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Readers' Letters

Well, first off, we'd like to say hello and thanks to all of you who took the time to read our first issue. A special hello to all our American visitors, like the guys at Ohio State, New Mexico and Stanford universities, and to the rest of our foreign readers. We had visitors from Japan, Spain and Tel-Aviv! And last but not least, a big hi to all the people in King's, St Leo's and Cromwell College here at the University of Queensland. Thanks for dropping by.

Even more thanks to those few of you who took the time to tell us what you think. It was great to get feedback, and we'd like to get even more this issue. Below is a selection of some of the letters we received. Enjoy, and I hope to see you in my inbox sometime soon!

Here's My Two Cents!

Thanks for your input

Dear PTG, PTB,
Thought I'd be the first to say that I really enjoyed some of the articles in the first issue of PTGPTB. The working of magic has always been a keen interest of mine, particularly enjoying fantasy worlds with a well developed magic environment, not just a Let's-Blast-Them-With-Another-Fireball approach.
Steve, Brisbane
Glad you liked it, Steve, and yes, you were the first.
Dear PTG, PTB,
I enjoyed reading the stuff - I had a similar problem with Ars Magica 3rd ed,a long time back.The AD & D splenetic is unfortunately too true,but I think you are too harsh on wotc- they have published some of the best rpg's (although dropping them later,i'll admit) like Talislanta and SLA industries. Enough of that,I could go on all day about wotc/tsr/game-related stuff. Cheers for an interesting read
Matt, UK
Yes, it must be said WotC did produce some great games, and contrary to all the evidence, may not be the anti-chritst.
Dear PTG, PTB,
G'day. Just a mention that while I enjoyed the article (and the rest of the 'zine), the sidebar quote that you attribute to H.G. Wells in the column is actually by Arthur C. Clarke. Minor nitpick.
Patrick O'Duffy, Brisbane
Thanks for that, Patrick. That was my fault; I dredged that quote up from memory at the last minute and didn't bother checking if I had the author correct. Sure, it's a small thing, but it's still pretty slack. We'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Dear PTG, PTB,
I must say that I do like the first issue of your online fanzine. I especially liked the comments down the left side of the article, if I think of anything to contribute in future I will mail it to you.
Michael Walters, Brisbane
Mike, we can't wait to hear from you.
Dear PTG, PTB,
Wow, excellent stuff. I found your page to be much more thought provoking and profesional in content (if not in look) than the many other RPG 'zine pages out there. I liked the articles which offered advice on both playing and GM'ing, in particular. So keep up the good work, I can't wait for the next 'issue.' Cheers,
Al Cornish, UK
This is great to hear, because "thought provoking" and "professional" are exactly the kinds of things we're aiming to be. As for the look, well, we're currently taking steps to make our mag look a little glossier, but without slowing it down with huge craplets, or disrupting the text with annoying backgrounds. As always, we put the quality of our articles first, but you can look forward to the pages being a little easier on the eyes.
Dear PTG, PTB,
In which a reader attempts to point out a few absurdities in the Splenetics column.

Standard disclaimer of longevity in the field: I've been role playing for 22 years, bought the first little box of three D&D books, and have played quite a few different RPGs. Personal favorites: Star Wars, Feng Shui, Castle Falkenstein.

All right, now let's move on to the absurdities...

  1. Gary contends that RPGs have come a long way since D&D was first released. He is, of course, correct. He also contends that D&D (or AD&D or whatever) has not advanced with the rest of the field. He is, again, mostly correct. I say "mostly" because many of the things he passes off as "too little, too late" -- such as the Dark Sun campaign world, point based character creation, more emphasis on skills, etc -- ARE moves on TSR's part to keep up with the field. No, they weren't first, or even fifth or sixth, when it came to adopting new developments in the RPG field. But they DID adopt them and that means they have advanced in the field (even if they are lagging behind most of the other companies).

    Gary wants everyone to face facts that D&D has a poor system. However, Gary has to face the fact that D&D was and is the best selling RPG system on the market. TSR most likely took a very reasonable business attitude (and let's remember that TSR IS a business) of not changing something which sold so well. I'm sure Gary's ready to pounce with TSR's financial plight in the last few years (leading up to their acquisition by WOTC). To counter, I would point out that during the last few years we've seen more varied products from TSR than ever before in their history:

    • There was the Dark Sun campaign world (and I agree it's the best boxed campaign world I've seen). Apparently it didn't sell that well. Seems everyone wants more Forgotten Realms. Can you really blame TSR for giving their customers what they want?
    • There was the Amazing Engine, which was apparently an amazing flop as far as sales go. I didn't buy it so have no idea whether it was any good. Does Gary know anyone who plays the Amazing Engine? I certainly don't. So who could blame TSR for dumping the Amazing Engine and sticking with their cash cow?
    • More recently there's been the SAGA system. I did buy this and must say that it's really quite a good product. Straight forward, skill based, doesn't reward hack and slash play, in other words a modern RPG. It even had conversion information to convert old fashioned D&D characters. Don't know how this one is selling but it apparently wasn't doing well enough to counter TSR's financial woes.
    • So what we've got are attempts by TSR to "switch" to a (supposedly) more modern system. But they can't force customers to buy the new stuff and, for whatever reason, not enough of them did.
  2. Gary's main point here is that game systems should be written to fit a specific world. Excuse me, but has he actually paid attention to the most large number of universal game systems being released? Not only do many of these games come without specific worlds, many of them don't even have specific game systems! Take a look at Fudge, Theatrix, Fusion, the D6 System, or perhaps that long standing game GURPS. None of these systems have specific worlds yet they seem to be all the rage among RPG insiders.

    It should also be noted that some of us actually LIKE to design our own worlds...

  3. All right, I have to Gary this point. When he's right, he's right!

  4. Now here is where I really have a problem with the column. Gary spends the entire column slamming D&D for not changing. Then he moans and groans that WOTC will now change D&D, thus eliminating the entry level RPG that brings new players into the game, thus causing the entire hobby to die a slow and painful death.

    Gary, you can't have it both ways. You can't change the D&D system AND keep it just the way it is. A little consistancy is absolutely required here!

Let's look at D&D from another light. Is it good at bringing new players into the game? Apparently so since you feel the whole hobby will die if WOTC does anything to the existing system. So, what's wrong with having an entry level game like D&D? So what if some players never venture outside of the confines of their Player's Handbook? For every player who never tries anything different there will be two or three who will look at the other games available.

D&D didn't grow up as the rest of the RPG field grew up. Perhaps it is best as a game for younger players. There's certainly nothing wrong with that...
Henry Vogel

To which Gary Pellino (the author of the article, check the last issue if you missed it) responded:

Hi Henry. Glad to hear I ruffled a few feathers out there, or at least got people thinking. I was beginning to think I'd been too kind!

As a reply, may I say the following:

  1. OK, TSR changes strategy, tries a few new ideas, and nobody buys it, so you can't blame them for following their market. The problem is, they brought this on themselves. They designed a crappy game (my point 1) then propogated a closed mindset towards that game (my point 3 - which you give me). So they dug themselves into the hole. OK, so maybe we can't blame them now if they can't extricate themselves from it, but we can certainly blame them for not realising they were digging it in the first place!

    And yes, TSR have taken steps to catch up. I think it is a hopeless attempt to win a race they have been a losing for a long time. You may think otherwise.

  2. If you check, I did mention Generic systems briefly in my piece. I criticised AD&D for having a foot in both camps - not having sufficient direction towards a definite setting, and for not being sufficiently smooth and robust to make it anywhere near a proper universal game. Have you ever tried to convert AD&D to say, play Horror, or X-Files type games? It's a real bitch. Fudge, Fusion, D6, Gurps these are all great Universal games because that's how they were designed. AD&D was not designed to be universal, and hence isn't very good at it.

    >It should also be noted that some of us 
    >actually LIKE to design our own worlds...

    OK, but it really helps if the system is wired into the setting from the beginning, I find.

  3. >All right, I have to Gary this point. 
    >When he's right, he's right!


  4. OK, as you pointed out in your response to point 1, AD&D is popular. God knows why, but it is. And bad though it is, it is at least a role-playing game. Should it be shut down or transformed into something that is effectively not role-playing, I think a lot of the people who play it will go with it (point 3). I wasn't saying WoTC would change AD&D, I would said they would devolve it to the point of death, ie make it worse then it already is. If WoTC change it for the better (which I doubt), that would be great.

    >Let's look at D&D from another light.  
    >Is it good at bringing new >players into 
    >the game?  Apparently so since you feel the 
    >whole hobby will die if WOTC does anything 
    >to the existing system.  So, what's wrong 
    >with having an entry level game like D&D?  
    >So what if some players never venture outside 
    >of the confines of their Player's Handbook?  
    >For every player who never tries anything 
    >different there will be two or three who 
    >will look at the other games available.

    The problem here is that AD&D should not be bringing in new players simply because it has blanket marketing strategies. Other better games (like the legendary Star Wars) should be doing this because they do it very well. If we continue to let AD&D be this big major drawcard and monopoly of the industry, my prophesies of doom may indeed come about. If we can start the kids out on something decent, they'll grow up to be better role-players. It was the failings inherent in AD&D that stopped me from role-playing, until much later I found there were so many better games.

  5. The kids of today, unlike us old-timers, have the opportunity to begin with some brilliant games. If only they could see past TSR to get to them....

    Well, thanks for the feedback. Gary

Do you have an opinion on one of the articles in this issue? Do you feel the need to voice important questions about the gaming industry? Do you just want to know what I gave my dog for his birthday? Tell us what's on your mind here.

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