Monday, January 01, 1990

Designer's Notes

It has been seven years since I started this project. Seven years. I can’t believe it. During that time, I have added five children to my family, moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois, and lost my mother. I have written a wargame called Junk, which failed commercially, as well as writing for Little Fears, a roleplaying game from Key 20 Publishing. Along the way, I have learned much more about roleplaying games and game design than I knew when I started. In some ways, I wish that I had known more when I had started this project. Perhaps I could have avoided making so many of the mistakes that I made. But isn’t that the nature of all things? We come to the end and think of all the ways that we could have done better. Maybe it’s just me. Oh well. It is a good way to learn contentment.

And I am happy with what I have produced.

When I look over the “Dreaming Out Loud” game journal that I kept, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I see all the places where I have failed to achieve all the secondary goals that I wanted. I see a designer who was shooting for the moon with stars in his eyes. I see a designer still struggling with theory and incorporating it imperfectly into his design.

And yet… I go back to my first goals and consider them.

First, I wanted to design a game in which both swords and robots would make sense. At first this was a result of fanboy enthusiasm and too much Final Fantasy VII, but after rereading the science fantasy of Book of the New Sun, I saw the potential depth of such an approach. That was my goal, and I think that I have achieved it.

I also wanted to design a game that returned to the roots of high fantasy, especially as embodied in Lord of the Rings. In my opinion, fantasy has become too self-referential and is beginning to stagger under the weight of the genre assumptions that are associated with it. Can it really be high fantasy if it does not have elves and dwarves? I wanted to strip away the genre conventions and return to the core concerns of high fantasy. The primal conflict between Good and Evil. True nobility. Darkness and despair. Wonder and beauty. Moral strength winning the day. I wanted a game that rose to these heights and plumbed these depths. I think that I can say that I have succeeded. Not perfectly, to be sure, but I think that I have provided the tools to you to create such stories.

Yes, to you. A roleplaying game is not a world. A roleplaying game is not a story. The contents of these pages are merely a toolkit for your gaming group to use to create your own stories. Your own legends. You see, the secret of Legends of Alyria is that all the legends are your own. I have handed you the canvas and the paints. It is up to you to paint.

In one of my early “Dreaming Out Loud” columns, I talked about letting go of my baby. “Right now I am weaving my tale of monsters and dragons, of dark cities and mist-shrouded forests, of struggling heroes, of wars for land, of wars for souls. You listen enraptured (I hope) as I spin my tale and dream my dreams. But someday there will be a book. You will buy it and take it home with you. And in that instant, the baton changes hands. I am no longer telling the story. I have taken it as far as I can, and now it is your turn to weave your stories. It is no longer my game. It is your game, and what right do I have to tell you what to do with your game?”

That time is now. This is the end. I’ve said my piece. I’ve told my tales. I hope that you have enjoyed them.

What lies ahead is up to you.


Blogger ERW said...

Excellent! Hopefully, it won't produce all those metaplot books that seem to plague the RPG industry these days...

"It is your game, and what right do I have to tell you what to do with your game?"

So right, which is why I won't buy the "updates" to those games. Leave metaplots to the people who do them best: the GMs of those games.

12/01/2005 03:14:00 PM  

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