D&D5 and Internet Outrage

So the first release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition has caused an internet shitstorm. And this time it has absolutely nothing to do with any content of the actual game, but the names of two of the list of people credited as consultants. People are talking of boycotting the game, or making donations to an appropriate charity instead of buying D&D products.

Admittedly those two names have a reputation as rather abrasive characters who do not suffer fools gladly, and referring to opponents as “Psuedoactivist Swine” is not the best way to make friends and influence people. But nothing excuses smears and blatant lies such as wholly false claims of racism and homophobia. The whole thing seems to be driven by long-running personal feuds and opposing cliques, some of which goes back to the elitism coming out of The Forge a decade ago.

I’m reminded of the “Satanic Panic” back in the 1980s, when a bunch of fundamentalists declared than D&D was a gateway to devil worship and a significant cause of teenage suicide. These small-minded and censorious authoritarians managed to do a great deal of harm to the RPG hobby, for example getting the game banned in schools. They succeeded in this because D&D was little known and little understood, and too few people outside the RPG hobby understood how much their claims were paranoid nonsense.

A decade later they tried the same thing against the far more mainstream Harry Potter fandom, and they just got steamrollered. Enough of a critical mass of people had read the actual books, so that nobody outside the fundamentalist bubble could take the devil-worship arguments seriously.

The same has happened with the so-called “Outrage brigade”. When they went after relatively little-known small-press writers people who ought to have known better bought their lies and smears. Once they went after the biggest game in the RPG hobby it was the equivalent of the moral minority versus Harry Potter. They were revealed as a small clique, deserving irrelevance beyond their little echo chambers.

It does need to be said that there has been some thoroughly toxic behaviour on both sides, bad things said in anger that keep on fuelling the fires. School playgound level name-calling and “Die in a fire” ad-hominems are never acceptable behaviour regardless of the provocation. As my mother always said “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. Some people really need to grow up and let go of old grudges.

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6 Responses to D&D5 and Internet Outrage

  1. Amadan says:

    I remember S. John Ross as being an obnoxious, polarizing figure, but I guess he never pissed off any SJ Warriors.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    I noticed that and remembered his infamous Pyramid Online meltdown. But that was many years ago.

    I see D&D5′s one paragraph on inclusivity has really pissed off the hard-core homophobic bigots as well. If you judge D&D5e purely on who it’s pissed-off, it’s doing remarkably well.

  3. Michael Orton says:

    Having avoided all D&D systems after the second edition, I’m somewhat bemused.

    Which genres are they aiming this edition at?
    In what way is it superior to RQ2 for fantasy? Hero Systen for Superheros, Torg for Action…

    I hope to GM some Timemaster in about a decade or so, but I doubt I will play much RPG till then.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    A cynic would suggest a game needs a new edition every five to seven years that takes changing fashions of game design into account in order to sell the game again to people who already own it.

    More seriously, there is no “one-size-fits-all” perfect game for any given genre and play style. There is a place for games where you don’t need a spreadsheet to create a beginning character (the downside of detailed systems like RQ, GURPS or for that matter D&D 3e). DnD5 boasts that you can create a character and start playing in five minutes flat.

  5. Michael Orton says:

    I most certainly agree there is no one size fits all RPG system.

    However, one you know what you are doing creating a low level character takes about 5 mins in any decent system. Once you have the hook it is easy.

    The last pseudo-D&D character I created was summarised by the tag line “Good Magian Fire Worshiper”. Anyone who had ever played Arabian Nights knew everything necessary about what he could do and who his hunters were (everyone, for one of two reasons…)

  6. S. John Ross says:

    I noticed the irony of nobody being upset about me, too :) But as Tim Hall points out, my obnoxious-internet-brat years were a long time ago, when I was an obnoxious internet brat. For better or worse, I’m just a mostly-mellow old RPG craftsman nowadays, focusing on celebrating the positive aspects of gaming (and declining to comment on the rest) that the Internet Persona bearing my name is no longer a point of particular division or even concern. Which is, I can attest, a good thing. Zak and the Pundit are being demonized in large part because they’re deliberately very public.