Sunday, March 18, 2018

Out of Water

Part of me says that I ought to write a post.  I used to write a post a day ... and lately I've been making my readers wait two, four, even six days, before coming out with something to say.  Truth is, I'm still dry, as I said some weeks ago.  Between the podcast and the wiki (569 pages moved), there's no time to dredge up something interesting enough to write about.

But ... I was put in mind of a metaphor just now, by an email, that has me thinking about work.  I have a strange, frustrating association with work.  Sometimes, I just love it; I can't wait to pick up and get into it.  Ordinarily, I should hate something as tedious and unproductive as moving hundreds of internet pages from one url to another. After all, it isn't as though I'm making anything new.  All this information has been in the public eye for years now ... so why am I utterly driven to work on the wiki in exclusion of all else?

It isn't the time barrier of having to get it moved by July.  I'm a procrastinator.  I have always firmly believed that we should never do something today that can be put off until tomorrow.  Tomorrow, the house might burn down, and then we'll be grateful we didn't waste time today vacuuming the carpet.  If the house doesn't burn down, well ... there will come a time when we're annoyed enough by the carpet, or we're just not doing anything for twenty minutes, and it can get done then.

[the secret to being both clean and a procrastinator is having a very low threshold for when the carpet annoys; mine is reasonably low enough, I'll vacuum about once a week.  But that's still six days a week I can put it off]

Nope.  I'm enjoying shifting the wiki.  Because I like what I'm reading.  I like being reminded that this is all work of mine, that I love it, and that I want it seen to with love and care.

But oh, how I hate work sometimes.  In particular, I hate scheduled work.  Scheduled work is the worst.  It says, I can't do this work right now that I'm motivated to do, because I have to go do work that I'm not motivated to do.  Human society should not work this way.  We should only ever have to do work we're motivated to do ... and if no one is motivated, we need to think about having a robot do that work.

Or do without it entirely.

So, from this perspective, if there's nothing wrong with someone else doing the work we don't want to do, then what's wrong with buying something pre-made, pre-fab, pre-ready for our use, purchased with money we earned doing work we were either motivated or not motivated to do?


Every once in a while I go look at Patreon, to see what others are doing, to see if I can steal some idea from them and do it myself.  But all I ever seem to find is stuff like this: Jason Bulmahn.

I don't want to fault the fellow.  He's doing well enough with his readers and he is clearly offering something.  He's taken the time to create a patreon video, which I've never done.  I would like someone to tell me if when Bulmahn says that he's the creator of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, that he is.  I have no idea.

I look at this, see the work involved, and think, "Hey, Alexis ... can't you do some of this work?  Can't you come up with a dramatic campaign, and build it according to some official rules, and weave a story into the DM's role, creating adventure, loss, regret and salvation?"

If you felt a corkscrew of loathing course right up your back as you read that, then imagine how it feels when I write it out.  If you didn't feel anything special except, maybe, "Yeah, do that Alexis!" ... then I don't know how you got here, but I think you should know the road back to town is buried and there are terrible wolves.  And no, there's no room in my carriage.

I swear, I wouldn't even know how not to procrastinate about creating three act campaigns that are each divided into three acts.  I wouldn't know how to limit a "campaign" to between 60 and 80 hours.  I'm just out of my element here.  How am I supposed to create a friendship, a rivalry, motivation and attitudes with people I'm not actually running.  Won't that just sound ... forced?

I think it would.  It always sounds forced when other people say it.  The whole rhetoric being written here by Bulmahn sounds forced as hell to me, and I am absolutely not able to figure out a way not to make it sound ... well, desperate.

And hey, I like this game.  And I like to work.  And I can work like a demon, when I'm motivated.  569 pages and something like 2500 links in just four weeks?  And then still feeling like, after writing a post, you'd like to do some more before going to bed tonight.  Go ahead.  Try that.

But I just haven't a gun in my holster when I read a promise like, for $10, "For the GM that has to have it all.  You get everything, the adventure PDFs and all 6 of the character files!  You also get access to the player and GM development blogs and will be listed as a EM in the credits."

Wow.  "All," huh.  I gotta tell the truth.  I can't provide it "all" for $10.  I can't even get it "all" written down on the free wiki.

I wish I was being sarcastic here.  The reader probably thinks I'm being sarcastic.  Or at least facetious.  I swear, I'm not.  I mean every word here.  I am not capable of making an offer like this, and not because I'm against the principle.  Nor because it would feel like I was paying the town drunk to go upstairs to rape my mother's corpse (though it does make me feel like that).  No, I am quite literally not capable of producing this sort of content.

I've had no practice at it.  To do this, you've got to practice.  This is a skill.  One that I do not have.

I would like to provide something concrete and work-related to readers, for the sake of gaining a few more patrons.  That's the long-term goal, after all.  To provide content upon the notion of exchange.  But seeing this as the business model just breaks my heart.  I am so divorced from the official game as it is played now, I couldn't say what the official character sheet includes; or what the hell a "relationship guide" means to describe.

A personality profile, that I can make ... but I'd be inclined to come up with things like a young, somewhat uncertain young fellow, from a kind and supportive background, albeit a remote one, who is now among a mess of strangers in strange circumstances, making the best he can of the education he has.  He's got a good heart, loves animals and small children, and isn't afraid to learn new ways of doing things; but often he misunderstands something or heads off too bravely in a direction when he should have stopped and gotten better advice.  He's inclined to doubt what his friends tell him, when it disagrees with his self-image ~ yes when they criticize him, but much more so when they praise him.  He hopes for big things for himself, but has no certainty of how to get there; and whatever skills he has, there always seems to be someone with greater skills, who outshines him wherever he goes.

Who the hell is going to pay for a character personality profile like that?


Pandatheist said...

Buhlman is one of the now former leads of Pathfinder. He worked for Dragon prior and was one of the original team. He just announced that he was leaving Paizo to do this apparently amidst the announcement of Pathfinder second edition, which either seems like terrible business sense, or a really bad sign for Pathfinder second edition.

This seems like a super advanced choose your own adventure. Or a 30 hour convention game. Or a computer rpg minus the computer.I wish him the best but I don’t get it personally.

Pandred said...

I'd much rather see more of the wiki.

Monk has such cool sounding sage abilities!
More spells!
Bigger bestiary!

Matthias said...

It is indeed difficult to think of what kinds of 'products' you could offer as rewards to Patreon donors, beyond what you are already doing. You have a very idiosyncratic and well-thought out style of play, and you run a heavily personalized version of AD&D.

The first aspect has led you to produce long-form essays that you have collected in books that, despite all their quality, do not necessarily reach a sufficiently broad audience (few people read, and even less people read to feel challenged... they read to feel validated). One way to reach more people is to expose you to a broader public, and I guess the podcast idea is a good way to go on this front: hopefully more people will hear your voice and see what your opinions are, in dialogue with 'ordinary' DMs, and they'll be brought into greater contact with your writings.

As to the second aspect, those of us who hang around and want to hear and learn more from you are not running games identical to your own: we don't necessarily seek to use the sophisticated system that results in your trade tables, we are not actually playing AD&D at all, or are not seeking to introduce your highly detailed variants into our own campaigns. Your rules-set hacking is, for me, a springboard and source of inspiration for deeper reflection on what I do, at my own tables. I can't see how you could market these as a product, except for a very niche kind of audience...

I have already wondered if you could not produce "shortish" encounters and sell them online, under a system-neutral or OSR label. Things like your hag and hell hounds set-up from a few months ago, with useful DM advice on how to manage player expectations and progressively hook them into the action. Nothing like module-length materials, but perhaps collections of relatively short, one-shot situations that DMs could drop in their campaigns. But I guess this is not what you would like to be using your time for...

James said...

I doubt the people who read you want personality profiles or campaigns. If we wanted that, well, there are plenty of people offering it.

I know what I want: maps, the trade system, general ideas about ways to improve as a DM, and ideas for creating my own systems. The first two I pay you on Patreon for, and the latter two I get from your blog, master class and reading the online campaign.

If you offered a program that let people buy input locations and references and spit out a trade system, I'd buy it immediately. But a module? Probably not