Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In Over My Head

And it sure feels nice!

I have a few friends and acquaintances who are serious artists. I mean they do art for living. They don't putz around with it in their spare hours or sneak it in during their lunchbreak. I mean they are full-time, to-the-hilt, paying-the-bills-with-their-creative-skills artists.

Being creative types, they live their lives outside the boundaries that most of us take for granted. They're a quirky bunch, given to deep emotions and a devil-may-care attitude towards things most of us lie awake at night fretting about. Being outsiders, they have something of a kinship with other artists, though like bloodline kinships they can be fraught with animosities and rivalries and out-and-out feuding.

But the one thing they all seem to save their deepest, most venomous hatred for are people who settle into a rut with their art. Sure, going for the low-hanging fruit is understandable; sometimes you just need to pay the bills. But falling into a niche and just stagnating there, never pushing your talent, your assumptions, or your craft is the ultimate blasphemy. I have seen an artist I greatly admire, a man with amazing people skills who always makes you feel special and appreciated and remembered, no matter who you are, erupt into a torrent of blazingly acidic contempt for another artist who was clearly just aping the style of a former star.

Now, I don't consider what I do with my RPGing to be “Art” and I do only dabble in it during my spare time. I'm not a professional, and I don't really see myself pushing the hobby's collective envelope or anything. But it is fun to push my own, and I'm deep into that now.

It's most noticeable in the solo game. It's gone from very traditional dungeon-delving into something dominated by interpersonal relationships and the like. I've dipped my toe into these waters before, and usually with less-then-exemplary results. When I've had games sputter out in the past, it's sometimes been because the game has gone to similar places, but we've never really found our groove there.

This time, things seem to be catching. Time will tell, of course, and as always it's more about what the players want than my own skills, but I'm feeling traction where before the wheels just slipped and spun. There's no strong sense of momentum in the game, but there's still a sense of motion, of texture and depth.

It's hard to describe, honestly. But it's fun. I'm starting the game sessions with a sense of real trepidation. I know what it feels like when a game is beginning to falter and I can feel that nipping at our heels, but it's not caught up to us yet. Are we on the verge of a breakthrough? Will we come through to see vast new expanses of gaming possibilities that have eluded us before now, or that we never even expected were available?

The group game isn't quite treading the same territory, but it's had it's own excitements, primarily in how the group is trying to come together. That, combined with some traditional dungeon delving but with distinctly untraditional themes woven through, has given the game a unique character in my mind. I'm not just going through the motions with this one; the players keep challenging my assumptions and I hope I'm challenging theirs. Again, only time will tell how successful this actually is. I'm having fun, and getting reports back that fun is being had. As always, that's the most important thing.


Natalie said...

This is how I tend to think about campaigns naturally. What am I doing that's new? What can I learn from this game? How can I perfect what I'm doing? I actually think I'm a little too driven by that, as a GM, rather than by the fundamentals of making the game fun. But then, that's where a lot of my fun comes from, trying new things and mastering old ones.

Rusty said...

I have enjoyed our current campaign. There are suddenly villains, created largely by player character activities, that have allowed me to interject some real tension and challenges without forcing the players into a particular course of action. Parts of the campaign world now have an intense dislike for the characters and these villains pop in to make life unpleasant for a bit. I've tried to create a preset story arc and I think the key is to see the villains as a tool to a gaming session rather than as a permanent part of the campaign (in other words, don't get too attached to them). It is fun with things spiral in a good way.