(It's a blog.)
Inspired by On cultivating the fantastic
Back in the ’90s and aughts, there were Debates in the Mage community around different ways of handling magic. If you’re not familiar, Mage was set in the modern times and the “real” magic in Mage was in the Spheres. The Spheres were described what you could do as you advanced in mastery of a particular Sphere of magic, such as Life or Time or Matter. Most notably, the Sphere descriptions had very, very, very little mechanics. They were quite deliberately underspecified.
I’ve bounced between video games and other hobbies lately, so when I landed in D&D territory, of course I thought of my lonely blog. I have tried to come up with material. The trouble is that I want to write original material. I could write such as reaction/reblogging posts easily enough. Writing about it adds dubious value sometimes.
The other obstacle: I’m spending less time on the computer for health reasons, sanity reasons, and so on. Time is at a premium also because I have a kiddo. (Okay, I freaked myself out: this blog is older than my child.)
Now what? Well, it’s redundant to say this, but I will: maybe I should just leave that up to the readers.
Actually it’s weird to think I even have any readers. I probably have at least one, it’s just— huh. Well I suppose there are worse things you could be doing.
I’ll see about putting some posts together about what I’ve read lately, as I have had a few shifts here and there as I’ve delved into OSR blogs again. Teaser: my opinion on how to run stealth has been completely transformed.
As an aside, it’s strange how ~1 yr of OSR has challenged more of my thoughts about RPGs than the previous 10 years of playing, reading, and collecting RPGs ever did. I’d say the two other time I felt a change like this was when I first picked up D&D and when I went from D&D to White Wolf.
I first used Evernote in 2009. I didn’t think much of it; I imported my bookmarks from delicious.com (or del.icio.us as it was at the time). Evernote was fine. Not having much need for a note-taking app nor for another bookmarking app, I forgot about it until someone mentioned it in passing as a great DMing tool.
Now, Pinterest in itself is pretty amazing. Strangely, it took an app which exploded in 2012 to help me understand an app from 2008. Now I throw D&D websites in there. Now it’s someplace to store all my musings and one-off ideas no matter what platform I’m on. I’ve already migrated a bunch of my electronic notes there.
I’m actually wondering if I shouldn’t try moving some of the content in my paper notebook to Evernote. There’s some good stuff in there that’s just an accumulation of notes from here and there, websites and books and such. I don’t necessarily know where I get everything; I’ve been reading so much DM advice lately that I can’t always keep track. Evernote helps. My dream is that one day what I write in my DM’s notebook (physical notebook, with this stuff called “paper”) will auto-sync to Evernote or an equivalent.
I can’t overstate how great it is that Evernote has native apps for all the platforms I use. Being able to jot something down on my phone as soon as it occurs to me means I’ve added many more notes that I would otherwise have forgotten about. Forgetting isn’t the problem, mind you; cultivating a habit of writing them down is hard when you can’t practice it.
I encourage you to try it if you are digitally inclined. I used it with Basic for a while before deciding to upgrade to Premium, partially for the unlimited uploads. I also prefer to pay for software I like; if it makes my life better and it’s afforable ($50 per year is $4 and change), I want to reward that. Hell, I used to spend more than that on coffee every month.
If you use this referral link, you get a free trial of Premium. I get something out of it, too: I get some points toward Premium. It saves me a little bit of cash, sure. But it also lets you test drive Premium for a while.
There are some rough edges. For instance, if I wanted to make this wiki-style, I cannot trivially link between notes; you have to go to the note you want to link to, copy the link, and go back to the first note. Even if they added some form of inline autocomplete it would be a marked improvement. I’d rather not have to choose between a wiki and Evernote for my notes.
Have you all been keeping Pinterest a secret? No, I don’t mean the service itself. I knew about it and I wanted to use it. It just wasn’t relevant to any of my interests. UNTIL NOW.
Pinterest is amazing for RPG inspiration. For players, it’s character ideas. For GMs, holy mother of butts is it useful for goddamn near everything.
Another reason why the OSR notion of objective difficulty paired with randomness appeals to me is simple: it’s more fun for me as a DM.
I’m getting sucked into OSR sensibilities and I like it.
I’m not sure how it all started, if I’m being honest. I think I read one ebook or another which linked to Hack & Slash. I added that and some other blogs to my RSS reader, and forgot about them for ~9 months.
OSR was sucking me in.
My least favorite part of DMing is the part where I’m explaining. If I am explaining, it means we’re in Exposition Mode. And unless I’m careful it can become a recitation of facts, or an otherwise weak setup. To avoid this I try to come up with descriptions ahead of time. But that’s treating a symptom.
The remedy is counterintuitive: talk less.
I was walking in the woods the other day, and happened to pass by multiple patches of stinging nettle. I’ve got D&D on the brain lately so of course I thought, “how could we interpret this through the lens of D&D?”
I’ve spent some time lately reading some OSR blogs, mostly one in particular: [Hack & Slash][hs]. I started reading out of curiosity, and now I’ve noticed it’s begun to influence me. “Influence” is the operative word, though; I intend to pick and choose.
I’m continuing to think about choice. I wrote a bit about choice already, [just recently][lastpost]. Since then I’ve done a bunch more reading of OSR posts. Eventually I want to collect some of the ones which I’ve found most interesting all in all. For now let’s set out the problem and talk about some solutions which OSR has suggested.
Also, fair warning: this is a long post.
I’m thinking about stories with choices these days. Or more broadly I’m thinking about what makes a story interesting. To some extent the ability to create this comes from clarity of thought. At a high level, stories should have conflict and action. These are forces which change the status quo, and the consequences ricochet around the story’s world. So if you can nail down the status quo, a catalyzing event, and the potential consequences, you’re on your way.
Yes, this is story 101 stuff. That’s because I’m going back to basics— basics I’m not convinced I ever really mastered anyway. I’ve been dissatisfied with my DM technique and skills.
I broke this down in my notebook, and I’ll expand on that here.