Why you’ll always be a hack Games Master.

It is a fact widely acknowledged that all true Games Masters handcraft the entirety of their world from scratch and refuse to draw any ‘inspiration’ (a nice word for stealing) from anything other than their own grey matter. You don’t know this yet. But you can change. I’ll tell you the story of how I learned this hard truth.

When I got into D&D I really loved the unique fantasy world it built, orcs, goblins, castles, enchanted forests, dark wizards, halflings. It was wonderful. Then I did some research and it turns out D&D is actually heavily inspired by the Lord of the Rings by Tolkein. Gygax and Arneson were hacks!

So I read Lord of the Rings and it was an incredible, rich piece of literature I thoroughly enjoyed. Until that is I did some research and it turns out he just stole it all from Norse mythology and of course Beowulf. Tolkein was a hack too!

So I decided to go further back and read Beowulf. At first I thought what an amazing original piece of work! What a truly unique tale. Then I did some research and it turns out the author just stole from the story of Bodvar Bjarki and interjected some recent historical events into the tale, the hack.

So I went back and read Hrólfs saga kraka but it turns out that story is just an example of the ‘Bear Son Tale’ and the hack who wrote Hrolfs saga just swapped the names around in the story.

So I went back to find the first example of the use of ‘the bear sons tale‘ and it turns out its in Book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey dating to 800 bc, in which Odysseus encounters polyphemus.

At last an original piece of work! And what a fantastic one too, danger, monsters, trickery, sailing, pathos. This had everything.

Then I did some more research and found out the Polyphemos story traces back to the Paleolithic period. Homer, much like his sneaky Odysseus character, stole it! There are over 50 recorded variants of this tale and beyond that they are lost. There’s no record of who, if anyone, actually thought of the story to begin with.

I left disillusioned. Would I ever find an original author, a unique piece of work? Was every author in history a hack?

After that I resolved never to be like one of these thieves. All the ideas I had would be purely my own and I would draw no ‘inspiration’ from anything but myself.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my true and original pieces.

I hope you learn to have similar standards.



Categories: RPG game master advice

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