Not Bow to History

Cinema does not bow to history. Why should we gamers?

When you go to see a film at the cinema, you accept that the studio, writer, director and other associated parties have played their part in confirming the verisimilitude of their film’s historical context and backdrop. No one expect you to turn up having completed required reading – but, in turn, the film makers do not necessarily expect you to nit-pick if they don’t try too hard. Your suspension of disbelief, to a greater or lesser extent, extends to allowing the studio, writer, etc. some measure of creative freedom. Unless you’ve turned up expecting to see some original Shakespeare, for example, you’ll forgive the film for not having all the characters speaking in some quasi-English dialect. When you see the hovels and filth laden streets of outer London, you’ll accept that this could very well be an image of the actual place – despite almost certainly not being a true representation.

In consideration of this, and in giving thought to pushing further forward with the writing of The Dee Sanction, it has occurred to me that the key aspects of history relevant to the game should only deal with the aspects that matter and a notion of the window dressing.

I noticed that someone posting about Maelstrom noted that when they read about the game the mere mention of historical put them off – and I get behind that to some extent. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate historical game – absolutely not. I’m saying that I understand why a reference to “historical” might put someone off with the suggestion that the game requires foreknowledge to appreciate or enjoy. When I recently ran a game of Star Trek Adventures, I specifically noted that participation in the one-shot convention game did not require any detailed knowledge about the series or movies whatsoever. Yes, you could do with getting what Star Trek is – but, that’s in the same way that if you see a cobbled and filthy London street with carts, horses and pedestrians squeezing between lines of tall and leaning houses with black timber supports and off-white panels, punctured with tiny, dark windows, then you can probably take a guess at “Tudor” and maybe “Elizabethan”.

Flavour matters where writing The Dee Sanction; getting across to the GM and potential players what makes the game different. I struggle to read any RPG core book that expects you to pile through 100+ pages of densely packed text on history and background before you get to what the game will really be about. In the same way, I need to show you a filthy cobbled street with dirt-smeared pedestrians and precarious buildings, but I shouldn’t serve up 100 pages on the economic and political history of the Elizabethan regime during the last quarter of the 16th century. You need to know about Elizabeth’s spy network, her relationship with Walsingham and Dee, and the forces of the arcane the Doctor believes to exist encapsulated in the study of angels and their movements.

And perhaps it’s worrying about just how much you need to know that has slowed the progress of The Dee Sanction reaching print?

Now, knowing what I want to convey (and what I can leave to the audience) might well contribute to a pace of progression that will see the core book out by early 2018. Perhaps.