Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Pits and Progress, Perils of Product...

Okay, sad news.  Life happens, and real life takes priority over our imaginary ones, even the semi-real companies that publish the games we play.  Recent events have forced us to rethink our priorities, and the second edition Pits & Perils is taking a backseat for now.  We're sorry; but there's a silver lining.  The first edition remains a playable system and, arguably, much closer to the hobby's finest instincts.  P&P was conceived as an amateur rulebook from the 1970s, and thanks to real life, it gets to be one for a little bit longer.

So last summer we promised a second edition Pits & Perils.  This was done with the very best of intentions; and it was something we were genuinely eager to take on.  No plan survives contact with the enemy; however, and 2020 was full of landmines ready to detonate and take a leg.  As the year wore on, it became abundantly clear that we weren't getting anywhere close to our optimistic projections of a 2021 release.  We want to get this right, and we can't do it quickly amid real life demands.  Let's just say the release is TBD...

Or DOA.  For now at least.  I'm sorry.  We hate disappointing people; but churning out crap to make an arbitrary deadline seems like a worse betrayal.  And this leads to a related issue; namely, the right balance of work and play, life and our hobbies.  Olde House Rules began as a hobby masquerading as a business; but at times it's felt like a business disguised as a hobby, which is exactly backwards.  So much of our venerable industry; its finest parts in my humble opinion, are the work of hobbyists laboring in their skivvies at four in the morning, birthing little bundles of joy for less than anything close to a living wage.

It has to be fun.  And preferably, it has to be a thing you do to escape the stress of your day job, whatever that may be.  Once play becomes work there's no play left, so I'm glad the hobby remains the domain of amateurs.  Long live the side hustle!  And the small press in all its glory.  This is where the pastime delivers.  Face it, games are only fun because people play them; and they're more enjoyable when there's a sense of ownership.  Turning play into work turns hobbies into productswhich brings to mind an exchange I had in 2017...

Buyer: Diceless Dungeons looks like crap.  What do the monsters look like?

Me: That's for you to decide.  The world is yours to create and populate as you wish.

Buyer: How come you don't have rules for (insert any mechanic here)?

Me: It's rules-lite, and we don't wanna tell you how to judge every little thing.

Buyer: Well maybe I could make my orcs look like this (emails a picture).

Me: That's awesome!  You should definitely do that (it was actually pretty cool).

Buyer: I was thinking of handling initiative with (insert house rule here). 

Buyer: And adding this to spells.  And this to the weapon rules.  And this magic item...

The last I heard he was still running a campaign.  He took 100% of the rules (I don't know if they picked up the expansion) and added 150% of his own material.  They're not running Diceless Dungeons; they're running their game using the Diceless Dungeons ruleset, which is how it's supposed to be.  Big press stuff is pretty sweet, but it's predisposed to its own problems; and one of the perils of product (TM) is that sooner or later, it appropriates the very choices players make, wraps them up, and sells them back as an expansion. 

Of course, professional products can also serve as inspiration for original campaigns, so I don't mean to knock 'em.  I own a few and delight in their gorgeous production and valuable content.  But the small-press scene offers another very worthwhile experience; a required experience, for those who wish to thrive creatively.  And for anyone lamenting the delay of a second edition Pits & Perils, remember that the first edition is 100% playable, and 100% what we intended to make: an old-school game that invites you, the players, to give it life...