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Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Role-Playing Games and Experience and Writing

Jean Sexton muses:

I didn't encounter role-playing games (RPGs) until I was in college. There I ran into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition). I couldn't believe how much fun it was. I was delighted to find there were more flavors: RuneQuest and GURPS were so detailed and with GURPS I could play any time or place I could imagine. Then there were the superhero games (Champions and Superworld) and the spy games (Top Secret and James Bond 007), not to mention horror (Call of Cthulhu). I met cyberpunk through Shadowrun. Finally I met Traveller and had the ineffable experience of having my character die before I could even play her! I loved my trike in Car Wars. One of the last games I played was Deadlands and that was my introduction to steampunk.

I loved the worlds that these games created. And there were the places that I could visit: ElfQuest and its supplements, Thieves World, and Greyhawk. I loved the Citybook generic books that I could add into my games and the rich interactions that were included.

When I started proofreading at ADB, they quickly found out about my RPG background and handed over the Prime Directive RPG line to me. They made it sound so easy. Little did I know that my work was cut out for me. They made it sound like I could change a few lines in a book and all would be well for it to move over to another RPG. There is so much more involved as I learned over time. As time passed, I started asking questions: If the Bargantines are genetically Klingons, but with different conditioning, why do we have them chewing cud? Are the Vudar really amphibious, or are they rather just good swimmers? Just how long is a Phelan? As I gained experience, I learned that good answers needed to be given to make the games more accurately reflect what was known in the universe.

Writing has always been difficult for me to produce to order. If I am passionate about something, words flow effortlessly. Assignments are much harder. Assignments that must fit into known facts are even harder for me. However, I also want to keep promises. Long ago we promised the Prime Directive PD20 Modern players that one day they would have the species we cut for space reasons. I finally decided to try a proof of concept: could an RPG book be done in Word on a PC rather than in PageMaker on a Mac. The best way to do this was a limited size book and the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement was born. It's been a challenge to look at what we have in GURPS and the original Prime Directive books, ask questions ("Is this really true?" and  sometimes "Which is true?"), and get that expressed in PD20M terms. Still, I have enjoyed it and I think it is preparing me for the Traveller Prime Directive series. I'm hoping that with the experience in writing and layout in in the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, I'll be ready for the longer book.