04 January 2010

Creativity and You

I know that there are multiple ways to be creative, and that different things work for different people, but I'm also known to be insane and disregard what other people say to me.

For example. When I want to sit down and write, I refuse to read anything related at all to what I'm writing. I have this tendency to let my prose get Vancian when I read Jack Vance, to get archaic when I read Lovecraft and to get direct when I read Frank Herbert's Dune. And it doesn't feel right when I merely ape another person's style. There's no satisfaction in it.

The only way to avoid it, then, is to seclude yourself from the outside world's creativity and find what's inside your head. And then to write it. To create it from nothingness.

There are people out there who work best when they take another person's idea, a fairly recent idea, and try to do it better. They fix things a little to make the game they thought they were getting into, with their own little idiosyncracies and whatnot.

This is what's happening in the video-gaming community today. Any look at amateur game makers will show you three hundred thousand Super Mario clones, Sonic clones, Space Invaders, Breakout, and the like. There's nothing wrong with learning, or practising based on what you already know to try and get accustomed to the software, hardware, and programming language you're using, but what are you accomplishing?

Is there any point to publishing what are, in all reality, your scraps? Did you ever find Monet attempting to sell his daily sketches and pass them off as real art? If he did, wouldn't you find that crass and pretentious?

The point is this: Publishing things, and attempting to show them to the world, should be about increasing the value of the entirety with your contribution. In other words, if you haven't got something creative to give to the world, don't give them anything at all.

03 January 2010

Game-Building 2: Classes

Secondly, one must have an idea of what sort of classes are to be expected in the game.

Initially, there should only be maybe two classes. I'm happier publishing mini splatbooks that deal with each seperate class than publishing one hundred damn thousand classes in the basic game. The way I see it, if you just want the basic game, then play the basic game. Simplicity has a beauty of its own.

If you like to have a thousand classes and advanced classes and subclasses and bloodlines and a hundred thousand other things going on in your games, then you're free to do that as well.

But the basic game is just that- the basic game. It sets the baseline levels of power for both warrior types and wizard types. All other classes need to both answer to this and to balance themselves in proportion to this.

The three classes that will make it into the basic game are:

The Fighter

The Spellsword

The Occultist

I know there are a couple of, perhaps, glaring omissions. Firstly, no theif or cleric? No, not even a little.

There's no theif because, well, I side with the grognards heavily on this one. There's no special rules for sneaking and climbing walls and stealing things and all of that oh-so-theifly specialties because it delimits what the other characters can and cannot do in a way that the fighter and occultist simply don't. The fighter is defined by his ability to be good at fighting and taking damage, the occultist by his spellcraft, and the spellsword by having a mix of both. The theif, however, has skills that every other character can have as well. He is simply better at it, at the expense of being nearly useless in combat or other situations. Basically, he is a weak fighter who, by default, tends to limit the sneaking options of other characters and tends to change the balance of power. He tends to take, basically, the entire trap-finding, lock-picking, chest opening dungeon aspect out and convert it from a roleplaying experience to an excersize in dice rolling.

It's for the same reason that I dislike the World of Darkness scheme of having stats for social encounters. A discussion should be roleplayed based on the characters and the real merits or disadvantages of the argument, not rolled and determined by character sheets.

In other words, for the same reasons that I would want for a character to actually roleplay an encounter as opposed to rolling Persuasion vs Stubbornness and then going on with the game.

And as for the cleric- why, he's right there, with a different name and a different flavor! A fighting man with magical skills? That's the Spellsword to a tee. Sure, he's not limited to blunt weapons and healing magic, but that's part of the fun. Since a Spellsword can only use one Weapon Group and Two schools of magic instead of Four, a Spellsword can certainly be played as a traditional cleric. Or he could be a Abysnian Blood-Channeler wielding the characteristic black-iron halberd. Or he could be a Harkannite Stormtrooper, casing fire magic ahead of himself while he charges forward behind his sword and shield.