DIY Elfgames

I have been sort of doing some soul-searching with regards to my participation in this whole thing. I've said before, when I was in a pissy mood, that I'm only really here for low-stakes math problems and litcrit. The (more elaborate) truth is that I am a really casual player of tabletop games, and I hope the "casual" and "player" stands out. This is not my number-one favorite hobby, and I have other hobbies that I do more often and with greater interest. I say constantly that tabletop games are mostly an excuse for me to hang out with friends, which is true. I don't play tabletop games because they're tabletop games, I play them because my friends are playing them. On that note, I also tend to be a player, not a referee or game master. It's not that I don't like refereeing—I'm happy to, especially when it means I get to host people—but that is also secondary to my desire to just hang.

With that being said, while taking the opportunity to rethink how I participate in this hobby and why, I have been thinking about what my actual preferences are. Not what people have told me, and not what I have parroted to be part of an in-group. What do I actually enjoy in the context of tabletop games, as an activity in itself? I like making (or generating) interesting characters. I like imagining an atmospheric world. I like thinking about decisions and solving problems, whether I'm in an escape-room-of-the-mind or I'm trying to precariously balance relationships between characters. I think dice are fun. A lot of that locates me in the basic bitch casual sector, except that I have eaten the fruit of knowledge of good and evil so that now I'm overly aware of all the bullshit in our books. Normal D&D players are happy. It was my mistake trying to not take that for granted.

So, to the point. My friend Nova, whose blog you can find at Playful Void, came up with a fun term that I have been playing over and over again in my head: "DIY elfgames". Do-it-yourself elfgames. Isn't that just perfect? I have been using the term DIY instead of OSR lately anyway, on one hand because I think there are good practices that are more general to tabletop games than OSR-specific, but on the other hand because I don't really identify with the specifics of the OSR in general. I don't really care about roleplay versus rollplay, especially when Daddy Gygax considered my favorite kind of roleplay inane, feminine socializing (feminine, yes! inane, no). I don't care about heroics versus superheroics versus antiheroics or whatever else, and I especially do not care about or for sword-and-sorcery literature. Time records are fine but annoying sometimes. If the game is fun and it isn't a pain in the ass to play, like some are, I'm not picky.

"DIY elfgames" feels like it encapsulates exactly what I want out of a hobby culture or ethos or relation. It's about being a vulture, taking whatever you want—rules, settings, anything—from anything you have. It's about making things that are bespoke not because you need the next big idea to publish, but because you want something specific to your and your friends' interests. It's about seeking direct relationships with other people, not mediating your production or consumption through a niche boutique marketplace. All at the same time, it's about not taking it too seriously because this is just something for fun that you do with friends. There's no particular play style or culture attached (except insofar as a play culture is often reflective of its social context). It's all about why and how one approaches the activity itself.

So I am fully embracing DIY elfgames, and by extension I'm embracing my own preferences and what I really want out of my participation in this hobby. I'm here to play with words and numbers in order to find more fun ways to play with my friends! And I don't need to publish a book about it.

Update: Nova also wrote a post about it!!!


  1. I like the things described here - sounds like I should definitely be paying attention to what people are doing under this banner. I look forward to seeing what the hashtag ends up as.

    1. it's really just a self-descriptor! we will prob all just be doing the same as always :)

  2. I started playing D&D back around 1983 or so, and looking back, we were pretty much always playing DIY elfgames. I don't recall ever playing in a Gygaxian style. Based on my experiences, the OSR is nostalgic for a style of game that was never really that popular or widespread beyond Lake Geneva.

    1. super agree!! not even sure if gygax really played in that style, or at least not all the time


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