Sunday, October 10, 2010

World Of Synnibarr Redux

Many moons ago it was mentioned that I had a copy of The World Of Synnibarr in my collection.

Now it seems it is potentially off to a good home.

The World Of Synnibarr is liberally derided by many. Having read, but never played the game, I admit my perspective is somewhat shallow.

I've heard vague reports that Raven McCracken's campaign was not unlike that of Dave Hargrave's.

But while Hargrave is hailed as a hero of self-publishing and gonzo D&D house-ruling, McCracken is mocked for his World Of Synnibarr setting.

Interestingly, one of the criticisms of World Of Synnibarr is this: "McCracken is, incidentally, addicted to the percentile dice roll, and not in the good Unknown Armies / Call of Cthulhu way; he'll use them for everything. You'll see more of this later."

Is McCracken's material that bad, or does he get unfair rap?

9 comments:

Roger the GS said...

Well, could be that 2 year old (hobbies) can get away with cute stuff that 20 year old (hobbies) can't.

Or that Arduin is a set of modular add-ons to D&D that might have some gems you can use among the clutter, while Synnibarr is a one-piece-forged 500 page chunk of WTF.

Doc Grognard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doc Grognard said...

I think that your premise may be flawed: I'm pretty sure I remember Hargrave mostly being mocked or derided by gamers of old. Granted, pre internet, I had much less opportunity to hear lots of opinions, but there didn't seem to be too much love for arduin across several areas I lived and gamed in.
I clearly remember a particulalry over the top interview for some mainstream mag he did in...1981 ? That was amazingly cringeworthy, and remember him being described as "The RPG communities raving loon"

Honestly, I have no idea why hes a hero now, except that he may be getting the benefit of 1. being as old as classic D&D, and 2. being in the magical digest form.

Perhaps it was youth and immaturity, but while there were some cool bits, it was pretty much a dogs dinner in terms of presenting anything other than campaign notes in a barely comprehensable manner; certainly NOT anything resembling a coherent game -rules or setting. I understand that after 5-6 books it might, but when 1 & 2 were all there was, welll........


I do have to admit that that incoherence is something it does share with Arneson's first fant. campaign rules (the JG edition), which I love; so, who knows. Perhaps I'm a hypocrite.

You asked....;)

Scott said...

I've seen more laudatory comments about Hargrave in the last few years than in the prior decades. But then again, the same is true of OD&D, which was considered unplayable by the vast bulk of players (probably still is).

The last few years has seen a deliberate embrace of "gonzo" gaming, where Referees consciously make their campaigns and settings into what people like Dave Hargrave did naturally. (I've done the same thing, so not indicting anyone.) It's a perfectly enjoyable and valid way to game, but the point is that it didn't get a lot of respect until recently, and you certainly didn't hear about folks deliberately running "gonzo" campaigns except for the occasional hipster-ironic sort of thing.

I've read World of Synnibarr. I love the Arduin books, but there are very few essential differences between them and Synnibarr. McCracken had the misfortune of publishing in the wrong decade to benefit from the nostalgic "respect renaissance," and his public displays of grandiosity took place on rpg.net, where the hivemind kicked in and he quickly became a laughingstock.

Will Mistretta said...

Never read Arduin, but if it's anything like Synnibarr, I'm not sure Hargrave should be celebrated as a hero of anything, except possibly unintentional comedy. There's a thin line between gonzo and retarded.

Giant mutant fire clams, Dux-Ryu Ninjas, skateboarding gods, and giant Italian accountants with flying space gondolas.

It's great, but it's train wreck, "Plan Nine From Outer Space" great. Synnibarr's sole value is in two or more people getting together to do live readings of random passages ala The Eye of Argon.

shimrod said...

They're both pretty terrible games. Often-incoherent visions of very creative, driven, undoubtedly stoned GMs who were able to get away with running crazy games and writing the way they did because their players were no doubt highly entertained, and didn't give them any editorial criticism. This doesn't translate well through print, sadly.

I met Raven and played in a couple of his Con games in the early 90s, and wound up joining his gaming group for around a year before I moved back to the East coast in '93(my name's in the front of that last edition as a playtester). He was a great GM; a ton of fun. His game is pretty crazy, but works as an (admittedly unbalanced, overcomplicated, and totally gonzo) fantasy adventure game. It IS playable, though probably not worth the effort of learning unless you'd be playing it with Raven or one of his other close buddies.

steelcaress said...

The system, by and large, is Rifts-iculous -- that is, a kitchen-sink gonzo setting married to an awful system with too many zeroes on the end of everything. I'm actually working on a Risus conversion of the the gonzoverse, a combination of Rifts, Encounter Critical, SenZar, and Synnibar.

Risus is extremely rules-lite -- you just list a few things they can do and put a number next to 'em.

Andreas Davour said...

Hey, the combination of Synnibarr and Rifts sounds too good to miss.

We played Synnibarr a few times way back. It was hillarious and we just goofed off like crazy.

There was a thread on rpg.net when somebody tried to do a read through off it, and I laughed so hard I cried.

It's not good, but it is fun if you like weird shit.

Al said...

Um, no, Synnibar does not equal Arduin. Not by a long shot. That's like saying Plan 9 was pretty much the same as Forbidden Planet. Arduin may have been "gonzo" (though at its heart it was really just hobbits and dungeons), Synnibar was... plain mad. Besides, Arduin's "gonzo" had more to do with setting flavor, whereas Synnibar's crazy is built right into the "rules". :)