Words, Numbers, and RPGs – Random Musings

fictionIn addition to writing and performing, everyone pretty much knows that I love games. I have mentioned at least once that I recently created a playable version of the goblin card game, Hogswallow, featured in one of the stories from my Gandersnitch book. I have been playing it here and there with all sorts of people and will be hosting a preview session for it at Con on the Cob. We have not yet decided if we will kick-start the printing costs or just produce a very small number to have for sale, but we will let people know how to get a copy once we figure all those details out.

This is not the only game I have in the works though. On the idea board beside my desk, which is a small square dry erase board where I jot down ideas I want to work on further, I have nine different games in various states of development. (This is in addition to the three different novels I have going.) I am also working on two role playing games, one about children’s toys that go on adventures that was inspired by my kids and one about absurdity  inspired by many random facebook conversations with my friend Dave.

For the first game, the kids one, I spent several days researching the mathematics behind various dice systems and testing them out on my own to see which ones seemed not only the most fair but also the most fun for kids. I am by no means a math person, but I did discover some rather fascinating finds from the people who do understand the math and had enough time on their hands to work out all the percentages. There was the one article I found most easy to follow out of the six or seven that I read, and if anyone else is interested they can find it here: http://rpg-design.wikidot.com/evaluation

And if it really matters to anyone, I decided to go with a matching system. You roll a number of dice and look for matching numbers. Those are your successes. But of course, all that is subject to change once I actually sit down and see how it all plays.

For the second game, which is definitely about lunatics who only see their own reality and can affect it in unpredictable ways, I wanted a lot of random charts of things to easily reference and provide obstacles. Which led me to exploring the most common words, specifically nouns, in the English language. I looked at lots of word lists in the hope that I could just grab one that was suitable, chop it into bite sized pieces, and assign values to each one. That approach didn’t work for me. Instead I threw out those lists and started my own by specific category.

But there was something rather interesting that I noticed about these collections of nouns. (You can see one for yourself here: http://worddetail.org/most_common/nounsWhile I am not sure how (or when) they compiled their data and ranked it, and while each list had variations, there were certain word and positions that jumped out at me. Time, for instance, is the most used noun across many of the lists. I am not quite sure what that says about English speaking people, but it certainly does seem to me that we place a considerate amount of importance on schedules, dates, ages, etc. Time is the most limited resource we have and it seems to be a fundamental obsession in our lives.

The other relation that popped out pretty quickly is that Man is much higher on the list than Woman. This is not surprising, but it is rather troubling. On the flip side, Mother is ranked way higher than Father, which doesn’t even show up in the first 100 words. Work is higher than life or family, government over 100 places ahead of church, and money comes in at #51, which is ahead of both book and water. Some of these make me smile, especially the fact that book beats out water, as I personally think a good story is worth the risk of dehydration. Some of them give me pause, such as time and work. And even if the lists mean absolutely nothing at all, even if there is no correlation to reality in them at all, I do find it fun to ponder what sort of implications our use of words means about the state of our world and our societies.

Then again, I am a storyteller, and I am always on the lookout for the interesting tale beneath the surface. Maybe I am just odd that way. Or maybe we all see the connections we want to see. Maybe that is just part of being human. I don’t know. The important thing is to keep looking, keep questioning, and keep thinking about things from a new perspective. And to keep playing games, which are an excellent way to slow down time and spend some of it with your friends and family.

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