Friday, March 27, 2009

Winding Down and Setting Design as a Hobby

The bulk of the rule modifications and setting material is more or less complete. As a writer it I think it is important to know when to 'call it', and move on to the next step. One of the reasons I am using the B/X ruleset is because it is unrestraining and well suited to an open-ended world. I do not want to over develop it. It should be loose guidelines of what is where with a lot of sandbox material to play in as the players go. Anything further would be diminishing returns I would think, since the players have a good chance to never see it. As of right now I am fairly happy with the amount of material that is done and it should be an ample amount to rake fresh characters over the proverbial coals.

That said, the posts here will likely dwindle greatly as I concentrate on the fairly dry tasks of assembling the mess I've created in the past three months. This will include a lot of rewriting, organizing, editing and smashing it all together to form a single book 'Valley of Blue Snails'. A one stop rules/campaign setting, hopefully ready to go by the May Iraq deployment date. None of this process will be very interesting to share so I will not do so. I may do a few new articles (the two remaining great seasons, a cleric write up) but they should be uncommon at this point. Hopefully in MayI will simply post the PDF when its ready and stick a fork in it in this construction project.

Thereafter this blog will highlight the actual campaign as it goes and I will fill future setting details as the player(s) stumble across strange lands, high adventure, and butter supple loins.

I have a few notes in reflection, notably regarding setting design as a hobby:

I suppose part of the reason that I have worked on Valley of Blue Snails is that it is a hobby in of itself. It is not all preparation for a campaign, although that was definitely a motivating factor to get some actual work done (ie Iraq deployment date). It is quite possible that I will spend far, far more time doing the labor and toil than actually playing the game. Granted I hope this is not necessarily the case; but it is foreseeable that the setting sees very limited play for one reason or another. There is war going on after all.

I won't belabor the point since I don't want to give the wrong impression that I think this would be some horrible thing. I'm having fun designing my little maps and trivial lore. I'm sure I will use the better bits in whatever I run or play in. Even if I don't it was fun to write them and generally explore some ideas that I've been mulling over.

In retrospect I would change a few things from the get-go and move towards a more open approach to setting design. Preconceived notions seem to stifle creativity and I am surely caught up in that mix to some extent. I started from the ground up (B/X rules, 4 races) instead of the top down (And then there was light, what else is out there?). I should have taken the top down approach as I am sure I would have arrived at some more interesting conclusions rather than dipping into my prior gaming repertoire to fill in the blanks.

The closest thing that comes to mind in treating the actual game design as its own hobby is probably Traveler. DMs and players for that matter almost certainly spent far more time generating characters, ships, worlds, systems and so forth than actually playing. Traveler summed it up as so:
  • The Solitaire Game: One player undertakes some journey or adventure alone. He or she handles the effects of the rules as the situation progresses. [...] In addition, there are many aspects ideally suited to solitaire consideration. A single player can spend time generating characters, designing starships, generating worlds and subsectors, planning situations, and mapping out ideas to use in later group scenarios.
Note that this is reflected as its own game rather than simple preparation. And it is, I would recommend it to almost anyone with interest in D&D, old and new, or any general role-playing. Get to it and don't dilly-dally around. I know I would be interested and inspired with setting material that other people come up with who are more creative and talented than I.


  1. I've never made a secret of the fact that I enjoy setting design as much as, or more than, actually playing the game.

    This weekend I've got to sit down and start compiling these masses of notes into something usable, because it's getting out of hand. I'm not even doing it with an eye towards publication, I just need to get it under control. It's gone fungal.

  2. The closest thing that comes to mind in treating the actual game design

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