I'm not talking about the senility that sometimes accompanies the aging process...more that
"over-thinking" can lead one to forget the epiphanies of the past. This is (perhaps) a standard problem of writing a long-running blog: after nearly seven years of posts, I can read back over the archives and see that many of my earlier thoughts and ideas were "smarter" than my later ones.
Of course, this isn't always the case. Enough so that I've come to the conclusion that every time I want to write on a particular topic, it would probably be wise to take a good, hard look at what I've written before. Especially with regard to gaming and design.
But that's not really what I wanted to write about (nor the reason for the title of this post). No, I've been thinking a lot lately about the origins of this hobby...and of my personal history with the hobby...and how I want to proceed with it going forward. And when I say "hobby" I'm not just talking about playing RPGs in general or D&D specifically; I'm talking about the whole blogging/designing thing which is part (and a serious part) of the hobby.
I keep coming across little design notes to myself, stashed in various corners of my laptop hard drive, that all say the same thing. There's a pattern here: things I think about, ruminate on, jot down, and promptly forget for weeks or months or years...until the next time I start thinking about (or over-thinking) the same system or mechanic or game element. It's irritating. I'm not usually a "forgetful" person (well, my wife might disagree), but I'm often so focused or preoccupied with one line of thought that...well, shit, maybe I am forgetful. Stuff just gets pushed out of the forefront of my brain and falls out my ears.
With regard to gaming (and design), I think that this stems from two issues:
1) I'm not gaming. I haven't been gaming, certainly not on a regular basis for 3+ years. Living in Paraguay has been a real bitch in this regard. The fact that I'm not gaming...that I can't game...means I'm not "in the thick of it." I'm not practicing my own stuff...I'm not able to test the practicality of ideas and concepts. I'm not "in touch" with how the game works, how it plays, how it runs. If I ever get back to a gaming table, I'm sure I'll be rusty as hell. And while I'd almost be willing to turn to on-line gaming to get back on track, the timezone thing is just a really crappy deal. My evenings are not free...period. But who's available to hop on-line at 9am (U.S. time) in the middle of the work week? I suppose there's someone living in the middle of Asia who'd be on board, but my ability to even schedule a decent chunk of time is...well, it's really tough.
2) Too much "testing." Even before I moved to Paraguay I was spending too much time play testing my own designs. Testing is a good thing, it's a necessary thing (when designing), but the fact is I'm not a guy who has a bunch of time for gaming and "testing;" it's really just one or the other. And the fact that most of the folks I gamed with were looking to play, not test some new concept...well, I know it put a strain on the folks at the table, constantly "shifting gears" and preventing any real continuity for occurring/developing. They didn't sign on to be guinea pigs.
At the moment, I've got a couple-few thoughts buzzing in my head of what I'd like to do moving forward. This has nothing to do with "writing projects" I'm currently working on, by the way (I hope to get some of those completed eventually), but rather how I want to approach my "hobby:"
- I want to create a baseline set of rules. This is nothing so elaborate as a retro-clone or new version of D&D Mine (FHB). I'm talking about a document along the lines of Philotomy's Musings or Original Edition Delta...something that simply establishes the D&D edition I intend to use as a base (yes, Im going waaaay back to the beginning) and any house rules to the edition that I want to cull from this blog or elsewhere. It may be a "living" document (that is, something that develops and changes over time), but I want to have it...a gaming Bible of sorts that I can simply refer to rather than over-analyzing the same shit over-and-over.
- I want to develop a world setting for play. When I look around the hobby (whether at published products or the various blogs), I find the best settings...the best games...come from folks who have created intensely personal worlds that cater to their own vision of "what is fun." I haven't done this. My campaigns have sometimes had elaborate geographies, histories, rule variations, or whatnot, but they weren't created with the purpose of pleasing myself for long-term play; instead they were aimed at being "interesting," or developing cosmologies that justified the inconsistencies of D&D, or that catered to a particular style, or were supposed to test certain rule principles. An lo and behold, none of 'em lasted...regardless of whether I put a lot of prep into 'em or not (trying to grow the thing "organically"). The fact is, I didn't have enough passion for my worlds...certainly, I had passion for some of the adventures I wrote, but I had (purposefully or not) avoided creating attachment to the setting itself.
Which is kind of a recipe for failure. Look at Gygax's Greyhawk. Look at Arneson's Blackmoore. Look at Barker's Tekumel. Look at Kyrinn's Urutsk. Look at Hill Cantons and Gus L's Fallen Empires and Alexis's Europe and Raggi's weird New World. These are all wonderful, lovingly created settings because they mean something to their creators. They are personal to their creators. Those of us who have had the pleasure of exploring these worlds (through play or reading) have found ourselves intrigued or tickled or amazed just at the amount of soul that's been invested in these worlds. Their creators have not felt the need or desire to create new campaigns, to play/run in other worlds, because their worlds have been specifically built to create and meet their individual creator's needs. That's what I need to do.
- I want to keep using this blog for something, but I'm not sure what. Hawking books I suppose. Airing my thoughts on various subjects, surely. But I'm not sure if I want to continue it in the same way I've done. I'm not sure if these first two points (establishing a baseline system, establishing a baseline world) are going to be best described here...I'm even considering a new blog...but I don't want to shut down Ye Old B/X Blackrazor. I said in the beginning that this was partly supposed to be something of a memoir, something of a snapshot showing my development and "gaming evolution" over time. That work will continue (so long as blogger remains free to use), though I'm not sure it will be as interesting to others as it is to myself.
- Finally, I think I'd like to have a different medium from which to hawk my various gaming wares: an actual web site with links and forums for discussion. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to make any real money (i.e. "livable wage") off of writing and selling books...not unless I learn to draw and do my own illustration...but the links to various products are getting a might crowded over on the side of the blog. There's definitely some sort of clean-up/reorganization that needs to occur, if I'm going to continue pursuing the design part of this hobby.
All right...now y'all know where my head's at. Expect the latest alpha posting sometime this afternoon or evening.