Synnibarr vs WotC

I had never heard of this feud before today:

synnibarr.JPG


It appears that Raven McCracken, author of the infamous RPG Synnibarr, blames WotC (specifically Peter Atkinson) for the failure of Synnibarr and his followup game Crypt. I have to take the claim that "Synnibarr was the first, the best and still light years ahead of the market" with a large grain of salt. And, given Synnibarr's reputation, I doubt WotC had to do much work to keep it down. But is there any validity to the other claims? Was there drama with Synnibarr and GenCon at some point?

If anyone knows more about this story, I would love to hear it. Google hasn't revealed anything worthwhile yet.
 

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darjr

I crit!
There is this
I can't speak to what McCracken says, mostly because I can't find the comment of his that you're referencing, but it's worth noting that John Tynes confirms that McCracken did interview for a job with WotC:

The first thing I noticed about my new employer was how the halls of the offices ran rampant with representatives of alt culture. Up to that point managers' hiring practices seemingly consisted of recruiting anyone they gamed, partied or slept with, and preferably all three. If you were a Seattle gamer in 1994-95, you had to be willfully incompetent to not get a job at Wizards. (That happened, of course. One guy interviewing for a customer service position expressed enthusiasm at the anything-goes dress code, since it meant he could wear his "Star Trek" uniform to work every day. I myself interviewed Raven C.S. McCracken, who was already a legendary industry boob for his terrible self-published role-playing game, the World of Synnibarr. When Raven told me that if I didn't hire him his next job interview would be at Burger King, I thanked him for his time and politely showed him the door. The aspiring Enterprise crewman suffered the same fate.)
 




Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I don't know him from Adam, and don't know anything about the situation. Based solely on that screenshot above, he comes off as an arrogant jerk who thinks way too highly of himself. As someone whose been designing games myself since 1986, many of his claims are....dubious at best. It really comes off as "I am the best EVAR! I invented all of this, why won't those jerks treat me like I see myself!"
 


I feel like I'm missing the bigger picture here. I promise I'm not trolling, but I have never heard of this game.

What was Synnibarr, and why is it considered "infamous"?



Now, to make those lists you actually have to sell a decent amount so that people have heard of and attempted to play the game. I have fond memories of game nights where we played, but couldn't tell you anything our characters did.
 

Drake2000

Explorer
I don't know him from Adam, and don't know anything about the situation. Based solely on that screenshot above, he comes off as an arrogant jerk who thinks way too highly of himself. As someone whose been designing games myself since 1986, many of his claims are....dubious at best. It really comes off as "I am the best EVAR! I invented all of this, why won't those jerks treat me like I see myself!"
I spent a few hours talking with Raven at a Con in 1992. He was pretty convinced Syynibarr was a revolutionary game. I read through it, and it was akin to seeing a tractor trailer turned upside down next to the highway: It's interesting, and you wonder just how it happened, but it's still a total wreck.
 



Faolyn

(she/her)
I feel like I'm missing the bigger picture here. I promise I'm not trolling, but I have never heard of this game.

What was Synnibarr, and why is it considered "infamous"?
I actually owned the game way back when. It's bad, but also so over-the-top bad that it might make for a fun read. It's not like FATAL or SF:NG where it's bad and filled with bigotry or other nasty things. At least not from what I recall--I owned it probably 25-30 years ago and I doubt I read the book more than once.

It's basically built entirely for powergamers and includes a rule that the GM not only is supposed to stick to the adventure completely, but the players can demand to look at the adventure to make sure that they did. So it has a GM vs. Player mentality, but on the side of the player; the GM is just supposed to provide things to kill. The basic setting itself isn't terrible--a god or gods, seeing that some disaster would destroy the Earth, hollowed out Mars and turned it into a World Ship, filled it with people and magic and weird science, then sent it off into the cosmos. A competent GM could do something with that idea. It's just that neither the lore and rules make any sense and McCracken started off by insulting other RPGs (because his was so much better) but fell into the exact same traps he claimed made those other games bad.
 


An example is that Raven points out that there are 1,400 spells and abilities. FOURTEEN HUNDRED. Those represent small things like a martial artists doing a leg sweep to a godling calling lightning down on a city to a mecha shooting missiles and that same godling.
 

I spent a few hours talking with Raven at a Con in 1992. He was pretty convinced Syynibarr was a revolutionary game. I read through it, and it was akin to seeing a tractor trailer turned upside down next to the highway: It's interesting, and you wonder just how it happened, but it's still a total wreck.

This is what makes me so curious about how things went down between McCracken and Atkinson at GenCon. Maybe McCracken thought he had reserved a key booth at GenCon but failed to actually do the paperwork (or money) properly, or maybe Atkinson actually put some work into making sure such a gonzo presentation didn't get a prime location for the show. Either option is very believable. Maybe both?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I don't know him from Adam, and don't know anything about the situation. Based solely on that screenshot above, he comes off as an arrogant jerk who thinks way too highly of himself. As someone whose been designing games myself since 1986, many of his claims are....dubious at best. It really comes off as "I am the best EVAR! I invented all of this, why won't those jerks treat me like I see myself!"
That's my read as well. Any game designer who publicly says something to the effect of "I’m as close to an expert on this exact topic as there is in the world" is pretty well indicating that they're not someone who should be taken seriously.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That's my read as well. Any game designer who publicly says something to the effect of "I’m as close to an expert on this exact topic as there is in the world" is pretty well indicating that they're not someone who should be taken seriously.
Ain't that the truth. My actual academic wheelhouse is Medieval Studies, which some people might think positions me excellently to be some sort of 'authority' for fantasy RPGs, but that simply isn't the case. Fantasy games stretch over too many historical periods for that to be true. Even within my specific academic specialty, which is Dark Ages and Early Medieval military history, I'm still not any kind of one-stop expert. Anyone who says different is selling something.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
The worst part about World of Synnibarr is that the world building and actual core concept of the game is unique and super-gameable BUT the rules are (at least in the original edition) a hot mess. I haven't had the money to pony up for the new edition yet.
 


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