Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What Happened to the Androids and Orgies?

I am absolutely not a scholar or historian on the topic of the history of D&D. But I have burned through enough podcasts and blog posts to know a few things. And I know that way back at the beginning there were androids and there were orgies.

There were also demons, devils, and demigods you could fight and - arguably - slay since you knew their AC and hit points. Times change, don't they?

Mix it up, Erol Otus.

In those heady early days D&D was a tiny little weirdo game that almost nobody knew anything about. It seems like even the people who knew about it and played it didn't know much about it since the rules were cryptic as fuck. In those days, flying way under the radar, it's easy to see how you could get away with having a harlot table in your core rulebook or writing an article about orgies.

(Not only cool shit like an orgy article, but also pretty bad shit like the way they tried to make ability scores align with real-world assumptions about men and women... as if playing an elf game had to be physiologically "realistic". Thanks Lakofka. I'm glad the idea didn't take much root and I'm happy D&D today is explicitly inclusive.)

Fast forward a decade. Hoo-boy, how the times changed. I was a teen in those days. I remember quite well the motherfucking PMRC. I was one of those rural white boys headbanging to Grim Reaper and W.A.S.P. and Ozzy as they lashed out against the prudes and crispies and censors in their music.

(On that note, check out the Filthy Fifteen playlist and rock out.)

(Also, it is not lost on me that the response from the rock and metal community wasn't just about taking a stand. In those days, making an angry song against Tipper Gore was a sure fire way to sell a lot of records. Also, fuck Tipper Gore.)

In the mid and late 80s, TSR, publishers of ye olde D&D in its many forms, were a bloated corporation fat on the sudden and super popularity of their product (you don't get a Saturday morning cartoon easily, remember), yet beginning to flounder and fail as a business. They were trying to play it safe. They were trying to duck the Moral Majority's deadly knives by nipping and tucking the fuck out of D&D. Gary Gygax was tossed out of the company and the new controllers were not interested in fighting a culture war. So when the now 15-year-old game was revamped to it's official second edition, they did a little house cleaning.

No more demons. No more devils. No more gods with ACs and hit points (at least I'm fairly sure about that one... am I wrong about that? Huh). Definitely hells to the no on titties, booty, and orgies. There is no harlot table in the 2e DMG. No ice devils or beelzebubs. No naked succubi.

Likewise, by this time there was no more getting the chocolate of "straight" fantasy into the peanut butter of science fiction. You would no longer find androids in the monster lists. The high fantasy genre had gelled into a money-making monster as the new game in town were trilogies of fantasy adventure novels and trilogies of trilogies of fantasy adventure novels in which not a laser pistol nor a robot was to be found.

It all felt so god damned vanilla.

And hey... let me be absolutely clear about something. I would not want a harlot table in my new DMG, unless it was utterly gender neutral or wildly gender diverse. Men are harlots too, you dopes. So this is not some cro-magnon argument for returning to the "good old days" when "men were men". Fuck that noise in the ear.

All I'm ranting about is how the influx of attention and money tends to skew the deliciousness and quirkyness of content toward the mean. The middle. The boring-as-fuck.

I'm guilty too. I have, on numerous occasions, mitigated, rounded, smoothed, watered-down, and toned-down my own shit before putting it out in public. This is largely because I want to be liked by as many people as possible. I don't publish stuff simply because I want to have stuff published. I want people to like what I do. I want everyone to like what I do. And that, my friends, is a problem. You cannot please everyone and trying to do so leads to the great big boring land of Milkquetoastington.

"You mind? Peeing here."
I have worked in Milquetoastington. I have contributed to its off-white towers and trimmed its creme picket fence lines. I don't enjoy it. And what I don't enjoy I figure nobody else is going to enjoy either. I try to create based on the philosophy that if I love what I'm doing then at least one person on the planet will love it. If I don't love it, then I can't assume even that much.

I don't make resolutions or promises. I know myself and I know I'm prone to going down different paths on a whim. I allow myself to wander. I try to steer myself, I try to work at what I'm doing and have pride in it. But I don't make resolutions. So this is not a resolution to be less filtered in 2020. It is, however, a public acknowledgement that I have filtered myself in the past and since I didn't like my games or music being filtered I should probably not worry so god damned much about how many people like me. Without being a dickhead, I just want to be me. I'm too damn old to be anything else.



  1. I really like your solution to the "harlot" table.

  2. Pretty sure you know my thoughts on the matter! (from a number of years ago)

  3. Coming into the game after 2e was well past it's prime and only picking up the game in earnest with the coming of 3.X and then forward I only know this pulp flavored mix from reading through the old books that I have managed to collect for posterity, my group doesn't want to play the older editions. I have been dipping my toe into the idea of blending fantasy and science fiction back into the Science Fantasy genre for my table. Small things have been well received and it is something that my players are enjoying. If we want to see the Science Fantasy genre make a resurgence in our hobby, I feel that we would need a big name Podcast/Twitch show like Critical Role, play those elements. Shortly after we will see an influx of PDFs across the line blending that.