D&D: The Secret Arneson Gift Exchange

The Escapist Staff | 27 Jul 2010 21:36
Interviews - RSS 2.0
Gary Gygax
Gary Gygax

The Escapist: Did you submit any requests? Were you happy with what you got back?

Zak Sabbath: I didn't, actually - the rules are if you submit a request you have to do a request and I'm so busy - making paintings, running I Hit It With My Axe, wrangling porn chicks - that I figured I might not have time to do a good job on whatever I got sent, and I didn't want to short-change anybody.

The Escapist: Did you read all of the submissions yourself? Was there any that completely blew you away, whether through quality or quantity? (Any 50 page, 14 level dungeons?)

Zak Sabbath: Well most of them haven't come in yet (kids: we're doing this interview before the 27th, for obvious reasons) but so far I really like this chart of magical items Jennifer Snyder sent in, with things like "Cursed Perfume of False Chemistry - This perfume makes you irresistibly attractive, but only to people in whom you have zero interest" on it.

The Escapist: What do you think about content that is created by players vs. "official" content from Wizards of the Coast? Are you disappointed that 4th Edition has seemed to eliminate the third party market for D&D product in that edition?

Zak Sabbath: I guess I might've been disappointed if I was paying any attention - like I said, I think that while the published material is the inspiration of the hobby, the heart of the game is what the fans themselves make. 'Cause it's a game, not a book or a movie or a show - without our participation there'd be no game.

To me, the genius of pen-and-paper RPGs is you can customize them to your little group of friends and build your own game that works for them specifically - people trying to sell a viable product to a mass market have a much harder job and have all the kinds of restrictions you have when you're trying to please everybody - so they're at a disadvantage. And the designers will probably admit it.

The published material gives us a common language - like I can go to Kimberly Kane and say "Ok, this is a game about elves and dwarves, you know what those are, right?" And point to a picture in a book or movie. But once we agree we both want to play a certain kind of game in a certain genre, we can customize the mechanics and things so it's our own far better than some professional designer can - that's a feature, not a bug. The published material provides training wheels for new players and - hopefully - inspiration to experienced ones, but that's all it has to do.

The Escapist: Do you think that Arneson or Gygax would be happy with how their legacy is still inspiring people even after they are gone?

Zak Sabbath: For sure. But I bet they'd both think they deserve a bigger cut. I mean, if half of all video games produced used your ideas wouldn't you die a little every time you saw some 12-year-old playing Final Fantasy going on about "dungeons" and "hit points" and "NPCs". Maybe not. Maybe they're more generous than I am.


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