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This Writer's Life

Such an odd weekend, with so little writing in it until late today.

I cranked for 5,300 words this evening. But I primed the pump Friday and yesterday by reading some good foundation works. First up were chunks of the Fiendish Codex manuscript (from [Bad username: analyticalengine] and bigfootcountry), because it relates to my current project). The Codex is very fiendish indeed and will be published in June. They understand their sources in remarkable depth, update them into the new style with confidence, and generally make the whole thing more than just entertaining. Parts of it are downright inspiring. Makes the GM part of my brain cackle with glee. And I feel compelled to respond by elevating my own game.

Now combine that inspiration with the reading I've been doing in the Manual of Planes by Grubb Street. (Yeah, yeah, published in 2001, where have I been?) This is a book where I keep meeting old friends and saying "That's better than I remember" — and hey, full disclosure, some of the book covers places I wrote about for Al-Qadim and Planescape. But the beauty of this one is likewise embracing and extending existing material in ways that highlights its strengths. Or to put it another way, Mr. Street owns some powerful chrome polishing formulae, making some creatures and concepts from the 1980s seem fresh and powerful. I mean, this is stuff I read in the 1E Manual of the Planes and wrote for Planescape, and it seems like the sort of material goes beyond what you'd find in any MMORPG or d20 product. It's got crunch, but it's essentially a setting book. It's also not as minis-obsessive as some of the more recent 3.5 products are. It opens possibilities and lays on sensawunda by the ton. Too many recent books seem eager to cut that off in favor of more mechanics and minutiae.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that the old saw about reading good material to fuel the fires of your own writing is entirely true. I feel I'm on a big of a game design high. Or at any rate, I seem able to push through description, stats, and strategy sections at a very good clip. If I keep doing better than my outline like this… well, let's not jinx anything.

I'm trying not to think about the downside of both projects, but I can't help it. All of D&D leans on a shared mythology, creatures and places that date to 1E and 2E and that are often recycled into new bottles, but it's the same wine. What's too much recycling? I know I love to see the old standards come back in new ways (like the rakshasas in Eberron, or the updates on 1E, 2E, and BoVD demons in the Fiendish Codex). But is it healthy for a shared world to lean so heavily on its "big names", like the constant reuse of the drow, the beholder, etc? I mean, even WoW has recycled the drow. Is time to move on, already, or is it time to revel in the mainstreaming of D&D's hits?

Maybe I'm making too much of this. No one complains about an excess of dragons and elves in fantasy fiction. They're expected parts of the scenery. I'd suggest that drow, beholders, and a few others are now expected parts of the "fantasy toolbox" that all authors use.


( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )
Jan. 9th, 2006 08:50 am (UTC)
I think that treating them as part of the pool makes excellent sense. It's been a good long while, and a bunch of these things are obviously recognized far beyond the ranks of currently active tabletop D&D players. Go with it. Obviously you want to include new stuff as well, and revive some forgotten oldies, but ringing changes within the frame of the famous ones seems entirely in order to me.
( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )

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