Monday, November 07, 2011

"I once asked Carpenter whether he knew of a spell which when spoken would annihilate the whole cosmos and all it contained, both physical and mental, and all memory of the same, absolutely and utterly for now and all time. And I recall vividly how he looked up from the book he was reading and said: 'I suppose things are not going well for you this afternoon.'"

(From Philip J. Davis, Mathematical Encounters of the 2nd Kind)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Epiphany v2.0

I find it difficult to finish most novels most of the time.

This is true for most people as far as writing them goes. For me it is also true so far as reading them goes.

Beginnings are of course the easiest and most fun to write: and I also find them the easiest and most fun to read. It is best when a story is full of mysterious possibilities. Once a novel has settled down to a 'plot' and most of the possibilities are blocked off, I almost always lose interest.

I think that thirty years of GMing, most of it on the fly, for most of that time more than once a week, for the past twenty years most of it in a system we invented ourselves, has ruined me for the novel. This used to make me feel bad. But I have had an epiphany.

Life is complexity: it sits at the interface of order and chaos. By the time the reader gets hold of it, the content of a novel is preordained. No matter how much it may seem complex, it belongs to order: it cannot sit at the interface. It is only an unfolding in the reader's mind of what already existed in a different embodiment in the writer's mind. I hate how every time I read a book the characters do exactly the same thing.

In a role-playing game he interactions between players are not preordained. They can sit at this interface between order and chaos. The mechanisms within role-playing games that introduce chance drag the story towards this interface. The GM has to abdicate the desire for complete control, to become one of the co-creators. There is no question of honing a scene to make it perfect, of taking days to find the right word: the word must be spoken, now. In a role-playing game there is only one draft. A role playing game is a more complex artistic product than a novel and requires a greater degree of skill. Thus, I assert:

The Role-Playing Game is a greater form of art than the novel.

Though the people who can play a Role-Playing Game 'well' enough to actualise its potential do not yet exist. One day they will, and passively consumed art will fade into the background.