Sunday, July 06, 2008

Parallel Lines

Just in case you were wondering, I spent three or four hours at the AEGIS Open Gaming Meet this afternoon. I haven't passed by in a long time, and I've started to miss the thrill of sitting down and playing a few board games. So, over the course of those two hours, I attempted a grand total of two games -- a chess-like miniatures game called Navia Dratp, and an auction-based game called Modern Art (by the popular designer Reiner Knizia).

I could go on and on about the subtleties of both games and the sheer number of people at the meet, but I won't. Instead, I observed that there was a Dungeons & Dragons contingent gathered in a corner of the venue. They were excitedly hollering and shouting for much of my stay, and I could only conclude that they were having a great bit of fun.

It made me wonder how I got started writing for the fantasy genre. I mean, a lot of the fantasy writers I meet seem to have gotten their start setting up unexplored tombs and rolling up random encounters, or perhaps exploring and fighting them in an imaginary setting. Not so with me -- I've hardly played anything in the way of tabletop role-playing games. In fact, the first genre that I really concentrated on was science fiction; the fantasy stuff came later on, once David Eddings fired up my imagination.

I still write sci-fi, just so that you know. Finding and using a genre is just like opening your closet to decide what jacket you're going to wear for the day. Sometimes it's a science-fiction day. Sometimes it's a fantasy day. Maybe at some point, it'll be a ninjas-versus-pirates day.

I admit that I get curious sometimes. I pick up some RPG-based writings every now and then, and I find myself fascinated at the elaborate setups that people write for a bunch of players. Dungeon magazine, for instance -- which showcased custom scenarios for a D&D audience -- was regular reading material for me. Sometimes I wonder how, say, Antaria would play out... if it were a game. Sometimes I just wonder.

I feel that it's too late for me to get into RPGs now, though. Oh, a bunch of people will probably shove me into a session at some point... but it's probably far too late for me to get more than a passing interest in the hobby. For one, I'm less than a year away from my third decade, and I've got all the workaday concerns of a man my age. I find it difficult to budget my time for large-scale events, much less hour-long sessions at an average rate of once a week. Sometimes I chafe at the thought of playing in somebody else's universe, which implies that I might not be a storyteller's best friend.

But more than anything else, I already have an existing writing habit. Placing your creativity into a bunch of stories and organizing it into a game are just two completely different things. As a gamer, I imagine that I would be immersed in a world of setting details, party dynamics and stat blocks. As a writer, however, I find myself already dealing with the question of plotlines and the struggle to put the human condition in simple words and phrases. In short, it will have to be one or the other.

And I write fantasy (or any other arguable genre) as a result.

Maybe somebody will do me the honor of converting one of my universes into a viable game setting one day (which hasn't been done since Anito). I just know, deep within that twisted lump of carbon that is my weather-beaten soul, that it probably won't be me.

I'm good with that. I suppose that I would have been proud to have delved into one path or the other.

Till then, the RPG gamers can enjoy themselves as much as they want. I'll be sitting at the nearby table, smiling, as somebody puts my king in check.

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