Monday, December 26, 2011

Cheating You

I went looking to quote some blog advice website that would argue, as they all do, that my posts should be short and two paragraphs long if I wanted to attract readers.  Only problem was, while I could find that advice pervasively throughout the net, I couldn't find it from a single source that had any credibility ... you know, like a recognizable name.

It doesn't matter - you've all heard that crap.

Turns out, my 10,000 word post is the most successful pure D&D blog post I have ever written.  There are three other posts that generate more pageviews: this one, and this one and this one.  I'm of the opinion these generate hits because non-RPGers are looking for what they can find about minerals and gems and vegetation.

But the big post is probably unreadable to anyone except a D&D player, and its numbers boomed from the minute I published.  I've never seen anything like it.  It did not generate a lot of comments - and I can guess why - but people did go to look at it.  In droves.

Why?  Haven't I been told that I write posts that are too long, that take too long to read, that are constructed of pure solipsism ... and even that are wandering and vague.  But you know how many negative comments I got suggesting that I should get stuffed and not write long, rambling, purposeless posts like that one?

None.

Oh, it could be that I've got the message out that I really will delete stupid comments and that has actually convinced the whole internet not to leave them.  Heh heh.  It could be that people went to the post, proved to themselves it was really ten thousand words and then didn't bother to read it.  I'm sure there were quite a number of people who choked after the thousandth word.  And I'm sure a lot of people thought it was wandering and vague.  I'm not deluded.  I haven't read the thing through in one gasp since I wrote it.  I've made a few passes at editing bits here and there, but I'm not spending time on it.  I found it nice that while Christmas was ongoing, and I didn't have time to write anyway, that the big post was out there generating traffic to the blog without my having to lift another finger.

I suppose I feel some wonder at how I'm going to top it.  I'm not going to be writing any huge posts any time soon.  Some have said that the post would make a good introduction to an RPG, but I'm not so sure.  I said in the post and I'll say it again - for someone who's a complete noob, I doubt the post would have been much use.  For those who know the facts for themselves, it might feel good to find another voice uttering the same ideas, but as an educational document it doesn't have much worth.  It says what you should do; it doesn't say how to do it.

Saying how to do something is much, much harder, and would be much, much more impressive to me.  I've had the conversation of late, and have had to admit that no one showed me 'how' to do this.  I did not have any sort of mentor I could look at and follow in the footsteps of - mostly, I did things differently that what I saw others do.  I approached the process of dungeon mastering from the perspective of what the player would want to see - recognizing that, most of the time, what the player says and what the player wants are two different things.

I'd like to go off about that ... but that would be digressing, and if I'm going to keep any continuity to this post, I shouldn't wander or get vague.  On the other hand, I am writing this on Boxing Day without any real direction in mind - I thought I ought to throw out something for the reader who is now sick to death of their family - so wtf.  Who really cares?  This went past two paragraphs awhile ago.

Players say they want treasure and excitement.  They say they want levels.  They say they want an immersive and challenging game.  And I don't argue that these things are all true.

What they don't say is that they'd like to like their characters.  Players will bitch about half-rate characters they don't like, and they'll crow about characters with lots of skill.  It's harder for them to admit when they've grown attached to their characters, and that they'd rather their characters didn't die.  Sometimes a player will lose a character they've grown to love, and toss it off publically for others, only to mourn quietly to themselves that something they've really, really loved is now gone.

I don't know about now, but for awhile in the 80s that was seriously looked down on.  There were too many stories floating around about D&D players killing themselves - or others - after the death of their character, and whether those were just urban myths or not, people definitely encouraged detachment.

But there are a lot of players who try to get their dead characters into new campaigns (where no one knows Zane the Mage died under a mountain of rock), or who sigh wistfully when remembering that monk they had once, or the fighter that never got his castle.  And of course, for a lot of us, the character never really died ... the campaign did.

If you are going to DM, however, and you really do want your players invested, you're going to find yourself taking steps in the campaign and in the character fundamentals that will encourage player-to-character love.  You may not talk about it.  You may not want your players to talk about it.  The whole thing might just get too creepy.  Still, if you've played any sort of long campaign, you know that emotion is there.

End of digression.

I hadn't planned to talk about that.  I hadn't planned to talk about anything, except that the long post did well despite all blogging advice.  I think the better theme was the one about my not talking about the 'how' instead of the 'what.'  The foregoing digression was just shit that occurred along the way.

It's relevant, however, in that throwing it out there still doesn't explain how it's done.  How do you make players love their characters?  How do you create secondary narratives, or even primary narratives?  How do you keep the momentum going, when your players are tired and you're tired?  The post was called "How to Dungeon Master," and the title was a lie.  The real title should have been, "What to do when you Dungeon Master."

I haven't written a legitimate post for the existing title yet.

1 comment:

Arduin said...

I am, personally, waiting to hear that "legitimate" post.

People try and drop this hobby at a ludicrous rate, and while part of it is of course that this is a preposterously nerdy thing to enjoy in the first place,the other is, as you've said before, that noone really knows how to do it.

Like being given a set of poles and a ball, you could prop the poles up likes goal and play football (both varieties), cut one down and play baseball, or some odd variation of dodgeball, but the point is, we've got a set of playing pieces, and noone to say "this is how to do this".

At times it's a blessing, enabling us to mold and shape our worlds and games to suit the needs and wants and whims of our friends.

Others, it's fairly tiring. I don't think any reader here doesn't understand just how much potential this game has, but it feels like holding an empty gun in a battlefield. If only we had a damn bullet, we could -do- something.

It's an odd collection of metaphor, but then, it's an odd game.