|My inner, contemplative self is feeling like this dude.|
Oh, you can probably expect danger in a variety of forms: hungry monsters, deadly traps, strange magical happenings. And you can expect treasure of various types (both monetarily and magically valuable). This is all part of the "D&D package," sure (leaving it out probably means you're playing something else)...but while you're expecting this entertaining meal to take place when you sit down at the table, you're never really sure what exact ingredients are going to be used...or how they're going to be used. Just to take an analogy a bit too far: there's a lot of ways to toss a salad. Goblins and dragons and undead and gold and swords +1...these things you've seen time and again in many forms, variations, and "skins." But part of the draw to the table is wondering how they're going to show up this time...and then overcoming the specific challenge being presented.
I bring this up because, as tired out as the formula (or rather, ingredients) might be, there's something freeing about the simplicity of this constrained little concept. Allow me to draw another analogy from my experience here in Paraguay (and, yes, with regard to food):
Paraguayan cuisine is EXTREMELY limited. I don't know how I can emphasize that enough, to a degree folks can grok what I'm saying. You really have to live some place like, say, the USA where refrigerated trucks and train cars and extensive highway systems ensures you can eat most anything you want any time you want it. Sure, your shellfish might be frozen, your fruit malnourished because it's "out-of-season." But if you want something...and you're willing to pay for it...you can probably find it as close as your nearest major metropolitan city.
Move from THAT environment to Asuncion (the Paraguayan capitol) and try living here a year or two. A place where you can't throw a rock without skipping it off some dude's Porsche SUV or BMW. There's plenty of money in this town...I live within a couple blocks of at least two billionaires (that I know of) and one guy who's pretty close. And all their money won't buy 'em a frigging blueberry. Or a raspberry. Or (most of the year) a strawberry. Or a corn tortilla. Or real vanilla. Or...I don't know...so many things that it's impossible to list them all.
How 'bout this: I know of maybe half a dozen sushi restaurants in this town; not terribly surprising as there's a small Asian population (mostly Korean, it appears) and a large Japanese cultural center (which provides a lot of culture besides Japanese, just by the way). But regardless of which restaurant you belly-up to you find the same three fish: salmon (from Chile), surubi (from the local river), and tilapia (if you're lucky and it's a good day). That's it...that is THE ONLY FISH IN TOWN. Most of the "sushi" places have only salmon and surubi. In any restaurant that SERVES fish (sushi or not) that's all you'll find. Period. End of story. Frozen shrimp, sure. But that ain't fish.
This dearth of variety in cuisine is par for the course. Beef. Chicken. Pork (ham). Potatoes. Pasta. Pizza. That's what you find. Bread. A salad here is lettuce, carrot, and tomato with hard boiled egg. Dressing is olive oil and vinegar (if you want it). Add meat to taste. At every f'ing place. Gnocchi, spaghetti, ravioli...that's it. Enjoy. Thanks for coming.
There are good restaurants...we frequent those. But the food that is offered is the same damn thing: it's just cooked better. They use their seasonings better. They make a sauce out of spinach and add it on the side. They tart up the plate like a contestant on Top Chef. But it's still grilled beef. Or (fancy!) cordero (lamb) and risotto or a puree of squash...red meat and starch. As you like it.
To a large degree, this is D&D to me. A limited palette from which to paint. There are better artists, better cooks in the kitchen, folks who will offer you a little broccoli on the side. But you're not escaping the inevitable limits of the system.
And as I said, there is a certain amount of freedom and comfort in that...I mean, I've learned to live with Paraguay and its limitations. It doesn't drive me as crazy as it did the first, O, six months or so I was here. And now that I'm comfortable, I can tool around and even be pleasantly surprised at times. Here's a place where they know how to cook a (very mediocre) Eggs Benedict, for instance. It isn't rocket science and they have the eggs (Paraguayans love-love-love their eggs...on everything except breakfast). Here's an Indian restaurant that just opened, and no, it doesn't have the variety of menu you'd find in the U.S. (let alone India), but it serves you your meat with a different sauce. It gives you nan instead of another damn breadstick.
[we've been eating at the Indian restaurant at least once a week since it opened]
But even so, it's easy to get fatigued with lomito sandwiches and undercooked pizza. I was at the "farmer's market" again today (every Tuesday) and again I looked over the fruit and found the same thing as always: red apples, green apples, pears, papaya, bananas, grapes (no seedless), and kiwi. That's it. The same fruit every week. Every damn week. Every damn day.
A game system like D&D (with its classes and levels and task resolution on a D20) isn't a fruit stand. It's a method of cooking. But if all you're serving up is the same dungeon or wilderness or planar crawl, then it doesn't matter if you're sprinkling in different techniques or house rules. The fatigue will get to you eventually.
Well, maybe not you. Maybe you're like the Paraguayans who live here there whole lives and don't seem to have any complaints about eating the same damn thing, day in and day out. But it gets to me. It really does. If the mystery dish turns out to be the same dish, after awhile the mystery starts to lose its luster.
And why do I bring this up? Because there are other possibilities in role-playing besides the genre that is D&D. I think there are anyway...call it a theory I have. That you can write a "SciFi" game that isn't about players scoring "credits" for example (White Star). Or about exploring ancient installations (Star Frontiers...I've been reading its old modules today). That isn't just about defeating enemies (D20). Some other type of mystery to explore. I'm just not sure what it is...I'm musing on that at the moment.
|I want a game with people wearing furry hats.|
That's what I'm contemplating and musing on. And thinking about my own home, 6400 miles from here. I'll be back in Seattle (for a couple weeks anyway) later this month. I keep thinking about the food I'm going to eat when I get back. Maybe an artichoke. Definitely some damn blueberries. I want to go to a restaurant and be surprised by its "special of the day."
There's something magical about a little mystery.