This is the eighty-ninth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
A practical guide for OSR designers, and a useless road map for pundits.
From earlier entries in this series, I have learned that “OSR” stands for Old School Renaissance, referring to a style of tabletop role-playing game that reaches back to the earliest examples (such as Dungeons & Dragons) for inspiration, but offer various modern design twists on the classic formulae. As far as I can determine, ANTI-GORGIAS 2 has absolutely nothing to do with this.
ANTI-GORGIAS 2 is a miniature zine, apparently known as a “zini”. It is a mere two page PDF file, which if printed could be folded in half to create a four-page booklet. The first page features writing from Jared Sinclair, dated June 2020, describing in poetic and philosophical fashion the process of creating a work. Presumably the work in question is something related to an OSR game? There is mention of a pen, so something is being written and/or drawn. Maybe. It’s really not clear what is meant here, it seems like more general advice for creative endeavors in general. If indeed it is advice at all. Jared’s writing comes across more as a mood piece than anything else. I, at least, did not find it to be a “practical guide” in any sense of the term.
Following this is an excerpt from Ludwig Wittgenstein, dated 1953. Wittgenstein discusses the usage of language, and how words can be discussed in terms of how they are used, without ever assigning them specific definitions. For example, certain words could be used to match a color, while others are used for counting. I didn’t quite understand the point Wittgenstein was trying to make here. What is the purpose of making such a distinction in language? I was even more confused to discover that this excerpt ended the zini. That’s it. What, exactly, is this thing I just read?
I know, I know. I am the one who is supposed to explain what these bundle entries are to you, the reader. But ANTI-GORGIAS 2 seems to actively resist explanation. In an effort to impart some meaning onto it, I googled Gorgias, discovering that he was an ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher. According to Wikipedia, his few surviving philosophical writings are so ambiguous and full of metaphors and puns that scholars have no consensus on what, exactly, he believed. In that sense, ANTI-GORGIAS 2 seems more pro-Gorgias to me; it is similarly unclear what, if anything, it is trying to say. Still confused, I looked into the other things Jared Sinclair has made. As the “2” in the title implies, this is actually the second issue of the ANTI-GORGIAS zini, but neither the first nor the third and fourth issues are included in the bundle and shall therefore remain mysteries. Are there answers in them? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Looking further, I saw that Jared Sinclair — who does indeed write tabletop role-playing games, OSR or otherwise — has also written a slew of other zines, starting with the ANTI-SISYPHUS series, which has a whopping eight issues. These are billed as zines “for your old-school roleplaying needs”, but are they actually about old-school roleplaying? Or are they as weird as this spin-off zini? Since none of them are in the bundle, I cannot tell you. But the lineage does at least provide some context for ANTI-GORGIAS 2. From the taglines and pages for the ANTI-SISYPHUS issues, it’s clear that Sinclair is aware that these writings are not useful in the traditional sense, or perhaps in any sense. But maybe in combination they’ll cohere into something more.
Should you read ANTI-GORGIAS 2? I honestly do not know. Do you like philosophy? Poetic writing? If so, then maybe you should check it out. If you missed it in the bundle, it’s sold for a minimum price of $3.
That’s 89 down, and only 1652 to go!