Saturday, 5 March 2011

The state of things

I had not written a serious post in a while now. It was mostly pointless rants and picture and link dumps for the past month or two. So, y'know, here's something.

Amongst the Creeps of the Interwebs
I have just read through some posts by a dude that seems to be the epitome of everything I consider to be wrong with gaming. I'm not going to link any links, but let's just say that he questions the mental health of people that don't play the same way that he does and simultaneously displays strong misogynistic tendencies in that judgement. Despite my best efforts, I could not judge him a troll or joker, as he seems to be perpetrating the same ideas over the course of several years. Maybe he is an elaborate troll, I don't know, I really don't want to point fingers or anything. What I can say with absolute conviction, however, is that I find this fervent identity politics, this one-true-wayism truly the cancer in the gamer community (to use chan parlance). When so inherently coupled with sexism (which is a cancer unto itself) it becomes simply baffling.

While in my experience this guy's stance is not exactly uncommon amongst gamers, I think it's probably better than to treat like no other radically stupid individual or movement in any other community. I mean, the Westboro Baptist Church is not exactly the standard to which we measure all other Christians, right?

That also doesn't mean we should just close our eyes to it.

At the Gaming Table
After a long and satisfying session of D&D (well, actually Pathfinder) -incidentally played on anniversary of Gary Gygax' death- I was able to reflect on the game quite a bit. My involvement with RPG theory, design as well as the simple (but extremely important) facts of growing up and playing the game over years and years have allowed me to gain insight into the dynamics of people at the table, the mechanics and the game itself. From those insights I am able to draw conclusions with ever increasing confidence, without the arrogance of knowing.

After the game I thought about what was good, what was good on accident, what was bad and what was bad by necessity. By that I mean:
-Good: there are some things that a game does well, and when we follow its rules and procedures in that matter it works and that's why it's fun. Or we do things that we have learned from experience and by learning from mistakes because (for example) the game never told us how to so something. Functional procedures and techniques.
-Good on accident: there are things that are fun during a session that are not fun because of any particular trait of the game that we are playing or any rational consideration on our part. We don't think "this would be the best thing to do" but we just go along with it, and it happens to work. In such cases we should reflect on why it works and learn from it for future use.
-Bad: like any human activity, things sometimes don't work out as well as you'd hope. It's naive to expect perfection, but we can strive for constant self-improvement as gamers (and by extension, people). Games play bad whenever play is unsatisfying, when it's not fulfilling our aim.
-Bad by necessity: this is related to something Luke talks about sometimes, I think. It boils down to this: a certain amount of tedium and frustration can make the payoff bigger. The necessary evil. You sit through some stuff that's less than fun just because it will make the whole that much better.

That last point brings me to a thing I've been increasingly struggling to stick to in my thoughts, writings and actions in gamine: distinguishing between personal and the objective. Prep is a necessary evil of a D&D game. I am not a prep person (which is one amongst many reasons why as a D&D DM I had always been more content to ignore, rather than embrace the system). My aversion to prep thus obviously correlates to my aversion to the game itself.
The important distinction here is between:
a) I find prep to be a necessary evil. D&D has prep, thus, D&D is evil by necessity.
b) D&D pretty much requires prep. Prep makes for a better D&D game, thus, prep is a feature of D&D.

I've tried to draw this distinction many times, so I guess it should be pretty clear by now.

I am also very grateful for the group of people I game with, even though life and time have dragged us further apart, but we continue to fight the fight with the wonders of modern technology.

In the Clouds of Theory
All my Actual Play experiences I'm having continue to vindicate the theories about games and gaming that I have come to develop and accept. Yesterdays' game just proves once again how utterly meaningless the roll-play/role-play dichotomy is and how completely unrelated to anything that really goes on at a gaming table. Likewise, again I found true the idea that fulfilling agendas or aims, or whatever you want to call them are central to flow and misleadingly informed claims about what "real roleplaying" means in the past.

A thing that lingered in my mind that I need to think more about is description of locations (or just any element of the SIS) and when and how that's important. Talking point for later.

I think I also realized where the connections between Right to Dream and Step on Up are. Up to now I was only aware of the "familiarities" between SoU and Story Now, but RtD always seemed like a more distant relative. Now I see better how they connect.

I shall think and write about all of the above more at length at some opportune moment.

At the Drawing Table
I'm experimenting with directions that I could take with Arcadia. There's one I'm particularly interested in, but submitting to that would mean sacrificing certain elements of the setting, as well as limiting the scope of potential activities of the characters. I just need to judge which I'm more attached to and save one or the other for another game or setting.
Dysangelium is still taking up space in my notebook, still not really moving anywhere, although reading through the Amber Diceless RPG has given me some new ideas to work with.
Sagas of the Icelanders is on hold for a while. I wish I had more playtest stuff. I'm pretty sure what I need to do with it to bring it closer to an actual finished game, but I don't have the time or willpower to commit right now.
Subterranean Adventures is a fairly sure thing, I just need to write it down and play. When I'll be able to do that, I have no clue.

In Gamer ADD Land
Everything is infectious here. You see a movie, read a book, see a picture, pick up on an idea and suddenly you want a game/campaign that's just like that. It's like the shiny new toy for a spoiled kid. You want to have it now, and then it gets old fast.
But I tuck all these neat ideas away for later. The latest fad that has struck me is ancient Rome, focused either on politics and gladiators (Gladiator, Spartacus, I, Claudius, Rome) or expeditions into faraway and hostile lands (Rome, Centurion, King Arthur, Eagle of the Ninth)...or somehow both, if possible.

The mandate is, as always: "More gaming. More games."


  1. Just wanted to say: great "serious" stuff. Your D&D and theory insights are sage. If you write more about either, I'll be reading.

  2. Thank you, buzz!

    In fact, my rant continues: