Category Archives: Writing

What Are You Going to Do With It? Part Three

So, this is my final post in this particular series.  As  I mentioned in Part One, and with a direct reference to the amazing movie “Hook”, back in June I had a bit of an apostrophe.

 

 

The first goal that came out of that was to be stronger and more healthy than I had ever been before in my life.  The second goal was to get in shape and to run obstacle races.  Those are now in full swing.  Now, it’s time for me to go over the third, and possibly the most important, goal which came through that little “lightning to the top of my brain” experience.

I’m returning to being a writer.

You see, Life came around a little while ago and I kind of forgot I was a writer.   Like Peter in Hook, I got spun around in the world and forgot.  In this world of finances and internet and fun computer games and laundry and hiking and children and, well, all of that, it’s an easy thing to do.  I think it happens to all of us.  You forget your passion.  Like anything else, you get your hands full with everything else and, in haste, you set it down and forget it.

It seems odd you would treat your passion with such abandon but we do it, don’t we?  Your passion is important!  It’s what makes you YOU.  But, it’s easy to do.  We all have done it for one reason or another.  We do it out of Love, out of Survival and, yes, out of fear.  (I think it happens mostly out of fear but we’ll talk about that later.)

You passion comes whispering back to you in quiet moments.  For me it is always, “Hey, this would be a fun story.” or “You know that epic fantasy story you’ve had in your head.  You want to get back to that sometime?  If so, here’s a cool scene to write out.”

They come in during the half-asleep times or when I’m running or in the shower.  (My creative muse, for some reason, lives in the shower.  I really need her to show up more while I’m running…)  They come back and you wave your hand at them, sending them away.  “Not now!  I’ve got this THING to do.”

And they flitter away, flying off into the bushes.  But…

“Listen to us,” they pleadingly whisper.  “You’re supposed to do this, you know?”

They always come back.

I actually made the decision to do this back in July.  However, I wanted to have a month or so to get focused on my workouts, on being with family as we got through a transitional August and I wanted to get the rest of my RPG rules written.  However, I quietly made a very fierce goal with myself.  September.  Regardless of anything else going on, I’m starting this in September.

And so, I am.

Today.

I have several goals in this but most important is just the simple one of focus.  Like my workouts, I started slow.  I’ll start by looking at a few old stories of mine and starting edits.  I’ll start small batch writing on projects that interest me.  I’m not worried about the fire coming back and pounding out 3000 words.  That will come of it’s own.

I’m just going to, every day, turn my head to the writer’s block.

I know the momentum will build from there because that is what happens when you listen to your Passion.

Pre-game Session 3 – The Character

What’s a solo RPG game without a character to play?  To stick with the idea of everything being random I decided to throw a series of oracle cards that might give me an idea of the character I would play.

I drew five cards with the categories of Body, Mind, Dreams, Inner Character, Outer Character.  Here is what I got.

Body

Body

Mind

Mind

Dreams

Dreams

Inner Character

Inner Character

Outer Character

Outer Character

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Body – 6 of Pentacles.  This card is a tough one as its about generosity, sharing prosperity.  If Body is equal to health then you have someone in excellent health.  The first thing in my mind was a man, perhaps middle-aged, who is in excellent shape, successful and helping others.

Mind – King of Swords.  Nice.  A perfect card for this position and one that meshes well with the first card. I immediately thought of a general or a retired veteran with a keen strategic mind.  This character should have a very high intelligence with a no-nonsense attitude.

Dreams – 3 of Pentacles.  He wants to be known for creating something or building something.  I still get a very martial feel.  Perhaps he is done with the military life and has stepped out of that role so he can move out into the world and help people?  Perhaps he wants to build a business using those skills?  Perhaps becoming a consultant or starting a school for military training or tactics?

Inner Character – 6 of Cups.  Inside he is a very romantic person.  He enjoys beauty and children.  He himself can be very childlike.  He appreciates and fosters innocence though he himself has lost it.

Outer Character – 9 of Swords.  Woah, curveball.  Intense anxiety, nightmares.  His outer character is very rattled right now and perhaps he does not look as well put together to the public eye.  Inside he’s doing alright but he’s let the outside go.  Did something happen in his recent past to cause him to fall into anxiety?  To quit his job in the military?

With these starting points I think I have a beginning to work from to build a nice character.

I’m seeing a retired Field Marshall, a general or something similar.  Someone who has commanded others and had a lot of military experience.  He is decorated and well-liked.  He has numerous contacts and a decent social network.  He frequents museums, gardens and enjoys the beauty of the world.  For a long time he worked to protect that beauty feeling that his superior mind and physical strength were best applied with his rank.  I’m not sure yet what kind of military.  We’ll get there.

Something happened which caused him to intentionally announce his retirement from a life-long military career and to strike out into the world.  Whatever it was it rattled him and he frequently has nightmares and carries a “haunted” look about him.   He’s decided to set out into the world and away from the rank and file of the military which, based on his cards, were not allowing him to show his full potential.

I want more detail about the 9 of Swords.  What caused the 9 of Swords in the character’s life?

Read the rest of this entry

Writing and Gaming

Writing and gaming have always shared a symbiotic relationship in my life.  In a way, it’s a chicken and the egg type concept.  Back in the days of Billy Jean and zipper jackets, I was playing a lot of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons with my friends.  I imagine it took over our lives much to the same extent video games do today amongst the junior high and high schools of the world.  It was an escape but it was also an inspiration, a muse.  I’ve always been creative in one form or another and with my young brain already filled to the brim with Star Wars, Spiderman and Lord of the Rings, I gladly jumped in when tabletop gaming and miniature wargaming opened the doors of imagination.

I was drawing a lot then and, of course, I began drawing my characters, other characters, monsters, and landscapes.  I was frustrated though because I couldn’t express the stories I wanted to express as quickly as I wanted to through art.  There was cool stuff happening in some of those games and I wanted to talk about it, wanted to get it all down! Sketching and the comic book style of art I was doing at the time just wasn’t getting the job done.  (There was no lack of trying either!  I have a box of  badly drawn comic pages to prove it.)  For some reason, I had not made the jump from drawing about it to WRITING about it.

It started with a wild idea, my creative writing teacher and a journal.  The assignment in English class was to keep a journal for a few weeks about ourselves.  I was up for it but I realized it would be much more fun to write a journal about my RPG character.  Now THAT got my juices flowing!  I remember being scared to death to approach my teacher about the idea but I REALLY wanted to do it.  By the end of class I had mustered up and made my decision.  I would ask her.

Knowing much more now than I did then about education and teaching I think I have the clout to label her “amazing.”  When I first tried to explain the idea she was surprised and a little confused (remember, this was when no one knew what a role-playing game was) but something about the way I asked her must have signaled to some inner teacher instinct.  She agreed to the project but reinforced I would need to write every day in the journal.

Boy, that was a mistake.

When it came time to turn in the assignment, my folder was the thickest of the bunch.  My journal revolved around one of my characters and his life with his traveling companions in a far-away fantasy world.  It was nothing fantastic.  It was filled with tedium and held no solid plot line what so ever.  However, the spark had caught the tinder and I began to see the creative connection between what was happening in my mind’s eye when around a game table and writing it out so others could read it.

What happened next sealed the deal. About a week later (after she had actually READ my entire journal and turned it back to me with an A+) my teacher asked me to meet her during some resource/study hall time.  I wondered if I was in trouble for something but she comforted me and said she just wanted to show me a few things about the journal I had written.  When I met her she sat me down, took that misshaped lump of clay, and began to talk to me about plot lines, plot twists, themes, character development, and showing me how the journal contained numerous options and ideas to expand on.  She encouraged me to keep writing.

And, in fits and starts, I have.

It was an amazing gift and sometimes I’ve wondered if I’ve squandered it, not respected it for how rare and special of an event it was.   I’ve written a lot since that meeting with her.  Small stories for myself, fictional piece for my classes and I’ve written about my gaming.  I’ve written up storylines for games for fellow players to play through.  I’ve played in role-playing games and then written stories to fill the gap between adventures or add more detail to a character.  I spent numerous years on City of Heroes and I ladled thousands of words into my character’s story and spent hours researching his background so it would fit into the world yet be original.  I’m currently doing some of the same for my LOTRO character.   Writing and gaming, gaming and writing but through it all I’ve never seen a dime for anything I’ve written.  Matter of fact, it’s only just in the past year that I decided to get serious about the idea of publication.

Does that mean it’s been squandered?

I dunno.  Maybe?  Kinda?  Sorta?  I guess time will tell.

This time around, in between family, hikes, gardening, mowing, work and play, I plan on doing things a little differently.  This time I’m using this blog, some solo game mechanics and the creative whirlygigs in my head to do something I’ve always enjoyed doing, taking a whole handful of completely random results, events and some creativity to lay out not just some gaming report but a story set in a vibrant never-never world.  Gaming does this for me.  It takes these odd bits of pieces and turns them into a playing field for my muse.  The less I know going in, the more I love the challenge.  This time around, when I do it, I’ll be showing both sides of the curtain.  More on that in an upcoming post!

As for the writing, well, I think I’ll always be invested into it in some way.  I’ll always be writing.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to not tell a story.  I have far-flung ideas of getting my stories out there, connecting with other folks through my writing, and maybe even making a few coin on them from time to time.  As I grow a bit more wise, I’ve come to find out that it’s very important to just create, to do, to forge and present what you like to do.  When I was young I was overly concerned with making a buck on what I was creating.  I think it’s what was powering my fear which, in turn, actually kept me from doing it!  These days, I see that the most important thing you can do is share what you have fun at doing.

End of Winter

For the first time in a few years we are experiencing an actual Winter in the Midwest.    It hit  around the Winter Solstice and it’s not let up since.  Snow, sleet, and ice have been our constant companions.  I have always enjoyed this time of year and the feel of cold air.  It lets me know I’m alive.  This year, for the first time in a long time, I’m ready to be done.

Our house has been pretty cold this year.  I’m sure that’s part of it.  Even with the wood stove going, the exterior rooms get pretty chilly.  It’s not unusual to have a coat on over your sweater or, my favorite, wrapping a favorite blanket around you.  I’ve lived in colder housing, that is for sure.  Two winters in a yurt will change your perspective of cold weather for the rest of your life.  Still, I’m noticing the cold is starting to get to me.  Maybe it’s just the constant gray?

Earlier this week and before the current round of bleary weather moved in I listened to the siren call of our woods and took a small hike after work.  The woods were quiet, still and damp as I slowly worked my way down the steep ridge and to my goal, the creek.  To my right I heard the snapping of branches and saw something that warmed my heart.  A whitetail doe moving through, limping on her three good legs.

I first saw her just before the blizzard in December and I was worried for her.  She had either been hit by a car or had taken a fall somewhere because a bloody wound, most likely a break, could be seen up near her right front shoulder.  In the blizzard she was desperately trying to make her way through the rising snowfall and I watched her finally settle using some brush and stone as a windbreak.   I was concerned she would not make it through the next few days but I knew there was little I could do for her.  I did take vegetable bits out to the wood line for her once a week or so but, regardless, Nature would take her course.  A week after the storm, I saw her again.  Then, nothing for many many weeks.  I assumed that she had fallen to Winter and I made the decision to go looking for her body when the weather broke in the Spring.

Making my walk down the hill I could plainly see I had been mistaken.  She was moving better than before and, alarmed by my presence, she worked herself away, limping and hopping between the bare trees and the grey stones lying on the hillside.  I stood still and gave her no further cause to run or panic.  Seeing her gave me perspective and made me smile.  What a powerful lesson about survival.

It’s been snowing and cloudy here for about four days straight.  The wind this week is a damp one which cuts into your exposed skin if you are out too long.  I needed a break from work yesterday and took a stroll.  I was thinking about how much I was craving the sunshine, some warmth and, if possible, a bit of color.   Walking by a maple tree I noticed it’s tips were the very first red-brown buds.  I took it as a promise.

A message which whispers, “just a few more weeks.”

Goals for 2013

Yeah, yeah, I’m behind on my resolutions.  As mentioned previously, the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 was not “normal” for us at the Yoteden.  Between a new job, holidays, blizzards, a funeral and rampaging flu I’ve been a bit busy.  What this means is that although I had time to think about my goals and resolutions I just didn’t have the time to get them written.  I’d like to correct it with this post.

So, below, I’ve listed a few things that have been on my mind and that I would like to pursue in the coming year.  This is not all of them but it does include the ones which seem to be front-loaded in my memory.

And to think, some actually have something to do with this blog!

Goals for 2013

  • Write at least a post a week on Yoteden.  Whether it be about gaming, family or nature, I plan to get in at least one good post a week.  I would like to do more but I also want to be realistic.
  • More physically fit.  Finish up my 100 pushups challenge and then completing the 100 sit-up challenge while restarting the 100 pushups challenge.  Wash/Rinse/Repeat
  • Start a sandbox solo RPG game world which I will feature here.
  • Start putting up more gaming posts featuring NPCs, Gaming aids and other related material for gaming.
  • More hiking.  More camping. More fishing –> with the kids.
  • At least three no-frills, light gear only, hikes/camp outs.
  • Be successful in lighting a bow drill fire from hand gathered materials.  (I have come SO close lately.)
  • Forage, build and use successfully a primitive fishing set from bush materials.
  • Pursue a historical project that I’ve been thinking about for the past year or so.  It will be featured here on the blog.
  • Write more fiction and get at least four items (short stories, more likely) submitted.
  • Work towards getting a better digital recorder for audio sessions.
  • Have my demo reel for audio work done by late summer.
  • Attend at least three training sessions for my new job and read at least 6 books on the subject.

One caveat to all of this.  I’m currently up in the middle of the night recovering from said rampaging flu.  I may look at this tomorrow morning and laugh and laugh.   Regardless, I’m going to be brave and put it up here for all to see.

Story Cube NPC

Over on Solo Nexus, JF put together something fun which was to create an NPC for roleplaying with  random rolls of Rory’s Story Cubes.  For those non-gamers, an NPC is a non-player character which is a story character NOT played by one of the players.  For example, the bartender at the local bar, a city guard or a player character’s family member.

NPCExample

This should clear things up, right?

The story cubes are nine different dice that each have a different symbol on them.  The symbols and images are what you use to tell a story.  The idea is that the image on the die can be used in any way to spur an idea for the character.  By using the dice with three sets of three questions you are able to put together a random character for the player characters to encounter.  You could also do this for a player character or for a writing exercise.  You also don’t need Story Cubes.  You could do this with any sort of randomizer.  For instance, you could use Magic the Gathering cards, Tarot cards or even “Random page” on Wikipedia.

Directions: You roll three of the Story Cubes, one for each question in the sets below.  You can mix and match those three dice with any of the three questions.  Once you roll those three dice, you can’t use those particular dice again for the remainder of the exercise.  IE: grab another three for the next set of questions.  Easy, right?

I love this kind of creativity and decided to give it a go with my own set of dice.

StoryCubes
It’s easier to first decide the setting of the game world.  For this run I’m going to create a NPC in a fantasy adventure setting.  I’m not sure how they will turn out but with a little tweaking I’m sure the NPC could fit into any setting.  A random 50/50 die roll tells me the character is a female.

The first set of questions —

Obvious NPC Story Elements

1. The NPC’s role in the world: discerned by clothes, demeanor, initial introduction, etc.
2. The NPC’s current home or home-base: learned through initial introduction, casual conversation, etc.
3. The NPC’s signature/unique talent: learned through casual conversation, simple getting-to-know-you questions, etc

Taking three dice I roll the symbols for a cane, a rainbow and a single die (dice).

NPC01
1. Role in the World – Rainbow.  This character is particularly cheerful and pleasant most of the time.  The demeanor is not meant to be offensive or rude.  She is just a positive person with a happy, cheerful attitude.  Her clothing tends to be brightly colored and stylish.  Though not always carrying a smile she is almost always in a good mood.

2. Current home or home base – Cane.  (Here I decide to use the cane as a symbol for something older.)  This character lives in an older side of town known for its antique homes and architecture.  Whether they live in a well-to-do heritage house or an older run down antique home is not known.  She is known, however, as someone who comes from the “old” side of town.  This could indicate an old family lineage with some wealth or someone that was lucky enough to buy one of the older, run down homes.

3. Signature/Unique Talent — Dice.  This character can see the odds and gamble like nobody’s business.  She has an uncanny ability to be lucky for herself and others.  Of course, she’s also a gambler.  She knows how to play cards, dice games or any other wager that is designed to take your money.  She also knows how to look at a situation and weigh the odds successfully most of the time.  It’s her gift and a bit of a curse.

I’ve got a decent picture of her so far.  I’ll grab three more dice and give a roll for the second set of questions.  This time I get the Moon, a Fountain, and a Clock.

NPC02

Personal NPC Story Elements

4. The NPC’s special knowledge about others: requires a bit of trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
5. The NPC’s special item/tool/useful possession: requires a bit more trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
6. The NPC’s ally/allegiance to a group or organization: requires the certainty that the PC is not an adversary to the ally or     allied group or shares their POV.

4. Special knowledge about others – Clock.  She has a very special knowledge about the timing of not only important people but important matters in the city.  Not only does she know the coming and goings of important officials to and from the casinos and taverns she frequents but she also seems to have an uncanny ability to know the progress and timing of events about to happen.

5. Special Item/Tool/Useful Possession – Fountain.  From living in the city or area for so long, she knows a great deal about the city/village itself and more importantly a secret network of tunnels that connect all the parks in the city.  This also works nicely with #6 below.

6. Ally/Allegiance to a group – Moon.  She is an ally with a group of female mages and witches that often come through the city called the Order of the Alabaster Moon.  Matter of fact, she is one of their agents and she reports to them what she can glean from her time around the taverns and casinos of the city (which, with her ability, tends to be quite a bit!)

Time for the final round of dice, Round Three! For this final roll I roll the last three Story Cubes and get… A Foot, Smiley Face, and Chaos Star.

NPC03
Intimate NPC Story Elements

7. A past experience that has shaped the NPC’s current self.
8. A present situation that the NPC is embroiled in that could affect the PC directly or indirectly.
9. A future goal the NPC is hoping to attain…could the PC help?

7. Past Experience — Happy Face.  In the past she inherited her current home and resources from a relative.  It was a favorite uncle, aunt, grandparent who she loved dearly.  It is a great happiness and honor to her to own and care for the home and her place in the city.  Up until now, things have been very good for her.

8. Present Situation — Chaos Star.  Troubling and chaotic times have fallen on her.  She has lost connection to her sisters in the Order of the Alabaster Moon as well as hearing troubling news coming from the taverns and casinos of a new, thieves guild based gambling ring which wants to run out all contenders.  Chaotic times have appeared in her life.

9. Future goal — The Foot.   She would like to travel, perhaps to a far-away famous landmark or city.  Perhaps she could journey for a short time with the PC’s and help them with their luck?  Of course, before she could leave her home she would need to settle this problem with the thieves guild gambling ring and/or make connection to her Sisters again.  Perhaps she has a trip planned and the only thing standing in the way is her disconnection to her Sisters.  Surely the PC’s could help find out what is going on?

And, done.  What we have is a really good NPC which only needs a moderate amount of fleshing out to be done and perhaps given stats based on what system you would like to use.   Since it’s a fantasy setting we haven’t really chosen race or age yet.  You could do that with more random die rolls or just go with what feels right.

For instance, in this case, I would have to go with a human or, possibly, a half-elf.  Depending on her age she could become a love interest for a male PC or an adventuring pal for a fellow sister.  Perhaps one of the PC’s have a connection to or is one of the sisters of the Order of the Alabaster Moon and they need to contact this NPC regarding an issue or for information?

And to think, I don’t even have a name for her!

Any ideas?

Next up – Doing the same thing with nine tarot cards!