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Protomas Ludwig

Collaborative Artistic Creation

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I've joined several Play by Post (PbP) games now and am in 3 different virtual tabletop games, so I am starting to get some perspective on how this can, can't, and maybe even should world.

I once had a very artistic friend who was always recruiting people to help him work on various projects; still promotion photos for a science fiction novel, an amateur commercial for a radio station, head (and I mean JUST the head) of a lion in a play. And he was very good at what he did, the stuff often ended up looking very good. But he had a few flaws, and this limited what he was able to do, more or less, to what HE HIMSELF could physically do. He often over hyped himself; the photos would be the best ever seen (until they were actually seen, and hen they were good but amateurish), the commercial had great special effects (as long as you didn't look TOO closely), and the head that was to have moving eyes and a working jaw so it could talk ended up having eyes that sat there and a jaw that sort of worked, and because the director didn't physically check and only relied on my friends glowing reports of the wonderfulness and progress of his part of the lion project, the lion head was LATE and the SCALE was off, the head being FAR too large for the body made by another team of workers and there was no time to change either. Worse, he seemed unable to give up control of ANYTHING in all of the various projects, so at best he ended up with a bunch of assistants micromanaged to the point of being actually less productive than he would have been working alone, and at worst an admiring audience (that he often generously fed out of his own pocket) that applauded as he worked.

My point is not just to diss my former friend (he's former at his choice and for other reasons). In fact if I hadn't worked WITH him I'd have never figured out what he did wrong, which boiled down to not trusting the artistic vision and ability of anyone but himself, and not being willing to actually accept creative input on any of "his" projects, and so thats what they were, HIS projects, with not an ounce more creativity or productivity than he himself ALONE could produce.

So now, years later, I find myself in SEVERAL projects that amount to collaborative writing projects (which is JUST what I was hoping for, I'm actually learning a lot as we go). In all of these projects, the goal is to produce an entertaining story. Some work better than others, but for the most part, that's what they all produce, a good entertaining story. And the work is truly collaborative!

The DM (Dungeon Master, or what is mostly called a GAME Master now) is the head of the project. He or she (for some reason, even 40 years after this type of gaming originated, this is still a mostly masculine pass time, but thats for a whole other post)... so I say again He or She gives direction to the project and brings the seeds of creativity to the story, at least SOME of the seeds. And the players are charged with coming up with original, well thought out character concepts and with the execution of a performance by that character that not only makes the character memorable and enjoyable, but that enhances the whole project (aka, the campaign) and makes the whole MORE than the sum of the game master's ability and efforts and creativity, and one hopes, that it is even greater than the sum of ALL of the campaign's , ability, effort, and creativity.

Things can go wrong with this. The DM might be a bit rigid, the players more focused on THEIR character and proving that their DESIGN is better than everyone else's, at least in combat. Some are compulsively detail obsessed (the writer whistles disingenuously and looks away innocently) and get lost in detail work. Others compulsively tell other people why they are wrong, explaining to the DM how he (or she) should actually be running his (or her) campaign. Some as disinterested in anything but combat. Sometimes there is disagreement as to what the characters are supposed to do within a stories framework (are they epic heroes, or maybe 'everyman' doing their best in a difficult and often hostile world, or are they comedic figures who bumble and stumble through the story, but somehow they get to the end of the story alive and more or less victorious) [by the way, I've always hated the bumbling hero, who emerges victorious purely by LUCK, I like a hero, even a 'everyman' hero to KNOW a few things, and not not be a total YUTS! (I hated Dumb and Dumber for example, and love superhero movies]{and now back to the thread of my discourse, having run out of different bracket types to multithread my scattered thoughts}. However they do it, a group of imperfect people with conflicting goals and ideas somehow put together a good and entertaining story that WORKS even if it isn't exactly what they all STARTED to make.

I am amazed to say, that even when it doesn't all work that well, it usually works well enough that you can find enjoyment in the effort and in the final outcome. So lets have a round of applause for that artistic chimera, the collaborative creation!

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  1. d00mbring3r's Avatar
    Lets all celebrate this art of sorts!