Gaming and the Creative Process

Hi there WombatFans – Andy here. As you may have heard on Episode 70 I lost my voice during GenghisCon and haven’t quite found it yet. It may or may not still be impaled on the horn of the rhino that made sweet but savage sexy-times with my vocal cords and/or larynx. The convention was an amazing time; I met lots of fans, hugged a 6 foot tall anthropomorphic fox, and was given a light-up LED dog collar. I also played a good number of RPGs and laughed for what seems like hours on ends with lots of great players.

Once again, I’m deep in the throes of a post-convention love affair with role playing – I played three Savage Worlds games and a Cyberpunk game at the convention (that is a record for those keeping score at home – 4 games played and 1 kid’s chess clinic taught). But, instead of the normal “Man that was fun, too bad my lifestyle doesn’t have an extra half dozen hours a month in it to play on a regular basis” thinking, I find myself on more of a creative bender. All the playing makes me want to play more, sure – but it also makes me want to write more. Some of you may remember that I wrote and GM’d a Cyberpunk game during the fall last year and had some of the gang over to play it. The reviews post-game were decent but have slipped a bit as time has gone on. I don’t think the game was too bad personally, campy for sure since comedy is an easy out for those of us not experienced enough to make a dramatic game – but it was solid enough to get the job done. Chances are my friends are just all assholes and have trouble giving compliments to yours truly because they have some misguided notion that I’m an egotist. Anyway, I digress. The guys are great…really. Ahem.

After playing in a few really awesome con games, I find myself wanting to write more Cyberpunk plots. To be honest, Cyberpunk appeals to me more than any of the other RPGs out there right now, and also because I don’t know any of them as well as Cyberpunk. Savage Worlds is great but very new to me and I didn’t like 4th Ed. DnD much. Maybe it is all because the more I play RPGs the more confidence I gain in being able to come up with a plot line that might be fun and interesting, or maybe I just get more chances to see the kind of people that turn out otherwise great games and I think “Wow. If that train wreck can do it, so can I!” I always loved the escapism of RPGs and allowed other’s ideas for games to take me away, but this is different – I want to be the one that writes to story now.

I worked with Harley Stroh, our Godfather of Cyberpunk Awesomeness after TactiCon last September to get advice in creating the game I wanted to run and to get a grasp of how he streamlined the core rules for Cyberpunk to be more non-campaign, one-shot friendly. The normal game rules are pretty intensive as far as skills and cybernetics and whatnot and that level of complexity would never work with first time players or with pre-gen characters. He’s been an amazing resource and we’ve traded ideas back and forth on how things can be changed up to fit convention play better and we have even come up with things that players at the next Cyberpunk game will get to try out for the first time. Being able to have Cyberpunk side-projects like wound charts and drug reactions, I find myself itching to write more games. I’ve even started making custom Cyberpunk characters for some friends for Harley’s next convention game. I’d like to run another game before then but I’m not sure – I’m pretty fucking sure of my own awesomeness but maybe not sure enough to balls-up enough to run a game at a convention. I do hope to run something for the gang again in a month or two so they can try out new characters and rule-tweaks. I don’t think it’s possible to write good games without being a GM because you’d lack the understanding of the ebb and flow of leading a game, so I probably need to man up a bit and just run a game or two before TactiCon in September.

Anyway my point is that my creative juices are flowing! Mmmmm….juices. God, I gross myself out sometimes. What I mean is that plots for games are on my mind all the time now, with little twists here and there and I love it. It fits my love of writing into my annoyingly full schedule in a nice way. I don’t have the stamina or time to write a novel or a short story, or even a blog post most days – but a game plot is really only a page or two. Justin gave me great advice last year that the core ideas of the game should be outlined, along with any key encounters, but otherwise you leave it open to what the party does and what you can come up with on the fly. That makes for easy writing as all you need is a 3-act idea that you can flesh in as you go. We played my Cyberpunk game for 4 solid hours and all I had was 2 pages of notes. All the nuances were in my head and when I wasn’t too nervous to remember them, I put them into the game.

I guess the salient thing here is that I love the creative process. I have a dozen game plots sketched out and I even kind of look forward to walking the dog so I can ponder new ideas and new twists. It has awakened the creative part of my brain again and I hope to continue down this road as long as possible. If something creative strikes you, write it down, type it out, or do like I do and Dragon App it on your phone – just don’t lose it. Keep a notebook of ideas like Justin does. Whatever! Just keep the ideas flowing for whatever you are working on – don’t let it dry up or you’ll end up like me – I only get inspired every 6 months so hold onto it as long as you can.

Andy out.

Don’t Burn Yourself Out

Matthew and I were leaving a writer’s meeting for the module we are both working on with Will.  As we are standing in Will’s driveway Matt says to me, “Don’t take too much on, don’t burn yourself out.”

Knowing Matt is a good friend and I know how he looks out for those around him I did a quick inventory of the things I am doing in life, and this is the list in no particular order and not including items like marriage, family, leisure time:

  • WombatCast
  • Protocol 5 company
  • Websites for WombatCast and the company
  • About to start RolePlayDNA podcast (with Ron, Vern, Ed, and Lee)
  • Trying to get another game podcast going
  • Writing a module for Savage Worlds

After listing all those items I wondered if Matt was correct.  Around December I decided that WombatCast needed a hiatus mostly because I was getting fried with doing the show.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work, but my record of being on every episode of WombatCast still holds!  But December didn’t turn out to be much of a break because the stuff we had recorded to fill December with content didn’t work out so I still had to hustle around and get some interviews.  So my break was short lived.  But I’ll be honest, the time I wasn’t working on the podcast I was still thinking about it.  My burnout didn’t last long.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since Matt made the burnout comment and I keep coming to the same conclusion:  For the first time ever I am doing work, all of it for free, that I really enjoy doing.  This is the kind of stuff that if one day someone pays me (please let this happen) I would feel like I had won some kind of cosmic lottery.

Every single one of those items I listed is a thing I would love to do for a living.  Right now I do them out of the love of doing them.  In fact I flirt with the idea of taking on more projects, just so I can get the experience and make in roads with people in industries that might want to hire me one day (I work for cheap).

I think for the first time I could give you a few answers about what I want to do when I grow up.  I could never answer that question before because all the normal jobs sounded horrible to me.  But writing a module for a game sounds like good work to me.  Podcasting is just fun.  Giving people a website where they can do creative things, that is just awesomesauce.

Will I need breaks?  Hell yes!  But would I quit my day job to do these things for the rest of my life?  Just tell me where to sign.  Is it quite possible I am doing all this and none of it will ever make me a dime?  Yeah…quite possibly, but I am ok with that.  For now it gives me work I can be proud of, and that is payment in itself.

-Justin