Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blog review - The Tao of DnD

I have this thing for reading RPG sourcebooks for ideas.  I don't know why; maybe it is a compulsion of mine.  It might go back to when I was 11 and tried to make a wide open sandbox solo Advanced fighting Fantasy scenario, but could never get it right, and spent ages revising it.  Maybe I'm still trying to make that perfect system, despite knowing intellectually that there is no perfect system.  It's amazing how what we do sometimes flies in the face of everything that is rational or even beneficial, but that is a topic for others to delve deep into (like Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahnmen  and Stephens Levitt and Dubner).

Anyway, there is a point to this.  This compulsion of mine is probably why I love the Tao of DnD blog so much.  Since 2008, Alexis D. Smolensk has drawn on a huge range of sources (including the aforementions Malcolm Gladwell) and utilised a huge range of tools (such as some magnificent Excel and Publisher work) to analyse world building and role playing in every detail.  However, he always manages to tie this in to the bigger picture.  I wanted a list of random skills and fields of knowledge once and managed to find it on his blog.  He can turn seemingly small issues such as buying a healing salve and link it in to the bigger picture (why is it as rare as it is?  Why does it cost that much?  And why is this best for the game?).

Before you read any more, I cannot recommend Alexis's blog highly enough as something you should all read.  You will almost certainly find something useful in there, and if you don't you can admire the skill and dedication that Alexis has applied to his passion of role playing.

Alexis's posts are usually quite long, and quite dense, littered with information from all kinds of sources, but, I promise you that it is worth ploughing through them.  He also seems to have some kind of a reputation and he has gathered a crowd of haters in the RPG community.  Sometimes, I can see why, as he never minces his words and he can be very vocal about things and people he opposes and why (for example, this).  To be honest, I'm not sure what or whom he agrees with in the gaming world, if he agrees with anything at all.  If you leave comments with your own views, be prepared to have them dissected with a cutting argument backed up with an artillery barrage of logic.

Despite this, the blog is excellent and I highly recommend it.  Alexis also has two books about RPGs out at the moment (and one novel), so if you like the blog, get the books too.


  1. Hey, Stuart, thank you for the call out. I'll take the opportunity to explain a few things that I do agree with:

    1) I agree with people who want to improve not only their gaming abilities and their campaign, but their minds as well. The best gaming improvement begins with an improvement in what we know and understand about the whole world, not just the game we play.

    2) I agree with DMs who are anxious to make the sessions they run the best possible experience for the players - whether that means stepping up the pace of play, providing the players with more agency and control, providing the players with more knowledge about what's going on around them or simply making it possible for the players to immerse themselves fully in a campaign without being pushed or controlled by the DM.

    3) I agree with people who, when encountering something they've never seen before, begin with "Yes, what would that mean if we took it to the next step." 99% of my aggression directed towards players and DMs in the community has everything to do with people who say "No" first, followed by demands that the status quo be maintained.

    Call them first principles. For those out there who may be reading this (and this page is funnelling people to my blog, so I presume someone is), remember that Alexis the Blogger is not Alexis the DM. I'm quite a different person when I'm not trying to change minds, choosing to enable them instead.

  2. Many thanks for your reply, Alexis and I am glad that you got some traffic. I am currently reading your new book and it is helping me a great deal. I plan to run my first game in September at a convention using the Advance Fighting Fantasy system.

  3. Aha, that's great! I would love to hear that the book's non-genre specific content works for the system you mean to use.