Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recooking The Books

Today I got into a conversation - bit of a row, but nothing personal - with a friend about my not liking something which she really likes.  It wasn't so much that the thing she likes is 'bad' ... it isn't, really.  It's only that, for me, it isn't 'new.'  I've seen it before, I've involved myself with it before and I've long since grown disinterested with the style and design of that 'thing' (nevermind what it was).

This is my nature; it is everyone's nature, I think, as they grow older, but all the more so if you've been the sort willing to wallow in life at a younger age.  After awhile, everything that is easy to find is ... easy.  It fails to rouse the blood.  My friend understands, but she is about 15 years younger than me and she just sees me as being frustrating and difficult.

Some old people regret the springtime of their years; they yearn for when everything was new, and they were wide-eyed and open to a thousand experiences that hadn't come yet.  Every year is a burden for them.  Every year is a multitude of doors closing because they can't seem to enjoy anything - a circumstance with which they react by growing meaner and resentful towards those who are still young.

Other old people, however, begin to view all that 'newness' with a sort of appreciative humor.  They can remember when something was new; but they're satisfied to be jaded now, to have seen all those things once and to appreciate that they are smarter now.

To explain - there are things I have been doing regarding this game, D&D, that I could not have conceived up 20 years ago.  There are levels to which the game applies that I was simply too young and naive to appreciate.  There are hundreds of things which I took for granted, which I've now begun to question.  Only in the last four years have I corrected the experience tables I played with for decades.  I've rewritten the hit dice/hit point rules.  I've explored interactive mechanics (not satisfied yet) and wilderness damage and weather-systems on levels beyond my 30-something abilities.

Something my daughter has been harrassing me to do for some time now - about a year - is to correct and update rewrites of the Player's Handbook I started about 12 years ago.  Now, this is something I started because I had to have a written record of house rules changes - and for spells in particular, there are many, many of them.  Mostly, it was necessary to try to write down some of the precedents that had gathered around spells over the years, which were NOT included in the original Player's Handbook or Unearthed Arcana.  Can an Ioun Stone be made into a clerical magic stone, for instance.  Must the magic stone actually be thrown?  That kind of thing.

However, such lists and notes are incredibly boring to write.  Important, but dreadful from the perspective of a DM who'd rather be drawing maps or crunching numbers, like I usually do.  So I did the lists as far as I needed to, covering what a 3rd level cleric needed, or a 5th level mage, and so on.

But it has gotten out of hand for some time now.  There have been many more precedents that have come up, forcing a change in ranges, area of effect and other details, and those things just mount up into arguments at the table about what is right and what is wrong.  The facts are that I really have to rewrite everything I've written, plus completing the spell lists to their end (not just to 4th level), with notes that I'm going to need my players to help fill out for me.  It's a monumental task, and it will include tweaking many spells which had been left alone.  I'll be thinking about them, you see, and thinking always means an effort to make them better.  Once those changes are discussed and beaten apart by the players, those will be the NEW rules I'm prepared to adhere to.

So I've been working on the cleric.  I'm not hurrying, and it is going to take awhile.  I hope to rework my sage tables in the process, and for the present I'm just not sure how.  I'll want to make them more accessible and applicable, certainly.  I'll want to expand them.  Particularly, get rid of the general/specific/exacting question method ... which just never worked.

I'm working through the second level spells for the present.  When I'm done with everything, I expect the Cleric alone, with spells and other notes, will probably run around 50 to 60 pages.  This, to me, is at least as long as the Cleric should run.  If I think of more, I'll add more.

Here's an example of the presentation for first level spells - with a general details list I'm planning to add for every level, to make it easier for players to choose their spells:

WOTC may see this and squawk ... I don't know.  The image may not be up in a week.  In the meantime, I want to make a different specific point, going back to jadedness and the clarity of age.

The last time I rewrote these, I didn't think much about the language.  I wrote the spells in pretty much the same style as the Player's Handbook, presuming that's what players were familiar with.

These last few weeks, however, resigning myself to doing this again, I've realized that the writing in the Player's Handbook is pretty shitty.  Perhaps its because of reading the White Box game, perhaps the amount of editing on books I've done this year ... but in all truth, if you're not familiar with D&D - steeped in it, you might say - then the gobbledygook in the Handbook is pretty unfriendly to read.  It is full of hackneyed phrases and unnecessary prepositions and a lot of other dreck which does not get to the heart and soul of the spell in ten words or less.  I've tried in the above to get rid of that - to make the first sentence clear, direct and instantly comprehensible.   Thus, I hope it greatly improves a new player's ability to read a spell with ease, grasping its intent at once and thus making the choice of spell easier.

Sometimes, the benefits of experience do not lend themselves to simply being comfortable with the complex, even if that's old hat; sometimes, there's something to be gained in being able to make the thing elementary, for those who have not yet learned to be extraordinary.

UPDATE:

Small addition.  The 'Believer' column on the table describes whether or not the recipient of the spell must be of the same religion as the cleric; for example, a magic stone, once created in my world, may be hurled by anyone who IS the same religion as the cleric ... but putting it into another person's hands would destroy the deweomer of the spell.

1 comment:

Arduin said...

I know it's a pain for you, but I for one would vastly appreciate seeing you put the sum of your house rules up. It's been a real inspiration to see the game redesigned in the way I -would- redesign it, if only I had the perspective and experience.

Your daughter is right to encourage you, if only because (as I'm sure you know) what you do IS unique and researched.

Whatever happens, I'll still be excited to see what the Tao puts out every week.