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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[AFTHOTWTTGS] The Fantasy Encyclopaedia and the Taste of Crow

Recent events, with which I shall not bore you on this blog upon which I am a guest, have led me to look askance at my collections of various rules systems and ask myself "Self, dear boy, why when you espouse the virtues of this and that, do you persist in playing the other at great expense?", and do you know, I've come up flummoxed every time I grope and scrabble for an answer.

As a result, I've been perusing my various sources of campaign guidance; that's M. A. R. Barker's excellent essay on creating religions for fun and profit, the last half-dozen things I read*, a handful of rulebooks and the archives of Some King's Kent.

Whilst abiding by Kent's advice to simply cram everything in which you're interested into something of a potboiler and then sweat over it until it makes a sort of sense - it also worked for Alan Moore when he was working on V for Vendetta, apparently - I'm beginning to see why RPG writers take the approach they do, often beginning with the cosmology of the world if it's going to be anything unusual, and producing all those scads and scads of fantasy encyclopaedia text in which the world is given the depth and... not 'realism' as such, but verisimilitude, the sense that it's an actual living, breathing, inhabited, dynamic place rather than just a series of elements thinly nailed together to justify dungeons.

Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, of course - I've played enough Diablo in my time to accept that sometimes all you want to do is get down in the catacombs and bash some skellies - but the pretentious oaf and thwarted writer in me are both demanding a game world that's a bit more than that, and if truth be told, a bunch of mates gathered around the table for some skelly-bashing might as well just play Talisman or Descent or something of that ilk. I sort of feel like the RPG, as distinct from the board game, demands something that makes the R worth Ping, as it were - something engaging and broad.

None of this means that I'm going to go out and recant my convictions or anything. I'm still of the opinion that everything that's worth knowing about a game setting should be expressed in gameable terms. I am, however, seeing the merit in doing the fantasy encyclopaedia as a means of thinking the world out, of knowing it in the depth and detail necessary to answer player questions confidently and generate the world as a played space.

I'm still not sure that needs to be shared though. The thinking and world-building are, to me, essentially personal - they are Your Thoughts On Yaoi Everything, where You are The Master Of Games, and attempting to calcify them into a setting bible that I can pick up and run, void of the thought processes and interests that have made you make your world this way seems... somewhat doomed, to me.

It's the process that counts. I think that's what I want to see demonstrated. I want to see your setting and your gameables and your inspirations for them as a demonstration of how to build gameable worlds, rather than because I necessarily want to play in your gameable world.

That's what I'm gearing up to do.

* - This month's Appendix N contains Fight Club; Sharon Penman's The Queen's Man; E. R. Eddison's The Worm OuroborosMen At Arms; Michael Moorcock's The City in the Autumn Stars; and about a fifth of Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North, a non-fiction work on the Christianising of Scandinavia which I have to review at some point over the summer.

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