Wednesday, September 13, 2017

GMs: Time and Artistic Inadequacy

I have been a GameMaster, Dungeon Master really as most of what I have played is Dungeons & Dragons, for 35 years. I mean not continually, there was a period from about age 24 to 32 when I wasn't actively gaming. But generally when I've played 85% of my time has been on the DM side of the screen.

I love DMing and I love the creative part of it. I am not a great artist, nor a great graphic designer. I mean I'm passable, but not anything special. As an ability score scale from 3 to 18, I would rate my artistic ability at about an 11, maybe a 12.

Most of the D&D stuff I worked on back in the day was better than what a lot of my friends were doing with some exceptions (my friend Joe actually wrote a complete short story of a character adventure and at least submitted it to Dragon). But I never claimed to be a great artist, or mad designer. My strengths were decidedly in storytelling, creative ideas, weaving varied parts and portions of modules, campaign info and character actions into a tapestry that most seemed to really enjoy. Even if I was a bit of a hardass death wise.

But my stuff was mostly me fooling around with my D&D stuff. I had lots of loose papers of my creations, most never used, but a testament to how much time I spent "fooling around." The thing was, that most of this were the absent minded creations of a an amateur, a hobbyist. Eventually people start noticing and encouraging, and what not. But most of that is just a general admiration that someone spends time doodling and scribbling instead of playing video games or watching TV. It was not praise of some type of unearthly talent. One can have talent, but it doesn't always translate into something praiseworthy. That generally requires work. Concentrated, focused effort on improving at a task.

I am most decidedly _not_ a work-a-holic. I was fortunate that school came easily to me. I could read Conan comics, behind my Latin textbook, scribble half finished fantasy and horror short stories in my Honors English class, and draw dungeon maps in Honors History and monsters in Algebra. All this while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA and graduating near the top of my class. I mean I am a successful professional in the education industry now as well, but I make no allusions. I do not live to work, I work to live. Having said that I rarely take my pastimes much past that amateur level of the avid hobbyist still playing at his games and daydreaming my time away. Truthfully, I have a soft spot in my heart for Randolph Carter in the Lovecraft's The Silver Key, who having grown despondent that the dreams of his youth had left him with the cold, sterile vacuum of modern life returned again to the lands of dreams.

The great query then is what keeps me from rising above the simple level of a devoted amateur. There is a certain poetic and rare beauty in the pencil scrabbled creations on the lined notebook papers of our youth, and the pencil drawn maps that we all churned out in the early days of the game. I feel little need to rise above that. Perhaps it's my grognardly nature, or my love of the way things were, but I have realized something. I don't have the skills or the time to publish a game with the production values of similar games coming out today. Now, this realization is something I am still processing and trying to understand completely.

I also have recently run across some occurrences online and in the blogosphere and forumverse that have given me pause to consider what exactly I am about, and what I should set my sites on achieving. There is nothing wrong with staying in that devoted amateur arena, it's comfortable and it's where I've been for over 30 years. One of the things I've learned in my own profession (administration in public education) I have come to appreciate the fact that change requires vision and mission if we are to be successful. So over the next few blog posts I'll be going through these thoughts and hopefully clarifying for myself where I am at.