In his recent post, Blacknova outlined the effort and materials necessary to orchestrate a comprehensive, multi-author collaborative fiction project. Set in his expanding Kapteyn Universe, the “Clan Project” (as I’m calling it) is set to literally rewrite BattleTech history on a massive scale.
But what happens when an attempt is made to combine canon events with specific alterations? Say, the survival of Clan Wolverine and Widowmaker?
Chaos ensues, that’s what happens.
But chaos isn’t all that terrible when you’ve been given a foundation organized akin to building architectural plans, a.k.a. they’re super well planned. Still, when a basic idea hits the ground floor questions are bound to arise. In our case, our organized chaos was finding a suitable way to mash canon fiction with serious changes, and then getting the whole lot to play fictional nice. This is where a flexible and adaptable GM really shines. Perhaps this is positive commentary on Blacknova’s personality and leadership style, but in a major collaborative effort, it is important that the project leader keep an open mind. While it’s true the idea and universe is his, a collaboration often dictates some moderation – after all, those involved are lending their energy to bring the idea to fruition. With an open mind, a GM can illicit some surprising results from his volunteer work force. Blacknova exhibits this important trait and it shows. Being on the outside of the project, collaborators can provide fresh insight or a new approach that the original author may have missed. At the very least, this kind of internal discussion provides a whetstone for the original fiction; strengthening or destroying the idea. Either way, with a flexible methodology in play, a collaborative effort can produce some seriously spectacular results.
Sometimes, keeping an open mind is difficult for the GM to maintain and difficult for a collaborator to not abuse. The trick is to strive for balance. For our Clan Project, egos were placed to the wayside and the story remained at the forefront of the discussion, so no feathers were ruffled. Our internal discussion then became responsible for rewriting some of the key “mesh” points between canon text and our universe’s fictional requirements to produce a seamless narrative. While some ideas were discarded, the overall story was improved because of the effort – the all important endgame.
And while the main benefit of true collaboration is a better story, there is one more major side benefit a GM enjoys by keeping an open mind and working with his volunteers: Investment. A volunteer who sees his voice and ideas taken seriously or recognized by the GM becomes personally invested in the project and its continued success. Rather than simply working for the GM, a invested collaborator now works for “his” project. This kind of extra manpower plays an important role when the tell tale signs of tapering begin to appear around the edges of most fan-produced projects. Invested collaborators will happily pick up the slack of their less invested compatriots when they fall off the digital ledge, or help shoulder additional burdens saddled on them by an overwhelmed GM just so they can see their part in the narrative published.
It’s a benefit you shouldn’t scoff at either. Invested persons keep the BattleTech community strong. Without them, this game system wouldn’t be half as large as it is today.
So here’s to Open Minded GMs, Internal Discussion, Cross-Collaboration and Invested Individuals. With them we can produce one hell of an awesome fan community project.