Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Point

Are you familiar with the story of Oblio, the round-headed boy born to the Land of Point?

In the Land of Point, everyone has a point, quite literally, on the top of their heads. 

Oblio is born with a round head, and as such there is no point to him in the eyes of many. 

Eventually, due to a peculiarity of circumstance, Oblio is banished to the place where everything with no point goes...The Pointless Forest.

It is in the Pointless Forest that he encounters strange people, curious creatures, and unusual, um, points of view. He discovers that everyone, and everything, has a point of some kind, even a seemingly pointless boy like himself.


What is the point of gaming? Specifically, what is the point of table top RPG gaming?

"Why, the point is to have fun!"
-Man With Something To Say, But No Point To Make.

Thank you Man With Something To Say, But No Point To Make. Your uncanny insight, and astute observations have revealed a grand epiphany!

OK, no. They haven't. This oft heard, and oft read response is apropos of nothing.

Lots of things are fun. All hobbies are, by the sheer fact that they are partook of, fun in some capacity. That tells me nothing.

"There are as many points to gaming as people who play.
Everyone has their own point for why they play."
-Man Pointing In Every Direction At Once.

Thank you Man Pointing In Every Direction At Once. Without you I would be directionless in my attempt to seek an answer. Now I know to look everywhere. Everywhere at once. Gee, thanks.

Where would you like me to punch you? How about everywhere at once? How does that sound?

Still, hold on a moment. This pointless statement may have some truth to it after all. Perhaps it is saying we all make or have our own point as to why we game. I shouldn't look 
to another to answer my question, but rather create my own answer.

Why do I do it? What's the point for me?

I've spent much of this month in an existential quandary you see...

I love gaming. 
My favorite part of gaming is being a Gamemaster.
I've Gamemastered some good game sessions over the past year.

I am not happy with my gaming.

This past weekend I tried running one of my dream RPG game projects. It's one which I had planned out some 20+ years ago, but never got a chance to run.

I did quite a lot of prep work for it. I modified some maps, did a lot of research, put together record sheets of characters (both PC and NPC), designed some other elements (along with creating and/or modifying artwork for them), and reworked a game system to fit the setting.

It didn't go over well.

I know why, and I know that it was partially my fault. As I often do, I chose a setting with too big a buy-in, expected people unfamiliar with it to want to explore it, get to know it, and hoped that I could introduce the various elements in a slow trickle that would get them wanting to go further.

I didn't do a good job of it. I also don't really have the kinds of players I would need to make it happen. I should have known that. I should've expected as much. This isn't our first rodeo. I know how they are.

I let my excitement over the opportunity of running a setting I love overwhelm the cynical, paranoid part of my brain that should absolutely have known better.

It happens.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The point.

Why do I do what I do? Why are RPGs my favorite thing? Why aren't I watching sportsball, going to bars, or watching reality TV like the rest of the axe-wearing, alcohol swilling, slow witted masses of male humanity?

Because I won't. I can't. It isn't in my DNA.

I have to do this. I am a gamer, but even more so I'm a creative type. I went to an art high school. I've been reading, and writing Science Fiction since I was six. I have built worlds, studied technology that may never exist, and reasoned out the unreasonable nature of faerie folk. 

All I want to do is create something awesome, and share it with a group of people interested in the same things. I want to take my ideas, mix in their ideas, and tell a story. I want to have people who want to hear that story, to add to it, to see where it goes.

I am frustrated by endless second guessing, a lack of attention to what is being presented, presumptions instead of discoveries, and experiences. I miss making something my players love receiving, and that I loved making for them. I want to see the looks on their faces when they realize I've incorporated their own ideas into something I used to surprise them.

I...the point. What is the point?


The point is I once had Nirvana. Shangri-La. I once created works of art, with the help of other artists, who appreciated what I did.

I'm not sure I have that, quite that way any longer.

If I don't, and I can't make magic that will dazzle, exhilarate, and fascinate my audience...well then really...

What's the point?

Barking Alien


  1. Have you ever heard that "perfect is the enemy of good"? I am guilty of ignoring it too many times in regards to gaming, and maybe you should take a look at it. Yet, I understand that this is killing your motivation. So I'll ask, what game/style/situations do you enjoy the most with your current players?

    1. I would settle for 'hassle free', on the scale between good, and perfect.

      As to what game particulars I enjoy most with my current players...I don't know how to answer that exactly.

      My online group is pretty awesome. A few snags here, and there, but none that have me leaving the game overly frustrated, or bummed out.

      My once a month group is going along OK, but I am not super jazzed for various reasons. It's like watching a TV series where you loved the first three seasons, and it's still pretty good, but you mostly watch out of habit. It just needs a recharge. Or I do.

      The last group, which meets almost weekly, is just...wearing me thin. As Bilbo Baggins said, 'Butter spread thin over too much bread'. When my friend GMs for the group we all get behind it, and he also does a great job. He gets minimal flak on his decisions from our most flak intensive player.

      When I GM it feels like a combination job interview for a position I'm not qualified for, and an obstacle course on American Ninja. I criticized on the technique I use to pass the hoops I'm made to jump through.

      I miss being Willy Wonka to my old group. The razzle, dazzle King of the Gaming Table. Some posts back I mentioned seeing those guys, and gals at a wedding for one of them. There were people I hadn't seen in 12-15 years that remembered our game verbatim. There were people I'd never met who said they'd heard the stories, again and again, and were happy to meet the guy who ran them.

      Is that is? Am I now old, and past my gaming prime? Must I live off the great, nostalgic tales of yesteryear?

      Geez, that sucks.

    2. So, you aren't enjoying GMing for this group, nor do you think they appreciate your style. Yet you like them and you have a good time when it is your friend who runs the game. Maybe you should just take a break from being the GM?

    3. Ah, you beat me to it in a manner of speaking.

      I have announced to the group that I will be taking a hiatus from GMing for a time. My goal is to determine how best to mesh my approach with one best suited to the group as a whole.

      Wish me luck.

  2. Oh man, sounds exactly like what I have been going through over the past year or so, and so far I have not got the old spark back.

  3. Hang in there man! The pendulum always swings back!

  4. I feel you on this one. There are the games you'd love to run, the games you're OK with running, and the games your group will play. Hopefully there's enough of an overlap there that everyone is happy and you have at least a few things to choose from.

    It sounds like your problem with the one group is more personalities than games though. Have you asked the group why they're resisting what you're trying to run? "Why are you fighting me on this?" is a legitimate question. Is the the premise? The system? Or is it something with the way you run the game vs. the other GM? It seems solvable if it's any of these things.

    1. I really can't put my finger on it exactly.

      That doesn't mean I don't have some ideas, but I really couldn't tell you why it feels like they give me the business more so than they do the other fellow. They do it to him too, don't get me wrong. Just much less so.

      I keep saying they, but much of the agita comes from one player in particular. At the same time, they simply aren't as flexible, or adaptable a group as others I've gamed with in the past. They don't (even after all this time) have the inherent, almost instinctive trust in me that my NJ group did, or any of my old NY groups.

      So, combine "I only like things my way", with "And your way seems different and suspicious" and you can see what I'm up against. Add in a touch of meta-gaming, and...does anyone have any aspirin?