Recently, the main challenge I have been trying to deal with in terms of writing and game design projects is that I have way too damn many. My Google Docs account is brimming with dozens of ideas that started – that I often still care about and want to work on – but which languish for months or years.
What I really need is a publishing empire and a stable of freelancers who can take my brilliant ideas and run with them.
But that ain’t going to happen. (If my ideas were actually brilliant, it probably would, but alas…)
In the meantime I want to feel like I am making progress. I am currently working on the last edit of the Parsec RPG for Jolly Roger Games, and it feels good to be actually finishing that project after all the work I’ve put into it. There was a little hiccup there (I call it 2009) where I was working between 3 and 6 jobs at once, and Parsec fell by the wayside. But I met with Jim Dietz at Jolly Roger Games when I was at Origins and I’m back at work and it feels good.
I know I like the beginning-feeling – I want that finishing-feeling more.
I was listening to an episode of The WritingCast on organization and the Stephen Covey rocks-pebbles-sand thing was mentioned again. I thought I might be able to start there. I’m not very good at organizing anything, so I thought maybe I should begin with humble aspirations.
These are the big things that get worked on first. Really, the big thing. I want to keep this to one project at a time – I work long, irregular hours, and I’ve proven that I can’t juggle more than one ‘rock’ effectively.
Right now my rock is Parsec, and for the last few days since Origins I’ve been pretty good at focusing on this project. It is the closest to being done, and I think that for game designs that the closest project to being done should always be the rock.
One pebble is Horror!, which is currently being playtested by four different groups. What this means is that there isn’t much work I can do, or want to do, until results from those playtests are in. I’ve made a few small tweaks to the playtest document, but I can’t change much because part of what we’re testing is the playtest document. We know the game works and is fun – when we’re there to run it. But does our text actually work? Only one way to find out.
Another pebble is Heroes of Karia. We know that this game works incredibly well as a hack of Big Eyes Small Mouth. That licence is untouchable and defunct as far as I know, however, so it has since become an original game system that in theory should work better than the extensive BESM hack we came up with by the end. We know that the game is good enough to elicit well over 300 blog posts worth of original writing from the players. It’s the most generative game I’ve ever seen. But does it translate to any other gaming group? Remains to be seen. I’ve run some alpha playtests that went well, but that’s a long way from done.
The third pebble in the realm of game design is Servants of the Secret Fire, my Tolkienian heartbreaker. (Yeah, yeah, I know) The thing is, I’m passionate about Tolkien and about roleplaying games. As far as actually creating anything like a Tolkienian roleplaying game, the only things that have ever come close are Burning Wheel and now Realm Guard. Other games, like Decipher’s Lord of the Rings RPG, are Dungeons & Dragons with a few tweaks. ICE of course had MERP, and a lot of really well-developed adventures and scenarios and setting books, but the system itself was just Rolemaster. Anyway, I care about this game, and I think it is turning out, if nothing else, as the game I will use to run stories in Middle-Earth. When it’s done, it will go up for free download, and we’ll see what people think.
I cannot tell you how much sand I have. Other RPG ideas, hacks and house rules that are stretching on into infinity, custom settings, races, locations, and meta-game mechanics for the various games I play – it goes on and on. The real challenge here is keeping this stuff as sand, rather than letting it clump and swell and take up actual space that my other projects, ones that I have put the most work into and are the best-developed, genuinely need.
As I think about it, actually, that’s really the challenge. How do I keep sand…sand? My intuitive answer is to just make the rocks and pebbles as big as I can so that I honestly won’t have time to focus on the sand much. Knowing myself, though, I’ll just neglect mundane tasks.
Anyone reading this face a similar problem? How do you keep things straight?