Sorcerer & Sword: "Eh."

Started by greyorm, June 21, 2008, 05:48:59 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


There's a new review of Sorcerer & Sword on, though of the "I don't have anything positive to say about this" variety.

I had the distinct feeling the reviewer was suffering from "Clearly Does Not Get It" syndrome in regards to Sorcerer's game play, the purpose of the game's supplements, etc. but as I found the thick paragraphs and odd grammar not quite worth my time to fully wade through, I may have missed some critical argument supporting his assertions or some validity to the manifold niggling criticisms.

(To give you an idea of the tone/attitude of the review, I make out better than Ron: my illos for the book are considered interesting but incompetent, while Les Evans' are called uninteresting but proficient. That is as nice as the review gets.)
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Shucks, I've been meaning to write a playtest review of Sorcerer & Sword for some time, though I wanted to postpone it until I had another full run under my belt.  IME RPG.Net doesn't respond well to factual corrections or merit-based arguments, but they do appreciate positive enthusiasm.

Ron Edwards

I haven't read this review, and probably won't. There are so many ways a Sorcerer book can get a poor review, and they kind of wear me out after a while.

My take is that there's no percentage in trying to wrangle with reviewers. I guess if someone felt activist about it, he or she could link to Ken Hite's original review, which in my view pretty much says it all. The only really constructive hope I have in an internet environment is to see a lot of reviews - if most have clear and honest content, including criticisms from specific points of view, then the "didn't get it" or "trying to score points" reviews stand out quite obviously.

Without being all big-headed, I am happy with that book. I think it's the best I could have done, and the extraordinary feedback it's received over the years has been great.

Best, Ron


Sergio uses the Earthsea stories as a reference for S&S tropes. I may be mistaken, but I think he may have also used Tolkien.

The Earthsea stories are many things, most of them wonderful things, but they aren't under my label of sword & sorcery.

The review is about as useful as any review of an rpg that the reviewer hasn't played, and approached with hostility.*

*Note: anyone want to guess why my posting about RPG's and reviewing RPG's has dropped to nearly zero? I'm living in the middle of nowhere, don't like most online play, and I've only just passed my driving test. I'm not damn well playing any more, so I'm not damn well reviewing, or pontificating, until I get to play some more. I'm certainly not going to start reviewing stuff I bought in some fetishistic need to acquire materials around a genre I've got a shaky grasp on in order to somehow demonstrate my superiority to the authors. It's like reviewing porn when you haven't had sex for years and don't clearly remember it, but damn, those people are doing it weird and wrong.
Pete Darby


QuoteThe review is about as useful as any review of an rpg that the reviewer hasn't played, and approached with hostility.

Yes, precisely.  I do not understand why people persist in reviewing games they haven't played, especially when they seem to have severe problems with the text's approach to the material.  "I hate this sight unseen and I don't want to learn!  But trust me when I tell you about it."

I've refrained from reviewing Sorcerer & Sword precisely because I haven't had to use the mechanical tweaks for the sword fights & the otherworld yet.  It bugs me that someone else would be so irresponsible, but I guess that's the internet for you.

Christopher Kubasik

It's a comedy of errors from start to finish...

Despite Ron's sage advice about his own choices on these matters, I went and read the review.

There are lots of things to comment on that aren't worth the time to comment on.  But this one thing set off all the alarm bells and wrapped it up nicely for me: the "actual play" part of the review is Sergio rolling dice with himself to determine the outcome of a combat with some characters me made upo for a fight.  Really.  He rolled dice, looked at the values, determined who got the higher one, and adjudicted in the favor of the character with the higher value.  And that was his combat example.

Which meant that when Sergio wrote in the comments section, "Kickers, bangs and similar devices are not about the system, they are at most useful ideas, good suggestions, and nothing else," I wasn't at all surprised.
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


Reviews and posts like Sergio's are exactly the kind of things that cause any progress on Sorcerer Unbound to grind to a halt.  I have real issues with the idea that you can't *make* someone understand something.  A very real deep part of me wants to believe desperately that understanding is just a matter of repeating yourself with enough variations until you find the right one for this person.  I know that's a naive lie but to contemplate the reality of it makes me very upset.  Like childish, tantrum, want-to-break-stuff, and should-probably-talk-to-a-therapist-about-it-level upset.

Anyway, Christopher, you were very brave to wade into that conversation at all.



After following the post-review "discussion" and taking the reviewer's presented attitude and certain counter-"points" into account, it began to seem likely it was not so much a review as a political statement that doesn't care whether or not it understood or represented the product being reviewed.

I could be wrong, of course, and earlier it seemed there were some suggestions I was...but given the attitude and nature of the responses to efforts by a number of folks to politely criticize where the reviewer's understanding of the material fell down, that notion was quickly disabused. Note his own admission that he doesn't want to listen, and if we consider there's a counter-argument from the reviewer that consists of: "Well, you're just an Edwards fan-boy." it might occur that this isn't about S&S or RPGs or reviewing games. It's about swine.

And I think we all know what that means.

Which is why, Jesse, I don't think you should throw your hands up in the air over this. The reviewer doesn't WANT to get it; in fact, he's actively OPPOSED to getting it.

He is not the target audience for Unbound, or even AN audience.

As soon as you realize guys like Sergio are the hobby equivalent of Creationists spouting fake and illogical counter-arguments to evolutionary theory and repeating flawed assertions as rebuttals to those same flawed assertions being pointed out, caring what he thinks will stop mattering because thinking has no part in his argument. He is a troll who has found an effective audience through reviews.

And trolls aren't interested in how games work or how to understand games.

So you aren't trying to write for this guy. You aren't writing for him because he doesn't want to understand Sorcerer, either pro or con. He just wants to stir the shit. That seems harsh and uncharitable, but becomes pretty clear when you read the review and the material that follows in the thread: the classic signs are blatantly extant (note the Analysis section: outward claims of sincerity disproven by behavior, the use of intentionally demeaning statements, the futility of all arguments, the position of blamelessness).

You can't consider these folks' "position" when you're thinking about writing Unbound, because you're trying to be charitable to a position charity is useless in response to. Doing so is like giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who is clearly lying -- who is insisting the sky is red, solely to see how long you'll argue with him, and becoming disheartened because you wonder how you'll ever explain the sky is blue. Clearly you won't!

It isn't about the truth-or-falsehood of the argument-at-hand (that's always just a convenient and insincere veneer): the conversation can always become about something else that can be shit-stirred for a while. In this case, it isn't about whether or not Sorcerer works, or how it works, or if it does what it says or doesn't. At all. That particular other guy is not interested in what color the sky actually is.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Oh, I understand all that.  What I find so disheartening is that (a) such an outlook exists and (b) that there's nothing to be done about it.  I'm a fan of the Law & Order spin off Criminal Intent because it indulges my fantasy that there's always a way to break someone.  That there's always a way to make them look in the mirror and see themselves for who they really are and feel shame for it.  There was a thread on Story Games asking about what super power you would want and I said, "the ability to impart perfect understanding."  But this is a personal issue of mine and I'll get over it.  I just wanted to commiserate with the disappointment and frustration with the review.


Per Fischer

Don't let this particular kind of stupidity drag you down, Jesse. I know what you mean, and I feel the same desperation about not being able to do anything about it, but hey...

I had a hope, albeit a small one, that since this person went to great lengths paying for the books and writing up the longest review in the world, there might be a chance of him listening to calm advice. Apparently not.

"Eh" indeed.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Look on the bright side, he apparently paid cash money that ultimately goes in part to Ron.
Pete Darby

Ron Edwards

My view exactly - with the additional hope that, one day, he might sell them on eBay or any other second-hand venue, such that a person who actually wants the books will come to own them.

Might I suggest that everyone involved in this thread has spent altogether enough (at least enough) time on this person? I mean, spend time as you see fit, but that's my suggestion.

Best, Ron


I just read Sergio's review and all 7 pages of the following Sorcerer & Sword review discussion.  The reviewer does understand Sorcerer and even has some good things to say about Ron Edward's core RPG.  However, Sergio did not see the worth in Sorcerer's supplement, Sorcerer & Sword. 

The reviewer makes his claims clearly and logically.  He only gets exasperated at the end of the 7 page back and forth, and I can understand his frustration at being told "No, you just don't see it the right way" and then basically being called an idiot for not understanding certain portions of S&S nonsense.  Many people, like the ones here at the Forge, try to make him see reason... their reason.  To Sergio (and I must agree), a lot of Sorcerer & Sword tries to make the reader believe that 2 + 2 = 5.  Many posters insist that indeed 2 + 2 does equal 5, yet still Sergio will not see "reason"!

If you don't agree, then that's fine.  Everyone entitled to their own opinion, etc.  Mistaking his analysis of this product as a bashing of someone's gaming politics or off-beat RPG paradigm, however, is totally missing the point.  Sergio knows the sword and sorcery genre well and has proved it with his knowledgeable, insightful critique.  Read his review on its own merits, isolated from other pro or con reviews of Ron Edward's books.  You may be surprised that Sergio has a point...

Zoltar Delgado

Ron Edwards

All discussion of that review can stay at, where there's software dedicated exactly to that purpose.

This thread didn't have much purpose in the first place, and now that it's attracting some kind of spillover from the discussion at, it has no purpose. So, no more posting to it, from anyone.

The preceding post is striving to be flamebait and deserves no attention here.