Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Confess: There Is a One True Way

A friend was kicking me earlier today about this post, wanting to know what the hell is wrong with preaching one true way.  "You said in the post that we're on a path.  Don't paths lead somewhere?"

Okay, fair enough.  Paths do, in fact, tend to lead somewhere.  In that sense, yes, I am arguing for a specific attitude towards role-playing - a position that argues that a 'good' game is not about the DM's world or the genre or the rules, but about the way interaction between each facet of the game is managed.  It's all tolerant and shit to let each person's definition of good satisfy the principles that live up to each individual's expectations, but just how in the fuck do you build a philosophy on that sort of chaos?

How useful is it to say to someone who is young and inexperienced, "There is nothing I can tell you about being right or wrong because there is no right.  There is no wrong.  You'll have to make mistakes and solve them yourself, because everything I've learned can only ever serve me and mine."

Once you accept, however, that there is such a thing as a common experience to be had between people who are all participating in the DM-Player dynamic, it becomes reasonable to assign value to some actions over others.  If we can create a philosophy that applies to Life as a Whole, then it stands to reason that we can create a philosophy that applies to Gaming.

If it helps, view philosophy as an approach to gaming, or the methodology employed.  Both must begin with the preamble,"I believe," whether or not those words are actually spoken or considered. Everyone approaches their game as a proposition - and every proposition, however personal it may be, is subject to examination, reflection and change.  No matter what you or I may believe, challenging that belief is a duty because that belief affects the satisfaction and comfort of other people beyond ourselves.

To me, this is the path.  Not the insistence that my personal method is the best way to ensure satisfaction or comfort, but that we must always consider the players' satisfaction and comfort regardless.  We do not make the game for ourselves.  We do not participate in the game alone.  No one does, neither DM nor player.  Therefore every element of the game, every precept, every assumption and approach and methodology must be re-evaluated again and again once we understand that we can never, ever be sure we have the absolute last answer to the question.

This is the reason why my comment rules include a statement about why I do not want to hear about how you do something!  How you do it or I do it is not the question at hand.  It is never the question at hand.  The question is, "Does this particular suggestion violate the proposition of satisfaction or comfort of the player?"  Offering an alternative proposal simply provides another proposal about which the question has not been answered.

Anything I propose will represent my best effort to provide the best experience for my players.  I don't give a damn about any other imagined purpose for creating a world or creating rules, for managing the players during the game or for creating a presentation.  I do consider any other purpose beyond creating the best possible experience for the player as an adventure in idiocy, and I am not shy about saying so.  In this way, yes, I preach One True Way.

If the experience of your players is not at the heart of everything you do in your efforts to be a DM, then you are a shitty DM.  I am quite inflexible on this point.

Yes, I enjoy making my world.  I enjoy running it.  But I do both in a particular way that does its best to appeal to the player the same way a chef cooks food that the customer will eat.  There are chefs in this world that seem to think the appearance of the food is more important than the taste, but as I feel too much condescension to this concern tends to produce bad tasting food, I am opposed to calling such chefs talented.  Just make the food taste good.  If you can make it pretty without reducing the flavour, all the better.  As long as you recognize I'm just going to mess it up with my fork anyway.

Cooking is hard, bloody, hot, dangerous work.  I used to quite like it.  The appeal for doing it without customers is, however, totally lost on me.  I cannot say attitude was universal among the chefs I once knew.  There are chefs I have known who could not have cared less if the food, once made, had been removed from the kitchen and dumped in the trash.  I have known many more chefs who considered giving food to customers the equivalent of dumping it in the trash.

This need to view effort only in personal terms, and then to see that as a virtue, has always been lost on me.  If I had no players, yes, I would continue working on my world.  Much of my energy, however, would be redirected towards obtaining new players.  Thanks to the internet, I know now that will always be possible.

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