Thursday, December 18, 2014


In the interest of fostering enthusiasm . . .

There's no question that I am generally seen to be a negative person.  Most would consider me anything but fostering, since I seem far more concerned with tearing down than I am with offering aid and support.

Yes, I agree.  I have done my best with that.  From the start of this blog, I've set out to blast the sort of games I've always hated - railroaded games, simple-minded games, games run by tin-pot generals, games based on cheesy bought materials, etcetera.  By the time I wrote my first post in 2008, I had certainly 'fostered' a long and bitter distaste for these things, a distaste I have given free rein in the past six-plus years.

I don't think it is quite washed out of me.  Another six years should do it.

To 'foster' is to offer food, to nourish and to support.  I have always felt that food given ought to be good food, food that will do more than simply fill your belly for an hour or two.  I'm not in the habit of giving brimstone and treacle.  I could easily draw up dungeon room after dungeon room - working my way up through the monsters not merely in terms of stats but in actually laying out an encounter for each and everyone.  Hell, I've cooked up at least three thousand such encounters, it's part of running the game.

Yet I do not see that as offering food - for me, it has the sick taint of charity.  I would rather that you, the reader, took it upon yourself to produce that list - to create a single, stand-alone encounter for every monster in whatever game set you play with.  Not to post it, but to DO it.  To feel the confidence that would let you do it - and to learn how so many of the monsters are pathetically similar, so as to be interchangeable.  Expecting you to do it, pressuring you, producing the guilt that makes you try, will do more to improve your game than me spilling my brain over these pages.

See, that has been the problem from the beginning.  What people want - more freebie crap to insert into their campaigns - is not what people need: the ability to do it themselves.  The resistance against self-reliance is a conditioned response, one that has been promoted by the consumerist culture.

There is a belief that it is impossible to improve on what can be purchased.  Bought material is so much prettier and nicely laid out, with art and shiny paper, that home brews pale by comparison.  I find it the height of idiocy when a DM flips open the module they've just bought so their players can Oooo and Aaaah over the content, as though any boob can't just go out and buy the same damn thing. I wonder how many realize this translates into the same idiocy that makes people feel special or superior because they bought one sort of mass produced status symbol as opposed to another.  People ask me what my problem is with the bourgeois middle-class . . . there it is, the idiomatic ideology that supposedly confers importance to the purchaser.  It is an odd sort of pride that was a fundamental part of my world where I grew up, which I have long since turned my back on.

This perceived status is coupled with a sense that producing an encounter or an adventure is a HUGE work load, as the would-be maker stares into the amount of so-called work pressed into your average store-bought adventure.  "Hell, it took how many people how many hours to produce that adventure? And now I'm supposed to reproduce this, on my own?"  As if most of the content written down isn't painfully repetitive, superfluous, obvious to a DM or otherwise unnecessary to setting up and carrying out the campaign.  The reason every nut and bolt must be included in the plans results from the possible stupidity of the user.  The company is culpable to the user, no matter who that user may be, so the company must design for the dumbest possible person with enough money in their pocket.

Designing your own adventure means skipping over 90% of the details - but you don't do that, because you've already been coerced into thinking you have to write everything down.  This to the bafflement of all of us who hear about some out there taking 15 hours to prepare their weekend campaign.  15 hours?  I spend about 20 minutes doing any actual writing down, myself - and this I can usually do right in front of the players, as they're settling down to play.

There's a true story about James Whistler, the painter, that wikipedia is nice enough to have included. In it, Whistler wins a case in which he supposedly overcharged a client for two days of work.  The crux of the case came down to the client feeling that he had been cheated, because Whistler hadn't worked long enough or hard enough for him personally.  Whistler felt - rightly - that a life of experience was a perfectly substitute for time.  I don't spend 20 minutes preparing my campaign because I don't respect my players; I spend 20 minutes because the whole adventure is laid out, in detail, in my head, where it does not take me 15 hours to design.

The community and I do not see eye-to-eye on this point.  Where I would prefer to 'foster' the community, the community wants the work done, in its entirety, right now.  They've been trained to expect it, to parade it about when they've got it (as though buying a module makes them cock-of-the-walk) and to disdain all other work as crude and second-rate.  Faced with this, I find myself given to draw out my pitchfork and my torch and go to work.  If I can't explain the better way to play D&D, then I am damn well going to demonstrate why the accepted way is pure shit.

It's been a good year, though, because I've been able to do both.  On the blog, here, I continue to tear and rend, while I have presented a book that is 100% positive in its fostering of gaming.

On both counts, I still have a lot of work to do.