Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011 - Looking Backward & Forward

Hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year's celebration...mine was both, thankfully. And as I lay in bed this afternoon, taking a much needed rest from the festivities of the weekend, I have a chance to reflect on...well quite a few things both looking forward and back.

At the end of 2009, I was able to make the announcement that my own first book, the B/X Companion had been completed. Little did I realize that just getting the text written was only the first part of the publishing process. Game companies and publishers have batteries of staff for a reason, and putting together artwork and layout and printing, not to mention proofreading and mailing strategies, were additional challenges that needed to be sorted before I could make sale 1 of the thing. Certainly a learning process, sometimes frustrating, but often fun and...mmm..."confidence building." It feels good to get it done, but again "going it (mostly) alone" is a challenge probably not suited for everyone. works. But it would have been a lot easier on me if I was more open to collaboration.

C'est la vie...this year, there is no grand (if premature) announcements to be made. Getting a single book published gave me quite an ego boost, but I then fell back on the same silliness that had previously hindered my publishing attempts, namely: dividing my time and attention over multiple projects instead of being focused on one in particular. I could blog for pages on how this is related to both my procrastination and perfectionist tendencies, but suffice is to say that it's a rookie pitfall that I've seen myself fall into before, and am now catching myself doing again.

Ah, well...there IS hope that I'll "pull it together" again. However, one major accomplishment of 2010 was getting BACK into regular gaming with a variety of folks in very real, face-to-face settings. Not only has this been absolutely wonderful, it has taught me a couple o things:

1) I really do enjoy playing many different types of games (duh), and my life feels more complete when I can put my theories into practice.

2) There are a TON of people out there who enjoy role-playing, and would love to do more of many that the demands of players far exceed the supply of real "game masters."

This latter point was something I had difficulty wrapping my head around for quite some time, but I'm growing more and more convinced that the hobby is not truly in it's death throes...maybe it's on life support, but it really is NOT dead yet. The thing is: people want to play these games...but what I do (game mastering) is in damn short supply. Once I started my game going, and introduced a few people to it, it simply continued to grow and grow and grow...I've been contacted by numerous people asking me to run games for them (in addition to the folks with whom I'm playing now), and the sad truth is I don't have the time to run more games!

I wish I could! I really wish I could devote time to writing, and adventure crafting, and mastering other game systems, and...hell, just wish I had the time to sit down with people and run games for them. Even the group I have, some of those folks wouldn't mind running secondary games that used different systems, or had different themes, or different styles (more serious, more intimate, more comedic, or more horrific)...if I had the TIME to run multiple games.

Unfortunately, I don't...and I have to say "unfortunately" because I really wish I could. But I have other obligations and "Dungeon Mastering" doesn't pay the bills. Even if it did pay, it's the kind of thing everyone wants to do on weekends and evenings, you know, when they're not working? When would I ever get to see my family?

And I only see my time becoming more limited in the future.

In reflecting on this astrologically, it feels like we (as a society) are experiencing a period of Neptune Displacement. Don't bother looking up the term...I'm just now making it up. What it means is this: the planet Neptune is present in every person's astrological chart, with greater or lesser emphasis. Neptune, the planet of imagination and dissolution (as well as disillusionment and rosy colored glasses), is the planet that draws us back to God; that is, it shows us how and where we want to return to the universal consciousness or love. From a Christian perspective it indicates the way in which we seek oneness with God, the way we pray. From the perspective of reincarnationists, it's the way and place in which we seek to break the cycle of rebirth and achieve Nirvana. For any spiritual seeker, Neptune points to the way in which we dissolve our own ego and give ourselves over to the service of Love/God.

In the "old days," people had a tendency to seek oneness through Church-going, and many continue to do so. But a lot of folks in our 21st century society...and many of our well educated folks...have turned away from the organized religions, becoming spiritual agnostics or functionally atheistic. And yet those people still have an active Neptune...they still have imagination and a longing (somehow) to dissolve away their own egos and seek out oneness with God.

Role-playing...dropping your own persona and adopting that of another person in another us a means of fulfilling (to a LESSER degree) that Neptunian call. Video games that feature "character immersion" do as well...and I'm talking about everything from Guitar Hero to Halo to Mass Effect, etc. These things, which a preacher might call "distractions from the Greater Work" are allowing folks to actively dissolve themselves (the "active" part is important), and thereby meet that Neptunian desire. In general, it's not enough (hence no game will provide us with fulfillment's a temporary placebo compared to actually giving yourself over to the will of God/Universe in service of others), but it helps assuage that need.

And role-playing games...well, it goes without saying that I prefer them to the superficial entertainment of video games (even though we were playing Guitar Hero last night ourselves). Why? Because in addition to providing that "dissolution" of ego, it allows us to:

A) build rapport with our fellow humans (REAL interaction, not just interaction with a computer), and

B) has the potential to allow us to actually access the minds and thoughts of other people (characters) using our imagination, and thereby foster both compassion and understanding for our fellow human beings.

Practicing being "someone else"...even a wookie or half-elf bard or still practice at getting outside yourself, getting your focus off of "what's happening to you" (as if YOU were the only person in the world that mattered...jeez!). People who take on more serious issues in their role-playing or less fantastic characters may find more or faster growth, depending on how they approach the game "play" itself...but in addition to "fun," this exercise of imagination builds a stronger ability to "get inside the heads" of other people...and thereby (hopefully) relate better to others and help build a better world.

If we're not going to be all on the same page praying for enlightenment and transcendence, then I'll at least take that.

[oh, yeah...and if I can kill off your characters a few times in the process, think of it as me helping you learn detachment from your fear of death. Very Zen master of me, huh?]

So...from the money-grubbing material to the high falutin' spiritual, 2010 was a banner year and I hope 2011 shows me learning from the lessons of both. I would really, dearly like to get another book out in the next month or two (or at least the text written!) and I hope that I can figure out some way to get more people to do more role-playing, even if it means finding some way of spreading myself thinner (though I can't imagine how I could do that).

Wish me luck!
; )


  1. Good luck!

    (And if you need any drawings, let me know!)

  2. I think WoTC has some potential in the 'Encounters' series it's been doing for stores but there is a need for a lot more published adventurers that showcase how to run a game. The need for GMs, in my experience, has run the opposite where everyone wanted to run if only for a little while, but as my circle of gamers grew, I saw the opposite. Hell, as I get older and more responsibility at work, I find myself in your position; no time to run what I'd like to. Ah well.

  3. Good luck and good post. Plenty to think about.

  4. If there is indeed a surfeit of players and a shortage of DMs in Seattle, then that's Reason #1,000,001 why I need to get back there.