Sunday, December 30, 2018

Raising Worth

Yesterday, I was reading Gothridge Manor talking about raising the number of his patrons in 2019.  He has 81 fantastic patrons and he hopes to raise it to 100 by the end of the year.  His plan is simple: it amounts to getting the word out and running more games.  Which is great.

I have fantastic patrons as well.  Before Christmas I asked you, Dear Patrons, what I could do for you.  There isn't much more I can do to get the word out ... I haven't got any place where I could write about my take on gaming that would be accepted or understood; and I can't run any more games.  But there is always a chance I can meaningfully answer a reader's question or expand some part of my world on demand, as I have done lately.

I would like to do more.  Patron runs on "rewards" and for the life of me, I have never been able to figure out this part of the process.  I don't build modules for easy delivery in exchange for coin.  I'm not an artist who can draw a picture for five bucks.  Most of you already own my books and I'm not in a position just now to complete another one (but I am struggling with two).  I have no pdfs, t-shirts or cups to give, I can't offer a private chat room (hell, people can talk to me on Facebook any time), you can request posts any time you want and I'm not going to sell access to podcasts or my wiki.

I'm not into products.  I'm a writer and I am interested in ideas ... and those who support me do so because the ideas just keep coming.  My agenda doesn't include my readers seeing that information piece-meal, for sale ... I want people to get the whole picture.  I'm not asking people to support me for what they will get, but for what they're getting every time I set out to write.

It is not a practical business plan.  Any entrepreneur will tell you so.  Why pay for the cow if you're getting the milk for free?

So I puzzle and puzzle as my puzzler gets sore, trying to think of something I haven't thought of before.  I have a gift of insight.  I'd like to use it for something.

Some readers, I'm sure, have already seen DMWieg's miserable, miserable failure (his words) in trying to run his girlfriend and two friends through Tomb of the Serpent Kings.  As I wrote on a comment there, without actually being at the table and watching what happened, there's no possible way to be sure what went wrong or what could be done about it.  It would be ridiculous to guess.

That, however, doesn't stop Wieg's readers from grabbing that ball and running into courts we're all familiar with: quality of the module, system requirements, comparing this experience to their own experience [damn it, I just know there's got to be a pattern here] ... and, for the love of pink unicorns, the difference between old-school and new-school.  Because another nit-picking examination of one edition versus another, or between role-playing philosophies, is sure to create insight here that none of us have ever heard before.

I asked Wieg some questions and received direct answers.  Since he was the only witness in this dialogue, I accept his conclusion: the players weren't that into it.  Understand, then: I'm not bringing it up now because I want to dissect why it didn't work.  I can't.  No one can, except maybe Wieg and the players.

What I can do is dissect how Wieg approaches the post, doing what we all do when something hard happens and we want to deal with it in company that we know will give us approval.  We write posts like this because we hurt ... and when others agree with us, or offer possible explanations when our own explanations fail, it makes us feel better.

We want that for him. We feel what he feels because of his first words:  "I can't help but feel it was my fault ..."  That right there is the stabbing blade.  Everything after those first nine words is a battle to resolve that bitter, frustrating emotional guilt.  They did do this.  I did try that.  I could have done better.  I take it personally.  I'm a great DM.  I'm not used to failing.

Forget the details of the post.  The other comments below the post represents the empathic process that the commentors also feel, because they have also felt that, "It's my fault" blade, and everything else that follows.  The words, the explanations, the comparison between philosophies and editions ... hell, JB's whole effort to explain what to do with new players is fallout from the communal engagement with that irreconciliable bitterness.  We have all been there.  We're all trying to resolve it.

Then understand this.  It is our fault.

For some, yes, as Fuzzy says, it is lazy refereeing.  But that's simple-minded for a problem that is far more complicated than whether or not we ran a particular adventure well or if we gave vivid enough explanations and descriptions.  It isn't our fault because we did a bad job.

It is our fault because when we stepped up to be the DM, we took the responsibility up front.  Go back and look at Wieg's first sentence: "Well, today I actually got my girlfriend and two of my friends to try old school D&D."

I don't know about anyone else, but when I "get" people to play, the quality of that play is ALL on me.  Whether I fuck up or not, whether the player is the sort that enjoys the game or not.  Because I met this person, parsed them out and decided, for myself, that they would be a good player in my world.  I did the measuring.  I created the frame.  I built the park.  If the guests paid and didn't enjoy themselves, then I'm duty bound to apologize and give their money back.  And then to take the necessary steps to improve the park ~ without looking for an out.  Because people, that's how it works.

Now compare that conclusion with the discussion in Wieg's comments.  I think JB did it best.  His solution was to seek for something proactive.  To improve that park.  Ask yourself, of the conclusions you read here and there, which ones can you build on?  Which conclusions will help you bear the stab of that knife and grow from it?

I have a gift of insight.  I'd like to find a way to make it worth something.  I'd like to sweep away the clinging vines of looking for blind conclusions to explain emotional responses and produce proactive strategies that people can look at and see, "Ah, yeah. I did push the start button."  Then to realize that all the "doing it better" has to start before the player even sees the button.

Well.  If you can.  Kick another buck into my Patreon, huh?


Venger Satanis said...

You could offer patrons name recognition of some sort, ways to collaborate with you creatively, or partner with an artist who can bring your writing to life.

Lance Duncan said...

I had some thoughts on the discussion started by DMWeig.

I completely agree with you that it is our responsibility when we say we will run a game, and in cases like this often the argument gets shifted to superficial causes and making our fellow DMs feel good about themselves.

Vlad Malkav said...

Hello Alexis,

I hope you'll find ways to gain more - followers and money both - through your work. I try to share your work as often as I think of, but by me being french I don't have much of an impact, sadly.

This post, while not a big shining piece of insight, is still a nice reminder that yes, we are responsible, we who DM. There is no beating around the bush, just accepting it and build upon the fails and the successes to make a better park.

We must keep working, always.

Zilifant said...

Hi Alexis,

A couple of ideas come to mind with regard to ways to increase your visibility and gain new readers and Patreon subscribers:

You have great wisdom on DMing and running a game, and your writing style is very accessible and easily absorbed. What might compliment your written word, at least when it comes to how to run and manage D&D, is video of you actually DMing. I’m not thinking about an ongoing Critical Role type video, but rather some videos of you actually DMing your gaming group. I believe you posted a short clip on YouTube a few years ago, and although it was short, it was really helpful to actually see you in action. It would really be a nice compliment to your writing to see more videos of you to help myself and others as we try to emulate some of the things that make you such a successful DM.

In addition to, or perhaps instead of, the idea of you videotaping some of your game sessions, would be to create some videos deconstructing OTHER PEOPLE’S online DMing, to give Tao’s opinions on what’s good and effective and what’s…not (I’m guessing there would be much more in the latter category, but who knows?). There are tons of people posting their live game session on YouTube these days, so I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to find some that would help illustrate some good lessons in both good and bad DMing.

By the way, I am REALLY enjoying your analysis of 5th edition D&D. I recently moved from the DM’s chair to the player’s chair in order to give a younger (college-age) member of my gaming group a chance to DM, and he is using 5th edition. It’s been…interesting and challenging for me to say the least. Looking forward to future posts on your thoughts on 5E when you have time!

Thanks again for all you do, and best wishes as we start 2019!

Alexis Smolensk said...

That is a very good idea Zilifant. I believe I will get started on making something happen there.