David Allan Coe said it best…

So, it’s Wednesday and I’m still exhausted, still have a lot of work ahead of me, and all that jazz — but I’m here to promise that this will be my last day of self-reflective wandering. I wanted to share something I wrote YEARS ago. This would be back in that stage of my development I’d refer to as “pretentious, wanna-be game designer with ego still tied up in the idea of producing an RPG and getting the ‘standard rich and famous’ contract.” And while I’m incredibly relieved that I left that guy behind me… I do miss him sometimes.

And this piece, well, I wrote it back then and I just felt like this really meant something. When I found it on an old drive I was cleaning up, well, I realized that it fit my recent frame of my mind very well… Anyway, enough intro, let’s take a ride…

“It’s a long hard Ride…”

I’m going to get a little personal this time. I’m talking about the “why” of my thoughts on gaming. It is my hope that in light of all the various, why games fail and communications conversations that we have on this board, that I can let people know what makes the game for me. The hope is to encourage all y’all to do the same, talk about what gaming means to you, and why you do it?

Tonight’s little letter to everyone starts with a song. It’s also a ghost story. This song is THE ghost story song of country and western music. It’s by David Allen Coe. Yes, you heard that right. D.A. Coe, No relation to E.A. Poe. (Dammit Rob, you’re from BV, listen to some country once in a while.) Sorry.

The song is “The Ride”, and I encourage all gamer types to give it a try. Just give it a listen, it’s good stuff, even if you don’t like country. I’m listening to it as I write this. Knowing my audience though, I’m going to assume there are not many Coe fans paying attention right now, so I’m gonna explain. Or at least sum up.

Song opens with a young man hitchhiking from Alabama to Nashville, TN. Our young man has but a guitar and a dream. He’s going to Nashville to become a country star. He wants to sing the Opry and be a legend in honky tonks. (Did you know “Crazy”, by Patsy Cline is the most requested song on jukeboxes around the world?) Anyway, this kid is headed out to make it big when he has an encounter with the ghost of a true legend of country music. This song gives me goose bumps, not because it’s creepy, but because of the fact that the young dreamer brushes up against something huge.

I’ll leave you with that much explanation – if you want more, listen to the song. Just go listen, hell, you can even listen to my copy if you want. If you need a country history lesson when it’s over, I can do that for you too… but where does this connect to gaming?

The chorus of the song goes like this here:

“Drifter can you make folks cry when you play and sing?
Have you paid your dues?
Can you moan the blues?
Can you bend those guitar strings?
Boy can you make folks feel what you feel inside?
Cause if you’re big star bound,
Let me tell you it’s a long hard ride.”

Now some of you already see where this is going. Some are still wondering why I ever listened to country music in the first place…

So I’ll explain. Look at the fifth line of that chorus. Read it again and ignore the rest for a minute. That line is why I am writing Ryllia. That line is why I love gaming. In creating this world and the game system to play in the world, I am trying, desperately, to make it what I feel inside. Ryllia is a game about why I love gaming.

All y’all all know Jeff. He and I have spent many an hour agonizing over running games. We’ve talked about what we love. We love heroes, we love being the hero. We love stories, we love pushing characters to their limits and after beating them all to hell, we love seeing what comes out of the fire.

I love telling stories about humanity and sacrifice. I like using gaming to explore parts of the real world I don’t know how I feel about yet.

Sometimes. Sometimes I just wanna kill stormtroopers.

Point is, even when I’m dungeon crawling, it’s about working out my brain and my heart in a social story, with fellow gamers who are exploring with me.

How does this translate into what I’m writing? First of all, Ryllia isn’t geared toward making a character. Ryllia lets you begin a legend. Your very own legend. It’s right in the title of the game, Legends of Ryllia. The game is ABOUT you. I’ll tell you later where this comes from. It’s another reference, and it’s important.

Also, as you grow in Ryllia your character grows how you play. In every gaming session you will get XP. Just show up to play and you get XP. Those XP can only improve your basic skills and stats though, and only to a certain point. There are other things on your hero’s sheet that can only be improved with the second kind of XP, legend points. Guess how you get legend points? By becoming a legend. The game system is designed to encourage heroic thinking by building it directly into the reward system. So, sorry number cruncher power gamer types, but you gotta roleplay to get real power in Ryllia.

“Boy can you make folks feel what you feel inside?”

Well, that’s the burning question right?

It’s what I’m working for. It’s what keeps me up all night, ignoring my homework and writing my fingers to the bone. It’s what I’m looking for in every game I go to. I guess, if I wanna be big star bound I’m gonna have to take the ride.

Comments, questions, testimonials?

I left that intact, with all my old, pretentious flourishes and all. It’s almost embarrassing to read now — I was so earnest. Just ignore the names and the references to where it was originally posted (a webboard for my college geek group). Thing is… for as corny as it seems to me now, as silly as I feel putting it back out in the public eye, I really do miss that guy. Something he had, some passion for this hobby — I’ve lost it.

Thanks for reading…

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4 responses

  1. In one respect, I see where you are coming from in that when I look at my RPG folder, or around the room, I am surrounded by a volume of games that could never possibly be played in any meaningful way with the amount of life given to 5 or 6 gamers, let alone just me and mine. Some passion for the hobby – a near insatiable desire to see how the settings were put together, or to see what themes were driving the game – kept me exploring. Now, while I am still adding new games to my virtual shelves, the rate has slowed, and I find myself saying that I want to get back to the old level of system mastery and invisibility that came with playing in the same campaign world, with the same system, and the same players for years at a time.

    I still like playing in a game and running one or two more. I still like reading setting material, but I am much less interested in learning new ways to achieve the same effects, and now realize that I would prefer to spend that time internalizing one way to do it so that I can focus more completely on making the game experience richer. I seem to have settled on Ubiquity which has been a treat, and counter-intuitively, Battletech: A Time of War as my mainstays for the forseeable future. What this has shown me is that for me it is not about the style of the system, it is about the way the system shapes character and fosters choices.

    I have never had the passion you describe to make a big splash in the gaming industry by expanding paradigms or setting people’s minds on fire with the awesomeness of my settings. I have only ever wanted to tell good stories well, and have them spark stories in others. I think having such a flaming passion cool over time might make you wonder where it went – that seems fair – but, as we grow older, maybe that is not the sort of desire that can really go the distance, or power creativity of real merit.

  2. Well, in my case, I realized at some point that it was either an unrealistic desire, or one that I put other priorities in front of… which in the end, amount to the same thing…

    1. So are you now, like the Kurgan, looking at the choice of burning out, or fading away?

  3. 🙂

    Nothing so drastic, I think. I have the occasional bouts of gaming frustration (like everyone) and I do still get misty-eyed about the idea of actually writing a game… I certainly don’t expect to “set the gaming world on fire” these days. And my desire to do this gives me a certain very positive envy of those independent designers whose games I’ve gotten to play and enjoy.

    I do miss running games that are more about the story and the world and the players making heroic decisions (more than worrying about what power to take at level X). And I feel myself slipping more into the “system matters” camp as time goes by…

    But I still Love gaming. And I’m still happy to be here. And I still have something to contribute — even if it’s only with my own gaming groups.

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