Monday, October 23, 2006

An Aborted Universe

Exactly three years ago a role-playing campaign was begun and was left unfinished. Its really such a waste. I take playing God very seriously. When I design a world I want it to have enough culture to fool an anthropologist. Myths, rites of passage, hero stories, exotic food, beliefs about the afterlife, quaint swear words, bizarre sexual customs, the works. It is all excessive on a crazy baroque level since most of it will never be relevant in terms of actual gameplay. Gamers are not aesthetes and its hard to appreciate the ambiance if you have to keep track of hitpoints, gold pieces, the name of the whoreson who stole your bag of holding, etcetera.

Gamers have a Teleological philosophy in the Aristotelian sense. Things exist for a purpose. A +3 assassin's dagger is meant to stab human or humanlike creatures in the back (that is its Final Cause) and so it is a good gamers duty to fulfill the natural order and go find someone to stab in the back. It is hard to argue with such clear reasoning. It is my job to facilitate gamers self-actualizing tendencies and need for violence (DMing is a lot like therapy) while keeping the intricate social fabric responsive and noticable from time to time. Though it is a losing battle, I try to keep everying logical and believable, from the battles to the rubbish in the dungeon cells.

What's really so fascinating about role-playing is the illusion of freedom that is willingly assumed by the gamers. For it to work the players should have the feeling that they are actually in control of their destiny, or at least the destiny of their made up characters. It is the DM's job to make that happen, to make players believe in their self-efficacy, their ability to control (it so happens all of these are psychological constructs). If this is properly done the illusion will be successful, the game will be able to give gamers the feeling of Power. King Kong on speed. Novus Ordo Saeclorum.

"Though its only a clever game" lyrics from Sunny Day Real Estate's "One" and quite true in the case of role-playing. It was Rousseau who said that the illusion of freedom was sufficient in terms of educating the young, meaning real freedom for teenagers was preposterous. Liberty is always sacrificed to order. Role-playing is ultimately a story, and all actions and events should contribute to the grand scheme however obscure. Sudden plot twists, deus ex machina, the bait and switch, cunning yet very obvious clues, diabolical traps, recurrent meetings with a hooded stranger who turns out to be the king's sexy illegitimate daughter who is also a level 10 summoner, the disguised villains in scoobydoo, it all satisfies one thing: the dark humor of the Creator (in this case, Me). Makes you wonder whether its really that easy to make people believe that they are the masters of their fates in real life (actually there are very intriguing experiments on this theme).

In the end, just trying to make an almost believable microcosm is already half of the fun so its not all bad. Like it said in Foucault's Pendulum, its really lonely work being God but someones gotta do it

Game log from October 21, 2003 here
Game log from October 23, 2003 here
Game log from October 30, 2003 here
Game log from November 5, 2003 here
The Races here
The Pantheon here
The Wierd of House Middletower (unfinished) here
The Bright Prince (unfinished) here

Monday, October 09, 2006

Do It Yourself Metaphysics

What follows is a manifesto, a plagiarism, a parody

A Provisional Creed (091006)
  1. I believe in an objective reality, one that is composed of the matter and forces of nature;
  2. I believe in a subjective reality of the mind that arises from and is concommitant to the objective reality but not entirely commensurable with it;
  3. I believe that all phenomena (both objective and subjective) are ultimately caused by matter and forces of nature;
  4. I believe that all phenomena (both objective and subjective) can be reduced to simpler or more elementary forms;
  5. I believe that all phenomena (both objective and subjective) follow from necessary causal relationships that limit and determine all events in time;
  6. I believe that all significance derives from the subjective reality;
  7. I believe that all statements about the objective reality, which necessarily arise from the subjective reality, contain the possibility of error because of the incommensurability of the objective and the subjective;
  8. I believe that all beliefs have the possibility of being proved false in the future;
  9. I believe that 8 applies to all statements before it, including itself.

I contradict