style games over the years to keep people 'within the family'.
So to summarize my opinions: They got the money by
being first, and then good marketing after the takeover. (According
to a never-to-be-named TSR employee, Dragonlance and that vampire
module saved the company). They're staying on top due to momentum,
a strong push to novice gamers and a diversifying to keep older
gamers.

-john 'no longer owns any of their games at all...' karakash-
--

Bod

unread,
Feb 23, 1995, 9:20:57 PM2/23/95
to
In article <3ich4s$h...@antares.lu.erisoft.se> jc7...@um.erisoft.se writes:
> In article 793304...@hogshead.demon.co.uk, b...@hogshead.demon.co.uk (Bod) writes:
> > (And exactly which competitors has it bought out, anyway?)
> Well: SPI for one...

Okay, I'll give you SPI. I'd forgotten all about them. Not exactly
recent, was it?

> Also, they've 'bought off' Mayfair and GDW (settled out of court,
> and bought their entire stock of the 'offending' products.)

Okay, the cases never came to court and so whether the products
concerned were "offending" or not will never be official (but I
think we can safely say that one was and one wasn't, but not
necessarily in that order), but that's not buying out the
competition, that's acquiring product lines from them.

TSR is not a voracious company. In the whole history of the RPG
industry, the fact that there's been only one notable buy-out/
take-over by the biggest company in the field is remarkable. But
then, why should they? The only games systems which prove any kind
of real threat to the market dominance of D&D/AD&D are the ones
which actively challenge its trademarks.

Ronald Copley

unread,
Mar 2, 1995, 2:06:20 PM3/2/95
to
In article <793304...@hogshead.demon.co.uk>, b...@hogshead.demon.co.uk (Bod) writes:
> In article <3i97r4$n...@hermes.unt.edu> la...@ulantris.csci.unt.edu (Lane) writes:
>
>> And DnD is just a piece of artwork? Please, DnD is a piece of shit. Its
>> rules have close to zero consistency, and the only reason it is around still
>> is because T$R can throw money into flashy productions and outsue and buy
>> out its competitors.
>
> And how did it get the money to "throw into flashy productions"
> and "outsue" and "buy out" its competitors, pray tell?
>
> (And exactly which competitors has it bought out, anyway?)

I agree... I think "DnD" is too nebulous a term here. I still play, and enjoy,
the original ('74) rules, and find the boxed sets (Basic, Expert, et alia) to
be a rather good product. Now, this isn't to say that TSR's output of the last
5 or so years has been worth a plug nickel, but their older products do stand
out, I feel. Perhaps TSR is just feeling the glut of a satiated market?

--
Informatiks |
Ronald Copley, owner | Buying and selling small to medium
1010 Township RD 78W | quantities of used Pyramid, Sun,
Scottown OH 45678-9051 | DEC (PDPs) and Data General computer
+1.614.643.1340 | equipment. Trades welcome!!
(evenings, please) |
--

woodelf

unread,
Mar 2, 1995, 10:18:58 PM3/2/95
to
In article <Rslgw*q...@valinor.hna.com.au>
ma...@valinor.hna.com.au (Jason Mulligan) writes:

> In article <1995Feb18.1...@cc.usu.edu>, Brandon Gillespie writes:
>
> > Of all the stuff I have seen Gygax create, not a single bit of it would be
> > something any sane editor would publish. The only reason he has as much
> > published as there is, is because he either published it himself or knows the
> > editor/publisher who did publish it (or did it through TSR, which was (at the
> > time) basically him doing it himself). His writing style is dry and booring,
> > there is no consistancy or organization, it just plain sucks. Sure, this is an
> > opinion, but it is an opinion which is shared by a large majority of people.
>

well, my only exposure to his writings consists of the 1st ed. AD&D,
basic and expert set D&D, Danjerous Journeys, and a couple of Dragon
editorials. I'd say that he has two writing styles, both of which have
deteriorated over the years. AD&D DMG is the best of the ones i've
seen (though not the oldest), and DJ is the worst. his informal style,
as found in editorials, was obviously formed by reading way too much
Stan Lee as a kid, but as a Hulk and Spiderman fan, i can certainly
tolerate it. His formal style, as exemplified by the original DMG, was
a masterpiece of language (not necessarily, comprehensibility or
literature, just raw language). He used (correctly, i might add)
grammatical constructions that one is hard pressed to find outside of a
Latin textbook. And he used a phenomenal vocab (especially for a
9yr-old). The two of those together forced me to vastly stretch my
reading abilities, which fact i am reminded of frequently by RPG rules
and my mechanics textbook. sure it was obtuse, but it was proper
english, something that most of my peers in the U.S. have never been
exposed to. it meant that when i got to Shakespeare, my roleplaying
friends and i were a leg up on the language. i have to thank him for
the language lessons, while at the same time admitting that it did not
make for the most readable game. but i personally prefer it to the
other extreme: colloquialisms and slang, barely agreeing with a high
school english book, and violating the MLA guidelines (all too common
among RPG books, especially modern ones). on the other hand, i know
that you can have too much of a good thing. the same style, perhaps
grown even more stylized over the years, when added to the ridiculously
complex rules of DJ, made for an unintelligible rule book.

woodelf
nbar...@students.wisc.edu
woo...@picard.cs.wisc.edu
http://yar.cs.wisc.edu/~woodelf

Derrick Arnold

unread,
Mar 5, 1995, 4:43:23 AM3/5/95
to
Although I am not championing EGG's writing quality, I totally agree with the
last poster. Being in the 3rd grade and reading RPG rule books (well D&D was
the only RPG I knew of back then) totally extended my vocabulary. I had to
look plenty of words up to understand what was going on. I know that my
gaming friends had pretty much the same experience.

rev. roy crisman

unread,
Mar 5, 1995, 1:15:25 PM3/5/95
to

Then again, I greatly improved and expanded my vocabulary in 3-5th
grades by reading science fiction. So, is this an instance of 'we owe
E.G.G. soooo much' or 'Young kids getting involved in 'adult(not sex)'
literature are bound to improve their reading/vocab. skills'?

My guess would be the later.

roymeo
.sigs suck

Brian Christopher Misiaszek

unread,
Feb 23, 1995, 9:55:18 AM2/23/95
to

>In article <1995Feb18.1...@cc.usu.edu>, Brandon Gillespie writes:

>> Of all the stuff I have seen Gygax create, not a single bit of it would be
>> something any sane editor would publish. The only reason he has as much
>> published as there is, is because he either published it himself or knows the
>> editor/publisher who did publish it (or did it through TSR, which was (at the
>> time) basically him doing it himself). His writing style is dry and booring,
>> there is no consistancy or organization, it just plain sucks. Sure, this is an
>> opinion, but it is an opinion which is shared by a large majority of people.

>Well, I for one have enjoyed several (at least) products that he has made.
>When I was younger I remember fondly the series of Greyhawk novels (Gord
>the Rogue, etc). Also, the Greyhawk campaign was VERY enjoyable and there
>are several adventures that I remember with GREAT fondness (Temple of
>Elemental Evil, Against the Giants, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth).

I'll stick my oar in the water and agree. When Gary Gygax began developing
what became known as D&D, he was breaking new territory. RPGs simply didn't
exist when he began writing, and he helped to evolve an entirely new pasttime.
D&D originated out of the amateur wargame school of writing, and its various
creators (Gygax, Arneson, etc.) weren't established authors, nor did they have
degrees in English literature. They also banged out much of their writing on
typewriters, wordprrocessors and all their advantages being quiteuncommon
back in 1975. He helped create the very standards in role-playing games that
he is now ironically being measured against.

That being said, I'll also admit a nostalgic fondness to Gygax's writing. It
was very much like reading a letter written by a favourite uncle. Sure, his
writing is rough around the edges, and has too many "gentle readers", and
other irritating quirks. But that didn't matter to me, when I first began
gaming as a teenager. I was more interested in the furious richness of ideas
he presented, of the entire concept of creating an interactive fantasy with
the help and imagination of my friends. I devoured the little D&D booklets,
swallowed whole the DMG, the MM and the PHB. I enjoyed playing in adventure
modules written by Gygax such as "The Village of Hommlet", "Tomb of Horrors",
etc. I even appreciated little touches like the recommended fantasy reading
list he provided in the DMG. The tone was friendly, helpful, and most of all,
sincere.

It's not fair to judge a seminal work by the same standards of others who
have the luxury to profit from past mistakes. The state of the art for
RPGs has moved on, and for myself personally, xD&D doesn't cut it. But that's
not to deny the impact that Gygax and his creation has made. It's curious to
see someone complaining that "no sane editor" would publish his writings, yet
his same efforts helped to create the largest RPG company in the world. For
such an editor, there was a method to his madness; people paying money hand
over fist to purchase his RPG gaming materials. RPGs and the quality of the
finished product have certain evolved since those three little booklets first
came out, but of late it can be argued that most of that change is more a
matter of style over substance.


Follow-ups to r.g.f.advocacy

::Brian::

John M. Ford

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 1:31:08 AM3/7/95
to
In <3jc13r$3...@nic-nac.CSU.net> arnoldd@fuller (Derrick Arnold) writes:

That's a good and positive thing. The trouble is that poor ole Gary
rarely understood any of the difficult words, and especially the archaic
ones, he was using; he just looked up obsolete words in the dictionary
and plugged them in, often without even noticing that they came from
vastly different parts of the world.

This kind of carelessness in game writing leads to things like the idea,
still very common among people who get their history from Dund, that all
medieval weapons had precise names. This simply isn't true; a "morning
star" might be anything with spikes sticking out of it, with or without a
length of chain. (What Dund insists is the True and Only Morningstar is
more accurately a "horseman's flail" -- it was short, so you could use it
from the saddle -- but even this is a general term, not a precise one.)
And the exact distinction between a glaive, a guisarme, and a voulge
exists only in poor ole Gary's mind. There were a nearly infinite
variety of polearms -- some variation of a knife, claw, rake, or mallet
on a long pole, often a variation of an agricultural tool. You can see
this variation in any good collection of archaic weapons, such as the
superb one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

To be fair, some of this was not so much any person's "fault" as a result
of early Dund's attempt to cram all of history and folklore, from the
ends of the earth and the Iron Age to the late Renaissance, into one
allegedly consistent background where everybody could get into a fight
with everybody else. This was never going to work beyond the level of
low comedy, and TSR has moved away from it (though Dangerous Journeys
took several long and unnecessary steps back).

And often Gygax would just wing it, with unintentionally hysterical
results: I remember a story I was given to copyedit, where, during a
banquet scene, someone fell into a huge "bowl" of plum pudding, which
splashed all over. Now, English plum pudding isn't like Jell-O Pudding;
it's more like a fruitcake, and certainly doesn't splash. Is this
important? Not on the cosmic scale, no, but writers do have a certain
minimum obligation to get their facts right.

I have nothing personally against Gary Gygax; he's been rather put upon
lately. But the notion that he's a good, or even ordinarily competent,
fantasy author, just will not stand up.

Mitchell J. Gross

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 4:54:59 PM3/7/95
to
In article <1995Mar2.150620@hobbit>,

Ronald Copley <cop...@marshall.edu> wrote:
>
>I agree... I think "DnD" is too nebulous a term here. I still play, and enjoy,
>the original ('74) rules, and find the boxed sets (Basic, Expert, et alia) to
>be a rather good product. Now, this isn't to say that TSR's output of the last
>5 or so years has been worth a plug nickel, but their older products do stand
>out, I feel. Perhaps TSR is just feeling the glut of a satiated market?

In January, I was visiting friends in Boston who still play D&D quite a
bit. We played Dark Sun one night, and Masque of the Red Death the other.

It's been years since I played D&D (advanced or otherwise) and I really
enjoyed it! We just had a lot of fun! :)

I might not want to play D&D exclusively, but I certainly won't say no to
playing it again...

-`---,---'-,---`---`--'--,--`-'-,--`--'--,---`--'-,--`-'-,--,-'-`--'-,-`--,---
Mitchell J. Gross * VISIONARY GAMES * m...@io.com * AOL: VisionaryG
http://www.io.com/user/mjg/visionary/
ftp.indiana.edu/pub/doc/camarila/Visionary/
"God does not play at dice." - Albert Einstein
--'---,---'---,--`--'-,-'-`---'-,--`-'---,---'-----,---'---`---'-,-`-`-'---,--

Jonathan Brazell

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 2:21:13 PM3/7/95
to
In article <roymeo.7...@des1.iastate.edu> roy...@iastate.edu (rev. roy crisman) writes:

>Then again, I greatly improved and expanded my vocabulary in 3-5th
>grades by reading science fiction. So, is this an instance of 'we owe
>E.G.G. soooo much' or 'Young kids getting involved in 'adult(not sex)'
>literature are bound to improve their reading/vocab. skills'?
>
>My guess would be the later.

Actually I have read a great deal of Gygax's writings, and I find it of a high
quality, even though it is a bit on the advanced side. Gygax assumes you have
a large vocabulary and a logical and ordered mind, unfortunatly, we in america
have been shown that everthing is written in a level an 8th grader could
understand, some of Gygax's writings require a much higher level of
understanding. I understood DJ, although I didn't much care for the system,
it was too technical. If you have ever read any of his novels, you would know
that his writing is of a good quality, just hard to understand, but so was
Asimov's.

-Jonathan Brazell

Anthony Ragan

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 5:01:00 AM3/8/95
to
In article <jbrazell....@scsn.net>,
jbra...@scsn.net (Jonathan Brazell) writes:

>
>Actually I have read a great deal of Gygax's writings, and I find it of a high
>quality, even though it is a bit on the advanced side. Gygax assumes you have
>a large vocabulary and a logical and ordered mind, unfortunatly, we in america
>have been shown that everthing is written in a level an 8th grader could
>understand, some of Gygax's writings require a much higher level of
>understanding. I understood DJ, although I didn't much care for the system,
>it was too technical. If you have ever read any of his novels, you would know
>that his writing is of a good quality, just hard to understand, but so was
>Asimov's.

"Advanced" isn't a word I would use to describe Gygax's writings.
"Florid," "turgid," and "clumsy" all spring to mind at first thought.
As for his vocabulary, it looks as if ne never got past the freshman
trick of looking through the thesaurus to find a cool-looking
synonym as a substitute for a perfectly acceptable word.
I still gag over "dweomercraefter."

And I've read his novels. (The Gord stuff. Not anything more recent)
They're dreck. The characters were one-dimensional and they read like
nothing but game-session fluff. And to compare his writings to
Asimov's is ludicrous. One of Asimov's key principles was "clarity
of expression." Gygax has never heard of the concept.

--Anthony
ecz...@mvs.oac.ucla.edu -OR- Iris...@aol.com
Rune Chia Pet of Ernalda, Snotling in Chief
(followups to .advocacy, just in case.......)

Chris

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 5:51:09 PM3/9/95
to
In article <jmford.7...@news.mtn.org> jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John M. Ford) writes:
>From: jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John M. Ford)

>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: 7 Mar 95 06:31:08 GMT

>In <3jc13r$3...@nic-nac.CSU.net> arnoldd@fuller (Derrick Arnold) writes:

>That's a good and positive thing. The trouble is that poor ole Gary
>rarely understood any of the difficult words, and especially the archaic
>ones, he was using; he just looked up obsolete words in the dictionary
>and plugged them in, often without even noticing that they came from
>vastly different parts of the world.

And considering that he was writing ***fiction*** just what in the hell does
this have to do with the quality of his writing?

>This kind of carelessness in game writing leads to things like the idea,
>still very common among people who get their history from Dund, that all
>medieval weapons had precise names. This simply isn't true; a "morning
>star" might be anything with spikes sticking out of it, with or without a
>length of chain. (What Dund insists is the True and Only Morningstar is
>more accurately a "horseman's flail" -- it was short, so you could use it
>from the saddle -- but even this is a general term, not a precise one.)
>And the exact distinction between a glaive, a guisarme, and a voulge
>exists only in poor ole Gary's mind. There were a nearly infinite
>variety of polearms -- some variation of a knife, claw, rake, or mallet
>on a long pole, often a variation of an agricultural tool. You can see
>this variation in any good collection of archaic weapons, such as the
>superb one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Again, your need for reality-basis in a fantasy setting is hopelessly
idealistic. Fantasy yarns often thumb their noses at reality, like when they
report magic to be real. Besides, it made for easier classification, which is
a necessity for game mechanics.

In short, let's not lose sight of what Gygax (and Arneson) developed the game
for. They did it to recreate the fantasy yarns of Tolkien, Howard and Lieber.
None of those authors can be considered to have been too overtly reality-based.

>To be fair, some of this was not so much any person's "fault" as a result
>of early Dund's attempt to cram all of history and folklore, from the
>ends of the earth and the Iron Age to the late Renaissance, into one
>allegedly consistent background where everybody could get into a fight
>with everybody else. This was never going to work beyond the level of
>low comedy, and TSR has moved away from it (though Dangerous Journeys
>took several long and unnecessary steps back).

No attempt was made to be historically accurate for the real world. so your
assumption falls falt on its face, chum.

>I have nothing personally against Gary Gygax; he's been rather put upon
>lately. But the notion that he's a good, or even ordinarily competent,
>fantasy author, just will not stand up.

I guess that depends upon what criterion you are judging him by. I felt no
sense of being talked down to by Gary whenever I read anything, whether a
novel or a rulebook. He has a fertile imagination, something not everybody
has, or can out to use so well as he has.

When your accomplishments surpass his, maybe you will have earned the right to
criticize. Until then, junior, go back and practice.

woodelf

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 5:07:00 AM3/10/95
to
In article <cgvang.23...@access.digex.net>
cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) writes:

> No attempt was made to be historically accurate for the real world. so your
> assumption falls falt on its face, chum.
>

the original complaint was that it attempted to cram all of the
possibilities of history into one reality. maintaining internal
consistency becomes the problem, not historical accuracy.

Shawn Metcalf

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 6:59:41 PM3/10/95
to
In article <3jq9ch$i...@hppadbk.waterloo.hp.com>, ev...@waterloo.hp.com
(Jonathan Evans) wrote:

> >In article <jmford.7...@news.mtn.org> jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John
M. Ford) writes:
> >>I have nothing personally against Gary Gygax; he's been rather put upon
> >>lately. But the notion that he's a good, or even ordinarily competent,
> >>fantasy author, just will not stand up.
> >

> >When your accomplishments surpass his, maybe you will have earned the
right to
> >criticize. Until then, junior, go back and practice.
>

> Boy, are *you* going to feel silly if the "John M. Ford" you are responding to
> turns out to be the one who won the World Fantasy Award for "The Dragon
> Waiting" some years back. :)

Plus, if this is the John M. Ford I think it is, he's also kicked EGG's
ass in the world of game writing as well with the brilliant "Yellow
Clearance Black Box Blues" for _Paranoia_.

--

Shawn Metcalf DeadB...@aol.com

CEO, Omni Gaming Products

Tim Dunn

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 2:01:26 PM3/10/95
to
Chris <cgv...@access.digex.net> wrote:
>>From: jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John M. Ford)
>When your accomplishments surpass his, maybe you will have earned the right to
>criticize. Until then, junior, go back and practice.

Actually, I'd wager that Mr. Ford has written far more than you realize:
he's the author of _The Final Reflection_, one of my favorite Star Trek
novels (now out of print). I've read Ford's stuff, and I've read EGG's,
and I'd rather read more of Ford's material anyday.

One final word: please know what you are talking about and who you are
talking to before you flame. A mis-directed flame like this one only
shows you to be a fool.

--
Laws of Japanese Animation: [by rshellit|dbr...@oboe.aix.calpoly.edu]
#3 - Law of Sonic Amplification, First Law of Anime Accoustics
In space, loud sounds, like explosions, are even louder because there is
no air to get in the way.

Jonathan Evans

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 2:30:25 PM3/10/95
to
>In article <jmford.7...@news.mtn.org> jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John M. Ford) writes:
>>I have nothing personally against Gary Gygax; he's been rather put upon
>>lately. But the notion that he's a good, or even ordinarily competent,
>>fantasy author, just will not stand up.
>
>When your accomplishments surpass his, maybe you will have earned the right to
>criticize. Until then, junior, go back and practice.

Boy, are *you* going to feel silly if the "John M. Ford" you are responding to


turns out to be the one who won the World Fantasy Award for "The Dragon
Waiting" some years back. :)

Jon

Chris

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 5:48:39 PM3/10/95
to
In article <tdunnD5...@netcom.com> td...@netcom.com (Tim Dunn) writes:
>From: td...@netcom.com (Tim Dunn)

>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: Fri, 10 Mar 1995 19:01:26 GMT

>Chris <cgv...@access.digex.net> wrote:
>>>From: jmf...@freedom.mtn.org (John M. Ford)
>>When your accomplishments surpass his, maybe you will have earned the right to
>>criticize. Until then, junior, go back and practice.

>Actually, I'd wager that Mr. Ford has written far more than you realize:
>he's the author of _The Final Reflection_, one of my favorite Star Trek
>novels (now out of print). I've read Ford's stuff, and I've read EGG's,
>and I'd rather read more of Ford's material anyday.

Your opinion, not mine. I probably read the book, as I read most of the ST
drivel. more for fandoms sake than anything else. Pulp is dead, long live
pulp. Most of the stuff that comes out of the ST line *is* pulp. (Good
training ground, but hardly literary giants.)

And, just to clarify my muddled post, my reference to accomplishments was
meant to include the breadth of Gygax's accomplishments, which, fan of him or
not, surely surpasses John M. Ford's.

>One final word: please know what you are talking about and who you are
>talking to before you flame. A mis-directed flame like this one only
>shows you to be a fool.

A fool, or just uninformed? I *was* unaware of what Mr. Ford has done, but
that just means that his work is of less notice than others, if to no one
else, than to me. As I read many books in a year, I buy a variety, mostly
based upon my own expectations from the cover and the blerb, with more weight
going to the blerb.

I tend more toward Science Fiction than Fantasy, but I read/buy these two
genres virtually exclusively. Having read much of the dross, and a bit of the
truly good stuff, I'd have to class Mr. Ford, ***as far as my own personal
tastes go*** as dross. If you disagree, so be it. But he hasn't captured my
attention, so that's the way it goes.

Best,

Chris

Chris

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 5:50:58 PM3/10/95
to
In article <3jq9ch$i...@hppadbk.waterloo.hp.com> ev...@waterloo.hp.com (Jonathan Evans) writes:
>From: ev...@waterloo.hp.com (Jonathan Evans)

>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: 10 Mar 1995 19:30:25 GMT

Not in the least. One award does not a phenim make. While Mr. Ford may be an
author in his own right, I must submit that he has not the staure in the
public mind that Gygax does. Gygax's accomplishments outweigh one award.

Best,

Chris

Paul Andrew King

unread,
Mar 11, 1995, 1:03:19 PM3/11/95
to

For your information John M. Ford *is* a good fantasy and sf author. In
that field his accomplishments definitely surpass Gygax's. I think an
apology is in order.

He's written some rather good gaming material too (Yellow Clearance Black
Box Blues and GURPS Time Travel for example).

Paul K.

MORNINMAN

unread,
Mar 11, 1995, 4:07:43 PM3/11/95
to
cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) said:

>And, just to clarify my muddled post, my reference to accomplishments was

>meant to include the breadth of Gygax's accomplishments, which, fan of
him or
>not, surely surpasses John M. Ford's.

You're kidding, right? Gary Gygax certainly isn't a great writer,
something Mr. Ford most certifiably is. When it comes to gaming
accomplishments I'd say from the standpoint of quality that he outshines
Mr. Gygax by an order of magnitude. Gary's main claim to fame is that he
helped start the FRPG business. Is there anything else he's done that I'm
not aware of?

>I tend more toward Science Fiction than Fantasy, but I read/buy these two

>genres virtually exclusively. Having read much of the dross, and a bit of
the
>truly good stuff, I'd have to class Mr. Ford, ***as far as my own
personal
>tastes go*** as dross. If you disagree, so be it. But he hasn't captured
my
>attention, so that's the way it goes.

If you enjoy SF I can wager you'll love his work. Look for it and I think
you will be very pleasantly surprised. BTW, if you can't remember reading
anything he's written how can you possibly characterize his work as dross?
His books may not have had the excessive marketing needed to capture many
readers attention, but that's hardly indicative of the quality of his
work.

Cordially,
MM


Wires? We don't need no stinkin' wires. - Marconi
H and D Entertainment / Zap-Attack Radio Prep Services
Email: MORN...@aol.com FUN 1...@aol.com
This worker drone does not express the opinions of the hive. Buzz off.

Geoffrey Sears

unread,
Mar 11, 1995, 4:19:06 PM3/11/95
to
Does anyone out there know of any fantasy role playing game which was
designed specifically for playing via the mail? Is it posted on
Internet, is it free? I am starting a PBeM campaign and was looking for
ways other people have dealt with this medium.

Thanks in advance,
Geoff

Pardoz

unread,
Mar 11, 1995, 8:39:17 PM3/11/95
to
In article <cgvang.24...@access.digex.net>,
Chris <cgv...@access.digex.net> wrote:

>And, just to clarify my muddled post, my reference to accomplishments was
>meant to include the breadth of Gygax's accomplishments, which, fan of him or
>not, surely surpasses John M. Ford's.

Congratulations on posting the single most aggressively stupid article
it has been my (dubious) pleasure to see in a couple of years of
following Usenet.

John M. Ford

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 3:38:25 AM3/12/95
to
cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) writes:


>>Boy, are *you* going to feel silly if the "John M. Ford" you are responding to
>>turns out to be the one who won the World Fantasy Award for "The Dragon
>>Waiting" some years back. :)

>Not in the least. One award does not a phenim make. While Mr. Ford may be an
>author in his own right, I must submit that he has not the staure in the
>public mind that Gygax does. Gygax's accomplishments outweigh one award.

To keep the record straight, it's -seven- awards:

World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 1984 and Best Short FIction 1989
Origins Best RP Supplement and Select Award, 1986
Origins Best RP Supplement 1991
Rhysling for SF/Fantasy Poetry, 1989 (with five more nominations,
including this year's as yet undecided award)
Philip K. Dick Award for Best Original Paperback, 1994

I was only a finalist for the Nebula (and the Minnesota Book Award, and
another Origins Award), and am pleased to share credit
with Steve Jackson for the third Origins/Game Designers' Guild Award.
Oh, and the second WFA and the Rhysling were for the same piece, if that
affects the judges' count.

Now what was that you were saying about "breadth" of accomplishment?

I'm not interested in your "respect," "Chris," as it seems to me entirely
valueless. But I have not lied about Gary's work (you may disagree with
my opinions, but I have NOT lied), and I insist that people not lie about
mine.

Nick Eden

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 5:13:16 AM3/12/95
to

Firstly I'm not convinced that you've read the book. I agree with you
about the vast bulk of Star Trek Novels. Most of them seem to be dull.
Nothing there to inspire me to dedicate enough time to read them when I
could be reading something worth while.

'A Final Reflection,' is worth while.

Its got to be one of the cleverest books of it's style - about an alien
race rather than specifically Star Trek ever written. Mote in God's Eye
is better, but that's not much of a condemnation.

For that matter, John M's other Trek Novel, 'How Much for Just the
Planet' is one of the most supremely silly books I've ever read. Perhaps
not Terry Pratchett class, but certainly better than Robert Rankin or Tom
Holt or any of the rest of the humerous fantasy crowd clinging to
Pratchett's coat tails.

Don't get me started on Gygax. Kicking a man when he's down just isn't
entertaining.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
What was the better swimmer:
(a) The Great Seal?
(b) The Spanish Armadillo
(discuss)

Chris

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 7:23:48 AM3/12/95
to
In article <3jt3ev$8...@newsbf02.news.aol.com> morn...@aol.com (MORNINMAN) writes:
>From: morn...@aol.com (MORNINMAN)

>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: 11 Mar 1995 16:07:43 -0500

>cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) said:

>>And, just to clarify my muddled post, my reference to accomplishments was

>>meant to include the breadth of Gygax's accomplishments, which, fan of
>him or
>>not, surely surpasses John M. Ford's.

>You're kidding, right? Gary Gygax certainly isn't a great writer,
>something Mr. Ford most certifiably is. When it comes to gaming
>accomplishments I'd say from the standpoint of quality that he outshines
>Mr. Gygax by an order of magnitude. Gary's main claim to fame is that he
>helped start the FRPG business. Is there anything else he's done that I'm
>not aware of?

There are far too many of the early great TSR modules with Gary's name on them
for this statement to be true. Temple of Elemental Evil is just one among
many. But remember, we're talking about opinions here. Yours isn't empirically
right, just right for you. Coincidentally, the same applies to me.

>>I tend more toward Science Fiction than Fantasy, but I read/buy these two
>>genres virtually exclusively. Having read much of the dross, and a bit of
>>the truly good stuff, I'd have to class Mr. Ford, ***as far as my own
>>personal tastes go*** as dross. If you disagree, so be it. But he hasn't
>>captured my attention, so that's the way it goes.

>If you enjoy SF I can wager you'll love his work. Look for it and I think
>you will be very pleasantly surprised. BTW, if you can't remember reading
>anything he's written how can you possibly characterize his work as dross?
> His books may not have had the excessive marketing needed to capture many
>readers attention, but that's hardly indicative of the quality of his
>work.

The assumption that if you like a genre you'll like an author in that genre is
not fact. I stated that I didn't remember his name from the Star Trek novel
line. I went back into my boxed up stuff and looked for anything with Mr.
Ford's name on it. I found one book, and I had to go back and read a couple of
chapters to get a feel for the story. While I would not class it as a bad
story, neither is it anyting more than anything else that comes out for that
line- pulp, purely and simply.

As for how I can class his work as dross if I don't remember it, that failure
to capture my attention is in and of itself an indictment.

I'll always remember Heinlein and Donaldson. Who can say about any others?
(NOTE: The above were used as a way of showing, by example, that Mr. Ford is
not in the same class as those two authors, but a couple of orders or more
beneath them.)

Chris

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 7:26:01 AM3/12/95
to
In article <3jtjc5$6...@pentagon.io.com> par...@pentagon.io.com (Pardoz) writes:
>From: par...@pentagon.io.com (Pardoz)

>Subject: Re: Gygax's writing quality
>Date: 11 Mar 1995 19:39:17 -0600

How so. Bring up facts to support your position,oh trollman. All you've stated
is an opinion, nothing more. And if you turly don't care to, then makeno more
comments of such inane quality.

Marlin Frederick, Jr.

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 6:46:29 PM3/12/95
to
jmf...@pentagon.io.com (John M. Ford) wrote:
>cgv...@access.digex.net (Chris) writes:

[pat on the back deleted]

I believe the interesting part of Chris's post was his attack on your
dislikes of Gygax's writing. Toss out the opinion stuff. Originally he
he claimed that there is no need for a work of fiction to be accurate in terms
of the real world. You were attacking Gygax's writing because he:

>rarely understood any of the difficult words, and especially the archaic
>ones, he was using; he just looked up obsolete words in the dictionary
>and plugged them in, often without even noticing that they came from
>vastly different parts of the world.

>This kind of carelessness in game writing leads to things like the idea,


>still very common among people who get their history from Dund, that all
>medieval weapons had precise names. This simply isn't true; a "morning
>star" might be anything with spikes sticking out of it, with or without a
>length of chain.

These two statements on your part are rather misguided. If you read fiction
and expect it to be historically accurate then who is the fool?
To set the record straight, I've read some of both of your works.
Both I felt were lacking although I prefer yours (I say this to indicated my
bias). Secondly, half the awards you lay claim to wouldn't even exist if it
weren't for Gygax's work in founding the hobby. Because of that whether or
not his work has been critically recognized, I feel his accomplishments
easily outshine yours. I don't remember which writer is attributed to this
paraphrased quote (Steven King?), but "A writers success is determined solely
by his sales." I wouldn't mind seeing a comparision of how many copies of
your work are in print and how many copies of Gygax's works are in print. Do
you care to give us your numbers?


--
Marlin Frederick, Jr.
mar...@bga.com

Pardoz

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 2:18:13 AM3/13/95
to
In article <cgvang.26...@access.digex.net>,
Chris <cgv...@access.digex.net> wrote:

>In article <3jtjc5$6...@pentagon.io.com> par...@pentagon.io.com (Pardoz) writes:

>>In article <cgvang.24...@access.digex.net>,
>>Chris <cgv...@access.digex.net> wrote:
>
>>>And, just to clarify my muddled post, my reference to accomplishments was
>>>meant to include the breadth of Gygax's accomplishments, which, fan of him or
>>>not, surely surpasses John M. Ford's.
>
>> Congratulations on posting the single most aggressively stupid article
>>it has been my (dubious) pleasure to see in a couple of years of
>>following Usenet.
>
>How so.

Consider, for a moment the accomplishments of the two men in question.

Gygax's primary accomplishment is historical - he was one of the
creators of D&D, something for which he deserves due credit (although I
tend towards the Fortean hypothesis on the issue of the arrival of RPGs
as currently understood). His actual skill as a game designer, however,
is minimal - consider that he was responsible for not only the merely
awful "Cyborg Commando" but also the truly abysmmal "Dangerous Journeys"
(aka "Spawn of Fashaan for the 90s"). In addition to his game designs,
he also cranked out several poorly-written (I use the word advisedly -
try looking up some of the words he misuses sometime) fantasy novels.

Ford, on the other hand, in addition to his acclaimed work in
game design (I'll hold YCBBB up against E. Gary's entire published
output) is an accomplished and award-winning novelist, having published
SF, fantasy, and "mainstream" works to considerable critical acclaim, to say
nothing of his poetry, his work in theatre, etc.

Gygax is, perhaps, a more significant figure in the development
of RPGs, but in the broader scheme of things his accomplishments pale by
comparison.

Paul Andrew King

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 3:28:06 AM3/13/95