It's been awhile, but now I'm back. I've been pretty busy, doing a lot of reading and writing for a World of Darkness game I want to run. So all of my creative energy has been getting funneled into that, with nothing left over for a blog entry. Honestly, I don't even have much to say right now; I'm just going to force something because I don't want to fall onto the "off ramp" of not writing...you know, where it's been a few weeks, and you're like "Well, I don't have anything to say," or "I'll write tomorrow," or, simply, "Fuck it." This blog has never been about writing well; it's just been about writing anything. That being said, apologies if this post is especially bad.
One of the many obstacles I face in my never-ending quest to become a good GM is that I'm a snob. I tend to look down on TV shows, movies, books, or games that are anything less than great. When I'm searching for a new story or gaming experience, usually the first place I go to are awards webpages to see who's been winning what accolades, and I work from there. My standards drop just a little with tabletop gaming, because my love of the hobby makes me less choosy, but even then, just a quick look at my bookshelf will show that I'm a big fan of games with little stickers on them saying they were Such-and-Such of the Year.
The specific problem for me is when it comes time to develop adventures. As a GM, my source material is a little tough to pull from. How do you make a good adventure out of Breaking Bad? Or The Sopranos? Or Six Feet Under? What kind of plot seeds can I sow from reading The Known World by Edward Jones, or Richard Russo's Empire Falls? Sure, I could throw together plenty of adventures about the mafia, or a funeral home, or historical pieces about pre-Civil War America, but those stories aren't just about those things, are they? They're about the human condition. They're about the hypocrisy of society. They're about death! How do I tell a story on that level, without being able to control the main characters, without hogging the spotlight with NPCs, and without railroading the players into my own singular, cohesive vision of the adventure?
I wrestled a lot with this idea as I wrote material for my World of Darkness chronicle. I wanted to do something a little loftier than a gritty Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote dozens and dozens of pages about an evolving mystery, and scenes where characters have to struggle with some really difficult decisions that will change the way they look at things. An awful lot of work...and I won't even know if it'll even pay off until I get it to the table. That's assuming I ever do actually get it to the table.
But I guess that's the point, right? If it were easy to do, then anyone would do it. And fantasy/sci-fi stories have a doubly hard time with it, because they don't even have the familiar backdrop of normal life: in addition to telling a good story with believable characters, they need to create an entire world to serve as the setting.