Monday, March 18, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Grognardia

Content Warning: Pre-coffee navel gazing.

A couple of interesting posts this past week on the subject of James, Grognardia and Dwimmermount and how much a reputation can take before it is trashed beyond repair.

The posts are here and you can read them at your leisure if you haven't already.

Let's use Gorgonlilk's term and say this is the post Grognardia era. What does that mean (whether true or not, or descriptive or not) to the OSR blog reader in general?  
Well. We certainly have lost a voice, a cheerleader as it were.

And he was very vocal.  
Here is something I found interesting,  The daily visits to Grognardia are still about 1000 a day.   Not too shabby for a site that has not been updated since November really (and one post in December). 

Many people came to his site and then found the rest of this corner of the internet, but now I feel that many are going to his site only out of morbid curiosity.  

On one hand really, he is only late on a project.  If that were a crime then 80% of the gaming industry would be guilty of that.  On the other hand though he is on the line for nearly $50k, no communication and no paid free-lancers.  Which is some cases could be a crime.   While I have seen people and companies come back from worse PR problems, it hasn't been very many.

In those cases there is a lot of goodwill usually between the person/company and the community.  I think that the goodwill is being burned up here.

I don't know.  What do you all think?  Can James still pull himself out of the abyss and comeback?
Is there an OSR Oprah he can go to, sound contrite and get forgiveness?


WQRobb said...

I think he could make a comeback, albeit in a somewhat humbled form.

First, he could either bring forth the Dwimmermount product, or turn over what's he's done to Autarch and let them polish it up before releasing it. Either way, this seems like a pretty basic first step. There's a big difference between just keeping the money and turning in a very late product, which as you said is fairly common in the industry.

Second, he could, without getting to much into over-sharing, explain what happened. There's lots of speculation about his father, his own emotional state, etc. that is largely unfounded beyond internet rumors. Even if he said, "I hit an emotional wall and needed to focus on my personal life," I think most people would understand that (although many would not). Right now, there's nothing out there to explain his failure to make good on the Dwimmermount Kickstarter, which let's people assume, for example, that he went into his clam shell after some bad initial reviews. He needs to do something that could be called damage control.

Three, he comes back a humbler man, slowly rebuilding his brand, being a little more open to criticism of his views (he was a strict moderator of his own blog), and he focuses on just what he does well--offering a view of his ethos of roleplaying games, realizing that he'll never win over some of the people out there who will continue to enjoy grinding their axes over what happened.

But he's got to get the product out first, no question about that. And the people at Autarch seem to suggest that he isn't even taking their calls.

Stelios V. Perdios said...

I just hope the guy is okay.

I'm still following his blog, but I didn't invest in Dwimmermount. It sounded too much like a generic megadungeon with scant notes just judging by what J.M. talked about when he ran players through it, and as he developed it.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

In other news it looks like Petty Gods is moving forward.

Shane said...

I didn't back it either, but due to some recent personal events myself I have a new-found desire to at least wait and see what comes of all this when/if he does resurface. It's sometimes easy to judge others in the light of our own understanding of the situation rather than hold off until the man himself pokes his head above the parapet and offers an explanation. Of course I didn't lose any money(if anyone has) so it's maybe a little easier for me to step back from it all and be philosophical.

Whatever the outcome, I'm not so sure I like the way the blogosphere seems to be oh-so-keen to beat the guy over the head without actually knowing for sure what's happened.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


I don't think that is what is happening at all.

We can criticize what we do know. That is:
1. The project is late (understandable)
2. He had not bee in communication with the people he is financially liable too (not so easily dismissed).
3. No updates on when either of the above will change (not excusable).

Everything else is conjecture of course.

And that is also part of the issue. Conjecture is not a good way to manage an online profile, social presence or a business. At this money level he needs to be operating like a business.

Doctor Futurity said...

Well, I have no stake in the Dwimmermount thing but that last link you posted....what's up with that? The OSR rpg community is small enough that its sort of like being into Tunisian crochet and going to a series of websites about it featuring patterns and various creations for sale at etsi, and then stumbling across a single blog which spends all its time poop smearing everyone else's crochet patterns and calling them whores.

Anthony Simeone said...

Above all, I miss the enthusiasm and flow of interesting ideas that used to emanate from Grognardia. When JM used to put out tidbits about his home campaign, before Dwimmermount became a commodity, I used to eat up the details eagerly. I really like the creativity that JM was showing, and it was an inspiration for me, as someone who was coming back to the hobby. There was a genuine feeling to what JM was doing back in the day. But I think that some bloggers don't survive these attempts to become game designers/publishers. Some are cut out for it, some aren't. I'm thinking that James might be able to handle the burden, but it seems his life circumstances have gotten in the way. Or perhaps, even if he didn't have issues with his father's health, he might not have been able to deliver on the projects that people are upset about. Who knows? I don't fault him for being emotional over his life issues at the moment, but in this digital age there are plenty of ways to reach out to the world at large, especially when it comes to business associates, even from the depths of grief. But, who am I to judge?

Like I said, I miss the old days....