Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Rear View Mirror

I have been watching—from my woe-is-me sick bed—my blog roll steadily filling up with my blogging comrades' retrospectives for the year. Having ended the year much less of a contrarian than I started, I'm jumping on that horse.

2011 was the year of riding the smilidon here at the Hill Cantons. I could regal you with page view bar charts or some other tedious piece of bragging rights, but I would hazard a guess that you care even less about that than I do (which is little, really).

Like the games we love it's more about the road--the exploration and the camarderie along the way--than what lies at the end of it, the silly fleeting gratification of accumulating readers quantatively. In that way it's been a highly successful year. For me it's mostly been about driving down on the these arcing themes and game ideas, the little ideas that nag. And playing of course, lots of that.

Looking back here the theme arcs that I felt best about in the year:
This was the year that I loosened up on my long-standing revulsion against that kind of preening self-indulgent stule of the age—you know the one that has cranked up memoirs and tell-alls to a major section of the dead tree industry in the last decade. Writing more about my own deeper connections to the game helped me develop a stronger writer's voice—and let me talk about a surprising range of broader themes and how they relate back to the game.

I wrote about my father, and how the Vietnam War just might have something to do with the phrase “fantasy fucking Vietnam”. About my grandfather's storytelling and the oral art ofgame-mastering. About the otherworldly ruined pile of a house I lived in for a time when I started playing as a lad. About the ranch we would hole up in during college days in Conan Country.

About how  our religious worldviews can be a distant mirror to those we have in our fantasy world. And about the deep sense of place that I (and apparently the rest of you) associate with our campaign worlds.

In 2011 the blog remained a place that didn't just endlessly editorialize about games—and please sweet Crom, I pray for a general reduction in Opinion Only content of my fellows—but hothoused play right out of it. The one with the greatest legs was (is) the threads around domain-level play in D&D.

It was deeply satisfying to not only write the Borderlands sourcebook (which should be out by the end of the next month) about an area that I always wanted to see explored in that way—but to do it from the ground up by chucking out all the rules expectations and

That exploration started here and continued over a long arc (in the link on the subheader)--and then game back to life on Google Plus with Domain Game II.

One of my goals for this year when it was still a pup was to crank up my interview series, I was very happy with the ones cranked out. It makes me very happy to step back out of the bully pulpit and listen to the voices of some truly interesting folks out there.

We had the mammoth feather-ruffling one with Rob Kuntz and the interesting one with King of Dragon Pass creator David Dunham that revealed the connection of that classic computer game to a tabletop Pendragon variant campaign. I swung back to talking to Jeff Berry, the HC “resident Tekumel expert” about the exciting passing of M.A.R. Barker's collection into the public sphere

We talked with former TSR artist and hard-working game designer Jeff Dee. I explored the long, strange trip of the German world game Magira and some other new worlds with our DIY brethern.

Readers, especially those anonymous hordes from Google searches seem to eat up the series I wrote on what makes for a great map. That series started here and was explored more here.

There were several other major themes (Tekumel, Matters Vancian, Early RPG Experiments, Non-Traditional Sandbox Mechanics , Game Tinkering and of course Actual Play) I may save them for another day—or likely just move on into the flush of the new year.

But that, my friends, was the way it was. I hope that next year, tomorrow, I find you reading, discussing, debating, and playing alongside me again, there is an even greater year to come.


  1. Cake: I am sorry to read that you are ill. Here's to a healthy fresh start and lots of fun gaming.

  2. Thanks Whisk I so rarely get sick that I tend to piss and moan a bit too much when I do. A very happy new year to you.

  3. What you need to get back on your feet are the Three C's: Coffee, Chocolate, and Cigarettes. You'll be back on your feet in no time.

    Here's to a safe and productive 2012!

  4. I guess your illness means no minis gaming this weekend. Get better soon, so you can get back to gaming.

    Here's to more dice rolling in 2012!

  5. @Scottsz
    Wine and women haven't been working and staying up late last night running the first ever Hill Cantons-based G+ game didn't help (and no fear home campaigners they didn't make off with too much of the loot from the Golden Domed Barge).

    @Desert Scribe
    Sadly yes, are you off on the 2nd?

  6. Yeah, I'm been off most of this week and will be off Monday.

  7. Thanks so much for your posts. Your blog was one of my best discoveries this year, and I'm glad I caught on to it in time to read the great interviews with Jeff Berry.