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Stats & Games & their Stories

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“Eff that. Dungeons & Dragons thinking. Everything’s so mechanistic, quantitative; we’re too wedded to that. Somebody somewhere is going to want me to roll up Nahadoth’s damn stats even though by his very nature he can never have them — no. No. These are gods. If you can’t write them in a way that transcends game mechanics and the usual genre expectations, go write wizards like everybody else. Or become a better writer.”

— N. K. Jemisin on the nature of gods in her series, “Thinking Out Loud”

The good ole “If you stat it, they will kill it” reasoning, and it’s true. Just finished the above author’s second book in her series, The Broken Kingdoms, and loved it.

For all that you could translate Kushiel’s Dart to Houses of the Blooded, or Black Jewels Trilogy to a Lady Blackbird hack, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a mechanic for the gods, godlings, and mortals of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Why, yes, I am procrastinating on NaNo, thank you for noticing.

I have changed my setting once again to a different role-playing game’s universe, but one that still fits perfectly well. Less developed than Rokugan, so I needn’t fear improvising nearly so much, but one with enough structure to let me “cheat” on the worldbuilding aspect and worry solely on scenes and wordcount.

Now, this begs the question, “to stat, or not to stat”? If I do draw up some sheets for my protagonists/antagonists, I will be tempted to roll the dice every now and again. It could make for some really interesting twists, some high drama, as the odds and gods are most capricious and (melo)dramatic. On the other hand, the Story is King and sometimes dice can be pretty freaking fail.

Even my story games are driven by dice, which evoke stats and odds besides pure luck. But that’s the difference of the medium, I suppose. N. K. Jemisin has only one storyteller to contend with, much less a narrator and four players all looking for entertainment.

But how do I channel my energy to that project and not the dozens of others lurking in the wings? Can you tell that it’s twenty to two and I’m rambling? To tomorrow, dear readers.

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