Monday, March 07, 2005

Speaking of writing (funny how many friends I have who write, in one fashion or another), I chanced upon this quote by Raymond E. Feist on his website:
Midkemia is a virtual world created by a bunch of UC San Diego grad school buddies 28 years ago. We did it for fun, as a pastime. This was around the time that Dungeons & Dragons was all the rage. But D & D was underdeveloped for our tastes; we decided to draw on our knowledge of medieval history and our love of fantasy to build a fully realized gameworld: Midkemia. We made up characters, countries, political alliances and disputes, a system of magic, a pantheon of gods -- a wonderful, magical place that didn't exist anywhere except in our heads. We brought it to life when we got together on a regular basis (every Thursday night for a while, then Friday nights), mastering games or playing characters. Game players understand this sort of world-building, but for a lot of people it may seem like a weird thing to do. And maybe it is -- but in my opinion it's no more weird than driving buckets of golfballs in the rain, collecting every pressing of every LP the Beatles ever made, or buying every stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Later, my friend Steve Abrams suggested that I tell the story of how Greater Path Magic (Don't know what that is? Read the books!) came to Midkemia; from that came my first novel Magician, published in 1982. In order not to conflict with the gameworld we'd created, I set Magician, the first of my Riftwar novels, 500 years before our game. I write the history to the Midkemia the Friday Nighters created.
My friends who have been subjected to the fruits of my imagination in the form of my D&D setting, Ereth, have, if I may be so bold as to be completely honest, been used in much the same fashion. I originally set out with an idea for a setting for some fantasy stories, but I couldn't come up with any plot ideas. So, I started a D&D game. Since then, we've finished one campaign in the Ereth setting, and have just started another. I'm writing tons of backstory stuff, which is kind of different than writing a coherent work of fiction, I know, but eventually I want to get around to writing some stories actually set in this world. It might have to wait until the second campaign is over, though.

I've also been very inspired by Virtual Verduria, in much the same way. I admire it as a work of imaginary history, love the intricate conlangs, and I very much admire the method by which Mark Rosenfelder created this world.

My original concept for Ereth was that it was kind of like Tolkien-meets-Lovecraft. I started from the central question, "What if even in a world where magic and divinity is both inherent and incarnate, what if there were things beyond even the knowing of gods, if, in essence, dark and horrible beings from BEYOND broke through and disturbed the divine order of this world? What would happen? How would the beings in that world react?" This was pretty much the subtext for the first campaign in Ereth, which played out in ways that I found both interesting and ultimately unsatisfying. I began to feel that I had constrained the players into a (my) very linear story.

As a result, in the new campaign I'm trying to create an almost non-linear form of storytelling. I, as the game master, am providing the background, the setting, and the non-player characters (and their motivations), but I'm pretty much hoping to be able to let the players do whatever they want. With all the consequences of that. If they decide to go tackle that 19th level beholder at 2nd level, oh well. Crispy characters. Roll up some new ones.

Which is harder, as a game master, to do, but more liberating.

I have an idea for a far future space opera setting that I'd like to set a game in, but not until after my friend Nick is done with his SpaceGURPS campaign. Or at least until we're well done with my Ereth campaign. It'd be quite different from his SpaceGURPS campaign. More like Traveller. With lots of interesting alien cultures and rayguns and robots and stuff.


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