(small post about Dungeon 23 process)
((it doesn't have even a single table, it is just random personal thoughts))
After "aha" moment that was week #2 "Death" and sharp clarity that came with week #3 "Sunken", the word for week #4 was "Love" and, as predicted, it was so far the hardest.
I think RPGs don't really parse love, in general(*). Either it is a part of some backstory/origin story, something that happened long long time ago and thus, as a fact of love, obscured by time and untouchable by adventurers; at best some kind of pure / tragic / farcical love serves as a basis for a This Place or This Thing, a piece of scenery, a part of description.
Alternatively, it is a matter of control or threat – woefully available 'Charm Person', danger of succubus' appeal, loved ones so frequently murdered by DMs for deeply discounted drama it became a tattered cliche before I was even born, or sleazy bard / sorcerer PC, hitting on anything with legs that isn't a table. With passed time there is some distancing from these tired, worn-out templates, but to me the matter is that both OSR and traditional DnD rarely speak about love as multifaceted and ongoing process.
This long prelude aside, I started to do a location dedicated to some less common aspects of love: latria/agape, storge and philia. Couldn't decide which one to focus upon or how to make it relevant (and not simply a piece of backstory on a display), so it was the first week when I wrote 'shadows deepen' / 'empty room' as on both Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn't imagine anything that I was even briefly interesting in working with or had any solid inspiration for, or anything, really.
So I gessoed the whole weekly spread today.
(you don't have to use gesso, gluing paper over is also very satisfying)
Because what I love to do – at this point of time of my life, at the very least – is making maps.
And instead of writing something, I am just making a map.
Making maps to me is a difficult, long, sometimes tedious process where everything can go wrong, and more than sometimes does. There are bad days, when nothing is created but the slightest layer of the abyss, there are good days, when elements and colours intertwine and take form, and new land emerges, and it teaches me something too, as it was today about making coastlines.
Six hours spent, and it was a work but it was also a joy.
It was still better than spending miserable five minutes giving up and letting the shadows deepen again.
Why I am even writing this?
I see a lot of people just starting D23 or waiting for Sunday to start it. So many call it a challenge. So many go beyond the initial idea of just making '45 gp, three tax-collectors, there is a problem' room. This is good. It is honestly a relief to see in how many directions initial megadungeon idea went already: there are cities, bunches of small dungeons, modern esoterica settings, solar systems, cyberpunk and SF, and science fantasy, and forests, and hexes; it is a relief because people already don't treat the initial idea as a sacred cow (**), don't let it bind them into narrow confines of things they have no actual desire to do. But even with this adjustment, I think, there will be a moment when something in the writing process will become a restrain instead of help. The procedure might become stale, the theme no longer interesting, the format might run its course.
(**) although the amount of Hobonichi planners in preferences is still a bit baffling
There is a lot to admire in self-imposed challenges. But the idea for D23 – whatever form it takes – the main idea is to keep going, and probably what I want to say with this overlong note to myself the most is that changing exhausted or bored horses in midstream turned out to be a good thing to do.
Don't stick to the format if it is no longer works. Change it and keep going.
I tend(ed) to view each separate notebook as a holistic thing, and it took me some time to get rid of the mental trap that they shouldn't be changed.
Nothing in those planners is sacred. Other people might make their in cleaner, messier, stranger, duller way, with colour pencils, with fancy digital frames and hyperlinking. with tables or procedures prepared in December weeks. But what is important is that if something becomes an obligation instead of expression, is to grab some fresh free horses, gesso the page that no longer work and maybe write about horse heist in the middle of your megadungeon/city/forest/space station (bonus points if there is no logical explanation on how horses even got there).