Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the US, a time of plentiful food and good cheer for many. Unfortunately, fevers have broken out among my relatives, so we’re staying apart for at least a few days in hopes that we can prevent spreading disease to each other. We’ll have a day of turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and all the desserts a little later. Maybe Saturday will be our day of gluttony this year.

A Day of Reflection, A Day away from Devices

When we head down to visit family, it’s rare for us to take along electronic devices. If you’re going to travel, you might as well pay attention to the people at the end of the trip. A big contributor, though, is the lack of wireless internet when visiting our relatives. Their house is one of the few places that I go today where I don’t expect the internet and its many distractions. Writing that underlines what an amazing change it’s been and how fast paced–ten years ago, I didn’t really expect to find the internet available outside of my home. When I did go somewhere with convenient internet, it’d still be useless to me unless I happened to have a laptop. Now, all the distractions are in my pocket all the time. A day or two when the world’s knowledge is less accessible feels strange, but it’s also an encouragement to ponder.

A day away from instant answers can make for a good day to mull ideas. While the commercials are running, or when the one TV is on a channel that you could care less about, drag out your gaming ideas. If you can take notes, do… but really, the day is good for pondering in odd chunks of time. Sure, you’ll have times when you’re talking with your cousin that you never see–but you’ll probably have a lot of down time. Borrow a few moments to brainstorm the next major plotline, or to daydream about a cool scene. Aunt Martha’s hip surgery story can probably hold for another few minutes.

Exercise Unusual Skills

For me, the holiday is also a day of practicing skills that rarely get a workout–like cooking dinner for large groups. Cooking alongside others is something I don’t do a lot of–it can be amazing to work together making something beautiful. My wife seeks the same sense of collaboration in band and the world of making music. I’d rather have a spatula in my hand… at least when it’s time for dessert.

Be alert when doing unusual things–they might spark thoughts that your daily routine doesn’t. For example, we pay particular attention to the china and centerpieces of our big feast–attention that we rarely if ever pay to place settings away from the holidays. Imagine an NPC who does think about whatever it is all the time–how is their life different? Are they jaded about the impact of a few well placed leaves on the buffet table after doing it dozens of times? Are they running a Martha Stewart like empire, or impressing aliens who believe that the precise angle of the place setting conveys deep respect, or are they sweating and trying to keep the museum’s donors happy?

Research NPCs

Your favorite uncle, who knows all the stats for his favorite players and teams? Your cousin who traveled the world fixing pipelines? A knowledgeable family member who works in a field entirely removed from anything you have experienced?

Ask them about the thing they’re great at, that they know so well. You might learn something interesting–a detail that makes the pipeline worker in your next game crackle with authenticity. You might come up with a convincing portrayal of the stats obsessed fan… that you twist into your VR coder who knows all the zero-G splatball players for the last thirty seasons… without ever glancing at his screen.

Happy Holidays… and Enjoy Your Feast!

If you’re lucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I hope that you have a wonderful time. Who knows, you might come away with a few plotlines, some interesting NPCs, and a few skills to work into upcoming games.