The New Campfire

Rope playing games, as I play them, are a collective storytelling experience. There are rules that create constraints but the rules do not make anything of real value. It’s the creativity of the Gm and the players. The Gm creates a world and conflicts for the players. The players take on roles and imbue the main characters of the story with vitality. A GM without players has a background without a focus. Players without a GM have no adversity to overcome; It’s a meaningless power fantasy.

In a way, it’s a collaborative author. Players + GM = a better author than the sum of the people’s skill. The GM is paramount, but not because they have the most to offer story wise. They have to do two competing things at once. It’s both their job to contribute to the story And be the arbitrator of logic. When the players outthink the GM or when they just act in an unexpected way, the GM must check their own ego. They may have had plans for the story which now wont work within the logic of the game.

The really profound moments are when the Gm teases out character growth from a player. Finding complexity in a character and forcing them into a conflicting situation. Getting emotion out of a fighter or making the pacifist want to fight. It requires an ego check because the great moments are from the players.

So the ultimate point of why I’m rambling about this, the crux of why I’d explain this to a non-gamer:

Collective storytelling is important to our psyches. Tall tales around a campfire, a shaman’s myths, the bardic tales: they’re responsive stories. The teller uses the audience to make the tale dynamic. Books, TV, Movies, even theatre; they’re all meant to divide the teller from the audience. RPG’s are a sort of modern invention that harkens back to a need long forgotten.

The new Campfire.

Work, Meaning, and Money

I got some life advice from my father when I was just transitioning into adulthood. We were discussing career paths and work. He told me to find the best paying job, which didn’t take too much of my time, and that I could tolerate doing long term.

It sounds like pessimistic advice, but it’s just realistic (and my father is definitely not a pessimist). I hate hearing that whole pessimist/realist thing because it’s so often the excuse that a true pessimist uses to justify their depressing view of reality. This is no such justification.

So I found a trade. I joined a union. I get paid well, I have a modicum of rights as a worker, and I get to come home every day. I make enough money to do the things I care about on my own time. The work I do, as in the what I do for roughly 40 hours a week, is not who I am. I’m an electrician because that’s the easy pigeon holed title society gives me. That’s not really me. Sure, It’s what I do for money. This, the writing, it’s what I am (well one of the things).

Robert Anton Wilson put it best when he described money as ‘Bio-Survival Tickets’. That’s literally all money is. It’s you earning your right to continue living as an organic meat bag. Well I suppose it’s a bit more than survival, we get freedom from these B-S tickets. They open all the doors of society for us. All the things you may be passionate about, they require some amount of B-S to acquire, so it’s a necessity.

If you can get paid to pursue your passion then I applaud you. It’s a feat that few of us can accomplish. That being said, I’d be cautious about it. Money has a way of poisoning things. If you’re relying on your passion to pay the bills, the person writing the cheques gets to dictate the direction of said passion. Don’t let them control it.

The only sane advice is what my father gave me. Maybe you could add a positive addendum. Use the freedom acquired from that unpassionate labour to fuel your actual passion. Don’t intend to make money from it but keep that avenue open. If people appreciate your art, they may start to fund you. It may not be enough to quit the day job, but it can free up more of your time for your passion.