Creativity and Condensation

At some point, all creative projects go from being passionate fun to being work. Accept this, or face that all your projects will reach a certain point and then be abandoned.

There is pain in this process. I think of it as condensation. When you put a cold drink out on a hot day, all the moisture in the air is drawn to bead up on the side of the glass; you go from filmy misty possibilities to dense liquid drops of the final product. When that happens, all the possibilities that are NOT chosen are lost, but what IS chosen is accessible and tangible in a new way.

There is cause to mourn this. You had a hundred ways your story/setting/adventure/etc. could go, but this is the one you ended up with. So yes, you could have done a lot of other things–but then you wouldn’t have done the one you now have in front of you. This is one reason creators are hard on their work; those who see the finished product have a much more limited vision of what could have been done. They don’t feel the loss of all the things that were excluded by the decisions to include what is in the finished product. So, they judge it on its own merits, without as many ghosts of “could have been” wafting around.

I’ve been thinking about this as I work on the World Between setting. Jack Shear set out an evocative flavor, but if I was a new DM sitting down with the book and getting all excited, it would be hard to find a way in, a place to start, somewhere to begin. There you are, all enthusiastic, but unable to answer basic questions unless you make it up from scratch; and there, you face the sad fact that you’re not the mad genius Jack Shear is, so there is a sense of disconnect and loss as your improvised stuff feels a lot like the rest of your improvised stuff, even as you reach for madcap Gothic fantasy.

So I’m working on a description of areas of the world to help people who are not mad geniuses get tools and locations and situations that they can get their teeth into. The great setting guidance at the end of the Compendium (newly revised with more great stuff) is very helpful, and having cities, areas, history to hang around it would be helpful to someone putting a game together.

I want to bridge the gap between the exciting flavor Jack projects into the DM’s fevered brain, and the experience of the gamers around the table, by providing more infrastructure and tools that project the themes and sensations closer to where the player characters are.

In a way, this is reminiscent of a D&D written for wargamers and rule designers, and a D&D written to be authoritative for kids new to the hobby. Jack knows how to play the style he likes, and he has enough support to give him the tools he needs to pull that off. For people with more slender toolboxes, they might want more help. It’s a shift in audience, in a way.

Of course Jack is still coming out with stuff on the World Between. I’m not psychic enough to really understand the details of how he runs his games, so there will be a disconnect between our versions. Still, he’s cool with having a multi-verse full of versions of his world, so we can have our adjacent sandboxes and it’s good clean fun.

I feel like I’m condensing all the cool possibilities for how each area could be, from a fine mist that’s ephemeral and intangible to droplets of water you can feel and taste more concretely. I do mourn all the possibilities that go away when I do that, but at the same time I think that for me (as someone running the game too) and for others who want in on this awesome world, it’ll be helpful.

Jack came out with four major saints for the Church of the Lady. I’ll need to think about how to fit them in. I think I’ll make each one a patron of a Midian city… That’s easier because I have names, locations, histories, and flavors for them already.

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4 Responses to Creativity and Condensation

  1. Karlen says:

    Should I work on another random roll generator for terrain or locations? Something like one roll is the general environment, another roll(s) is the type of creatures that inhabit that environment, a roll for how they view outsiders, and maybe one for level of hostility?

    Great post by the way.

  2. fictivite says:

    You know what would be cool: a travel complicator. Season, safety, terrain, and development level would be known. Based on that, some charts for disruption due to weather, predators (human and otherwise), travelers in need, abandoned items (with some white elephant items maybe), and injury slowdowns for mounts or something.

    So if the DM has a party traveling down the road–what happens?

    Maybe a sea-based version too…

  3. Karlen says:

    Heh, it’d be a very random mundane scenario generator. Not stuff that affects the campaign over the long term but just complicates things.

    • fictivite says:

      I’m actually thinking more an encounter generator than a scenario generator; “my adventure calls for travel on the road, and that’s boring, so what might happen?”

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