Sunday, November 7, 2021

Nightwick: The Continuing Adventures

Map by the man himself

If you haven't yet, head over to I Cast Light! and check out the adventures of the Thursday night Nightwick group. Warren's been summarizing them and even includes an info graphic illustrating how many characters have died!

It's been real good to run it with OSE.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The DM is a Shut Eye

post on Prismatic Wasteland recently outlined, fairly well I think, the basic procedure of playing an OSR or Classic style of game. However, I have some problems with their prescription for a "modified procedure," and unfortunately to get at them I have to do some theory. This is going to be my most pretentious post to date.

The dungeon master, or at least my ideal one, is what Orson Welles referred to as a shut eye. As Welles explains here, a shut eye is a psychic who has forgotten its a grift and begun to believe in their own "powers." They have entered a state of self delusion because of the advanced nature of their process. They are able to apprehend the factors that used to be consciously thought about so quickly that they can begin the grift without thinking. But what is the grift a dungeon master is pulling?

They are trying to convince the players of what Matt Colville calls the secondary world.* Many players, myself included, want the experience of interacting with a fantasy world that feels real and that reality is a trick. However, like the shut eye, the trick works best if the dungeon master is practicing a self delusion. All of us do this to a degree, because it is necessary to the very act of imagining. 

Nightwick regular and former blogger Cole calls the imaginative self-delusion "my dog barks some." To borrow the example but make it D&D specific, the DM rolls on a table and sees that the PCs have encountered a dog. From having the vibe of the setting and the scenario they are running, the DM just upon seeing the existence of this dog in the table knows the type of dog but does not consciously choose it. Colville in his video above talks about looking in on an imaginary dragon and seeing what it's doing. The incident of the adventure, the way a particular question the players ask is answered, the actions of an NPC are thing the DM "knows" without consciously deciding. Some, or indeed all of us because we are mortal, may need to take some processing time to "reveal" this unconscious answer, but it is important that the answer be unconscious or, at the very least, decided beforehand.

If you, like me, want the experience of this kind of violent fantasy tourism, the fictional reality of the secondary world must be maintained for engagement. If it no longer feels real, I get bummed out. Obviously it was never real, but my ability to pretend its real for the purpose of the game requires the self delusion of a shut eye.

One of the easiest ways for that to become punctured is for the DM to ask me, the player, questions about the setting. I locate the secondary world largely in the DM's head, and if they are suddenly asking for my input it reveals the artifice. They are not looking into an imaginary world that is locked in some portion of their midbrain, they're just making it up. The modified procedure, where the DM questions the PCs back about in fiction details, would cause me to be less engaged because I have stopped treating the secondary world like a world and started to treat it as something that is fake. I'm asked to operate the strings on the hubcap that was, moments ago, a flying saucer. I do not take joy in the co-creation of the fiction. Rather, my actions are revealed to be meaningless.

Maybe this is why I studied history instead of english. 

* I do not actually condone things he talks about in the video such as rebalancing encounters on the fly or quantum ogreing, but hopefully that is also clear from this post.