04 March, 2015

Even More New Ideas from 20 Years Ago

The reason I seem to have a lot of notebooks filled with ideas from the mid-1990s is simply because I spent a lot of this time catching trains, often an hour-and-a-half to two hours each way to get to university or get to work. I'd have ideas that I just didn't have time to incorporate into an existing game, but they were ideas that I wanted to hold onto for later.

The various groups I was a part of played new (for the time), angsty "World of Darkness" games (with werewolf and mage being popular), some played "AD&D 2nd Ed" (often with a range of "Complete Guides", or heavily enmeshed in the "Dark Sun" or "Planescape" settings), a couple of guys were always trying to start up a "Shadowrun" or "Call of Cthulhu" game, or run one-shots of the latest quirky system/setting of the day..."SLA Industries", "Mutant Chronicles", "Kult", "Big Eyes Small Mouth"...none of us really knew what we wanted in a game, but we knew we weren't seeing it. 

I wrote what I thought would be good for a game based on what I knew. Elaborate settings with half detailed NPCs (where I could fill in the details as necessary for the campaign), lots of plot hooks all over the place to draw players into the stories that they seemed to like. These settings were really baroque in their detail, often with pages of information that never saw the light of day, my heroes were those 40-50 year old gamers who'd built up elaborate campaign settings over decades of play since the first D&D boxes had come out...I wanted to shortcut my way to their level of detail and potential for immersion.

(...I was doing relationship maps before it was cool)

My systems were just as complex, I thought you needed every power mapped out, I thought you needed lists of equipment carefully balanced for mechanical impact on the game versus price and availability.

I thought that all this stuff would get used in the near future, for that one great game that was just around the corner.

20 years later, I still pick and choose elements from these old notebooks, but that one great game never quite came. It's not that other things became more important, or that life ended up getting in the way...I don't know, maybe it is.

Looking through some of these notebooks, I can see unrefined ideas that I've been toying with for years. I don't know if these ideas are more pure in their original form, or if they are cruder and in need of polishing. Maybe they've gotten better with time, maybe they've become corrupted; either way, I can see that the ideas have changed. Sometimes it's good to get an overall view of the creative process, because when designing a game for sale the "end product" is just a small snapshot of a specific moment in time. You often don't see the journey taken to get somewhere, and can't extrapolate the future directions based on the existing path. (That's probably another reason why I like considering multiple editions of a game side-by-side, with each edition as a step on a continuous path rather than an independent product fighting an edition war).

Anyway...enough with the past for the moment, time to move forward.

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