1000mg of Honesty
Without naming names or giving disrespect to anyone, I can’t stand most D&D blogs lately. There are a handful of great ones, many of them I have in my links section, and definitely a few I know I’m forgetting or didn’t link to for the aesthetic purposes of my footer. However the echo chamber that is the D&D blogging community is something I just can’t fall in line with anymore. Posts full of charts and graphs about combat speed, placid vanilla content (ex: 5 new species of dire squirrels), blatant ‘sponsored by’ tweets or posts, the endless debate of the action economy or any other extremely granular diatribe about things easily fixed with a house rule or a shrug of the shoulders – are all things I could honestly care to never read again.
The community has long been influencing what I feel I should write about or how I should express myself in relation to my favorite game. I’m done with that. I don’t mind if I come off like some kind of D&D iconoclast to be perfectly honest, not that it’s what I’m aiming for. I’m not sure why the hell I’ve been trying to follow along so much with blogging, it’s not like I’m going to win some internet popularity contest and it sure as hell doesn’t put food on my table. I’ve always had trouble fitting in, even within niche gatherings and I’ve always just attributed it to thinking that perhaps I’m just a horrible person, but I know that’s not the case. I’m floundering to fall back into the right groove, and it’s a hard pill to swallow.
What I’m trying to say is that while I loved my time in the limelight from Revenge of the Iron Lich, and I’ve written my fair share of decent blog posts about the this and that’s of D&D, I’m no longer going to feel obligated to just follow the crowd. I have so many half-written blog posts in the can here that I’m either afraid to publish, or just unmotivated to do so because I’d just be chiming in on another subject that resembles a horse with 0 hit points. Do I feel some strange obligation to write about these things? Yes, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to shake off. Am I saying I won’t write about them at all? No.
Not only for these reasons do I feel its time for my writing to change, but I want this blog to have purpose, to give me a voice. I want to be more professional and less “me too”. I’m never going to tell people how they should play their game. I want to just be open and honest while refraining from abrasiveness, instead of sanitizing myself for fear of what people might think of my raw opinions on something. I don’t claim to be a genius of any sorts, my blog posts often pose more questions than answers and I’m okay with that. I hope you are too.
My Cliched Backstory, Minus Dead Parents and Heroics
I’m not a typical geek I suppose. From what I’ve gathered recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m only about 50% geek, the rest of me is… whatever. Did I grow up on D&D, computers, video games, and 80’s cartoons? Hell yes! But I still don’t know (or care) what a TARDIS is, or even remotely care about whatever ubiquitous geek celebrity is whoring themselves out for this week. Not at all. I’ve never watched any Star Trek, Monty Python, Buffy, Firefly…the list goes on. The mere sight of Anime in any form causes blood to seep from my pores in a blind rage. I could go on but you get the idea, I’m a grumpy, narrow-minded, piss poor nerd who doesn’t know every cool inside joke or secret handshake in the geek community. And I don’t care.
However for all of these things that I lack in the nerd department I fill in with other annoying yet equally passionate aspects from my life – music, movies, parenting, paintball, the horror genre, and computer nerd fixations. I could talk for hours on end about any of those topics, just not here. For these reasons sometimes I feel like an outcast in our community at times, I know it’s not a big deal but it feels like it more often than not. I’ll admit it – I want to fit in. I want to become popular and successful in some capacity in this community, who doesn’t? I just want accomplish these goals by doing my own thing now.
Our Community Has Dark Alleys Too
Speaking of popular and successful, I’m lucky to be friends with so many of you out there in our community who are both of those things. I won’t turn this post into name-drop-a-thon 2012, but you all know who you are. Some of you in particular have really turned into steadfast friends I consider among the very best a guy could have. I look forward to any time I get to hang out with people from our community, and yearn for those times again immediately after they’ve passed.
What bugs me about this community we are in though, is that these extremely talented and successful people are at times the victims of complete and utter bullshit. I’m going to be very candid (yet tactful) from here on out and may even call people out on said shenanigans. The RPG “industry” is in fact very small. There is an extremely fine line that separates ‘fan’ or ‘gamer’ from ‘game designer’ or ‘industry pro’. Treating people like mud under your boot and then washing your hands of them like nothing ever happened, or unabashedly using them for said talents, only to speak to them when you need something is odious and deplorable. Yet I’ve seen things like this happen all too often in my 2 years here, aren’t we supposed to unite together in our common interest? Isn’t that the whole point of our community? These things can’t go unnoticed for long. I can’t stand to see talented folks have their work taken for granted because some egomaniac wants to make a few extra bucks or page hits.
Losing My Niche and Finding It Again
I can’t wholly latch on to one thing that defines my blog like others can. I can’t just write about props, or encounters, or monsters, killer adventures, or gender debates. I’d love to have some kind of defining crest placed upon my blogger head but my interests are very wide in breadth, and at times quite shallow in depth. I think variety is the spice of life, jack of all trades master of none, you get the idea. Perhaps I could call myself a master in a few areas, but not many. I suppose my niche isn’t a niche at all, maybe I have some gonzo style I can’t avoid honing in on one thing. Writers ADD? Maybe some day I’ll fall into a more focused niche. I’m not entirely sure. Though I can tell you what I’d like to be doing.
I’d like to be blogging about some form of D&D that I’m actually playing, which I can’t right now. That will change soon enough though. I’d like to be blogging about the latest Legends & Lore article with honesty and candid thoughts on whatever it is without fear of being ostracized by other bloggers or worry about stepping on someone’s toes. I’d like to be regularly publishing content like adventures, a book of monsters or traps, or even a campaign world. I’d like to get into doing full publications – I feel that the time frame on projects like those really allow me to hone my work into something more focused and conclusive, instead of feeling obligated to blog X amount of times per week. I’d really like to becoming part of a 3rd party press setup that puts out quality gaming materials. My one page dungeon is a good example, it was hard for me to truncate myself but it really opened my eyes to something I truly love. I hope you enjoyed it too.
A Bloodstained Map and Apologies
I hope to accomplish all of these goals. And while I’m not sure if this post does anything for anyone but me, I felt the extreme need to write it. I realize there is some juxtaposition in what I’m trying to say here but, just know that I’m trying to change and focus my efforts toward bigger and better things. I yearn for rational D&D discussion and common ground once again, I could go back to writing about 4e but I’d really prefer not to. I hope that doesn’t upset my readers but I can’t find fun in things I can no longer put my heart into. And we should all be writing to enjoy it, right? I don’t mean to step on toes either, if you write blog posts full of graphs or ‘topic of the week’ matters, etc – I have nothing against you, and I truly hope you are enjoying your writing. It’s just not something that really appeals to me right now, I didn’t write this post to discredit anyone’s hard work or passion by any means.
To wrap up I just want to say that I hope this post makes some semblance of sense, and thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. Obviously I could use some input here so if you have any questions, comments, or thoughts please leave them below. If they are of a more personal nature you can always email me. Thanks again, and stay tuned.
Thanks very much for posting this. You’re right.
I mean this honestly: Good luck with this. I’d love to see you (and others, in general) producing more actual content, rather than opinion pieces.
Jerry, you’re one of the good ones. Keep working toward your goals. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. When it comes down to it, none of us fit in. We all have things that go against “geek culture.” You be you because you’re awesome at it, and you’re awesome to be around.
Anyone who says differently can go take a running jump at themselves.
Haha, thank you very much Tracy. Likewise, man!
I was looking forward to this post when ya hinted at it yesterday. I love frank stuff like this, because everybody is either raging like a forum troll or dancing around trying to not step on people’s feelings with their opinions. (I don’t get that, opinions aren’t supposed to be weapons.)
I’m kind of similar in a few ways, in that I grew up mostly a techie and only really got into gaming recently. I can talk shop about building PCs (although I’ll be damned if I can keep up with the tech anymore, good heavens), I can share some pretty decent recipes and cooking tricks, and my idea of a good time is frequently a beer and a book. But getting into gaming over the past few years has been a lot of fun, and nowadays I’m looking forward to running a Shadowrun campaign after a few years of just playing D&D, Pathfinder and other games.
What it really did, though, was opened up my eyes to a really fascinating community of people like yourself and many others. First via the At-Will IRC channel, then paying attention to Twitter and blogs, and now through a different IRC channel I’ve been getting lots of good game ideas, introduced to game systems I never even heard of, and have been having even better conversations.
Long story short, you figure out who’s the good folks and you give them the attention and honesty they deserve, and I’ve slowly filtered out the negativity that’s so readily available.
Thanks for the post.
Thanks for the comment! Yeah you’ll have to give me that IRC channel name, I’m always up for idea fodder myself. It’s hard to pull off a balance of expectations, fitting in, not stepping on toes, sounding like a dick, etc. I hope I can manage it. Thanks again!
There’s not a lot I can add to this post, Jerry. I, too, struggle with voice for my seldom-updated blog. Find what you enjoy and keep doing it. Your friends and supporters (myself included) will be along for the ride, whatever it may be.
Thanks Jeremy. I appreciate it.
I will keep my comments brief, Jerry:
Bravo for taking a step back, assessing, and opening up. I believe you have the talent and drive to be a true voice for the gaming industry in a time when too many people are worried about stepping on toes or upsetting the status quo.
As they say, “You have my axe.”
Brian, you don’t wield an axe. Isn’t it some kind of eldritch teledildonic baton? Either way, thanks buddy. I hope I don’t get too far in over my head 🙂
While our interaction has been limited, I’ve always looked forward to reading your input on any given topic. Your voice is one that’s needed in the work. Like minded readers/followers will find you. Keep doing what you’re doing. So long as you’re having fun, to hell with everyone else. For what it’s worth, I I’ve alwasys respect you being you and making no consessions. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Keep it up man. You’ve always got a reader right here.
Matt, I never knew you actually read my blog much. Thanks for the encouragement, sometimes I think I let fun fall by the wayside and I forget why I started doing this in the first place and wind up turning it into job number 3. I guess keeping things in perspective is good, that and spilling your nonsensical guts onto the internet isn’t always all bad either. Thanks for the kind words.
Write about what you want to write about. This is something you do in your free time, so spend that time doing what you want. You don’t have to fill some predetermined niche (often the best blogs carve out their own unique niche just by writing about their own unique perspective on a thing, a perspective shaped by their interests and background). You don’t have to live up to some imagined geek standard–if you identify as a geek, then you’re a geek.
There are no rules dictating what you have to talk about. The “community” doesn’t set what you can or can’t talk about. Who cares what topics other bloggers are covering, write what you know, and what you feel passionate about. I want to read about *your* take on D&D (or whatever). Sure, sometimes that’ll be influenced by the hot topic of the week in the community, but hopefully it’ll be your unique take on it.
If you have ideas that you are passionate about, and blogging provides the creative outlet that gives shape to those ideas and gives you satisfaction, then that’s what you should be doing. The only person you are beholden to is yourself.
My two cents.
That’s some pretty damn great advice Kato, I think I’m going to take this to heart.
I totally get where you’re coming from, man. As a sort of “beer and pretzel” gamer, I’ve always found myself outside of the geek community.
I’ve always appreciated your candor, and I’ll look forward to whatever you do in the future.
Just create content honestly for your own purposes and the quality will follow.
You don’t owe the community anything!
You talk about not really having a niche, yet I’d say your niche is largely simple honesty.
Despite being a big D&D Nerd at heart, despite my time served as a SVCL on the WotC forums, There are precious few blog posts I have the time to read (blame it on being busier at work, having kids, and general ADHD) – yet when I do take a moment to read a blog post, it’s often your posts that I find myself gravitating toward.
So, to keep this otherwise-hated echo-chamber going – keep doing what you’ve been doing. Forge your own path, and keep that soul of honesty going.
Dustin, I never knew you too, actually read my blog much. So thanks for that, it’s good to know that I’m not just shouting out into the middle distance and people come by and leave a few comments because it’s obligatory. I’ll keep being open and honest, you keep on being awesome.
First off, excellent post.
It hit home on alot of things that I was thinking about lately as well.
Also like Tracey said, “You be you because that is what your awesome at”. Some advice I need to take to heart as well.
I wish you the best on your future projects or what ever your desire may be.
Thanks Jon, right back at ya!
You rock, and this post shows part of the reason why. The blogging community can get weird, true, but keep doing some great stuff and the audience will be there.
Wow. Thanks Wolfgang, thank you so much for the words of encouragement. I’m honored.
I dig the honesty, the analysis, and the message. The community does suffer from too much of the same thing, often in an attempt to fit in. And the community does turn on itself when it shouldn’t do so. And it does often create a fake pedestal to which only a very few can rise. And it does make it feel like you must know various people to matter. And none of that is true.
The point of the community should be passion and idea exchange. But we are all frail humans. Our fears and our weaknesses encourage us to latch onto the common rungs on the same ladder. Still, there are voices that bring new ideas. The more people step up and remind everyone else of this, the more that the community prevents itself from becoming like anything else we deal with… like the stratification and sameness of high school or work, for example.
One thing I would say is speak up on other sites. Feedback is important, and people can do the wrong thing when they mean to do the right thing. Help guide people. There are ways to do it without being rude but while still being honest.
Also, always stick to that passion. There are many blogs I visit not because I know every post will be what I want, but because a few will be great gems. That’s an ok model. You can write for you and have a given post only resonate with a few people. That’s perfectly fine.
Lastly, many members of the community would be surprised to learn how well regarded they are. Many in this community have low confidence or self-esteem (even depression), in part by comparing themselves to people that blog and write for a living, or that have been doing x for y years, or that simply happen to do z they way many like it. The reality is that the community really is appreciative and appreciative of diversity. It just may not be said often enough to quell self-doubt and anxiety. And maybe that’s a lesson too. All community members need respect and admiration and thanks, not just the big names. (Though the big names need it too).
Teos, thank you so much. Once again you leave a blog worthy comment on one of my posts. To be honest I think I’ve been struggling with some depression of my own lately. For a while there I just had nothing nice to say about anything, and instead of shutting my mouth I was running it.
I think I’ve recuperated though, all too often real life overtakes me but I can’t (and won’t) livejournal it up here to complain about the throes of everyday life. In person over a few beers, sure. Here? Nah.
Anyway man, thanks for stopping by and you know it was really nice meeting you and actually chatting a bit at DDXP. For a while there I thought you were my sworn enemy, to only come and counterpoint everything I posted online. Looking back at it all now, I really appreciate those posts and comments. You’ve always made me think, and I appreciate a good discussion. I look forward to seeing you at gencon!
I completely disagree – you can never have too many dire squirrels.
As someone who has certanly written “posts full of charts and graphs about combat speed,” I understand that the content I generate is not for everyone.
I agree with others above who have encouraged you to write about what interests and motivates you. Sometimes I get motivated to write a “research column” and I run with it, knowing full well that not everyone will like it. My blog is most enjoyable when I’m writing something for me. When I go back to edit a column and it makes me laugh or smile, then that is what’s important. And if a column I write gets a bit of attention, then that is a wonderful side benefit.
I realize I have the luxury of running my site as a creative outlet, but I understand that other people (perhaps you) are using their site to establish a foot in the door of the industry. I would assume the pressure of the second option is *much* greater than the first, although I have certainly experienced a fair amount of consternation while managing my site!
Good luck with whatever direction you take in the future.
Iddy, by no means was I trying to pick on you. Also I’m pretty sure you’re not the only guy online with charts and graphs of stuff. To be perfectly honest at least your charts and graphs have pretty legit backing and while your posts are long they are far from uninformed. Always constructive, I appreciate that.
I started running this creatively, and I still do but yes I do want to use my blog here as (hopefully) a small step toward becoming a bigger part of the industry. You might find yourself doing the same someday 🙂
Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for stopping in.
There are too many things on the internet to keep up to date with geekwise and otherwise. If I keep up on my D&D stuff, then my aikido blogs build up or vice versa. Ultimately as others have said and you seem to be coming to, just do what makes you happy.
Being niche is a blessing an a curse. At Athas.org we write about one setting, it’s great. THere’s definitely a voice (I think) to our world, but it’s also restrictive. Writing knights in armor is hard in Dark Sun.
Thanks Rob! I’m going to keep on keeping on, and probably writing a lot more about my favorite world as well in the near future – Ravenloft!
*holds aloft the lighter app on my phone shouting “FREEBIRD!”*
Yeah. That. Brutal honesty in the kindest possible way, delivered with style and class. My hat’s off to you on that, and I can’t wait to read about what’s next here in the Gazebo.
We’re all misfits in some way, and it’s a great thing to put your truth out there and hear echoes from other people. And that makes me think of… too many things to clog up your comments. Plus a possible rant. Watch for a pingback at some point. *grin*
Haha thanks Jim! I’ll be looking forward to it!
I have a blog myself, and although there was a time that I posted reasonably often there is now a considerable delay between posts. Why? I struggle to find stuff to write about for the same reasons you describe above… I have grown to be a designer, and have had some arguable success in publishing things, so when it comes to talking about the day to day I have a hard time talking about things like DM theory, or how to “better” your game, or whatever. I create content, and because my content is of a grander scale than a simple one off post, I have nothing much to say on my own blog.
I applaud your interest in transcending the title of “average D&D blogger” and wanting to be something more, and I wish you the best of luck in doing what you truly want to do and becoming who you deserve to be.
If there is ever anything I can do to assist you in your goals, do not hesitate to ask. And if you ever need a collaborator/co-conspirator that is weak on fluff but stupidly detailed when it comes to mechanics, you know where to find me. 🙂
And I might accept that you don’t know anything about the TARDIS – heck, I don’t either – but no Monty Python or Firefly? Seriously, dude… we have to fix that!!!
Ha! David, thanks and I’ll definitely keep you in mind if/when I go down that road but I’m more likely to just attempt to do my own thing and fail miserably a few times first before going and asking for help. It’s just my nature. Anyway, I appreciate the offer and you know I may have seen a few snippets of Monty Python but that’s about it, Firefly…isn’t that a western of some sort? That puts me waaaaay out in stray-away territory. I just dont know man…I just dont’ know.
Jerry, there’s a lot I want to say in response to this post but I’ll stick to two things:
1. This is the best blog post I’ve read in a long time because you spoke from the heart & it really shows. Keep doing what you’re doing, my friend, and do it because you love it – not for any other reason.
2. You’re far from a bad geek for posting tihs. In fact, you’re a good geek. We do what we do because we love it, and often its in spite of what others think of us or the things we love. The last thing our hobby needs is the sort of trending, fraternizing, “You’re not in the cool kids club” bullshit that’s been popping up in the last few years and I hope we see less of it. I’ve almost completely stopped being on social networks for this very reason, as there’s a long list of things I don’t even want to briefly reference much less talk about. From sexism to my opinion of where D&D is right now to what I want to see in the hobby, the responses, arguments & opinions of people I used to respect have driven me away from both social networks & my own blog. I hope I reach the point you did, where I can be honest with myself & write a post without an immediate anxiety/worry feeling of what people are going to say in response to it, and instead just start writing from the heart again. I miss that a lot, and I can see you do, too. I hope you regain it, and it starts with this post here. I wish you the best & can’t wait to see what you write from this point forward.
Jon, thanks man. Thanks * a lot*. Seriously. Also, your points on geekdom are pretty spot on, and I kind of feel better after having read your comment. I suppose being a geek should translate into ‘extremely passionate” about a topic of number of topics. The talk out there can be poisonous (re: sexism) so I’m trying to just stay out of it entirely. I’ll debate game level stuff night and day but when it comes to political facets of our hobby I’d like to just stay out – for now – for reasons I won’t go into here. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement and I hope to see you at gencon! We need to game together!
Whenever I feel like this, I do the only thing that really makes sense:
LISTEN TO BLACK SABBATH
That’ll do it, or in my case. I’ll listen to some Alexisonfire. 🙂
It was only about 2 paragraphs too long. I got almost to the end and I went off to Pinnacle’s site, peginc.com to look at Savage Worlds books. Ohh, shiny. But I’m distracted easily.
I’ve listened to your Haste podcast and love it’s short compact format, kind of like Twitter forcing a person to be short & concise. You also appear to have a passion for your work on Obsidian Portal.
Work on or play whatever makes you happy. I’d “me too” several of the above postings. Do what you love.
I play a variety of games (DnD 4E, Savage Worlds, Dungeon World, DitV, Marvel, ton of one-shots, etc.) and I find something I like about each of them. I like reading and playing and making new friends while doing so. I’ve enjoyed getting back into the RPG hobby after 25 yrs. I was getting bored with eating, breathing and sleeping while thinking about my IT job. I could probably write books about that subject, but what a snore. I like a distraction from the BS of life sometimes and I want to go kill shit. I HATE WoW and other computer RPGs. I’m not against other people playing them or even talking about them, I like to hear their stories of adventure, but don’t expect me to sit for 100 hrs and play Mist, Mass Effect, Lego Star Wars or that game The Angry DM writes about where everyone “takes an arrow to the knee”. But the jokes about it are fun. I’m with you on the Dr. Who stuff too. A friend made me watch it back in the day (80s) and it was OK, but low budget, bad acting and worse scripting. But I didn’t hate on him for liking it.
What else I can do without is the “my group is not represented” in DnD or RPG art, etc. I like that Tracy Hurley (SarahDarkmagic) is fighting that fight, but it doesn’t affect me. I just want some choices when I go to buy minis. All the wizard/sorcerer/mage characters I looked at when I started to play again were ALL women, brown and Caucasian. Whatever, I just made a female wizard with a backstory and went digging for my old 1E wizard made of pewter. But he’s BALD. Again I’m not represented! But I’m not rage-quitting, so don’t you either, just table-flip.
Go write some adventures or a campaign that you like but may never get to play, since your friends don’t get Ravenloft. It will balance out the Feywild stuff you play to suit them. Or hell, put some effort into that new house. That is what I’m doing when not RPG gaming online.
Brian. Wow man! That’s one hell of a comment, I appreciate it too. I’m glad you like Haste too. I won’t touch the gender/race debates with a ten foot pole, as much as I’d like to reply to that part of your comment I’m gonna keep tight lipped on it. I do plan on writing adventures, and in ravenloft too! The new house sure is kicking my ass but I’m enjoying it nontheless. Thanks for your support dude!
Well at this point a lot of people have chimed in with support and I read through all of their comments, so I’ll keep mine simple – I agree, and you’re awesome. “Bad Geek” might be good branding for you. I guess it’s more like Michael Jackson’s kind of “Bad”.