Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Proposed Essays

I have concurrence on another essay book, and a proposed theme:  Simple Things You Should Try To Make D&D About a Thousand Times More Interesting than It Is Right Now.  The title is a bit long - perhaps something along the lines of "A Thousand Times Simpler."

Though to be honest, I'm not sure I can deliver upon a 'thousand' times - perhaps three or four times simpler?  Hm.  Lacks verve, eh?

So, 10 to 15 essays are required - preferably new essays, covering ground that is not contained in the blog or either of the two books I've released.  Let me start by saying that this is easy!  Once you kick out the boards that surround the standard mindset of play, there's so much in role-playing to talk about that I could probably keep writing new stuff until my eventual death.  At the very least, I'm learning things every day - meaning there's always a new interpretation waiting to be made about something I used to think.  Not being a politician, I'm allowed to change my mind about things.

I'll add this.  The best way to determine 10 needed improvements, I find, is to load up someone else's video, watch it and make notes about instructions being given and assumptions being made.  Mostly assumptions!  These occur because DMs want to pound the game into this neat, nice round hole that they find is very easy to run.

Recently I came across a blog written by a fellow - nevermind who - that was terribly, awfully thrilled that he had discovered how the three-act structure could be implemented to create great adventures!  He wrote about this on his blog as if it were some great discovery that had blown all the doors off module adventure making.

For those who haven't read the book, I speak about how the three-act structure has been part of adventure making since the beginning, and I point out at length the limitations of the structure and why traditional drama makes a crummy format for role-play - but when I pointed this out, patiently, quoting a passage from my book, I was informed that this fellow wanted TENSION in his games, and that he couldn't produce it anywhere near as well without the three-act structure.  Sandbox games, he implied, are boring.

Having neatly boarded himself in, his plan for DMing was set for life.  He had managed to delude himself into the philosophy that excitement required rigor and the predictability of a template in use for 500 years, designed for an artistic presentation for a passive audience.  There's no trouble explaining that sort of dissonance - it is based on the only structure he knows, the only one that makes him feel confident enough to run.  Therefore,

Essay #1:  What We Know

If we are going to write essays about making the game 'better,' the first thing that needs to be addressed is that we most often 'know' things for their convenience.  Gaining knowledge that to do something right is ALSO going to mean that it is hugely difficult is a strong motivator for continuing to do things half-assed . . . especially if we can justify our lazy behaviour by arguing that it's only a game, we don't want to take it that seriously, there are more important things in the world, I don't have the time, etc.

Let's look at some other essays that follow from the above:

Essay #2:  Prepared for 'X' Amount of Time

How often does the DM say, "I've got enough content to allow for two hours of running"?  Does this not sound like an adventure that's scripted?  That the players are going to be pushed, shunted and railed into a given set of content that the DM has already created?  It's 2-dimensional thinking.  The players shouldn't be shoved forward, they should be drawn in - and in drawing them in, there should always be ONE MORE THING in the DM's repertoire that makes the game go on forever.  Moreover, if the party is happy, encouraged, interested and involved in the game, how far they get through the previously made material shouldn't matter!  Role-play is not a church service - it's a picnic!

Essay #3:  Let's Kill the Self-Contained Session

This ideal, that a session should somehow have a beginning at the start of the session, and come to a conclusion, is based largely upon DMs who either a) can't keep depend on their players returning; or b) feel that somehow their games should reflect a television show in character and responsibility.  The result is an arbitrary restriction on player agency and convivial enjoyment, as the players are hammered into the DM's pre-ordained framework.  Sessions do not have to end 'on time'!  Nor are there issues with stopping in the middle of things and picking it up next week.  I've suspended thousands of sessions in the middle of every sort of action - the practice does not disturb the players in the least!

Essay #4:  Role-play is Not a Smorgasbord

There is a tendency among some DMs to fit 'elements' into their games - as in, we must have at least a little role-play tonight, we must have a puzzle, there must be a combat, each player must be given an opportunity to use at least one skill, etcetera.  This is just another set of imposed walls, designed to "give the players what they want" by completely ignoring that these are shallow, contrived moments contributing to a lack of substance.  What the players want is MEANING, not strained, affected moments of gratuitous melodrama delivered as a feigned, awkward and usually campy insertion.  This, again, is bad thinking.

Essay #5:  Don't Let DMs Treat You Like Plug-and-Play

This is about those DMs who have a lot of players, who play at clubs, who mix and match players like pawns in a game that primarily services the DM's personal ego.  Seriously, I know DMs are rare, but if you find yourself playing at a club with a smug, supercilious DM who has plans to make your party the "scouts" for some other party, or eventually plans to have your party fight their party in a grand free-for-all for the glory of the DM, you are a dupe, a patsy, a puppet, an instrument, a stooge.  You are a SUCKER.  You've let some puffed up little fuck use your desperate need to play to make you a gladiator in his colliseum.  You need to bitch-slap that little prick.  You need to find another DM.

There.  That's half to a third of the book planned already.  And all I had to watch was 2 minutes and 44 seconds of this pompous ass here.

(I meant to do ten - but to be honest, I just can't take any more)

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