Appendix N to the Dungeon Master’s Guide is an ever full well. Each dip of the bucket brings up something thirst quenching. Gary Gygax’s pulp influences were as broad as they were deep. Some feel that D&D is best seen as an immersive plumbing of pulp Sword and Sorcery. There is probably much to support that opinion. But even a cursory reading of Appendix N indicates that he did not limit himself to the sub-genre. He mined science fiction, historical fiction, and epic fantasy.
Cultures, whether writ large or sifted down to the level of subculture, link us together. Like it or not, my fellow misanthropes. (Is that an oxymoron, fellow misanthropes? And, I’m really not. People are — fine.) One of linkage a culture offers is a shared day of celebration. A holiday, for example, like Christmas, or a national day of remembrance. Or, the Superbowl, a purely organic artifact of American culture, utterly secular and without government origin or sanction.
The web log post is late because today was Game Day. Sitting around a table, laughing, rolling dice. It’s been several months since I last had a chance to play. I enjoyed getting back into it for a few hours.
Did I learn anything applicable to writing, practice any storytelling skills? No, of course not. I was playing a game, exploring a dungeon, fighting monsters. With respect to playing the game I learned, or had earlier lessons reinforced, that first level thieves are easily broken. Rolling up a new character requires mere minutes — another piece of knowledge reinforced by practical application.
So, yes, the post is late. It doesn’t trouble me much. Recreation is important. I believe the expression “sorry, not sorry” is appropriate. I will return next week with somewhat lengthier fare.
I’ve reached Fred Saberhagen in my Appendix N irregular series of posts. And I’m extremely pleased by that since it afforded me an excuse to re-read Empire of the East. True, one cannot do Saberhagen justice by concentrating on Empire of the East alone, but that’s what I’m going to do anyway.
I think, as far as reading sensibilities went, Gary Gygax shared the most with Andrew J. Offutt out of all the Appendix N authors. They were contemporaries and from the available evidence enjoyed similar tastes in fiction. Andrew Offutt was a prolific writer and editor. (And an interesting fellow, as one can discover from reading his son Christopher’s memoir. But such biographical details are beyond the scope of this web log.)
So it appears that yet another edition of Dungeons & Dragons has hit the shelves, or at least a preliminary starter version. If you’ve been waiting for this, then congratulations. I hope you like it. Me, I still have dog-eared, battered copies of the three core books for AD&D. Should I ever have the opportunity to play again I’ve already got the rules. I don’t feel any personal compulsion to buy another version. What I’ve got is sufficient for fun and games.
Some people like to tinker, house ruling existing games. Some continue searching for the perfect rule set, the elusive tool box that will cater to an individual preference along the realism/abstraction, narrative/gamist continuum. Good luck, I say. I’ve adjusted, fiddled, fine-tuned, etc. when I played with some frequency, though the trend was always to come back to the rules as written (as best as I could figure them out. I won’t pretend that AD&D is a model of clarity.) I suppose now I’d just be happy to play the occasional pick up game. I couldn’t justify purchasing new books, even if I felt for some reason that the ones I already own were somehow lacking.
I’ve read that some appreciate the new rules facilitating storytelling. Well, to each his own. The point is to have fun, and if that’s what you want from the game, good on ya. For my part, I want to play a game. If I want to tell a story, I write one. I don’t play for narrative satisfaction or character development. I play for the challenges. Sometimes you win, sometimes you get the hell out of there. Sometimes you get killed. That’s the game. And for that, I don’t need to buy a new edition.
But I wish the product well, and I hope that those of you who are looking for the ideal version have finally found it.
I enjoy role playing games for the mental challenge, for the puzzles, the satisfaction of overcoming obstacles, the creative utilization of resources. I don’t play for the story telling. I appreciate that other people derive pleasure partly – or even entirely – from the interactive story telling aspect. Fair enough. It would be a dull world if everyone viewed it exactly as I do. Some excellent books have grown from such games. But for me the enjoyment lies in the game play rather than in the amateur theatrics. (I don’t use the expression in any derogatory sense; I think it is an accurate description of the style of dialogue and dialect employed by gamers – whether an actor by trade or not – committed to the active role playing of a character.) I can get into character when circumstances indicate I should, I just do so as a means to an end rather than for its own sake. I’m interested in completing the challenge, triumphing over the next encounter, leveling up. If I need to pretend I’m actually conversing with some savage, demi-human chieftain in order to achieve the current goal then so be it. But I do so to achieve the goal, not to become a participant in a narrative.
I prefer story telling as a unidirectional activity; either creating or experiencing. While playing a game I’m not greatly interested in helping steer someone else’s story (or being trapped on the rails of someone else’s story, unerringly directed toward a set conclusion.) And if I’m running the game instead of playing I may strew it with plot-like elements but with no intention of shoe-horning player characters into the role of Characters performing functions essential to the narration of my story.
Stories I prefer to get from stories. Not to say that fiction doesn’t influence my gaming (my sadly infrequent gaming.) I may base my PC upon a fictional character or throw in elements of a story I’ve just read in into the adventure I’ve sketched (and boy are my RPG adventures sketchy.)
Of course if a story happens to grow organically by the culmination of the adventure who am I to complain?
Do you play games as a means of group story telling?