Interview 29-A: Victor Raymond and Ron Edwards Part 1

Kevin brings in his old friend Victor, who’s now a active member of the Old School Renaissance to talk to Ron Edwards about the early days of tabletop gaming and the similarities between The Forge and the OSR. These two had a lot to talk about, so we split this interview up into two parts. Part 2 coming next week!

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Trigger Warnings:

  • None, I think? Be sure to let us know if there’s something in here you think might be triggering. 

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17 Responses to “Interview 29-A: Victor Raymond and Ron Edwards Part 1”

  1. Zeronine Says:

    You guys give a good gobble. How dare you trickle sauce into our ears. The dread of waiting another full week.

    Yes Walking Eye. We do like you.

  2. Ron Edwards Says:

    That was a lot of fun and likely the beginning of a new friendship. Thanks guys!

    I may seem a bit deaf a few times during the conversation, because my phone pick-up didn’t deliver me what the others were saying as well as the recording device.

    Best, Ron

  3. JDCorley Says:

    Cool interview, good interactions/discussions, utterly wrong about the 1990s, but you knew that.

  4. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Care to elaborate on that, JD?

  5. JDCorley Says:

    First, I think anything that grows out of slights that are best displayed in advertising or forum posts is a little like starting your own microbrewery because you tried some Coors one time and your dog didn’t know how to skateboard and girls in bikinis didn’t wash your car. From the very beginning of all advertising, competitors products have been routinely denigrated and the New Thing has been held up as the solution to the problems of the past: Tunnels & Trolls will fix your D&D problems, GURPS is the last game you’ll ever have to buy, AD&D is better than D&D, Vampire is True Roleplaying, d20 will be the only system you’ll ever have to learn and all companies will just switch to making d20 games, narrativist games will fix your brain damage, when is Primetime Adventures 3rd Edition coming out?….in general, the New Edition is going to be Way Better than that Bad Old Edition. There is nothing that can be deduced from this except that advertising is awful, it is the acid destroying all creativity and goodness in the world and it always, always, always works. Ron clearly remembers this ad from 20 years ago that I don’t! Maybe it hurt him, and it didn’t hurt me (except insofar as all advertising harms all humans.) But in the end, it’s not about me, or him. It’s just an ad – that is to say, it’s just garbage.

    Second, all RPGs and near-RPGs even in the 1980s had to differentiate themselves from D&D in some way, and I think it is still wise for RPGs (and near-RPGs) to do so since The Current Edition Of D&D is normally the majority of the purchasing and play that happens in the hobby and at various times that majority becomes OVERWHELMING. So it makes sense to me that games would strongly push “WE ARE NOT D&D” at a potential purchaser, and, as above, no game is going to say “we’re just as good as D&D” if they can say “we’re better”.

    Third, the interview describes aptly the flood of “how do you do this? okay, now how about this?” letters that so puzzled early RPG designers. It seems disingenuous to then scratch our heads and stroke our chins and wonder where the 1990s “supplement treadmill” concept came from. It came from that, exactly that, only that, and forever that. It is simply what people wanted/asked for/demanded from the very earliest days of the hobby. Many still do.

    There’s probably ten or more ways to poke at the concept, but there’s three.

  6. Sandy Says:

    I always love when Ron Edwards is on, mostly because I agree with 75% of what he says and I think we could argue many long wonderful hours over beer or coffee about the other 25% and leave better people because of the debate.

    Throughout all these arguments and debates about RPGs early lives (and I’ve been playing them since the winter of 1978) it is important to keep in mind that even from the start people wanted different things from their games and therefore gravitated towards different systems and styles of play RIGHT FROM THE START. I’m always concerned when people put value on one style or type of play over others as Ron pointed out that’s has more to do with identity politics than gaming.

    One question to both Ron and Raymond what impact did tournament play have upon early RPGs?

    Growing up in the middle of BC Canada tournaments and cons were never part of my early gaming experience. However reading through my issues of Dragon Magazine, it appeared that tournaments played a big part in shaping the game and also peoples impression of how the game was meant to be played.

  7. Ron Edwards Says:

    Hi Sandy,

    Another 78er! We should start a 5-year reunion cycle or something. Just old enough to be in on the first wave, but young enough to be looking up to the 21-year-old Army guys and hippie ladies who were tolerating us.

    Tournaments were huge, one of the routes by which a verifiable subculture developed, or at least one of its most important design communities. Most of the early supplemental material came out of them. I think I devoted one whole small paragraph to it in the “Hard Look at D&D” essay, but it’s a pretty good paragraph. Someone who was heavily into that scene should write all about it some time, or if one of the OSR sites has something like that, someone post a link.

    Best, Ron

    P.S. JD, get fucked, you and your vapid blither. Not in the good way. Like, for the last ten years. (Pause) Ahhhhhhhhhh.

  8. Sandy Says:

    Ron

    ’78!?! Well that possibly explains why we agree on so much then. Although my early gaming experience was with my own peer group mostly without ‘adult’ supervision.

    One this a do want to add voice to is this concept that even by ’78 no one was playing D&D everyone was playing a housed up the yin/yang game that was ‘called’ D&D for lack of a better name.

    That was both a good and bad thing. While it allowed people to create their own systems and worlds. The level of disruption this lead to around which rules were and were not being used, unbalanced fixes, DM favoritism, not to mention the occasional fist fight lead people like to try out other systems which didn’t require complete systems overhaul.

    Bushido and 1st Edition Twilight 2000 were personal favorites of mine.

  9. Victor Raymond Says:

    It’s interesting for me to come into the middle of some conversations.

    JD – I’d be happy to credit some of what you say, but what you seem to be saying is that the perspective that game companies adopt to promote and position their products is somehow the narrative that explains why things have worked out the way they have. That’s sort of like saying the only important way to understand the world of art is to watch Sotheby’s auction house. The economic drivers are interesting, but they have little to say about the artistic or creative side of why things were attempted or completed.

    Something that hasn’t come up yet in our podcast discussion has been the fact that the period from 1974-1977 was really quite different from pretty much everything that came later. That was largely due to the fact that gamers during that time were forced (as Ron and I talk about) to devise their own ideas about How To Play. Which is what I argue sets the OSR apart from other game play perspectives or “styles” if you prefer.

    Generally speaking, I’m wary of discussions that bring us back to the perspectives and driving ideas coming from within the game “industry” – not that they are “wrong” per se, but simply that they aren’t very relevant to discussions about different elements of game play and what might make one set of choices more or less enjoyable, depending on what you want to play. Put another way, I’d rather talk about having fun playing games over how to produce those games. Aesthetic over economics, so to speak.

  10. JDCorley Says:

    Okay! Unsubscribing, nobody ever has to ask me to leave a place twice.

  11. Robert Conley Says:

    From reading Peterson’s Playing at the World, One factor that needs to be considered are regional and later national fanzines and magazine (like Dragon).

    Gamers were not quite as disconnected as we would think they were in the pre-internet era.

  12. Robert Conley Says:

    Also technology and the Open Game License have allowed the direction of the OSR to be set solely based on the whims of its gamers and authors. What drives me at Bat in the Attic is not the same what drives Dave Proctor (Gobliniod Games), James Raggi (LoftFP) and so on. But we all have the freedom and means to get our works. Each of us is effected by the past of the gaming industry in different ways. So I am leery of any generalization other than to say the OSR is about playing and publishing for older editions of D&D.

  13. Victor Raymond Says:

    Robert Conley – definitely true about the impact of amateur and pro zines on the hobby. In a very real way, Alarums & Excursions and The Wild Hunt (and their ilk) provided a valuable function in early gaming. Ditto publications like Jim Lurvey’s Great Plains Game Player and (later) Gamelog. There’s a reasonable article by David Nalle in The Dragon #50 about the ‘zines that were around at the time (1981). Additionally, the *British* ‘zine scene was tremendously active and a fount of inspiration for many gamers and game designers.

  14. Sandy Says:

    While not disputing the impact, keep in mind that their were a tremendous number of gamers who while theoretically had access to a larger gaming community never made use of it. Why? Because they didn’t care to. They had their group, they had their campaign and that’s all they needed.

    The same is as true today. I know and am in regular contact with around 25 gamers of all ages. Of those maybe 3 regularly, more than once a month, visit a gaming related website and I am the only one who has EVER listened to a gaming related podcast.

    Why? They’re not interested. They have their groups and they have their campaigns.

  15. Zak S Says:

    That was fun. Ron seems far more on the ball than people who like Ron.

  16. Ron Edwards Says:

    Hi Zak,

    I’m glad you liked it. If you want, please visit the Adept site to see various essays and interviews; I’m always interested in feedback and critique at the forum there.

    People who “like me” include a pretty wide range, over which obviously I have no control. I ask one thing for you to consider. I don’t know which posts or interactions you’re referencing, but it’s possible that you’re only noting those whom you find annoying.

    Best, Ron

  17. Zak S Says:

    Yeah.
    I only ever run into most webcliques when there’s a trackback from my blog there and there’s inevitably at least one person saying something insane.

    So it’s by no means a representative sample, I’m sure.

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