Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Dealing with the Inevitable Data Loss

Our last session was the first one in half a year, and I was rather pleased with the relatively low number of mistakes I made. There were certain things that I should have played up more. The paladin's search for ailing people to heal, for example, should in retrospect been much more fruitful; any medium-sized town should have a visible marginalised leper population as well as a goodly portion of its citizens maimed, infested, or scrofulous. Aside from that, though, the party ended up pursuing some information that I was just making up as I went along, but that could lead to an actual quest I had hoped to eventually use at some point. It was something that I imagined would take place at the opposite end of the shire, but could conceivably take place, in some form, closer to where the party now find themselves.
In the interim, though, I've had two USB teeth go bad on me in the space of a week. With the help of recovery software, I was able to get back most, but not all, of my D&D material. I had foolishly saved it all to the same place, which I carried in my pocket to work on here and there whenever I had a free moment. Apparently USBs aren't meant for repeated rewriting. On the other hand, most of the really important information was already printed and filed in a series of doorstop-sized binders: Adventures, Goods and Prices in Shropshire, House Rules, and the largest of all being an overview of the world with geographic and demographic information as well as the most useful charts and a collection of NPCs that might appear. Since some of this now only exists in hard copy, it should eventually force me to rework some of it from scratch.
I'm more chagrined about having lost my latest research paper, an analysis of the treatment of dialect in Japanese translations of The Canterbury Tales, but I've got several pages of poorly-written notes from which to reconstruct that, too.
Thich Nhat Hanh told a story of the Buddha and some of his monks meditating in the forest, when a man came frantically toward them asking if they'd seen his cows. All of his cows had run away, and he said he was going to die if he didn't find them. They said they hadn't seen any sign of them, and suggested the man look in another part of the forest. After the man had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks and said, 'You all are very lucky--you don't have any cows'.
I still think it's a good idea to have multiple backup copies, but I've realised that I have enough in my head to run a fairly decent session without much of anything. The world in which we play is very much alive to me; I have a clear picture of the layout of the land, the cultural zeitgeist, the way people talk and act, what they are likely to do or beleive, and what they are capable of. I can see the forest landscape before the advent of most modern species of evergreen trees, when the only squirrels were red and livestock were much smaller than now; I can smell the linen-encased bodies at a time when only monks and the rich bathed more than a few times a year, the interior of inns and alehouses where body odour mingles with manure and mud tracked in from the street and stale beer and dog piss mixed into the old rushes strewn about the floor; I hear the strains of lively tunes, the shouting, bickering and laughing of voices in the market, and the overwhelming quiet of a countryside before electricity. I know what the food tastes like because I prepare it in my own kitchen. And I can almost feel the wonder, credulity, and desperation of a people who knew almost nothing about how nature or the human body functioned, for whom alchemists could certainly turn lead into gold, sorcery was real, foreign lands were peopled with antipodes and cynocephali, and all manner of beasts and demons lurked around the corner.
That's enough for a capital game, I'd say.


  1. I think you lead a very convincing and real world. I don't know to what degree it's because it's, in fact, based on history, but I think your encyclopaedic knowledge of the time period sure lends to the credibility and the presence of it all. I think that's what I like most about our campaign. (I'm compelled to call it "your campaign" though I wonder if you wouldn't have it that way)

    1. Thank you very much for saying so. I'm delighted when the flavour of the world comes through in a way players can actually feel.

      And yes, of course the campaign belongs to everyone running in it. Yesterday's session, for example, attempted to incorporate part of a module into the adventure, but the decisions you all took brought it quite far from what the writers of the module intended. As far as I'm concerned, this is as it should be; I create the world, and you can do whatever you want in it.