On jumping right in

Recently, our tabletop gaming group stared up two new roleplaying game campaigns. I’m running Pathfinder Society and another member is running a Dungeons & Dragons game. As it happens, the ways our intro sessions ran seemed to be at opposite ends of the spectrum of ways introductions can be run. The D&D group began with a ‘theory only’ session, in which they talked through how the game works and how to make character to play in the game. I handed out pregenerated characters and with the least babble I could manage, sent the party of adventurers on their first mission. We had frequent pauses to explain how to do what needed to be done in the game system, but by the end of the evening, the players had succeeded at their mission. (If you’re thinking that D&D and Pathfinder must have very complicated rules, you’re not wrong. The learning curve has a substantial payoff, though.)

This got me thinking about my general approach to introducing people to a new topic: I like to jump right in. It’s not that I don’t see value in giving context and explaining a system from the outside. If I’m honest, part of why I prefer the other approach is that I’m just not very good at that sort of thing. (Or more positively, I am good at explaining as I go along; take your pick.) Jumping right in comes with its own advantages too: it gives a feel for what the subject’s really about much sooner, as long as it isn’t too confusing, for one. I think it also has the potential to be a bigger motivator to actually learn the nitty gritty of what makes something tick.

In my Pathfinder games, I tend to refer people to the Core Rulebook of the online reference document to figure out that nitty gritty. In Mechatropolis the links to Wikipedia are intended to do a similar job. I think the access to a more detailed explanation elsewhere is what makes a ‘jump in and see how it goes’ approach viable. The thought of combining both elements — jumping in and  examining the detail — in a single resource has a definite appeal, but it seems like it could be an enormous project. It might not even be possible to pull off both together; I struggle to think of examples that do it.  Nonetheless, it’s an interesting idea to kick around and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to make it work.

Hello world!

I’m back! In celebration of the submission of an MSc dissertation and the completion of a self-contained steampunk-ish story arc, the dark colours and gears have disappeared from the site, in favour of something lighter and more modern. However, in acknowledgement of the existential dread and confusion associated with such questions as “Should I be doing a PhD?” and “Could I persuade somebody to give me an advanced degree for writing a computer game about quantum physics (supposing I could figure out how to do so)?” the regular fiction posting schedule has also disappeared (for now).

Mechatropolis taught me that I’m capable of posting 1 500 words of science-interspersed-with-fiction a week. The story was less time-hungry than I expected, even. But it was also more creativity-hungry than I thought it would be. It’s shockingly easy to write

And then they went to another lecture and learned this cool science fact. And then an exciting science event happened. And then . . .

but “and then” doesn’t make for good stories. If I rewrote Mechatropolis now (perhaps I will someday), I think I’d focus on pulling more seemingly-disparate elements into a cohesive whole. As things stand, however, I’m already focusing on pulling seemingly-disparate elements into a cohesive whole. Major life decisions would seem to do that to a person.

It is thus, dear reader, that you find me here, writing a three-hundred-word blog post that links relatively tenuously to the previous site content. The writing-out part is nearly as hard (or perhaps harder — I’m a much more complicated person than are my imagined characters, it would seem), but I find it easier to pull single ideas together in this form. For the next few weeks, I’ll post ideas of this sort, rather than the long and complicated story kind. Some ideas only need three hundred words.

I also have an idea about a gnome who steps through the wrong portal and ends up in a calculus textbook instead of a fairy tale, which I suspect will need rather more.