New on Desk #98 — Writing Muster

That’s what I’ve been doing this week, writing Muster. That and chatting about rpg theory. Maybe that’ll be the theme for the rest of the year in this newsletter, I just discuss how my Muster writing is going. I’ll just… write down some stuff about the project that’ll hopefully useful for me, myself and I next week when I keep writing. No guarantees that this’ll be interesting to you.

To transmit a doctrine

As the reader might remember, I tackled Muster for the first time in the spring, wrote up some I don’t know ~20k words of manuscript cruft, and then set the project aside. I finished the CWP thing in the meantime and over the summer did whatever it is that keeps eating up my days (gardening?), but now I’m at it again.

To me it seems that my spring production was fairly solid theory stuff about the nature of D&D (feel free to check it out, it’s in the manuscript file in Google Docs), but looking at it now, it’s still too dense, too detailed, too technically precise for a book that should be a primer to the style. For that the book needs to use blunter words and present straighter truths, and it has to skip mercilessly over less important things. Like two thousand words about the textual history of D&D, do I really need that? Not in a book that should be like 20 thousand words in total!

So the new attempt is proceeding as a total rewrite, which isn’t really anything to be worried about in terms of working efficiency; this was always going to be a project where planning is a bigger part of the work than the writing. It doesn’t take me that long to bang out the actual text when I have an outline I’m actually happy with.

A new outline

Speaking of, let’s see if I can put a new outline on paper. Something like this:

Mission statement: A ~20k word manifesto about how to play D&D in the wargaming way. Target audience, GMs interested in the style and players that a GM wants to induct into a campaign in this style.

IntroductionA bit of context to start all readers at the same place.
The wargaming wayAn opening statement on what it means to play in this style
[anecdote]An anecdotal story to illustrate what play is like; have to pick something from our play history
Reading adviceHow to read a rules text alongside Muster
Picking a rules textSome practical suggestions for picking an old school rules text
Importance of authenticityThe concept of authenticity as a creative goal, in opposition to designed experience
The mantlet storyAn anecdote about how our gaming group invented their own dungeoneering doctrine
Characters in partyCharacter stables, varied levels in party, hirelings
Negotiating the scenarioHow the scenario gets established and balanced fairly
Rulings not rulesHow rules are cruft and method is eternal
Simulation adviceThe basics of how to simulate dynamic action
Mental hygieneReferee best practices for maintaining unbias
[more anecdote?]I feel that most of these topics could be illustrated by war stories, and maybe should?
Respecting the XPAbout why XP is sacred to sportsmanship
Tiers of playA little bit about low level, mid level, name level, etc. play modes
The VoidAbout withstanding failure, being a fan of the PCs, GM antagonism, etc.
[an anecdote section at the end?]There are a lot of stories, maybe useful to just make space for them

Arbitrarily assuming that I’d write about 2k words on each of those topics, that could be the book in appropriate scope and length. Even surprisingly compact in terms of topic choices. No doubt some other stuff occurs to me later, but I’ll start (rather continue, I already have the first four parts) writing with this

CWP roll-out update

I released the CWP series in the wilds two weeks ago now. Seems like things are settling down somewhat; I’ve had some indications about some reading having been done, and while we still got new Master Traders this week, the number of new traders has been dropping down so much that we can say that the server has been fairly calm now.

We’ve inducted 11 Master Traders at this writing, which is a pretty suitable number for keeping CWPs available (you can probably find one of these guys/gals to barter you some CWPs later over the winter), and also for giving me some guidance on what CWPs shall be priorities for when I get around to writing more. I’ve promised to write at least one new CWP on MT counsel in the spring; we’ll see how many it’ll end up being. Here’s what the MTs are counseling for me as of this writing:

1: Name Level
2: Urban Adventures
3: Druid (and Elementalist)
4: Theurgist (particularly, any Friar stuff)
5: Wizard
6: Tasks & Skills
7: Record Sheets

So that’s a bit of something to do after Muster. For now, though, I’m happy to let the CWP stuff brew. Maybe get some more opinions from people about it, and so on.

Coup de Main developments

Tuomas, who’s been GMing Monday Coup during my hiatus, has gotten so embroiled in his move that the group hasn’t been playing for a few weeks now. To address the issue I’m going to descend from the mountain tomorrow for some light dungeoneering. The group has a fairly involved scenario arc going with Tuomas, but character stables include options, so we can just take some secondary characters off to the races for a session or two until Tuomas’s situation clears up. Hopefully won’t mess too much with my writing, the plan is to run something easy and light.

To be specific, the plan is to go back to Castle Greyhawk to continue plumping its depths. The Castle is the archetypal megadungeon, so it’s not like we need any particular reason or excuse or adventure hook either. Still, two variant starting points present themselves:

Frida the Witch girl: One of the players has a character embedded with an elven quest to find some sort of oracle in the Castle capable of divining the next leg of a chivalrous quest. Assuming the player comes in tomorrow, we could just create some companions for Frida and the elves and see how that might pan out. I think it’s a perfectly fine adventuring party, even if does feature a scary elf prince NPC as a tent-pole of sorts.

The Ranger Fortress: Last we were at the Castle, the big achievement the adventurers managed to pull off was conquering the drawbridge fort in front of the castle, the barbican. They handed the place off to the local human-rights activist organization, the Selintan Rangers, with the idea of thus maintaining position for possibly exploring the castle more later on. That makes for a natural option to start from. As a special bonus, the adventurers could hire a ranger.

Session #66 is scheduled for tomorrow, Monday 15.11., starting around 16:00 UTC. Feel free to stop by if you’re interested in trying the game out or simply seeing what it’s like.

State of the Productive Facilities

I’ve got 2k words of the most recent draft of Muster in the bank, so about 10% of the manuscript’s estimated length. I figure that for a pleasant ride towards finishing the book this year I should get to over 10k over next week, or up over 50%. It’s doable in terms of sheer writing pace, this is not difficult text to write as long as I can arrange my thoughts on what to write about, exactly. We’ll see how it pans out in practice.

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