Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Okay, I’ve Got My Work Cut Out For Me…!

Back in the day, I was just another underweight nerd pulling off some crazy prank with an underground newspaper run off on his high school’s photocopier. Today? I am “the blog star” of an upstart science fiction and fantasy publisher. The more things change…!

It’s no slight to Daniel, Scooter, Mascaro, or me to say that Jeffro, of the Space Gaming Blog, has been the star of the Castalia House blog this year. He makes everyone up their game by starting each week off with an intriguing, in-depth post, and gives our four new bloggers a high level of excellence to aim for.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. I particularly liked this comment:

Jeffro’s posts have all been fantastic, BTW. That guy gets gaming, really gets it. I especially appreciated his descriptions of how hard and frustrating it can be. Finding opponents, making deals with friends, desperately trying to get that gaming experience we crave.

That’s what I’m looking for when I read somebody else’s article on a gaming related topic. Does this person get itTo hear that (at least for this person) that I’m “that guy” is just awesome.

Then there’s this one:

I’ve especially enjoyed the Appendix N stuff, and found it a gateway to a fair amount of binging on related internet reading, particularly ODD.

I’ve said this before, but the reason I sound like an expert is that I read lots of game bloggers. There’s so many times that I write a really deep observation only to realize I’m just summing up somebody else’s killer post into a single sentence. Every time that happens, I go and footnote it so that other people can go back to the source for more of the same. I’m really glad to hear that that’s actually happening. Lapsed gamers are dusting off their old box sets, too. It’s working!!!

The one remark that takes the cake, though, has got to be this one:

The Castalia House blog has been good all around. It has replaced Black Gate in my reading list.


Okay, I admit it. I’ve thought for a long time now that both Black Gate and were in desperate need of some competition. To think Castalia House is already putting some pressure on them– before we even got our four new bloggers rolling, either– that just warms the cockles of my heart.

And while I’m thinking of it… this split here… I just don’t see it as being necessarily political. If you look at my best gaming posts and Appendix N stuff over at Castalia House, you can see that there’s usually so much that I want to be able to convey in a readable manner that I don’t have time to touch on political issues. But if you look back at the other guys at Black Gate and… it’s like they can’t stop themselves. When I’m pivoting to some related game design topic, they’ve long since gone off the rails. A case in point is the time that guy brought up demi-human level limitations had to call this out as evidence of Gygax being racist. (?!) And I thought I’d heard everything in the game blog scene…!

You’d never get away with that on a game blog. You just wouldn’t. It’s just completely off the wall. I mean, you want to blow my mind, go explain why variable weapon damage was an unnecessary development. There’s no room for any smoke and mirrors there. It just seems like, if you start slinging P.C. nonsense around, it’s probably because you don’t have anything substantial to say. And even if you do, you won’t. And if you spend half your post apologizing for some aspect of golden age science fiction and fantasy, you never really get deep into anything that really matters about it.

Once you come to realize that this is how things work and stick with it a while, it’s kind of unnerving. It’s hard to go back to the fluffy stuff after that. That’s why I expect the audience at Castalia House to keep growing. There’s really no contest when people know that they have a choice.

Okay, that’s some truly epic amounts of praise there. So much so, that I have to dial it back. So let’s get real here:

First, I don’t really do research. I mean, I read books and play games… and that’s pretty much where I stay. There’s so much to convey just with that, there isn’t any room to go digging into letters and memos and so on. If you want “real” research, go check out what Jon Peterson is doing.

Secondly, I’m not really a literary critic. You want “real” literary criticism, go read T. A. Shippey’s Road to Middle Earth. At best, I am doing a survey that can possibly be of use to other people that want to plan their own excursions, but hey… I’m no scholar by any stretch.

Finally, these are not essays. Maybe something like what I do would have done something for me in an English class, I don’t know. But if you say “essay”, I think of G. K. Chesterton and Wendell Berry. That’s not me. Sure, I want what I write to correspond to reality and accurately convey things as they really are. But I mainly want to write something that people will read. It’s a weird balance and I don’t know that “essay” is quite the right term for it. That’s why I went with “retrospective” instead.

Anyway… it was just 15 posts that I did on the Appendix N books last year. That’s all it took to cause people to start accusing me of being an expert on the topic. That’s crazy, really. I think it’s a sign of how little there is out there on this subject and how there really is a sound reason to trudge on and finish the project. Nobody’s done a book-sized survey of the material. I do come across people that are fluent in the books, but I won’t be able to completely understand what they’re saying about them until I read them a good deal more…! Those guys mostly have bigger fish to fry, so it’s up to me to see this through. (No, I never imagined it’d be that way. All I really wanted to do was cause a big enough splash at Castalia House that people would listen to what I have to say about Car Wars and Ogre…! Seriously…!)

So the goal for the year is… 30 more posts on the remaining Appendix N books. That comes out to about eight a quarter, which should be doable. People mention how I’ve raised the bar and stuff, but really… I need to not over think this at this point. Sure, I don’t want to phone it in during the last laps, either…. But I really need to cut the prima donna schtick and just do the work.

I look back at those first fifteen posts and think of all the times I spent getting up at 4AM to go after it. Man, it ain’t easy. I really have burned through my reserves in so many ways. If I’m going to get through this without self destructing, I gotta get smart about it…! But thanks for the vote of confidence, everyone. It helps. It makes this fun, too.

Now to get back to it…!

5 responses to “Okay, I’ve Got My Work Cut Out For Me…!

  1. dgarsys January 1, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Love your stuff, and am damned glad I stumbled across it.

    FWIW – would love to arrange a PBM/online game of SFB or Car Wars at some point. Don’t have rules to the latter anymore.

    Also finishing up making counters for Fifth Frontier War so I can play the game out locally before trying Vassal.

    • jeffro January 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Actually, a PBM SFB game would work sometime.

      I remember when you first turned up. I was reviewing Hugo-related books just to see what the fuss was about. It was procrastination, though– I wanted to do a good job on Lewis Pulsipher’s book and was practicing my review skills on those others. Those posts didn’t set the world on fire, but they go me me slot at Castalia House. You were about the only person to really comment on them!

      • dgarsys January 2, 2015 at 10:46 am

        You put into words something I had felt. Being a gamer I had to either say “right on” or argue where I thought you didn’t get it right.

  2. BobtheCertifiedIdiot January 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    As a fantasy reader, I know that some modern material is poor, and that some of the old stuff is pretty solid. I’ve read a number of older authors because a later writer recommended it. Absent your coverage, I might not have realized that Gygax’s tastes might overlap with my own. (A number of the better modern writers say some nice things about Amber Diceless. I was tempted to chime on that post.)

    My branching out was less following the footnotes, and more the best ten of 2014.

    Some of my favorite material for expanding on D&D archetypes does not come from gaming blogs. If you read Black’s A Ranger Born, you will understand why JRR called Aragorn a ranger. I prefer to call the archetype Fighting Man, and can quickest explain why by pointing at Ric Locke’s discussion of the concept as relates to John Carter.

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