Authorial Voice

I’m not a big fan of “consensus”.

I think, especially in creative endeavors, that following a single driving vision is preferable to having something designed by a committee. Some folks are going to like it, some folks aren’t, and that’s okay. It’s the philosophy I followed with Castle of the Mad Archmage and Adventures Dark and Deep. I wrote those for myself, and if folks wanted to read it as well, that was great.

I noticed something the other day when going through some of my Greyhawk materials. In the late 1990’s, they stopped having author credits. They had design teams instead. There were exceptions, of course, but on the whole the later materials lacked a certain verve. The prose was mechanical, and the product so homogenized as to be lacking in a certain rough charm that the earlier materials had. Compare, for example, the “gold box” Greyhawk set with the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Sure, it can be argued, that the LGG is much more comprehensive; there’s no denying that. But personally, I find it somewhat soleless, and I think that’s because it is lacking in a single authorial voice.

That’s not to say that an author’s words are inviolate, and shouldn’t be touched by an editor or proofreader except in the most egregious of cases. But I do think that having a single author infuses a work with a certain personality that a design team just can’t match.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

5 thoughts on “Authorial Voice

  1. This is a personal beef of mine as well. I really do think that games that are the products of a single or a couple of authors sharing their mad love of the subject matter are generally more interesting both to read and to play. Nearly all my favorite RPGs are of this sort and one of the best things happening in the hobby today is the appearance of more games written in this fashion.

  2. Agree 1000%. Further, I really enjoy reading game books with a conversational tone where I feel like the author is talking to me over a cup of coffee. The only dry stuff should be the tables.

  3. I'd agree that "write by committee" general means weak material. But "sole author" isn't the only counterpoint. Sometimes a duo or trio can crank out something amazing that might not have been created otherwise. They need to have a consensus on the vision, sure, but it doesn't need to be one person.

    I think the difference is more of group of common elements versus a single underlying philosophy. Their are a lot of examples of great single-author works but then there are some dual-author works that are pretty good. Original D&D is co-authored and it turned out okay. 😉

    I am probably biased, though – my hands-down best work was co-authored. We both knew what we wanted, and fed off of each other's ideas of how to express and design what we wanted, to create a cohesive whole.

  4. Yeah, it definitely does depend on the authors in question. The Delta Green sourcebooks for CoC by Detwiller, Glancy, and Tynes are some of the most amazing RPG resources ever.

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