Thursday, March 15, 2018

Coming Back, Moving Forward, and Maxims for Better Rpgs

Around New Years, I took the plunge to improve my life via negativa. I deleted all of my social media, including this blog. I did this for several reasons.

The first is that I felt I was pandering to the OSR community. Now that might not be the case and I blame no one but myself for this pandering syndrome. Regardless, I found myself asking Will the OSR like this? every time I edited my posts, and the experience was just frustrating and soul-sucking.

The second is that I felt out of place in the OSR. Now I'm just your average middle class straight white dude, and I feel that the OSR is compromised of many liberal-minded people. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've gotten the impression on more than one occasion that cis-scum such as myself was unwelcome. Now this is admittedly completely wrong and I am full of bullshit. This liberal cis-scum-hating SJW was a phantom of my own creation, and I used it to motivate my hasty exit from the OSR. I bare no hatred towards liberal-minded people, and I doubt they harbor any hate towards me.

The third is that my life was in dire needs of getting set straight. Now I wouldn't say I was using my OSR writtings for pure escapism, but it hadn't reached hobby status either. I had just moved out of a roommate situation, meaning I was on my own for the first time in years, and I definitely needed more time to focus on life stuff. However, I feel I've developed my skills enough to a point to where I can cultivate my OSR writings into a full blown hobby.

So those are the reasons why I cut my ties with the OSR in a fever-fueled haze, and in a similar fashion I'm diving back in.

Now this is the part of the post where I will outline the things you need to do in order to do rpgs better. I call them maxims because that's a cool word.

Now I lay down these maxims as a completely unpublished, unsuccessful author or game designer. So take these maxims with as big as a grain of salt your mines can provide.

1. D&D is your Hobby
Yes. This silly elfgame is your hobby. Not World of Warcraft. Not anime. On a list of your top 3 things that makes you happy, D&D is number 1, and you cross out the other two. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't have other hobbies. In fact you should. Admittedly there are people that take these elfgames too seriously. Having a hobby allows you to get away from these elfgames when you're in too deep, at least for a time, and once you're refreshed, you can dive back in with renewed vigor. But don't forget. This. Is. Your. Hobby.

2. When in doubt go to the most Prolific source
You don't need me to tell you this. There are dozens of blogs out there that have been around for years, run by great people that write alot. D&D with Pornstars, Jeff's Gameblog, and Goblinpunch are probably the top three that I rely on the most. But there's also Ten Foot Polemic, In The Land of Twilight Under The Moon, and Fists of Cinder and Stone. Read them. Use them. They are an inexhaustable source of inspiration, which leads me to maxim number 3.

3. Find Inspiration in the most unlikely places
Here reads the introduction to Talislanta 5th Edition:
I read all of Jack Vance's Dying Earth books, Lovecraft's The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, Marco Polo's The Travels, and back issues of Heavy Metal magazine.... And I confess to partaking of one of Turkey's finest products nightly, which helped inspire most of the visual elements of Talislanta, and some remarkably lucid dreams I had of actually visiting Talislanta.
Now you don't have to read good literature or smoke good weed to write a good game or setting. Find inspiration everywhere: TV, anime, dreams, what you had for lunch this morning. Just always be thinking how you can apply what you experience to your game.

4. Steal don't plagarize
Nothing original exists under the Sun. It is impossible to not steal something at one point or another. All art is derivative anyway, so embrace your inner thief. However, this doesn't mean you can just take someone else's idea or mechanic and slap your name on it. That's plagiarizing. Stealing means taking something and making it your own. That means you have to put your own spin on it, your own stamp, your own signature. Breathe your breath into it. Steal something and make it yours!

5. Write for Yourself
Don't be like me. Don't fall into the trap of pandering to others for whatever reason you make up for yourself. Additionally, don't let others dictate your writing. If someone has issues with the way you do things, well that's their fucking problem, not yours. There's generally two ways you can check these kind of people. 1) completely ignore them. Hit that block button and move on. Nothing to see here. 2) get stuck in. Embrace your inner Zak S and talk to these people until they go away or you talk some sense into them. These are the two choices, but don't forget there's usually a third.

6. For every 1 masterpiece, you will produce 99 pieces of shit
That is assuredly a gross overestimation. But this maxim presents you with two options. 1) Wade through the shit to get to your masterpiece. Or 2) Don't bother at all. Give up. Go home. Who wants to smell like shit anyway.

Obviously, I chose the second option—and more than once in the past I admit. The bottom line is this. Just create something. 

You'll think it's shit. Someone else will think it's shit. That doesn't matter. If you're me, you'll look back at something from years ago and realize it's a masterpiece when you thought it was a heaping pile of doody. To this day the greatest thing I have ever written is some three-fourths page horror story in 3rd grade. 

I was eight. It has to be shit right? No. It's amazing. The structure, the build-up, and the pay-off is unremarkable. And the fact that it was penned by a third-grader makes it that much more charming. It is one of my few masterpieces.

7. Always ask "why?"
Why do you need this houserule? Why do you need this custom class? Why do you need this highly intricate lore?

It can be any reason really. You need this custom class because your player wants to play it. You need this lore because your setting wouldn't make sense otherwise. You need this houserule because there's surprisingly no rules for adjudicating the thing you need to adjudicate.

The reason you ask yourself why is to get to the core of your ideas and to prevent you from recreating the wheel. The world already has enough elf variants. It doesn't need another.

8. Don't rush
Shigeru Miyamoto said "A delayed game is eventually good. A rushed game is always bad." 

While you might not be trying to create the next Zelda, this advice applies to you.

That cool idea for a monster you've been sitting on? Don't try to rush it on to your blog in a day. Work on it. Leave it alone. Go do something else. And come back to it. Even when you think its ready, don't put it out there until you've left it alone for at least a day. Because once it's out there, it's out there. And fine-tuning an idea after it's already reached the eyes of others is an awkward fix.


  1. Welcome back!

    Don't bother describing your intransitive demographic characteristics. It's only important to people who are obsessed with pigment and orifices, neither of which are germane to the hobby. It's ok to be white!

    Don't let the turkeys get you down. The Red Guard who are making you feel uncomfortable in your own hobby will never respect you. Stop caring what they have to say.

    This is coming to a head all across popular culture. Here's a post by Chirine about the discussion we were having.

    It's nice to have you back and I look forward to continuing to read you.

    1. I'm afraid I must be missing the purpose of your post.

      I never stated I came under any personal attack. In fact quite the opposite. I misunderstood comments not directly targeted at me as anti-cis and no one is to blame for that but me.

      If this Red Guard exists I've yet to encounter them. And I would prefer not to build boogeymen out of halftruths and rumors.

    2. Well, I have! Maybe it makes me sensitive.

      I’m really glad you’re back though! And whoever your personally turkeys are, don’t let them get you down.

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