While working on my FRPG world, Atkelem, I have been fortunate to find several resources. As far as my own resources: the creation part kind of comes naturally; I have a vivid imagination, and a pretty good command of vocabulary. Where I do NOT have a talent is for drawing maps (really, drawing in general). I can sketch out what a village, town, region, or even a whole planet looks like on graph paper, but making it into a presentable form is an elusive skill. Another skill that eludes me often is simplicity – I have fretted over pieces of land where I wondered about topography, earthquakes, climate, rainfall, biodiversity, population density, arability – and then gotten so mentally tired that I just closed the file and lost it all. Aiding me, though, are several sites where I can find things like design software (GIMP, primarily) , word-processing (Word), and artwork (several clip art sites). Creating a language for it has been fun, too – I downloaded a Proto-Indo-European dictionary (about three thousand words) because I am fascinated by how our own language developed, and I want mine to have the same organic feel. All in all, it has been a very slow process, but much fun.
I got the chance to show part of it to my nephew who has just been getting into RPGs. He’s been a big fan of the Forgotten Realms novels, set in the world of Toril. The basis for the novels is the world setting created by Ed Greenwood for the D&D game. I was never a huge fan of the world (it was a bit TOO fantastic for me), but I’ve played characters there in my gaming days – towns like Waterdeep, Neverwinter; names like Elminster, Drizzt, and the Red Wizards of Thay. They were fun, but didn’t hold a candle to the King of all Worlds (in my estimation, anyway), Greyhawk. I got to know the World of Greyhawk campaign setting like it was where I grew up. The planet Oerth (Gygax didn’t often reach far for his names), on the continent of Oerik, in countries like Furyondy, the Great Kingdom, and the Wild Coast. The Free Cities of Greyhawk (hence the name) and Verbobonc. Personages that (while I was DM, which was most of the time) my characters not only heard of, but met and interacted with – Belvor, Thrommel, Mordenkainen. Iuz.
I wrote all that down mostly as my own memory, but party to illustrate the complexity of the games that we play. The computer world isn’t that different, either. I played Everquest for a good while (before I realized it was consuming quite a bit of time and coin), and it, too, was an entire world full of cultures, monsters, and treasure. World of Warcraft (et al) provides the same rewards to a new generation. Halo, Call of Duty, Resident Evil; all have become the same for many gamers. Indeed, perhaps the king of serial games – Final Fantasy – lives on in the newest of technologies.
Now I remove the discussion from the fantasy to the “real.” Every day, parents take their children to things like soccer, or hockey, or taekwondo, or a host of other activities. Perhaps some parents will even join in, maybe tossing the ball around, or the like. Some parents will become the sideline terrors that we see in ballparks; red-faced, screaming at the umpire because of some perceived slight toward their obviously superior child. I propose that there is a middle ground that most parents are missing (feel free to insert “you’re not a parent, you don’t know what it’s like” here – yeah, so I’ve heard), somewhere in between dropping them off while you shop and ruining the experience for them. That middle ground is immersion. I don’t mean losing yourself in it – you should never lose yourself in anything, or you’ll have done just that – lost yourself. What I mean is inculcating a desire to be the best by learning the rules, embodying what it means to be something like a lacrosse player, or a dragonslayer. Playing until you nearly fall over from exhaustion of hunger, and then laughing about it over a pile of pizza. Playing – not obsessing, not passing time – playing. Making one hour of the imaginary very real. I know you know what I mean, because you can think of a game, sport, or whatever, where you look back fondly – maybe even commiserate with friends – about how much fun it was.
I watched my dad spiral from a fisherman, hunter, and craftsman to a sedentary, slow shell. Some will say it was because of his health. I know different. It was because he stopped doing those things that his mind began to relax, then get soft. His body followed, from outside to in. In a long process, inactivity killed my father.
I would rather die falling from the side of a mountain, than never having seen a mountain. So I am going to get out, find mountains, and play on them.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old… we grow old because we stop playing” — George Bernard Shaw