If I were to cast about for a metaphor to describe the amount of work that many so-called participants in the OSR put into their worlds, I couldn’t do better than to fall back upon Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. The moment comes where the jock is standing in front of the whole school, squirming as he tries to squeeze out something intelligent about history. He knows he sounds like a complete goof. The seconds spin out and he grows anxious and frustrated ... and then all at once his face clears as he realizes what to do. He raises a fist in the air and chants out, "SAN DIMAS FOOTBALL RULES!" And the crowd goes wild.
It's the crowd going wild that the reader wants to concentrate on here.
A couple days ago I received some sincere statements about worldbuilding from a friend who was focusing on how far he was prepared to go in order to create his world for D&D. Not as far as me, was more or less the jist of it. Farther than most, though. I understood between the lines what he was saying. There is only so much time, there are other things in life, this degree of world creation is enough for his purposes, etc. And I thought, as I read what he said, how interesting.
His response came as an answer to my question, which was whether he felt there was any possibility that - given time - a single force could rise out of the maelstrom and disconcordance of the RPG universe that would bring everyone together under one system. Naturally, my friend took this to mean, well, what I was trying to do. I haven't been quiet about it. But Alexis, he explained, people aren't willing to work that hard.
No, they're not. But in the end, they won't have to.
Let's go back to the football player. I know nerds are very fond of high school football players, since they tend to be A) assholes and B) stupid and C) aggressively dangerous. The three aspects are not ranked. Nor are they necessarily universal. It's only that, while the occasional high school football player might have none of those characteristics, an increase in football players that happen to be present at any fixed geographical position usually means an increase in A, B and C ... with the increased likelihood of getting seriously fucked up if you happen to be A) conspicuously intelligent or B) physically weedy or C) a known D&D player. So better to stay away from football players altogether.
But no one - seriously - works harder in high school than football players. No one undergoes greater pressure to perform, no one risks permanent bodily injury to a greater degree, and no one of that age has more of their lives scheduled, observed or literally stolen away from them. It makes it easier to stay away from football players when so much of their time is spent in the sort of prison they experience.
If I had understood that better at age 16, I would have had more sympathy for football players. But I was focused on the aggressively dangerous part. Yes, I would eventually play at 18 and 19 in non-high school organized games ... but we didn't have to practice.
Football is organized, and loved, both by the players risking themselves and by the organization that religiously fixes its existence into the fabric of the universe. Boys may spontaneously gather together to play football. Boys do not spontaneously gather together to practice football.
If the gentle reader can forgive me, there is a comparison here between playing D&D and working on D&D. Most do not do much of the latter ... and if they do, it is usually a few hours sketching the outlines of an upcoming adventure, a floor plan or two, rolling up NPC's or working out the guts of a puzzle or a trap. A smaller proportion takes it into their heads to construct a world, which usually consists of planning the scale, drawing one map according to that scale and then never quite getting around to doing more about it.
This is the nature of worldbuilding. It is more fun to conceive of a world than it is to painstakingly draw one. When people conceive of a magic wand, they imagine waving it and something instantly appearing. No one proposes a magic wand that works by being waved and waved for six or seven weeks at a time. Sadly, these are the magic wands that actually exist.
It should be understood, however, that there is a very queer group of people who do wave these existing wands for weeks, months or years at a time, creating out of the very air things like World of Warcraft or DDO ... awful, terrible horrors that no decently minded RPGer would play. Except that they will, with more wand waving. It is only a matter of time.
See, it isn't the pathetic bit of work that I put into the creation of a world that is very important. I am a half-rate, lazy creator that barely pokes my way along with a few maps and tables that no one really understands except me. The truly frightening designers are the footballers of the RPG world, who have sacrificed their lives in endless wand-waving, who can't speak rationally for three seconds in front of a human crowd except to shout "DDO!" when they run out of words. And millions of little creatures go wild.
You will too. You and I and every designer of D&D worlds on the planet are going to be overtaken in the next forty years and made to look like silly, stupid fools mucking about with pencils. We are the dinosaurs. And this dinosaur is waiting and hoping for some brilliant fellow to come along who can take my data and my maps and pile them into a matrix that will not only generate the world in three-D, but will help me make it more interactive than I can consciously dream of doing.
It isn't what anyone will say that will end this stupid infighting. It isn't going to change by me or anyone else eventually convincing all the gentle readers to play the game my way. It will change when it seems utterly stupid not to just let the computer do it ... and the computer will do it in the one, total complete way that makes perfect sense. When we don't have to practice any more ... and we can just get inside the thing and play. Not just dumb combats, like the computers can manage now, but every kind of human roleplaying interaction imaginable.
Won't that be fun?