Sunday, March 7, 2010

First Draft, First Draft (chant)

One of my great weaknesses as a writer, and certainly the main thing that prevents me from writing in an efficient and timely manner, is the concept of the draft.

I expect excellence in both ideas and the expression of those ideas to be perfect as I type them; if they are not, then I'm not ready to sit down at the keyboard yet, am I? I'm too good for "drafts" and rewriting, thinks I.

Getting this Tutorial booklet finished should be easy.

"Here are the ideas I want to express, I should get them down in whatever form, maybe not the best way to put it, but then I do something else and then come back to this with a fresh perspective and clean up the writing."

That's what I should do.

In practice? I agonize over three paragraphs all day because it's not tutorial material, it's doublespeaking gobbledygook that contains the ideas I want to express but sounds way too pretentious to ever go to press. I should just write it and move on for now.

Case in point:

What is a Campaign?

The common use of the word “campaign” in role-playing generally means the collection of sessions involving the same general group of players and characters. It is understood to mean that there is continuity between sessions and events of previous sessions act as a background and history for the current session, which in turn lays the groundwork for future sessions.

But a campaign is so much more than that. The Campaign is not just the description of the game as played by a Referee, as the Campaign is larger than the games played within it. The Campaign is the Referee’s concept of the game.

A campaign is the structure that encompasses all in-game activities. It is the milieu designed by a specific Referee. It is the very concept of the game the Referee runs. A campaign is not limited to a specific group of players, it is not defined by the use (or avoidance) of published material. The campaign towers over genre, style, setting, and the participants.


  1. Ack!

    I see your point.

    Depends where you put it.

    Tutorial booklet or the Referee's?

    To me, the first paragraph is fine. The second and third are perhaps too specific, related to a "Referee" rather than a player, so I'm left with the question "Who is your audience here?"

    I wouldn't put all of them in the Tutorial booklet, but that first one, definitely.

    If the paragraphs are going into the Referee's booklet, I'd say, go with it! We all have to have a bit of pretensions to be a Referee...

    Best wishes!

  2. Do you have an editor for this project--either a person who will actually be credited as "Editor" or a friend you trust to give you honest, constructive criticism? It can be a great help to be able to say "ah, this is crappy now, but my editor will be able to give me ideas to make it better."

  3. Yeah, that is a little heavy. Something lighter:

    * The idea of a campaign lies somewhere between the referee's preparations for continued exploration of his world and the later reminiscences and banter among the players about how the adventures have actually unfolded. As a consequence of his responsibilities the referee and his players will not perceive a campaign in the same way but the experiences they share, the developing events they become witness to game day after game day could be said to be the heart of the campaign. *

    Perhaps you are trying too hard to be definitive and complete. Why not try to capture the spirit of the meaning of campaign in language you think the reader will want to revisit after he has gained some experience of gaming (in the manner of Gygax) rather than a technically accurate description which may be disposable after one reading.

  4. James, you are right to just move on and come back with a fresh take on this. If I understand your project, it might help to think of the average 12 year old reading this. Not to say it should be dumbed down.

    Here's my take on it from a bleary eyed early morning perspective:

    "Usually campaign means series of gaming sessions involving the same general group of players and characters*. There is often a continuity between session to session. It may help to think of each game as chapters in a book, or episodes in a TV series, each one leading to the next.

    But a campaign is so much more than that. The Campaign also encompasses the world and concept of the game as envisioned by each specific ref. It can be thought of as each ref's personal vision of the game. All in-game activities can be thought of as part of a campaign.

    *Though it doesn't always have to!"

  5. >>Do you have an editor for this project--either a person who will actually be credited as "Editor" or a friend you trust to give you honest, constructive criticism?

    I just contacted a couple people this past week, actually, because the need was becoming rather obvious.

    Between posting this and the start of my game I thought of another way to explain this, but using comic books as the example rather than TV or books.

    "The games you play with your group, that's like a comic book title. So you're the X-Men. Each adventure is like a different issue, a self-contained story. But if you read a large number of consecutive issues at once, they tell a greater story in the lives of the heroes. And weren't there decades of stories that happened, and are referred to, before you ever started reading? Of course, and while they were once current events, now they're just background history.

    But a campaign is not just a comic book. Even though you're the X-Men, and your comic book is all about you, there's still Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, and all the rest that exist out there in the same universe. Even if you never meet them in your own comic book, the editor (Referee) is aware they are out there and tailors the setting of your adventures appropriately.

    So your games are the X-Men, but the overall campaign is the entirety of the Marvel Universe."

    (not going to use real properties in the actual text, but this is the idea I had)

  6. I think the comic book analogy, is sound idea! It fits very well and the popular CB's, never end.

  7. Yeah, the CB analogy fits much better than a TV series.

  8. Love the Picard pic :)

    I think it's just the (natural) urge express the ideas as clinically and precisely as possible that leads to the 'Encyclopedia Britannica' voice.

    And yeah, it's just a draft. Hateful, but necessary. Maybe picturing a specific person you're addressing will help with the voice. Somebody you know who would say 'Thank you Professor Raggi. Now explain that shit in English, please." :)

  9. Love the comic book example. I wish I'd thought of it.

  10. Do 11-12 year olds read comic books anymore, or are they mostly bought by over-40 'comic book guys' like the character on the Simpsons? If they do read comics, then you ahve an exccellent idea, if they do not, then you're possibly missing the mark. Know your audience and talk to them directly in terms that are meaningful and relevant to them. My daughter is 14 now, I'll ask her what she can tell me as to what she might suggest, but I would seriously consider doing some research into what your target market/audience is really, really into these days. It can make a huge difference. My past experience with marketing has been with an older demographic, mostly, but the one time I was involved in a periodical that attempted to each out to a younger audience, we needed to dig a bit to determine how best to reach them without coming off as phony, corny or fake. Definitely try to find out all you can about your audience and serve it up in the way that they are going to find it appealing.

  11. There's going to be tits on the cover (at least for the first printing, here's hoping I have to make that decision for a second printing too), so I don't know that I need to care about little kids for this project.

    "Creative works made through marketing" isn't a very appealing concept anyway.

  12. There's some good analogies here, but as someone who reviews legal sounding sh%t for a job, my only advice is don't use the same word twice in the same sentence, and not more than twice in the same paragraph unless it's for a special cause. 'Common', 'generally' and 'general' in that there first sentence is not good.

    There is gold in that example there, it just needs a good thesaurus and the key concepts pared back to crystal clarity.

  13. Never, ever design according to marketing. That was certainly NOT my point at all. What I am saying is that you need to separate your Marketing from your Creative efforts. You have a clear and compelling vision behind this project, one that cannot be compromised. But you do need to sort out how you are going to present it to an audience you want to reach. Dropping the kids, using tits on the cover, those are deliberate Creative decisions, and that cuts out certain marketing options right there. It also allows you to focus your efforts, instead of trying to appeal to 'everyone' which ends up in exactly the kinds of 'Creative works made through marketing' that we both despise.

    Marketing is a tool that serves the product of the Creative process, it is a stubborn mule that pulls the cart, and by no means should it ever be allowed to drive the cart, or it'll never get anywhere.

    How do your favorite metal bands get their stuff out to their fans? Any chance of using some similar sort of approach to get the word out?