Sunday, August 28, 2016


One of the realities about writing, where it comes to standing for something, is the simple acceptance that we will fail with most people.  We may feel that we have a reasonable, even an obvious position, but for whatever reason - tradition, reluctance, discomfort, bloodymindedness - by far the vast portion of any set of readers will deny that proposition out of hand.

As of late I've written a bunch of posts about game theory, quoting experts on the subject and linking the hell out of my arguments. But people aren't going to embrace that RPGs are about decision-making!  RPGs are about storytelling and fun, and about people being able to live their fantasies.  And of course they're games!  No matter how we play them!

Last post I pitched the argument that rule-making and world-building isn't the DM's task alone, but of course we know it is, right?  We know it is.  Any argument to the contrary is . . . well, it's just crazy. Pure nonsense.  Because things are as they are and one guy writing a bunch of words strung together does not make an argument.  Sorry.


I am Quixotic, however, about these things.  I've written six or seven posts now about getting rid of the DM's screen.  I've gone on several tears, the last one longest and most successful, I think, about player-vs-player, because I was able to change one notable blogger's mind.  That's how we record success in the writing business: by the number of minds that get changed.  Football [soccer] scores mostly produce higher numbers than writing.

I've argued that DMs should not be telling "stories," that games are meant to be run to give the players agency and not purpose.  I've written that mega-dungeons are deathly dull and should not be included in campaigns.  I've long argued that campaigns should be run for years, not hours, and that running different systems from session to session because the players want to try something "new" is evidence that all the games the DM is running are obviously crap.

I preach work, I preach education and reading, I preach sitting and working every day at a campaign, I preach brainstorming and going back to talk to your players time and again to find out what sort of campaign/rule set they want.  DMs should treat all their players with equal consideration, DMs should be honest and the campaigns they run should demonstrate consistent, predictable characteristics that the players identify when they sit down to play.

None of this has been a waste of time and I'll go on fighting these windmills . . . but I'm not pretending anything.  It is hard to change.  Very, very hard.  It is easier to rationalize not changing.

It does get strange, however.  When I float arguments grounded in facts, evidence and studies that demonstrate that successful games are those that enable decision-making and payoffs that count, it is somewhat baffling to receive resistance.  Like those people who argue that fudging - deliberately misleading their friends secretly, autocratically, with a lie that is supposedly for someone else's benefit - is good.

Change is bravery.  People are not brave.

I understand that.  Yet I feel that I have to make use of the tools I have to fight those incongruities and encourage courage.  If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening.  I do have a keyboard.


Dani Osterman said...

I absolutely agree with you, Alexis. The transition has been difficult, but I am happy to be out of that cave and able to see the sky with my own eyes.

Dennis Laffey said...

Change definitely is hard. I rationalized all sorts of reasons "not to change now...I'll make the change later" in the comments of your last post. Because part of me wants to change, but another part - the lazy, procrastinating part - says, well, you are having fun now! You are busy now! You have other priorities now!

But I am listening to what you're saying. And I'm registering your arguments, agreeing with them, and I know I do need to make that change.

So you aren't just screaming in the wind here, Alexis. You are making progress. Keep hammering and you may just get me to shake off my excuses and finally do it.

Jomo Rising said...

Keep preaching, brother.