Thursday, September 15, 2016

Proof Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Hates D&D!!!!!!!!!

A relative newcomer to story hyphen games dot com posted a thread trying to assemble a list of everyone's favorite games. For the last few weeks he's been gathering data.  A sinister implication has arisen that will surely throw the world into chaos!

8 people said that Apocalypse World was one of their top 10 games....
But 15 people said that D&D was one of their top 10 games!!

Now, either story hyphen games dot com, speaking collectively, likes D&D more than Apocalypse World.....

....or they are trying to INFILTRATE D&D and sap its precious bodily fluids.


.....DOES YOU?!?!?!?!?!?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#rpgtheoryclub - A Real Game by caitlynn belle

But JD, aren't you the guy who hates RPG theories?

Okay, yes, for everyone else the door is open, and why not walk through, but as the guy who was actually topic banned from discussions about GNS theory on because people got so tired of me ripping on it, sometimes in really funny ways, I feel like I need to talk my way past the nonexistent bouncer.  It's not that I don't like RPG theorizing. I actually think that a good theoretical underpinning can help in the creation and performance of all sorts of art, even, or perhaps especially, folk art like RPG play. I am really enthusiastic about the creation of a theory of RPG play, or preferably several! Let a thousand aesthetic schools of analysis of RPGs bloom.

However, existing RPG theories have almost all proceeded from really poor foundations.  Categorizations like Robin Laws' player types are inadequately backed up by statistically significant observations, and stink for the same reason that Aristotle's taxonomy of organisms doesn't really cohesively handle a duck.   Other theories arise from the point of view of people who are dissatisfied with the current state of RPG play.  The Threefold theory of was a response to perceived totalizing viewpoints from "dramatist" players (okay, maybe just one really annoying guy; why are you looking at me like that, my glass house will definitely withstand me throwing this stone!)  The Forge's GNS theory essays begin with the observation that most RPG players are unhappy most of the time, and this is, to put it gently, completely bonkers. Resultantly, the theories that actually exist about RPG play only rarely stumble across anything worth saying.

("People play RPGs for different reasons." is not worth saying, except perhaps to a thirteen year old, who isn't listening anyway.  There isn't a human activity that all performers conduct for the same reason.)

So, I have been perceived as being anti-RPG-theory when really I am only anti-bad-theories.  It's not my fault most of most RPG theories extant are bad. Aren't you glad you read all that?

That was my reasoning when Ben Lehman put out a call for participants in #rpgtheoryclub and I made the following suggestion:

Instead, he decided to start with a one player freeform LARP called A Real Game by caitlynn belle.

Well, as the great Lyndon Johnson once said, "OK." 

Spoilers Belong Only On Cars

Please try to erase the word "spoiler" from your vocabulary and thinking.  It is a waste of your time to concern yourself with them. If you want to hear someone talk about A Real Game, which is directed to be played sequentially, anyone who decides to talk about it "spoiler free" is wasting your time and will never tell you anything worth hearing about the work. This goes even more for Star Wars shit or whatever thing happened on whatever TV show you're watching. If you're seeking out informed opinion of course they will discuss the work as a whole and give you detailed, thoughtful analysis. If they don't give you spoilers I promise you it's not an informed opinion.  Okay? Okay.

Let's get started.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Less Math! - The RPGs talked about on story hyphen games dot com

google image search for "i got bored"
never change google image search
never change
When I got bored from reading comments, looking for negativity against the OSR like witch hunters look for witches (and just as successfully!), I just paged through old threads.

 Anyway, here's an interesting thing. This is a list of the last 25 games that story hyphen games dot com posters have been interested in enough to make a thread about it. So, not games that are given as answers to questions or discussed when discussing experiences, but games that story hyphen games dot com is interested enough in discussing on their own.

I also eliminated all games that are still in development/not finished. But I didn't eliminate duplicates. If people wanted to talk about the same game in multiple threads, I left that in to show interest.  When two games are mentioned in the thread title, I list them both.

Note that not all of these games are in threads that are unreservedly positive. Several are like "The Quiet Year - am I doing it wrong?" or things like that.

When I figured out how to page around by year, I did it for several past years too.

Which game do you think story-games spoke about most recently? Ready to find out?

Bonus Non-Math Survey! The Story-Games Google+ Community!

Just for funsies, I broke down the posts on the much-lower-traffic Story-Games Google+ Community:

Community search for: "OSR" 

Promotional Posts/Comments for OSR Games: 8
Posts or comments directing people to an OSR blogpost: 4
OSR mentioned in list of other things: 9
OSR technique discussed: 4
Etymology debate: 1

Community search for "old school", omitting any already-counted results:

Promotional posts/comments for old school blogposts: 5
Old school approach recommended to fix problem: 2
"Old school" in list of other things: 2
"Old School" mentioned glancingly while talking about another subject: 1

However!  I did find the first instance of a discussion of "old school" gaming as it related to a discussion of inclusion and privilege.  A guy pointed out that old school D&D didn't require everyone to buy the books, making it more accessible to those that didn't have a lot of money than modern D&D.

Yes, old school gaming was alleged by a Story-Games Community poster to be more inclusive, the first time inclusion was ever mentioned in the same conversation as "old school".

Is Story Hyphen Games Dot Com hostile to the OSR? Part 2

Thank you for the comments and feedback on my first post.

this is one of the google image search results for
"painting of an editor"
flawless selection, google
One quick correction: Google results when you search the site for "OSR" shows 350 results. I called this "350 threads" in my first post. This is not the case.  If you page through the results you'll quickly find that Google is also finding some archived duplicates of threads.  In other words, by the time you get to post 100 or so, you start to see pages of threads you've already seen.  That's the bad news. The good news is that this means my first methodology actually sampled more of the relevant pages that Google found than I thought at the time.  In other words, there are actually fewer than 350 pages for me to draw my sample from, so it is a more comprehensive look at those pages.

And a clarification. People asked a lot about the second entry in the results for each year, where I said "If someone offered an opinion or judgment about the OSR, there was an X% chance it was a positive opinion."  This could have been clarified more. Basically what I did was strip out all the neutral comments and all the tangential comments, leaving only Glowingly Positive, Positive, Negative, and Hostile comments, then measured the relative size of these comment pools. The goal was to identify whether the neutral/tangential comments were being made in an atmosphere of negativity or positivity.  As I mentioned, overwhelmingly, on, when a poster expressed an opinion about the OSR or "OSR ideas" (as they identified them) between 2012 and 2015 it was overwhelmingly likely that opinion was a positive one.

Some sent me some critiques and these are welcome.  Here are a few responses (not all the critiques were posted publicly so I won't link to them.) Yes, I am still not putting scare quotes around stuff like "story games" and "community", you Inaccurate Basterds.

  • My post should only be seen as partly a response to the Magpie Games blog posts. If they are moving in (say) Google+ circles where they see hostility towards OSR people or ideas, my analysis of what happened on story hyphen games dot com over the years previous doesn't invalidate their observations.  However, it does suggest that to the extent story-gamers exist as a continuous community from the Forge through to Google+, that community is, by and large, quite positive about the OSR and something else is at work in what the blog post observes.   
  • I did not analyze individual posters or their post histories. For one thing that's creepy and stupid, for another, it wouldn't tell us much about how the "community" (I can't help myself!) interacted. I mean, if it came right down to it and someone analyzed my post history (don't do this, I normally post dumb nonsense), I find most OSR stuff borrr-rriiiing (the exceptions I've posted about at rpgnow),  but I am not an influential story hyphen games dot com figure. I didn't ever post at the Forge, didn't agree with any of the theoretical work that went on there or at story-games, have never designed a game, have no interest in doing so, etc. etc. I am just some rando whose opinion doesn't matter, and the posts I found bear this position out magnificently.
  • Nothing in the posts I saw indicate that story hyphen games dot com posters associated OSR games or ideas with sexism, racism, or anything like that between 2012-2015. I bring that up because the overwhelming accusation I saw against "the story gamers" in the aftermath of the Magpie Games posts was that they were absolutely obsessed with proving that OSR gamers were sexist and racist.  To put it gently, this does not appear to be borne out by the data and the (somewhat obsessive) defensiveness on this subject (from some) seems misplaced.  If that accusation is coming from someone, it is not "story gamers."  ( occasionally has long arguments about these subjects and never resolves anything, but it's never in connection with OSR stuff.)
  • I don't know where you could go to do a similar analysis of "the OSR community" and have no interest in doing a reciprocal analysis of how OSR people talk about story games people. I'd love to read it but this project is boring enough without even recognizing people's handles and going "oh, I remember that guy!"
  • If you want to know what "story gamers" think about any subject, there's a huge, publicly searchable database to tell you. You don't have to rely on what non-story-gamers tell you story gamers think. You don't have to take my word for it either! Click through on any of the threads I linked to and see if you think I didn't scour them closely enough for negative opinions, if you want.  But you don't have to do what I saw one forlorn person doing, which was going to "therpgsite" and asking "What's a story game?" and getting nine pages about Poison'd. 
So, as I mentioned, we can now look at's archives through an entirely different methodology to try to pull a different facet of "OSR" stuff out. Let's see!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Is Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Hostile to the OSR?

A significant kerfluffle (those two words do not belong together) recently was raised when a person in the "story games" or "indie game" "community" ("scare quotes") called on that community to be more open and welcoming to the OSR "community". They're the last two posts on the Magpie Games blog.  Anyway, if you're reading this you definitely already read those posts because there's only 6 people and 2 dogs that read this blog and all of them also already read that post.  Before I start, a quick note about those scare quotes.

one of my beloved readers
First of all, it isn't clear to me that either of the two groups the poster was talking about is actually a community.  A community shares resources, risks, needs, intent, beliefs, and preferences - not absolutely identically, but with sufficient overlap that we can identify those in and out of the community.  Liking a particular type of game isn't a basis for a community, no matter what Google and Facebook want us to feel.  On social media, you won't see workable tools created to form and police actual communities because that would get in the way of the purpose of social media - to destroy communities, relationships, and in the end, identities, through commerce.  Letting Facebook convince us we are a community doesn't make us a community.  We're still just people that like things, and sometimes click buttons to tell Google that we do, in front of others doing the same thing.

There are several possible responses to this critique. "Well, JD, there's a community, but you're not in it." Fair enough, I am a filthy hermit living alone in a cave in the desert, so I can't deny that it's possible there's a RPG community somewhere out there.  Or, perhaps, there's a community, but not of game-players, but instead of game designers. Designers! Those godforsaken creatures! But even beetles love other beetles, if they can.

Similarly, my other scare quotes around "story games" or "indie games", exist because those conflate many things together.  "Indie games" doesn't even say anything about the content of the games, just whether or not the creator owns them. Unquestionably almost all OSR products are "indie games", for example.  But enough of the scare quotes for the rest of the article.  "You know what we mean, JD," they say, and I begrudgingly mutter that I do.

completely accurate picture
of me getting mad on the internet
(uh except for this guy has hair)
The general thrust of the Magpie blogposts describing these community problems was the perception that the story games community was hostile to the OSR community, and asking them to be kinder.  And my instinct when reading the post was, yeah, I can see that.  We live in a RPG cultural moment where D&D and its ambit hasn't been this dominant since the mid-1980s.  And I can remember back to those days when those of us who played games other than D&D-and-its-ilk were little shits about D&D.  There were even games that put opposition to D&D's dominance in their texts, back cover copy and advertisements.  So it made sense to me that since the OSR is a significant part of D&D's current almost complete dominance over RPG culture, those that are in its margins might be resentful, as we were last time.

But as the days since the (first) post passed, I started to question this. Yeah, it makes sense that story game people would be resentful and negative towards OSR people because the OSR people are part of the wave that has completely obliterated every non-D&D-ish thing in sight (along with Paizo's success, 5e's success, the 4th edition people who are still playing through all the free material, and the prolonged success of many indie d20 properties), but is it actually happening?  Forget for a second whether a just-so story about two communities clashing fits your hazy 9th grade memories of the last time it happened, JD; you were too interested in the girls playing Vampire to really be objective anyway.   Does the available evidence actually bear your feeling out? Are story gamers really hostile to the OSR?

So I thought I would actually do a survey.  I would look at the forums of and determine the extent of the hostility of the posters of that forum to the OSR.  That forum was for several years considered the center of "story gamers" (by those who thought there was a center; "You know what we mean, JD!"; yes, ugh, I do.)

So if there is a lot of hostility against the OSR we should be able to find it there.  Now, eventually a lot of people migrated from forums to social media.  I can't think of a good method to sample most social media spaces, except for maybe being nice to people and trying to get them to share things with me on social media.  As you might imagine, this is impossible.  However, story gamers, by and large, went to those spaces from (where most, though not me, landed during the waning years of, so if there's a community-wide feeling towards the OSR, it makes sense to me that we should be able to spot that feeling at  (I don't know where OSR people discuss shit, so can't gauge feelings from the OSR to story gamers; perhaps someone who does could replicate this methodology...I'd read it!)

If you're not into inside baseball of this kind, skip it, and if JD Shows His Math seems boring to you, cool. But let's see exactly how bad things have been between story hyphen games dot com, and the OSR.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Principles of d20 Supplements

Recently an Office Depot near my home went out of business. I don't wish ill on anyone or their business, but it did give me the opportunity to pick up a cheap portable hard drive and finally put my RPG ebook collection into some kind of order.

Most of that collection has come from bundles of various kinds; probably a few hundred dollars a year worth of deep-discounted collections of just raw stuff.  This is one sort of marketing (among many) in our consumerist world and hobby that I'm especially susceptible to.

I also receive a lot of RPG ebooks through my role as a rpgnow Feature Reviewer.  We get tons of material to review.  The ones that end up on this hard drive were interesting enough for me to download, though the overwhelming majority of them didn't give me anything particularly remarkable to talk about and I didn't feel like a three-star "yeah, seems to do what the blurb says it does" review would be very valuable to anyone.  (The most boring I delete; I only save the ones that perhaps I want to give a second look to someday, or as part of a potential overview post...uh, I guess this is one of them.)  The kind publishers of drivethrurpg keep me around despite me turning in relatively rare but extremely long and overly detailed "reviews".  Actually I am not sure I produce "reviews" at all, now that I type it out.  Perhaps that's a blog post for another time.  Whatever I do at drivethrurpg, "reviews" or something else entirely, you can read them all here.

However, this position means that I have something of a unique perspective on an incredibly wide array of game supplements, and a generalization has slowly emerged over the many years I've been curating and thinking about them:
me when I try to determine the purpose of a RPG suppplement
author solely from the text they produced.

I don't understand what the creators of many of these supplements think their audience should do with them.