I used to play role playing games in High School. Namely, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Role Playing game. I was the GM. I played almost every weekend with my brother and my best friend–the center of the football team. I loved those games. I think we ignored half the rules, but the stories we created are still some of my best memories from that time.

Jump to today and my kids have gotten to the age where they are starting to stretch their storytelling wings a bit. I’ve helped them along with that by talking about stories and doing NaNoWriMo with them, but I held off a bit on playing RPGs with them. I bought all the D&D 5th edition books, but the amount of crap you have to keep track of to play even a simple game is astounding. It ended up being too much work for me and we never really got into playing. I remembered it being all about a shared story that we would create together, but D&D just felt like accounting most of the time.

Then I heard about the Open Legend RPG system. It was just as their Kickstarter was starting. I dove into the rules that are freely posted on their website and liked what I saw. I could tell right away that this project had a mission, and it was being driven with a passion by its creator, Brian Feister. In fact, right on the front page, the system’s Mission Statement is proudly displayed:

Open Legend is a streamlined system designed to let you tell big stories using small rules.

And it does that, very well. Since the system is open source, there are many rules discussions that go on about adding or changing rules and if there’s anything I’ve seen from these discussions, it’s that Brian will never complicate these rules. Brian has a mission and a vision; to create a set of rules that are simple and flexible and don’t get in the way of a good story. If a new rules supports that, it’s in. If it doesn’t, it’s rejected with great prejudice.

You see, Brian is a craftsman. He has a vision and he cares enough about that vision to say “No” to things that won’t get him where he wants to go.

The same has been said of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. They have personal philosophies that drive their work. They aren’t out to please everyone but they are out to make an impact, to accomplish what they see as important. To follow their vision. And that’s what all successful craftspeople do.

This is something that I struggled with for a long time. I can do anything, so what the heck do I want to do? Without a framework in which to choose what I say no to versus what I say yes to, I could never focus my energies enough to make a real impact. So I’ve started stepping back recently and am trying to decide, what kind of impact do I most want to make? What do I find fulfilling and how can I leverage my experience to focus my energy in those directions?

I think this is the next level that I need to get to. I’m working it out and I also think that hearing from you has been a big help in that regard. If you find any of my writing here helpful or interesting, let me know. Send me an email at joe@jerickson.net or fill out the contact us form and tell me about your struggles. If my past students are any indication, I usually have a helpful tip or two to pass on.

One thing I do find fulfilling now–playing role playing games with my daughters. Thanks to Open Legend and Brian’s vision, I can now continue a tradition from my childhood with my children and delve deep into our imaginations and create whole new worlds, together. I hope it’s as memorable for them as it was for me.