Not sure how to write about this subject, but basically it's about how players and game moderators interact in Tabletop RPGs. Keeping the players engaged with the game is the primary job of the game moderator and we don't always succeed at it. We'll struggle to analyze what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. Tabletop RPGs are a social medium, so a lot of the problems are ultimately going to stem from social interaction and communication between the players. Very rarely, there are fundamental problems with the game system, but that kind of problem can be handled if the players communicate and agree on a solution to the problem (this doesn't mean the game isn't broken, it just means the game is broken as written). But the post title here is The Burning Wheel: Declaration of Intent. That's because there is a tabletop RPG called The Burning Wheel and today's blogpost is all about declaring your intent.
The Burning Wheel is generally considered an 'indie' game by tabletop RPG standards. Its 'Gold' edition is a $25 one-volume 600 page hardback about the size of a diary (A4 size, I think?). It's medieval fantasy in the same way that J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings stories or Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea stories are medieval fantasy. Heck, you could easily run stories set in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (also known as A Game of Thrones) using the Burning Wheel. But I'm going off track here. What The Burning Wheel goes on about in its mechanics is declaration of intent, in two key ways.
First of all, the task resolution mechanics discuss something people tend to do in RPGs already. There is the intent of a task (what you are trying to accomplish), and then there is the how. In my games, at least, there tends to be a lot of "I want to do X." followed by "Okay, how do you plan to accomplish X?". Then there are additional bits like establishing difficulty and the consequences of failure, which is essentially the GM establishing the stakes and getting the player to evaluate whether or not this is such a good idea and if it's really that important to the character after all. Declaration of intent initiates a conversation between the player and the GM to accomplish something in-game.
Now here's the really subtle thing, the thing that The Burning Wheel goes into that is crucial for all tabletop RPG campaigns: the things you put on your character sheet are a declaration of intent.
How? How is that a declaration of intent? (Again with the question of "How?", right?)
Because the things you put on your character sheet are things you feel are important enough to invest with the game's mechanics. As The Burning Wheel puts it- "Anyone can say his character is hairy, but unless he pays the [point], it's hairy with a lowercase 'h'. Pay the point and he's the hairiest guy around." In essence, the things you put on the character sheet are a declaration of the kind of shenanigans that you want your character to get up to. It is a statement to the GM: This is what I want to do in the game. This is true in almost every RPG have encountered; everybody needs to be on about the same page with regard to what they're trying to accomplish in-game.
If we remembered that more often as GMs, there'd probably be a lot less incidents of games blowing to little pieces because due to miscommunication of what we want out of the game (our intentions with the game?). Even though I have never ever played a single session of The Burning Wheel, understanding that a player's character choices are a declaration of intent is something I try to keep in mind in every game I run.
|Fun fact; The armor isn't supposed |
to have an exposed gut.
The thing is I didn't actually play Doom until the late 90's and that was on a SNES. I knew of doom, and while I'd known of the controversy surrounding Doom but wrote it off as overblown scare journalism cashing in on Mortal Kombat (blood? OMG THE HORROR!) I played it in college when I had my own computer and even though I have a bit of a vision problem that would make latter FPS games hard for me to get into Doom was easy to work with.
The thing about Doom for me isn't getting to blow things up though. For me it's the fact in '96 Id Opened the source code, or at lest what code they could, for the Internet at large to play with. It's more complex than that and the road to modern source ports is a complex one.
Moreover there's a source port for anyone's interests ranging from simple limit removing to adding new functions that would appear in Quake. You might not like some of these engines, You might want to play it in it's original form.
Funny thing is Doom is still for sale. You can still buy one of the earliest and most influential shooters. It's been ported to everything from the NES (no, seriously,) the iPod classic (the clicky wheel one,) digital cameras, DVD players, Web TV, Consoles... and there's good reason it's called the most ported game on earth. It's practically law of nature at this point: Doom will be ported to it.
Happy birthday Doom. Twenty years and you're still getting sales.
The great thing about writing is you don't need anything fancy; just grab your writing method of choice and start slamming words down on page. Some people have tried handwriting and I can see the appeal. It's just that with me personally my handwriting never progressed past 'second grade near unreadable mess,' plus I hate having to have to write a thing down and then have to type it down later for the sake of editing. This means I am very much a computer sort of person.
The downside of computers is how easy it is to go 'Oh hey I got an email notification', or 'let's see what's on reddit I might get an idea or three off r/wtf', or the ever popular 'I'm going to spend some time in minecraft to clear my head.' Then suddenly I'm missing a couple hours of time and nothing useful has gotten done and I'm suddenly needing to do more immediately productive things to keeping the house running.
On the one hand the internet is a great place for resources ranging from how to format a thing so lulu, createspace, or whoever won't somehow make it unreadable. If traditional publishing is your thing though there's advice for writing cover letters, publishers both great and small, as well as resources, guides, and that rare and treasured bit of feedback that occasionally will roll in.
On the other to get to all the helpful material you have to work past the temptation to just goof off and do whatever. It's hard, and it's not something I can say with any honesty I've got a handle on. Mostly it consists of reminding yourself you have a project you want to get done with sometime before Whenever. If you have friends or family that can remind you of this then that would be very helpful as well, but the more self reliant you can be the better since, unfortunately, relying on other people tends to be a set up for disappointment. Like with finding feedback this doesn't mean they are bad people, simply less dedicated to the obsession of getting your story told than you are.
What do I use to write and what do I write on? Google gave me a chromebook at the tail end of 2010. After chromebooks started going on sale I flashed the bios on it so it could run Ubuntu. Why? Unfortunately while Google Docs is quite nice to have and I do recommend having it as a backup option, or if you plan on splitting your book up by chapter, for longer works the machine I have simply isn't responsive enough and things bog down to unpleasant levels.
Still the keyboard works well, libre office does good for what I want in way of formatting, and gimp let me get a cover created even though my artistic talent decided to wave bye bye to me decades ago. All this from a computer that is considered very under-powered by modern standards. I would like better, but for writing it does just fine.
I had wanted to get an alphasmart as part of my writing setup because it looks like the perfect machine for task oriented doing things; months of battery life, connect to your computer of choice via usb, hit send, and it 'types' out what's in memory. No drivers no fuss no muss, and unfortunately no-longer being sold. The company that makes them is still around, but when schools are springing money for students to have ipads even dropping your price down to a fraction of that isn't going to grab attention when it's little better than a souped up keyboard and never mind if it'll do the job for cheaper you'll be seen as behind the times. Anyway while on the surface of it a gizmo that forces you to get on task would be ideal, I know me, so chances are high it was simply gadget lust going on.
My setup is easy to achieve; no fancy gadgets you couldn't pick up at walmart or amazon. It's really just me, usually music, and a chair to curl up in while I let the word's happen. Usually they're a bit out of order with a scene here, and another there, and I have to try corralling them into something that makes sense.
If you don't write that way don't worry. It takes all sorts of people and all kinds of methods to make a story with no 'one true path' that you must follow or you're going to fail. This can be annoying when you're like me trying to find a good way to do things and get what feels like answers that don't actually answer anything. It is what it is though and as much as I've hated that sort of 'advice that doesn't feel like advice' that's pretty much what I've ended up following and finding the most success in.
So you want to write? You feel you have a story to tell but aren't sure if you have what it takes. I am no expert so I might be the wrong person to hand out free advice, but I'm going to share a few things so maybe you will avoid some of the problems I've had to deal with in the past.
First, and I've touched on this before but I feel it needs repeating, you are going to be terrible when you start out. Whatever you write will be nothing like what's in your head and it might even make you cringe a little to even remember years down the road.
Secondly you will get better as you keep writing. Even if you feel you can't and won't, write for a few months. Go back to the thing you started on and compare it to what you've got at the end of that little voyage of self-improvement. You got better! You might not understand how since you're probably beating on the proverbial walls of the internet demanding for somebody, anybody, to look at this wonderful thing you wrote and tell you how to make it better. Maybe you didn't and you feel it's too embarrassing to share.
Yet it's still better than that First Thing.
How do I know this? We're getting to my third point. I'm exactly where you're sitting doubting if anything I've got will catch someone's attention without having to mug them and demand, at metaphorical (hopefully, otherwise this will get very messy for you later) gunpoint, they read this thing and tell you how to make it better.
As varied and as wide as the Internet is finding an audience is difficult. Finding one that will sit and give you feedback is next to impossible. You can't rely on outside people to help proof and guide. You might get lucky and have a friend or two that will be interested for a little while, but nobody will be as interested in the thing you're working on as you until it is finished.
Lastly there is editing. Maybe you like the idea of going over the same material again and again re-jiggling this and that to better sentence structure and correct those oddball but inevitable punctuation errors. That's never been me and I hate editing worse than almost anything that isn't listed as crimes against humanity. The last book I wrote was a collection of short stories, which was actually fun to write. Took me all said and done, with breaks here and there, about three months to write everything. Granted this wasn't three solid months since some of the material was old and I'd left sitting for awhile but if I had to sit and give a time frame I'd say three months for the first draft.
Editing that same chunk of words took at least six months, possibly as long as nine and I can't be sure because I didn't keep very god track and it wasn't a single solid 'I'm going to sit down and do this thing' process. It was more 'Oh I'm going to put this up on Smashwords let's give it another go through.' followed by swearing and cursing and me having to start picking everything around for what felt like the eight millionth time.
You'll cry, curse, spit, howl, rage, and then cry some more before it's over and the whole time wonder if it's worth the trouble because at best, and this is being optimistic, you have to write and have published a minimum of four moderately successful books per year to make the equivalent of minimum wage. Oh it can be done and often has, plus you have the outliers like Jim Butcher, or Janet Evanovich that can make enough to live fairly comfortably with maybe one a year.
For me though writing is less about money and more an outlet. I have not yet found my audience, and I'm crawling out of the sinkhole of being upset that The Internet isn't giving me everything I want so I can be a better storyteller on a silver platter, but writing is something I do and probably will always do in some form or fashion.
Nobody ever said this would be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is.