Storm-wise, I seem to have avoided the worse. One or two flickers of power, but nothing compared to the catastrophic damage that seems to have befallen much of the Northern Suburbs. My sympathies to them, and to Neil who no doubt isn’t getting a day off today.
Also, kudos to Delia for a rockin’ party last night. Happy Birthday!
On the way home on Saturday, Neil asked a question to fill in the time, which was what I prefer to read/follow: Fantasy or Sci-Fi. I answered Sci-Fi, if only because the Matthew Reilly stuff I read is set with a slight futuristic bent, even if it’s only five years from now. Also, the only fantasy writers I read are David Gemmell and R.A. Salvatore. It occurred to me though that I really hadn’t read much in High Fantasy in the last decade and only slightly more that could be considered Space Opera. I’m not counting comics for the purpose of this analysis.
Neil then asked what, of the two, I prefer to have as a RPG setting and probably wasn’t ready for the somewhat lengthy analysis that eventuated. It’s something that’s been riding my brain since and I’m hoping that writing about it might concrete some things.
Fantasy is far easier on the role player from two points: The first is, generally fantasy doesn’t stray to far from the cultural definition of history. Describe a castle in the distance and it’s easy enough to pictures something you’ve seen in pictures, books, movies or in actual experience. Likewise, describing a small farming village draws some similarities across the board of players’ minds: Clay hut, thatch roof, muddy grounds, muddier denizens.
Science-Fiction – unless its set in an established universe like Star Wars – becomes a challenge though. Mainly because the future hasn’t yet been invented or defined yet. I do wonder whether it would have been simpler to describe back in the day when the barometer for when you’d arrived in the future was jet packs and moon-houses. Nowadays though, the directions in which the future progresses are diverse and infinite.
For example, I’m writing on a wireless keyboard, on my phone, which will then post this ramble to the internet for anyone else with the technology to read across the world. Two years ago, this was new to the general public.
But it’s less about what direction technology will take us, and, conversely, what direciton we’ll develop technology. It’s about the little things.
If I want to tell somebody something funny back in days of yore, it took conversation, description, storytelling. Nowadays I find it on YouTube, send a link and talk about it afterward via MSN, phone or, if I’m being prehistoric, in person. The difference being that one is simple for a GM to describe going around group of players; the other, not so.
And that’s what it comes back to: Setting. What’s going on in the background? As much as Science-Fiction is about writing about the present, there still needs to be descriptors that indicate you’re in the world of tomorrow. Comics, TV and movies obviously have this over the novel format as so much words can lose a reader whereas somebody ordering a coffee in the background of a scene and having it materialise out of nowhere through magical science machines sells the audience about where they are and what this is.
People who’ve known me have heard me lament about the waste of setting and system that Shadowrun is. The cyberpunk/magical future is an open playground for a variety of stories and while most centre around the secret industrial warfare between rival corporations or entities of vast and terrifying power, there is little time and focus spent on portraying the culture of Seattle in 2060 or so. Mainly because describing something a simple as a phone that is implanted into your skull or the steel and glass webbing of buildings that shine like crystalline hives can evoke many and varied images from one player to another. Which is fine for the big backdrops but less so when describing what a computer terminal looks like. Keeping players on message with your descriptions often sees the cultural backdrop abandoned in favour of moving the players along a story. Something I consider a loss.
Which is probably why I prefer to have pictures or videos on YouTube I can show instead.
Not sure I’ve finished this yet. More to follow…