Thursday, April 29, 2021

What Matters

Can D&D save your soul?

Don't actually try to answer's more rhetorical in a Don McLean (American Pie, '...can music save your mortal soul?') kind o way. Looking back over my earliest blog posts from 2009, I see that I still struggle with the same issues regarding my life in gaming as I ever have. 

Regardless of whether or not D&D (or roleplaying in general) has any ability to "save," it has certainly been a large, indispensable part of my life. It would probably conflict me less if its study and practice were more widely accepted as "useful" by mainstream society. But it ain't. And even the gaming thing's popularity of the moment still seems...well, only momentary to me. I might feel differently if I'd managed to make (and/or squander) a small fortune in the gaming industry like a handful of notables have, but perhaps not: I've lived with gaming for decades, and those lean times of yesteryear have left heavy, indelible marks (I won't say "scars") on my memories.

It's just how I'm built. How my brain/psychology has been constructed over the years. My family raised me with a mentality that I could "do anything" with my life, but there were also caveats on what I should do. Those mental blocks remain with me to this day. It has led me to many of my personal life choices. It has bred untold hours and years of bubbling resentment in me. It is why I try to raise my children to be different from me, exposing them to all the things I love for all the reasons I love them with (hopefully) none of the hang-ups I have about them. 

Yesterday's whining was, unfortunately, brought on by the need for a nap. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do AND do all the things I need to do...and there never have been. These days, I don't even have a job to go to and I still can't find the time to do all the things that fit both those categories. This has been a theme my entire life. It's why the idea of my mortality hangs so much over my head. I don't really fear death these days (or what's beyond), but I live in a state of anxiety over leaving this life when thing's undone: from unfinished writing projects to failing to complete the raising of my kids. I've told folks over the years that I hope to live about two hundred years, which seems to be an adequate number for getting all the shit done enough that I'll feel "satisfied."

Prospects doubtful. I get it.

With regard to D&D: the "hiccup" that started about a month ago has just about run its course. We went through the superhero thing. We're finishing up the Star Wars thing. I ended up reviewing my old B/X Star Wars system (most recently in the form of Kloane War fact, but while I never finished posting that particular series, the book itself is just about complete (only missing about 1-2 pages of text). Maybe I'll make that available) and thinking, huh, I could just give that to my kid. I did my annual or bi-annual walk through Palladium's system (this year it was Rifts) thinking about how I might revamp the thing into a workable form. And now we're (just about) back. Back to the good stuff. The D&D stuff.

I've been thinking a lot about interdimensionality lately...perhaps because of Rifts, perhaps because I was thumbing through both Maelstrom and my old copy of Feng Shui recently...and I was thinking about how the idea might be applied to D&D in a way that helps make sense of the strange world that is the default D&D setting. Barker's idea of humans being stranded long ago on a hostile planet (Tekumel) isn't a bad one, and goes a long way towards explaining why humans are constantly fighting against humanoids like orcs and gnolls and gobbos: i.e. they all hate us because we are invaders/encroachers on their territory. Unfortunately, being stuck in such a hostile planet/dimension what are humans supposed to do? Lay down and die and get out of the way of the indigenous folks who were there first?

When have humans ever done that? Even when NOT faced with the prospect of isolation and death?

Unfortunately, this doesn't jibe well with the campaign I've been working on lately (set in Ye Old Evergreen State) which would necessitate blowing things up again...but I can't say I don't like it the more I think about it:
  • It explains the anachronistic thinking/sensibilities of players set side-by-side within a pseudo-medieval culture (remnants of former lives passed down to descendants).
  • It provides reasons for exploration and adventuring (this new, hostile world is still...largely...a mystery to the newcomer humans).
  • It explains justification for why high level (human) PCs are set on carving out empires for themselves (i.e. why the adventuring area hasn't already been settled by the ever-expanding humanity).
  • It allows all sorts of explanation for the kitchen sinky fantasy of D&D.
One of the things that helped snap me out of my funk yesterday was looking back over my 2019 posts regarding the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. These were pretty groovy (if I do say so myself)...

[which reminds eldest child was giving me crap the other day for using the word groovy. "No one says 'groovy,' pops." Oh, my...the teenage disenchantment with (and ridicule of) the parents has already begun. Only took ten years... *sigh*]

...and I still feel like those posts (and my hard look at GAZ1) are something that could be plumbed for a decent campaign setting. The image that keeps coming back to my mind is the cover of Bradley's Two To Conquer, one of the handful of Darkover novels that I've never read, despite seeing it on book shelves for years back in the 80s/90s. Even without having read the book, there is the suggestion of an idea here (what with the back page and the cover art) of conflict and warfare fought with blades and psychic powers over feudal territories by the descendants of crashed space colonists that I find...well, very inspirational. I find a lot of interesting and theft-worthy stuff in MZB's Darkover books (as I've blogged in the past), and I can't help but think of Karameikos as ripe for some kind of Darkoverian pastiche.

Anyway. It's 7:36am now, I'm out of coffee, and it's time to wake the kids for school. Later, gators.

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