Saturday, September 9, 2017

50 Monsters ... Bleh

50 Monsters.

More accurately, 50 wiki pages of monsters, because I'm not counting cases where I created both the ordinary and giant version of monsters (three types of crocodile), I'm not counting extra links to describe the details behind devils and demons and I'm not counting the dragon posts at all that began this recent effort, for the merest OCD reason that they're not in order and therefore they don't count.

Nor am I counting work I didn't do at all, for it should be noted that Tim has contributed work on firenewts, floating eyes, giant frogs, large frogs, huge frogs, killer frogs (though killer frogs are appearing in my online Juvenis campaign, Tim went with a traditional description) ~ so many frogs! ~ gargoyles, gelatinous cubes, hyenas, moas, ostriches and rheas.  Ozymandias has hunted around for a wide variety of very helpful pics.  It has been a great effort.

The hardest moment came when I was sent this link related to Pathfinder.  The sender's motive was meant to be encouraging, but I have to admit that I'm simply not capable of producing this degree of content: I don't have the resources and I don't have this much help.  As such, seeing it laid out, then comparing it to my meagre effort, is somewhat soul-crushing ... I can only sustain myself by seeing that pages like this description of the bedlam are filled with such gobblydegook and functionality references that the actual content is tedious and arcane ~ unless you happen to play pathfinder.

I want to believe that the material I'm producing is both accessible and suggestive, even if you don't play my system or don't play at all.  I couldn't even steal from the Pathfinder source ~ I did a listing on black pudding and there was nothing in the Pathfinder version's "ecology" that wasn't basically described in my original monster manual from 1979.  That's not much forward development.

Here I hesitate.  I'm not certain I should bring up this next point; it smacks of self-importance and egotism, of which I'm accused all the time and which I don't wish to confirm.  But the way I feel about that huge Pathfinder wiki ~ is that how the Gentle Reader thinks about me?  Am I, well, not exactly crushing souls, I haven't created that much content, but am I undermining your desire to work on stuff?

Okay, you'll jump down my throat and tell me "fuck no," and believe me, that's a good thing.  But I know how I felt after I saw that Pathfinder wiki and it was totally a sense of "oh gawd, why am I even bothering."  It was three or four days before I could get myself to work on another monster, and then only because I said I'd do 50 before I quit ~ and shit, if it didn't happen that the last two monsters were a demon and a devil.

I could have done something else, a caribou or a coffer corpse, something beginning with C, to satisfy my OCD.  But I meant to go through the monster manual before doing other things (though I cheated and added the giant bat).  I could have done two demons, but I had planned to do one type of multi-type monsters like demons, devils, dragons, giants and such, though I meant to do all the versions of the natural multi-types, like beetles, bears, snakes, etc.  For whatever loony, mentally bastardized reason, I found myself sitting at 48 monsters, with Demon and Devil in front of me, this miserable doubt cast by the Pathfinder wiki kicking me in the face and I just felt ... bleh.

It's been tough finding the motivation to dig through the demon and devil and make sense of those types, to give them character and motivation, and to get out of the doldrums of "just another monster."  I'm glad I did, I'm glad I had the source material, I'm glad people liked the work (the wiki numbers were really high) and said as much.  So great.

It isn't that unfair for me to ask if others have had this experience with me ... or, obviously, with everything else that's out there in the universe, encouraging you not to work on your world because why, jeez, what for, it's all be done already, even if the doing was kind of rotten.  Why do all that work just to repeat work that's already been done?

I guess, for me, it at least teaches me something.  It at least creates a problem that I can solve and learn about things in the process of solving.  But gad, yeah, sometimes it just feels like I'm a little flea picking at the skin of a dog that's going to scratch me onto a carpet just before the vacuum of Mrs. Nature rolls over me.

Well, fifty monsters.  Yay.  Sort of.  I could probably do another one.  A displacer beast is fairly straight forward.


  1. Honestly, your work inspires me to do the little work I manage to find the time to use on my world. I steal a lot from you, but I make changes, mainly for my own sanity and the fact that I run a modified 5e instead of 1e.

    I like the fact that your wiki isn't like the pathfinder one you linked. Yours feels real and worked on as opposed to sterile and corporate (i hope that makes sense).

    Also, I treat the blog and wiki as companion sites, and you put out better deconstruction and explanations of the game, how to play, how to run, and describe the rules better than most any published RPG book.

  2. Alexis,

    From my experience, seeing your work doesn't give me any kind of soul-crushing. It inspires me, it makes me think, and it even motivates me. It also gives a goal, something to thrive for, to attain.

    So far, so good, keep it up (although what you already produced is very valuable and exploitable already, and will continue to be so) !

  3. Yes, well, wasn't looking for praise. But thank you.

    I wanted to express my own sentiment that packaging and corporate material, produced with a boatload of money and labor (the Pathfinder is probably crowdsourced), can represent a mental hurdle that has to be overcome.

  4. I'll just pile on to those answering your question - whether your own work produces that feeling of soul-crushing - in the negative. If anything, it's the exact opposite. I find reading your work (and select others in the OSR sphere) liberating. It's freeing to know that I'm not the only one obsessed by these ideas, struggling to do better.

    However, I don't get that sol-crushing feeling from looking at the Pathfinder SRD, either. Maybe that's because I've played Pathfinder and I know that it's a deeply broken, unsatisfying game, and that the sheer volume of useless material is one of its main problems. It's borne of a need to constantly churn out new saleable items, rather than by any need of the game.

    One of my main impressions when I think of the SRD is the sadness that this is the dominant form of the game - bloated, heavy, its own weight crushing its rotten foundations.

    The brilliance of the work produced by OSR/DIY-types is that it's made in response to real gameplay issues, and so is useful, usable, or at least thought-provoking. And the fact that it's done by real people with personalities is heartening, and I believe encourages others to take up the good fight in ways that the SRD never will.

  5. The DIY is what brought me to this fold, so I'm not really impressed by the aseptic halls of pathfinding.

    I've dipped my toes in your rules, they were plenty good. You've inspired the design efforts that I've been undergoing in no small way, adapting 5E into a bit of a more punishing system.

    I was actually surprised at the lack of some entries on your wiki, stuff like systems for grappling or your being taken aback at our hex-hopping combat behaviour, remarking that you'd never had players do that before and then making adjustments on the spot.

    You opened a can of worms and a half with the sage abilities, but they're a good feature of your game. Lots of value added with that one.

  6. Well put, Charles! I agree with everything he said.
    I'd also add -- regardless of whether you're looking for praise or not, Alexis -- that your blog, though it may be your platform and you are its authority, has helped me and likely many other DMs and players articulate our thoughts and consider your posts as prompts to deeper investigations of our own into game design. It's fractured and piecemeal but it's still a budding nexus and I think it has a lot of opportunity to grow and reach people. And even if we don't have some enormous wiki yet, part of what's fun about contributing to the wiki here and there is that it gives me an opportunity to practice some of the work attitudes you talk about in relation to D&D and learn stuff: being able to walk away knowing "I made this" like in that analogy you once used of homebrewing versus modules as the pride of DIY over getting someone else to do it.

  7. Drain,

    I don't mean for this to come off as overly responsive. I only essay to be accurate with the below content, not prescriptive of your behaviour. Please take it in a positive way.

    That hex-hopping thing ... I put that down to my real-life players being wise enough to realize that attacking, jumping out of a hex, letting another person jump into the same hex and then attack again was OBVIOUSLY contrary to the spirit of all the players actions in a single round happening simultaneously. Though D&D is a turn-based system, people do recognize the goal is not to pretend that time stops for one player while another player makes a move. I haven't had to rewrite those rules before because I've never had players who BLATANTLY chose to ignore that unwritten premise - most likely because my real life players would have recognized that doing so would only have meant an immediate rewrite of the rules.

    I was shocked because I couldn't believe how long-term players of the game could be cheerfully misled to believe that, having hacked the rules, I wouldn't just put up a new firewall. Clearly, later systems encouraged hacking, which is what led to the "broken, unsatisfying game" that Charles describes. I don't blame the Juvenis party, AT ALL ~ clearly, the break is way up the line, in the way that you fellows were taught how to play by DMs who did not consider these premises to be important.

    But yes, there's a TON of stuff I have no entries for. A lot of it because, in a lot of cases, there is a sort of standard practice in place that doesn't seem to demand a detailed, definite outline of just exactly how a particular behaviour works.

    For example, having just finished the displacer beast, I find myself faced with the djinn. This makes me realize that I don't have real, solid rules written down for how wishes work ~ which makes it impossible to explain how a djinn works ... and the point of writing these monsters out is to remove inconsistencies and devise reliable, comprehensible rules under which the monsters act. So ... I need rules for wishes, which I planned to start right after lunch (which is now, as I'm writing this comment).

  8. Tim,

    I guess part of my perception is that, because the Pathfinder site is FREE at the cost of advertising, it's also being created by people who are, sort of, homebrewing the game. The site is not, as near as I can tell, demanding that I play the game or do so in a particular way ~ it's just providing a lot of data that has questionable value.

    For me in particular, I look at it as you do. I have to rewrite the monsters because it suits me and my world; I do it for myself and I encourage others to make their worlds for themselves.

    I thought when I got into blogging, I'd meet a lot of other people like me, who wanted to make worlds, so I tried to get the Same Universe Wiki together in 2009 ... but it died because there are no other people like me. And even though now I have a really strong wiki, which I can rely on because I pay $5 a month to an academic foundation that will maintain my site, there are still only a few of you who will step forward and contribute. I'd like to think I could get fifty people working together ... but I also realize that the perceptions of what the work should be are so widely varied that I'd just spend all my time trying to make the new 46 contributors stop making new monsters, new classes, new spells and new feat systems, because that's all it seems that anyone wants to do.

    I am in awe that Pathfinder can at least keep a lot of different people on page. Broken the system might be, but I'd love that sort of mutually directed aspiration.

    I'm digressing. My point is supposed to be that I'm not just seeing this from the point of view, how is writing all this helping me? That's the homebrew argument I've made. I also have to wonder, why am I making this public? My world doesn't need the wiki to be public, right? I worked on my game design for 29 years without any of it being public. So now that it is public, I want to be sure I'm not just masturbating.

  9. No problems on my end, Alexis, I think (can't say for sure) that I personally didn't even engage in the behaviour, though I could well have - players being natural exploiters - I do come from a RAW background, a big part of my difficulties with adopting an RPGing mindset came from this.

    Regarding your reasons for displaying the wiki in public, they're your own. But getting lauded for work well done is ever something to make our hearts sing. A sounding board for ideas is also good and keeps everything on point, like with your posts on the sage abilities.

    DIY and sharing go very much hand-in-hand, its a bit the nature of the beast.

  10. I will pipe in to say that I find you work nice to read when I have time to look a the wiki, and also much more interesting than the Pathfinder bestiary (though hacked Pathfinder is my game of choice).

    I will also note that the Pathfinder wiki should not be soul crushing in the least to you. The vast majority of the material is official published material by Paizo copied under the OGL or third party material published under the same license from all the TPP companies out there. Its all put there under the SRD (system reference document) tag as a way of seeing it all in one place instead of in dozens/hundreds of books and PDFs. Very little of it is home brew collaboration.

  11. Reading your blog and your wiki were what inspired me to get working on my own. My "home base" game is a later version, though I am slowly working my players back towards a version of the game more closely approximating your ideal than the 3rd edition we all started with. But yeah, my will to work on the wiki I've got started (can a wiki be anything but started...?) by no means suffers when I compare it to yours, I'm re-inspired to get back at it, even though my other all-consuming hobby has take over my life for the next two months.


If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.