THE GOLD-BOX CORNER: WHY LIMITS ARE GOOD
I haven't written one of these articles in a long time. At this point, I'm not even sure if we have a newsletter anymore or if anyone is maintaining it. If they are, I hope they'll consider this article for whenever the next issue will emerge.
As of this writing in March of 2017, we are approaching what I hope will be the first of many community-wide one-week challenges. In such a challenge, designers are encouraged to build a module in FRUA (or DC) within seven days. They can utilize time prior to the challenge doing as much planning as they want, gathering any artwork or hacks that they will use and working out their main story. But, once they open FRUA and begin the designing process, they have seven days to get the module out to the community.
These rules aren't concrete, of course. Nobody's module would be shunned if they took two extra days or showed up a week late. Obviously, it's best if they don't. It's not a contest, but if designers release modules, I feel that everyone in the community wins. So, the two most important things are finishing and learning something while participating.
I participated in a similar challenge back in 2009 (and even wrote a Gold-Box Corner article about it then). It was a four-day challenge and I did produce a module from my effort. I learned a lot while doing it and suggested in that article that other people do it too. As far as I'm aware, no one followed up on that.
Eight years later (has it really been that long?), a conversation about perfectionism while creating modules appeared on the FRUA forums. I realized during that conversation that when I had done the four-day challenge, I didn't have time for perfectionism and mentioned that. During the course of the discussion, several people joined in on the idea that we should attempt to challenge the whole community to get a module done within a week.
I guess I'm an over-achiever. I did my module early while fighting a terrible flu. Nobody said I was smart. But, at least I did learn some things. What I learned was that limitations are good. Putting a limit on your plans can make getting to your end goal much, much easier.
From my own experiences, what helps me with these kinds of challenges is knowing I don't have time to complete an epic module. I always want to create fantastic epic modules that utilize all the text space in FRUA and have a ton of choices and directions that characters can go. That's great and all, but a lot of times these modules don't get completed. My hard drive is littered with a bunch of half-finished modules that I'd love to get done.
The challenges are different, though. Knowing I only have a certain amount of time forces me to do something smaller and manageable. I don't have the kind of free time I had back in the days I was working on my epic modules that took two years to complete. My desire to do them hasn't gone away, but my ability has fled the building.
Someone (I think maybe Harri Polsa) once designed a module for Dungeon Craft, where he had unlimited space to tell his story. And that person (again, it might have been Harri Polsa, but I could be wrong) later stated that the one nice thing about FRUA was that you were limited. Having unlimited options might make you want to add more and more content, putting your goal further out of reach. In development, they call this kind of thing scope creep, where you keep expanding the scope to add additional cool features you didn't plan. Eventually, you burn out or the whole thing collapses due to the extra work you've added.
The one-week challenge will definitely impose a limitation of time. Hand-in-hand with the limits of time will come limitations on project scope. No one will be producing massive and epic FRUA modules in a week. But, they will be producing modules. And maybe, just maybe, someone who competes in this challenge will take what they learned about limitations and deadline and apply that knowledge to a bigger project.
In the end, I hope that the FRUA (and DC) community will get more modules out of the challenge. I hope that if this article ever makes it into a future newsletter, people will remember the FIRST one-week challenge and think about how many other challenges have produced modules. I like that thought better than someone reading this article in the future and wondering what ever happened to the idea of the one-week challenge.
Hopefully, in the future, we're all playing a ton of new modules. Or making them.