Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ampersand

Gameblog reader FASERIP asked that I expand a little on my thoughts on a post over on Doc Rotwang!'s blog o' righteousness.  He recently wrote a little piece called "D&D is Dead." that I recommend everybody read.  Rotwang's point, if I'm reading him right, is that he's personally reached the point where there's no clear connection between WotC's trademark for whatever it is that they do and whatever it is Doc Rotwang likes to do with that crappy ol' game from 1974 and its direct descendants.  I feel much the same way.  D&D as a brand legally belongs to Wizards but I just don't have interest in a vast swath of what they are up to.  The Essentials boxed set intrigues me just a hair, but that may just be the box art over-riding my good judgement.  The new Gamma World looks like a ton o' fun, and I've seen plenty of good reviews, but the old Gamma World and Mutant Future integrate nicely with the older versions of D&D.

Anyway, here's my comment from Doc R!'s post:
I'm on the same wave lately. I've seriously been considering full on dropping all direct references to D&D, coming up with a name for my own houserules and refering to the general concept of the game as Ampersand or something like that.
This thinking is why I recently swapped out the old TSR art triptych at the top of my blog for a new approach.  I think the new graphic needs improvement, but its good enough for now.  I think the next version will be wider and less tall and maybe only feature the Big Purple d30 and IG-666.  But anyway, the point of the change was that I don't need to be ripping off pics that WotC probably owns in the rights to, especially when I'm publicly doubting that we need those guys anymore.  Let 'em have the Dungeons and the Dragons and all the stuff they are entitled to as the owner of those rights.

Please understand that I'm not calling down a pox on WotC's house, or urging everyone to shun them.  My simple point is that I'm doing this thing over here and they're doing that thing over there.  Joesky the Dungeonbrawler makes much the same point in his own lovable style in this post, though he's both more agressive and much more humorous than I am feeling right now.

But ceding "D&D" leaves a big ol' hole in discourse about the versions of the game I care about.  I want a handy catch-all term for Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry and Jim Raggi's game and Brave Halfling's game and all the myriad other versions, whether published or not, that cleave closer to the original vision of the game.  Because I'm not going to pick one over the other and hold it up as the standard bearer.  That's why I was kicking around the idea of a new term that's shorter than The Game As We Know It In All Its Myriad Incarnations.  "Ampersand" seemed like a non-threatening, non-specific callback.

Thomas Denmark over at Original Edition Fantasy was thinking along similar lines yesterday.  He suggests we all adapt to OSR logo that Chad Thorson of Maximum Rock & Roleplaying developed:


I'm not 100% sure what Chad or Thomas meant for the letters OSR to stand for.  Maybe it was Old School Revival or Old School Renaissance or even Old School Revolution. 

Personally, I think it would be useful if we used OSR to mean Old School Rules.  If you want to tell newbies and strangers that you play D&D, that works well.  But for purposes of hobby discourse like in all these here nerd blogs, I say let the nice folks at Wizards of the Coast have their trademarked terms.  We don't need them if enough of us can agree on a catch-all alternative.  And by continuing to use "D&D" to describe what we do, we're both muddying the waters and offering free advertisement for a game most of us don't play.

There's at least one big objection to this scheme.  In my mind ass I type this piece I can hear  a certain Prussian screaming "Fool! You're locking yourself up in the ghetto!" and "Idiot! You're making your opinions irrelevant!"  We're already irrelevant.  Pulling the PDFs was WotC firing us as customers.  As far as I can tell they've got a different demographic they want to sell to rather than greying weirdoes who remember life before 1999.  That's okay.  They have the right to make whatever they want and call it D&D.  That's why we need an alternative.

EDIT TO ADD:
I have been rightly chastized for posting such incendiary content without following the joesky rule of including gameable material.  So without further ado, four potions.

Potion El Fantastico - Gain all the powers of Mr. Fantastic style stretching for d6+6 turns.  At its simplest, this allows one to melee people up to 6" away.  But obviously there are a crapload of other uses.

Potion of Satanic Tracks - Even sipping a single drop of this potion causes the imbiber to leave cloven hoofprints of black char wherever they step.  One drop lasts d4 turns.  Downing the whole thing results in 3d4 turns of hoofprints, which smoulder and reek of sulphur.  If the PCs can't figure out a good use for this then they aren't trying hard enough.

Potion of Selfish Healing - Cures a whopping 5d6 hit points of damage, but all other healing potions within 3" are rendered inert.

Potion of Omniscient Metamind Swapping - Forces the player of the imbibing PC and the DM to swap roles for the rest of the night.  I.e. you get up and go sit behind the screen and run the rest of the session, the DM plays your dude.  Good luck.