Friday, May 11, 2012


At least 9/10ths of the success of this blog depends upon how often I post.  The better posts, for me, are those like the last one - simple rules for managing intoxication in the game.  The more common posts are more like this the one I'm about to write: drivel designed to keep the latest post on this blog from drifting into week-old territory.

I think about 60-70% of this blog is fundamentally drivel.  I hope it's interesting drivel - I hope occasionally I mutter a line or two that someone finds useful - but just the same it's random thoughts off the top of my head, about people or ideas that I hate; about something that happened last week; about something I've read; or, less often, about some trouble I'm having with a table or rule idea.

A third of the time I spend hacking out the most recent episode of a long-term series I'm writing: the technology series; the how-to-DM series; the RPG-cliche series ... and so on.  And if I don't feel like writing one of those, or I haven't had time to do the research on one of those, I either don't write at all, or I write the sort of drivel I'm writing now.

I can't blame the gentle reader for wanting more.  I want more, too.  I wish I had time for more.  I'd get up in the morning, work at something fruitful (instead of something that only pays me more money than fruitful things earn), and post here in the afternoon.  T'would be a nice life.  But if I had that kind of time, and it paid me the kind of money I wanted, I'd probably be on a boat in Europe somewhere looking at shit or getting drunk on Italian wine.  I probably wouldn't be writing.  Or I'd be writing drivel about the kinds of wine your world should have.

Let me confess - prior to the tanking of the economy and the bicemation of the print industry (if decimation is every tenth, bicemation is every other), when I wanted to feel better about myself I would journey to the halls of the magazines for whom I used to write humor.  My editors would grin and smile, they'd offer me drinks, they'd chatter on about how funny and wonderful I was, and I'd enjoy the rewards that writing DRIVEL provides ... because that's all that magazine writing really is: interesting drivel.

Of course, when all those editors were fired, and humor was suddenly seen as an expensive luxury, my freelance jobs dried up.  Sadly, I no longer had places where I could go and pretend to be a writer.

The internet isn't the same.

Still, the rule about writing drivel for magazines is that the drivel must be written in a timely, monthly fashion.  Oh, we may not have a really good idea for a funny tale this month, but the magazine is coming out, the advertisers are paying and geez, gotta write something.  So it is with a blog, too ... except that its a little harder, because the drivel doesn't earn 55 cents a word.  But then, it's easier too, since no one ever needs to be impressed.  It's a blog.  No one ever expects to be impressed.

Sorry, sorry, digressing there.  The blog is about D&D so we should talk about D&D.

Lately I have been drowning in things I want to do but don't have time to do.  Every session seems to be an adventure in The Shit That Didn't Get Done.  I want to roll treasure?  Nope, still using that crappy old table.  Equipment list?  No, still haven't finished off those tables after The Sculptor.  The ranger in the party has a pet giant beaver?  Damn, still stuck with the description in the book, which really doesn't describe much - plus I need to know what a giant beaver weighs to get the hit points right.  In fact, there's only about 700 monsters to sit down someday and work out.

Trade table for Sopron in Hungary - shit, this is still the algorithm that counts India as one country.  When am I going to get that finished?  Wandering hexes north of Lake Bakony?  No, I haven't even begun the hex generator - I don't know when I'll get time for that.  Yes, yes, I know the cleric is 7th level.  NO, I still haven't rewritten the fourth level cleric spells.  And something else I should do is rewrite those crappy half-assed sage tables.  That would be nice.

The computer I produce my maps on just died, and the program I've been using for the last ten years can't be gotten now and has ceased to exist.  That's okay, the new publisher is better, I'll get the hang of it ... but it means redoing every freaking map I have.  Yeah.  I have plenty of time for that.

The weather generator is better but there's still trouble (I think I could work it out if I could put three solid days of thinking towards it) with the wilderness damage effects element of the table.  Not that ANY of my players really wants me to work hard on the problem.

Oh, right, I am running three campaigns.  And I'm still somehow managing 1,000+ words a day on the novel that my partner and I decided needs to get published in July.  After beating my head against the industry for 20 years, trying to get a book published, everyone but everyone now tells me the only way you make money at this industry is self-publishing.  So something is going in with Lulu this year.  Possibly two things, or three things ... depending on how reworking other books the publishers would never fucking read goes.  Well, that's all a lot of fun.

Want to know something?  I still have no clue who won the World Series last year.  And regarding the Stanley Cup this year, I haven't one idea who might be playing, if they've even started the playoffs or what round they might be in.  I haven't heard a hockey score since December ... I'm sure someone, somewhere, gives a shit about that stuff, but it ain't me.

I showed my partner the film Citizen X the other night, which she had never seen.  It is a good HBO movie made for television, and youtube has it nicely in one piece.  It is about the Russian serial killer Chikatilo, who killed at least 53 persons, mostly children, in the region about Rostov on the Don, an area something similar to Norfolk Virginia in density of population, climate, social perceptions and so on.  At 1:30:30 of the film, the psychiatrist reads from a document he wrote about Chikatilo:

"Citizen X has probably had a tendency towards isolation since childhood.  His internal world, filled with fantasy, is closed to those around him ... the adolescence of such a person is as a rule painful, because he is often subjected to the laughter of his peers ..."

Part of being an honest person, with yourself and with others, begins with hearing words like this and being able to interpret how they might be addressing you personally.  A closed person with dismiss them instantly, just as a player of D&D with no will towards introspection will not consider what it is to spend time playing or designing this game.  I am not a closed person.  When I heard those words from the film, my first idea from them was that I'm like that.  I, too, live in a world entirely construction of fantasy.  My work consists in maintaining and modifying an enormous database directly related to the film industry, which is all about fantasy worlds.  I play D&D often, and I dedicate a great deal of time to the idea of the game as well as the game itself - the drivel on this blog, for example.  I write about D&D related matters that in no way help me play the game myself, and I approach those matters as though they have the importance of death and taxes.  And when I am not playing or working at or writing D&D, I am writing or reworking fictional pieces of literature that appeal to my reconstruction of a fantasy world that suits me in the depiction of its characters, their dialogue, the fate that guides them or the resolution of their imagined structures.

The one comforting thing is that I don't have the time to murder people or hide their bodies ... though truth be told, any profiler of serial killers will tell you that a 47-year-old white male fits right into that groove.

Hey, anyone getting freaked out right now?

Don't.  This is all just a lot of drivel to keep you interested and coming back.  Enjoy your day.


Eric said...

Here's an interesting (and somewhat game-relevant) article about the similiarites between heroes and sociopaths:

JDJarvis said...

Someone's got to pump out the drivel, in my life the drivel is the plots and graphs for folk that were never going to do the math, along with the spot art to keep the reader visually engaged. As I said, someone's got to do it and practice makes perfe..... well practice makes one more practiced.

Elton said...

Drivel is, as one put it, the fluffy nugat in the center of the chocolate bar.

It can be creamy, or it can be, as they say . . . not palatable.

ckc said...

"Man does not live on bread alone," etc.

Can you give any recommendations for Excel-related statistical or simulation modeling books? Not all of us have had the privilege of your past job experience. I try to think of how to use tables in play, but I'm stuck between macro-level, step-wise processing, and wondering which tables would be relevant to a first session.

For example, merchant A travels X miles to reach city B with goods C and D. Players do something. Next day. Advance the travel counter.

Or a table to produce a 30-foot locale context of NPCs, all of whom are doing some kind of activity related to their profession (referencing their own tables). It's harder than it looks to me.


Alexis said...

As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to design D&D from experience I gained at my job. I stepped into the job with the experience I gained from D&D.

Nine-toes said...

I also fit the profile for Citizen X. Or I used to, prior to marriage. Fortunately I was busy finishing my useless Batchelor's in English (a degree in drivel) and working full time prior to marriage, so I had no time for hiding bodies, either.