Saturday, June 7, 2008

Abstractions II

I've been thinking more about abstractions since my last post.

Back in the 80's, it seems like everything had to be nailed down. Also, it seemed like every one of us (I know there were exceptions; there always are, but most of us) wanted things nailed down.

Case in point: My highest level character back then was a Hobbit Master Thief. I know, I'm not supposed to call them Hobbits. Bull. TSR was not supposed to call them Hobbits; we did. Because they were. And because the Professor's heirs weren't part of our game, and we weren't causing him any loss of income (if anything, just the opposite).

Well, he built an estate. I took my graph paper and my pencil and planned it all out, with pantries, treasure stores, secret exits, the works.

Never used it.

But I had fun, making it. And this, I think, is the key: If you have fun making something, go ahead and make it (except a mess, of course...) But if you don't have fun, don't let some set of rules force you into something you don't want.

3.5 has a massive stat block for each NPC, monster, critter, etc. It drives me crazy. There's way too much information here, especially for an NPC. All I really need to know about this guy is his name and his attitude, and I can fake the name if need be.

Back in the day, we played lots of Traveller. Now, one of the "games" in Traveller was the starship building 'game'. It was lots of fun; you decided what you wanted a ship for, then build it by selecting a hull and cramming components into it. Afterward, you could easily tell the capabilities of the ship: If it was on the sheet, it could do it, and as well as rated. It was all there.

But nobody really needs that. A lot of people want it, and I used to be one of them. But I never needed it.

I learned that from the Space Fantasy supplement to Big Eyes, Small Mouth. Up until that point, spaceships simply were those things you had to detail in specific terms, period. But S.F. said essentially that "hey, if it's a mecha, fine; detail it. But if it's a set, then it's just a set and you can handwave the rest."

This was immensely liberating for a recovering rules-lawyer like myself. I started to question other methods of doing things, like having an entire world laid out before starting a campaign. I no longer believe that's necessary. It might make the campaign seem a bit less "real" when starting out, but beginning characters don't care about such stuff anyway, in my experience. Besides, when a player brings me a character concept that needs a specific type of place for its origin, I can just arbitrarily say "Sure! I have such a place; it's 200 miles to the west northwest."

They'll never know the difference anyway.

Anyway, that's what's been in my head this morning.

I'm heading off to Worldwide D&D Game Day in a minute. Hope things go well! See ya later.

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