Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘gm’

the Wikipedia Limit

So I’m running this game, and it’s set in the 1875 frontier, which is not an area or time period I know very much about.

I have this knee-jerk reflex to research the hell out of it. Gee, I wonder where that came from? I’m having to actively remind myself this is a game, not a novel somebody’s paying me for, and so while research is okay, obsessive amounts of it are not. Thus I have instituted the Wikipedia Limit: I am allowed to read as many Wikipedia articles as I like in the course of doing game prep, but if figuring something out would require more in-depth reading, then I say “screw it” and just make something up.

There are exceptions to this rule. The major one is for Native American matters — religion especially — because Wikipedia’s coverage of those isn’t good. I’m also allowed to google phrases like “famous [fill in type] people” to get a list of names I will then look up on Wikipedia. But if I discover, as happened just a few minutes ago, that a person I want to include in the next session was arrested in 1875, but Wikipedia doesn’t say when in 1875, then I am allowed to decree it happened after this session’s events were over. Which I would never permit myself to do for the Onyx Court.

Thank god for Wikipedia, because it’s actually a really great resource for this kind of thing, offering me (in most cases) plenty of information for my purposes. But it’s funny, how hard it is to hold myself to that limit.

game ideas I don’t have time to run

Changelings (in the Changeling: The Dreaming sense) strike back against the Banality of the modern world by adapting to a mythology modern Americans are prepared to believe in:

They frame themselves as superheroes.

Wind Runner to fly, Flicker Flash to teleport, Quicksilver for super-speed . . . Skycraft to throw lightning, Pyretics to throw fire . . . the troll birthright for super-strength . . . you can’t duplicate every power ever given to superheroes in the comics, but you don’t have to. You just have to get far enough, and then let the bright spandex costumes do the rest. Clark Kent turning into Superman is just a question of calling upon the Wyrd.

(Nockers as gadgeteer heroes. Holy crap, does that make Batman a nocker?)

I so don’t have time to run this, but. The idea amuses me.

Updated with ideas, from kniedzw and me wandering around the farmer’s market:
Batman’s a Dougal sidhe, not a nocker, provided you can find a good physical flaw. Iron Man is ABSOLUTELY a Dougal. Superman’s a troll; he even wears blue! Spiderman, maybe a spider pooka. Catwoman, cat pooka definitely. Cyclops as a Balor who’s trying to be good? <g> And the Incredible Hulk fighting against his ogre nature’s worst instincts. Aquaman as merfolk. Swamp Thing as a ghille dhu. Gambit as an eshu with Legerdemain. Mr. Fantastic maybe has Metamorphosis (Go Ask Alice, applied selectively); Human Torch has Pyretics. Storm has Skycraft, obviously. Can’t really do Rogue, or Professor X’s telepathy. I could see Wonder Woman as a Gwydion, maybe. I’d probably make Wolverine’s claws a Treasure, implanted in him by a crazy nocker.

Admittedly, there *is* a downside.

Not counting a one-shot LARP, I’ve run two games in my life: Memento and the Scion game currently in progress.

The year I ran Memento was the year I did not write a novel.

If there’s a causal relation there, it goes in the direction of “no novel, ergo free time for a game.” I was in negotiations with my editor for what I would write next, and reluctant to commit to a spec project just to fill time, when odds were good that I’d have to drop it halfway through in order to do something contracted instead. The causality was not that running a game ate the energy which would have otherwise gone into a novel.

(And the negotiations ended up settling on Midnight Never Come anyway, which grew directly out of Memento. So.)

But it is true that I did not write a novel while running that game. This year is the first time I’ve tried to do both at once, and the result is . . . interesting.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to find a way to build some downtime into my noveling process. The usual way of things is that I work virtually every day for three or four months straight, and at the end of it I have a book. But that’s exhausting, and after two months or so I start getting really bitter about not having weekends or days off.

One idea I’ve toyed with is giving myself a break on Thursdays. That’s the day I run the game, and it turns out to be singularly difficult to get anything done then — especially since I have physical therapy appointments Thursday afternoons, too. So I spend part of my afternoon at PT, and the rest of it prepping for game; since I am not a morning writer, that leaves me with only the time after the session ends to do any work. Which requires a rather massive change of gears in my head: game and book may be only about nine years apart temporally speaking — 1875 and 1884, respectively — but one’s in the Western frontier and the other’s in London, and their vibes are VERY different. Last week I managed 733 words after game because I knew where the scene was going, but last night I did jack, because the scene needed chewing and my brain already had its mouth full.

I’ve built in enough margin of safety that I could afford to take Thursdays off and still finish the book on time. But it does eat a large portion of that margin of safety: if the book runs long, or I miss days for reasons of backtracking or being sick or whatever, I’ll still end up with some crunch time — though hopefully not as bad as it was for Ashes and Star. On the other hand, once PT is done, odds go up substantially that I’ll be able to do at least some writing during the day, so I can then give my brain over to Scion with a clear conscience. So I think what I’ll do is this.

Until PT is done, I have permission not to write on Thursdays. I should, however, try to make up that lost ground in subsequent days, if I can do so without too much trouble. After PT is done, I’ll try to write something every Thursday before game, even if it’s not the full quota; if I manage that, I’m not required to play catch-up afterward. Put that together with the more complicated background math (involving certain things that add to the word total of the book, but don’t get counted toward quota, etc), and this should work out.

But yeah. Unsurprisingly, running a game eats many of the same processing cycles in my brain that book-writing does. (Moreso than if I’m just playing in a game, by quite a bit.) I do believe I can do both — I will certainly try — but this is going to require some awareness and planning on my part.

changing modes . . . now.

I wish I had a switch I could flip in my brain, that would let me transition cleanly and quickly from thinking about one story to thinking about another.

Because I was working happily on game prep for tonight when something came along and knocked my brain onto another track entirely, and now I can’t get it back. It’s hard enough, gear-switching from the nineteenth century American West to nineteenth-century London; now I’ve got Option C distracting me, too, and it’s completely unrelated to everything else.

It’s potentially a good distraction, mind you. But still very inconvenient. If only I could turn it on and off at will.

narrative space

Using my gaming icon for this post, for reasons that will shortly become obvious, but this is as much about writing as RPGs.

Tonight — presuming none of my players manage to contract ebola or something in the next eight hours — I’ll start running Once Upon a Time in the West, my oh-so-cleverly titled frontier Scion game. This is the second tabletop game I’ve run, with Memento being the first. (No, I don’t expect this one to turn into a novel, much less a series. Then again, I didn’t expect it with Memento, either. But this one will be more heavily based on game materials, so I’d say it’s unlikely.) As a result, I’ve been thinking about games and how I plot them.

I’ll take pity on your flists, since I was wordier than I expected.

Awesomeness in the Old West

If nineteenth-century America is something you know something about, this post is aimed at you.

For the second time in my life, I’m gearing up to run a game. The first one was Changeling (and resulted in the Onyx Court series); this one is Scion (and god help me if it tries to turn into a novel). For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Scion is a role-playing game where the characters are the half-mortal children of gods. Think Hercules, or Cú Chulainn, or the Pandavas, running around in the modern world. Except that my game will be set, not in the modern world, but in the nineteenth-century American frontier.

Larger-than-life personalities doing over-the-top deeds? Nah, there was nobody like that in the Old West. 🙂

I’ve already got a nascent list of people I can reinterpret as half-divine, but I’d like more. This is where you, O internets, come in: who really seems like they might have been the child of a god? Who excelled in their chosen field? Whose deeds acquired legendary status?

The game will likely take place in the mid-1870s, so while people who predate that point are okay (they might fit into the backstory — or not be so dead after all), anybody born later is out. Mostly I’m looking at the frontier, but will also entertain suggestions from back east; the game may wander there at some point. I am especially interested in people from the groups more often overlooked by history: blacks, Mexicans, Native Americans, Chinese, etc. One of the things I want to look at in this game is the way in which a wide variety of cultures collided in the space of the frontier. (Adding a mythological layer should make that extra interesting.)

Bonus points if you can suggest a possible divine parent along with the Scion. Whose kid is Doc Holliday? How about Marie Laveau? Pretty much any god is up for grabs; the books provide rules for handling nine different pantheons, and I’ve found decent-looking player-created material for three more, so I can field most things.

Suggest away. The more names, the merrier.