You know what the problem with my D&D world is?
I’m thinking too small. Some of my ideas, some of my influences, some of the stuff I may want to draw upon in the future; it’s being excluded by design. I’m limiting myself to only three non-human species, only three approaches to classes, only a small set of inspirations from either genre or history. Always, always, thinking too small!
Kent, alas apparently departed from the Interblagamatrons, said he was trying to set some sort of example for Dungeon Masters with his blog, and you know, I’ve been thinking about his world map and the research I’ve done for the Dark Ages game and how, frankly, I’m too lazy to make up a world out of whole cloth but I don’t mind ripping huge chunks out of the real one – or other people’s fiction, for that matter. I’ve been thinking about wizard PCs inspired by William Blake, about the Order of the Black Cross, about Dr. Shiny’s dukedom of eternal winter, about the impossible landscapes of Cappadocia and the immortal Lamia of Tibet, about how to have drow without having regular elves. Above all, about something I quoted back in the early days when talking about how I run, or used to run, games:
I’d been so terrified of the responsibility for another person’s enjoyment that I’d forgotten what happens when it works: you are inviting other people to inhabit your mind. What a strange use of oneself that is; strange, and rare.”
I still have yet to encounter anything that encapsulates the passion of the Games Master in quite the same way. The point is that all this stuff, all this lore drawn from and drawn into different games, already co-exists somewhere: inside my head.
Why the hell am I parcelling it out into these tiny little niblits when it could form part of the same terrain? The influences that they exert can/will/should bleed sideways into one shared space and is there any point in pretending things are otherwise and maintaining all these arbitrary divisions? I’ve let myself fall into too many proprietary worlds, too many exclusive “this happens here which is distinct from everything else” mindsets.
What is the actual reason why more of the things I play can’t exist in the same territory? Admittedly at different points along its timeline, some of it in circumscribed spaces where things are Different, and without the obligation to include everything (as terrible a trap as the obligation to subdivide everything), but come on; the only reason that, say, the Dark Ages Vampire game exists in its own conceptual space is because I’ve been told it has and accepted those rules when they were given to me.
But there’s nothing that actually stops me having the revival of English magic, the Order of the Black Cross, warring vampire clans fighting to conquer or liberate Constantinople, steam-powered ghost-driven war engines, grimoires engraved by Blake’s of Lambeth, ancestor-worshipping lizard people and the drow of Cappadocia in the same world, and to throw more things into that world as they occur or are brought to me. There’s nothing to stop me saying “fine, there are no dwarves or conventional elves in this world as I currently envisage it, or in the part where this game is currently running, but if you’re absolutely married to the idea, I can put them here and you know what? You want to play a dwarf, so you make up something about them that I find remotely interesting. Why should I have to do all the work?”
I don’t quite know what’s suddenly happened to make me realise that I don’t actually need all these rules for What Can Happen Where In My Imagination, but it’s… well, it’s quite liberating, really.
‘Cause like the man said, life’s too short.