I just wanted to boost the signal from my game blog. I was able to finally accomplish the goal of getting my roleplaying game rules finished. The rules are called the Chronicles RPG Core Set. They’re focused on a more narrative style of play with only a moderate crunch in terms of modifiers and numbers. I’ll be putting up all sorts of examples over the weeks to come as well as adventures, etc.
So, if you are into that sort of thing and would like to know more, head on over to Yoteden’s Gametime and grab yourself a copy of the rules. They’re free and remain that way for as long as I have anything to say about it!
Thanks and more to come soon!
What follows is a lengthy response to the question, “Why do I bullet journal?” When I started this post I was assuming it would be about 200 words; nice and neat. As it sometimes happens when you journal it turned into something a bit more. It became about my journey and about where I am now.
If you really don’t want to hear about the details, I’ll give you the quick version and you can keep moving. Ready?
I bullet journal to keep my damaged brain working the way I want it to work.
There ya go. Nothing more to read here! Move along..
If you’d like to hear more then the path lies directly ahead. 😀
A Quick Oak Gall Ink update
We are coming up on the end of the two week period of the oak galls soaking in their mixture. Unfortunately, on day 14, I will be gone all day performing on the Firefhouse Follies Radio Show which I’m going to link here because you KNOW you want to give it a listen! (Sunday, 3/5, 4 PM EST, Live on the air and the internet!) The plan is to take an evening after work to finally get the ink together and to see how it all goes.
My newest addition to the experiment has been deciding to extract my own iron mixture. The plan is to use a little of it for part of the mixture and then ferrous sulfate for the other half. This way, I can see if the homemade iron mixture works at all while still (hopefully) getting some working ink from the basic recipe.
Again, this is all experimentation on my part, my idea of having fun. I really don’t know what I’m doing. As long as I don’t explode something in my kitchen I should be ok and can continue to live with the ever-patient Otter Wife! If nothing else, the folks out there reading this that do know what you are doing can get a chuckle. I’m not proud. For some light chemistry reading, check out this link.
I created the iron mixture this way. On my latest walk to my nearby creek, I kept my eyes open for rusty bits of metal. I found a nail and some other unidentifiable bits and deemed my quest a success! (The glob of “stuff” on the left is a chunk of pine tar I foraged to add to my fire pouch.)
After some pounding and bending, I placed these in a baby food jar with a solution of white vinegar and water. I used one tblspn vinegar to about 4 tblspn of water. Then, I let it sit. the vinegar goes to work on the metal and wah-lah you have, uh, something that should work! A similar thing works with vinegar and steel wool to create a wood stain.
The jars have been sitting now for several days in a window that gets sunlight every day for about 6 – 8 hours. Things are starting to look… funky.
My current prediction is that the ink that is created with the ferrous sulfate will probably turn out much better. The ink created by my goofy homebrew will be a bit more gray and possibly just crap. Both inky potions will still not be able to hold a candle to something I could go to the store to buy. See? Science!!!
Also, as a late addition, I stumbled upon this incredible link entitled Making Ink. It makes for some great information.
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.
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.
As I kick off this blog-restart, I want to write about one particular subject that changed things for me. It will be referenced in future posts but I promise I’ll try to keep the volume down a bit. I don’t want to sound like I am proselytizing. I just want to put it all in one place so it’s understandable to the audience when I reference it down the road. I want to give credit where credit is due before moving forward.
Back in the later months of last year I was having a pretty rough time. I was super stressed, not sleeping well and my anxiety was out of control. I had breakfast with a dear friend and they said to me, “You gotta get out of your head. Your mind has completely taken you over.” I brushed it off at first but he persisted, “Tell you what, have you ever heard of a guy named Eckhart Tolle?” He then went on about him, his ideas and his books, encouraged me to watch some youtube videos.
I’m not going to go much further than that because I think you see where this is headed. The next day I started to read a PDF copy of his book, “The Power of Now.” It immediately had my attention. Two days later, I owned a hardback copy and, to this day, I still carry it with me. I read the book in a week and then, in a funny set of circumstances, my wife stumbled across of a copy of “A New Earth” for a few bucks at a used book store. I devoured it as well.
Tolle’s main point in his work is that nothing in this world is more powerful than mindfulness in the present moment, the Now. Here is a saying that helps to sum up Tolle’s theme.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past, If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
~~ Lao Tzu ~~
It was perfect timing from the Universe at large. When I read the first book, it was like being handed the final piece of a puzzle. A puzzle I had been fussing over most of my adult life. I began to practice the simple things the book suggested. Over the course of a month wonderful things began to happen. I began to change internally and, because of this, the world began to change around me. I began to have energy again. I began to sleep again. A clarity began to emerge. I was laughing more. In the physical world, a new, less stressful and better paying job appeared out of nowhere.
I am not going to lie. The first month of November and the following holidays were hard. Tolle’s ideas are that our Ego, both a personal Ego and the overall Ego of humanity is out of control. In a Buddhist sense, we are letting the dark monkey lead the elephant. By taking on daily practice of awareness and mindfulness I was directly challenging the Ego. Needless to say, the Ego, who had been running the show for the past 40+ years, was not happy. The first few weeks I would literally have physical pain in my chest when I began to go into deep meditation. Random panic attacks would spring up over the silliest of things.
However, as Tolle recommended, I kept at it. I kept it simple and non-judgmental. Heck, I’m STILL working at it. I always will be. Yet, as the days and weeks and months went by I noticed improvements. My chest pain faded and in it’s place I started to feel a warmth. (I started calling it “hitting the groove.’) Then, I started to practice all day and I started to realize that I was, for the first time, having long periods of happiness. More importantly, I started to notice how many other people were not happy. I think that was, and is, the most painful part for me.
In March/April, I went through a pretty difficult life event. The lack of sleep arose like a returning demon. The tightness in my chest returned as I worked through the event. I was reminded of one of the most powerful phrases, “This too shall pass…” I used all the tools I had been given, floated onward and through the other side about as gracefully as I could have hoped. It was at that point, in late April, that I felt something deep down click, like tumblers in a lock, and I realized I had found something I can only call “my Way” again.
Yes, Eckhart Tolle changed my life. I owe quite a bit to him and I will never forget how I felt halfway through the “Power of Now“, how I consumed that book like a starving man at his first big meal. He, himself, states that all he is has done is take the great wisdom, from Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Taoism and many others and simply re-state it for modern consumption. In the end, it works and, for me, it’s powerful stuff.
So, as I move forward, I do so with these concepts in mind and I have no doubt it will leak through onto the pages of this blog. I will try to contain my excitement over them.
Up in the middle of the night. I’m watching Robin William’s clips. I’ve been watching or listening to him since I was 12 or 13. I had his first vinyl record and as a proper adolescent would listen to it in secret and with glee. As a youth, I memorized his skits.
Currently, thanks to the wonders of the 21st Century, I’m in the dead of the night watching him on talk shows. I’m watching how he interacted with the hosts, how focused and silly he could be. I’m seeing how much joy he carried for their own jokes and how, on a dime, he could be honest, serious, heartfelt and wise.
Still trying to make sense of things a few days ago, I wrote a blog post about it and, like the tears on the news of his passing, the words just kept coming out and made quite a mess. That blog post ended up not making much sense so, like kleenex, I tossed it.
In that tangle of emotion and words, however, there was one idea that did make sense. So, I wrote another one. This one.
Did we lose a light in the world? Yes. Yes, we did. However to say that and just move on with your life is no way to honor his part in it. “Thanks for coming to the party and for the laughs, Mr. Williams. Take care. Have a safe drive. Mind the traffic on your way home…”
No. I don’t think that’s what his life was about, what he came here to do.
The only way to truly honor his gifts is to make a conscious effort to keep the damned torch burning. It’s about stopping and making a decision to carry intelligent foolishness, to not take this life so damned serious. Be funny to one another, carry joy. To represent not HIS style of humor and caring, but YOUR OWN. More importantly, it is about having the courage to share it with others. Passing it on and lifting someone else up with a laugh or a smile or a joke who may be having a harder time than you.
I suppose THAT’s the only sense I’ve been able to make of it. It’s my sense. It’s time to keep it burning, share it. I can’t believe I’m the only one having trouble sleeping and processing the past few days. Maybe this has helped, maybe not. Ultimately you’re going to have to find your own in all of it and maybe this will help.
God speed, Mr. Williams. Thank you for the laughs, the wisdom and the Light. We’ll do our best to take it from here.
Due to the awesome amount of free time my family has due to the holiday, we have reserved this entire afternoon and evening for a game of Arkham Horror. We are starting in just a few moments (my son set up the board while I was working this morning) and in an attempt to out-geek my own self I plan to do a series of live tweets of my character and the gameplay.
My Twitter link is over there on the right and I will be using the hashtag #summerarkham when possible to catalog the tweets. I’ve always wanted to do this and I’m curious what kind of document will be created when it’s all over.
Follow along with the fun if ya want!
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 – 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?
When I first mentioned the idea of a solo sandbox game I knew I wanted to run a fantasy themed game. My gameworld idea I wanted to run with was nothing new to me. I created the first town and the first map somewhere in the late 1980’s. It became more solid and an actual creation with the first world map around 1989. It’s my Middle Earth. It’s my Neverland. I’ve run countless games in it, spent hours creating cities, building histories and, in general, breathing life into it. I enjoy sharing it with other people so it seems the perfect setting for this experiment. It seems perfect but it’s not that easy.
There are two complications. One is that part of this experiment / distraction is the setting needs to be built as randomly as possible. I want the joy, surprise and the challenge of building something from scattered random elements. This is hard to do with a setting you already know intimately! The second part is that, no offense, I have much larger plans for the world I spent over 20 years building. Hint – It involves a lot of writing and, more importantly, editing. Because of those larger plans it wouldn’t be a good idea to do large amounts of self-publishing here on this blog.
But I REALLY wanted to use that world setting!
The answer came along while I was going through an old box from my past. While pulling out old keepsakes, papers and items which make you wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?” I came across a cluster of gemstones. That’s right, I found a pile of old character sheets and notes from 8th/9th grade!
I really can’t tell you if it was like finding golden history or comedy gold. Amongst that raggedy pile of penciled happiness were three or four sheets of the FIRST game setting I created. A setting which had become utterly lost in my memory but which, within seconds of viewing it, brought back all the happy memories of working on it.
It wasn’t much more than a fleshed out idea at the time. An idea that I still really enjoy; a large island intended to be a savage environment set away from the mainland and overrun with all sorts of critters. It was my adolescent Mystery Monster Island. A mist enshrouded island of treasure, danger and death. Yay!
Wah-lah! I had my solution. Like a sandbox, I could place the island in the world but keep it separate. It could become this blog’s personal stomping grounds and I would still get to offer some of the great things I liked about the larger game world! To keep things as random as possible I would simply start with the concept of the island and nothing from the original hand drawn maps. (To be honest, considering the adolescent drawing skills involved, it would be for the better.) I had my setting. As an added bonus I hit upon a supplementary idea to the island, a secondary underlying concept which I think will really make it sing.
Allow me to introduce you to the setting.
In the Eastern Ocean, away from the more civilized lands of the Independant Cities there sits a large island. Whispered and rumored in scholarly circles to be the hub of an ancient civilization, it’s now known only as a savage, inhospitable place. A land that sits as a testament not only to the crushing power of Nature but to the twisted power of chaotic magicks set loose. No races call it home except for the numerous monstrous humanoids who live there. The small settlements which dare to carve out a living on it’s shores are home to those individuals whom, for one reason or another, have no where else to be. Some arrive out of prosecution, others out of desperation and a rare few arrive simply for the challenge of delving deeper into the island and possibly extracting treasure or knowledge from the stone ruins that blanket the island.
It is known by many names, “Blood Rock”, “The Anvil”, “Claw Island.” Most, however, continue to use it’s old world name which was found inscribed in different languages on a weathered stone obelisk overlooking the ruins of what could have been an ancient port city. The discovery, made by one of the last of the first exploration parties sent to the island centuries ago, was startling as the elven explorer uncovered an ancient elven word dating back thousand of years carved deep into the stone.
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.