Monday, March 25, 2013

Bottomless Pits

As all the drama dies away, and as content reasserts itself on the blog, I find myself in one of those instrospective moments where I've gained a little perspective.  I'm compressing my thoughts into figures and explanations for generation, and a moment of insight arrives on cue, as it usually does.

Why am I doing this?

I don't mean, what is the purpose of the generation; I'm working on my world as I always do, deliberating on the best way to fill those hexes, granular up the experience and just generally to make the world something the party can identify with an control.  No, I mean, why am I explaining it to anyone else?

I have a blog, obviously.  So I'm not just filling up hexes, I'm filling a blog, too.

Once upon a time, for ages before there were computers, it was enough to simply create the formula.  It would never have occurred to me to concentrate on making the formula palateable for anyone else's consumption.  I simply would have sat in my room, made the tables, applied the tables, reworked the tables, marked the continued failure of the tables and finally shelved the tables until the time came I had a new idea.  All this happened - hundreds of times - without anyone seeing what I did, not even my players.  After all, I don't sit down and explain to my players the system that creates the prices, or show them the character generator that gives them their new backgrounds.  Oh, I talked about it; gave a few examples; showed them the format; but when they ceased to be interested, as players always do, I was never upset.  You don't expect the players to care ... you just expect them to play.

And so it was for almost three decades.

These days, I can't conceive of a new rule without having to blog about it.  And since most of the rules I conceive of now tend to be complex and three-dimensional, in that generations tend to spawn other generations that produce still other generations, that complexity is getting harder and harder to capture in a bottle ... or rather, in a two dimensional table.  More and more, to get a handle on it requires a spreadsheet that can access other spreadsheets.  And its more explanation than is easy to put on a blog page.

So?  Why bother to blog.  Isn't it enough that it suits my world?

I am reminded that one of the reasons I began to blog was because my daughter was anxious that I sketch out the structures upon which I build my world.  When she first expressed this, I hadn't even stumbled across blogs.  She was only sixteen, she had never run in my world - she was playing the game only with her friends, then - but she knew the work I'd always done on my game and she didn't want it to be lost.  When I came across blogs, this seemed like a good method to describe things; throw up a picture or two, or just describe in words what I was doing.

That is getting harder and harder.  Bouncing against the hex generation last week, breaking down every tiny thought into an image, I did it for no reason except the blog.  I would NEVER have bothered to save an image of my every action previously.  No other person, or person's reaction, would have been in my head.  I wouldn't have found myself thinking, "Hm, got to justify the placement of those rivers.  Got to explain why rivers or landscapes produce patterns like they do."  I've spent 40 years studying maps, and countless hours pouring over river patterns and geological explanations for river flow - I don't need to explain this stuff for myself.  I know when I turn a river this way or that way on a map what I'm doing, and what effect it's causing.  Why, oh why, should I pause and explain it to anyone else.  Isn't it up to them to do the work?

This sounds like I'm going to quit blogging, like that's what I'm leading up to.  That would be inaccurate.  I don't intend to quit, and I don't intend to stop doing what I'm doing.  But I have to examine why I'm doing it, because that's the sort of contemplative person I am.  I like to have a reason.  I like to know.  It's not enough that I do it.  There's a reason why and until I know the reason, I'm not done yet.

I suppose that's what makes me the way I am.  There IS a reason.  Most people, I'm certain, convince themselves that maybe there isn't ... which justifies not searching for it.  Like the majority of people not supporting gun legislation not because they wouldn't like guns to be controlled, but because they're certain the legislation won't work.  More to the point, it will be expensive and it won't work.  That's a belief, not a fact.  And people believe that they probably do stuff just 'cause, and that spending a lot of time thinking about it won't turn up an answer.  So they don't think.  They don't reconsider, or seek explanations.  They assume there aren't any.

There is a way to do everything.  And there is a reason for doing it.  Not knowing that reason or way has jack to do with the existence of either.

People wonder why I've called this blog the "Tao" of D&D.  And some have asked that if I had no intention of speaking about Taoism, why did I name the blog as I did?  My conception of Tao is that it is a path.  I don't propose to know what Tao is.  No Taoist does.  The path itself is the process.  I don't claim that there is "a way" to play D&D ... I only claim that I am "on the way."  I'm examining the intricacies of what the game offers or suggests.

That offering or suggestion cannot be found in the rule books.  It cannot be found in the words of this blog, either.  All I can do is say, "Here is a Hex.  Here is a means to filling that Hex.  Apply thyself."

Whether I am sketching tables or offering image patterns, or I am ripping into to some poor soul along the way for failing to live up to the principle, it is no different.  All that is written here is "content."  It is foolish to argue that there are "content" posts on this blog and "drama" posts.  Every word written here addresses some angle of the game, whether its the flat and mundane placement of roads on a map or the slapping around of some dumb soul bent on decrying the usefulness of putting roads on a map.  It is not enough to make propositions.  If propositions mean anything, they or worth defending.

Why write my world out?  Because I think these are ideas worth defending.  I think that there's value in them, not just for me, but for others.  Admittedly, I sometimes wonder what value.  Often I fear that I am going right up my own ass.  I feel a bit like it now, as it happens.  This post is beginning to bend back on itself in ways I did not intend.

I enjoy being read.  I enjoy hearing that I've influenced other people and their worlds.  I enjoy feedback for my ideas and I enjoy tossing out those ideas, even if it requires I get pedantic and excessively detailed.  Someone else is enjoying that, I'm sure.  I can't do that sort of thing constantly; I don't have the time.  And often I find myself at a loss for what to do next.  Or that I haven't got the time to properly detail out the next step.  Or that I just get so far down the road before I realize I need to rest and reconsider.  Half the time the new shit I'm doing is so new I have, at best, a vague idea of where I'm going.

Experience tells me, however, that I am going somewhere, and not in a rectal direction.  I'm on a road to knowledge; I'm challenging myself to do more than just HAVE that knowledge, but to share it too.  It's difficult.  Blogs are like terrible, awful voids.  You throw shit into them and you listen for something to hit bottom.

Some things never do.


Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I stopped by. Glad to see your work continues.

Scarbrow said...

And as contemplative entries go, this one didn't elicit that many answers.

Thank you for sharing yourself with us here. Knowing what's behind the man helps more frequently that one would think to understand the man's work.