I don’t disagree that some of his complaints towards the WotC modules could also be applied to Weirder stuff, but I also don’t think it’s an accident that D&D 5e has kind of converged on a linear-style of design that is uncritical in its implementation, and not just failing to teach principles of game design but also failing to leverage them. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that 5e in general, and the 5e modules in particular, are conceptually muddled in terms of whether they want you to take a more game-like approach vs. a more narrative-like approach (not that the two need to be mutually exclusive). when you are so wholly designing around Normal, you can sort of get away with poor design up to a point, because people can just intuitively get what they’re trying to get out of it, because what they’re trying to get is so thoroughly baked into their own psyche as well as shared cultural understandings, even if it’s all done unconsciously and uncritically.
This all requires a broader examination in the kind of post I was saying I should eventually write, and also I acknowledge that to some extent this is a bit of post-hoc rationalization and not a good scientific examination. I’d prefer to design an empirical study testing these hypotheses in some way, but the last time I tried even the most basic version of that, I took a lot of flack from people who fundamentally don’t understand statistics, and it was very existentially frustrating, and I don’t really want to do that to myself again.
Anyway, despite how negatively I’ve framed all this, in a more objective sense, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with leveraging Normal. I also realize I’m sounding like a major hater right now on WotC and generic fantasy, but I actually genuinely don’t resent WotC, and don’t resent generic fantasy quite as much as I used to- I generally nowadays feel more like what you’re saying- that I just don’t engage with it because there’s so much other good stuff, but I do think it’s worth maintaining that perspective, that generic fantasy is the vast majority and we are a tiny minority (without taking that mentality to a toxic place, which I unfortunately feel like I have to clarify…).
So I realize I’m getting super rambly, but anyway, what I’m talking about is not exactly the same as that article you linked above; I think these are somewhat separate issues, but obviously also somewhat related. I think my Grilled Squid and Peanut Butter post that I linked at the top is closer to my examination of what you’re also describing in that link. There’s a give and take; certain things that became popular tropes became that for a reason, and when you experiment, sometimes you will fail, or even if you succeed, you’re going to have to work twice as hard because you have fewer pre-existing touchstones from which to work off of- it requires more willingness on the reader/gamer to buy into it. But ya, that’s all kind of a separate issue, I think, from the point I’m making about how it actually affects play per se.