Saturday, August 6, 2022

Creation vs. consumption in RPGs

Lich Van Winkle's recent article is, as they all are, worth a read:

The Commodification of Fantasy Adventure Games

The final paragraph inspired a few thoughts in me.

I'm a creator who is also a consumer. I buy a fair bit of RPG stuff. I use less than I buy, but I do use some of what I get.

I derive a great deal of pleasure from playing games. I also derive a great deal of pleasure from creating for games. I largely sell what I use in my games. Or stuff I'd like to use in my games, on occasion. I've been briefly interviewed on a podcast, had my stuff reviewed, and otherwise gotten some recognition. I've had the great joy of dragging my spouse to a gaming store and pointing out my book on the shelf. I've gotten amusement out of people looking me up on the internet and finding my list of written books. It's even more fun when they know me only as a fighter, or a trainer, or a teacher. I also get a lot of enjoyment out of other people using stuff I made for my game in their games. I've even had the dubious amusement of having people argue with me about the intent behind rules that I wrote and tell me I'm wrong about my interpretation of the intent behind the rules.

None of this would happen if I hadn't been playing games with other people's stuff and with my own. You can see how a slowdown in play due to summer scheduling issues has slowed down my writing here. The play is the thing, and without the play, the supporting material just doesn't flow as freely. I still write - and I'm still creating for game. Playing more will mean more of that.

Oh, and it's terrifically fun, by the way, to quote rulebooks at my players when I wrote that part of the rulebook.


  1. Hello, Peter! I'm glad the blog post was thought-provoking. If I may support your point, I can quote myself from the end of it: "the hobby would be much, much smaller and lonelier without this system of valuation of fantasy." I don't see any way around the process. But it *is* interesting, and important, to think about how it happens and what the ramifications are. We gamers often strive against the limitations of the form and the contents of fantasy as it becomes generic (like Tolkienesque elves) or even copyrighted (like beholders), but it becomes generic through public sharing and commodification. There has been the sense of tension about it from the start: private fantasy versus public, homogenized commodities. That's why I included two examples from the '80s. Then there is the difference in status between consumer and creator, and people would naturally belong to the latter, higher-status group.

    As an author of nonfiction, I too share the experience of hearing people argue about what I wrote in books and articles in front of me. It's strange.

    1. "There has been the sense of tension about it from the start: private fantasy versus public, homogenized commodities."

      I've never felt that. Granted, at the start, my group, we were poor. We couldn't afford the 'zines or to travel across country for the cons, etc. So all we had was our game and the few other games of groups we occasionally encountered, and we never felt any "official versus house rules" split.

      Admittedly we also missed all of the brouhaha with TSR, not finding out about Gygax's ousting or TSR's rabid anti-fan stance until late in the nineties.

      So for me and my group, and those we knew directly, there was never a split between "official and houserules", "creator intent and common practice", it was just the game and we made up rules and made our own games as we saw fit, tensionlessly.


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