Thursday, January 2, 2014

Learning from the Rear View Window: a 2013 Retrospective

While this past year has been challenging I've also had a lot of fun. So if you'll all excuse me for a few minutes I'd like to be self-indulgent and look back on what has worked for me, what's fallen flat, and what I've learned about my blog over the course of the last six months (I started this blog back on July 20, 2013).

What Didn't Work

Over the course of the last six months I've found that the thing I really don't do well is attempting to be someone else when I write. I'm not cut out to write like others and I had to come to terms with the fact that my only hope in being able to write a good post was to discover my own voice and speak as honestly as I could. Once I realized that my own writing became better, and my audience grew as a result. 

What Worked

I've been very fortunate this year as a lot of my individual projects worked and seemed to click with other bloggers out there. It's been really nice to get the positive feedback and to see my page views rise from the thousand I got in my first month of blogging to the 29,000 I got in December alone.  Over the course of the last three months in particular I've enjoyed some of the best discussions I've exprienced online and have even made a few friends that I never expected to encounter. 

That's pretty fucking awesome.

What I've Learned

The biggest thing that I've learned over this past year is that I'm not cut out to be someone else. I can only be me, and that means that I have to speak as honestly as I can. When I fool myself into believing that I need to perform in a certain way to maintain my audience and to provide them with what they're expecting I'm doing both of us a disservice. 

So steady on, son. 

My Favorite Posts of 2013

If You're Going to Be Evil I played in an evil one-shot several years ago and this is my story. It's in eight parts and you'll be able to easily move from one post to the next without having to search through the blog for each section.

The Great Blog Roll Call I woke up one night and got to thinking that part of the reason why we're all so insular in this hobby is because it's hard to find other blogs that are putting out great content. So I started working on a Best Reads of the Week column (which will be restarting this upcoming weekend), and it occurred to me if no one knows who I'm reading, and what they're about, that the column would be meaningless. And I started going through each of the 140 blogs I regularly followed, writing up a short little description of each, and adding a bit on their update schedules. I never expected the list to grow to over 240 blogs with more coming in every day. It's been a lot of fun and I'm hoping to update the list in April with some additional functions to make it better.

Let's Read, Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery After nearly ten years of looking for a copy of Role-Playing Mastery I found one for cheap in a local used bookstore. I had seen other bloggers talk about the book and even post quotes from it, but no one ever seemed to take the time to actually read it, commenting on the book as they went, and sharing it with the community. 

So I did.

I worked my way through the entire book quoting extensively from the book, discussing and commenting on it as I went (as it is legally possible to do so under Fair Use here in the United States). My hope is that people reading this series will purchase copies of Gary's book and we might actually see more of his works put back into active publishing rather than the bargain bin they've been relegated to.

Death in the Underbelly I started writing this post after talking with a friend of mine who took the view that our players are supposed to be ground into the dust. Naturally I disagreed with him.

The Living Dungeon One of the first bits of short fiction that I ever wrote for a Dungeons and Dragons project. I really like the idea of a sentient dungeon and this worked will for inspiring that bad boy.

The Revelers of Nusku I love it when the villains are people you wouldn't expect; and there is nothing better than when you find yourself completely off put by their actions.

A Short Bit on My Lovely Bride I was inspired by listening to the great poem, The Girl Who Reads, and wrote my own little bit dedicated to my wonderful bride. For those of you wondering, why poetry. Because bitches love sonnets.

Come at Them from the Side I've been asked about how I Dungeon Master before, and this little piece is a good example of how I run. I hit hard, and I make sure that they remember it by doing everything possible to make it memorable, fun, and engaging.

Drink Deep of the Nyr Dyv Sometimes I write poetry, and when it doesn't completely suck I post it here. I caught my wife sneaking to read this one twice over the course of two weeks. So it got put up on the blog

It's Easy to Forget I'm ending on this post because it was my reminder to not be a dick. It's so easy to forget that what we're doing doesn't make us better than other people. Just because you've been able to post over 200 articles in less than six months, or to write a 10,000 word post about an esoteric topic, it doesn't make you better than anyone else. This is a hobby and we all take what we're doing serious in one way or another, but when we forget to be kind to one and another - especially to new hobbyists - we're not making things better. Instead we're killing our hobby and ensuring that there is no new generation to carry on a love for the hobby. 

So learn this lesson in life: don't be a dick.

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