With that in mind I want to talk about granularity. People say they're daunted by the level of granularity I strive for, or that they don't actually want the level that I strive for. In answer to this, I have to ask if anyone out there does any carpentry?
I'll try to explain. Let's suppose I want a back deck where I might entertain a few friends while barbequing. There's no question of needing wood for the project ... oh, say about 26 two by sixes, 16' long, treated of course. The home store can deliver them, and I'll build the deck on Saturday.
What, that's not enough wood? Of course it is. When the wood arrives, I throw it all onto the lawn out my back door, line them up so they form a 12 foot by 16 foot flat square. No, I don't need nails, a frame or any foundation except the grass. Those boards will sit flat and the barbecue will be fine. And when the boards start to drift apart, no problem, I'll just kick them back together.
This, gentle readers, is what we get when this 'seagoing weather table' is posted:
|This will create adventure!|
Please understand. It isn't just that there are only six things on the table. It's that after 20 days at sea you've probably lost your ship, or at the very least after 10 days the ship has been damaged. More than that, after you've taken the two seconds it takes to tell your players that they have a head wind and that the ship is going slower, there's nothing left to say. It's boring. It's all horribly, awfully boring. The table is a total epic failure because it fails to accomplish what it needs to do: provide interest.
This is why there are so many people who HATE tables. Just HATE them. But you'll forgive me when I say this is like coming around and sitting on my uneven, throw-together deck and saying, "Wow, if there's anything I hate for a barbeque, it's a backyard deck. They're all so shitty, I don't see why anyone bothers!"
Now let's say I make an effort. I build a frame and fix it on some concrete pilons, and hammer my deck together with nails and even put a railing around it. What's more, now the deck is at the same level as the house kitchen, so people on the deck can talk with people inside the house. Have I done it now?
|Perfect, non-granular design|
It's the same sort of problem with monster encounter tables that feature sixty or seventy monsters on the table. So? If I get a monster that isn't logical right now, I have to roll again ... and seeing 'lich' on the table doesn't tell me what the lich is doing there, what it's motivation is or why in crap I'm throwing it against the party now. Shouldn't there be some kind of 'pre-lich encounter formula' that would help make sense of the situation?
See, building your backyard deck isn't just hammering nails into wood. There is a design feature that reaches beyond plugging things into lists. There's no way to build a good deck without getting into the niggling and annoying considerations that arise from including support, balance, the use of a level and so on into your building project. If you want the thing to be useful, you will have to get granular.
No one bitches about the granularity of car-building hobbyists, or the granularity of mountain climbing enthusiasts. No one thinks deep sea divers go overboard in their granular effort to make sure their equipment is in perfect working order. That's because, in those situations, you get very dead very quickly if you're not really, really granular.
But no one gets dead building a D&D table. So it doesn't seem that important. And if it means we're all sitting on really crappy decks with our chair legs caught between the boards, well, what are you going to do? Make an effort?
Yes. Sorry, but yes. I'm thinking that it's actually worth my time to design something with an eye to actual sailing ... which is particularly funny, because there's information literally blowing in from sea about how to make the process of tacking into something difficult and interactive, which player characters would first have to learn, then get good at, then use to their advantage. And not in that dumbass 'allotted points for the skill' sense. Any dumb-fuck with time can learn how to sail.
Oh, I know. Too granular. Takes time away from your kids, sure, I get it. It's not like you and your kids together could learn how to sail, and then use that knowledge to run a better campaign. Heck, there isn't time to improve yourself, learn about the world, grow as a person, blah blah blah. Fuck, how much granularity does a person need?
I'm going to go now, and continue to waste my time hammering out all this unnecessary granular bullshit that doesn't do anything to make my campaign better or my players better informed about where they are in the world, what the hell they're doing or why they're doing it. Heck, players don't need that shit. Sure the balance is unsteady and the weiners keep rolling to one side of the grill, but if the DM tells you its a great deck and the weather's just fine, that's enough, ain't it? That's why you players out there never worry about getting your bearings ... and its exactly why those worlds never crash.
Half-assed is the way the game OUGHT to be played.