Every so often life comes along and gives me a reminder that, oh, yeah, this is why I put so much effort into presenting my judgments as contingent and open to adjustment in light of new experience, and new thoughts about old experiences. I'm having one of those in gaming at the moment.
A while back, Vincent Baker very generously gave me a free copy of his game Apocalypse World, at a point when something about the discussion of it roused my interest. I thought that the game had some interesting features (most particularly, gorgeously stark production), but was strongly repelled by the tone of the text.
Late in 2012, I got interested in Sage LaTorra & Adam Koebel's game Dungeon World, which uses the same fundamental mechanics as Apocalypse World but a very different set of stats and abilities, and a very different tone. As I'll ramble on about when I do an updated review of DW, the kindness and melllowness of the text has a great deal to do with my enjoying it so much right now.
But here's the thing that motivated this post. Or at least it's coming up now. When people who've made work I like praise work I didn't, I fairly often go back to the latter to see if I can see some of what I may have missed. Sometimes I end up deciding that I haven't missed anything crucial to my enjoyment, and it's just one of those things where work I don't care for sets off great ideas in the minds of people doing work I do care for. Sometimes, though, having a fresh route into the older thing really does make it work better for me.
I don't think that right now I could reconstruct my steps from DW through the rest of the AW ecology – Monsterhearts, tremulus, Monster of the Week, and all that. Nor would I really wish to. 🙂 What matters for my posting purposes right now is that it was one of those classic iterative processes, a bit of insight here leading one over there, spiraling up and up.
Now I can read AW, and though still alternately irritated and bored by Baker's style for the text, the game opens up to suggest fresh, richly promising angles on…well, among other things, on my Gamma World edition. I wasn't great at d20 developing then and would be worse at it now, and that's true for most of my writers, too. (Not all of them: some of the crew had excellent detail-management skills and wrote in ways that made good specific use of d20 features, and continue to do neat things in that game ecology and other detailed ones now. This is about my weaknesses rather than those of people like Gareth Hanrahan and Patrick O'Duffy.) Our ideas were sound, though, and just need the right sort of systemic support to be good in play all over again.
Y'know, it's not going to surprise me if 2013 sees me getting to run and/or play in that milieu of too-ubiquitous intelligence and other high weirdness. And if it does, it'll be because I read a great dungeon-delving fantasy adventure game.
I love it when that happens.