Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Importance of Playing

One of the interesting pursuits of this fine hobby of ours is the creative aspect which most of us enjoy undertaking and indulging ourselves in. For the most part, the individuals I rub elbows with here and there across the internet are fellow Refs, DM’s and Judges. We spend much of our free time dreaming up rules variants, tinkering with game mechanics, building worlds, and designing adventures. As I’ve found recently, I can spend hours upon hours doing this very thing, even when I know that my creative ‘behind the scenes’ time has grown exponentially over the years, while my actual time spent behind the screen, running my campaign, has shrunk to a miniscule amount.

Recently, I have stepped back from my endless labor of building Solstice into a vital OD&D campaign. I realized that I have a veritable mountain of work invested into Solstice, relative to the actual game play time that will be spent in that setting over the next couple years. In other words, I could stop working on it now, and probably not have to add anything at all for a few years. There’s that much dungeon completed and waiting to be explored. This is not to say that I am at a loss for creative inspiration, just that I have reached a point that I feel it might be better to allow the actual play of the characters determine where the campaign goes before proceeding too far on one project.

As usual, I do have numerous pokers in the fire; projects that are in various stages of development. I enjoy having more than one creative outlet. These are all D&D related, of course. Sometimes these various projects need a ‘bump’, something that pushes them over the hill and into completion. It is with this notion that I have realized that all of us eternal referees and GM’s need to experience actually playing a character in someone else’s campaign. It brings about a new level of creative inspiration.

I’ve recently taken the plunge into the realm of PBP with Vardo Winx, and while this is not your standard table-top game, I know for a fact that even the tentative steps our group has taken are going to infuse me with ideas along the way.

During my D&D heyday, I had a particularly long running campaign, which was played weekly for years. The sheer amount of hours spent in that world was staggering. Every Saturday would see us playing for a minimum of 8 hours at a time, and then 10-12 hours once we relocated the gaming site to a friend’s basement from the old Rec Center. At one point in the campaign, I had the idea to give each player his own continent within my campaign world, to do with as they pleased. Once one of the players felt he had a suitable adventure drawn up, I would assume the role of a character, and we would essentially play musical chairs, as they took turns behind the screen.

Those days were so enlightening, so inspirational, and filled me with an almost competitive spirit. My creative process kicked into overdrive, and I returned to the labor of designing my own adventures with a newfound zeal. My eyes were opened to new possibilities and ideas, ones which I know for a fact would not have had the same impact were I simply reading them in a module, or on the internet. Actually experiencing D&D, as a player, shed these aspects of gaming potential in an entirely new light.

The point of my rambling here? Get out and play in a campaign as soon as you can, be it Tunnels & Trolls, Encounter Critical, Mazes & Minotaurs, or whatever. Start rolling some dice, and get ready for a major infusion of inspiration for your own works.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

5 comments:

The 99th Problem said...

This is why I think it's valuable to play tabletop games, and why I miss running them. I almost have *too much* time to work on things for PBP, and I'm not forced to exercise the same sort of intuitive, off-the-cuff creativity as when I ran tabletop games.

In PBP, if your players take things in an unexpected direction, you have plenty of time to prepare a studied response. At the tabletop, you're forced to respond immediately, which requires an entirely different set of mental calisthenics and has weird, sometimes awesome results.

So now I'm worried that my tabletop skills, such as they were, have completely atrophied. :)

Will Douglas said...

I have to agree completely with this post.

I was at a convention recently where I was going to run something, but I didn't get around to it. I played (as readers of my blog may have noticed) but I didn't run anything.

And I can feel it.

Anyway, I'm working on stuff for future cons around the area, including an Original Traveller pocket campaign and some OD&D.

Max said...

I am really glad to've gotten back into playing again, rather than just tinkering on my own.

@ Scott:
As a new PbP player it feels much more like collaborative fiction, which I love. But it's quite a different beast from tabletop. More deliberate and polished, but less spontaneous.

Sham aka Dave said...

max you certainly have a way with words; I couldn't have said it better myself.

Things move in an eloquent fashion; the GM is able to ruminate for hours rather than moments.

I'm not sure how actual game mechanics, such as melee, will play out in PBP, but I am certainly enjoying the game thus far.

The 99th Problem said...

As a new PbP player it feels much more like collaborative fiction, which I love. But it's quite a different beast from tabletop. More deliberate and polished, but less spontaneous.
I believe this is an apt description. PBP is fun, but it lacks the spontaneity, the culture, and the physical talismans that really are a big part of gaming for me.

I'm not sure how actual game mechanics, such as melee, will play out in PBP, but I am certainly enjoying the game thus far.
In my PBP experience, with a relatively light system like OD&D, the actual mechanics are nearly invisible from the player side of the screen unless the Referee pushes them to the forefront.