Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: Holding Off On the Pickles and Ketchup

While some GMs are the master of the improvisational game, I've never been one. I've done it before and even sold two copies of the 5th edition T&T after doing so, and started a regular gaming group from it. But that was back in 1986. I was damn-near homeless and was all-but wearing a sign saying "Will GM for food." Really, I had a job and an apartment. But I had some transportation issues and the city bus system where I lived could only get me to six miles of my gaming store, so by the time that I got there I looked ruffled to say the least.

But as I said, I've rather gone out of my way not to do improvisation. Most the time I work from notebooks that can fit in my shirt pocket, which looks casual enough. Woe to anybody who ever reads through one of these books, for every casual line of an outline for that days adventure is about 10 pages of background, including calendars for said setting of events going on around them. So back to the derelict metaphor, I am that crazy guy who keeps scribbled notes on the voices in my head.

Often these days, when some of the gamer audience see a GM walk up with only a pad of paper, a dice bag and maybe the small T&T 7plus rules book, many assume that I am just making it up as I go along, so suddenly I start getting "request" like I am working at a Mongolian BBQ. Maybe it's the absence of a minivan full of miniatures and a GM shield.
"Ooo, are we pirates?" Says the mom feeding her kids at the table.
"How about some dinosaurs?" Says the guy who needs to get out more, looking down the mom's pirate wench shirt. "Zombies are cool."
"I like Star Wars!" Chimes in the dude wearing an Iron Man tee-shirt.

And then the poor gang is stuck with the milieu that I already had worked up for them. And in my opinion, the better for it.

I seem to be open to suggestion even when I take the time to type up and publish my material. There is often the "special requester" that occurs during working relationships with artists or potential writers even through casual correspondence about our shared hobby.

I was buying artwork from one guy who saw a copy of the fanzine of where my Rjinn the Swords Woman was featured. He asked to read it. After 30 seconds of him flipping through a couple pages, decided I should write up his version of Alice in Wonderland. I spent 40 minutes politely nodding and not buying the man a beer, while I had two, while he outlined his trilogy. When he noticed that I wasn't taking notes, he took his check for $300 for his artwork and slipped off.

Then there are the emailers, a couple of guys appearing every month from an unknown, and unlimited, pool who are just bursting with ideas. Apparently though they do not have enough time to write up their own ideas-- probably something to do with the time spent those thoughts emailing hordes of people instead. Many are the "Short and Sweet" sorts. One or two sentenced blurbs appear from the ether into my mailbox. Usually bits like "Flying Zombies With Sonar(sic). Think about it for WHAP." And then there is the "Voluminous Texts" gaggle, this number is growing. Pages and pages of effort thrown out there with the line "If you can use this." While these ideas, whether expressed long or short, are often brilliant and great, they aren't mine. And especially in the case of the folks throwing pages and pages at me, it would not take too much to complete that work in a form that wouldn't scare away most casual readers and publish something themselves.

Mind you, I don't mind people sharing their ideas with me. I work with many by providing feedback on their work. I even co-author with a few. I just don't compose for others.

So when you sit down at my counter don't ask me for catch-up for that meaty idea at my falafal stand.

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