Archive for December 3rd, 2009


Blogosphere Explorations: Playing D&D with Porn Stars

I’m going to assume that, like a cursed scroll, the mere act of reading the words Playing D&D with Porn Stars triggered the title of inexorable eyeball attraction spell that Zak S. so cunningly crafted. Since then you certainly will have been a regular reader of his blog, held there long after the initial geas has worn off by the range and erudition of his thought, his effortless humor, and the contemplation of what looks from this side of the magic mirror like some awesome actual play. Many of us might have wished for an old-school blogger who combined the theoretical insight of a James Maliszewski, the drive towards awesome, gonzo,¬†and funny of a Jeff Rients, and the how-to impulses & artistic skills of a Rob Conley -but if you were the one to tell the genie you wanted porn stars in the mix my hat’s off to you.

Making that assumption will excuse the following self-centeredness, which experienced blogosphere explorers probably already have a ring of resistance against anyway. But just as in thinking about Grognardia I wind up talking about my personal introduction to blogs, the old-school renaissance, and the standard to which I aspire, in thinking about Playing D&D with Porn Stars I wind up contemplating the question how can my blogging be as cool as that. Here are some tips for me and my fellow Mules, which by reading between the lines may perhaps help the gentle reader figure out why they should be reading Zak’s blog if they’re somehow not already, or identify why they like it so much when they do.

1) A post called “A Picture is Worth 1,000 XP” should have a picture in it. ¬†Maldoor’s analysis there is classic and insightful, except that it’s actually a chart! I don’t think that the Mule is going to challenge Zak S. when it comes to eyeball kicks like the first image here unless, perhaps, we get Greengoat to post more often. That’s cool; we’ve got our own analytic turf (with stats-happy mathematical and Talmudic textual sub-divisions) that he’s unlikely to invade unless his circle of professional acquaintances changes to involve people who spend more time looking at spreadsheets and document version-change lists than at attractive unclothed human beings. (As James M.’s Grognardia bio used to say before its current diabolical leader of the Old School Taliban incarnation: “Oh, the pain.”)

But, of the rest of the images in that post, only one other is Zak’s work; the rest are simply awesome images he’s found and shared for our enlightenment. Surely we could do so once in a while, with the result that the Mule’s labors would be more pleasing to the eye than our typical wall of text.

And while my DM notes aren’t as mystifyingly attractive as the sketches Zak drew to prep for this adventure (are those hit locations?) I too have found it useful to make little graphic aids for myself as I experiment with ways to digest the Caverns of Thracia text into topical chunks I can throw down as necessary. Now that the Patriarch of the Dark One is no more, I should post the one-page doodle on which I wrote out the infamous “will or won’t he express his wrath with an insect swarm” d6 table. Note: it’s probably the act of drawing these things that makes them useful for prep, not their intrinsic aesthetic qualities, but I would spend many a gaming dollar proving that to myself if a publisher were to conduct the experiment.

I’ve seen character sketches around our table that are as fun to look at as the doodles in “What My Players Are Doing When They’re Supposed To Be Listening To My Enthralling Descriptions Of 10′ x 10′ Rooms“. Let those be scanned and posted so that we can do exhaustive psychographic analysis of the effects of listening to Lady Gaga in a public space vs. being able to choose to play Roky Erikson in one’s own home. Which brings me to:

2) We should talk more about the social environment of play. Backstage at the Mule, James has a draft of a post in which he argues that the old-school collective has already figured out most of the things we set out to talk about. (Finish that one so we can talk about it!) To my mind, actual play and the issues around it are maybe the most important things left to discuss, especially as they relate to the old school. Is it true that rules-light games are easier to hook new players with? If so, how can we do that best? What can our West Marches-style campaigns offer to busy adults who don’t have the extended playing time we used to, and how do we adapt to rules that seem to expect we still do? How do we encourage new players to take the initiative necessary for sandbox freedom, and overcome the mal-adaptive assumptions about play that experienced players bring with them?

At the end of the day, the interesting things about Zak S.’s blog aren’t that he plays with porn stars, but that those are often people who are new to the game. My favorite posts of his share his practical insights about introducing new PCs, discuss the managing human beings aspect of DMing, or give glimpses of how they roll in the rest of the world, where people have big dining room tables.

Our situation here in NYC may not be as sexy, but it’s still unusual to most everyone else. We have literally millions of potential players in our thirty-mile hex, but a dire shortage of Mom’s basements. Circumstances force us to be out and proud; let’s share what we’ve learned from that and get ideas about how we can improve our outreach.

And also – more eye candy.

Past Adventures of the Mule

December 2009

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