Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Origin Story

Zak asked on G+ for folks to share their degrees/areas of interest.  In thinking about it, I doubt mine would tell you much about me.  Well, maybe as a person, what I was most curious to learn-- but not so much as a D&D blogger, why I'm so interested in simplifying and systematizing. So here's the real scoop.

I come from Okies.  On both sides.  Folks that learned to keep everything because if it isn't valuable now it might be later.  My father's parents had a wrecking yard.  I grew up playing on piles of radiators and broken batteries.  My aunt stored old clothes in broken down cars.  I got to see what ruined in the weather, what lasted-- the plastic bits and glass and brass.

In a world like that I guess you either give yourself up to chaos or your start trying to process it all.  You learn to categorize.  You learn to sift.  Someone sees a pile of trash, you see the radiators as scrap brass and the batteries as scrap lead.  Someone sees a garage full of junk, you learn to save the knick-kacks from occupied Japan as well as the family letters and photos: the ephemeral.

So when I see 1e's Psionics, I see a pile, yes, but there's some cool stuff in there-- I found a set of Russian text books in a junked car once, a lighter from the Berlin Olympics in an old shed-- and I want to pull that pile apart and organize it.

When I see all the moving parts a DM needs to be able to handle-- the potions, the rings, the spells-- I want to isolate them, one-by-one, and master each category.  I recognize that things can exist in multiple categories at once, and that sometimes all you get from digging around is something smelly on your hands and a tear in your Levis.  But you have to try.

Sometimes I see other folks talking about their games and it seems like they are sitting in lawn chairs propped up on big piles of stuff.  A roll of stiff garden hose under one foot, a shoe box of tattered romances under another.  They're smiling and having fun.  It stresses me out and puzzles me.  I want to say "Hold on, we can make this easier on everyone.  Get up from your chair and I'll sort through this for you."

And as you become familiar with the categories of things you also become a lover of the hard to find.  Someone says they have a way to model fatigue without tracking points, someone offers a way to make travelling through the abstract wilderness come alive, you say "Could you put that aside for me?  I'm driving right over with my checkbook."

So reading blogs becomes like cruising garage sales; you see the same baby clothes, the same old particle board furniture and you wonder why you're getting sun burned for this.  Then you'll see an old nail puller for a dollar or a Moon Knight comic peeking from a basket of coloring books and it gets you excited all over again and you want to tell someone and you want to hurry to the next pile to dig through.


  1. Excellent story. I love that sense of discovery.

  2. Wow, that really connects with me. I've never thought about tabletop games that way, but I love going through other people's junk. I run a garage sale blog seasonally. One of my favorite memories is when my aunt moved into a house where an elderly woman had died. I helped her move in, and her basement was filled with clothes from 1920, and all sorts of other oddities.

  3. Cool, and thanks. Yeah I'm steeped in this stuff. A few more ideas:

    I'm thinking now that the knowledge that there *might* be something good in a pile of stuff is one stressor. Normal folks just toss it all out and move on with their lives. I feel the need to tease it out and see what's there. But I think it's also a matter of granularity; folks see five piles and it's no big deal, but I see all the categories of the different things in the piles and it overwhelms my brain, I want to simplify.

    Also, I'm thinking now that dealing with the complexity has often driven me to innovate (so another way this is all applicable to this blog). Always when trying to sort stuff for loved ones that are overwhelmed. My grandma had so many incomplete sets of dishes I came up with the idea of taping Polaroids to the outside of the boxes they were packed in. For my Dad's chaos of a shop I learned to use plastic coffee canisters (light, sturdy, don't rust) to sort the tons of stray connectors. But they are opaque, so I hot glued an example of the contents on the outside so he could find his roofing nails or whatever.

  4. I tend to over analyze things, and look for ways to make things run smoother or be organized more efficiently, perhaps to a fault. I've been ruminating for years on what exactly it is that bugs me about the D&D rules, and how I can Improve them. Check out my blog here:

  5. Well-freaking-done. Not only does this resonate with me to a fine and beautiful tone, but I love to hear the wisdom that comes from navel-gazing done right. You understand the way you work and that's part of the reason what you produce is enjoyed by so many. Thanks.

  6. @DaveL: A kindred soul :) Duly bookmarked.

    @Alexey: Thanks a bunch.