Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Kitchen Sink and Dirty Dishes

I'm doing a pretty lousy job of posting more, no? Go on, be honest. I can take it.

That bad, huh? Sheesh.

I can't seem to help it. I want to post, really I do. I'm just exhausted lately. Business hasn't been especially good (though it's improving thank goodness), and yet I'm completely wiped out by the time I get home.

There is also the matter of this feeling I'm experiencing that, well, I don't know what to call it. A gaming black hole? A creative singularity if you will. I'm involved with a number of good, even great games, but I still have this spot in the core of my being that remains unfulfilled.

More on that another time...


JB over at B/X BLACKRAZOR made a post a few days back that inspired me to think about 'Gonzo Gaming'.

What is 'Gonzo Gaming'?

Strangely, the definition of what Gonzo means is a bit vague. Unlike so many other elements of modern geek slang, I found it very difficult to find an exacting explanation of Gonzo. Perhaps that's because the very nature of Gonzo is so crazy it's hard to describe.

As I understand it, Gonzo refers to a style of gaming where over-the-top, everything and the kitchen sink, bat-s#*^ crazy is the order of the day.

I've always found that kind of strange.

Now don't get me wrong, in my early days I had my fair share of Gonzo elements in my games. I played, and ran Gamma World, threw magical mecha into my homebrew D&D world, and while I never went full on RIFTS, extra-dimensional travel to, and from our plane wasn't unheard of.

As I moved forward through my time in the hobby, I partook in Gonzo style campaigns less, and less. I've now reached the point where I really don't care for Gonzo in the traditional sense.

If Gonzo is 'The Kitchen Sink', what I perceive is a thing I'm calling 'Dirty Dishes'.

The Kitchen Sink approach means anything that can be conceived of is put into the game if so desired. What you end up with [IMHO] is Dirty Dishes - basically a big mess where little bits of everything get stuck on everything else, but none of it's as appetizing as it was in its original presentation.

I've made a few curious observations over the last few years in regards to Gonzo gaming.

First, people like Gonzo. That is, most people I've met and gamed with seem to really enjoy it.

Second, and I'm sure this is directly related to the first observation, many newer, and/or younger players don't really comprehend the tropes of various genres.

See, if every game you play allows for, contains, and promotes ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, it is extremely difficult to then introduce you to a game where some stuff just doesn't fit.

Player: Why can't a play a Japanese Samurai in a game of Pendragon?

Me: Well, it's complicated. Essentially it comes down to THIS IS FREAKIN' PENDRAGON! Name the goddamn Samurai in the Arthurian myths. Go ahead, I'll wait. Ain't none? Why? ENGLAND. FIFTH CENTURY. Did I mention we are playing PENDRAGON!

There is certainly a time and place for magic in your Cyberpunk (Shadowrun), or a guy in powered armor standing next to a Russian secret agent, next to an Asgardian God, BUT those are awesome ideas made special by being unique genre situations on to themselves.

Shadowrun is cool, but so is Cyberpunk being Cyberpunk.

You can play Deadlands, but a slightly spooky, subtly supernatural Western is also cool.

Comic Book Superheroes is a genre. Everything shouldn't be Comic Book Superheroes.

All out Gonzo can bury the atmosphere, and feel of a setting under a mountain of Woohoo-Wacky. If there even is an atmosphere. Usually, it seems to me that Gonzo has no feel at all with the exception of a feeling of chaos. Things are nutty, and out of control, and that is the prevailing way the players and GM think of the game.


I have absolutely no interest in that type of game anymore.

I want parameters that identify the game as a Science Fiction RPG, or a Medieval Fantasy RPG, or whathaveyou.

I love tropes. I do. I love' em. I want to see them when I play in a given type of game. I want them to fit, and I want them to matter.

I want the rules of the universe, not the rule mechanics of the game*, to make sense within the confines of said universe. Few things are as important to me as a setting's internal consistency. It is the unified field that holds all the elements of the game together, and simultaneously gives it the vibe of being a living, breathing place.

I've rarely been in a D&D, Gamma World, or RIFTS game where I felt that vibe. I hardly ever feel like these places are truly functioning milieu.

This is an important consideration for me, especially now... I am running such a Kitchen Sink game.

Barking Alien

*Of course I want the rule mechanics to make sense as well, but only in the most general sense. Seriously. Like the systems in most old games actually made any kind of 'sense'. Har Har.


  1. First of all, actual gaming takes away a lot of the time you'd expend writing about gaming. Don't feel sorry for that, it is quite common.

    I myself tend to narrow down wide settings, stating, for example, that we are playing mystic superheroes or ancient Greece-themed D&D. I think it makes campaign creation easier and more enjoyable. In fact, with the advent of D&D 5 and me taking a hand in creating a cohesive setting for the main GM, I have come to enjoy D&D like never before.

    For me, having a universe with rules doesn't constrain creativity, but enhances it.

    1. This is precisely how I feel.

      I admit that this wasn't always the case. For a very long time I equated rules limiting what I could do as a player, or GM as being limited, and hindered. Now I've matured, and I get it. It is these rules that reinforce a genres specific dos, don'ts, and particulars. This is vital in generating the 'look and feel' you are going for.