Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Welcome to the Blog of the Future... Today!

Looking at the old calendar on the wall, I see I haven't updated this site since December 16, which is, coincidentally, the last time I did any substantive work on System X. I haven't updated the site in awhile because I haven't written in awhile. No, it's not that I drowned in a bowl of holiday eggnog, nor have I been especially busy on my days off. I've been thinking about why I haven't been motivated to write.

Motivation comes from within. When I catch up with my fellow game designers, I'm always impressed by how they get up in the morning and get to work. Or how they all return from the holidays and start working. Almost like they have a real job or something. This is natural, because for them, it is a job (albeit a part-time job in some cases). For me, however, I don't have deadlines and I'm not earning a pay check from this, so I do what anyone in my position would do. Play Xbox and eat Ring Dings.

It doesn't help that I'm at the point where I have to write all the stupid, boring rules that I don't care about it. I care as much about falling damage or poison rules as I do about Paris Hilton's dating habits. I don't want to think about poison potency and how it relates to saving throws. Fire damage? Yawn. There's nothing interesting or exciting about all these little rules; I may as well write "pick your favorite RPG and use their rules for fire damage. Now leave me alone."

It also doesn't help that I'm designing the rules first, and the setting second. Generally, my idea was to make sure that I could use the same system for other settings. I didn't want to design an Empire of the Petal Throne, only to discover it would be impossible to separate the setting from the rules for my next idea. In that sense, I guess I set out to design a generic universal roleplaying game, which was not the smartest thing in the world; it's a good idea to come out with your first game before you start worrying about your second or third.

Not to say I don't have a setting in mind. Quite the opposite. I'm at that point where it's time to write character classes and weapon descriptions and monsters. Which means numbers. Lots of numbers. Which means number crunching. Believe it or not, this is about as exciting as it sounds. Because the devil is in the details, and the numbers you come up with over here may not actually work over there. You end up thinking only in numbers. You become a wretch mumbling number sequences to yourself over and over again, as though you were trying to program in binary. Those guys eventually go insane. It goes something like this "plus 2, plus 2, that means this has to be a minus 3, a minus 3, but that can't be a minus 3." You end up sounding like Rain Man. I would rather have a midget singe off all my arm hair with a soldering iron than number crunch.

One of the things that's supposed to make this effort not only interesting, but also rewarding, it that I'm writing for myself. It's always better to write for yourself than for others, because you're interested in what you're writing. More of yourself comes out. I'd hate to look inside the psyche of the guy who wrote Little Fears, or Hol. What made Deadlands so interesting is Shane Hensley's obvious love of the genre and alternate history. Nowadays, many (even most) games are designed by committee; there's sort of a homogenous-ness to the material. I'm not knocking that, but this is supposed to be me, my game. I'm supposed to be writing for myself. What I've noticed, however, is that I'm writing for you (the consumer, the end user). I guess old habits die really hard deaths.

What would really help would be to have a gaming group. First off all, this would motivate me to stick to a schedule. It would be good to have to finish this or that bit of the rules because we're playing this week. It would also help on the creative side, in that whatever I create -- monsters, treasure -- would go into the setting. Lastly, regular gaming would help me see what's working, rules-wise, and what's not; it's also a great way to see what rules need to be written, what situations come up in play. I need to finish the basics, then find a gaming group.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps start with what motivates you more, Ross: the setting, in this case?