Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Well, this is interesting

 Prince of Nothing apparently wrote a scathing post trying to destroy the Art-Punk movement, which has been deleted and I missed it. In its place, he sets out 10 (plus a few more) axioms that define non-Art-Punk OSR to him. It's worth taking a look at them and seeing how they can be deconstructed, criticized, modified, or accepted. 

0. The resurgence and longevity of the oldschool playstyle is no mere happenstance but an indication that there is something fundamental to its merits which modern TTRPGs largely fail to capture.
1. The greatest DnD is neither a slavish imitation of the past nor a wholesale rejection thereof (conscious or unconscious), but a continuation of that old craft, with syncretic improvements from other areas.
2. DnD is at its core about the emulation of fantastical adventures and expeditions in the spirit of the Appendix N. Deviation from that spirit is possible but if one strays too far something essential is lost.
3. DnD is, at its core, an Activity. This does not preclude a host of other things (e.g. subject of theoretical discussion, vehicle for creative endaevour, personal hellscape, lucrative side-hustle) but as in all things, Actually Playing the game is its purest expression.
4. Playing good (that is to say, entertaining, challenging, rewarding, fascinating) DnD and making good adventures is primarily a craft, which relies on knowledge and experience, and secondarily a factor of innate ability.
5. DnD is primarily a game to challenge the players. However, great DnD is also about exploration, and so incorporates elements of wonder, horror or whimsy against a versimilitudinous (?) backdrop. It is rooted in the real but contains the fantastic.
6. A good adventure is neither about pure system mastery nor abstract challenge resolution, but incorporates a variety of challenges (lateral, tactical, logistical, social, strategic) which tend to allow a variety of approaches. The answer is not always on your character sheet.
7. DnD play-skill grows as characters gain in levels and good adventure takes that growth into consideration. A level 20 wizard played by a new player is not the same as one that has incorporated every spell and magic item into his routine and knows how to use them.
8. DnD is at its finest when it is open-ended and allows for player decision-making; Maps, Sandboxes, Strategic options, side-quests, factions to ally with etc. etc.
9. DnD is more about mastering your environment then character building. You take what is given and put it to use. This does not preclude logistical challenges.
10. Standard practice is standard for a reason. It is possible to break with procedure, but consider the change in terms of trade-offs, not as the fruits of your brilliant auteur imparting his wisdom on DnD.
11. Art, Layout and Aesthethic Shall Be in Service to the craft of adventure writing, not an end unto itself.
12. DnD is a pasttime and place of solace from the evils of the world. Woe unto him who brings politics unto the gaming table, or by gaming seeks to further his political end.

If I were to try to boil these down to their essences (as I interpret them, of course, YMMV), I'd restate them thusly: 

0. Older D&D has merit as a game.

1. Some parts of D&D can (and sometimes should) be changed, but a core essence of "D&D" must remain.

2.  D&D works best for pulpy style adventure. It can do other genres but it is at its best pulpy.

3. Talk all you want about the game, but it's only relevant when we PLAY.

4. Good play requires players and DMs to develop skill over time.

5. Without challenge, there is no game.

6. A well-run game has a variety of challenges, some within the game system, others independent of it.

7. The game's challenges needs to to evolve with increasing player skill.

8. Without freedom of choice and consequences for those choices, there is no game.

9. Your character is a tool for interaction with the game world.

10. With great power to change the game comes great responsibility to keep to Axiom #1.

11. Providing good content is more important than surface presentation of that content.

12. Keep your politics out of my game.

Hmm, lots to think about. I definitely agree with some of these points, disagree with others, and have caveats about some as well. Looks like good fodder for a series of posts!


  1. Gaining the “pulpiness factor” depends a lot on the setting/campaign world. A campaign world should emphasize that there are no safe places. There is no Camelot to which a knight can retreat in order to recuperate. Even civilized areas are decadent and dangerous, and one must be on guard at all times.

  2. That's definitely something I plan to address when I get to point 2 in more detail.

  3. I removed my scathing post because it was not constructive, and I thought it was better to focus on what good D&D is about, rather then what it is not about.

    4. is also about running D&D and writing good material for it, not just play.

    I hope it will do something good.

    1. It's the tease of not being able to read it now! Honestly, though, if it was just divisive, I don't need to read it. But you know, lost tomes of eldritch writings that Man Was Not Meant to Know make people curious!

      Hopefully my musings on your list help further the discussion!

  4. Lol, I just reread your title, 'Trying to destroy' is a little hyperbolic. My major point, besides some sniping at some of the more politically inclined members, was that Artpunk is ultimately rooted in aesthethics and remains fundamentally agnostic about the core elements of DnD, i.e. the rules and the appendix n. It doesn't engage with the core material, and thus, as time goes on and the lingering tidbits of OSR wisdom are sloughed off, we see an unending deluge of meaningless garbage, connected with nothing, attempting to do nothing but impress aesthethically. The primary outlet for the creative energy is rooted in surface elements.

    1. Well, I can be inclined to a bit of hyperbole from time to time. Plus, I didn't actually get to read it, and just had to go on reactions from people who did read it, such as at noism's blog. From the way they were badmouthing the post, you'd think you really were hammering away at the AP crowd. :D