I don’t actually run D&D and haven’t’ played it since 3.5. The last game I played, they predictably asked me to GM. The former GM had mechanized the whole Game Master position.
All you had to do was roll dice and remove the appropriate character sheet from the GM database. It was a brilliant system, and I even said so. But it also robbed me of everything I ever enjoyed about being a GM– which was already being nibbled at by the system itself.
Other people would love it. He should write an instructable, or better yet, sell some kind of kit that would take care of the crunch loving, step-on-up junkies forever. If you don’t want to deal with people, then by all means, I will step out of your way. But I refuse to be an armature. That’s what I wanted to avoid by working for myself.
I want to challenge people. I want to make it personal. I want to cheer with my players in their awesomeness, not play a protracted dice driven war with them in a plotless string of meaningless encounters established by some machine. You got video games for that. If you want a drinking game, War is pretty simple and accomplishes about the same thing.
Because awesomeness isn’t just stats. It’s showing off all the work and thought and, yes, feeling you put into that character. You watch with bated breath as they approach what is, for them, a gut wrenching challenge.
Even if it only involves ordering a coffee from your favorite dive, and ignoring the girl of your dreams. Yes, ignore, because she doesn’t know of your existence. The rest is a morass of associations built up from play. She’s an NPC, she hardly does much other than live her life, yet she is the fulcrum of the action. City blocks are wasted in her name, and she just wonders why things have gotten so weird in her neighborhood lately.
She’s totally unaware that an powerful mage has fallen in love with her. She doesn’t even know that half of her associates are really folks working for him, and have freaky powers, too. Little does she know that tomorrow she’s going to be kidnapped to feed a void that reaches the center of the earth. IF that succeeds, then the gates of hell will be breached, and the earth will become the plaything of demons.
Yet there she is, sipping coffee as if none of this will ever happen.
Or maybe the attempt failed, and she’s still there. Maybe her hope deferred and she has gotten old and bitter. Now, that little old lady is nasty to everyone. She longs to welcome to savage beasts into this reality. She languishes in an old folks home, and behind the scenes it is noticed that she has a different doctor than everyone else. Her room is on a different floor. It has no windows. The door is solid steel. There are restraints on her bed, but all her reports say is that she suffers from severe depression and suicidal ideation. Keep the drugs coming and ignore the rest.
But she wants those demons to come, because she can’t die. She’s hoping that the Evil One can finally kill her and give her rest. Immortality does strange things to the mind, not all of it good. Perhaps if she undoes the Hereafter, God will finally listen to her and let her die for good. But it’s not only death that she wants, but to be unmade. But you can’t believe everything she says, because she’s crazy, right? Someone has yet to tell her that being unmade would destroy her only son, who is the lynchpin to defending the Gate between worlds. He already has a lot on his plate.
Among those things is, to continue to exist.
Alas, that was the biggest problem for the game, too. We had a whole host of real world challenges as well as design based challenges. Though it’s like a second life, it lived or died under these pressures. My biggest error? Worldbuilding is a means, not an end. For me that’s a hard lesson. It is even true for the novelist. For me, building worlds is creating a web of people and an appropriately moody stage for their antics. This is a highly engrossing and fun activity. I long to share those worlds. But I need a goad and a secretary that records and organizes. Maybe that old D&D GM was right after all. But is that is despair talking?
The best stories are the existential stories. We like story because story has meaning. If what you want to do is watch Clash of the Stats, then you don’t need a story. But when you admit to being emotionally invested in your character, then you admit that even a piece of paper with numbers on it can be a key to an imaginative reality. The truths of this life can be explored with good friends. If they aren’t now, they will be.
The best gaming advice ever comes from Socrates. Good gaming should ask the right questions. So I have come to the conclusion I should use a system that can work with my goals instead of against them. While I will miss the depth and complexity, perhaps I will learn brevity. That can’t be a bad thing, right? 🙂
I further argue that this is true for novels, too. Instead of being told, one should be incited to ask, why? How did things become this way? How can we avoid it in the future? What really works in the world? What is reality? Why exist? Non-answers are not satisfying, and lead to dreary things like modern literature. I think that existence holds an answer itself. That we can find meaning in ideas and numbers and where they intersect is another clue. The process of creation leads us to the Creator without even having to prosthelytize.
The worst tragedy is to ask in boredom and not expect an answer.