"What Are You Doing, And Why?"

What am I doing? Sharing my random ideas for stuff.

Why? To inspire. To amuse. To find like-minded folks for friendship and collaboration. To get things out of my head, system, and notebooks.

Let me tell you a story.

For 15 years I carried around an idea for a table-top roleplaying game based on the legendary Atlantis. Not just any old Atlantis, but a unique mix of source material and mood/tone. I drew on New Age mysticism and nonsensery for inspiration on the look, races, technology, history, political structure, and potential for the fantastic - from the likes of Edgar Cayce, Helen Blavatsky, Scientology, modern day Rosicrucians, the Unarius Academy, and dozens of similar cult and occult references. I placed Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean following Ignatius Donnelly (rather than the intriguingly ridiculous Rand Flem-Ath), and added Lemuria and Mu in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, respectively. For the shape and ecology of the rest of the world I set it in the Pliocene Epoch, calling it Atlantis's "Second Age" (a Cayce timeline reference). Then I spiced it with dashes of my favorite Pulp-era writers - Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, et al. Crystal-powered guns and air navies, shamanistic yeti and sasquatch, cyborgs, half-human animal hybrids, unassailable towers of adamantine, megafauna outfitted for war, intelligent human-sized insects, soul-sorcery, ley-lines... Mmmmmm. I looked around - there was nothing else like this on the market.

But I would set the project aside, then experience renewed bursts of interest and inspiration, then set it aside again, over and over. Creating a game like this is no walk in the park. It's similar to writing a historic fantasy novel - sure, you make up a lot of stuff, but there's also a ton of research to do. And this game would feature its own unique task resolution mechanics, rather than exploit any of the open-source game rules that have become popular over the years; creating and testing holistic, comprehensive mechanics suited to the tenor of this vision was a challenge equal to the world-building. And doing all this alone - whew. So it languished for years thanks to bouts of frustration, feelings of "it's all kinda pointless", and incursions of real-world responsibilities.

In January 2015 I made a New Year's Resolution to work in earnest on 3 specific creative projects. And first up - Atlantis. I purchased a few more resource books (my collection has grown over the years), and dug into fresh research. Then for s&g I looked around again for Atlantis games...

..And found this: Atlantis: The Second Age.

My jaw hit the floor, and began tunneling for the mantle. Are they doing exactly what I would have done? Nope. But by Poseidon's Smelly Sargasso Beard, it's like they've been cheating off my test paper!

It gets better. It turns out that their game is a sort of reboot of an RPG by Bard Games, called Arcanum, a game that predates my own idea. Again, not precisely what I was going for, and I could still move forward with my vision, but it no longer seems... unique. Or even relevant. And now it might reasonably (if inaccurately) be perceived as redundant, derivative, or a downright knock-off.

(But big and sincere kudos out there to Bard Games, ZiLa Games, and Khepera Publishing. I'll need a new shelf for the games I need to buy! I wish I knew all of you IRL - I bet we'd be buds.)

This is just one example of two related problems with my work.

The first is that I often seem to be subconsciously mining the zeitgeist, sometimes taking, sometimes giving. I can't recall how many times I've noted/developed/discussed an idea only to discover later that it was already developed elsewhere outside my experience (I "invented" Pope on a Rope ['Because Cleanliness is Next to Godliness'] for Pope John Paul II's US visit in 1979, suntan tattoos, an electric fire-starter, a working electromagnetic stunning force field, GURPS, etc.), or that someone else must have read my mind and then went and did the actual work later (2nd Edition D&D, Planescape, etc.) It's pretty frustrating.

The second problem is that too often I find myself unwilling or unable to take on the challenge of developing and presenting/marketing my ideas. In many cases I lack the expertise to hone or plumb them to the degree required - this is especially true of those requiring talent in fine art or a more substantial background in science or business. In other cases I actually have no interest in pursuing the thoughts myself, but think they're just nifty and "wouldn't it be cool if..." Another subset is the most heart-wrenching: those I really love and want to develop but don't believe I can tackle alone, and for which I don't have the right contacts or shared interest to form a pool of collaborators. Atlantis falls into this category, and it continues to sear my soul that there was evidently interest in such a project, yet I didn't have the mix of chutzpah and peeps to give life to that vision, or a way to find those embarking on a similar project and join their effort.

I'm tackling this 2nd issue - the "no follow-through" problem - head on, per my 2015 New Year's Resolution. I've moved on to the second creative project I've been considering, which you can read about here. This is another that will require more than my own efforts, but I've redoubled my will to see it through.

In the meantime, other ideas just keep coming, or coming back to life. Games, stories, characters, essays, products, services, improvements, memes... I'll never be able to exploit them all, let alone research them all, or even remember them all. And that's a disservice to them. Some are just silly and dumb, true. But others deserve better. With this place in the blogsphere, maybe someone will come along and say, "Hey, you know, with some tweaking that could really work."

If it turns out a project I post about is already out there, like my poor baby Atlantis, and someone clues me in on it, then I get to explore a similar or shared vision. If a reader is already developing a similar idea, maybe they've found a collaborator in me. And if just one new idea here finds light at the end of its lonely little tunnel, this site had done its job.