I’ve started, and decided not to finish, a number of tabletop game systems in my time. Most of them are from long long ago, such as the Final Fantasy VII system, the Metal Gear Solid system, and the Starcraft system (the latter of which I was really only working on as a gift for my girlfriend at the time). Since I began writing Papers & Pencils, I’ve toyed with a few new system ideas, but for the most part I haven’t mentioned them here. I always feel embarrassed and a little guilty when I inevitably decide not to finish something. Doing that on display for the whole Internet to see is even worse. That’s how I felt when I stopped developing LOZAS, and it’s why I’ve never mentioned Rocksfall in the body of a post until now.
To a degree, these feelings are justified. The world is filled with failed writers and game designers who start a lot of projects and never finish any of them. When a person starts a creative project, ideas are flying around in their head at lightning speed. They can hardly put them down on paper fast enough! But large projects, by very nature, can’t be finished quickly, and inevitably, the project starts to run into snags. It’s discouraging, but the cold truth is that no significant work has ever been completed without its creator running into snags which needed to be overcome. Follow-through is one of the most important skills for any budding creator to master. It’s a skill I’m still working on in myself, and that knowledge contributes to my guilt and embarrassment whenever I decide to end a project.
But during my hiatus, I came to a little realization. My LOZAS game, despite being a failed project, did produce some interesting results. The experience mechanic I developed sparked a lot of interesting conversation. And even though it won’t get a chance to be used in LOZAS, it could very easily end up in other games later. Other mechanics I worked on were not as generally popular, but I like them and will likely re-use them in future projects. The way magic worked in that game remains highly interesting to me, and I would very much like to see it developed further.
LOZAS failed, but LOZAS gave me tools and ideas which I’m taking with me as I move forward to other projects. What other tools might I find if I explored other ideas I’ve had? Ideas I’ve specifically avoided developing because I knew I wouldn’t finish them? Yes, it’s important to follow through on the projects I’m taking seriously, but perhaps I shouldn’t expect every project I start to be serious. Perhaps I can start designing a Final Fantasy VI tabletop RPG as an exercise, with no intention of finishing it. Maybe I can get a few good posts out of it, learn a few interesting things, and then move on without embarrassment or guilt, because it’s not a failure of my ability to follow through, it’s merely the natural end of a project which was never intended to be worked to completion.