Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Fantastic Medieval Campaigns

Fantastic Medieval Campaigns (FMC) by Marcia B. is a great retroclone and restatement of Original D&D: it's clearly written, well organized, contains a table of contents for the book and then a table of contents in each section, has a glossary and indices for monsters, spells, and tables, and uses the color backgrounds of the pages well to make finding the different sections easy. The art is charming and appropriate for a OD&D retroclone, and the layout is clean. It includes a retroclone of Chainmail, which is rare. I like it very much. And the PDF is free! I got the hardback color book and read it and want to run at least two campaigns with it, the first using its Chainmail retroclone, “Chain of Command”, and the next with the d20 based combat system.

But, but, but! The back cover text says “problematize our preconceptions of a text (or even a whole genre)” and mentions “falsehood”. And the contents of the last page of the text, which is labeled “This Page Intentionally Left Blank.”, are certainly not blank, and expresses opinions of D&D that must surely offend many D&D players. I'll quote it here:

Fantastic Medieval Campaigns is a recreation of what is at best a deeply reactionary work of art—if not a fascist one altogether. We recognize now that the authors, as well as some who were in their circle, thought quite badly of women, indigenous people, and others. However, we should let the text speak for itself because it speaks loudly. The book is a guide to fantastic war game campaigns, where the players take on the roles of sword-and-sorcery adventurers seeking greatness. They will begin in the Underworld simply slaying monsters and retrieving treasure in the form of gold, legal tender ready to be exchanged on the open market. As characters accumulate treasure, they acquire superhuman abilities and political power to boot. Heroes, Thaumaturgists, and Bishops emerge from their colonial katabasis conquering land by which to become Lords, Wizards, and Patriarchs. They will establish sanctuaries and, with their vast armies, turn the tide against the forces of evil chaos they have always ‘resisted' thus far. The setting in general is one where might makes right, where the violent extraction of resources is central to the protagonists activity, and where participation in these things is rewarded with not only political power bu the sort of physiological and supernatural power which colonizers and fascists imagined themselves to have. It is a mirror to the desires and fantasies of its original authors, a bunch of white, straight, cissexual men in the Midwest, just as it is a reflection of boys' pulp literature at the height of American culture about crushing one's enemies and driving them before oneself and hearing the lamentations of their women. All in all, this work was not written in a vacuum nor did it spring fully formed from the heads of its creators. You can use this book however you like or even attempt to play it with the mindset of a midcentury American man, but do not delude yourself with regards to its content or to the fantasy which it encodes. That being said, as the author, I offer up this work for analysis, critique, and reflection.

Well, that certainly put the coyote in the chicken house! It is definitely controversial in OSR circles. Honestly, though, I'm not sure that furor was worth following.

I just want to point out that, whatever the author's opinions of D&D, they wrote FMC so they could more easily understand the rules, so they could better play D&D with their friends, and according to a friend of theirs they spent over a year working on it.

Regardless of whether I agree with their views or not, FMC is a well written game and its author should be proud of it. It can be used to run some great games. If you don't agree with the author's views, just ignore them and play the game.

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