Ethos of Play

DistemperedGus (of All Dead Generations) recently posted a series of Twitter threads on alignment, reaction rolls, morale, asymmetric encounters, and faction intrigue, all classic rules subsystems and approaches that he argues contribute to a particular classic “ethos” of play.

Because people talking about classic tabletop roleplaying games have become balkanized over various social media platforms, and Twitter is a hellscape, and I may want to link or refer to this collection of threads in the future, I am spotlighting them here. I also used Thread Reader App to create thread pages so that the threads can be read in a more bloglike format, for those that so desire:

Dark Souls 2 Rat King Covenant

It is probably worth noting, since this is the Internet, that my spotlight means “useful and worth reading” rather than that I agree with all threads on all points and in all particulars. For example, I would say that alignment as adventurer allegiance (rather than adventurer moral commitment) can function quite apart from moral essentialism, to say nothing of less savory interpretations. Law and Chaos as depicted in OD&D (and the refined “Basic” rulesets) is fuzzy in this regard, easily pushed in either direction. To be more explicit in notion, consider using alignment categories such as Unseelie, Neutral, Seelie, or Rebel Alliance, Neutral, Galactic Empire rather than Chaos, Neutral, Law (or, God help us all, the baroque murk that is the AD&D 3×3 matrix).

In case you want to create similar thread pages using Thread Reader App, here is how to do so A) without cluttering up someone else’s thread and B) without cluttering up your own timeline.

  1. Quote-retweet the thread in question with only the text:
    @threadreaderapp unroll
  2. Wait for the @ reply from @threadreaderapp (which in my experience takes a few seconds)
  3. Save the URL provided in this reply (which you could also derive from the original Twitter thread URL based on the tweet ID)
  4. Delete your quote-tweet that was originally addressed to @threadreaderapp
  5. Now the unrolled thread page persists for future reference

(You may need to follow @threadreaderapp first as well, but I am unsure.)

You can also easily print the unrolled thread pages to PDF, perhaps with the help of extensions to exclude distracting images, and so forth.

Dark Souls 2 Rat King: Rejoice!

(All post images are personal screen shots.)

6 thoughts on “Ethos of Play

  1. Gus L.

    On alignment, I tend to agree that as a setting element and as loyalty, allegiance or faction membership “alignment” is less essentialist, but here we’re talking about the context of Gygax’s original (seemingly strongly held?) efforts to make it some kind of ethics — and a system rule. 9 part alignment is in every TSR setting as far as I know, which is kinda silly, and that’s the problem in 5E. Alignment comes in as this legacy rule, vestigial to 5E’s ethics of play (like light, timekeeping and non-combat movement rates) but which interacts with them in a way that cements moral and through it racial essentialism as elements of official play. I don’t think it’s intentional — but it is the legacy of D&D’s Western, Pulp and Tolkien influences combining with Gygax and friend’s post-war Midwestern, Christian, White guy values/worldview and wargamer obsessions that blends with Perkins era, videogamey design principles to offend a lot of players.

    If one pulls at enough of those threads, the concept of cosmic allegiance even isn’t an issue.

    I’d point out that the 4th thread is about Asymmetrical Encounters, not so much the overall concept of ethics of play, but thanks for the post on them.

    1. Necropraxis Post author


      I edited the post to relabel the fourth thread as Asymmetrical Encounters and added equivalent links for your most recent thread (Faction Intrigue).

      Re: 9-fold alignment: 4E used a five-fold approach reminiscent of Holmes as I recall, but that is a minor point.

  2. John Arendt

    Brendan, this is a great compilation of thoughts – I haven’t spent much time on Twitter. Very cool to see Gus L still out there sharing game thoughts with the world after Dungeon of Signs closed. Has Twitter become the major locus of discussion in the post-G+ world?

    Regarding the theses, I can see how over-reliance on alignment can lead to paint-by-numbers reduction in decision making, but I’d argue older games had that as well – to me the differences are more around the “hero mentality” of 5E where all opponents are demonized, the design is linear, and combat is assumed to be the default solution to every problem. The analysis of reaction rolls, morale, and the interaction with the XP system resonates with me a lot more, and I like how the analysis of encounter desing vs level design ties it all together. Lots to consider across these posts!

    1. Necropraxis Post author

      Yeah Gus decided Twitter wasn’t for him. Maybe not a bad choice in the big picture. I am still there, but much less active (the signal to noise ratio is rather bad even with heavy curation).

      I do have the threads saved (I tend to archive anything I think might be useful in the future as I don’t trust the web to stay put). I will ask Gus if it is okay to post the saved versions, so the post isn’t full of dead links.


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