Monday, May 19, 2014

Fishing & Role-play

I really enjoy that I can test strategies in the way of the aforegoing post.  I need the book's cover to be suggestive of the contents.  I don't want it to be mistaken for just another splat book.  I've read about a dozen of these in the last seven months, and they are all a horror show.  To get a sense of what I mean, let's suppose that you are an enthusiastic fisherman.  It is the off season, and you see a book in the local shop with the title, "How to be a Great Angler."

So you pick it off the shelf, open it to the first page and read, "What is fishing?"

Below that you find the heading, "What should a fisherman do?" . . . which is followed by about two hundred words about buying some kind of fishing rod, finding a pool of water, bringing along some food and maybe going there with a couple of your friends.

On the next page is another heading: "Why do people fish?" . . . and the answer to that is, wait for it . . . "The purpose of fishing is to have fun."

I swear, I have been reading this kind of crap in gaming stores for thirty-five years.  In other words, as long as I have been playing.

Now let's suppose that you start a blog about fishing.  You decide this is going to be helpful, so you set about describing the tensile strengths of fishing line and rods, the value to be found in certain rod-making materials, concerns with the make and models of reels and so on about the equipment you carry, wear, rely upon, etcetera.  You discuss various breeds of fish, and the best tactics for catching these fish in different streams and different parts of the world.  You include maps on your blog where every stream throughout the continent is detailed as much as possible, not just in terms of what fish are found there, but where the best eddies and ponds are in those waterstreams, right down to describing the taste of the fish pulled from the streams for those who enjoy eating their catch.  You've wandered over these streams and you've fished for 35 years, and you've caught literally tens of thousands of fish from hundreds of locations.  In your blog, you discuss current flows, and the temperature of the water, the amount of clarity in the water and its effect on certain spoons and flies, and how best to make a fly that will work in particular stages of murkiness - from a table you design yourself to make this easier for the reader to understand.

And then, finally, you decide to write a book yourself.  You tell everyone that it's not going to explain the reason to fish, or introduce people how to fish, it's just going to talk about fishing to anglers.  Since no one has ever written a book like this before, anywhere, you're understandably anxious to encourage people to recognize that this isn't a book that starts, "What is fishing?"

Whereupon someone writes and asks, "Hey, who are you to have set yourself up as a judge of the one, true right and proper way to fish?"

There is, in fact, a lot of pain in that question.  There's a lot of years of reading junk.  Of having that junk passed off as credible advice.  Of finally accepting that no one, anywhere, actually knows how to describe better angling, and that it's a waste of time listening.  Of spending so long in a crappily designed hobby that the certainty that everyone fishing, everywhere, must be as good an angler as anyone else, because there is NO standard, period.  Nor can there ever be one.

For people who fish, this is a make-believe problem.  For the rest of us, we're in the shit.

It is a distrusting question.  It is a question asked by an aggravated, exhausted, disappointed soul.  A question that reflects all the nonsense arguments that have plagued the game since the beginning.  To be a role-player is to accept that babble, accusation, instigation, insult, hurt feelings, overthinking, over-interpretation, jumped-to conclusions, impotency, self-importance and smugness will be forever part of the hobby.  It is surrender to the weak sisters, the passive aggressives, the people finding their self-esteem in what their character does when the die roll comes out right.  It is quitting on self-respect.  It is quitting on the idea of quality.

So yes, to all that, to all the little dweebs moving around, picking up the book and thinking, "Wow, I never played a role-playing game before - I'd sure like to learn how to be an expert in a couple of days," I was thinking about a cover blurb that would tell them to just keep walking.  Not a market strategy?  Perhaps not.  But I'm not fond of the fall-out that's going to go the other way, when unaccountably stupid people say,

"It isn't about fishing at all!  It's about water and graphite materials mixed with a lot of stuff about getting into hard places and camping.  Junk, that's what I say.  Why doesn't it teach me how to fish?  I couldn't make heads or tails out of it."

Because if I market too widely, that's the sort of massive negative review I'm going to get.  And those who want a real book are going to look at those reviews and think, "Yeah, another incomprehensible dumb book about fishing.  Who needs it?"

1 comment:

James C. said...

Ah, I wish I had read this post here before commenting on the last... I see more clearly now that you see what you need to do. :)