Monday, February 24, 2014

Takes a Plan

I would have liked to write this hours ago, but some days are just unfriendly towards work - so it's pretty late in the day as I settle in.

I want to pick up from the post about giving a baby something to play with on Friday.  The first question I asked at the end of that post was, "What is your world meant to do?"  Not that this is the beginning of a series or anything, but I'd like specifically to expand that one question, particularly with regards to parenting.

For most of the world, parenting occurs by chance, and the principle issues of parenting are to provide shelter and food.  I'm thinking now of parts of the world where planned parenting isn't an option, where the parents of a child have no ability to consider that child's education, what extra-curricular activities the child will pursue or where they'll find a berth waiting for them in university.  The child's activities are going to be taken up with labour, scavenging, opportunities for distraction and the manifestation of fear.  Because the parents are working continuously through the day, or are forced by circumstances to scrounge all day for every meal, much of the child-rearing is done by siblings or persons too old to work, even by neighbours and certainly by often-vicious peer groups.

I have no doubt that many role-playing campaigns are run exactly on this principle.

No, this isn't going to be a post about encouraging you to give money, time and your personal experience to the developing world--though that's a laudable pursuit, and the gentle reader could do well to consider it.  As stunning a development as it may be, I described the above to use it as a metaphor.  And let me add, for the moron in the gallery who's education has been gained mostly from the theatre of the troll, the metaphor is invoked only in the hopes that the reader might recognized how very, very little some DMs do where it comes to constructing a world.

Very, very little.

Think, for a minute.  You have a child.  You're reading this, so you have access to a computer, you have some conception of growing up in an enlightened culture (sorry to all those living in the developing world, but enlightenment has yet to become your strong suit), so you're able to imagine your infant child growing into an adult with responsibilities much like those you now possess.  Do you, or do you not, have a plan?

You may answer 'yes,' but we have plenty of evidence that many around us refuse to answer the question at all ... because the answer would be most certainly 'no,' and that's considered socially reprehensible.

Of course, it's not socially reprehensible to invite players over to your world, drag out a few books, push papers at them and then offer a plan for your world that's good for one night only.  That's perfectly fine.  In fact, it's vigorously argued in some corners that MORE is the destruction of fun, and therefore socially reprehensible.

Just saying.

That would be a lovely argument, except that it's basically the Sao Paulo gambit where said four-year old (D&D player) strikes out from yon ramshackle hut (border fortress) on an adventure to play let's-find-fresh-water-today (let's hunt orc).  Hey, adventure is adventure ... it's only that your players are fat, with their meaty hands clutching bags of chips and Mountain Dew, while the boy in Sao Paulo's only engorged area is his malnutrition-produced middle.

Look, I could beat the reader over the head with this metaphor for a long time, there's plenty of wear and tear in it (and I might, but it's late in the day).  I'd rather promote the possibility that your world might have a more-than-one-day mentality about what it's offering.  After all, you're blessed with more books than you could ever possibly read, and someone took the time to teach you what to do with them.  Has it on any level occurred to you that books, and the things you describe, involve somewhere along the line someone actually having a PLAN?  One that would take more than a day, an evening or one session to concoct?

No?  Oh well then.

I have to remember I'm arguing against a culture that considers one of the greatest things in the universe to be participation in sport - an activity that requires an enormous amount of preparation for an event that lasts, on average, less than three days (I'm including cricket, which really skews the time element).  From that point of view, a six-hour adventure, imagined, designed and played all in the space of one evening, is a spectacular achievement.  That nearly doubles the attention span of football, baseball, basketball or hockey (not always, yeah, I know, but go with it).  That's a fantastic improvement.  I shouldn't downplay it.

'Course, most of the developing world plays cricket, but ... really, the reader is doing great.  Way to stretch those possibilities.

Six hours.  That really takes a plan.

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