Ah. I will be running D&D this weekend.
I have been lax about sending a message to the players online. I suggested perhaps dabbling a bit last week, but day by day I have been procrastinating. I think about sending them an email, thinking I'll ask if they're still interested, and then I don't do it.
I know it is just that I am really tired.
I never worked as hard at anything as I worked on the Advanced Guide. By the end, just before I published, I was virtually a basket case. I had given up doing anything else. I had gotten past the point where I could even read, because I could not get my mind off the Guide long enough to actually feed my elephant.
I read some Polybius in the tub last night and felt great. Overall, I feel great. Including the small How to Play book, our sales are just shy of $1K, we've sold well over one hundred of both books and things continue to look promising as I approach booksellers.
But . . . running D&D again. That is something.
I haven't actually run offline since, let me see, March? End of February? I've forgotten. Online, the last date of the campaign was April 17th. More than three months ago. For me, those three months have passed like a blur. I'm still having trouble remembering that this is 2014. I feel like I've just stepped out of a time machine.
And the biggest thing about running again is that I now know more about running than I ever had. In venturing out to explain what it is I do, I've uncovered dozens of things I now know I can't do any more. Through researching and writing, I learned myself why I was ruining my own game. At several points in the book I admit this frankly: "I am a bad DM because I do this and this." I didn't see any point in pretending.
See, as much as it is nice to make a little money, it will never be enough to live on - so the writing could never be about the money. The writing had to be about the players, who would be reading it. It had to be about giving them a place to go, a goal to pursue, a way to work on a setting that would make sense, not just for role-playing but for how people think and act in the real world. To positively meet this theme of the book, I often found myself feeling as though I were pounding words into the computer much like hammering iron upon an anvil, working the sentence and working the sentence in the hopes of making it something someone who could not see into my brain would yet be able to follow. I desperately wanted to produce a guidebook that would truly function as a 'guide,' exactly like one would expect if touring through the high mountains and having things pointed out.
No one challenges a guide's opinion when the guide points to a valley floor a thousand feet below and says, "We could go there, but getting there is going to take time and considerable effort." Only a fool then announces, "Well, that's bunk, that's your opinion, I'm sure you can get there easily." A guide, faced with such a fool, can only shrug and let the fool go their merry way, while continuing to lead those who want the benefit of the guide's experience to continue in the guide's footsteps.
Now, I've played a lot, I've done a lot, I've explored a lot of rules and I've challenged myself to improve upon the game since the beginning - but I don't know everything because I haven't seen everywhere. To write the book, I headed off into country that was unfamiliar to me, to make myself better so that the book would be better. I feel I've done an excellent job, but only because I spent this time walking over ground that I know the reader has never seen.
In guiding the reader over that ground, I'm only doing what I've done as a DM since the beginning. I've taken players, brought them into the fold, set out the principles of the game and then set out to show them what there is to see.
The Advanced Guide was different. Instead of teaching players how to play in my world, it had to be about how to teach DMs to run players in theirs. It had to be about how to teach a DM what a world is for and why it needs to be. It had to be about giving the DM tools. It wasn't enough to say, "Oh, hey, you're a DM, have faith in yourself, do what you have to." The ground I was showing is real. It has firm, fixed, practical elements that can be dug up, processed and applied by anyone, not just those who happen to show a flair.
I don't believe that I know the 'right way' to DM; I'm still learning myself. Saturday I'm going to take some of that learning and see if I can't better my game. I am saying, however, that there are certain policies that a DM can pursue that will yield certain results, both good and bad. If the DM does this, the results will be this, and for these reasons. If the DM does that, the results will differ and for these reasons.
Only through understanding the reasons, and accepting that what goes on at the table isn't just random bullshit - but that it is the absolute result of how the DM has determined to run the world can improvement be possible. We make our own ruination; we drive the players to their tactics; we tolerate them when they behave inappropriately and we encourage their inappropriate behaviour when we act out ourselves.
No, there is no 'right way.' But there is most certainly a 'wrong way.' Unquestionably.
I know a lot of readers don't wish to buy the book, for any number of reasons. I know that it's a fair sum, I know that it's an online book and that there's no way to know for sure what's being purchased. I have only what I've written on the blog as a guideline for what I've tried to write in the book and the seriousness with which I've approached the material.
You're here, so you plainly have interest in the blog. This is a long post, so if you're still with me, you plainly have interest in what I'm saying. If you can't bring yourself to buy the book, or you haven't the means, then all I ask is that you consider those who do anxiously hope for guidance, and will pay any price to get it. If you come here everyday to read the blog, then I ask you to just think of me now and then, along with the work I've tried to put here. If you can't buy this book this time around, then perhaps we can agree on something next time I publish.
Whoops. I've got to start getting ready for Saturday.