Games are things in their own right, and not just a set of tools for creating a shared experience. I’m not just talking about games-as-artifacts, though a well-made game book is a beautiful thing. Mostly, I’m talking about the rules as a structure, as a machine made of words.
I began playing role-playing games back in 1983. My mom bought me the box set of the Holmes edition of Basic Dungeons and Dragons, because she thought I would be a good dungeon master. I’m not sure why she thought that at the time, as we’d never done anything like it. For that matter, I don’t know where she picked up the game, or how she knew what it was.
I didn’t play in a proper campaign, by which I mean the serial adventures of a group of continuing characters in a persistent world, until college. My high school gaming buddies lived out of town, and getting together regularly was often difficult. What we did was more like con play; someone would get a new adventure, and we’d make up characters and run it.
That didn’t stop me from buying games, though. Within a few years of getting that first box, I had acquired a set of AD&D books, Top Secret, Gamma World, Traveler, and Star Frontiers. I read the books over and over, made endless notes on campaigns I’d play one day, and even spent hours designing house rules to cover gaps in games I’d never played.
I still do that, now that I think about it. I have shelves of games (a whole damn library, if you include the PDFs) that I’ve never played, and probably never will. Games I bought to support the designers or because I was curious about how they implemented rules for one thing or another.
I collect games the way some computer geeks collect hardware. Just to pull them apart and see if I can build something fun with the components. Perhaps gear-heads and cars would be a better analogy, but the image of having role-playing games on blocks in the front yard is a bit much.
This is not to say that I don’t want to put a project up on blocks where everyone can see it. That is, in fact, exactly what I propose to do. I want to design a fantasy role playing game on this blog, a post at a time. I want to brainstorm my design goals, hammer out the mechanics, and build the setting all here, out in the open, with input from anyone who stops by to read.
I don’t know if what comes of this would be a commercially viable product, but that’s not the point. It’s more about exercising my design skills and having a conversation about how these machines are made.
It’s all about the journey, yeah?