Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Scribblings Of Old Scholars

Although its not likely to happen for years to come, now and then I contemplate the day when I will stop running D&D.  The energy it requires, the stress ... the facts are that eventually it comes time to put things like that down, even if we don't like the idea.

This is not to say that I would ever give up the game.  On some level, I would go on creating a 'world' ... because that creation itself is a beautiful, occupying thing.  If there were still a venue to post that world - if the inevitable fascist government that is bound to supercede this one doesn't outlaw the internet on principle - then I would probably go on posting or publishing or whatever seemed like a good idea at the time.  I like tearing things down and building them again, so I'd go on with that.  I just think the process of playing has its limitations for an old man.

Now, I'm talking sixty, sixty-five, maybe seventy.  I don't know, really.  I never expected the game to take the toll it does on me now.

(To be honest, I haven't expected 90% of the changes that have come along these last ten years)

I know that sounds sad.  I know that many a gentle reader will resist contemplating that truth themselves, even as they are turning into the early part of their fifties.  Someone is also bound to rush forward and shout that Gygax or some other icon 'ran until their death' ... but I'd like to point out that Gygax died at the pretty young age of 69, after two strokes, a narrowly avoided heart attack and ultimately the aneurysm that killed him.  Arneson went at 61, though of cancer and not any stress-related malady.

I'm only 12 and a half years off 61, so I'm a lot closer to that age than a lot of my readers.  Presuming I stay healthy, I don't crap out from cancer or stress, I have to consider that those later years of life are creeping up pretty steady.  A fellow has to know his limitations.

But not to worry.  I don't view the game or its design through the same lens as a lot of people.  I'm lucky enough to realize that there's more to this than the running itself, or the 'fun' of it all.  There's something deeply fascinating with roleplaying and world-design that I fully expect to hold my attention for decades to come.  There's a certain pleasure in knowing that eventually I'll be able to sit and design freely to my heart's delight.

I've never felt that I had enough time.  Somehow, its all been a fight to push back against those commitments others pressed upon me.  Primarily, this whole business of having to feed, house and clothe myself has been a real drain on my personal resources.  It doesn't help that I'm finicky and insistent on silly priorities like living well or decently or having toys and such.  How much easier a life of obsessive design could have been if my requirements were no more than those of monks living on the coast of Ireland in the 6th century ... a little hut with a bed, a stove, a small table and tallow candles made from the pigs outside.  They got on with the business of inventing mythical bullshit with nothing more than ink, paper and dedication.

(I don't see any difference between the fantasy of D&D and the fantasy of Christianity ... just putting that out there)

But, I've been tainted with the lure of techology, which is so much more insistent upon a better prepared space and reliable power.  Alas.

When the time comes - and it will - I think that I can continue to explore my comprehension of this game far past the need to actually 'play' it.  I think there are avenues of development I've not remotely considered, which will reveal themselves to me only with time, effort, patience and contemplation.  I think, in the end, there's a certain solace in the practice of investigation into things we enjoyed frivolously in our earlier lives ... something that sustains not only ourselves, but perhaps future generations.

After all, have I not read the scribblings of a hundred old scholars writing privately and patiently in small rooms up to their death?  I have.  I most certainly have.


Dan said...

I had the honour of playing a game of Call of Cthulhu with xxx (Anders Swenson) a couple of years ago, in the SF Bay Area, he is an author of one of the scenarios that came with the original editions. He was older than 61. It was like playing a game with your grandfather. Initially that seemed like a really really amazing idea, I mean who wouldn’t want to play an RPG with their grandfather? Assuming they didn’t molest you or something.

Unfortunately it was also *like* playing an RPG with your grandfather. The whole game was basically anecdote after anecdote and it took several hours to get into the house we were investigating (and he was a player). It was a campaign, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go to more than one session.


Alexis Smolensk said...

Dan ... what makes you think I can edit comments?

Quincy Jones said...


As one who suffers from a certain ailment, I wholeheartedly concur that this game takes a surprising amount of vitality to run at the level one feels is worthwhile. In return, as you say, it takes a toll.

I know you once offered for sale certain aspects of your world-building labors: tables and such. I know it went badly. That said, I wonder if your recent success with Pete's Garage hasn't prompted you to reconsider another venture in that direction?

The blog is nice. A wonderful resource and stimulating catalyst. A book, though. An actual book. Nothing fancy, but to have ink and paper in my hands, brimming with tables, charts, methods, game philosophy, essays on medieval life, and all the rest...that would be something. Once polished up, not a few of your blog posts could feature, I think.

Tabletop Tao, perhaps? Sold for the same amount as Pete's Garage?

I would gladly purchase such a book, even if it was scribbled by an old scholar.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I appreciate that, Quincy, but look around. The book you describe, with diagrams etc. sells for $60 in any bookstore.

I am not like many on the net, Quincy. I have earned my keep with my writing ... and any full on book I produced (not merely a paperback, but one like you suggest) will be sold by full price.

Merely the effort of fixing a set 'dogma' of my thoughts on the game is proving more difficult that I expected ... without the images, I've already said I would publish such a book of $22. I shall. But I may not get it done by August, as was my original plan.

Yet there is a wholly different novel, a sci-fi thriller, that I also have going. That I might get finished before the D&D book.

Quincy Jones said...

I'm uncomfortable pressing the subject, Alexis, but I did a quick check on Amazon. The recently reprinted AD&D 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide (hardback, 256 pages) goes for $32.57. If you could point me to even a loosely comparative work that goes for $60, I'll humbly cede the point.

Of course, the author retains his right to tell me off and price his work however he sees fit. I am not in the trenches with you; I don't know what you're sacrificing for these books.

On to more savory matters. I wasn't aware you were compiling a softcover set of gaming principles. Very exciting! Could you share some more about it?

Alexis Smolensk said...

This costs $60.

At any rate, I don't have the benefits of mass production.

It isn't the writing that fazes me ... it's the charts, tables, etc., some of which I presume would need to be printed in color; and if you're going to go color, you've got to go glossy, and that runs into bucks. Moreover, to make it worth the time and effort to put that into print, knowing it would be a short run (unlike any of the D&D books, where they can count on a lower profit margin per book), I'd have to make it costly in order to pay for my time.

The cost of such things is not optional. After all the bells and whistles, I'd probably be making about the same amount per book as I'm making with Pete's Garage. These things have to be looked at practically.

Quincy Jones said...

I'll not quibble; the point is yours. If such a compendium is ever released, I'll fork over the $60 on bloody principle.

I must admit I didn't consider it not selling well, but I suppose that would be the case, wouldn't it? An unknown putting out such an expensive book in such a niche market will probably do dismally. Galling, but such is life.

Your prediction of a very small run feels accurate, but who can know? Have you considered pre-orders? Directly through Paypal, perhaps?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Join the kickstarter/crowdsourcing evolution, huh?

I won't sell something until I have product. If I want to sell ideas, I'll do it right and preach Christ.

Then no one asks for their money back.

Steve said...

I've been saying for years that D&D is a perfect game for retirement homes. As long as you have some clarity of thought and you can pick up a die and drop it, you can play. I hope to keep playing and DMing until my brain shuts down.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't know how old you are, Steve; perhaps you're sixty. For myself, the hopes I had twenty years ago are making way for new hopes I have about different things. So it goes.