Interview 29-B: Victor Raymond and Ron Edwards Part 2

Part two of our discussion with Victor and Ron about the early days of gaming, identity politics, and the similarities between the OSR and The Forge. Enjoy! Also: having trouble finding a few of the names mentioned in this episode. If any of you know where I could link to information about these people, put it in a comment!

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Trigger Warnings

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15 Responses to “Interview 29-B: Victor Raymond and Ron Edwards Part 2”

  1. Kevin Weiser Says:

    For the record, it was my interview w Joshua A.C. Newman about Sci-Fi and gaming that currently holds the record for most shownotes. :)

  2. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Ok, there was a minor problem right out the gate: i exported and uploaded the wrong file! I have since fixed that, but for some reason the in-browser player refuses to see the new file. Everywhere else sees the new file except the in-browser player. :/ Maybe we’ll work on getting that sorted out!

  3. Jason Pitre Says:

    It was an excellent discussion, once I managed to get access to the file on the site. It seems to have sent the wrong version into my ITunes feed.

  4. Zak S Says:

    I really want to ask about the Shadowrun metaplot thing. Not because I’m so concerned about it per se but because it seems to speak to a bigger difference in what people expect out of games.

    Ron says the forward-advancing story stuff it turned him off playing Shadowrun.

    But…like it was really easy to not use the metaplot, right? I mean: we did.

    What made it feel to Ron like it was so much a part of the game that it couldn’t just be put aside and you couldn’t just run your own Blade Runner with Elves game with the same rules and ignore the advancing story the publisher was putting out?

    Or am I missing something here?

  5. Ron Edwards Says:

    Hi Zak,

    I have to start with a clarification: the metaplot didn’t turn me off from Shadowrun. I completely missed the published metaplot phenomenon; I was deeply embedded in Champions play until 1992 and missed the whole thing. When someone gave me Vampire for a birthday present, I even missed it then, thinking of it in primarily Champions terms – which is to say, the sector of 3rd-ed Champs publishing/play that I favored: no canonical setting, much less canonical plot; I mined adventure supplements rather than “running” them. I played a lot of other games too, but in that same vein.

    Two other details reinforce this. First, in the 80s, I had zero interest in the root influence of the phenomenon: Dragonlance and later D&D versions of play-through-like-this supplements, as would be seen unto death in most AD&D2 boxed set adventures. Second, I did not participate in the larger gaming scene at all. I never went to a con until 2000 and never followed hotness or industry mags, so I was clueless about FASA.

    That clarification is relevant because quite a few people entered role-playing at that time with either FASA games or White Wolf games (built on the same model) either as their point of contact, or as the game they immediately turned to after first contact. Your blog is one of very few I follow, so I hope I’m understanding your own history and not being too presumptuous in suggesting that your response “It’s easy” is true for you, and for me … but not for them.

    My experience was this: the fact that I eventually owned both core books and appreciated them (the punky feel of very-first-Vampire especially) only heightened my bafflement upon purchasing an adventure supplement or two. WHAT the FUCK is this??? “When you go here, were-hyenas attack, after you kill the hyenas, NPC Bob refuses to go further, after you convince him, he takes you to NPC Steve, who tells you X and Y and Z.” This is “storyteller” play? Holy shit, I never realized you meant TELL that way. And by then, the mid-90s, I’m buying more games and doing a lot of wide-ranging play, but finding that this sort of thing is the gold standard, and not only that, the *unquestioned* foundation for play among those who liked to consider themselves story-type players.

    So I agree with you in terms of my basic/personal response to the published metaplots: “What’s the big deal, just don’t do it.” But I’m not talking about us. Also, I think it’s more significant historically than merely identifying differences in preferences; this topic concerns first contact with role-playing and what could be called trained expectations, both in terms of play and in terms of consumerism.

    Well, there’s about ten bigger topics and stuff that come to mind which either provide crucial context for that point, or spin off from it toward other interesting points, but I guess I’ll stop there and ask what you think.

    Best, Ron

  6. Victor Raymond Says:

    Zak – I think the problem wasn’t so much that Shadowrun forced the idea of a metaplot, but that it contributed to a shift of assumptions amongst a large section of the gaming public. Namely, that a commercial product became the vehicle for the metaplot, and later products would add to it. By itself, this is no bad thing – after all, many people enjoy series stories precisely because they are examples of this, e.g. the Aubrey/Maturin stories by Patrick O’Brien, etc. But when combined with the assumption of “this is how to game” and wanting to deviate from that metaplot means “ur doin it wrong!” – THAT’s something to be concerned about. It’s especially problematic when applied to gaming, which involves a greater amount of active creative participation on the part of referees and players, rather than fiction, which tends to be more passive in its consumption (or so I’m thinking right now – I might be missing something). What do you think?

  7. Zak S Says:

    This all makes sense to me.

    I think there has, since I’ve been blogging, between:

    -people who usually write from an assumed “What’s good for the industry/community” POV (which is what y’alls are talking about and which I see a lot on forums)


    -people who usually write from a “What’s good for people I know personally in my game” POV (which is what I and most of the DIY D&D bloggers I usually talk to do)

    When I think from the 1st POV, the railroady module treadmill is a money-grubbing abomination unto the lord as are many other gaming products and practices.

    When I think from the 2nd POV, it’s just some stuff I don’t pay any attention to because I’m, y’know, busy drawing maps and stuff.

  8. Jon Peterson Says:

    A lot of good stuff here. I too was interested in the discussion of how RPG manufacturers marketed an ongoing “story” to consumers piecemeal in expensive supplements, and the general relationship between settings and the stories you can tell in them. These reflect differences that must have long existed in the wargaming space, I think: where a board wargame (e.g., D-Day) gave you a very strict scenario to play out, but a set of miniature wargaming rules might only describe the high level behavior of soldiers of a place and time without constraining players to any particular battle.

    While we tend to think of original D&D as a set of general rules for the fantasy setting, there were plenty of hooks for story to fit in (mentions of Greyhawk and Blackmoor, most notably), and those were exploited pretty quickly. Modules were arguably the earliest form of money-printing RPG supplements, and many of them did tell a continuous, unfolding narrative (think G1 and onwards). Even gamers perfectly capable of designing their own dungeons or monsters eagerly bought products with that sort of content. It might not be so easy to draw an exact distinction between these scenarios and a designer-driven “story” of which players are basically consumers.

    So like I said, stimulating discussion. Oh, and I was interested to hear about James Patterson’s “Gaming at the World,” I’ll have to pick that up. I worked on a similar project, actually.


  9. Victor Raymond Says:

    Dear JON – yes – and my apologies for not getting your name or book title correctly. Last time I work without a net when trying to remember something!

  10. Brian Says:

    I think that more attention should be paid to the part of this conversation regarding the transition from forums to blogs to google plus. I’ve noticed some blogs that simply leave a link to g+ instead of a comment section. I also recall ZakS mentioning in his blog that the best conversations were happening on g+.

    Take for example Jeff Rients blog, which many, if not most, of the best ideas the OSR has to offer have originated. If these were G+ conversations instead of blog posts they would be lost, at least to the majority of people who would get some use from them.

  11. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Yes, if you’re following the right people, there are great conversations going on in G+. But the barrier of entry is significant.

  12. Gordon Says:

    A chart that MIGHT be the one Ron talks about is the one at:

  13. Ron Edwards Says:

    Hi Gordon, that does look like what I remember, at least from the cutaway bit on that page. The dropbox there refuses to deliver a usable PDF to me, unfortunately.
    Best, Ron

  14. zipdrive Says:

    The Dropox link is working fine for me. I’d send you a copy, but you might as well ask the blogger at “tehbadger” for it directly.

  15. zipdrive Says:

    In addition, this was a very interesting podcast. I learned a lot!

    When I first came the metaplot (Shadowrun) I’d assumed most people occasionally refer to it, not that it’s an actual campaign frame as suggested by this discussion.

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