Monday, January 8, 2018

It Was Never Pure

Art by Kyle MacArthur

D&D has always been a bit "gonzo." The internet era has pulled out all the stops for gonzo, so things are a bit more heightened, it's true, but if you believe Jeff Reints that "You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula," is an apt description, then don't let the dry, wargamer prose and armchair Medievalism fool you, it's sorta gonzo.

Now, as a guy with a strong appreciation for pulp literature, I like my D&D (most of the time) heavily flavored with the likes of Howard, Smith, Leiber, and Vance. Of course, Saturday Morning cartoons, Bronze Age comics, and 80s barbarian films are in there, too, to one degree or another.

There are people only slightly younger than me for whom computer games and anime are a much bigger deal. There are even those unfortunates who could never get into Leiber or Vance, but read the hell out of some Drizzt novels. There are those for whom Harry Potter was their gateway drug and who think Tolkien is best appreciated as interpreted by Jackson at high frame rate.

My point is, whatever parts you use, D&D is always a Frankenstein bastard of lowbrow things that don't make sense together if you think about them too much. A lot of digital ink has been spilt analyzing the influence of Appendix N and the like, and that's fine, but D&D as written had Hammer horror vampire hunters, Vancian spellcasters, and kung fu film monks. It's a broad enough territory for a lot of structures to be comfortably built on it, and that's a good thing for its continued life.

7 comments:

StevenWarble said...

Amen! My early D&D mixed in Gamma World and EPT and Flash Gordon and whatever the heck else I was reading in the late 70s and early 80s.

Rob Barrett said...

Huzzah! Purity is a curse.

Scott Malthouse said...

Make D&D weird again!

JB said...

So long as it makes sense to you...

Gothridge Manor said...

We get into trouble when we think about this kind of thing too much. Less thinking. More dice rolling. And bring on the sleestaks!

richard said...

I get this now but it bugged the hell out of me in the 80s - I was one of the kids who was always looking for a “proper medieval” game and forever being disappointed by C&S and Ars Magica.
....now I embrace the gonzo, but my realization that DnD was never trying to be that medieval game comes after my realization that the whole concept of The Medieval was dreamt up by self-proclaimed Renaissance Italians to disparage their ancestors anyway.

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