Monday, March 18, 2013

Drunken Dragon #1

The games you hope to play will never be played. That's not to say you won't ever have a session of Pendragon or Tunnels and Trolls or Nobilis or Project Ninja Panda Taco but it will not be what you wait for because that gets into some observer effect shit, not to mention builds up your expectations. For all its flaws the final part of Nolan's Batman trilogy could never have stood up to expectation because people were talking about it before the first one came out.

The game you sock away in a drawer somewhere and say "Maybe someday," searching for the perfect players, or people who care about the lore as much as you, or the setting, or the mechanics, people who GET IT? They will never come, and if they do chances are even that one of you won't want to play with the other.

The right time for a game is right now. The right player is the player who wants to play, who is there, and who are themselves game, game for whatever you throw at them. The right character, for that matter, isn't one that you spend hours working on, poring over the AD&D books or the 4e character builder or exhaustively researching your nWOD guy's backstory. It's the character you can make right now to get into the game.

There was a time when people at my store knew me best for playing a death priestess patterned after midwestern housewives and the secretary from Ferris Bueller, a sweet old pot who valued politeness over mercy and had no problem healing people's wounds since that just meant they owed the death god a favor he'd collect later. That was a pregen I was handed. How much of that was on the sheet? Not a line. Not a single line.

The right time for your characters to die isn't when you have it planned out, after they've achieved this goal you have for them. It's when they die, because any story is a good story when it starts "You won't believe how my character died last night!" The right time to end your campaign is when it naturally ends, not when you decide it's going to end. And "finite campaign" is not a dirty word at all. A finite campaign might just be one novel in a series after all. This goes for your bad guys, too, GMs...let their destinies be determined by what people say and do, including the dice. Does that screw your entire campaign? Start this paragraph over, repeat til you get it.

The right GM is the one who's willing to run. The right game to join is any one that will have you. The right time to leave is when you need to, either because you've become uncomfortable, or bored, or your work schedule has intervened. This is a game. It should work like pickup basketball, not like a business lunch.

The right party is the characters you have. If that means the party gets slaughtered or one-shots your megadungeon so be it.

Obviously I don't mean play with loud assholes who cuss and make rape and Pollock and raped Pollock jokes. I don't mean play with pissy GMs or favoritism showing GMs or inflexible GMs or railroady GMs. I don't mean play Mouse Guard despite a crippling musophobia. I don't mean make your life shitty or less fun in any way and anyone who would leap boldly to that conclusion is someone I'd be reluctant to play with.

But bottom line: every campaign that is too good to run now never gets run. Campaigns that wait for perfect conditions are games you are actively deciding not to play. Characters who have to be just so never will be, and the perfect group doesn't exist.

You do the job in front of you. You fight the war with the army you brought. You dance with the gal what brung ya. You unclench and play a game because if your Doctor Who rpg or your game of Baron Munchausen have become actual sources of stress in your life in any way then you have failed at this hobby. Maybe not at this hobby in particular, maybe hobbies in general. Failed at something, though.

I've run games with a minute's notice that went better than ones I had months to sweat over. I've run with no prep and I've run with books of prep. I've played with people whose only source of amusement is actively trying to be Bugs Bunny at a funeral and sabotage games, and it has never worked. Never fazed me. Because what happens happens and that's what was supposed to happen. That guy was supposed to do it and I was meant to roll with it.

Nobody here is talking about Monopoly when they say "gaming." In this context they're not even talking about World of Warcraft or Saints Row, games that are all about choice and freedom and crap. Nobody here is ever talking about that because those are things which exist, and with existence come parameters, and parameters are themselves rules, and then those games add extra rules and so forth.

We're playing suggestions. We all have big books with hundreds of words and illustrations all going "Hey why not make up an entire game? Here's some stuff we made up already if you need it. Looks like fun, huh?"

Nothing exists until it happens. In life so in game. Screenplay, novel, painting, house, D&D game, anybody worried about making sure every aspect of the project from the end backwards is executed perfectly will not only never finish for finding other things to fix but they'll never begin because they'll be constantly out-inventing themselves in coming up with contingencies to prepare for.  Yeah I said house. No you do not live in a perfect house, shut up. Even Bill Gates doesn't and I have to pay him seven dollars for even mentioning his house.

Blueprints. A foreman. Builders. Tools. That's all you need to build a house, that's all you need to play a game. By all means take your time and check your math and permits and zoning and stresssss out before building a house because that's a house and you live in it for real. All I'm talking about are games, and you're only ever just visiting unless you go full Tom Hanks.

It's always time to begin. What is is. All in your game is as it was meant to be. The act of not going according to plan is its own reward and only ever shows how wrong your plan was. If you see Tom Hanks on the side of the road kill him.