Friday, March 22, 2019

Damage to Ship Hull and Rigging

Ship strength is an expression of its hull points and rigging points, as described under ship types.  These points are illustrated as a series of squares, which are then crossed off as damage is caused to the ship.

Total hull points are divided into “exterior” (EH) and “unprotected” (UH) hulls, in a ratio of 2:1.  The caravel, for example, has a total of 30 hull points.  Two thirds of these, a total of 20, are assigned to the exterior hull.  The remaining 10 are assigned to the endangered hull.  Where a fraction occurs, always assign the extra hull point to the exterior hull.

Rigging points are divided into blocks of 4 squares, with the remainder making up a block of 1 to 3 squares.  Each block is a mast.  These should be labeled, in order of presence, the main-mast, mizzen-mast, or fore mast; if there is a fourth mast, this is the jigger mast. 

A caravel has 8 rigging points, which are divided into two masts, the main-mast and the mizzen-mast.

The layout of squares for a caravel would appear as shown in the image, with four blocks of squares, two representing the hull and two representing the mast.

Caravel total strength points in hull (30 pts) and rigging (8 pts).

Assigning Damage

All hull damage is assigned to the EH, or exterior hull, until that part of the hull is completely destroyed.  Thereafter, further damage is recorded against the UH, or unprotected hull.  When the EH is gone, the ship’s condition in the water has begun to sag; the ship’s yare is reduced by one degree (from A to B, from B to C, and so on). 

When the UH is gone, the ship is considered in such danger of sinking that it cannot be sailed or the weapons fired.   All crew and persons aboard are considered to be acting to keep the ship afloat.  If these persons are removed, the ship will sink completely in 5 to 100 rounds, a number that is divided by the wind speed and may be calculated in seconds.

When a hit succeeds against the rigging within a ship’s hex, the mast nearest that hex is affected (therefore, all the ship’s hexes in a ship’s design should be designated to a particular mast).  When a mast is completely destroyed, the ship’s yare is reduced by one degree.  This happens each time a mast is destroyed.  The ship’s yare cannot be reduced below a yare of E.  When all rigging is destroyed, the ship can take no actions except to drift.
Shows 1½ damage

When assigning half a point of damage to either the rigging or the hull, draw a single line through a box, as shown.  When assigning a full damage to a hull box, draw a cross inside the box to show that strength point is completely destroyed.

See Naval Combat

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Starting with Nothing

My personal feeling is that if a new player joins an ongoing campaign, where the existing players are of much higher level, that new player must start at 1st level.  This is an absolute rule, and applies to everyone who has ever played my game, since I started as a DM in 1979.  I have never run a game in which any character began at a level higher than 1st.

This has meant starting a 1st level character with a party of 9th level characters ... begging the question, how does that situation resolve itself.

To begin with, every 9th or 12th or 15th level character in my world remembers when they were 1st level ... because they all were, once.  Secondly, because of the game tables I build, where players see each other as allies and not as competition, the upper level characters immediately take it upon themselves to protect the new character.  I have no problem with the new character being boosted with spells, being handed an extra +1 sword and fitted with magic armor, given a potion or two and so on ... all of which must come from the stores of the higher level characters, because I absolutely do not allow the purchase of magic items in my world.  However, my characters typically have a few bits and pieces of minor equipment they've kept, since their once precious +1 sword was upgraded when they stormed that castle at 8th level.

The new character gets a bit of a head start.  If the new character dies, the 9th level cleric can raise or use death's door.  If the new character takes a single hit and has to retreat, the 9th level paladin can step in as a shield or the mage can whisk the 1st level out of the way.  There's always a chance of permanent death, but the 1st level is often quite safe in a lot of ways.

Additionally, because of my experience distribution rules, if the 1st level participates in and survives a single no-holds-barred blood match, that is almost certainly going to mean 2nd level.  And 3rd or 4th within a two to three runnings.  With so much experience raining from the sky, all the low level character has to do is be brave.  Others will help the noobie not die.

So much of the game is based on thinking, discussion, planning and innovation, things that don't require raw combat ability.  I've had many new players jump into a game and quickly get to the heart of something, where the older players were confounded.  New players may have skills in role-play, may show unqualified bravery in desperate situations and may boost a team's spirit with good humor and enthusiasm.  None of these things require the player's character to be 10th level.

Most important, the new player entering the campaign starts from a position of humility.  If the other players behaved like a closed fraternity, treating the new player like a menial, this wouldn't work ~ but in my game, it is almost always the players who are asking me to let their friend play.  Their "friend," I said.  None of my players want to treat their friend, or my friend, like a menial.

I'm sorry that we feel that we have to give new players a free ride to the place so they can enjoy what others have sacrificed and struggled to achieve.  I'm equally sorry that DM's feel they have to begin parties at level 5 because they can't figure out how to run a good game with lower level players.  I often hear this chatter about "goblins" being boring.  Well, yes, they can be.  But why in the hell is it presumed that we can't be more imaginative than throwing goblins as a DM?  There's intrigue, mystery and the building of friendships in the game that can be exploited and devised until such time as the players become 5th level.  By which time, they appreciate those first five levels, and run characters, not free puppets who mean no more to them than a teddy bear we roast on an open fire for the lols.

When it is your teddy bear, from your childhood, it isn't funny any more.

If you want to appreciate anything, start with nothing.  Then all those first things you have, those first things you collect, those first things that keep you alive, will always mean more to you than the common riches you will eventually find mean almost nothing to you.

For you Conan fans, I'll remind you how Conan felt about wealth and plunder once he became the King of Aquilonia.

Rule Testing

Often, when I'm uncertain of a rule for the wiki, I throw it onto this blog to see what the response is.

LINE OF SIGHT

When firing any missile weapon, all combatants must be able to trace a direct line of sight between themselves and the target hex. This means that the target may not be completely blocked by obstacles or elevation, and is at least partly visible when fired upon.

Missiles may be fired between combatants during hand-to-hand melee, targeting past the front line into the second line or even into the third line. However, it must be shown that a straight line of sight exists to the target, where it is not blocked by another person. Otherwise, the target positioned in the rear, during a general melee, cannot be hit.

If the combatant has elevation, however, then line of sight should take that into account when picking targets.

Cover

In firing or hurling a missile, the combatant aims at a target area that is, for game purposes, considered to be a circle that is about one foot in diameter. Because of this, a target that was covered only as high as the waist would not receive any benefit against an arrow or a thrown axe. “Cover,” therefore, describes any situation that plainly reduces the size of the circle being aimed at.

As the target shrinks in size, it’s armor class improves.

Concealment

Objects are considered to be concealed when a soft, usually permeable substance screens them from plain view. Shrubbery; a waterfall; thin cloth not dense enough to stop an arrow or a thrown axe; or a target under water; are all examples of concealment. Because concealment will partially deflect missiles, or reduce the velocity of missiles, though figures may be plainly visible within a bush or under the water surface, there is yet an armor class bonus that is received.

Thus, if a person were nearly 3 feet under the surface of the water, their armor class would be improved by +7.




29th Class: Narrative & Hunting

With this class, we're going to discuss the second "insolvable" problem of role-playing: "How do we invent a narrative that possesses sufficient nuance, story, action and interestfor our players?"

Note that I do not ask how we invent a "story."  In an earlier class, we discussed how humans are natural storytellers, in that we do it constantly.  I argued at that time that we tell stories as DMs, and as players, because that is part of our nature, and not necessarily because that behaviour has anything to do with role-playing.

In another class, we talked about scripts ~ the various procedures of living that we're familiar with as we ready ourselves in the morning, go to work, visit a restaurant, or any other activity where our behaviour follows a set pattern.  We can argue that role-playing games consist more of scripts than stories.  The players know what to do in town, once they've entered a dungeon or once fighting starts.  The scripts of game play ~ drawing a weapon, checking for traps, talking to the statue, dividing the treasure ~ are as well known to players as any "story" that's glossed on top.  The story seems to provide the narrative with meaning and purpose; but the game is often played without it.  Any dungeon crawl is a collection of scripts.

In our recent lab, we noted that while certain patterns and themes might occur frequently, literature is not easily fit into a box.  From that, we must acknowledge that an RPG's player characters are not required to experience the death of their old selves and a revelation that changes their outlook upon the world.  They are not required to atone.  They are not required to accept or trust the introduction of a "mentor" who tells them what to think or do.  In fact, these things are largely anathema to players.  While a book might present its characters as individuals whose outlooks or personalities will be changed by the events of the plot, most role-players will show little to no interest in changing their characters for the sake of introduced events by the DM.  Therefore, we should not suppose that any traditional narrative ~ in the sense of a literary story arc ~ will have the effect on players that it might have on an author's fictional characters.

Yet we are stuck with the concept of story because it IS a narrative.  Player characters start in a place.  They move forward, experience "trials and failures," they do learn things, they do receive gifts and other rewards ... and in retrospect, after the fact, this does create a story framework.  Remembering, always, that as humans we turn everything into a story framework.

If I am late for work because I missed the bus, because I dropped my goldfish bowl on my kitchen floor as I was heading for the door, I immediately begin dramatizing what follows.  Even as I am watching the goldfish bowl fall to the floor, the shock of the story's introduction sinks in:  "Oh my god!"  As I'm saving my goldfish and cleaning up the glass, I'm asking myself, "Damn, damn, damn, I'm going to be late."  We are formulating the story as we move through our commute.  We're rehearsing the story by the time we enter our workplace.  We package life as drama, in real time.

But this sort of drama is very hum-drum, much too dull and ordinary for what we expect from literature.  It may seem dramatic, but that's only because it happened to us.  To others, the events are distracting, but hardly compelling.  The conversation soon moves onto another story, from the news or from someone else's life, as the day dribbles on from boredom to ennui.

What sort of stories do we like to hear?

In his book, Three Uses of the Knife, David Mamet introduces the concept of a "perfect ball game."
"What do we wish for in a perfect game?  Do we wish for Our Team to take the field and thrash the opposition from the First Moment, rolling up a walkover score at the final gun?  No.  We wish for a closely fought match that contains many satisfying reversals, but which can be seen, retroactively, to have always tended towards a satisfying conclusion."

Mamet then goes on to describe, in detail, a baseball game in which both sides gain and loses a series of advantages on the other, so that it looks as though Our Team is going to lose, but then they turn it around, then it goes bad, then they rally, and etcetera, in a steadily increasing pattern that leads to a crescendo.

The word we should focus upon here is "reversals."  We get close, but then there is a set back.  We get closer, but there's another issue, and we're driven back, forced to retreat and regroup.  Then we get close again, there's a moment of panic, we get closer, Jimmy dies, we get closer ... and then we succeed or fail.  It is all reversals.

If we think about it, the role-playing narrative doesn't really need an ending at all.  Role-playing games are based on the achievement of a success of some kind ~ but distinctly not in the finite setting of a baseball game.  RPGs are infinite games.  As the character achieves something, the immediate compulsion is to set out again to achieve something else.  There is no ending.

A "story" implies an ending.  There's some point, in the future, where the baseball game ends and we either win or lose.  All the loose ends are necessarily tied up, because once the game ends, anything unresolved is simply thrown away.

But no matter how carefully crafted the story is in an RPG, the loose ends are still there when the story ends.  None of the players are entirely and absolutely satisfied or unsatisfied.  They can fail the quest; they can lose the Immortal Stone of Carn; they can lose half the party to permanent death; the compulsion to keep going remains.  As the players work through a modules or someone's conceived story, they're thinking of other things they'd like to do, after.  This is a key word.  After a baseball game, we play another game.  After a narrative in role-playing, we're still playing.

Players invested in their characters don't see the end of the adventure as a firm "ending" ... unless it is forced upon them by a DM who decides to close the campaign.  Even then, players will continue to think of those characters as "alive."

This gives us two clues as to the construction of the RPG narrative: a) we thrive on reversals; b) we prefer a steady state campaign, where new material is constantly available.

Of course, we live in such a culture.  The reversals are sometimes pleasant, sometimes less so, but always a challenge; and our triumphs are important to us.  And so long as we don't die, it feels like a steady state.  If we want to comprehend what gives our lives coherence, we may be able to apply that to role-playing games.  We might then build a supportive, narrative structure based on changes and perpetuity.

In his book Theatre, David Mamet speaks frankly about human nature:
"Man is a predator.  We know this because our eyes are in the front of our heads ... As predators we close out the day around the campfire with stories of the hunt.  These stories, like the chase itself, engage our most primal instinct of pursuit: the story's hero is in pursuit of his goal ~ the  hiding place of the stag or the cause of the plague on Thebes or the question of Desdemona's chastity or the location of Godot.  In the hunt story, the audience is placed inthe same position as the protagonist: the viewer is told what the goal is and, like the hero, works to determine what is the best thing to do next ~ he wonders what happens next.  How may he determine what is the best course towards the goal?  Through observation."

Our biological heritage is adapted to hunting and finding.  We are rewarded with dopamine if we spy a berry on a bush or an animal track, extraordinarily subtle things that nevertheless define our survival if we're hungry and our clan is hungry.  We are sustained with endorphins if we must spend hours in a hot sun to pick every berry or survive the stings of bees to get a fistful of honey comb, or if we have to track an animal for two days in order to eat.  Our stomachs remind us it is time now to be brave, to fight the animal on its ground and survive.  We're flooded with seratonin when we return to the clan with armfuls of food.  Whether we are still crossing the savanna, we are still built for hunting.

Note how none of the hunting narrative requires an "ending."  Mamet's problem isn't the narrative; it is how to contain it in the structure of a play for an audience that will sit for only so long.  Role-playing games are not limited by this.  We can sustain the hunting narrative for thirty or forty hours, over session after session, if the hunt is interesting enough and if the reversals that take place ~ "the thrill of the chase" ~ remains compelling, intriguing and exciting.  We don't need to bind ourselves inside a story arc to achieve this.  We only need a sufficient "food source" that will feed our human compulsion to see, to know, to follow and to find.

Two proud hunters enjoy their new experience level.
We're not pursuing that ideal, however.  Instead, we're employing a clumsy apparatus intended for a physical space and an audience that will become bored if they sit passively for more than 150 minutes.  We're tying ourselves in knots trying to use a three-act framework to produce the reversals that don't need acts and don't need frames.  They only need the sort of dramatic flair that we already inculcate into our everyday experiences.  As we are finding the object, or following the enemy, or knowing what the castle is about, or seeing the big bad, we are creating the drama ourselves, in the immediate moment, building the ongoing collection of events into a story fluidly, progressively.  We don't need to be given a story.  We're constucted to make stories out of virtually nothing.

We said at the end of the last class that the DM could not carry the presentation of the campaign alone.  Here we find ourselves understanding how the DM creates the framework that enables the players to present.  The DM determines the nature and fabric of the hunt: a) where things are found; b) what is found; c) what direction this points; and d) the factors restraining the free movement of the players to follow the hunt.  The players provide the drama.  The players tell the story, as they piece together the meaning of their experience ... just as meaning making is our compulsion to understand and to keep hunting.

The question in your minds should be this: what are the best things to hunt?

Until the next class.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

[blank]

A comment I see constantly whenever I look at anyone's post talking about RPG game design or rules is this:
"The problem with [blank] is that it doesn't [blank] when [blank, blank, blank] come into play.  I agree that [blank] is a good starting point, but it is usually too [blank] where it comes to actual game play."

No alternative rule is ever proposed, nor is it usually argued in depth precisely why [blank] doesn't work because of these instances ... and usually, it is completely ignored that, in fact, the solution is painfully obvious, because there are about twenty other rules in the game that apply, that aren't being mentioned here, because: a) the commenter hasn't thought of them; or b) the commenter has never had any idea these other rules exist.

I would guess that at least three-quarters of all the people online discussing D&D at this moment have not actually played in any session in the last year.  I'd say of an eighth of commenters haven't played a game session in the last four years, at least.  And I'd say three-eighths of all commenters have never actually played a game of D&D at all ... with the possible caveat that they bought the books, tried to run, and failed to get the game off their campaign off the ground after that first session.

True, some of those non-players can blame the small town they grew up in, or their age, or a disability.  But judging from the general quality of the advice/arguments that I see, bereft of anything that sounds like an experienced, worldly DM or player discussing the intricacies of the game, I'd have to say that a lot of what we're reading day to day comes from pikers ... a somewhat archaic term for vagrants that wander the pike, or road.

Granted, the proposal I'm making is something of a straw man.  I have no evidence for it, and using it as something to argue with would be a waste of time.  I propose it now strictly to suggest that we should at least be questioning how much of what we're reading is actually coming from people who know anything.

See?  Modern D&D is very rules light.
No one wants to look stupid.  99% of the internet it people talking over their heads in a desperate attempt not to look stupid.  Whenever possible, a human will steal the best argument that can be found, usually something that is just lying around ... like the very common argument that classic D&D has "too many" rules ... even though obviously 3e, 4e and 5e have all dwarfed AD&D in page count, with massive core books of nearly 300 pages supported by splatbook mania.  I'd venture we see this argument stated over and over, however, because it "sounds" rational.  It's generally accepted as true.  And anything that's generally accepted as true is a damn good argument for someone who knows nothing.

I think its interesting to discover that the comments sections of today are filled with pretty much the same "arguments" as those of ten years ago, whether on blogs, boards or reddit.  Someone writes something about rules.  Someone rushes to say that there are too many rules and someone else rushes to explain a rule that doesn't work.  Thus the page fills up with people repeating words that have been repeated ad nauseum for a decade.

I don't have to refute them.  They refute themselves.

Why have none of these arguments spawned any real effect?  I can open a blog page today and read someone arguing that basic D&D is better than present D&D, because of [blank], [blank] and [blank].  I don't even have to fill in the blanks for the reader.  The reader already knows what those blanks are.  We all do.  We've heard it enough.  Okay.  So the argument has been made.  And made.  And for the love of all that's cheesy on the moon, made again.  So tell me what's next.

What's next, apparently, is to wait around for someone to make the same argument again, in all it's glorious nuance, so that it can serve as a springboard for the next writer to come along and make the same argument.

None of these arguments matter because they don't offer a strategy.  They don't offer a "next."  The argument is made, but no one acts upon it in a way that matters.  The most that anyone does ~ looking straight at the OSR movement earlier in the decade ~ is to create some sort of forum or board where the arguments can be made in perpetuity.

I find myself wondering how many of these commenters are invested in making a system work, any system, right now, who have an investment in what they're saying ... and how many have no reason to give a fuck.

I'm sure that a lot of present DMs and players are absolutely full of shit.  I'm sure because I've met them, and they attend every Friday or Saturday night like a South Carolingian Baptist who goes to church every Sunday just to be sure no one assumes ownership of their pew.  But I wonder if we shouldn't at least consider these people, "in the game."

There are an awful lot that just aren't.  And if you haven't thought of it already, it's a damn easy check to sort the pikers out from the citizens.  You only need check their nicks, and see what that tells you:


This is simply a matter of public record.  There's nothing disparaging about it.  This person is a human.  That is what this profile tells us.  And that is all it tells us.

Does this person ~ and let's respect that it is a person, hopefully ~ have a blog?  Have they included any detail about the game they run, or the experience they've had, or their accomplishments?  When they speak in a public forum, and give their opinions, exactly how much weight should we give their opinions?  That is all I'm asking.

Perhaps that's unfair.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  Someone's opinion, at least ... whatever was lying around.  But we really should stop and consider what an "opinion" means where it comes to how "informed" someone is, when they make a claim about a rule working or whether or not there are too many rules in any edition of the game.

We should ask, "What do they know about it?"

And give that answer all the due attention it deserves.

Monday, March 18, 2019

RPG 201, Lab #4 - Joseph Campbell

Before answering our insolvable question about narrative, it will be necessary to dispose of the habitual worship of Joseph Campbell's monomyth, which has found life in the internet age among poorly read, well-meaning amateurs who are ready to pound any number of square pegs into round holes in a flagrant attempt to make every adventure story "fit" the mold.

The theory is, of course, "The Hero's Journey," as shown on the slide.  A simplified overview of the theory can be read on wikipedia, while more materials that celebrate the man and his work can be found in many places throughout the internet.  Campbell's book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," is available on Amazon and in quite a number of libraries.

In the book, Campbell himself makes no claim that the journey embraces all mythological narratives, only that  myths "frequently" follow a recognizable structure, the one shown in the image.  I think today it would do us good to remind ourselves not of those works that fit the mold, but rather those books that distinctly do not ~ though in many cases, as I've said, there are always efforts by pseudo-scholars to make the plots fit, by patently redefining Campbell's detailed definitions of "death and rebirth," "revelation," "elixir" (not shown on the chart), and the return home.

Our chief concern is that there are, right now, thousands and thousands of would-be writers and adventure makers who are infatuated with the above chart, who are fervently using it as an absolutist template for every work they're producing.  This vastly reduces the number of plot lines, character investigations, character types, themes, climaxes and resolutions that exist in the whole of writing, for the sake of one man with one idea collecting a small portion of fictional works.  And, we should note, most prominently that portion that was produced when most human advancements in philosophy, science, revelation, enlightenment and social engineering had not yet been conceived.  We are writing stories for modern audiences that we pretend to ourselves will appreciate them as a crowd would in the Bronze Age.

Of course, yes, there are many stories in the last 400 years that have followed, loosely, the course of Campbell's monomyth.  But there are many more that haven't.  We may, for example, discount every story that has ever had an unhappy ending.  And every story where the hero hasn't obtained a revelation or returned changed.  For example, none of the characters in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales are especially changed, and surely we can count these tales, read by generations and certainly part of the underlying fabric that influenced writers well into the 20th century, as "adventures."  Robin Hood experiences no real death and rebirth, merely setbacks; he returns to his lands when Richard returns to England, but Robin doesn't return "changed."  Surely, these are adventures that continue to inspire millions.  Likewise, we have to try really hard to fit Le Morte d'Arthur into the mold.  Granted, Arthur does experience many of the features of the monomyth, but this is but a single tale in a host of tales, ignoring that in the tales of Merlin, there is no redemption; he ends up helplessly in Vivien's arms.  We have to ignore Gawain and Gareth as well.  Where is Lancelot's redemption?  And where in the stories of Lancelot do we see him called to arms.  We have to try really hard to believe that Arthur is Lancelot's "mentor," and to do so we'd have to ignore quite a lot of detail.  Instead, to make it fit, we simply discard every part of the book, and the host of other stories surrounding Camelot, because it is more convenient for us to pretend Campbell has the final word.

When speaking of adventures, we shouldn't forget those surrounding certain women, such as Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, who does achieve her "repentence" in the end; but since the theme of the book is that Moll was never evil to begin with, but was rather pressed into every crime by the purest of desperations, we must ask ourselves if Moll repents or if she finally convinces someone, that being the minister overseeing her execution, that she's never been evil.  Moreover, we have to ask ourselves, in Moll's story, at what point do we separate the "trials and failure" from the "death and rebirth"?  It is all awful.  Does the dividing line occur at the gallows?  And if so, aren't we stretching the meaning of Campbell's elixer in arguing that it was shipping her and her lost soulmate husband to the colonies?

And what of Becky Sharp in William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair?  We must take this as an adventure, though clearly not the sort a modern RPGer would embrace.  Here we have a bit more of a redemption (of a sort), but where is her call to adventure?  She responds to nothing more than her poverty and her ambition.  Where is her mentor?  Where, precisely, is the abyss?  The book is abyss after abyss, all of it awful, none of it offering any rebirth; Becky's life at the end is a distinct shadow of her at the start, and though she assays to be respectable, the change is one of a horse that has been successfully beaten until it pulls the cart without complaint.

I hesitate to suggest Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, which is the tale of an innocent who is tossed from evil villain to evil villain throughout the novel, remorselessly, until with relief to the reader she finally dies ... with the stink of what she's been through suggesting she's won't be welcomed in heaven.  And where is Anna Karenina's redemption from the novel by Leo Tolstoy?  At the end of all her adventures, she commits suicide by throwing herself under the carriage of a passing train.

We can say the same for the adventurer Peter from War and Peace.  If there is an abyss, surely it is the death of Natasha; but Peter's only rebirth is that he realizes that all the meaning and purpose and direction he has sought has all been mere chance.  And Tolstoy spends more than a hundred pages at the end of the novel hammering that point home, that there is no redemption, for anyone, because we are all wrapped in a destiny controlled by time and our perception of it.  Rebirth and redemption are illusions.

Next we may consider Jules Verne.  Phileas Fogg of Around the World in 80 Days calls himself to adventure; he has no mentor but himself; there are endless setbacks, but there is no "death and rebirth."  Even Fix's last minute intervention of arresting Fogg in England, mere hours from success, is not more than just one last setback for the intrepid adventurer.  There is a moment when Fogg regrets his adventure ~ when he thinks he has failed, and he is broke, but Aouda and he fall in love and ultimately, since he does succeed, the regret evaporates.  Has Fogg come home changed?  There's no real suggestion of that in the book.

We can find similar consistencies of character in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Robur the Conqueror.  The heroes are plunged into the adventure, there are setbacks, but there is never an ultimate crisis and usually they extricate themselves through their knowledge, not their re-evaluation of self.

And if we think this lack of changed character is found only in Verne, consider Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.  None of the characters, including the young boy Jim Hawkins or Long John Silver, change very much.  What kindness Silver shows at the end is clearly there all along; and what lessons Hawkins learns through the adventure do not suggest his enthusiasm is soured.  Things just go along, work out a certain way, we are given a good story, no elixir is drunk and we're not taught a lesson about character.  Not unless, of course, we've got the mallet out and we're definitely going to fit this peg into its hole.

Stevenson doesn't provide a lot of redemption in his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde either.  It is deliberately depicted as a life mis-spent.

Adventure writing throughout the 19th century was about solving problems, surviving, and most of all discovering amazing things and amazing places.  There's no startling change in Samuel Butler's narrator in Erewhon, except that he's observed a startling satire on Victorian society.  Jonathan Swift's character Gulliver experiences no grand change in outlook, except that perhaps he is more educated at the end than at the beginning.  This is hardly a "redemption;" he has nothing to regret about his earlier existence.  The heroes of H.G. Wells, even as the world burns around them from alien invasion, or as they destroy the world with their abilities, as The Man Who Could Work Miracles does, realize no more than that they are dwarfed by the possibilities presented by science; this is not presented as rebirth.  Rather, it is intended to give cause for dread.

We can go around and around with this.  Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth.  Richard McKenna's The Sand Pebbles.  Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.  Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, where people just get on with living (though the movies always ignore the book and stuff in a redemption theme to please audiences).

We can write books about rebirth and redemption, of course.  But we're not limited to that, not even in the realm of adventure.  Certainly less so in the realm of romance, drama and comedy.  We'd be hard pressed to argue that "boy loses girl" is the equivalent of death and rebirth.

We have other theories that address the science of stories that are far less limiting that Campbell's.  And admit that if there is a common theme to the creation of stories, it is that they are created by humans, who have a peculiar interest in a certain process of introduction, conflict and resolution ... which in no way differs from the principles we've discussed already relating to rupture, oscillation and reconstruction.  Campbell's theory is equivalent to Alfred Wegener's recognition that Africa and South America shared characteristics that were both biological and physically suggestive that the continents were once joined.  Wegener did not comprehend anything like the explanation of plate techtonics ... and since Campbell wasn't a psychologist, he did not comprehend the fundamentals underlying the human biological response to mental rupture and repair.  Campbell, like Wegener, merely noticed something; it has been others, in a completely different field, who have begun to explain it.

Hopefully, then, we can seek another means of establishing a narrative than being harnessed to this one theory.  Until we begin again.  I leave the class with this enjoyable video from Kurt Vonnegut.

28th Class: Unraveling the Presentation Problem

With this class, we're going to discuss the first "insolvable" problem of role-playing:  "How do we verbally, personally and effectively present the game so that players are impressed and interested?"

It would seem that the aim of the question is clear, and that is how it is understood by thousands of DMs and would-be DMs who ask themselves and who ask others, or who search endlessly for the book on the shelf that will include the crucial pages in its binding that will answer the question.  The question I've asked in the paragraph above isn't quite the question that is in our heads.  That question is more commonly asked, "How do 'I' run the game?"  The use of the "we" above is understood to mean all the DMs grouped together.

Let's put that on a shelf for a moment.

Very well.  How do you run the game?  You're looking for that quality of bringing your direct and instant involvement with anything the players might do, or anything you might initiate.  You wish to promote a sense of urgency and excitement.  You want the game to flow.  You want to know precisely what set of thoughts, actions, ideas and processes must take place in your brain so you can make that happen.  And you want me to give it to you, now, so that you can widen your eyes and let the new truth fill you, enabling you to find a game, right now, and run that game like a superstar.

We've been waiting for that reveal.  To learn what DMing Is.  First, however, we have to realize that "DMing" isn't the same as "DMing well."  Pure DMing, stripped of its quality, stripped of the flash and the enigmatic belief, is providing necessary information to the players.  Describe what the players see, touch, hear, taste and smell ... and when necessary, add more detail.  When time becomes a factor, or multiple actions are taken by group of entities too large to be sourced by a crowd, such as a combat, the DM identifies who moves, when.

Understand, I'm not offering this as an ideal.  But as I explained at the start of the course, the first step in seeing the problem is ridding the problem or extraneous details.  Excitement, immediacy, instant involvement ... these are not actually necessary to DMing.  So when we ask, ",,, so that players are impressed and interested," we are NOT asking, how do we DM?  "How to DM?" is not the problem.  We want to know how to do it well.

The distinction is important.  There are other activities that make this same distinction; and that, thank goodness for us, have a considerable legacy of scholarship attached to the same questions we want to ask about DMing.

In David Mamet's book, True and False, he speaks of the process of learning how to act.  The question facing Mamet is parallel to the question facing us.  Acting as a thing is easy.  I stand on the stage, I say my lines, I step off the stage.  Simple.

But it is obviously not.  In fact, we would agree that the process of acting, and of DMing, is not eased in the least sense by the concrete facts of the problem.  There was not one person here in this class that, earlier, appreciated my pointing out the hard, brutal simplicity of "DMing."  We all want more.  We want it so bad it hurts.

Here is what Mamet says about actors in his book:
"As actors, we spend most of our time nauseated, confused, guilty.  We are lost and ashamed of it; confused because we don't know what to do and we have too much information, none of which can be acted upon; and guilty because we feel we are not doing our job.  We feel we have not learned our job well enough; we feel others know their job but we have failed.  The good we do seems to be through chance: if only that agent would notice me; if only that producer had come on Tuesday night when I was good rather htan on Wednesday night when I was off; if only the script allowed me to do more this and less that; if only the audience had been better; if only we had not gone up five minutes late ~ as a consequence of which I lost my concentration."

There are so few words I have to change in the above to make the context work.  If only the adventure had been better.  If only I hadn't thrown that pack of wolves at the party earlier.  If only I had used my orange dice instead of my green dice.

We watch others smoothly manage and control the DMing process and we feel envious, in awe, miserable at ourselves, driven to figure this out and ultimately lacking any sort of real action.  If only we could do something clear and concrete that would make us better DMs.  Then we could just start doing that thing day and night until we got good at it.  We could get out of this rut and then really enjoy this game.

DMing is a craft, like acting is a craft.  We would prefer it was more like a chairmaker's craft or a wheelwright's craft, but that's wishful thinking.  And we would do well to remember that a great many DMs will never care at all about this craft; they have small interest in the quality of their DMing, save that it relates to their ability to please themselves or make better Saturday evenings than a drudge of multiple, less flavourful activities.  In fact, there's much squabbling from this quarter whether DMing is a craft, or if it ought to be.  They'll argue, familiarly, "it's only a game."

But such admonitions do not assuage our temperament when the moment of gameplay approaches, when we know in a few hours that we're going to have the burden of running thrust upon us.  Or that hard feeling in the stomach as we worry if the puzzle we've designed is going to work or if the players will be interested or bored.  Arguably, if it isn't a craft, that mixture of feeling nauseated, confused and guilty will cause us to believe that it gawddamned well ought to be, if only it would mean we could start a running without worrying about our prep this week.

Clearly, acting is a craft.  No one disputes that.  Hundreds of thousands of amateur actors will take the stage this week across the world for no pay and for very little applause, for the fun of it, and no one feels the need to remind any of these participants that it is "only a play."  The brutal reality of standing under lights, in front of an audience, whether made up of strangers or family and friends (and there are fears about both) makes it damnably clear to professional and amateur alike that it is not "just" a play.

I put it to you that the difference between the craftsman DM and the frivolous DM is the amount of respect the presenter has for his or her "audience," or players.  If a DM feels so certain that complete abject failure to run the game well will bring neither consequence nor meaningful judgment, then the DM is certainly free to not care what the players feel about his or her ability as DM.  But if a DM does care; if the respect of one's peers or friends matters; if one's self-respect matters in terms of a standard that the self will vie to achieve; then ability as a DM matters.  It matters every bit as much as Edgar's performance as King Lear at the Little Wichita Community Theatre matters to Edgar.

All this, just to establish that a thing exists as a craft.  We would appear to have a long way to go.

Let's return to the question: How do I, or you, run the game well?

This question arises from a misapprehension, one that I've fraudulently accepted up until this moment.  The flaw is in the belief that if the game goes well, if the "magic moment" occurs, that you or I as DM are the one's responsible ... and that the act of DMing well is something that we can achieve merely through addressing our own issues, as though DMing were something that we presented to caged monkeys or white mice or rubber dolls.  The originally worded question, how do "we" present the game, is the accurately worded question.  Our imagined belief, that it is our job to create these magical moments, is a delusion.  We need to realize that all we can do is bring ourselves to the event in optimum condition, to participate in the session in our role, as assigned by agreement.  It is "my setting," in the sense that I created it, but as a DM it is not, "my game."  It is our game.  And the quality of that game depends upon all the participants, playing and striving, designing and problem-solving, while teaching each other and learning, week by week, that brings a poor game forward into the genesis of a good game.

Our job as DM is, as I said, easily definable.  There are exercises that apply to every DM that are as clear-cut and direct as making chairs and wheels.  Develop a strong, resonant voice, by whatever method is necessary.  Take a class.  Join a performance group.  Stand in a field and shout.  Be brave.  Recognize your shortcomings, then devote yourself to correct those shortcomings within your control.  Work through the seven forms of preparation that we discussed at the beginning of this course.  Research.  Learn to estimate.  Plan.  Find resources.  Educate yourself and others.  Practice.  Rehearse. 

Most of all, know what your job is.  Don't seek to overstep it, don't take on the whole burden of the game session when it is not all yours to take.  Patiently reach out to others and help them see how each of those things I've just named apply to them as players as much as they apply to the DM.  Players should research.  Players should address their shortcomings.  Players should develop a strong, resonant voice.  Players should educate themselves and others.

And like a play, that is created through actors, technical people, support staff, directors and a host of others, if someone isn't pulling their weight ... explain their role in this process and make them understand why it is just as important for them to fulfill that role as you fill yours.  And if they won't act, if they won't learn, if they won't prepare, if they won't add their commitment to the "magic," then they don't belong.

We tend to approach the process of "finding players" as though these are fruit that we would pick if only we could find a tree.  And once we find them, we perceive them as audience members that we must entertain, or they will abandon us; which they almost invariably do.  The players are looking for us as dearly as we are looking for the players.  And like any random sampling of DMs, there will be those who see it as a craft and those who do not.  We should not be interested in "finding" players ... we should very definitely be auditioning players.  As DMs, we should have a clear vision as to what players we want to play with; and not waste our time with those who can't or won't convince us they're craftsmen.

Put craftsmen together, build a magic factory, give the participants free rein to act within the shape and fabric of the factory floor, and there will be no question whatsoever of presentation being an "insolvable" problem.

You, personally, won't solve it.  Ever.  Because for you, working alone, it is frankly insolvable.  But for the right team, acting in concert, employing themselves as presenters, all together will make the game flow and everyone will be a superstar.  And new players will walk over glass to be part of that game.

The question in your minds just now should be this: are the "insolvable" problems of inventing a narrative and creating a world insolvable.  We will have to see.

Until the next class.

My kind of factory.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Learn to Fish

"You probably won't enjoy this training.  It probably won't be fun.  In fact, writers usually complain, because, they're like, 'This feels like math.  And I want to be a writer because I hate math.  When can we do the fun stuff?'  You cannot do the fun stuff until you are an expert at this."
~ Corey Mandell, Creative Integration

Apart from this being an appalling motivation to write, I furiously appreciate Mandell's perspective on this.  You want to learn how to do this.  But you feel that you want to learn how to do it in a way that doesn't try your patience or require hard work.  You think it should be fun.

You're not going to learn how to do this.

I don't care what it is: writing, gardening, brand marketing, mathematics or working as a sanitation technician.  You're going to work to fill in the gaps where you're weak, or you are never, ever, going to learn to perform this job well.

DMing gets a pass because, conveniently for 40 years, the leash-holders of the industry have taken every possible step to ensure that the people who are playing are off balance, at each other's throats, battling impossible to achieve rhetoric or have been fed heaps and heaps of books written as pure junk.  This has convinced a lot of people that no, DMing does not require work ~ and there is even a philosophical cult out there pushing the bullshit that it "shouldn't" require work and that if you're working, "you're not doing it right."

Bleh.

I was directed to the youtube video by the Grumpy Wizard, linking this post on a site that shall not be named.  On the post, Travis makes an argument that I've made a hundred different ways on this blog.  Break it down; figure out how it works and make the parts work better.  I greatly appreciate I'm not the only one (though of course, I knew I wasn't.  My regular readers are like me, too).

Make sure you watch this video, and think about what it says to the philosophy, "You do you."



Notice how the G.W. went outside RPGs to find his advice.  Notice how other people, dealing with the same problems ~ how to get better at something that seems fuzzy and uncertain ~ are solving those problems by teaching and demonstrating a process that others can follow.  Notice how they speak of their successes and can point to people in their field and say, "This person has vastly improved their abilities, once they were shown how."

When do you hear the Company ever chirp about that success?  When have you seen the company release some book, then take the next obvious step to say, "John here was a really crappy DM.  But now John, and thousands of others like him, are really good DMs.  If you're a crappy DM, we can teach you."

No, what the Company says is, "You do you, buy our books, best of luck.  Keep buying our books."

And all the little drones surrounding the company repeat, "You do you, buy their books, it will all work out, you'll see."

But we never see, do we?  We never see that.  We go to the cons and there are people stumbling around and asking questions, and saying they really like this book or that book, but there's never anyone teaching anything and there's no one who says, "Wow, this class or this course was amazing!  You have to take it."

A course in being a DM doesn't exist because: a) the Company can't figure out how to market it and actually accept being held accountable for the value of the content; and b) the stupider and more desperate you are for inspiration, insight, maps, scenarios, character classes and so on, the more you'll have to buy from them.

If they teach you how to do it, you won't need them.

And that's why we teach people, isn't it?  We teach the fellow how to fish so they can go out and get their own, and we can stop giving them our fish.  But if we have the monopoly on fish, and the fellow has to pay us, then it is in our interest to create all this bullshit that says, "Ordinary people can't or shouldn't or wouldn't know how to fish as well as we fish, because we're fishing specialists, just look at all this fish you want to buy."

If we learned how to fish, we'd destroy the company in just a few years.

They're not saying, you do you.  They're saying, you do us.

It starts when a significant group of people in the community takes a pledge to stop buying their fish.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

A Review of Captain Marvel


My chance tonight to see the film, so at last I can stop dodging every word written about it on the internet.

I'd like to deconstruct it but I'd have to see it again first, as I'm digesting.  I know a lot of people think films like this are fluff; but people see what they pay attention to and I've noticed very much with the rise of youtube film reviewers that they don't seem to see very much.  There's meat here to chew ... but admittedly it isn't the meat that would satisfy the appetite of a 30-something fanboy who thinks that film-making has been on the skids since Casino.

There are some expositional troubles with it in the first 25 minutes ~ not inconsistencies, not inaccuracies, just "troubles."  Mostly from a pressing need to gunshoot its way through the build-up to placate audiences who can't spend another five minutes drinking in the full dialogue, pacing and setting.  It goes back to that thing about not paying attention.  For a lot of viewers, if the actors slow down long enough to talk, it becomes (apparently) impossible to see or hear anything that's going on.

I'm a fan.  I like about two-thirds of Marvel films; this was a departure from the usual form.  You'll see people online blathering that its "the same old thing," but AGAIN, they're not seeing and they're not hearing.  There are quite a number of quiet themes at play in the film that are tapping into a certain kind of viewer, one who has the patience to let the actors talk about things that matter to them, while enjoying characters who don't scream every line or feel the need to be grotesquely "cool" in every scene.

Should you see it?

If you've think 4chan has "some merits," I'd say no.  If you're the sort that watches Extra Credits or Kurzgesagt because you think it's "educational," you should likely give this movie a pass.  If you're deeply involved in let's play content on youtube, or you're thinking about taking that UofC course on StarCraft, you're going to find this movie moves way, way too slowly.

On the other hand, if you like women and would like to see them perform in parts that don't pander to the fact that they're women ~ that is, treats them like human beings with believable personalities ~ then you might be surprised by this.

I was ... but only because it turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be.  I'm usually wrong.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Just Do It Well

UPDATE:

noisms has written another post today, in which he says, after agreeing with me that the videos about worldbuilding are crap:
"But the takeaway message from this is not that there just needs to be better such advice. It's that the entire exercise is fundamentally flawed, being based on a misunderstanding of how to 'teach' worldbuilding."

So yeah ... there's that.

Also, the fellow quoted in the last post decided to proclaim on noisms' post about how seriously he takes any of this, to which noism replied with some spectacularly sage advice.


So there's that.

noisms thinks he's so ... so ... wait, I can't put my finger on it ...

You know that transference theory where you describe other people unresolved things from your past?

I think I'm noism's Dad.

Anyway, food for thought.  Was doing a little reading on the subject of contempt the other day and came across this:
Contempt can be useful to being a functioning member of the moral community. An ethics of contempt provides a much larger breadth of answers than other competing systems of ethics, whether they be based on ethics of actions (judging actions by their rightness or wrongness) or ethics of feelings (e.g., ethics of resentment). By feeling contempt for those things which are found to be unethical, immoral, or morally unsavory, one can both show that they are bad and remove them from the moral community.

Fundamentally, when I write what I write about noisms, I'm doing my best to clean up the moral gaming community as I see it.

And when noisms writes what he writes about me, he's doing the same.

The only difference is, noisms says,  "You should just do what works for you and your group."

That is, unless you're Alexis.

noisms also says, "I increasingly look on prescriptiveness as one of the worst of all evils."

That is, unless I'm prescribing behaviour about Alexis.

noisms is a hypocrite.

Getting Straight

In my late teens, when I still lived "at home," I had a friend who lived three houses down whose name was Teresa.  We shared many of our deepest secrets with each other; I had perhaps not been as close to a girl in my life before without actually being romantic.

Teresa started dating a fellow named Brent, who would become my best friend for many years.  I've mentioned Brent before.  Just prior to meeting Teresa, Brent had made a massive change in his life, particularly because he was only 17 when he made it.  He stopped doing drugs.  He had started them prior to the age of twelve and as his habits progressed, he dropped out of school around the 8th grade, he destroyed his health, he'd been kicked out by his parents and he'd done 12 months in Juvie.  He decided he was done with wrecking his life and had decided that maybe he could try living it instead.

First, he lost every friend he had in the world.  When you're on drugs, your support group is also on drugs; and when you leave the drugs, you abandon your support group or they abandon you.  That makes it about ten times harder than the actual addiction.  You want to quit, but when you want to talk about how fucking hard it is to quit, there's no one to talk to.  And everyone you meet otherwise either has a huge problem with your ever having done drugs, or they don't want to talk about it at all.

It didn't take me any time to become friends with Brent.  All told, about an hour.  Brent was likable, charismatic, whip smart, non-judgemental and infinitely curious.  When he entered a room filled with people, he dominated that room.  People drifted to him.  It was a phenomenon that we often commented on and joked about.

I have never done drugs ... at least not in that sense.  At 19, in 1983, when I smashed up my back on a 12-speed and was laid up for three months, I finished off one bottle of morphine.  When I snapped my quadraceps tendon, I took half a bottle of percocet; that was giving me hallucinations so I ditched it and moved to aspirin and moderate pain.  When I saw Pink Floyd: the Wall the week it was released, in 1984, the marajuana smoke in the theatre was so thick it was difficult to see the film clearly.  I'm sure I was high.  This is my total experience with drugs.

Brent didn't have any trouble becoming friends with me.  At the time, I was passionate, fanatic, charismatic, whip smart, open-minded about things that did not matter (like vice) and infinitely curious.  When I entered a room filled with people, I dominated that room.  People feared me.  It was a phenomenon that we often commented on and joked about.

I watched the whole process of Brent rejoining the human race.  He fought much of the battle alone: holding down a job, figuring out how to feed himself and keep a clean apartment, staying clean and fighting the inenviable task of learning how to learn, without having ever acquired the habit.  He dropped out of school at 13.  He had never been interested in school ~ that is why he turned to drugs.  And there he was, trying to figure out how this learning thing worked ... while being friends with a pontificating bastard who had been reading voraciously since the age of 5 and could wax on for an hour about virtually any topic.

It worked out.  In particular, D&D helped enormously.

Brent was perhaps the best D&D player I had ever encountered.  He fit in with my group brilliantly, he strategized like Robert E. Lee, he loved role-play and he was gawddamned fun to play with.  I remember a lot of sessions where the back-and-forth got going so fast and clever that we would end up crashed on the floor, having laughed our guts out, in pain, letting ourselves cool down before getting back into our seats to play more game.  A lot of those sessions ran eight, ten hours.  We didn't want to stop.

I know how much fun D&D can be.

Those sessions, and his will to figure it all out and keep going, got Brent through.  When I think of people who have given up on themselves, who figure that maybe it's too late for them to get an education or straighten themselves out, I think of Brent.

There was one thing that bothered me, watching him through those years.  He smoked.  Heavily.  Two, three packs a day.  It was the one thing that he was holding onto.  It was the one habit he was letting himself have.  Only trouble was, Brent was asthmatic.  We knew where it was going.

You can read about it here: in this article.

It's all true.  I was there.  I was outside his hospital room, with his family, and having bitter fights with my ex-fiancee Roberta, when he was unconscious with his lung collapsed.  That was just days before Christmas, 1984.  They called in a specialist from the United States and for a long time there, it was very touch and go.  He came out of it around New Years.  He stayed in the hospital for a lot of weeks.  When he came out, he had changed quite a lot.

I won't explain how he and I fell out.  He was there at my wedding with Michelle in Nov., '86 and he continued to play in my world for quite awhile ... but it was drifting away more than anything.  He was alive in 2007 when that article came out.  The article makes it all sound logical.  It makes a nice, clean story.

It wasn't.

Life never is.

I told this story because earlier this morning I told Slick in a comment to straighten himself out.  When an old fart says something like that, it's always taken that the fart never did a wrong thing in his life and expects the yung'uns to follow in his footsteps.  It isn't generally understood that what we're actually saying is, "I fucked up too.  Wow, kid, you have no idea the degree to which I fucked up.  The only reason why I'm not totally lost today is because, at the last minute, I hauled myself back from the edge and took some steps that saved me."

We don't say all that, however, because it's embarrassing.  We don't want to relive all that crap.

But hey, we all fuck up.  And if we want to live better, we do what we can to straighten ourselves out.  And like Brent's having to figure out how to learn shit, given that he spent his childhood scoffing at education and treating the whole system as an enemy, straightening ourselves out can be murderously hard.  Really, really fucking hard.

But you just gotta do it.  You just gotta step up to that ledge and jump.  I saw Brent do it at 17.  Seven-goddamn-teen.  Without resources, without friends, without a supportive family, without experience and without an education.

If you have any of those things right now, you're in the black.  Use a little of that capital, gather a little dignity and become a mensch.  You know what that is?  It's a human being.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

That Guy


I wonder what it is that makes role-players so earnestly proud of their contempt about everything.

Apart from Slick S.'s completely accurate statement, and my steadfast concurrence with the "want" stated, I wonder if he remotely grasps the shit that is presently being taught as a course in university.

Temple University is offering, "UFOs in American Society," analyzing reactions of American society to aliens and UFOs.

Columbia College in Chicago is offering, "Zombies in Popular Media," the undead creatures from books, movies and television.

John Hopkins University is offering, "Mail Order Brides: Understanding the Philippines," discussing the stereotyping and misconceptions about Filipino women.

The University of Wisconsin is offering, "Elvish," the complete language from the Lord of the Rings.

The University of California at Berkeley is offering, "The Strategy of StarCraft," providing an understanding of the online game, the world of eSports and transferring StarCraft skills to the world of business.

These are taken from this list, which includes 15 more.

So, yeah.  Having an aspiration for D&D to be taught as a university course is somewhat parallel to hoping one day I'll order a hamburger from MacDonalds and be asked if I want fries with it.

So what is it?  What is it that makes table-top role-players so damn anxious to be so damn purposefully ignorant about everything in the world?

I've been puzzling over this a few days now, every since my youtube feed decided out of the blue that I absolutely had to see every "worldbuilding" video ever made by an RPG dude.  Like this one from PhD20.  Or this one from Drop Dice.  Or this one from Captain Gothnog.  Or this one from Stoneworks World Building.  Or this one from Sherlock Hulmes.  There are others.

Occasionally, I'm working on something fairly repetitive that requires a certain level of attention, one where I have to be accurate, but I don't have to be invested.  During these times, there is a certain kind of media I can have running in the background, like music.  Or a movie I've seen often enough that I don't have to look at the screen, at all.  Or something that just doesn't matter.  Occasionally, I'll just run shit about D&D because, well, I like D&D.

These videos, however, aren't just bad.  Most self-created D&D videos on youtube are bad.  These videos take it a step farther, however, in that they seem to be deliberately bad.  They all blather on about making a "world," but it is overwhelmingly clear that none of them have done a moment's research in all of their existence on the topic.  It is painfully clear that they have thought, "Hey, my channel needs another video this week ... why don't I pull a video about how to create a believable milieu for human beings right ... out ... of ... my ... ass?"

I find it hard to believe there are really human beings in the world that are actually trying to apply any of this content to this Friday's D&D running.

But getting back to this theory about deliberate stupidity.  Do any of these people understand that there are subjects in human knowledge that apply here?  Um, sociology, anyone?  Anthropology?  Geography?  Geopolitics?  Anybody?

Honestly, I can't figure it out.  There are hundreds of hours of people talking on vlogs about how to "present" as a DM, who never mention research material related to drama, business, developing confidence or communications.  The same applies to, "How to create a story" vlogs.  Not a word about narrative theory, writing theory, drama again, psychology, etc., etc.  Why would there be?  We're talking about D&D, yes?  That thing that exists utterly divorced from every other thought ever presented by a human being about this subject.

I have to assume that people who actually want to understand something about worldbuilding, storytelling and presenting a game never think to search anything other than specifically D&D sites.  Otherwise, surely, they'd be talking about all this amazingly practical, directly accessible and easily implementable material, instead of this marching parade of truly ... truly bad ...

Honestly.

Words just fail me.

So what is it?  What is it that makes every DM creating a video of their game group believe that the best way to present is to bellow?  What the fuck is it with all the bellowing?  Is this really what your DM does?  If so, hell ... we ought to have a university course for that.  Yale must be sucking around for a good, solid bellowing course.

I don't get it.  I've heard the, "Well, they're all nerds who were hated at school, so they dropped out of society argument."  But I read through the gushing comments on these videos and I just think, fuck.  Just ... fuck.

I'm looking at this one comment on the Hulmes page where the reader says, "Hey mark can you link to any of us newbies a way to build a map."

This is the internet.  The internet, man.  For fuck's sake, use fucking google.  What the fuck?  I assume this reader is at least old enough to reach the keyboard of his daddy's computer.  He found Hulmes' site.  How did he find Hulmes' site if he doesn't know how fucking google works?

Fuck.

Don't give me this shit.  This guy is one of the smarter commenters.  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah.  Okay, I just don't fucking care.  I just don't.  Maybe contempt is not the best look for me just now but holy jesus masturbating shit on a fucking cracker.  What in the crap is it with this shit?

So.

Yeah.

You know, fuck making D&D a university course.  I'd just like to see a few more people using actual material knowledge from the considerable store of thought that human beings have acquired over the last 12 millenium to explaining more properly how role-playing games work.  The game is fucking doomed if we can consider the whole goddamn internet and it is possible to know who I am by calling me "that guy who wants dungeon mastering to be taught as a course."

That guy.  That one fucking guy.  On the whole fucking internet.

Jeez. We are fucking doomed.