Saturday, April 6, 2013

Two Kinds of Cooking

When cooking there are two main ways to reach the desired result: an edible, and possibly delicious, meal. There is the familiar method, beloved of publishers, where the cook follows a detailed recipe, step-by-step, with everything weighed, measured and timed. Then there is another method, where the cook knows how different ingredients and techniques work and improvises and invents his way to a meal.

For publishers and to transfer information the former method is certainly more attractive. With detailed recipes there is a familiar format to follow and the opportunity to continually produce new recipes. This is not surprising, since the number of potential new recipes is practically infinite.

However, for actually cooking, I think the second method is far better, faster and more fun. When a cook understands the tools and ingredients at his disposal, each meal can be an improv session. Admittedly, now and again, my meals don't turn out that great. My skills aren't perfect, after all! But meals also sometimes go completely wrong, despite following a recipe to the letter.

In table-top role-playing games I notice the exact same thing applies. Most of the production of materials is concerned with detailed recipes: campaign settings, adventures, spell lists, bestiaries, classes, rules. Even the format of a monster stat block in most variants of D&D resembles a cookbook's recipe!

And yet, I dungeon-master games the same way I cook: by understanding the tools and ingredients I have to work with and improvising from there. I also use game books the same way I use cookbooks: to get ideas that I can then try out in my own way in my own time.

I think I am not alone in this, and I would like to see more game materials and more cookbooks that focused on skills, ingredients and techniques, rather than on fixed recipes.

So, I am going to try to write the way I think is useful and gather links I find entertaining right here.

On this blog.

Slowly, and over time.