Monday, February 9, 2015

Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham

Have you ever gotten to something from a roundabout way?

On RPG.net, on a thread, "Are there any books of Advice for RPG Players?", user king_kaboom mentioned Stephen King's novel, On Writing. My mom is a huge fan of Stephen King so I raided her library and sure enough, she had a copy of the book.

I quickly devoured it. If you're a writer, a person who wants to write, or just want to read a quick moving first person narration, On Writing should be right up your alley. Highly recommended.

But then, how did I get to Moon and Sixpence?

Stephen King, much like the original Dungeon Master's Guide, has his own 'Appendix N', but his is "And Furthermore, Part II: A Booklist". I've cribbed a few of the books for my next trip to Half-Price Books and looked on Amazon.

One of the books was a free version, Moon and Sixpence.

It's an well written first person tale of art and obsession. The title of the book comes from a saying that goes something like if you look at the moon too long, you'll miss the sixpence at your feet, with the opposite, if you look at the sixpence at your feet, you'll miss the moon. It's not necessarily up everyone's alley, but W Somerset Maugham does a great job and its a very readable novel.

The obsession that Charles Strickland has for art, pushes him to leave his wife, to neglect his health, to neglect his housing, to neglect the woman who seeks to fill a void in his heart.

Charles methodology is an interesting look at how motivation can influence a character. Is your character willing to leave his home behind? Is he willing to leave his family behind? Is he willing to leave his country behind? Is he willing to sacrifice his health?

In some games like the Hero system, the level of obsession can be tracked with how high the character has to roll to be inflicted with the disadvantage. The harder the disadvantage is to resist, the more points the character gets for it.

In some older game systems like Dungeons and Dragons, even with the newer edition, the methodology tends to fall more into 'role' playing than roll playing. For example, the old Fighter Handbook had numerous archetypes included Doomed Champion. Such dedication to playing a character of that morbid nature doesn't necessarily require game mechanics to enforce but does require a player who wants to showcase such an obsession.

In other venues, like the manga Berserk, Guts decides to leave his leader, Griffith, behind, so that he can become the greatest swordsman he can be. To test himself. To push himself. Mind you that motivation changes later but the level of obsession does not.