Sunday, November 04, 2007

Vacuum vs Purpose

I hate working in a vacuum. It really sucks.

Do you see what I did there? God, light entertainment lost a lot when I chose not to take the stage! Anyway despite my sometime epiphet as 'The Iron DM' I haven't actually refereed anything worthy of the name of a game for nearly two years now. A couple of one shot playtests and a few games of A Faery's Tale with the kids but no ongoing campaigns or such. There have been times that I have felt the surge of the creative spirit but in the end it is always tempered by tiredness and our gaming timetable. And the vacuum effect.

It always hits me whenever I sit down and address that gaming urge - whats the point? I have limited time and energy - why should I be wasting it on game development if I am not sure that it is going to be used? So much of what we do in our gaming nowadays is context-based that designing something 'in a vacuum' is pointless. How can you do anything without the characters there in front of you - as in virtually all of our gaming the characters not only drive the story but also the NPCs and the background! And you don't get the characters until your are in the GMing hotseat.

It even comes down to testing out systems. I have tried SO hard to test out the character generation for The Burning Wheel but without a context it is almost impossible. Without some lens to focus that smorgasbord of generic fantasy into the searing light of an interesting character it all seems ... pointless.

So why all of this self-reflective naval gazing?

Well as astute Bottom of the Glass readers will be aware I have been a tad pre-occupied of late with work and gaming issues. Work appears to have started towards a conclusion, one way or another, and gaming is working out quite nicely too. My involvement with The Collective Endeavour has really given me the focus to move Duty and Honour from the 'yeah, its a game that I'm working on' stage to the 'No really, this is actually happening' stage.

Which means I need to start playtesting! STAT! And that means I have to recruit a playtest group. Thats not a problem. 'Group Three' spawned in under a day with Ben, Dave, Andrew and Nigel answering the call to take the King's Shilling on our 'off-Sundays' from Pendragon. And INSTANTLY the vacuum is filled. Pfoof! (as Billy Gunn says in that Options advert)

So last night I settled down and started the research for 'The Cadiz Campaign' - my playtest campaign for Duty and Honour. And it had purpose and reason and felt like a valuable use of my time. Whacked my favourite episode of Sharpe on (Sharpe's Regiment btw - the one where they go back to England and pretend to be recruits - 'Black as BOG!' Love it!) and it was all systems go!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, we've discussed this before, and it's probably been a topic on my blog a few times.

The vacuum kills me.

When I was my most prolific, as in the main DM for a group, it was at a time when there was no Vacuum for various reasons.

As for the prep thing, it is difficult without the players and there characters I agree. But since my gaming valve sort of exploded and needed release a weekend or so ago I did have a think about it.

It seems possible to me to plan to a certain extent. I no what The Cirlce is an idea, for instance. I have a map with a lot of blank space other than key places I want to exist. I have an episode listing for two seasons of six episodes each.

Now, it's true the players will bring a lot that may cause things to change - but that should be things like 'fleshing out the map', adding bad guys, maybe causing the episode lists to change, or add meat to particular episodes (2-3 lines of info at the moment - the core idea basically), and stuff like that.

The prep still works though, in that you feel you've moved on - the characters creation would just juice it up. So, there is a middle ground between core idea (and everything else blank) and wasted prep.

As you say, whether it'll get used is another issue - but the valve had to be released.