Mark, please don't be sad. Although at times some of the exchanges may have gotten a little snarky, I think this discussion is an example of what happens when "We are all Us." In other words, although most list members didn't work on the rules, we feel that in part it is "our" game too.
So rather than take the rule book as something that is handed down from on high, then go off quietly to our own nooks to use it as we see fit, in this on-line age I think many people view it more as the penultimate draft, the one that everyone gets in print, but not the final and complete word. The ultimate draft is the the book, plus FAQ, plus errata, plus received wisdom developed by the group dedicated to the subject, which can be passed on to people who have questions.
Personally I think this sort of discussion is healthy. You'll notice that pretty much every person participating has mentioned how much they love the book. The result will hopefully, over time, be a clear understanding of likely and useful interpretations. By way of example, you don't see many questions any more about what feats do and why they don't have more detailed descriptions. That has been talked to death, an example is up on the Issaries site, and if anyone comes to the group with the question they'll pretty quickly get the fairly official line and how various groups who have trouble with that have adapted.
I know you were instrumental in getting this book out, and you deserve thanks, praise, and beer far beyond what we can ever give you in return for doing so. It is fantastic, everyone loves it, and you should be bloody proud. But please understand that because people care passionately, they will fret over any rough points until the irritation is wrapped in verbiage, like some monstrous linguistic pearl. It is what happens when you give your baby to the world.
As to why so much of it is about the Puma People shapechanging, I think that part is simple. It is getting used to the new stuff that will always cause the most chafing. Both Puma people and common magic are new, and at their intersection--the shapechanging ability-- is bound to be found the most confusion. We'll collectively get through it, and I'm sure a year from now most people on the list will find it perfectly normal and comfortable, as I'm sure those who have been dealing with it for longer already do. But knowing it is so doesn't take away the need for the process of getting there.
I think why Dave may have ruffled some feathers was that he entered the discussion in a tone not of "Here is what I think it means," as most people on the list would normally do, but as "Here is what it is supposed to mean." Nothing wrong with that if he speaks officially, but it wasn't clear if he did or not. It is often expected in a debate that each argument stand on its own merits, so when you make a claim that your views are simply correct--whatever their merits, and Dave's explanations seemed pretty darn meritous to me--it is probable that you will have to justify this.
When people are passionate about something, it is likely that at times they'll lose their best manners. This is something that we can all benefit from being reminded to avoid. Still, if a few posts have been a bit rancorous, I don't think any have been insulting or outside the scope of a debate about the rules (questioning someone's authority to assert that something is so is obviously within the scope of the debate).
So againg, Mark, I say: rejoice! People love this book, they care about it passionately, and they can find nothing more burning to discuss than the nature of puma person magic. This is a superlative result.
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