21 May 2011

GM, Creativity and D&D

I take pride in being a creative person. It's pretty much the only area I feel I have any aptitude for at all, in fact.

So how big a sin is it to even consider using a ready made RPG setting?

There's a whole lot of settings out there. I know countless gamers must use them. Popular settings like Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance keep getting new releases as new editions of game rules are published, and new settings still keep popping up, and gaining large followings (take Eberron, for instance). But in the past I've been pretty vocal about preferring to create my own material.

However, when I really think about it, I've actually run very few games in original settings. My first fantasy campaigns in the 90's used the Dragonlance setting. In the early 2000's I ran a game loosely based on the world of Hercules and Xena. Then I spent several years mostly running games set in the modern world. These were of course original, in a way, not being (directly) based on any franchise created by others, but it's not like I had to invent a whole world for them.

Oh, of course I've created several fantasy worlds over the years, but the games based on them have been limited to a few one shots and attempts at campaigns that didn't last more than a couple sessions. That is until Va'ita came along, probably my first and only really successful fantasy world to date.

But to return to my present dilemma, anyone who's been reading my blog lately will know I've been suffering from some sort of D&D bug once again. And when this happens, I naturally start wondering about possible settings for a D&D style classic high fantasy game. And this in turn has led to write-ups of preliminary ideas for several setting concepts (one more of which, by the way, has been added quite recently, with the working title 'Foldstair', although the write-up is still incomplete).

Even though these worlds have all got some potential, in the end I've never really been quite satisfied with any of them. Maybe it's the way many of them are largely based on a single gimmick. Which, while being an attempt to bring some originality into the clichéd world of D&D, is also rather restrictive. They'd be fine for a one shot, but that's not really what I'm looking for at the moment. I just don't seem to have the energy to plan a world wide and varied enough at the moment.

Particularly since I already have one original world in active use. Which is an important point to remember. Perhaps I should indeed devote my creative energies to one original setting, rather than dividing them between that and the already rather crowded D&D multiverse. D&D is a game built on clichés, after all, and with the wealth of ready material out there it would be foolish not to use it.

Of course picking a setting is no easy task. If and when I happen to begin another fantasy game, that is. Since my current choice for D&D edition is in fact not D&D at all, but Pathfinder RPG, the official world of that game is of course a strong possibility (and not necessarily least because the not insignificant amount of material available is directly compatible with the rules). While in many ways rather generic, the world of Golarion does have a large variety of nations, many of which are quite obviously based on different historical cultures, ranging from African jungles and Arabian deserts to northern Vikings, giving it a bit of pulp adventure feel that actually appeals to me. But of course there are other choices as well, including Eberron, for instance.

Ah well, I've spent more time writing these little musings now than I intended. Possibly more out of need to sort thoughts out for myself than believing they might be of any interest to anyone else. We'll just have to see what the future holds for me and my games.

9 May 2011

A Grumbly Gamer Post

Over the weekend I've been watching bits of a charity Metroid marathon at www.thespeedgamers.com, which naturally got me thinking again about my current gaming (or mostly lack of it) and about the difficulty of gaming in the modern world in general.

Wouldn't it be cool if video games just worked? Isn't that the whole point of consoles? I don't know why, but it seems like there just is no perfect gaming solution for me right now.

PC's just aren't for gaming. Well, mine sure as Hell isn't. Last year I started having lots of problems with graphics, some nasty crashes after using graphics-heavy apps like games for a while. Possibly something to do with drivers, but I don't know... I haven't even tried games on it in ages. Who knows, the problem might even have been fixed, but I just got so fed up with the whole thing... Even without my specific problems, to get the most out of PC gaming you'd have to have a fairly new, expensive machine. And run Windows, of course, which for me obviously is a big no-no. Add to that the fact I tend to favour Japanese games, which are mainly for consoles.

But the consoles of today are far from perfect, too.

Nintendo products, well... Wii is obviously little more than a party toy. And parties aren't really my thing. But I really haven't had much interest in their products since the SNES. Sorry, but I'm just not interested in fuzzy colourful characters jumping about... When the PlayStation came around, all the more serious games apparently switched over to that. Metroid is one of the few actually cool Nintendo franchises, but that's hardly enough reason to invest in a system.

Then there's the XBOX, of course, but come on, can you honestly see a Free Software, GNU/Linux fan like me ever using a Microsoft product?! And yes, that is probably a very hypocritical attitude, but I can't really help it.

My respect for Sony crumbled long before the current PSN crisis. Their DRM policies, legal actions against console modifiers etc. just go against all I believe in. There aren't even that many really great PS3 games out there, either. But on the other hand, I can't really give up my PS3, either. For one thing, as I've outlined above, there just isn't any real alternative. And then there are those few exclusive games, like MGS4, that I really wouldn't want to live without.

Even playing PS1/2 games these days seems less than perfect. Picture quality on my (admittedly pretty crappy) LCD TV is pretty poor. And I'm sure it's not only due to being spoiled by modern HD games... And playing a 4:3 game on a widescreen TV is obviously always a little annoying. *Sigh*

I don't really understand why such a basic thing as video gaming needs to be so difficult. But enough complaining, I guess. It's not really helping, I'm afraid.

6 May 2011

Sacrifice for an Unnamed God

Naturally I don't remember every snippet of text I've written over the years. But I was still slightly surprised last night whilst going through some old papers when I ran into an old notebook that contained some 16 pages of free-form verse with the title 'Sacrifice for an Unnamed God', written in late 2004 and the summer of 2005.

Each page appears to be more or less independent, commenting upon some emotion, thought or event. But the pages knit into a somewhat cohesive whole, with themes carried on into later poems. I'm sure I've probably intended to carry on further, but the experiment was eventually forgotten and buried, as tends to happen with projects like these.

While much of the material is quite personal (some even obscure, in fact, although I think I get what most of it is about), there are a few segments in the latter half which appear to be a reaction to the 7/7 London bombings. (And in a strange bit of convenient timing, the attack is just today in the news again, with reports about the findings of an inquest into it.)

Of course most of it's hardly among the greatest poetry ever written, but I still decided to type it up and post online. You can find the text here, if you wish.

3 May 2011


Some of my (still rather unimpressive) music experiments have been available for download for a while now, and some of these may also be streamed at various websites (namely SoundCloud), but thus far I've lacked the capability to stream them right here on my website.

However, over the past couple days I've been experimenting with Open Standard Media Player. This is an open source media player application based on HTML5 technology. As an experiment, I've made pages for each of my main 'releases' (I use the word loosely, since they are still quite amateurish works), which include the embedded player together with lyrics and notes for sake of convenience. These pages can be accessed from my discography page.

Be warned: While the player seems to work fairly well for me (on my Debian GNU/Linux system, tested with a recent build of Chromium and Firefox 4), I can't give any guarantee that it will work on all platforms or browsers. Unexpected glitches may still also occur (I've been having some issues with playing longer playlists in order, for instance).

This also means that the early instrumental experiments released as the album Games That Could Have Been (previously only available at Last.fm and zipped download) is finally available for streaming.