Recent OSR Controversy

Posted in Uncategorized by Victor Raymond on March 21, 2010

We would like to take a moment to recognize that a great deal of discussion has been generated over the recent TARGA news post, specifically about “I Hit It With My Axe” – Zak’s new project which debuted on The Escapist. It has engendered a lot of debate, which is generally a good thing, and no small amount of hurt feelings, which we regret.

We are interested in what you think about this topic – do you feel that concern about adult issues is warranted? Conversely, is censorship an issue here? With so much going on in the OSR, what should we pay attention to – and how do we figure that out? Share your thoughts and feelings – and in a polite and respectful manner, please. Thanks!

112 Responses

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  1. Joethelawyer said, on March 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    First criteria–does it belong in the news related to the OSR? I say yes. WOTC even ran an article about it, which in itself makes it newsworthy. Even more shockingly, WOTC added in the article that they play a game which is a mixture of AD&D and 3.x. So, its OSR related and newsworthy.

    Next, related to censorship issues: The video itself doesn’t have any porn in it. No nudity. Just a little bit of sexually provocative talk. I guarandamntee you, more sexual talk than that happens at my game table. It’s just a bunch of people who play D&D, some of which are in the porn industry.

    So, if we decide to not talk about this, it means we are censoring something newsworthy about gamers, based on what they do in their everyday lives outside the game table.

    Is that what we want to be about?

  2. jaerdaph said, on March 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Speaking as a guy who reads a lot of blogs (most dedicated to old school gaming, but a few dedicated to more modern games and other tangentially related subjects that interest me), I’m just going to throw this observation out to the whole blogging community:

    Lately, there only seems to be a blog by a guy who games with porn stars, and blogs telling me about a blog by a guy who games with porn stars.

    The novelty of the thing has run its course. It’s time to move on.

    Just saying. 🙂

    As an experiment, I Googled “Dungeons & Dragons” today with the filtering off. “Porn Stars” doesn’t come up at all on the first results page, but Jack Chick’s infamous Chick Track about Black Leaf does (“Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?”. I have to believe that has more to do with gamers checking it out for themselves rather than any popularity with an active “anti-D&D movement” out there. Is that something we want the uninitiated to see on the first page when they search on D&D? And at the other end of the spectrum, is “Playing D&D with Porn Stars” something we want them to see either?

    I don’t know. Just some food for thought.

    • badmike said, on March 21, 2010 at 9:02 pm

      Doesn’t Zak play 3/3.5?

      What on earth does his game have to do with the OSR? Nothing as far as I can see.

      Is there anything old school about Zak’s game? Does he run versions of S1 or B2? What is he using as his basic rules set? Is he using S&W? Labyrinth Lord? I mean, nothing against the guy, but why on earth would it ever even be mentioned by TARGA?

      As Jaerdpah says, please move on to games with true OSR content.

      • mhacdebhandia said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:58 am

        This interview is relevant to your question:


        “We use a heavily house-ruled hybrid of AD&D and 3.5 because me and Satine, respectively, were most familiar with those rules when the game started. To be honest, I’ve never met a gaming system I didn’t like and I’ve never met a gaming system I didn’t house rule all over. Gamer culture is like custom-car culture—Hell’s Angels love Harleys but it’s actually against the rules to be seen in Hell’s Angels colors riding an unmodified Harley.”

        I don’t think he’s particularly out of tune with the sentiments of the old-school scene – do you?

  3. Zak S. said, on March 21, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Just slap a NSFW label on it next time and let’s move on, please.

    • Rick Marshall said, on March 23, 2010 at 5:50 am

      See, Zak gives the classy response. Some people need to learn how to take “yes” for an answer.

      Oddly, I think neither Zak nor the folks who were originally asking for a little labeling are the ones trying to keep the fight going. Some folks could care less about solving problems, but just like to stir up trouble. One wonders whether such perpetually angry people ever come to understand the damage they do the community.

  4. David Macauley said, on March 21, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    No one is forcing these people (or their children) to go to Zak’s blog, nor watch his clips on The Escapist. Any titilation to be found in Zak’s stuff is mild at best and in no way compares to simply watching ads on TV. Are these same people writing complaints to TV companies? I bet you they’re not.

    Zak should get a medal for showing the world that gamers are not all slightly weird, middle-aged geeks. Playing with Pornstars isn’t something he did for a lark and now “it’s time to move on” because the joke is tired, Playing with Pornstars is both who he is and what he does. Why the hell should he and his friends not be themselves, just because some morally uptight complainer hypocritically riles against Zak and his friends, while at the same time happily teaching his young, innocent children to imagine themselves hacking to pieces fellow sentient beings with iron weapons and stealing their riches? Bizarre stuff indeed. Go complain about something that actually matters, something of some real importance.

    TARGA needs to ask itself if Zak is relevant to the OSR and does he contribute. I don’t think there’s any doubt he meets both those criteria.

    • badmike said, on March 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

      David I’m sorry I must be missing something.

      I have nothing against Zak. His website is a good read. His games are funny to read about. His webshow looks interesting, although the first episode is like someone threw a Sleep spell on me (although Zak did say it was the slowest episode they filmed, maybe it’ll get better)

      What specifically is old school about his gaming that would place it in the OSR? They are using 3.5 rules. One character is playing a tiefling. Zak is quoted thus: “We are using new-school level advancement, partially because that’s what Satine was used to, and partially because it means people watching can actually see the PCs grow over the course of the year, but mostly because I want to be able to fit the awesome, earth-shattering monsters into the first season.”

      I havent seen one single OSR relevant criteria of substance so far.

      • Fitzerman said, on March 22, 2010 at 1:11 am

        They had been using 1e at first. I wasn’t aware that they had changed systems.

      • Denjiro said, on March 23, 2010 at 8:33 am

        You haven’t looked very hard then. Read the first comment in this thread. Then read his blog.

  5. Tom Fitzgerald said, on March 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I think this controversy is incredibly bizarre.

    D&D is a game, an activity that is, of itself neutral. If Zak Smith made a show about Porn Stars who play baseball would there be controversy? There seems to be a tendency for gamers to feel they have some sense of ownership of the game and the way it is represented.

    They don’t. No-one does.

    I think it is good that people care about the game and want it to be accessible to everyone. That does not mean that every manifestation of the game in play needs to adhere to some kind of moral code. The game, and the hobby, will flourish best if there is a spectrum of styles of play to appeal to a variety of different tastes. Of course some people are not going to like some styles of play. No-one has to watch the show or read Zak’s blog or approve of every permutation of every role-playing game.

    • PatrickW said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      You, sir, have exactly stated my position.

      From the outside looking in (and by “outside” I mean “as someone who is not part of the OSR movement”), the angst and furor is as inexplicable as the anger and upset of parents who took their little kids to see The Watchmen movie “because it was based on a comic book”.

  6. Andreas Davour said, on March 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I’m with Dave, after finally finding out what the fuss is all about.

  7. James Bobb said, on March 21, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Seeing how TARGA is only supposed to promote old school games and events and support them, it shouldn’t attempt to put itself into any position of deciding who or what is featured. If it’s old school or old school related, give it its due and move on.

    Once you decide to try to become the single vision of what is old school and force others to fall into lockstep by excluding what you deem ‘questionable’, well then you’ve just outlived YOUR usefulness to the OSR.

    And if anyone really has an issue with Zak’s project/post, I’ll just point out the sun will come up tomorrow, the sky isn’t falling and gaming will take place as usual and most of us have already moved on.

    • geezerdm said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:23 am

      I agree 100% Mr. Bobb and that is my chief concern about this whole issue. I can think of no quicker way to destroy the OSR, than to successfully delimit it.

  8. Fitzerman said, on March 21, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    TSR made the mistake of trying to capitulate to the hysterical and ignorant BADD crowd back in the 1980s, and only really succeeded making their product blander and distancing it from its sword & sorcery roots. Given that there’s no OSR board of directors or investors to mollify, nor, for that matter, a similar group of hysterics to worry about, why would anyone suggest that Old School “movement” needs to be made “family friendly” to the extent of suppressing discussion of a well-written, topical, interesting and, yes, ever so slightly salacious (though not much beyond its title, frankly) blog/videocast?

    • Tedankhamen said, on March 22, 2010 at 1:09 am

      Right on. The genre demands it!

    • badger2305 said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:03 am

      TARGA is incorporated as a non-profit organization, just to be clear. 🙂

  9. Brak said, on March 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I seriously can’t believe the fallout that has occurred over this, and that really is too bad.

    So what if some porn stars play D&D? Would you stop buying iPhones or Toyotas if you found out that they bought them too?

  10. David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 12:53 am

    What specifically is old school about his gaming that would place it in the OSR?

    @badmike – this beat up has been about more than just the video on The Escapist, it has been about Zak’s blog too. If you want to know what entitles Zak to be part of the OSR (if that’s even a necessary thing), read his blog. The majority of the TARGA people think he’s relevant, the dozens of OSR bloggers who have him on their blog roll think so too. Read his creative output to see how old school relevant he is. That’ll answer your question.

  11. Tedankhamen said, on March 22, 2010 at 1:08 am

    First OSR bonafide CONTROVERSY!! Right on!!
    This can only be a good thing – all publicity is good publicity. Hopefully more players and producers will come out of this. Kudos Zak. And kudos to RPG Pundit guy for stirring it up in the first place.

    The issue itself is nonsensical. D&D and RPGs in general lend themselves to any whacko mindset (they are satan, they lead to delusions, they lead to violence, they lead to Cheetos overload) precisely because they are such a mercurial hobby. RPGs can be painted with just about any brush, and likewise enjoyed for a plethora of reasons.

    I am surprised instead that the ‘Fantasy Fuckin’ Vietnam’ thread that was going about a year or so ago didn’t cause this much of a row. I would have thought equating a decadent American pastime with a useless imperialistic war in which many many lives were destroyed would draw more flak than a witty RPG blogger videotaping sessions with coworkers in adult entertainment. There isn’t an ounce of porn in the whole video – god knows I’ve looked!

    Shows us how whacked priorities are.

    • David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 1:24 am

      Not the first OSR controversy by a long shot and it has yet to reach the level of hysteria witnessed when Geoffrey McKinney published his Carcosa supplement, although the thinking behind this latest boohoo is all too sadly familiar.

  12. Chris said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Move along, nothing to see here. It’s just uptight people acting uptight over less uptight people invading their little fiefdom. Typical nonsense. Go roll some dice.

  13. Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:39 am

    It depends entirely on what you want TARGA to be. What’s the goal? What’s the target demographic? What’s the scope of content you want to cover?

    Something else to consider – Google and “Bad Neighborhoods”. Is building search engine traffic a goal for TARGA?

    Seeing Chgowiz isn’t with TARGA anymore I have no idea at all what the organization is about.

    • badger2305 said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:43 am

      TARGA has always been about promoting gamers actually gaming. One of the reasons why we’ve seemed not always focused is that we started as a grassroots organization and have largely stayed that way. However, the core mission has remained the same. If that makes sense to you, get involved. 🙂

      • Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:52 am

        I thought it was more narrowly focused on “old school” RPGs. (eg. Not Warhammer 40K, D&D 4e, Tannshauser, Dogs in the Vineyard, RIFTS, etc).

        What does “gamers actually gaming” mean? What’s something you’d exclude for *not* being gamers actually gaming?

        I think if you can clarify (for yourself) what is and isn’t part of the TARGA scope + audience, then questions like this one will be easier to answer.

  14. badger2305 said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Stuart’s correct in that TARGA has always been focused on “old school games” – however, we’re moving away from the purpose of this discussion. Stuart – take a look at the TARGA website for more details – that might clarify things for you.

  15. badmike said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:18 am

    “OSR” Stands for Old School Renaissance.

    “TARGA” stands for Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Game Association.

    As far as I understand, 3/3.5 D&D gaming fits neither of these criteria.

    I could give two flying fracks whether Zak’s video shows nudity, blood drinking, girl on girl action or a pile of furries. If Zak is playing 3E with his buds (as they apparently are, since I saw a 3E book, someone is playing a tiefling, and Zak himself says they are), once again, please explain to me what he’s doing in the video to promote the OSR? Zak if I’m missing something let me know, are you really playing 1E but just using the 3E books for reference?

    I appreciate how witty and interesting Zak’s blog is, and while it’s well written and touches on old school topics, I don’t see what that has to do with his video escapades. I occasionally write about old school issues, if I start a website where I have my garage band play Zepplin covers with D&D lyrics, well that’s about as OSR as Zak’s show is, so I should expect to get a shout out on the TARGA blog? As Stuart said, until TARGA clarifies just what “it” is, then they are just floating around out there without a clue.

    And Joe…WOTC ran an article about it and THAT makes it OSR worthy? Use your head, man!

    Personally everything else is a non-issue and the “controversy” is just pumped up promotional crap. Can anyone even link me to 3-4 blogs that are “upset” about this?

    • David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:39 am

      Use your head, man!

      I thought I did.

      It’s not hard to join the dots badmike. Ignoring the fact that Zak’s video’d game is apparently a combination of 3e and AD&D (which gives it at least some old school cred), if non-OSR types watch his video and are curious to know more about Zak and his crew, they’re quite likely to go have a look at his blog. Once there they’ll be exposed to his writings, which are well respected by most OSR types. Not only that, but they’ll then see his blog roll, which includes Grognardia, LotFP: RPG, Jeffs Gameblog, and many other great OSR blogs. I didn’t have to use my head much at all to see the logical progression and how it would be good for helping grow the OSR.

    • PatrickW said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      As a non-OSR type, I thought part of the OSR philosophy was a return to a DIY style of game play, where the DMs use what works for their games and creates whatever they need to cover everything else.

      Reading Zak’s blog makes it clear to my mind that while he is using a base of 3.x as a starting point for his players, he is modifying it to meet his own needs with (what seems to me) a decidely OSR bent.

      That, I believe, is why he is relevant to the OSR movement and why so many OSR blogs cite him. His blog is also a gateway site to other OSR blogs because A) it is darn easy to find and B) his writing on making the rules do what he needs them is a solid hook into the OSR way of doing things.

      A Note About Me: I played AD&D until 1986 when I went to college and fell in with a group playing Fantasy Hero (HERO System). That ruleset is entirely DIY, especially back then. I’ve run that system since, through two system changes (from 3rd to 5th – I don’t currently plan on going to 6th). I started running d20 (3.5 and now Pathfinder) in a second, concurrent, campaign as I wanted something where I didn’t have to create EVERYTHING (other than the world, which was quite enough, thank you).

      Also, when Hasbro/WotC comments on anything not 4E in a positive way – that is newsworthy to everyone playing a fantasy RPG, no matter what system or version.

      • onepoint61803 said, on March 25, 2010 at 10:17 am

        There you go. Maybe the “OSR” is really just about system but i thought it was more than that

    • Brendan said, on March 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      Zeppelin covers with D&D lyrics is redundant. And old school.

    • Joethelawyer said, on March 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      No, because WOTC had an article about him–thats what makes it newsworthy. He uses a combination of 3.x and AD&D rules. See his latest post on his style of game, to decide for yourself if it is OS or not.

  16. Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:35 am

    If you do a search on YouTube for “dungeons dragons” and sort by date you’ll see there’s tons of D&D videos being put up all the time. This one was posted on March 16th: Red Hand of Doom. It’s got good lighting, sound, editing, pacing…

    Is this video something that should be promoted by TARGA? Why or why not?

    • David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:41 am

      Probably because they’re a small team of volunteers and not omnipotent sorts who see everything. I seem to recall James asking for people to notifiy him of newsworthy items for his weekly TARGA update. Perhaps you wrote to him suggesting the Red Hand of Doom be promoted? Did you Stuart?

      • Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:52 am

        No David, I just found the video this evening.

        I wasn’t asking “why WASN’T this promoted” I’m asking if it’s the sort of thing TARGA is interested in promoting. They’re playing 3.x.

  17. Me said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:56 am

    He plays a homebrewed, rules light version of D&D using his own material, generally without paying for splatbooks. What happened to the idea that individual referees were supposed to make up their own rules and settings as play went on? “But Gary wasn’t talking about people who have sex on camera!”
    Whoever made the analogy between the video and having a child overhear that same conversation in public is asinine. You can’t turn off people in the real world. But you can close a video.
    And if you weren’t in the newsletter, it’s probably because you run a boring blog. I read everything on the blogrolls more or less, and only remember the biggest names. And for most of you who complain, I can’t think of a single useful, original, or interesting idea to come out of your blogs. Zak is both interesting and talented- my only complaint about him is that I wish he would actually put up adventures and shit a little bit more often

  18. David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Seems a loaded question to me. Perhaps you could answer it yourself by reading the first post on this blog, which explains what TARGA is and isn’t about. Here’s some of it:

    “TARGA is a small band of gamers around the world organizing themselves as a not-for-profit corporation devoted to the simple idea that our school of gaming still has merit today and should be preserved, promoted, and, most importantly, played! Thus TARGA’s primary objective is to do everything we can to assist in promoting traditional gaming, recruiting new players into the fold, and providing organizational support for judges. We want to help everyone find a game that needs one or help organize a new campaign if none can be found. A dungeon in every city and two new players at every table, as it were.

    Let’s take a moment to explain what TARGA is not about. We are not about splitting hairs as to which games are or are not old school. We trust our fellow fans to be able to figure that out for themselves. We are not here to talk trash about other games or styles of play. They can do their thing and we can do ours and all get along. Some of us even like those new-fangled games! And we are not reactionary neo-luddites hellbent on snatching prepainted plastic miniatures out of children’s hands and forcing the kids to get lead poisoning like we did in the good ol’ days. TARGA plans to stay positive and to stay focused on what we can get done.”

    …I’ve bolded some sections to help you answer your own question, the answer should be fairly obvious. I find the last sentence interesting, shame TARGA’s critics didn’t try the same.

  19. badmike said, on March 22, 2010 at 5:36 am


    I understand your points. But thinking someone will link to Zak’s blog from his video about playing 3rd edition D&D and will through that progression find OSR type sites like Grognardia is like saying someone will go to the WOTC site and from there link to Monte Cook’s blog and then to OSR type blogs…it’s a stretch, with too many steps, and a lot of fingers have to be crossed for the end point to be reached. As Stuart said, under that criteria why doesn’t the TARGA site link to EVERY dude who has posted a video on you tube where they play D&D hoping somehow the watchers will follow links back to an OSR site?

    D&D 3.5 play is not old school. D&D 4.0 play is not old school. Warhammer 40k with minis is not old school. Vampire the Masquerade is not old school. Dogs in the Vineyard is not old school. You get the picture. And to wrap it up, no, D&D 3.0 with “elements” of AD&D is sure as heck NOT old school gaming.

    If TARGA can’t figure out what is and isn’t old school play, they have a lot of problems. If TARGA doesn’t want to define “our” school of gaming or what “traditional” gaming is, then I have to assume they don’t stand for anything (or they stand for everything, which is just as bad).

    • David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 5:53 am

      Too many steps badmike? Only two actually – from The Escapist to Zak’s blog, from Zak’s blog and beyond…

      And I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say some young gamer who has never heard of old school gaming, stumbles across it after going from The Escapist to Zak’s blog, gets curious, then gets excited. I can say this with certainty because I’ve seen more than a few such people join some of the OSR forums. It’s not a stretch at all, it’s actually happening through similar accidental stumblings. That’s the beauty of surfing the net and following links.

      As for going on about what old school is not…you don’t have to convince me, I’m a early TSR man through and through. And you don’t have to convince TARGA either, just read the quote in my above post. And I say once again, apparently Zak’s game wasn’t pure 3e, it was a combination of 3e and 1e. Send the man an email, ask him if that’s true.

      But it seems to me this whole business here has less to do with whether or not Zak is old school and more about creating a good opportunity to lay the boots into the TARGA guys. And if that’s the case (and it’s looking like it from where I’m standing), that matey is pretty sad and lame. A group of people try to do something positive for the hobby and what do they get? A kick in the nuts for their trouble. Well done.

    • PatrickW said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm

      “But thinking someone will link to Zak’s blog from his video about playing 3rd edition D&D and will through that progression find OSR type sites like Grognardia…”

      That’s EXACTLY how I got there. And here for that matter.

    • Erick Hall said, on April 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      It’s not a stretch at all. I ‘stumbled’ upon the OSR by following a link to Grognardia from…dare I say it?…WOTC’s DDI website. I would have no idea the OSR even existed if not for WOTC…live with it.

  20. badmike said, on March 22, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Well we are just going in circles. I don’t have a thing against TARGA, Zak’s blog, his latest internet venture, or the price of tea from China. No axes to grind at all.

    My issue was I saw 3E books, a lot of 3E terminology, Zak was featured on WOTC’s website (which publishes a game called D&D 4th edition), and he states he is using “new school” methods to hand out experience….and we are told the video promotes the Old School. Ok.

    Maybe it’s like obscenity, or good art….you just know it when you see it. I’m just not seeing it. I wish TARGA all the luck in the world with spreading the good word.

  21. Arthu said, on March 22, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I’m an outsider to the OSR (though I do own and play early D&D editions) and I think this whole scandal is pretty pathetic.

    The fact that people seem to be genuinely outraged that Zak uses 3.X elements in his game, and the fact that they use this to argue that he can’t be part of the Old School as a result, is fairly strong evidence (to me) that the Old School scene is no longer a movement, or a Renaissance, but is instead fast becoming a religion. I hope saner minds prevail and stop it going there, but that’s the direction I see it moving.

    The fact that people are upset at coarse language on the Escapist is also hilarious. The Escapist is a website for grownups. They also host Zero Punctuation, which doesn’t exactly pull its punches when it comes to cussing out bad games. Your kids hear worse on the playground every day, deal with it. (Unless you’re homeschooling them, in which case good job insulating them from society, I’m sure that will work out well for you.)

  22. David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

    …fairly strong evidence (to me) that the Old School scene is no longer a movement, or a Renaissance, but is instead fast becoming a religion. I hope saner minds prevail and stop it going there, but that’s the direction I see it moving.

    Arthu, don’t mistake the loud intolerant rantings of a tiny few for the voice of the majority within the OSR. Every community has it’s loud, noisy minority and we’re no exception. But the anti-3e brigade is fast becoming irrelevant as they are pushed to the fringes by the vast majority within the OSR who don’t give a stuff what games people prefer, as long as we’re all having fun. In fact I would strongly dispute your perception that its “no longer a…Renaissance, but is instead fast becoming a religion”, when the very opposite has plainly occurred over the last two to three years. A thorough reading of OSR forums and blogs will show this to be true.

  23. Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    “Seems a loaded question to me.”

    That’s unfortunate.

    “Our school of gaming”, “promoting traditional gaming”, “we aren’t about going to define ‘our school’ or ‘traditional gaming’ so there!”… That’s awesome. It’s pretty much how every single RPG blog work. The persons(s) running the blog post about what they like, and if you don’t care for it – go someplace else. There’s nothing wrong with that model.

    Why ask people “should we post about X” then? Which other blogger does that? If TARGA doesn’t want to use the “we post what we like” model, and they want their content to represent some sort of community – they should to at least say what that community is. From the last few days there’s clearly confusion about whether it’s an ages 10+ or 18+ community, and whether it’s “just this list of games” or “all sorts of games” community.

    For the record: I have no problem with TARGA linking to Zak’s video (either for the content or the game system). Nor do I have any problem with Zak making more videos like that. I wouldn’t have a problem if someone made a “D&D with girls in Bikinis” video. I don’t have a problem with TARGA linking to the “Red Hand of Doom” video on YouTube. Or interesting posts about 4e, Rogue Trader, Marvel Superheroes, Warhammer 40K, etc.

    The point I’m trying to make is that if TARGA is asking “is this the right approach?” the question that needs to be answered first is “what *specifically* are you trying to do?” If they already know the answer, they don’t need to ask us. If they don’t know the answer then they need to think about the edge-cases and whether they want to include them or not.

    (David, this is not a loaded question – it’s as straight forward as I can make it. 🙂 )

  24. Victor Raymond said, on March 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    One of the reasons why we made this post on the blog was to have some debate to occur. It’s healthy for disagreements to get discussed, so long as people understand that we’re not all going to agree on everything.

    What is clear from this debate is that there are strong feelings about what is and isn’t “Old School” and it is also just as clear that there isn’t real agreement on how Zak’s blog and video project measure up in that regard. Since we have been VERY clear from the beginning that TARGA is not going to act as a judge in such matters, that means is that we’re likely to mention things that some of you may object to as “not old school enough” or “not my thing” or “I don’t like that kind of play.”

    What TARGA is about – as Jeff Rients has put it so eloquently – is “butts in seats.” James’s weekly posts have been attempts to report the news about that effort and what’s going on in the OSR – the good, the bad, and the ugly. TARGA is just a band of volunteers doing its work; if you think we ought to do something, then get involved.

  25. mxyzplk said, on March 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I’ve never been to the TARGA site before; I follow some related sites (Grognardia, LotFP, etc.). On the one hand, this controversy got me here. On the other hand, “disintegrating amid arguments” isn’t a good first impression and it leaves me unimpressed and unlikely to return.

    • Victor Raymond said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      Sorry that you see it that way. I think it’s important to realize that TARGA isn’t “disintegrating amid arguments” – we’re sponsoring a healthy debate. Every volunteer organization has people joining and leaving, all the time. The fact that this current issue has prompted two fairly visible members to step away is unfortunate, but don’t mistake the blogosphere for everything actually going on.

  26. James Edward Raggi IV said, on March 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    What is “child-appropriate” or “-inappropriate” or “family-friendly” or “-unfriendly” would need to be defined before any of this discussion can mean anything.

    Remember that the original D&D set and the AD&D books were filled with nudity and had things like magical kidnap and rape implied (see Charisma notes in OD&D and the dryad’s description in AD&D), and those AD&D books were labeled as being for ages 10 and up throughout the 80s.

    Not to mention a primary activity in the game is combat, even if the bloodshed and death is abstracted.

    Setting any standards that the original D&D books wouldn’t meet would be very stupid.

    There are also cultural issues. All the locals here that I showed the links to were very amused that such things could cause any controversies, and horrified that it actually matters as a larger cultural issue. My wife tells me that kids’ sex education starts in pre-school here in Finland (reproduction is her profession so I guess she would know), for instance.

    In enforcing “Family-Friendly, US-Style” restrictions there is this risk of seeming hopelessly childish by non-American onlookers.

    And even if TARGA goes “family-friendly,” how could TARGA even exist in some weird parallel dimension apart from what’s actually happening in traditional-RPG land? Carcosa is already here, and Brave Halfling published a module for it. I’m not concerned about being “family-friendly” with my releases. Zak’s Playing D&D with Porn Stars blog certainly is old-school oriented no matter what his web show is or isn’t. The Dungeon Alphabet has a picture of a monster quite clearly taking a big steaming dump. Stefan Poag’s imminent monster book has “slightly pervy” and “PG-13” stuff, his words.

    Will all these people and their work be simply ignored for the sake of concerned parents? People surfing the web while at work?

    I think any efforts or wishes to whitewash “unpleasant” elements from the scene are misguided and unfeasible.

    I think TARGA should represent the current scene as it actually is, “warts” and all, for better or for worse.

    • Stuart said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm

      What is “child-appropriate” or “-inappropriate” or “family-friendly” or “-unfriendly” would need to be defined before any of this discussion can mean anything.

      Yes, and before that you’d need to decide whether you even cared about those things in the first place. No point defining those terms if you don’t need to.

      Remember that the original D&D set and the AD&D books were filled with nudity and had things like magical kidnap and rape implied (see Charisma notes in OD&D and the dryad’s description in AD&D), and those AD&D books were labeled as being for ages 10 and up throughout the 80s.
      Not to mention a primary activity in the game is combat, even if the bloodshed and death is abstracted.

      But that’s a classic False Equivalence, and a bad place to take the discussion. There’s a lot implied in “The Frog Prince” and most other fairy tales, and Chess includes abstracted bloodshed and death… but there is a difference between those and media that’s generally considered for “adults only”.

      My personal feeling is that with the recent departures from TARGA the org. might as well adopt an “anything goes” attitude and make it clear they’re a “warts and all” group. Why would they do otherwise at this point?

      Although that doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t run a blog or organization more focused on gaming and a younger audience and make choices about what was suitable for that audience. I think it’d be pretty wacky to run “gaming with kids” and “D&D with porn stars” on the same site. 🙂

      • Herb said, on March 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm

        No, in this case that is not classic false equivalence.

        If TARGA passes rules concerning child-appropriate content that OD&D and/or AD&D books from TSR cannot pass then TARGA becomes a contradiction.

        Or a AD&D2 fan club. Your pick.

        As to the larger topic, I say deciding to be child-appropriate would essentially mean we want to repeat TSR’s mistakes.

        The golden age of D&D had a lot of inappropriate material. Some of it was thoughtful but most was juvenile and much was “look at me, look at me, I wagging my petter at you” juvenile.

        But it was also very DIY, not focus grouped, not market tested. It was fun.

        I started playing at ten with Holmes and a 1st edition MM. By 13 I was regularly playing with adults and looking back that’s why I’m still playing today. People my age in the late 70s and early 80s who only played with age peers quit when they grew up because the hobby was kids stuff. I kept playing because adults treated me as a peer when I played with them provided I acted grown up.

        I want this hobby to go back to the days when gaming groups ranged from 14 to 50 and the 14 year old wasn’t related to anyone in the group (I’ll note, as well, those groups had more women). Sure, if a teen joins one of my games I’m going to want to talk to parents and make sure they’re cool with what’s going on but a 14 year old at my table is presumed to be an adult and when they quit being one they can find another table.

        More to my mind is throwing a NSFW warning, but excluding racy or adult material? Sure, if you want to have the lowest common denominator, bland as fuck RPG that is as safe as a Disney movie without the creativity or pathos the best of those bring.

        I’ll be over here reading Zak and Raggi’s stuff while plotting an honest to goodness slave market in my ancient world city.

      • Stuart said, on March 23, 2010 at 1:34 am

        As to the larger topic, I say deciding to be child-appropriate would essentially mean we want to repeat TSR’s mistakes.

        I thought TSR’s mistake was printing too many books… or something. 🙂

        I honestly don’t have a problem with mixing adult content and RPGs. If someone wants to publish rules for costumed bedroom antics that’s hilarious and awesome! Even more hilarious and awesome if they post “actual play” examples on their site.

        I think you could be quite successful with a game / hobby / blog and keep things at a kids or teen level of content as well though. I didn’t think things got worse when TSR started making games geared more for kids. That’s probably because I was a kid myself at the time.

      • Stuart said, on March 23, 2010 at 2:16 am

        On that note (yay for Google), these links are topical, entertaining, and mostly SFW. 🙂

        Lets Make Dungeons & Dragons sexy…again?

        1-900-NERD-GIRL – PHONE SEX FOR NERDS! <– They're even willing to do it "old school"!!!

        Even more funny after the last couple of days. 😀

      • Delta said, on March 23, 2010 at 3:12 am

        “I think you could be quite successful with a game / hobby / blog and keep things at a kids or teen level of content as well though. I didn’t think things got worse when TSR started making games geared more for kids.”

        Definitely 100% disagree with this stuff.

      • Herb said, on March 25, 2010 at 4:44 am

        Stuart, we’re going to have to agree to disagree and what helped TSR go downhill.

        Now, I do agree I think you could be quite successful with a game / hobby / blog and keep things at a kids or teen level of content as well though. . However, kiddifying isn’t the same thing.

        Kids old enough to play are already starting to learn dirty words (which seems to be the video’s sin) and unless they are in a home without any TV the sexual innuendo of TV beats the video (something I actually find rather sad and annoying…there is more to life than playing with each other’s fiddly bits).

        I can think of at least one game geared to children, The Princes’ Kingdom that is a great model. It treats kids with some honest and brings up actual issues they can grapple with.

        What it isn’t is kiddified in that it respects children and their abilities and limits instead of thinking you’re three until you’re eighteen.

  27. Melan said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I am not sure this is related to the present controversy, but when I try to access http://somekingskent.blogspot.com/ and http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/ , I get an error message reading “The blog you are looking for cannot be found” (actually its Hungarian equivalent).

    What gives? Did they pull the plug? (In Kent’s case, this could be related to his ban from Dragonsfoot, but still – he didn’t seem too annoyed by that) Or is it a technical issue? Weird.

    • Fitzerman said, on March 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      Chgowitz’ last posted message was that he was dropping from TARGA and that’s all he had to say on the subject. My guess is that he pulled the plug due to the continuing ugliness.

      • Victor Raymond said, on March 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

        That would not surprise me, unfortunately.

    • Meepo said, on March 22, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      Chgowiz, I’m not even certain you’ll be here to read this comment, but I hope you’ll consider coming back. Your blog is/was hands down my favorite. In fact it’s one of the few OSR blogs I read regularly anymore. Every last post. Your solo games are the *only* thing that brought me back into D&D after the negativity of so many aspects of Dragonsfoot, bloggers, and 4th edition whining drove me away from it in the first place.

      Man I am so depressed now.

  28. scottsz said, on March 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm


    Please go here:

    As Mr. Shorten is not publicly discussing the matter, I feel it is only fair for me not to discuss his response to this weekend. He is, was, and will always be an extremely respected contributor to TARGA and gaming.

    • Herb said, on March 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm

      And the fucknuggest win the first round.

      I’m glad to see “wah, no one links to me”. No one links to me much either, or comments, but maybe one day I’ll get regular and inventive enough to get audience like Zaki, James M, Chgowiz (sadly gone), or Raggi (who has made me big in Finland, oddly enough).

      But I don’t bitch TARGA or RPG.net or Dragonsfoot or whoever isn’t giving me any love nor am I such a prude that I want to run off good contributors (Chgowiz’s blog being gone is what got me here).

  29. Melan said, on March 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you for your answers, everyone.

  30. Zak S said, on March 22, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    We use no feats, no skills, no prestige classes, no battlemat squares, no purchasable magic items, and house-rules everywhere.

    I don’t know or care whether my game is “Old School” but I do know that the OSR D&D community is the only one that’ll have me.

  31. Rob L said, on March 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I strongly support TARGA being involved with bringing younger folks below the age of majority to Old School gaming. Prices for OS games are much more reasonable for kids than prices for the top-of-the-line corporate content, and the kids have much more time to try many different games and adventures. Kids would benefit greatly from the OSR’s greater encouragement of ‘make it up yourself’ than appears to be promoted by the flagship corporations. It is a natural fit for both kids and the small scale publishers of the OSR.

    I am not arguing against referring or linking to more adult content as part of TARGA, such as Carcosa or Zac’s stuff. But it would be a mistake, in my opinion, to discount involving kids in favor of not being forced to think about how best to describe or link to content. The latter approach appears principled, but, in my opinion, is merely intellectually lazy. There is no reason why TARGA can’t be involved both with getting kids into the game and with more adult projects.

    Zac’s blog has some pretty good stuff; I appreciate his alphabetical journey through the monster manual. I have watched episode 1 of “I hit it with my axe”, and thought it was mostly pretty good. The part about the video that appeals to me is the idea that he’s running a game with people who know nothing about D&D and the group looks so much different than the gamers I know – or even most people I know. If he had called his blog ‘Gaming with Goth Girls’ (or punk rock girls or whatever – the correct current pop culture label is not essential to my point), and cut what appear to be entirely gratuitous references to the porn industry, it would be just as good or better as far as RPG content goes.

    I am not suggesting he do this. It’s his blog, and I’m sure ‘Gaming with Porn Stars’ and porn references will bring in more hits. One would think that having a label on the TARGA news bulletin that said ‘Episode 1 of I hit it with my axe by Zac of Gaming with Porn Stars’ would be enough of a content warning for me not to share that link with my kids. I also have seen plenty of descriptions of Carcossa that refer to its content as not for the squeamish to know that I won’t be buying that for my son. These comments don’t seem to have hurt sales or otherwise censored the contents of these games or videos.

    I agree that violence can also be a problem for kids. No one who reads Daddy Grognard’s blog about adventures with his quite young son would think he ought to switch to Carcosa for the boy. But there is a big difference between ‘comic book’ style heroic violence which is clearly imaginary, and, say, human sacrifice as an integral portion of the game mechanics.

    Call it ‘Truth in Advertising’. TARGA should describe the content that it links to (as it has done). If something has realistic violence, or particularly disturbing subjects (such as human sacrifice), or pornography, these could be alluded to in the description.

    What has impressed me as far uglier is the vituperative bickering over this, and the way this has resulted in some people leaving the OSR effort, at least online. That would be pretty much the opposite of getting bums in seats, as far as I’m concerned.

    I’ve seen this on both sides of the question where some people seem far too lacking in empathy (a euphemism for ‘selfish and pig-headed’) to be able to acknowledge that someone else might have a point, if one approached the facts with different values.

    • Victor Raymond said, on March 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      What has impressed me as far uglier is the vituperative bickering over this, and the way this has resulted in some people leaving the OSR effort, at least online. That would be pretty much the opposite of getting bums in seats, as far as I’m concerned.

      That has worried me, as well. With such strong feelings being expressed, it seems almost impossible to encourage the people taking sides in this debate to really listen to each other and acknowledge their concerns – especially when they disagree.

      I think it’s important to acknowledge that some people feel very strongly that even a casual association with pornography is troublesome, especially since our hobby includes children under the age of 18. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that some people feel very strongly that anything that even hints at censorship is problematic, especially since it is a freedom of speech issue. Failing to really understand this would be doing everybody a disservice.

      That having been said, I hope people will take a step back here, and breathe in deeply, and try to calm down. TARGA is run by volunteers, doing the best they can, and because they are human, they are going to do things that some people consider to be mistakes. So apply the Golden Rule: treat others as you would want them to treat you. Or as Plato put it: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  32. Marcel Beaudoin said, on March 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    So there is someone out there playing D&D in a way that other people don’t like.

    Ummm, welcome to the Internet??

    In all seriousity, Zak’s blog is a very good resource, especially if you read the posts where he describes hacking D&D so that it is something easily accessible to the people who he plays with. He is a really interesting writer and DM. The fact that he plays with porn stars is, to be honest, only a minor, minor side-note to the meat of the blog. Other than the pron-star part, it is probably a lot closer to most of our D&D groups than it is different.

  33. walkerp said, on March 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t understand how all this leads to chgowiz taking his blog down. Was it just a hissy fit at the contentious nature of the scene in general?

    • mjstanham said, on March 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm

      Not to speak for Michael, but to judge from his blog he has a lot of stuff going on his life, and I imagine he just got sickened off enough to stop participating in the online gaming community. Sometimes it is best to take a step away from something that is infuriating or having a negative impact on your life, especially if that something is your hobby and supposed to be a source of comfort or a distraction from real life problems.

  34. walkerp said, on March 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve always really like chgowiz’s stuff and his approach in general (seemed very productive and positive), but this move seems very passive-aggressive. If you want to take a break, then just take a break. But to pull all of your material down is still very much a way of continuing to participate in the battle. You are making a pretty major statement.

    I’m not trying to criticize him. For all I know, I probably agree with him on this whole issue. It’s just the severity of it that I am trying to understand.

    He’s built himself a pretty solid reputation, which is not easy on the web in some of these communities. I worry that by leaving in such an abrupt way and pulling all of his stuff, he risks harming his reputation.

    Oh well, good luck to him. I hope he is able to get some distance and find a way to return that will maintain his positive presence and the good content he brought to the hobby.

  35. mjstanham said, on March 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    It could be viewed as passive aggressive, certainly, but it is also the sort of thing that people do in the heat of the moment, like deleting books they have poured their heart and soul into or burning unfinished PhD manuscripts. Burning your bridges, so to speak, can be as much about reinforcing a course of action for yourself as it can be sending a message to others. Either way, as you say, best of luck to him. His presence will be missed and I hope to see him return, as I do Kent as well (never even knew he had been banned from Dragonsfoot, not even sure if he really has been, since his account looks to be still active to me).

  36. Rob L said, on March 22, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I’d just like to post again to apologize to Zak for misspelling his name, and to thank Victor for making it to the end of my lengthy post.

  37. […] https://traditionalgaming.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/274/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Horn of Valhalla SundayAnother Snowy ThursdayEternal Darkness SundayNEW link added […]

  38. Dear TARGA… « Old School Rant said, on March 22, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    […] https://traditionalgaming.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/274/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Thanks, ErikA March Weekend UpdateEternal Darkness Sunday>> D la Repubblica delle Donne […]

  39. Dr Rotwang! said, on March 22, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Holy cow. Here I was thinking that Old-School gaming had to do with making the game your own and playing it your way, for your fun.

    Obviously, I was wrong; it’s all about what edition of the rules you have at the table. Also, what races you allow. Shame on me!

    Thus was I enlightened.

    • David Macauley said, on March 22, 2010 at 11:33 pm

      An unfair generalisation Dr Rotwang!, based on the opinions of a number of people I could count on one hand. Unfair to tar the entire OSR with the same brush.

    • Stuart said, on March 23, 2010 at 12:26 am

      This definition of “old school gaming” seems good to me. If someone feels like giving 4e an Old School Feel, why not encourage that? I’m happy mixing bits of old and new games together.

  40. Meet Alex… « Old School Rant said, on March 22, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    […] There you have it… once again – unvarnished. So, take inventory: you have Zak’s words, and now Alex’s words. You can make your own judgements, but we will continue to remove elements of doubt or ignorance (manifested by me and this blog), until everyone focuses on the central issue, which has a home and is requesting your feedback here. […]

  41. Norman Harman said, on March 23, 2010 at 12:13 am

    This is Carcosa redux, different asshats*/**, same results.

    * or maybe the same? I tend to ignore asshats so don’t know/care.
    ** just to be clear someone’s not an asshat for being against X, they’re an asshat for being an asshole and going kneejerk apeshit over X

    We, you, can’t define the community, can’t exclude people from the community. The community will pass you by if you try.

  42. Brian said, on March 23, 2010 at 12:37 am

    While I’ve not shied away from potentially scandalous content in the past, I try to keep it tame enough that I don’t need to add a warning screen before folks hop onto my blog. (Trust me, there’s a ton of art I pass over from Waterhouse and the rest because of nudity issues.) When I do link to such stuff, I slap on an NSFW. I don’t like it, but I know not everyone shares my sensibilities (or my advanced age ;p ) and I’d rather avoid giving my readers any nasty surprises.

    I think that’s the way to go here. Zak’s stuff on his blog is clearly relevant to the OSR, and it looks like the game portrayed on I Hit it with My Axe is as well. It would be silly to ignore it, and sillier still not to warn folks when things get racy.

  43. Akiyama said, on March 23, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I want to disagree with the people who say that Zak’s game is not old-school because he is playing 3.5. As far as I can tell he is using the 3.5 rules, minus the feats and skills, and with the 1st Edition AD&D magic rules and some other stuff from 1st Edition AD&D. And he is running a low-level sandbox campaign that also includes old-school modules. How is this any less old-school than, say, Castles and Crusades?

    Regarding the video and everything . . . it’s understandable that some people won’t want to watch “I Hit It With My Axe”, or won’t like it if they do watch it, but all TARGA did is post a link to it! Is it the end of the world?

    TARGA handled the situation very well, and the blogger that started it all has now apologised, and the other people affected didn’t allow things to escalate into any kind of vendetta, . So all in all, I think the way this situation played out actually reflects well on the OSR as a whole.

    • mjstanham said, on March 23, 2010 at 1:17 am

      What qualifies as a “Traditional Adventure Role-playing Game” is a live topic for the association and has been since the start. Fact is, nobody has come up with a definition that everybody can agree with, and probably it is better that way. We generally expect that there will be missteps and changes along the way. Is Zak’s game “traditional”? I have no idea, as I confess I am only passingly familiar with his blog. As far as I can tell, though, it appears to be of interest to many “traditional” and “non-traditional” gamers.

  44. Beaumont said, on March 23, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Wow, way to get all butthurt and overreact. I swear sometimes D&D players are their own worst enemy. Especially some of these so-called “old school revolution” guys, who were whiny in the 70’s and remain so today.

    But awesome! Way to represent D&D as an adult hobby instead of a reason to bicker while you avoid bathing.

  45. Zzarchov said, on March 23, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Now I’ve only seen episode 1 of the show, I’ll be fair.

    I saw nothing in there that was beyond PG-13 at best. Being a porn star or stripper is not somehow child inappropriate.

    Lots of people have such jobs and kids. They aren’t working it on the video. I was a soldier, would a show about soldiers playing D&D not be child appropriate?

    Only if the video showed people being killed by gunfire and sharpnel. Otherwise soldier is just something you do that can be inappropriate for chidren (in the same manner as a cops job can be un-child friendly at times). There is nothing illegal about being a porn star nor a stripper, nor even a hairdresser.

    They are a bunch of friends playing D&D, D&D that is a horrible mish-mash of rules.

    I’d also like to know what the cut-off for old school gaming is? 3e? 2e?1e?0e? , Is old WoD old school? How many years until 3e is old school if its not now?

    I was pretty sure old school didn’t mean a set of rules but a set of rulings.

  46. Clan Mum said, on March 23, 2010 at 3:06 am

    I’m in gaming groups that have kids as potential players and have played both in campaigns with families and in adult-only campaigns of a “PG-13” or higher rating. So I see the need for the whole range to represented and promoted, but not mixed. 😛

    I’ve seen several OSR blogs use f-bombs and similar in their regular postings and they’re not marked with a NSFW tag nor require the I Am An Adult click that Zak’s blog does. I tend to treat any link on the intratubes as potentially NSFW or not safe for kids. But if folks want some sort of NSFW tag, that’s fine, so long as it’s consistently and fairly applied.

    However, it’s not like this show just appeared out of nowhere. Back a month ago there were Targa news updates that included links to news on the then upcoming show. No reaction at all then, which would’ve been a good time to get any issues or debate out of the way a month in advance.

    Meh, it looked to me like it all started over some butthurt from not being linked. Welcome to the intratubes, we all get butthurt now and then. The OSR is not your personal army.

  47. Chris said, on March 23, 2010 at 3:22 am

    I think we’re forgetting the real tragedy here:

    Some kid heard Sasha Grey was playing D&D, but since there wasn’t enough to really get excited about, clicked through to zak’s blog, then to LOTFP, Lord Kilgore, Planet Algol, then Grognardia and just as it was getting awesome found his way to a bickering OSR community.

    Talk about deflation…

  48. Aussie said, on March 23, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Come on. This is getting ridiculous.


    • Victor Raymond said, on March 23, 2010 at 5:33 am

      I would agree. It seems a timely marker of the debate having run its course. It’s abundantly clear to anyone who looks that there is little agreement on what is appropriate, what isn’t, what’s “old school” and what’s not. With that in mind, it seems that TARGA’s original policy of letting people decide for themselves continues to make the most sense. What we need to do in the future is provide people with enough information to make an intelligent and informed choice for themselves. We can do that.

  49. Zanazaz said, on March 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Wow, what a mess. I’ve recently returned to an old hobby that I really enjoyed, and for the past couple of weeks I have been rediscovering what I liked most about role-playing games. I enjoyed reading the blogs, and have even started my own. I’m still not sure what this mess is all about, but I know I liked the blog that was taken down.

    I’m guessing it had something to do with TARGA mentioning that “I Hit It With An Axe” promotes the OSR of RPGs? And people got upset about that? If that’s the whole controversy then I guess I don’t understand. I don’t know, it all seems so ridiculous to me. The sandbox is big enough for everybody. Parents need to watch what their kids get involved in, it’s not TARGA’s job to babysit. Label things appropriately and be done with it.

    As to whether or not Zak’s blog is old school or not, it seems old school to me. I haven’t seen the show, but I will. My bandwidth sucks right now. Anyway, it’s a real shame so many people got upset over this. It’s a game, a hobby, you’re supposed to enjoy it. I want to have fun, not argue about gaming philosophies. The whole taking down of blogs and such just reeks of the childish antics of, “It’s my ball and I’m taking it home.” The only reason I have spent so much time trying to find out what happened was I liked Chgowiz blog, and was wondering what happened. Okay, I’m done…

  50. Since you asked said, on March 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Two questions I think are pertinent to this discussion are:
    1) Are you concerned by the mainstream acceptance of hardcore porn?
    2) Do you think the promotion of Zak’s video contributes to this?

    From the comments above, it seems that most posters would answer “not in the least” to both questions. In any case, it seems that neither question, certainly not the first, has been of interest to most of the commentators.

    That, more than anything, has been the turn-off for me. Zak himself, from the comments I’ve read by him on other blogs, seems like a thoughtful, rather charming, live-and-let-live guy.

    What gives me pause is the narrowness of an internet niche in which the question of whether there are ramifications to featuring porn actors as contributors to a hobby is largely ignored in favor of a discussion as to whether 3rd edition counts as old school.

    I think there are legitimate moral and ethical issues about porn (and about censorship too) that deserve reflection. For these reasons, as well as a certain amount of Victorian prudery and its attendant hypocrisy, I’m personally less than enthusiastic about “I Hit It With My Axe.”

    But as I’ve tried to put my finger on why I feel that this kerfuffle probably marks the cooling of my brief, year-long romance with the institutionalized OSR, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the mixing of D&D and Sacha Grey. I would prefer to keep D&D and porn stars separate, but I can live with that, and Zak is hardly asking me or anyone to like it.

    It’s the widespread incomprehension in the comments that I’ve seen that there are issues that people of good faith might be troubled by, and that these issues might be in some cases just as important as a game.

    Perhaps that’s simply the flip side of the devotion that so many of these bloggers, game designers, and players have brought to the game, and from which I’ve benefited tremendously over the last year. But my level of D&D devotion isn’t so absolute that my sole consideration in evaluating a contribution to the OSR is whether it has ascending or descending armor class.

    So: as someone else pointed out, it probably makes sense for TARGA and the Escapist to err on the side of inclusivity and pick up anything and everything connected to gaming. For me, though, I know the literary canon from Malory and MacDonald to Merritt and Moorcock. I have the old 1st edition books and, over the last year, have picked up LL and C&C and a gazillion great ideas from the OSR blogosphere. I run a very enjoyable Greyhawk-crossed-with-weird-fantasy campaign. I just don’t need D&D with Porn Stars or the sites that consider it an integral part of the hobby. Nor do they need me. Magic of the internet, makes it easy to come on in, and easy to pop on out.

    • David Macauley said, on March 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm

      @since you asked – I think one simple fact gets overlooked in these debates and that is our hobby is simply a game we all enjoy playing, just a game, that’s all.

      I do indeed find it baffling that people of certain religious persuasion feel the need to inflict their personal morality on the rest of us, as if having a religious belief gives them that right. I don’t feel “incomprehension” at the fact that they feel the way they feel, but there is a time and a place. Personal devotion doesn’t equate to moral authority.

      Religious beliefs and personal morality have nothing to do with our hobby as a whole, but everything to do with what people choose to do in their own homes. Adults can choose for themselves what is appropriate for their family and need to take responsibility for monitoring their own children’s interests. No one has the right to dictate another’s morality, nor decided what is and isn’t appropriate for another. People are quite capable of doing that for themselves and that should be respected. The community as a whole is quite capable of holding debate to decide what’s appropriate, without people’s morality being attacked and denigrated.

      Oh and I’m equally baffled about your assertion that the OSR is institutionalised, when there is in fact no central controlling power, no clearly defined manifesto, blimey the community can’t even decide if old school is about specific games or a style of play.

      Your last three sentences gave me hope. Much of the anti-porn argument has resorted to questioning and putting down the morality of fellow gamers because they have different standards, different beliefs, often done subtly and through inference, which is a low trick. It’s nice to see you acknowledge the simple fact – if you don’t like it, don’t look. Make an mature decision and respect the right of other people to do likewise. And that’s one thing that gives me hope in all this – the majority of the OSR does show that respect. Most people are tolerant and accepting.

      • Since you asked said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:06 am


        I take your point about my use of the term “institutionalized.” All I meant was that critical mass of sites and blogs and organizations involved in the OSR, may it long remain uninstitutionalized!

        I do hope I was able to convey some of my reservations about this issue in an honest and respectful way, and in a way that doesn’t immediately conjure for many of the posters here the fire-and-brimstone breathing preachers of their youth. (I’m not even Christian.) I’m glad you see that I’m not trying to make a pro-censorship argument, and that I do think the appropriate response for folks like me is simply to move away rather than trying to ruin anyone else’s day. The forum here, though, was for folks to respond to the controversy and so I did.

        Again, though, I’m asking seriously: you write “Much of the anti-porn argument has resorted to questioning and putting down the morality of fellow gamers because they have different standards.” I feel like I’m watching a tennis match with half the court behind a wall. Where is this anti-porn argument? I seem to have missed this entirely. Links?


    • Stuart said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:58 am

      1) Are you concerned by the mainstream acceptance of hardcore porn?
2) Do you think the promotion of Zak’s video contributes to this?
      Yes on both counts. That’s a much bigger issue than suitable for discussion here though.

      Hopefully the discussion was useful for TARGA and everyone posting comments here. I’m going to “unsubscribe” from email notifications and try and focus on more positive things. 🙂

  51. Zanazaz said, on March 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm


    1) Are you concerned by the mainstream acceptance of hardcore porn?

    Is there mainstream acceptance of hardcore porn? I have no idea, nor do I care either way. This is America, the good old USA, unless they break laws, people are free to do what they want. Also, the people, yes they are people, in Zak’s gaming group, aren’t all porn stars, and the ones that are, I don’t know what kind of porn they are involved in.
    I’m not a fan of porn, but like I said this is America. Don’t like it? Try to change it, can’t change it? Accept it or leave. Those are your only options. Let Freedom ring.

    2) Do you think the promotion of Zak’s video contributes to this?
    Again, is there a mainstream acceptance? Even if there is, then it’s been around a long while, and Zak’s video is a drop in the bucket.

    Should young children be exposed to porn? No. Will mainstream entertainment expose them to things just as bad? Yes. It’s the parents job to protect their children. Now I know people will say that they can’t always watch what there children are doing, but hopefully you will have instilled in them the values you would hope they would have. Even if they don’t, hopefully you will have tried.

    To me this issue is ridiculous, and to try and tie it to hard-core porn? It makes me think you have an agenda.

    • Victor Raymond said, on March 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      Let me encourage everybody to step back and take a deep breath. No, we’re not going to all agree on this issue. But what we can do is listen to each other, understand that people can genuinely have differences of opinion, and that such differences are to be expected. The vast majority of the time, the only “agenda” somebody has is a strongly-felt opinion – and we’re all like that.

      • Zanazaz said, on March 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

        ***”I think there are legitimate moral and ethical issues about porn (and about censorship too) that deserve reflection. For these reasons, as well as a certain amount of Victorian prudery and its attendant hypocrisy, I’m personally less than enthusiastic about “I Hit It With My Axe.”***

        That statement and his two questions seemed to me to point to a very “agenda” like reason for posting. To me acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean support, and is a far cry from promoting something. To me Zak’s blog has so very little to do with what got people up in arms it’s ridiculous. If anything they seem to be promoting gaming, and not porn.

        Yes, I accept others peoples opinion, but do they accept mine? If they are anti-porn I doubt that. I am not Pro-porn, I am not Anti-porn, I am for freedom. Like I said before the sandbox is big. You can go play in another spot, just try not to mess up mine when you leave if you can’t have your way. Trust me I’m in no way upset just trying to make a point. My agenda is promoting gaming. I don’t care if you are 8 or 80, a homequeening or porn star, I would like to see more people gaming. I think gaming in all it’s various aspects are an awesome hobby.

  52. Since you asked said, on March 23, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Thanks, Victor.

    No, I don’t think I have an agenda, but then it’s often hard to discern one’s own agendas.

    One thing is still puzzling to me, and perhaps I should have asked this first. I keep reading commenters who are obviously upset by people being upset by “I Hit It With My Axe.” Honest, if clueless, question: where are the latter (apart from me)? Can someone help me out with some links to the pitchfork-carrying prudes and puritans bellowing for Zak’s sinful blood? The only negative response I saw was the Old School Rant guy who, if I understood him correctly, was saying that he personally had no beef with watching porn stars play d&d but thought it was stragetically foolish from a marketing standpoint for the hobby to promote that association. So in the interest of seeing what the other side is saying could someone give me some links?

    Maybe I can even join up with those people and form our own Church Lady style OSR club where we ban d4s for being too phallic and white-out “breastplate” in the equipment chart. Instead of The Escapist, we can call it The Papist. Instead of TARGA, TVRGA (Traditional Values Roleplaying Game Association). Ok, I’ll stop.

  53. Zanazaz said, on March 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    LOL, I wish these posts had an edit function. I meant to say homecoming queen not homequeening. I was in a hurry. Anyway, I’ve said my piece, time to move on to some good stuff. Like I mentioned before I’m not upset, but it irks me when people run away from an issue rather than try to deal with it.

  54. Since you asked said, on March 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Zanazaz, I’m not running away from an issue. I’m responding to it. Just not in a way that you approve of or agree with. I think I understand and am even sympathetic to your libertarian, hands-off position on this. Try to be a little more open-minded about mine. If you can’t, then at least don’t pat yourself on the back for being so tolerant.

    • Zanazaz said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:24 am

      Please don’t label me, I am not libertarian. Plus I never once patted myself “on the back”, don’t know where that came from. I was just stating my views. Kind of rude actually, or maybe not. LOL It’s just your opinion after all. I respect other peoples opinions and I am very open minded. The open-minded thing goes both ways, and if you are anti-porn, is that being open-minded? The whole running away thing wasn’t entirely directed at you, although you did mention something about popping out? Is that not running away? It was aimed more at the guy who closed down his blog, and quit TARGA, a darn shame actually.

      In a way it seems you may be trying to bait me with subtle “insults”, maligning my hands-off position? Patting myself on the back? =) Or maybe not…

      To me this is a battle that doesn’t need to be fought at this level. It should have never been fought at all. How many casualties to the TARGA community? Two? Three? Well, in any size “community” that’s too many. Over what? Hurt feelings maybe? Things blown way out of proportion?

      I think that the powers that be in TARGA now know the solution to this, and that is to properly label the material as being innappropriate for children, and that would include violence and gore. At least in my opinion.

      We could go on like this forever. you’re not going to change my mind, open-minded or not, and I’m not going to change yours, nor would I want to. Live and let live is my motto, or at least one of them. As long as you don’t interfere with my freedoms, I’m good.

      I would like this post to be my last on this subject, which I think we’ve left far behind anyway, and I remain hopeful it will be.

  55. David Macauley said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Again, though, I’m asking seriously: you write “Much of the anti-porn argument has resorted to questioning and putting down the morality of fellow gamers because they have different standards.” I feel like I’m watching a tennis match with half the court behind a wall. Where is this anti-porn argument? I seem to have missed this entirely. Links?

    @since you asked – the problem is that this debate was spread over several blogs and finally moved here after a plea from the TARGA crew. Those coming late to the party no doubt know only part of the story and perhaps don’t fully understand the events that led tol this – which makes your tennis analogy spot on. Your post, though refreshingly respectful and non-confrontational, was just one of several raising the morality issue, although sadly unlike yours, most similar ones resorted to questioning the morality of the those they didn’t agree with rather than just expressing their opinion, thus the tone of the responses to you.

    I think the discussion has just about run its course and no doubt TARGA has got the feedback they need to make an informed decision as to what direction they’ll take in the future, so I’m not going to give links. They can be found simply by looking at the various blog rolls and reading the titles of recent posts.

  56. Since you asked said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Fair enough, David, though 100 is a nice round number.

  57. Since you asked said, on March 24, 2010 at 12:38 am

    There we go.

  58. badmike said, on March 24, 2010 at 6:09 am

    “No one has the right to dictate another’s morality, nor decided what is and isn’t appropriate for another. People are quite capable of doing that for themselves and that should be respected”

    Err, it’s what we do as a society. Someone elses personal morality conflicts with mine when they get on the bus next to me wearing a trenchcoat and flash my 4 year old grandson. I mean, I don’t have to look, but cmon……! Respect goes both ways.

    I think the discussion is less about dictating morality to others than wanting a definition of where exactly TARGA stands on the issue. Not saying either way is right or wrong but the problems I saw were from individuals in TARGA who THOUGHT TARGA stood one way when maybe they didn’t….and were upset when that was revealed. I don’t understand why everything went down the way it did as a result but it did. It seems like talking it out could have cleared a lot of misunderstandings up.

    My issue was more with the idea of how TARGA defines “Old School” and apparently the definition is very, very wide. Now that I understand that I deal with it as I choose. My definition is far different from TARGA but that won’t stop me from promoting the organization or working with the individuals involved in the organization to promote old school gaming, since I think an organization like this serves a good purpose.

    • David Macauley said, on March 24, 2010 at 6:53 am

      badmike – you been banging the same drum repeatedly and I’m not sure why. What’s your motivation? The points you’ve raised have been addressed, but you seem to ignore the replies. You want to know what games TARGA supports? You want to know how they define “old school”? Go read the FAQ on their website, the answers to your questions are there and contrary to what you have been saying, their stand is very clear. The link to their website is on the top right-hand corner of this page, the link to their FAQ is on the top left-hand side of their website. If you stop banging your drum for a moment and take the time to read their FAQ, you’ll have your answers.

  59. LittleAlexis said, on March 24, 2010 at 7:13 am


    Just to kill this particular head of the hydra–if C&C and Basic Fantasy fit TARGA’s remit, then so does Zak’s game:


  60. badmike said, on March 24, 2010 at 7:17 am


    Someone appoint you blog cop when I wasn’t looking? Relax, I wasn’t speaking to you specifically, although apparently your ego told you otherwise. Speaking of banging a drum yours seems worn out…why don’t you get your own blog instead of camping out here pontificating? You seem to have a lot to say since I see your name every couple replies….honestly I first assumed you were spokesman or something here until I realized nope, you just seem to like to talk…a lot….
    For future reference I neither desire or require any comments from you, so feel free to ignore me, cause I’ll be doing the same to you, matey.

    • David Macauley said, on March 24, 2010 at 7:31 am

      No need to get upset, just go read the FAQ where your questions are answered. As for my many replies here, I just can’t stand to see something good rubbished without foundation and for no good reason.

  61. mjstanham said, on March 24, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I would like to invite anybody interested in discussing what is “old school” to do so on TARGA Talk. The fact is that the definition of “old school” is a live debate and not one that TARGA can claim to have resolved, but I would love to hear more opinions on the subject!

  62. […] AW: I Hit It With My Axe Ah, ja: RPG.net: Controversy Hits the Old School Community? The RPGHaven: Did you guys hear about the latest OSR dust-up? TARGA: Recent OSR Controversy […]

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