Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Role-Playing Game Run Down

As a writer, and therefore an editor I have cultivated a sense of judgment on various levels of what I read and watch. I put this to use as reviewer for the Bob's Reviews site. Likewise, whenever I set out to create a new product I use that critical eye to look at what is out there in the market and target concepts, methods, and procedures that could do with improvement. Familiarity with products in particular veins improves that sense of what could be done different or better--the two are not always exclusive with better being a matter of taste in some instances. I have a great familiarity with one product that I look to speak about specifically today and as long as it takes to cover the concepts I wish to discuss. That product is role-playing games.

Kevin Siembieda is famously known as saying that "RPGs are, after all, part novel, part text book, part instruction manual, part art book and all imagination." That's a good covering of the main facets of role-playing game books, but as far as games and their design goes it is not the entire story, not as far as I am concerned here. The games themselves are part collaborative story telling, part acting, part strategy, part chance, and all game. A lot of the time people gravitate to one of those more than the others, sometimes one or two. It all depends on the game, the personal goal in playing, and a likely host of other decisions and desires held in balance. A good game system, that is the core rules and setting, should offer many possibilities in each of those elements of the game.

One area where a game might fail, or not measure up is in the balance between strategy along with numbers and dice, and the art of telling a story. This can be a matter of one getting in the way of the other and bogging things down or hindering the smoothness of game play. The purpose of rules, and dice, known as the mechanics of the game, is to provide a framework upon which to tell the stories, set up the scenarios, make it a game rather than just writers or actors collaborating. There is a level of simulation involved, simulating physics, simulating character or psychology. How much it feels like a simulation or how much verisimilitude it doesn't or doesn't have is a frequent failure point for RPGs. There are a number of ways this can happen. Tune in next time for more.

Mood: declarative.
Music: Voodoo Medicine Man by Aerosmith and Harvester Of Sorrow by Metallica.
Aerosmith: Pump
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Metallica: ...And Justice for All
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Onward in the Corners

Here it is 2010. Can you believe that? Even a month into the year it's still hard to wrap my head around it. Is there another year yet to come that has received a lot of fictional press? I don't know any--I'm ignoring supposedly real apocalypse dates. Not only is 2010 a new year, but also more than that it's a new decade. Somewhere along the line I'm sure that I will post something about the future of books or writing and multimedia together or similar. It won't be the first time and as long as things keep changing and evolving in the world it likely won't be the last. Some of the articles I intend to write this year are not very dark or horror oriented but don't let that get you down. Some of them I will take special care to make dark and horror-filled.

One of the first topics I want to tackle will be in a sort of pseudo-series. I do not know how many weeks it will take or if I'll do them all at once or not. They are focused on role-playing game writing and use. The main thrust of these will be about the artificial quality of some rules that games have, and ways of avoiding that, hiding it, or otherwise minimising it. I also want to take a look at the ubiquitous and attention hogging vampire. This was a number of ideas, spawned by recent movies and a novel I have knocking around in the back of my head, to really make vampires something to fear again. Before I get to that though we need to look at how they are portrayed now. I also have to cover a bit about some of the myths that have fallen by the wayside and some that are only partially explained.

Back to that idea about the future of writing and the possible changes, I would like to write an article or two further getting into this whole idea of deleted and alternate scenes as well as side stories. The thing about this idea is it is only new in that--especially in the case of side stories--they existed separately before and now they can co-exist. The important part of this topic that I want to get to is about using the bits that exist in the story to set the mood, or to contrast it. How do you set that up? How does the full version change things? Are those changes present elsewhere and just quietly inserted? Of course any of these kinds of ideas could be full-blown articles all on their own. I hope you'll stick around to see.

Mood: optimistic.
Music: Music: Big Guns by Skid Row and Snakebite by Alice Cooper.

Skid Row: Skid Row
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Alice Cooper: Hey Stoopid
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Looking Back at 2009

It's February, but since this is the first entry of the year to this blog I would like to say, Happy New Year. I thought this year that I would begin all of my blogs with two particular articles. The first is a look back at 2009 and the highlights of the year. The second is a look forward at some of the things that I want to talk about in 2010. One of the perennial series of entries in these dark corners is the annual 13 Nights of Hallowe'en. In 2009 all of the movies were my favourites. Most recently I wrote a couple of role-playing game themed articles that are useful for creating characters for any media. Still in the RPG vein there were articles about game changing alterations to settings, such as travel times and instant communication, which can have massive impact on a number of fronts even outside of gaming.

At one point in the year there was a bit of a lengthy look at changing perspectives, and perspectives versus reality on several levels. That got into the realities that we surround ourselves in and they way that it affects, well, everything. Those perspective shifts work their way beyond our view of the world and they effect our interactions with everyone--a handy understanding for writing. Another topic that surfaced with a need to be covered by more than one entry was a look at where publishing is going and where the writer can take their work as new paradigms emerge. There I likened one of the possible experiences, with only text being a requirement, to extras and deleted scenes on a DVD. That plays into my favourite topic of taint, which comes up now and again and will continue to do so.

It’s hard to forget as well that at the beginning of 2009 there were the last couple parts of Anatomy of a Horror Setting #3 about mixing the horror and sci-fi genres. That of course was followed by all of Anatomy of a Horror Setting #4, which looked at combining horror and fantasy moving from the typical medieval European fantasy settings up to Industrial Era settings. The rest of the series of course was a part of 2008. The whole set of them are still on my list to be lengthened, re-edited, and turned into a book. It was both easy and hard to devote so many weeks to a small set of topics and examine all of the angles. It was easy in that I knew one week to the next what I writing about and hard to come up with some of those angles and try to keep some kind of order in the progression.

Mood: progressive.

Music: Music: This Day We Fight! by Megadeth and Hitchin' A Ride by Green Day.

Megadeth: Endgame
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Green Day: Nimrod
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