The latest tempest in the Old School teapot has been whipped up by the perennially outraged RPGPundit. His latest beef, that analysis of the works cited in Appendix N is befouling the good name his OSR bride, has been burbling about the sub-sub-sub-culture that is old-school D&D blogs with an interest in old school source material for the game’s fluff.
Pundy is good people. I like Pundy. He’s an attention whore who relies on shock statements to drive interest in his products, sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, he chose the moniker “Pundit” for a reason, and no doubt without those antics his popularity would be little more than that of a two-bit political game blogger suffering from a nasty case of Poe’s Law. Without his penchant for drama and hyperbole, there’s no way his profile would have been sufficient to play such a vital in rousting the SJW orcs out of the D&D village during his consulting work on Fifth Edition.
Pundy has done good work, and everyone should show their support for him by buying his RPG products. Also, everyone should buy and wear a t-shirt like this to every convention they attend this summer to proudly proclaim their allegiance to his banner.
His recent blog post, Appendix N is The Most Useless DMG Appendix, misses the mark in a rather interesting way.
Back when 1st edition was the newest edition, which was when I started playing, we used the crap out of Appendices A to E. A, B, and C probably saw the most use. These were the ones with random dungeon terrain, random wilderness terrain and random monster encounters. Even beyond these key choices, though, ALL the other Appendices had some basis in actual PLAYABILITY. Be it tricks, traps, summoned monsters, or the gambling rules; they were all for using. All except Appendix N. In actual history, as I lived it at least, Appendix N was the one you just skipped over.
It’s an interesting point of view. In his formative years, Pundy didn’t need Appendix N, all he needed was the rules. Fluff wasn’t something that you bought, it was something one created by incorporating elements from the fantasy culture in which one was steeped. Ignoring published material was easy to do back before the birth of the bloated campaign product lines such as the Forgotten Realms and the execrable Eberron.
It also ignores the thirty year gap between Then and Now, and discounts the notion that those of us in the Now might need a signpost to find the culture of Then.
After taking a considerable amount of heat (no doubt to Pundy’s joy) he issued a follow on post, How Some Factions of the OSR Actually Erase the Past They Claim to Treasure, Pundy elaborates:
THAT is what old-school is all about: creativity and innovation. Not ‘purity’ and backward-looking elitism. The OSR shouldn’t be about picking apart apocryphal minutiae and trying to let the wise men amongst us decipher for all the rest of us “what gary really meant” by it so we can all go play in that same pure way.
The OSR has to decide: it’s either a Nostalgia Cult, or a design movement. It can’t be both at the same time.
Two problems here:
- You can have a design movement based on nostalgia. You can do new things under an old aesthetic. Happens all the time. Revivalist movements are neither new nor unique to D&D.
- Pundy hasn’t provided any sources for where he gets the idea that the Appendix N discussion in any way cares how people play the game.
That second point requires a bit more verbiage to explain. The love of Appendix N is a movement to play old-school D&D in a certain way, but your humble editor has yet to see an Appendix N proselytizer accuse other old-schoolers of ‘doing it wrong’. The best he can do it point to Jeffro Johnson and accuse him of ‘doing it wrong’, again with no quotes beyond a general handwave and, ‘we all know what he really means’.
It’s the same sort of non-evidence that liberals use when accusing the God Emperor Trump of being racist. “He hasn’t said anything explicit, but all know what he really means and why he really doesn’t want America overrun by foreign nationals.”
So what gives? Well, Jeffro once wrote a less than complementary review of that excellent setting book, Dark Albion. Pundy responded to that review in Dark Albion and the Third Wave in OSR:
So Jeffro Johnson (of the often-controversial Castalia House) has published a kind of non-review of Dark Albion. In it he kindly points out the significant amount of praise Dark Albion has received from all kinds of OSR corners, but for his own part expresses a kind of confusion as to why this ‘game’ (Dark Albion, that is) could get away with not actually having rules in it and just tell you to use the RPG you most like (even -gasp- 5e!) and then offer you modifications for how to run the game with whatever rules you like.
Huh. So Pundy published a setting book. Without rules. Which, by his own words, is the most useless of all D&D material. Then criticizes a guy who asks for rules that would integrate well with that particular setting, in much the same way that old school D&D integrates with the weird goulash stew of 1970s fantasy.
So you can see why he would take exception to people looking for fluff material that would integrate well with their preferred version of D&D.
Let me close out this essay with a conclusion that I think we can all agree on: I have no idea what the hell Pundy is going on about here.