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Saturday, 11 October 2014

RPGPundit Interviews: Joseph Bloch

Q: Who the fuck are you?? And what have you done?!

A: My name is Joseph Bloch, aka the Greyhawk Grognard. I've maintained the Greyhawk Grognard blog for longer than 4th Edition was around, commenting on various games, with a focus on the World of Greyhawk, but occasional forays into wargames, miniatures, and other RPGs. I had an article about the World of Greyhawk published in Dragon magazine back in the day, "See the Pomarj - And Die!"

I'm the president of BRW Games and author of Adventures Dark and Deep, a game that takes the AD&D 1st edition rules and applies the various changes and additions that Gary Gygax had planned to introduce before his ouster from TSR in 1985. I'm also the author of several supplements for the game.

I'm also the author of Castle of the Mad Archmage, which is a 13 level megadungeon homage to the original Castle Greyhawk. It was originally released as a series of free pdfs, but is now available for sale as a three book set.

I'm an atheist, Transhumanist, Libertarian, father, and husband.

Q: I like your dig at 4e.  What do you feel about 5e, though?

A: I am on the 5th Edition bandwagon. I was very impressed with the first open playtest package, and the final product has lived up to my expectations. I'm especially fond of the advantage mechanic, which enormously simplifies all of the stacking pluses and minuses of earlier editions, and the options for customization such as backgrounds and martial archetypes. Is it perfect? No, no game is, even the version I grew up with, 1st Edition. But it's a hell of a lot of fun to play, and it's easy to play, which is another plus. I find as I grow older I have less patience for learning huge complex games. This hits my sweet spot perfectly.

I'm also planning on publishing material for 5th edition, assuming the licensing terms that they've hinted are coming make it practical and/or possible.
Q: Were you on the 5e bandwagon before it came out? Or if I were to research your statements prior the D&D-basic release, would I end up finding that, like a significant chunk of the OSR, you were highly skeptical and maybe suggesting I was a sell-out for trying to work with WoTC and telling people how awesome the game was going to be from an old-school perspective?

A: Well, I've been covering the news of 5th Edition on my blog since there was news to cover, so at they very least you'd find that I was supportive in the sense of getting the word out. But I'll let my own words speak for themselves:

"On the whole, I'm not disappointed. It's certainly not the train-wreck that 4E was, from my point of view. I'll look forward to actually taking it for a spin at the table to get a better feel for the thing." (May 24, 2012) -

"But what I liked most of all was the feel of the game. Perhaps it was the scenario, which was a conversion of one of the recognized classics of the early 1980's, written by Gygax himself. Perhaps it was the group, which was used to old school gaming, coming out of Adventures Dark and Deep, Labyrinth Lord, etc. But my impression of the rules was that they actively contributed to that feel, and I am very much looking forward to another playtest, and seeing the next iteration of the DnD Next rules." (June 9, 2012) -

Naturally, there are always going to be a few things that anyone doesn't like about a game, and there were some things I didn't cotton to (like the concept of XP budgets), but I would describe my reaction as enthusiastic, initially "cautiously optimistic," and steadily becoming less cautious and more optimistic as the playtest continued. And now that the books have finally landed, that cautious optimism has shown itself to have been warranted.

Q: Tell me about these plans for 5e publishing! How far along are you at actually being able to get it to happen? What exactly does 'hinting' mean? I assume nothing is signed, so are you in serious negotiations or is it just something someone said in a random email to you?   If you get a license just what would you publish? Greyhawk?

A: Well, Wizards themselves have announced that *some* sort of license is on the horizon (, to be announced this Fall. So just based on that, I think a 5th Edition version of Castle of the Mad Archmage is a given, assuming the license that they eventually announce allows for it. I've got some other, more conventional, adventures in the planning stages as well, contingent on the final form of that license. As for anything else, we'll all have to wait and see what other goodies Wizards' includes in the license. Greyhawk? It would be a dream come true. But Mike Mearls did say "...we want to empower D&D fans to create their own material and make their mark on the many, exciting worlds of D&D..." So I remain "cautiously optimistic," to coin a phrase.

Q: so you haven't actually spoken to anyone at Wizards about it?

A: I am under an NDA, and unfortunately cannot comment further on the subject.

Q: As a Greyhawk guy, how well do you think 5e matches up with Greyhawk?

I think one of the brilliant things about the Greyhawk setting is that it matches up so well, not with so many different RPG rules, but with so many different forms of gaming.

A game like Chivalry and Sorcery, which emphasizes the mechanics of a Medieval society, would work wonderfully with Greyhawk, which is similarly based. I've seen people running Runequest in Greyhawk, and Tunnels & Trolls, Savage Worlds, and others. It works with 5E because it works with almost anything, which I think is one of the great aspects of the setting. Some settings, like Dark Sun or Dragonlance, I think would be harder to work into another RPG system, because they were specifically created as D&D campaign worlds. Greyhawk really predates D&D, and that gives it a plasticity that other settings lack. I would point out that the Forgotten Realms also predates D&D, and similarly I think could support a bunch of different RPG systems very easily.

But in Greyhawk's case I think the matching up goes further. Way back when, it had its roots in a miniatures wargame campaign. We see some of the earliest echoes of the C&CS map in Greyhawk, and I think that informed Gygax's creation. In those early Dragon magazine articles, when he would describe some of the prominent PCs, he didn't give stats of the characters - he listed how many troops of each type those PCs had in their service. That's a mindset that still carries through today, and I think Greyhawk would do wonderfully as a platform for miniatures wargames (maybe using the new/revived Battlesystem rules that Wizards' have told us are coming), as well as more conventional board games or even hex-and-counter wargames. 

TSR tried that with the Dragonlance module DL11 "Dragons of Glory", but it flopped because it was really aimed at the wrong audience. The Dragonlance people were interested in the story of the characters in the novels; the march of armies was just something happening in the background. The boxed set "Greyhawk Wars" suffered from a completely different problem. It was just a bad game, and not much fun to play, and the components were way behind the state of board game technology even for 1991. 

I think there's a lot of untapped potential for board games, miniatures, and even wargames set in Greyhawk. Just look at the success of games like "Lords of Waterdeep". It's actually a good, fun game to play, and has solid components. Why isn't there a "Lords of Greyhawk"?

Q: It has been my experience, however, that certain D&D settings (or settings in general) seem to run better with a particular system. Usually, it's the system that they were created under, but not always.  For example, I'm probably close to as fanatical about Mystara as you are about Greyhawk, and to me, while you could run Mystara with just about any D&D-set, the BECMI/RC D&D rules seem to just be perfect for it, because the setting itself seems to take some of the quirks of that particular rule-set as a given in the world (as part of the "physics", or "history", etc. of the world). Do you think, then, that there's a specific edition of D&D (or OSR-ruleset) that is just as ideal for Greyhawk?

A: Well, there are three well-defined time periods in Greyhawk, each of which has a very distinctive "feel." Not coincidentally, I think that each is better suited to a different version of the D&D rules. The Gold Box era (CY 579) I identify with 1st Edition, as I think it's more "exploration-friendly" and the rules emphasize traditional adventuring. The From the Ashes era (CY 585) I identify with 2nd Edition, with lots of intrigue, a darker feel, and opportunities for some of those more RP-heavy kits to shine. And the The Adventure Begins/Living Greyhawk era (CY 591) I identify with 3rd Edition, which brings it back to more of a balance, with a sort of "rebuilding after a bad time" feel.

Q: Still on the subject of Greyhawk, what is your opinion of the From the Ashes box set?  I had owned both box sets (the original one and From The Ashes), and I have to admit that FTA resonated with me much more, but generally a lot of Greyhawk fans seem to hate it.

A: It doesn't bother me that much. I know it made a lot of changes to the setting very rapidly, and changed the feel to something very dark with doom on the horizon, but there were periods of European history that saw relatively big changes just as rapidly, and I don't particularly mind the darker tone, as long as the pendulum swings back the other way, as it does six years later (in game time).

Q: In many ways, I found From the Ashes to be very interesting because it wasn't an "absolutely everything has gone to shit" scenario; nor was it an "everything is about to go to shit" scenario.  What it felt like to me was sort of like a fantasy version of the inter-war years.  A world war happened, entire empires vanished, there were huge political upheavals, and nothing was truly resolved (though some people might think it was), instead the whole scenario was set up to repeat itself again in a couple of decades. And I get that metaplot can often be a bad thing, or bring bad things, but I think it's also a problem when nothing ever evolves; I mean, either you shouldn't have any metaplot at all, period, or if you do, you have to actually stick to your guns and do things.
I think in many ways Greyhawk almost handled this better than the FR did, where you saw stuff that just felt ridiculous, and where you had the Zhentarim start out as a big bad menace and eventually turn into a fucking joke because the metaplot had to be done in such a way that they could neither be wiped out nor could they ever gain any ground.

A: I know a lot of people have a knee-jerk antipathy to advancing the timeline, and I can understand it. There's certainly something to be said for describing a setting at a given point in time, and letting the DM shape the way history goes from there. I'd say the vast majority of RPG settings take that course; in fact some settings, like Hârn, make that a selling point. I can understand that attitude, absolutely. 

I can see the benefit to having a broad sweep of history happening in the background, though. The PCs don't necessarily have to be part of the events, but to have these wars, and the rise and fall of nations, and changes to what the PCs might have thought of as fundamental aspects of the setting (for example, the collapse of the Great Kingdom in Greyhawk), I think gives a certain verisimilitude to it. Could an individual DM come up with something similar in scope for his own campaign? Absolutely. But for DMs who might not have the time or inclination to do so, I like the option of using the "big events" as a backdrop. And, of course, nothing says that the DM can't just ignore everything that happens after the Gold Box era and just go his own way. That's the beauty of this type of game; nobody can force you to run your game any way that doesn't meet your wishes. 

I'm not quite as versed with the Realms as I am with Greyhawk (obviously), but it does seem to me that it's been the premier setting for so long that there's a real need to totally reinvent it at regular intervals, in order to entice players into buying new products. The 4th Edition Realms was a very, very different place than either the Grey Box or 3E eras, and you'd be hard pressed to use any of the adventures or sourcebooks, or even follow the novels, unless you had totally bought into the changes. That wasn't nearly as prevalent with Greyhawk. Some of the "sourcebook" type books, like Marklands or Iuz the Evil, won't make a lot of sense unless you're using the canonical timeline, but things like the City of Greyhawk boxed set can be used with just a little judicious tinkering if your campaign doesn't have the Greyhawk Wars. To me, it doesn't feel like nearly as much of a treadmill.

One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from Ed Greenwood (from a time before the Forgotten Realms became a published TSR setting):

"Another mechanism for keeping  things under control is the “Godswar.” This concept is also a good justification to cover the changeover of a campaign from D&D rules to AD&D rules—and will also justify any other divine revisions the DM feels necessary, once." (Ed Greenwood, Dragon Magazine #54, p. 7; emphasis added)

Q: Ok, let's change the subject. You described yourself as "libertarian", would it be fair you fall somewhere on the "conservative" side of the conservative-liberal spectrum of U.S. politics?
If so, do you feel that RPGs as a hobby tends to have more conservatives, or more liberals?

A: That's a very interesting question. I tend to personally identify myself as more on the conservative side of libertarianism, but on an issue-by-issue basis, I really do split the baby. I want lower taxes and less government regulation, I support gun rights, I think free markets are the best way to achieve material prosperity, I think affirmative action is precisely the wrong way to address historical racial injustices, I want to end government subsidies to particular industries (and unions), and the current system of welfare and other entitlements leads to a culture of dependence that will demand an ever-greater share of the resources that the producers in society produce. The United States used to have an enormous safety net of religious and other private charities; they've withered on the vine because government has taken over those functions. I'd like to see that reversed. 

On the other hand, I'm in favor of people being able to use whatever drugs they want (as long as they don't expect society to pay to clean up their mess), to modify their bodies in any way they want, have abortions for whatever reason they want, I want to see the government out of the business of monitoring ordinary individuals' emails and locations, I want to end government subsidies to particular industries (see how that fits into both sides of the question?), I support embryonic stem cell research, I support euthanasia, I want to see our restrictive immigration laws opened significantly (which is not the same as open borders; just have a way for folks to emigrate without waiting for 111 years before their application is approved), I want to see religion out, not of the public sphere, but of the public purse and off public property, and I support not only same-sex marriage but polyamorous marriage (but I myself am not a fan by any means; just because I choose not to partake in a thing is no reason others should be prevented from doing so).

So yeah, I'm sort of hard to nail down on the conservative-liberal spectrum. I generally come down on the side of "let me do what I want to do, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, and as long as I'm not expecting anybody else to pay for the consequences of my choices." But even then I'm not a complete libertarian ideologue; I favor government money for basic science research and space development. The cancellation of the Large Hadron Supercollider in 1993 was a travesty, in my opinion. Basic science is one of the places where government research investment actually makes sense. It yields tangible results, but nothing that private industry can invest in, because there's no guarantee of marketable results. And as far as space exploration goes, humanity as a species has two options. Expand to other planets or become extinct on this one, eventually. I vote for the former option.

Culturally, I find the left wing to be much less easy to tolerate than the right wing. Outright displays of patriotism for the United States don't bother me one whit; utter disdain for patriotism, especially attempts to undercut support for the troops when they are deployed in war, does bother me. Overt displays of support for totalitarian and authoritarian ideologies like socialism and communism bother me, especially from people who obviously have no idea that that's what they're actually advocating (usually 30-somethings for whom the USSR is something in history books). Funny how Nazi Germany continues to be reviled through history, but the USSR gets a pass, despite the fact that more people were killed under its rule than under Hitler's.

America really is a great country, even if it has its flaws. I don't think it's a bad thing to concentrate on the things that make us great once in a while. Some people seem to want to do nothing but harp on the bad things. When it comes to news sources I'm all over the map. I watch Fox and CNN; I read Al Jazeera, Al-Monitor, and the Jerusalem Post; Drudge is my browser's home page, but I've got RealClearWorld as my first link in my news folder, and Politico right beneath it. I try not to only get news from one end of the spectrum. Maybe that's one reason I'm okay with crossing traditional ideological lines in my effort to come down on the side of individual liberty wherever possible.

 Q: Ok, so let's consider RPGs themselves in this context.  Do you think that RPGs (not the people who play them, but the games themselves, the way RPGs work and are played) are better described as a "conservative" phenomenon, or a "liberal/progressive" phenomenon?

A: An interesting question. On the face of it, RPGs, like any game, are apolitical. But when one considers the dictionary definitions of conservative and liberal, one could say that RPGs are on the "liberal" end of the spectrum, as they are more flexible, do not depend on immutable rules, and in general lend themselves to individual interpretation. More traditional board games, on the other hand, might fall into the "conservative" end of the spectrum, as they generally have specific rules that must be followed, and the permitted actions within them do not exceed those rules. 

Of course, there could be (and doubtless are) exceptions on both sides, but that'd be my gun-to-the-head answer.
Q: What do you think of games that are written with a clearly political slant?  And for that matter, what would you consider a "political slant" in a game?

A: Fortunately I can't think of any games I've played off the top of my head that were directly political. And by that I would mean games that want to convey a political message either by the setting or the mechanics themselves (for instance, something where the players were all immigrant farm laborers by day who fight racist Tea Party activists by night), unless it's something that's obviously tongue-in-cheek. I'm sure there are games like that out there, but I've not encountered them myself.
Q: Have you had any experience with the people many call "social justice warriors", that I call Pseudo-Activists?

A: When the Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual was released, there was a bit of a furor because the rules include gender-based caps on character ability scores, just like the original 1st Edition rules (which are the basis of the ADD rules) did. That was not popular with a small handful of folks. No amount of discussion around the fact that a) such limits are based in reality when it comes to humans, and b) if you're not talking about humans, you're complaining about arbitrary fantasy rules anyway which are subjective by definition, and c) anyone can ignore or change a rule if they choose; would dissuade them from their insistence that RPGs should reflect their ideal of what society should look like. 

I should point out that, after several revisions to that book, gender-based stat limitations are still there, and GMs are still free to ignore them if they choose. It's no skin off my apple. 

Q: This leads me to think about one of the problems I sometimes have with the OSR.  I would say the OSR is not politically conservative, but it is essentially a 'conservative' movement within gaming. And while there's nothing wrong with that, the approaches people have had to the OSR has kind of reflected the two different kinds of Conservatism that can happen in politics and elsewhere too.
You have the one group that nostalgize and idealize the past and want to "go back to" (actually invent) that past, and are mainly concerned about ideas of "Purity" or of "tradition", where things should be 'taken back' to some kind of an Ur-state, of 'how things were at the beginning' (which, note, is almost NEVER how they actually were, but just how some modern person has decided to claim they were), and where the mere value of something having been there in the past makes it good (or inversely, adding in anything that wasn't explicitly there in the past is very very bad).  And then on the other hand you have the other kind of conservatism: one that believes in having rules, order structures and limits; but so that this gives a framework to BUILD on and move FORWARD with, to encourage innovation and creativity within these boundaries that provide a structure for productivity. 
I've seen with the OSR the "clonemaniacs" who seek to make the pure "Ur-D&D" and engage in talmudic debate over rules minutiae and historical trivia of the Highly Mythologized ancient days of D&D's birth, and who flatly reject anything that can't be brought back to that; and on the other hand, I've also seen what we could call the Innovative Wing of the OSR, whose goal isn't to find the single, true Ur-D&D (or Ur-experience of playing it "the right way" or "how it was originally meant to be played", or similar bullshit), but rather to use the structure of old-school mechanics to challenge ourselves to create new and innovative games that not only did not exist in the Mythical Golden Age, but would never have exists, and yet at the same time COULD have, because they have no elements that are outside the landmarks of old-school design.
I know which side I'm on in that divide; but which side are you on? In many ways ADD is an attempt of sorts (a very weird one) to make an "Ur-D&D". On the other hand, it's actually tremendously innovative.  You tried in promoting ADD to invoke "The Spirit of Gygax" (a classic osr-fundamentalist move), and to suggest "this is what He would have done, had He not been struck down by the Evil One", etc etc., And yet your game itself introduces totally new stuff that cannot be directly traced to some part of the Old School Talmud.  So are you engaged in a post-clonemania new attempt to find the Ur-D&D (as all the clones are done new, the next step would be to try to imagine a "Pure" D&D from total invention)? Or is it really the nail in the coffin of all that nonsense, and the ultimate triumph of the Innovative Wing, suggesting that the true and greatest D&D will not be found in poring over Gary Gygax's old shopping lists, but in the process of continuing to create new old-school product?

A: Well, I'm not sure I totally buy into the characterization you provide (although there's definitely at least some truth to it), and I can of course only speak for my own motives and processes when it comes to how Adventures Dark and Deep was created, and my plans going forward.

In the case of Adventures Dark and Deep, it was very much a research project into the minutiae of Gygax's original intention for the next iteration of AD&D. Even the elements that most people view as "innovative" ultimately had their genesis either in Gygax's public statements or published works. There's actually very little of me in there, and that was entirely by design. It'd be a very lengthy list indeed to provide trace-backs of every element in Adventures Dark and Deep, but they're there, in various forms. Of course, there was some interpretation required by definition, as Gygax hadn't actually made the game, but it was as close as I could come to realizing his intention, based on the sources that are available. The inspiration for most of the "new" stuff you mention in Adventures Dark and Deep could be completely footnoted back to a Gygaxian source, and someday I might undertake to do an annotated edition, or at the very least continue my "Designer's Notes" posts on the BRW Games website. 

That said, that approach is not something I view as axiomatic, nor do I think it's necessarily as endemic within the OSR as you imply. Certainly there are some people who want nothing more than a more-or-less faithful restatement and reorganization of the rules in the LBBs or B/X or Holmes rules, and if they're happy with that, more power to them. Although I have to wonder if the world needs yet another complete restatement of the B/X rules "with this one really neat idea I had!". I think the OSR would be much better served if we had a lot more supplements, and fewer "whole new games". I, of course, split the difference and published both; my "A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore" book is Adventures Dark and Deep for people who are already playing some other game, and just want to use the new classes, spells, combat system, or other elements. 

But in my own case, I chose that approach simply and only for the reason that it was most appropriate for that particular project. I've got one or two other projects in the wings, including something I call "Adventures Great and Glorious" (which I've discussed on my Greyhawk Grognard blog from time to time), that will unarguably be firmly within the OSR camp, but which takes off in new directions that not only expands what's possible in an "OSR Game" mechanically, but in terms of its very form as well, well beyond even what is currently termed "domain game" play. There's another with the working title "Sail the Solar Winds" (taken from the title of a play-by-mail game I designed and ran in the 1980's), which as the title might imply is a more space-opera type game. I'm very excited about the prospects, but there's unfortunately no time-frame for either right now. Too many pots a-boiling, and too little time to stir them all.

So to answer the actual question, I would place myself within the "Innovative Wing" (if the OSR can actually be reduced to the dichotomy you posit), but I am firmly able and willing to delve into "deep research" when such is more appropriate for a specific project. I am neither slavishly atavistic nor an advocate of "new and different" for the sake of being "new and different". Or, if you prefer, I could be part of the "OSR Fundamentalist" movement, but not afraid to step out of some arbitrarily-defined boundary and experiment with new concepts and mechanics. I defy easy labels in so many areas, it's no surprise to me that I don't seem to fit into a convenient label in this realm, either. Heck, my embrace of 5th Edition should be ample demonstration of that. My toolbox is rather large, and I will use whatever tool is most appropriate for the project at hand.
 Q: I suspect that part of the problem the Pseudo-activists have with RPGs, more specifically with traditional fantasy, and most especially with D&D is that they feel it reflects a conservative mindset they despise. They see it as a game where people enact power fantasies of defending the status-quo through violence, with very traditional defense of things like aristocracy (or more accurately, a lack of criticism of the same) and where (to their minds) the 'monsters' of the game are supposedly analogies for other cultures and races, to be brutally repressed and murdered by the PCs as representative of the "white patriarchy". Do you have any response to that mentality?

A: I think those sorts of tortured interpretations are patently absurd. They are born of the sort of "Marxist literary criticism" classes that abound in the West among that certain crowd that laments the fact that the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. They aren't criticisms of the game itself, of course, but merely form a subset of a broader criticism of Western culture in general, where anything white is evil, anything male (or, more precisely, masculine) is evil, and anything that smacks of wanting to be wealthy is evil. Invariably, of course, these critics are themselves white, male (usually self-consciously not masculine), and aren't averse to being wealthy themselves, so there's a great deal of self-loathing involved, as well. 

Such criticisms of traditional fantasy (and its derivatives such as fantasy RPGs) are not intended as actual literary criticism; they are intended as shaming mechanisms designed to influence behavior. Whereas the tropes of traditional fantasy have their roots in the collective Western cultural psyche; to undermine Tolkien is to undermine Beowulf and the West in general. And that's ultimately the real goal of such criticism, even if its proponents have forgotten (or, worse, never realized) it. The Soviet Union may lie on the ash heap of history, but its "useful idiots" drone on.
Q: I think that you raise a good point. The "useful idiots" may despise D&D (and fantasy, and RPGs in general) for perceived failings of systemic symbolic oppression or whatever.  But in fact, this doesn't stand up to scrutiny; as I once mentioned on my blog, if you look at, the core "message" of D&D isn't of Agents of the Patriarchy oppressing stand-ins for minorities; the core "message" is of a group of individuals who are usually of mixed races, classes (both in the "Career" sense of PC-class, and in the social sense of everything from Knights/Lords to peasants, rogues, or outcastes), genders, sometimes religions, and backgrounds in general coming together and co-operating; and very often cooperating to try to protect the weak (villagers, innocents, etc.) from the strong that would try to act violently (monsters, selfish evil wizards, etc.).  It is in fact in that sense a highly progressive message.
But where, to the real movers and shakers of the anti-D&D movement, there is a real point as to D&D (and RPGs in general) being "conservative" is that the fundamental message of D&D is also one of Good Vs. Evil, of fighting for what you feel is right, of the difference a single person can make in world, of the value of defending civilization from barbarism, of the need to sometimes stand up to evil with force, and the idea that an individual who may start from almost nothing (or even 0-level!) can (with a mix of industry, wit, and luck) end up gaining fame and fortune through their own efforts.   These are all values and ideas that this group of people despise and want to snuff out, in favor of a world-view where there is no such thing as true or false, where all evils are relative and the lack of absolutes prevents anyone from being able to effectively question (much less stand up to) anything they don't is right (because it's all just "relative" opinion, equally valid as a question of taste or tradition), where standing up for anything requires the consensus of a collective and is always illegitimate if done by an individual, where a single person must never be seen to be able to do anything other than be a victim of their circumstances (requiring dependency on collectives to support and protect them), and where civilization is an evil that needs to be completely torn down so we can create a whole "new world" under the guidance of enlightened despots trained in correct ideology to govern us for our own sake (as we are neither capable of nor to be trusted with making decisions for ourselves).
But in RPGs, its a tricky thing to make a game that would espouse those kinds of ideas and still be appealing to anyone; RPGs kind of prove the lie of that kind of thinking, and how ugly and grey and meager that intellectual worldview really is.   The only way to deal with that is to try to 'deconstruct' RPGs as they are until they cease to exist and replace them with entirely new mechanical structures that require a conscious collective effort to "tell a story", and that need to be limited in scope and frame (micro-games) to express specific and usually un-inspiring themes that refuse to be "grand" in any way.  Small games, meant not to be played as sweeping campaigns, meant to be controlled strictly by the designer in terms of what they can do so that the message they promote can likewise be controlled, often about human struggle or misery with no satisfying resolution permitted, where the point is to create a "narrative" to "address a theme" but almost never to demonstrate the potential of any kind of objective good to triumph over objective evil (at best the result must be morally "grey", at worst there is no good resolution at all).  
Would you not agree that this is, intentionally or unintentionally, the raison d'etre of most if not all of the Storygame movement?   And if so, isn't it basically an exercise in cultural maoism, to utterly tear down an existing structure so that it can be remade on ideological grounds, and could thus be understood as in no honest way part of "our" hobby, but an attempt to replace the existing hobby with a totally new pass-time that is more ideologically/philosophically attuned to that relativist/collectivist agenda?

A: Unfortunately my experience with, and exposure to, the "Storygame movement" is sparse at best, as I move in different circles. I'm not qualified to answer the question one way or the other.
Q: You're either very fortunate, or being very diplomatic. So, last question: If you could change one thing in the RPG hobby or industry, what would it be?

A: That the big game companies stop seeing the game market as a zero-sum game ( 

There was a time when Dragon magazine published articles relating to non-TSR games like Starship Troopers, and when White Dwarf was mostly D&D content. Wizards of the Coast of course famously allowed other companies to publish for D&D 3.x with the Open Game License, and some other companies have picked up the idea, but there's still seemingly a mindset among the big players in the industry that they need to create walls and crocodile-filled moats around their precious player base, and should do everything in their power to prevent even a single dollar from one of "their" customers going to another company. 

Now, obviously, you want to sell your own product, and I'm not advocating any sort of egalitarian love fest or anything. But if the big players would understand, and act on the fact, that there aren't "D&D Players" or "Pathfinder Players" or "Warhammer Players" or whatever, but there are in fact just "gamers", and by increasing the number of gamers overall, everyone wins, the hobby/industry would be in a much better place. If they didn't think that they needed to co-opt a player from some other game, rather than focusing on making themselves useful to players of *all* games, they'd all do better.

Let me give you a fer'instance.

Imagine that Dragon (in whatever form it ends up coming back) starts publishing Warhammer articles, or even *gasp* Pathfinder articles. Or maybe every once in a while posts something about Flames of War. Or the new GMT hex-and-counter wargame. Or a variant for some new Eurogame. And if White Dwarf started doing the same. And Strategy and Tactics. It wouldn't have to be a majority of the content by any stretch, just an occasional article here and there. You'd have die-hard D&D fans maybe buying White Dwarf. And Warhammer fans buying Dragon. And Pathfinder fans buying S&T. 

And who does that help? Everyone. And who does it hurt? No one. 

A man can dream.
RPGPundit: That makes sense; as a lot of regular gamers play all kinds of games, and playing one doesn't imply dumping another. In my own experiences, I think gamers like to at least try all kinds of things, and see stuff from all over the spectrum.
Anyways, thank you for the interview!
Bloch:  Thanks for giving me the opportunity.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Beverwyck

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