I was looking for a new notebook to do some character and adventure spitballing — I still tend to do my initial ideas on paper, because I can draw relation diagrams, etc. easier with pen and paper than using a computer. This one had been purchased while i was still working as an intelligence analyst, and had some of the historical incidents that I was working on as examples of how we could model rubrics to look for success/failure points in a plan. I could also see the notes for personal stuff — how I was paying down debt, getting the household budget in order. There was a folder with all my final paperwork and lay off letter of recommendation from my boss (tepid, at best.)

Then there were the gaming notes — the various iterations of characters that would not be used for games that would not come off. These would surface again and again, steadily maturing into the characters now being used in the various campaigns. It was an fascinating look into how my mind was working at the time. Each page was cluttered with ideas for various game campaigns, sometimes on the same page. Characters written and rewritten, sometimes for different games than originally intended. Notes on games that were running at the time. House rules cobbled together on the fly (one set of which should hit the blog soon…)

And all through these notes, the long lists of job searches, check-marked for those applied to, Xs for those i was not qualified for for whatever reason, underlined if they called for an interview (almost none of these.) More household finance stuff — what I could get for selling things, numbers to call for the TA position paperwork that went “missing”, notes for my comprehensive exams. How much my wife at the time could expect from life insurance pay outs and notes on locations to stage a spectacular motorcycle crash.

There was increasing desperation in the notes, but the game creation was occasionally inspired! This was the period of the superb Gorilla Ace! setting. The excellent Battlestar Galactica campaign I didn’t want to end, but which would after my divorce. Ideas for mashing Jovian Chronicles with Transhuman Space, resurrecting my old Space: 1889 campaign with the Ubiquity rules (Hollow Earth Expedition) — similar to the Leagues of Adventure game recently out. A new Star Trek campaign set in the old show period, but a new universe (before the release of the Abrams film.)

It was obvious, looking back, that I was desperate to find a job, save my family finances, and my mind was so addled by the pressures of these things, comprehensive exams, freelance writing jobs, and general unhappiness, that my mind could not alight anywhere with certainty. But this was where the core ideas for the current Hannibal Drake Hollow Earth Expedition,  Galactica, and the now on-the-backburner Supernatural campaigns got their start.

Then came the break in 2010. After a trip home to Scotland, I decided to fix my life. The notes become more orderly. Characters and plot ideas are mostly grouped together. There’s none of the frenetic quality of the early section of the notebook. Characters still get written and rewritten; they drifted from one player they were initially designed for to other players, sometimes new. Sometimes these changes made the characters better, as they turn out to be a better fit for the player; sometimes not. (Often the players let me design for them to create more cohesive characters for the campaigns [with their input, of course.]) Campaign notes get more pointed, more coherent, and I could see where the bones of the current, very good, BSG game were coming together. There were notes for new player contacts, a few that didn’t pan out, one that was excellent but is sadly looking to be headed for the past, and another that we are determined to find a way to keep, even though he’s GTT.

Cracking open the notebook gave me a look into my own thought processes — however glancingly — over the period of  2008-2011. It gave me some insight into my thought processes regarding campaign design: the intent of the games from a storytelling standpoint, the metaphors I wanted to use, the character types I wanted to see the players engage, and other ideas used and otherwise. Crack open those old notes every once and a while…you might rediscover something useful.

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