Lord Gygax’s Writing Style @DelveRPG #ADnD #DnD #RPG

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Last week, I published a post critical of Lord Gygax’s writing technique, to which I’ve added a lot of other examples since its publication. Today, I’m going to push back on that. One thing I’ll always appreciate as an old man being left behind by time is Lord Gygax’s writing style. Gary’s style was based on the time I grew up, so I love the directness.

It must be borne in mind that all of these [dinosaurs] are extremely stupid.

1e Monster Manual, page 23.

I know we’re learning more about birds every day, but it’ll take millennia of evolution before a raven will be enrolled in kindergarten. According to paleontologists, dinosaurs, despite their relationship to birds, were at best a little dumber than a raven, and even meat-eaters were mostly dumber than a chicken. They really are stupid by human standards, and until we meet some space aliens that blow us away with their intellect, Gary’s claim sticks.

Seriously, Jason? You’re going to die on this hill?

More on point, though, is the commentary from my friend, SRM. He commented (on Facebook),

There is absolutely no way that sentence would fly with current editors. “Gary, can we just say ‘remember’ instead of ‘It must be borne in mind.’ And can we use something not as judgmental as ‘stupid’? Then a conversation on how even “remember” or “keep in mind” are pointless and unnecessary. In the end, it would say, something like: “Dinosaurs are simpleminded animals.” And then, we would have conversations about the new theories of dinosaur intelligence and the fact that birds are not simple-minded animals. And then the sentence would be dropped.

I don’t doubt this, but neither Lord Gygax or I give a shit. We’re not going to spare the feelings of extinct animals too stupid to know we’re insulting them anyway. And I’m sure that, like me, Lord Gygax doesn’t tremble at critical words when used in the abstract.

Let’s move on.

Your players may want to know how far they can go in a day on a flying carpet (or other similar device). For the purposes of long-distance aerial travel, assume every 3” of speed equals one mile per hour. Thus, a broom of flying, with a speed of 30”, can fly long distances at an average speed of 10 m.p.h., and can cover about 100 miles in a day (assuming ten hours of semi-continuous travel during daylight). The above formula does not necessarily apply to short distance travel.

If your players are unimpressed by these kinds of distances, remind them that in a pre-technological civilization they are little short of miraculous. Some of your players may have walked as far as twenty miles in one day. Ask them to remember how far it was.

1e Dungeon Masters Guide, page 50.

Translation: If you don’t like how far you can fly in a day, suck it up, buttercup. Them’s the rules. We’re not here for a physics lecture but to create a reasonable game system. If you just want to “win D&D” by heavily slanting it in your favor, then I’ll just say, “Congratulations. You win. Now get out of my house. The rest of us actually want to play the game, challenges and all.”

Here’s another.

Wolverines inhabit only colder regions (which is fortunate for mankind, for these animals are horrible).

1e Monster Manual, page 102.

He’s not wrong. They’re adorable from a distance, but I wouldn’t be dumb enough to try to pet them. Even bears give them a wide berth. How can you criticize his choice of words when they’re 100% accurate? Stop fearing the truth. You must know, understand, and accept it before you can deal with it, and in this context, the truth helps with immersion in the game world. Don’t make me drop a wolverine in your backyard to accelerate your lesson. Still don’t like it? Fine. Screw you. They’re really neutral evil. Take that!

This is how Gary wrote because it’s a game. He expected you to roll with the jokes. It was funny, and I love it.

Gary don’t give a shit.

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