DnD Post Game Analysis

After 20+ years of Not GM'ing, I was given the chance to lead a three session game, consisting of five player characters, in a setting that I created. The game took place in a mythical land of Guanlong: a magically hidden realm, controlled by an insane Mind Flayer Arcanist. The basic idea was that he would "summon" beings from different worlds, enslaving them, and using them for sustenance, or experimentation.
After being away from gaming for such a long time, I started back up as a player, about seven or eight months ago, playing a Rogue from 5th edition, in a campaign that a friend of mine was game master for. We started playing Tyranny of Dragons, but soon deviated from the path, and kind of went our own way. Some players went on vacation, but some of us didn't and we still wanted to do something, so I offered to GM a short game, to see if I could get back into the swing of leading the game.
I had an idea to read through some pre-written stuff, to make things easier for me, but decided to instead go for some home-brew content, and keep things simple. The story would be more combat oriented, and perhaps have a tad of social interaction thrown in. I really wanted to keep it simple, so that I wouldn't botch this first attempt back with too much to think about. Turns out it was the right decision to make, because I felt that I did a decent job.
I started by choosing a basic setting, something that interested me. I've always loved those old Bruce Lee movies, so I decided to do something asian-flavored. I rifled through the Monster Manual to find something that looked asian, and found that the Gith fit the bill. Along with the Gith, came some other related monsters, such as Grimlocks, Kua-toa's, and the Mind Flayer.
There was a lot more preparation than I had anticipated, and I felt myself thinking an aweful lot about how the game would go, what monsters to choose from, how many, what their stats would be, etc.
In any case, I finally settled on Zombies, Skeletons, Grimlocks, Flesh Golems, and Scarecrows, with the Mind Flayer as boss.
I also had to think about the terrain, because I wanted to give the group some feel of the playing field being more than just a two-dimensional map, so I made them appear on a cliff, and made it possible for them to choose from three different paths: Forest, Swamp, and Desert.
I did have some contingency plans in place, but after the first session, I realized that people are incredibly unpredictable! I learned that the stuff that I want them to do may never ever come up in a game, and so the most important thing would be to present the group with simple situations, rather than any pre-built encounters. Situations, I feel, are easier to come up with, and easier to control how, and when, they come up, and how they flow, overall.
I did find the hardest part of all was the role-playing, and getting into all the different NPC's that come along with the game. Not only do you have to "play" so many different characters, you also have to know what they will say at any given moment, or do at any given time. Perhaps I could have spent more time on creating "situations" for NPC's, and devising a strategy on how to handle the different scenario's that may come up.
All in all, I thought the experience very rewarding, and incredibly entertaining. I found that letting the player's decide their own fate was the key to my success. I presented the party with several situations that would somewhat open, yet still linear enough for me to control. I do think that a one-shot would have been better, rather than a 'short-shot'.
I may or may not GM again, only time will tell, but I will say that it has been a great experience, and one that everyone should try at least once in their role-playing life.

DnD Guanlong Session 3: The Finale!

We last saw the adventurers battle Scarecrows, and Flesh Golems, just outside the palace walls, meeting the Samurai for the first time.
This last session saw us missing another two players: Lokrim, and Thor. At the same time, we were also introduced to another new charachter, Skaar. Skaar is a half-orc barbarian that a friend plays in another game. With Thor and Lokrim missing, I found it suitable to have him enter as a captive, albeit in a weakened state.
So this session saw the adventurers deciding what to do, and how to prepare for the final showdown between them and the Samurai. They correctly took the opportunity to take a long rest, and to check out the occupied cages near the palace. They also checked out some of the cages along the cliffside, quickly realizing that they were all bearing emaciated captives.
After being freed from on of the cages, Draco was able to tell the party that the Samurai was actually a demented Mind Flayer Arcanist who hates magic, and who has imprisoned all of these beings to serve as either food, or to use in some cruel experiments. This mind flayer, whose name is Guan-Long, named this realm after himself, and ironically, uses magic to detect new beings within his realm, after which he sends his flesh golems to capture, and imprison. His mind is so twisted, and the loss of his hive was so great, that he actually severed most of his four tentacles, as penance for using magic, and in hopes that this would serve to help lead him back into the hives acceptance.
So the party checks some cages, and sees that at least on of them is holding Skaar. They soon let him out, and he joins the fight against the Samurai.
Meanwhile, the Samurai is himself preparing for the fight, casting Dominate Monster on Thor, who fails the saving throw, and is put under the Samurai's thrall.
As the warriors are discussing their plans, a Gibbering Mouther emerges from one of the portals, at the base of the palace. The battle is on!
Although they quickly dispatch the mouther, Skaar does take some serious damage, and needs to be healed. During the fight, though, another five Grimlocks emerge from another door, as does a flesh golem! They didn't think I would let them win that easily, did they?
After some time, and after spending some valuable resources, they finally finish off the monsters, only to face a relatively fresh mind flayer.
Although the battle is well fought, they did have to contend with a controlled Thor, and very few resources left to battle the sinister being. The mind flayer did assume some disadvantages though, as he was insane, and did severe his own tentacles, so I did not grant him advantage to his saving throws vs magic. I also limited his own use of magic to telekenesis, and force shield, or wall of force, as well as his various cantrips. Nonetheless, he was a mighty foe!
Even with those weaknesses in place, the warriors did take one hell of a beating, and both Thor and Draco went down. Still, they beat him eventually, with Avacyn getting the killing blow in, as an enraged mind flayer stood towering over a freshly fallen Draco. Caught off guard, Avacyn was able to remove the flayer's spine, ending his evil will over the land.

DnD: Guanlong Session 2

So in this second session, we were missing two pc's, Lokrim the Fighter, and Draco the Dragonborn bard. I had an idea on how to fit their absences into the story, and I think the session went rather well, despite being down two players.
The heroes last saw themselves fighting a bunch of skeletons, and a minotaur skeleton, a badass mofo with huge skeletal horns. A couple of flesh golems also saw their way into the combat, albeit from a distance, throwing boulders and zombies at unsuspecting warriors, from under the cover of an unnatural sandstorm.
Thor managed to turn several of the undead skeletons, making the fight easier than expected. I had hoped to roll better, but truth be told, my rolls were unusually low this night. Only the minotaur, and one other skeleton remained in battle, along with a flesh golem to the north of them, and another one to the south-east. Draco, meanwhile, was low on health, and fled to the south-east, exactly where one of the golems materialized.

    Yes, the golem's, and other baddies, the party soon realized, seemed to materialize anytime magic was used. It was fun seeing some of the players figure this out, and then use different methods to engage the enemies.

The party soon dispatched the remaining bags of bone, but not before Draco had been captured by one of the golems, and unceremoniously dragged to wherever they were going. Meanwhile, Lokrim had left the party under the influence of Genghis, the dwarf they had briefly met earlier, to do who knows what.
After the battle, the party followed the path that Genghis and Lokrim had taken, and soon met up with them (well, only Lokrim), in a cleverly engineered hiding spot, in the side of a mountain. Hidden from view, and safe from enemies, the party took a long rest, and decided to instead navigate the forests towards their destination, but not before Lokrim had told them what he and Genghis had spoken about.
The heroes discover that Genghis is actually a Duergar, changed by the magic of the place, into a neutral being, and not one of pure evil, hence why he is helpful to the party, in odd ways, like allowing them to use this safe haven.
After the rest, the party decides to head into the forest. As dm, I had planned some encounters here with kuo-toa and another more hideous beast. But pressed for time, and due to the nature of the short campaign (as well, as being inexperienced with water fighting), I decided to forego the forest fight, and head directly to the "pre-main-battle".
The group found themselves at the bottom of a great chasm, opposite a wall of cages, where it looks like beings are held captive. In fact, their lost friend, Draco, is seen being put into one of those cages by a flesh golem. The top of the cliff is about 100ft high, and the chasm is at least 25 feet across. The walls to the palace are scalable, but since they are made of polished stone, the climb would be exhausting, so the party decides to split the party into a group of one, and another group of two.

     Bad on me, I forgot about the absent party member, Lokrim. But in hindsight, and how the story will unfold, this kind of makes sense.

Thor decides to be Thor, and heads directly to Draco, crossing the questionable rope bridge (it doesn't break, and never was meant to, but it was entertaining to hear the group chatter about the possibilities of using this rope bridge somehow). Avacyn, and Lazarus (a Warlock replacing Guruuk), head right down the pipe, across a great bridge constructed of redwood trees, and rope.
To everyone's surprise, none of the beasts seem to notice them until they cross over into the palace territory, which is guarded by six scarecrows.
Naturally, the spellcasters of the party cast some spells, which, of course, causes flesh golems to materialize. This time only one golem materializes, guarding the bridge from retreat, but does not engage in combat, even though it had been attacked.
In the end, the party dispatches the scarecrows, with some good use of the battleground, and finally meets the "Samurai".
The Samurai telepathically speaks to them, suggesting that they rest and regroup, to prepare for an encounter between them and him. Although they could not notice anything specific about the Samurai, Avacyn did notice that he is equiped with a familiar looking Katana.

Hopefully the players enjoyed the session, as I was better prepared, and felt more comfortable rolling dice, and leading gameplay (to a small extent). Hopefully the finale will be one to remember!

DnD: Guanlong Session 1

So my session involves a group of "brave warriors" that have mysteriously appeared in the land of Guanlong. Heroes Thor, Lokrim, Avacyn, Draco, and Guruuk meet a fine warrior monk named Tenshu, who seems to have been there for quite some time, and who explained to the warriors what is going on. Essentially, there is this Samurai who has summoned beings from other worlds, realms, and planes, to do his bidding. Trapped in this land, the only means of escape, known to Tenshu, is to defeat this Samurai, and end the magic that has brought them all here.
Genghis, a dwarven warrior, in a most spectacular drop from a cliff, meets the group as well, but doesn't say much except to berate Tenshu for bringing such weak heroes as help. He soon leaves the group, to go back into the forest from whence he came.
The heroes, after introducing themselves to one another, take a quick look around, and see that they are on a ledge, high up the side of a mountain, with basically three routes to choose from. One leads straight upwards, to a desert land above. Another, to the East leads to swamp land, while yet another leads to where Genghis went: a forbidding forest.
The group decides to go up the cliff-side, grappling onto hand holds, and bracing themselves on any footings they can. Two clever heroes find vines to hold onto, or tie to themselves. After a relatively long climb, but before exhaustion could set in, the group finds themselves spread out across the cliff, standing on some stone platforms, about 50 feet up. They hear some eerie laughter coming from above them, as a giant boulder careens off the face of the rocks, where they are, just barely missing the group. There is another object thrown down at them (or did it just fall?), but this time, the thing lands on a ledge, where Lokrim and Avacyn are. It is a zombie!
Meanwhile, some 20 feet away, Guruuk, and Thor are finding out that the vines they held onto for support, were note merely vines. They were Vine Blights! A very short combat ensues, and the heroes find themselves quickly on their way, with Avacyn stealing the show, playing a very naive lady monk, who actually tries to bandage the zombie's wounds. Luckily, for them, Lokrim the fighter, tosses the thing off the ledge, where it lands near Tenshu. Guruuk easily mand handles the vine, as does Thor, with no apparent damages..."apparent"...mwahahahahahaaaaaaa!
They reach the top of the cliff, and find themselves staring into a desert landscape. A bright sun is radiating down upon them, and it is hot, but severely dry. A dust cloud, or sandstorm, is brewing, and fast approaching the group. With it comes some skeletons, and a Minotaur skeleton. As the battle begins, they hear a familiar voice calling to them...it's Genghis, calling from the forests, warning them of the perils they face on the sands. Unwilling to change focus, all but Avacyn stands their ground, waiting for the undead to come near.
Avacyn, waiting for Genghis to emerge from the trees, does not enter the fight just yet. At this time, Lokrim, Thor, Guruuk and Draco put sword to the test...will they succeed, or will they fail? Only the next session will tell this tale.

My New Beginning...as DM!

As you might have read, I recently began role playing again, with a bunch of old friends, and some new friends. The sessions have been great, and I have really been enjoying myself playing an Elven rogue.
After a few months of playing a charachter, I decided that I would give DM a go. Our group basically split up for vacation time, and we only have a few of us not going anywhere. I decided that I would make the experience a more or less linear one. I know, linear is boring, right? But I gotta start somewhere!

DnD Wars: A New Beginning

I've started playing DnD again. I used to play with friends when I was a wee lad, back in the 80's, but stopped for a number of years and a number of reasons. Work and life took over; the reality of fatherhood set in quickly enough, and I soon lost touch with role playing games, and other games, in general. Now a couple of decades later, I find myself once again delving into dungeons, chasing the almighty gold piece, and living a rogues dream. I admit though, it did feel a bit weird on day one. Maybe it's the age factor: I'm a lot older, and maybe just a little wiser.
Regardless, I did have a lot of fun getting into charachter, and coming up with some good ideas. By the way, we are playing something called, Tyranny of Dragons. If you don't know what it's about, I suggest you Google it, or get your hands on your own copy and read through it. I think the theme is pretty cool. I mean, what's not to love about Dragons, wizards, and rogues, hashing it out in a dungeon?
Besides having to re-learn the rules, I think I did quite well in the sessions we've managed to get through. There's been some ups and downs for sure, but all in all, I've had a blast playing with friends and strangers. The DM is good too, so that helps tons.
Now, to figure out how to get that spider-silk armor done sometime soon...

The Walking Dead: Why I think Daryl Got Whacked.

Spoiler Alert! Read on at your own risk.

So if you don't know who I am, or what I watch, I'm a big time Walking Dead fan. I just love the show, and what they've done with it. I don't think Fear is as good, and there have been a few weak episodes in the past, but TWD is, by far, my favorite show on TV. I read the compendiums, and I've played the game on XBOX 360. I buy the merchandise, and I go to bed thinking of zombie's...ok not quite, but you get the idea.

So the start of the new season is just around the corner, and all of us TWD watchers are trying to figure out who got caught on the business end of Lucille. In the books, of course, it's Glen. Glen, by the way, is my favorite character, both in the show and in the books (until he died of course), so I would just hate for it to be him. I think we need an asian guy playing a major character to keep living, in a main stream, big time production. But that's not why I don't think it's Glen. I honestly see Glen becoming a bigger part in the story. I can see him at the Hilltop, alongside Maggie, or even joining the Kingdom. Perhaps his story is done, but perhaps it isn't. I just think he has a bigger part to play.

Despite the plethora of material suggesting otherwise, my pick as to who dies, is Darryl. I know, I know...there are soooo many Daryl lovers out there, and so many people who study every frame of the trailer saying it has to be someone else, but there are a few compelling reasons why I think it's him.

1. He isn't in the books. This, by default, means that at, any point in time, he can be legitimately taken out of the picture without ruining it for us novel followers. I think his story has seen it's end, and his leaving the show won't do anything to impede its overall progress, or alter the main story, because he was never part of the original tale. Maybe this point is weak, but maybe it's not.

2. His story is done. I admit, I love Daryl,and I love his crossbow. I hated his brother, but loved his demise. Daryl had a great role to play in the first few seasons, bringing so much drama to the screen in the form of the "good" brother. We got to know him better as Beth got to know him better, and we got to love him, season after season, because he is just so fucking cool. Even so, I think his story is over. Daryl, for me, is this nomad biker guy who is this iconic voyager/scout type of dude, who made his mark in the first few seasons, as the group was striving to survive against hordes of dead, and even the living. Now with the Negan story in full throttle, I don't think he is so interesting any more. The crossbow is getting old, and his motorcycle thing already transferred over to his other project. The only story which might hold water would be something surrounding the guy with the burnt face...Dwight. Truth be told, I think Dwight might actually serve as the Daryl replacement.

3. Because all good things come in three's. Now this one may be a little weak...but here goes. Daryl already has several projects going on for him, and it makes sense to cash in on those, instead of on TWD. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like he does so many other things, that TWD might seem like beneath him now, in the sense that he is much bigger than a co-star, and can carry on as the big fucking cheese. I think he is just too big for the show, and that would actually make Rick Grimes into the co-star, which would be the end of TWD as we know it right now. We all know that Carl will eventually take a bigger role, so the show really doesn't need him. I guess the same could be argued against Glen in that the show doesn't really need him either, except that I don't think Glen is nearly as big, so him staying on the show wouldn't hurt anything. Of course, I'm Asian, so there's a little bit of brotherly love playing too.

4. And just because I wanted four reasons...If Glen does bite it, I'll probably cry, and I don't want to cry.

I'll Stand By You, If You Stand By Me

This evening I watched Stand By Me. If you haven't seen it, and you don't know what I'm talking about, it's an old movie, from the mid 80-'s, and based on a novella by Stephen King. It's a classic coming of age movie that I intend to show to my children as soon as I can. I think there is something to learn in this movie that, as a father, I find incredibly hard to explain: the magic of friendships.

Like your first kiss, how can you explain childhood friendship of having never experienced it? This movie is one of only a few that have ever made me feel incredibly at home. How do I explain that? I can't. I just can't, and even if I tried, my words wouldn't do it justice.

I'm a bit of a Wil Wheaton fan, and that was the main reason why I ended up watching that movie tonight. I urge you all to do the same, but not just to see four great actors as kids, but to see how a director makes magic - how a director can bring an idea to life in a way that I think we can all relate to somehow. Watch it for the idea's that come alive, that jump at you through the screen, and ask yourself how you feel.

Until then, I sincerely hope you guys watched it - they don't make movies like that anymore - and that's too bad.

Probability in Writing and Gaming

A friend of mine was asking when I would write about Probability. There's an inside joke here that's just too complicated to explain, so just take my word for it, and say it's funny. Anyways, I was wondering how I could relate probability to writing, because in gaming, well, you roll dice or something, and that's all there is to it, basically. For example, on a six sided die, you have equal chances of rolling any number from 1 through 6, so your probability of rolling any one of those numbers is 1/6. In writing, it's a little harder to figure out.

First let's choose an appropriate definition for probability, as taken from Dictionary.com.

Probability: a strong likelihood or chance of something.

So I was thinking about how my own stories unfold, and how some kind of something happens in them, and I realized that writing is all about expressing probable or less probable events, that happen in any given setting (well, for me anyway). This is what is traditionally called the Plot. The plot is the driving force behind any good story. You need something to happen, and that something, or that probable, or not so probable event, must be interesting, and in my opinion, drastic, while obeying the laws of probability. For example, let's say the hero in your story needs to do something really spectacular. If the chances are that your character will fail, then let him fail - don't play God unless that is the entire basis of your story. Your writing will be that much richer for it, and your readers will believe in it. I also think that your characters will be that much easier to relate to. I love reading about how a character progresses through both successes and failures; how they figure out how to do things on their own. I prefer seeing a character go through a realistic series of wins and losses, just how we do in real life, and how they eventually come out on top. It's just so satisfying to me when I can say I get what they're doing.

In any case, I urge you to think about the probability of events the next time you write - I know I will.

Walking, walking, everywhere...

So I've taken up the fine art of walking. Yup, you heard me: Walking. It may sound relatively boring, and easy, and not so difficult, but in all honesty, walking is amazing.

A few weeks ago I started feeling like shit, and I mean really like shit. I felt tired, and sick all the time. I was cranky and just pissed off at everything - kitchen sink included. It took heart palpitations, and chest pains to bust my balls enough to get moving. So I decided to walk, because mainly I'm not in any shape to run, and I really don't like running anyhow. It hurts my legs, and knees, and feet, and ankles, and fucking everything else that's connected. So running was def out.

My first walk took me 1.5hrs to complete, and I walked just over 6.5km. I was tired at the end of it. My feet were sore. I was sweating like a bull in heat, and I could barely finish it. But I did it. I went out the next few days, and then days turned into weeks. I now walk anywhere between 6 and 10km daily. Last week I put in over 40km total, and I've lost weight, feel better, am no longer as stressed, and I actually lost some tummy fat! Exercise is good - go figure!

Oh, and I do walk at a pretty fast pace - enough to make me breathe heavily, and boost my heart-rate to about 75-80% of my max. I think that's pretty good. I also took the time to think out my problems of the day, while admiring much of the city I live in. I notice more and more each and every time I go out. I wrote my short story while on my walk, just thinking of what I wanted to say, so walking is also creatively productive too. I've also been sleeping better, so there's an added bonus of sorts.

Maybe walking might not be the most intense activity out there, but it has helped me immensely, and I just can't get enough of it.

So whatever you do, just do it, dude! Walk on!

Sinking Ship of Creativity

So I've been thinking recently about how I want to continue writing this short story for the CBC Short Story contest. I let a friend read it, which felt weird, but oddly exhilarating, but I've put off editing it any further. I've hit a crucial point in my writing, I think, where the mo just ain't jo-ing.

What to do?

I think I've got an idea where I want this thing to go though, which is good. It's just that I get these sudden bursts of creativity, followed by lapses of creativity, which makes it hard to fully concentrate on delivering the goods when I need them delivered. So it's hard to finish what I've started - or no - it's hard to polish up what I've started. Finishing something crappy is pretty easy. Making it sound just right is fucking insane! I literally keep a thesaurus open, and a dictionary, just to make sure what I am writing makes sense. It's helped my vocabulary though, so there's that. I would encourage anyone to that too. It helped me tons.

Anyway, hopefully I'll get this thing finished, and at a point where it's good enough to let other people read it. The 25$ it's going to cost to submit it as an entry is irrelevant compared to crossing off this thing from my bucket list, so I'm all in on this one.

Wish me luck.

The Magicians

So right now I've started reading Lev Grossman's The Magicians. I saw it the other day while wandering the straits of Indigo in Laval. Along with one of those newfangled water bottles - the ones you can add fruit to a sieve type of thing inside - I picked up the first book of his Magicians trilogy. I had a good idea of what the story was about, in that it was supposed to be a mix of Harry Potter, and Narnia, with a dash of bad language. Which it isn't...but it's pretty close.

The basic story is about this adolescent genius, Quentin Coldwater, who basically gets a chance to go to a real magic school (Brakebills). For magicians...for five years...who will eventually fall into a discipline (House?). Sound familiar? Oh, and like Narnia, you can only get into Brakebills through some special event, like through a portal or doorway (closet, anyone?).

I've gotten about a third of the way in, and I am a bit disappointed, actually. Whereas the book is well written, the story is somewhat lagging. I don't feel any affinity to the main character either, nor do I for and of the supporting characters. There is simply no one that I am currently "rooting" for, in other words.

I like his take on magic, and how it works, but the idea, as much as I would like to think is better than J.K Rowlings', just isn't as a whole. I mean I like his vision of how magic works, and what you can do with it. I think that's bang on. I also think he writes better than JKR, so there's that. But it's missing that awesome story that came with one of the most brilliant evil doers of all time. Basically, from what I have right thus far, there ain't much substance behind the flash.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh, and maybe I'm not, so just judge for yourselves. Borrow the book, and read some lines. Who knows, once I'm done, I might edit this post to reflect a different opinion...either way, for now, I'd wait until it's on sale.

A Short Story Contest

The 2017 CBC short story contest will be open for submissions starting this September. This year, I intend on submitting something that I recently wrote, called In The Brine.

I'm not sure how it'll fare, and I'm not even sure how good it is, but one of my writing goals has been to enter an open contest like this. I have two published articles, in a regional magazine, so I figure what the heck. No shame in trying!

Hopefully some of my writer friends can lend me a hand, and let me know what they think of my piece. I'll be talking to you guys shortly. Maybe after I've done the contest, I'll post it online, and maybe you too can let me know what you think.

Until then, play safe, and be cool everyone.

Playing Oblivion

Have you heard of the game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? If you haven't, well basically it's an open world concept role playing game. It comes on several platforms, including the XBOX360, which is the console I am playing on, and I think it was released before 2010, which makes it old. However, I have a soft spot for older games, so I figured that I would finally play it through, from A to Z. The game is way too huge for me to review, or go through in detail, but this is not what this post is about. Rather, I am going to tell you how the beginning of the game helped me to think about a very important RPG concept, and believe it or not, writing concept: Character creation.

Character Choice in the realm of gaming
Skill-sets are more than just statistics found on your character sheet. They are the "what is" and "what is not" values that your character, and you by extension, own. I think he most important concept to understand, within the gaming environment, is character creation.

I began role playing long ago, under the tutelage of my friend's brother. We played AD&D back then, and our character choices were limited, yet, fascinating. I fell in love with the Ranger, and Half-Elves, and even played a warrior Dwarf at one point. It was awesome, but I admit I was more interested in rolling, and re-rolling, my characters stats until they were worthy of keeping. That was until I played a dagger wielding human mage, whose sole purpose in life was to get stuff, and keep it.

Now high scores are nice, when rolling for saving throws and such, but I missed the most important thing: character development. Character development, for me, is taking a character from level zero, whatever his initial description might be, and developing him into something special, through missions, events, whatever, while adding your own spice to the pot. I sincerely believe that it is more important to believe in your avatar, than just having a kick-ass beginning character.

So my mage was the first time I made a character that really suited me, and my goals for that particular year. I began by sketching out his basic attributes, what I thought he might be like, and left the dice rolling for later. I created a greedy magic user, who specialized in daggers, and long ranged attacks, via magic missile. Who knew how fun this guy would be to play! I didn't care about what his initial values were for intelligence or whatnot. I didn't care that he had only a few measly hit points to spare, before he went down. I got into the character, and played him ruthlessly.

"Mortimer Axeliak" became my favorite go-to guy in the fantasy world, and I loved playing him. And I think is the key. I've played lots of characters that were fun for a night, or a session, but none that every had the lasting impression that Morty had on me. In gaming, having fun, rather than simply looting or winning, is key to a successful campaign. Even with a crap DM, a fun character will make it worthwhile.

So before you guys go all "stats are what counts, man, bottom line!" on my ass, just think about the last time you really had fun, and why. I will suggest to anyone new to the RPG world that they very carefully examine the individual races, and classes, and just forget about stats. Play something that appeals to you, regardless of what others think, and I promise you, your time spent choosing a great character will not have been in vain.

Character Choice in the realm of writing

As for writing, I think there is nothing that drives a story better than character. Plots and devices absolutely make a novel come alive, but the character is what gives the book it's soul.

Personally, when I write, I make a lot of errors. My ideas are disjointed, and my grammar ain't so good, yo! I don't think about that stuff, because I am just not there yet. What I do think about A LOT, is how interesting my characters are, and how I can develop them. How they become motivated to take certain actions, or how dynamic I can make them. You have total control over everything in your own stories, so make your ideas come alive through characters. Story lines revolve around them. Shit doesn't happen alone. People are what makes shit happen.

Play safe guys!

An Awesome Keynote Address

So instead of posting something about myself, I'd rather you all go read Wil Wheaton's keynote address to the 2016 Mensa Annual Gathering. It is brilliant, and inspiring, and touches on so many relevant points. I can relate to much of what he said, not everything, but enough that I could say that I might have written some of it myself. Just go to Wil Wheaton dot Net and read his shit...he's awesome.

What it' s like, liking Everything

I have a lot if interests. Chess, games, writing, sports, exercise, nutrition, classical music, classic rock, painting and drawing, sculpture, science, programming, and a whole bunch more. Liking a ton stuff is fun because wherever you go, there's something to do. There is nary a dull moment in my life, because I have so much to look forward to, and so much that I respond to.

But there is a catch: Liking too much is horrible. 

So horrible that, yes indeed, it deserved a bold font. Liking too much has given me so much, in terms of pleasure form the world. I can go to a butterfly exhibit and feel happy to learn about all the different types of butterflies landing on my shoulder. Or I can go to a gym, and work out until I drop. I can go to a book store, and spend hours sifting through the newest releases, or the coolest board games.

But from so much, comes so little too.

My interests varied so much, that it took me years to realize what I had truly been passionate about, what truly inspired me, what allowed me to be the person I wanted to be. Much of what I had done, and what I had learned, and what I had seen, or felt, was very superficial. I had been a generalist, striving to become a specialist.

It wasn't until I really started learning to program, and manage databases, that I realized how much I had been missing when skimming the surfaces of those cool things I liked. Programming taught me that, while you can be decent if you know the basics, the real programmer goes in all the way past his neck. He needs the elementary substances that programming is all about, in order to be truly prolific at his art.

And so I began to really pick and choose what I wanted to explore, to examine. I began to sink past the surface element, and study, instead, the meat of my interests, and this has made such a difference in what I can, and can not do, or rather, what I choose, or choose not, to learn.

I think my writing, and gaming, had suffered for it too; probably more so my writing. Without having that single focus, or that single goal to guide me along my life-path, I had unknowingly spread my interests too wide to make any meaningful contribution to my writing, or gaming world. I had been trying to do too much, too quickly, and with only the most superficial of knowledge.

So now my plan is to slow down, and take an even pace, and to learn more; to plunge into the deep end. I plan to spend more time watching the clouds roll by, so that eventually, I can really write something good.

What I Hate about Magic The Gathering

I've been playing Magic since the mid 90's, when you could buy yourself a copy of the Black Lotus for just over a hundred bucks. I think I bought my first set of magic cards from the Unlimited set. The jump from fantasy board games, and RPG's to a fantasy card game was easily made, and I thought that this game concept was just brilliant. I wouldn't say that I was any good at the game, but I did have a lot of fun.

Of course, I didn't always play magic. I played for a few years, then quit, went back, then quit again, only to come back just a few years ago, around the time the 2012 core set was released. I've been playing sporadically ever since.

Now, as my post title suggests, I want to write about why I hate MTG. Before I begin, I must give some details on my playing history. As I stated above, I was introduced to MTG back in the mid 90's. I started off buying those starter decks, and some booster packs as fillers. They were all pretty standard cards. I didn't really explore buying individual cards, nor did I have any idea how many cards there were in circulation, or what kinds of abilities any of the cards I didn't own, had. So I was playing, more or less, blindly. I put together some cool cards, added some lands, and by trial and error, was able to put together some fun decks. My friends basically did the same, and so we started playing on a regular basis, with relatively equal decks, of radically different sizes and cards.

I never sat down and analysed anything about MTG, deck sizes, lands per deck ration, creature abilities, casting costs, or mana curves. It was all just pure fun for me. But not so for some of my playing buddies. They were into everything that was magic, and spent tons more cash on cards than I ever did, or could. In short, and without bashing those guys, the game quickly became a pay-to-win TCG. My friends quickly became more interested in winning than just having fun, and they basically bought every card available in order to get the most valuable cards, both in price and playability.

All else being equal, I believe that the better player will win most of the time, given that all conditions are the same for both players (obviously in a two player game), within reason. I couldn't keep up with my friends in terms of buying cards, or constructing decks, so the game became disagreeable for me not because I kept on losing, but because I was starting at a CPD, or Card Playability Disadvantage (a term of my own). In general terms, that means that there is often a core resource imbalance, which alters the chances of winning any game, usually in favour of the player with the highest aggregate value of core resources, where said core resource aggregate is calculated as the total value of all benefits (or effects) of all cards, in relation to it's converted mana cost, and timing (how it can be played). (I honestly don't know if that sounded right, but writing it once was enough!)

I began analyzing all of the cards I owned, and went even so far as giving relative values to a few of those cards, depending on it's type, converted mana cost, and the abilities or effects they may have owned. Let me say that gone are the days that the dreaded 6/4 Craw Wurm would see any real game play! Vanilla = Bad. :-(

Maybe the idea that vanilla cards are bad (or just not really playable), is what I dislike the most. What deck will ever again see that awesome (and terrifying) 6/4 Craw Wurm being played? What deck would include a creature card that costs so much, yet has no other benefit besides a possible P/T per CMC ratio? None, that's what deck. None. Those fucking awesome "vanilla cards" have been replaced by an army of "ability cards", and that's what's truly disappointing.

Daily Routines are the Scourge of Mankind

I was driving into work this morning, staring into a blinding sun, and blaring the music on the radio. I was thumbing the drum beats on the steering wheel, to some old AC/DC song, while I silently mouthed the lyrics (cuz I can't stand the sound of my own voice). It was the first day back from vacay, and I felt tired. I was back into the routine of life, and I hated it! My week long hiatus from the daily routines of traffic, work, and then more traffic seemed like a figment of my imagination, even though I had technically still been on leave not six hours ago. And as I was driving over the bridge, I thought about it...routines, as comfortable as they may seem, are the scourge of mankind.

I think most of our lives rotate around this idea that routines are good. And they are, to a certain extent. They make us comfortable, and they relieve stress in a very relevant way, and they offer a convenient way to keep our lives organized; straight and narrow. All good things. But what if those very same routines deprive of us something more important, more useful? And by something more important, I mean, creative energies. What is more dear to a writer, or gamer, than having the ability to create something out of nothing? To find the flaw in the seemingly perfect landscape? To make reality from our dreams?

I was watching this film a few hours ago, and in the film I heard this amazing quote: Everything that is or was, began with a dream. That simple line just slew me. This was how I felt about life, about writing, about gaming. The Dream, for me, is the fuel for my creativity, for my writing, for my gaming. Routines stifled my voice in a way I never realized. I was blindly following the daily labyrinthine routines of the rat race for whatever reason, and I was actually suffering for it. My single week of vacation allowed me to change it up, mix up the pot, and take a fresh look at what exactly I wanted out of life. And having done so, I awakened from this ground-hog day nightmare into a new and improved awesome dream.

So on the way home this evening, I contemplated taking a different route. In the end, I didn't but still, I thought about it. And although I didn't change much in terms of physical routines, I did feel different, just by making that one small change in the way I thought about routine. The way I thought about how I should get from A to B changed just very slightly. And directly because of that one small change, I was able to write this post.

You may or may not agree with me, but whatever the case, I think the next time I write, or play a round of Magic with the boys, I will focus on taking chances, and doing things a little bit differently, just to see where that brings me.

Doing is more than just thinking about it!

So I've been thinking about what I wanted to say today. I haven't written anything other than the last two blog posts, and I haven't played anything except for poker the other night. I really can't say that I could really offer anything substantial, as far as reviewing poker goes. But I can write about how it felt to play something I don't think I am very good at.

Poker was, for me, just a game of cards. You were dealt some cards, that held some value, then you made some bets, and whoever had the highest combination of five random cards, won. Whoopee. But last night, when I was playing with my wife and a friend of ours, I actually took the time to sit and watch the other players faces, expressions, and body language. I took notice of the way they both bet as well. And something extraordinary happened. I noticed some little details I hadn't before. Details that I never would have imagined were important, or how they could help my writing ability.

So I thought about how I could bring that sort of attention to writing or gaming, in general. For writing, I realized that I could spend an entire chapter writing about how the face works when people show emotion, like when they laugh, or cry. I could write about how your eyebrows might twitch, or how one's lips might curl after eating a slice of lemon. Now I won't say that writing about how one's ears may move when they laugh could be anything great, but I will say that paying attention to details are just what my favourite authors do on a regular basis. They pay attention to these little things, and describe them in new and fun ways. Just read a few Neil Gaiman novels, and you'll see what I mean.

As for gaming, I think that reading body language and facial expressions are incredibly important. Take MTG for example. You might think that playing magic is only about the deck...well it's not even close to being just about that. I have beaten players just because they were impatient, or frustrated, or because I just knew instinctively that they were slapping all of their eggs into one major card. There is no greater advantage than knowing exactly what your opponents plan is, because you can effectively create your own winning conditions without fear of being countered, or tricked. If you don't believe me, I challenge you to play a game of chess with anyone who knows what an ELO is!

In any case, what I did learn from last night's poker, was that even my best game face wasn't enough to win.

The Passion of the Game

I recently asked my wife a seemingly innocent question, which went something like this...

Hey honey?
- Yes...

What are you passionate about? Like what do you have passion for?
(four second bizarre pause...)
- Helping kids...why?

Just asking...

So why is this important? Well for one thing, I realized, after a few hours of contemplation, that finding your one true passion is a hard fucking thing to do. I mean it's akin to climbing Mount Everest for me. It's like hitting that perfect golf shot...twice in a row.

So I thought about what I had been passionate about throughout my life, and I realized that amidst all the change, and growth I had gone through as a child, teen, adult and father, there had only been one or two things I had ever truly been passionate about. One is martial arts...I just loved to see Bruce Lee fight. The way he always kicked the shit outta those dumbass Japanese dudes, that could only speak with some lame cowboy accent, was just so awesome!

The second is kind of a tie between two things: Writing and Gaming, which is what this blog will be about.

Now writing, I think, is self explanatory. You write. Period. Poetry- songs - prose - anything. You put words onto paper, that simple. Not so easy to write something interesting, mind you, but writing is what it is.

Gaming, on the other hand, is not so simple to explain. I mean games have existed since the moon, and I wager (haha) that games will exist until the end of time (or at least until you role a natural 20...)...alas...I digress.

I remember playing games as a kid, with my family and friends, and never being really good at them, except for stuff like...ummm...well...Uno? Seriously, I never was a mastermind at game tactics or strategy. I loved playing things, and figuring out how things worked superficially, but never did I think too far in advance about how the game could be won, or lost. I just played for the rush of playing. That is, I did until I found AD&D, and to a lesser extent, Axis & Allies and Shogun (Samurai Swords).

My only exposure to anything mildly similar to a basic RPG had to be Monopoly. Now if you think about it, Monopoly is really a form of RPG. If you think about it, in Monopoly, you choose an avatar to play with, roll dice for movement, draw cards that have a semi-random effect on you, gather resources in the forms of money and property, while making decisions on your "TURN", to either build something or try to escape from jail. Sounds a lot like role playing to me...just add a Dwarf token, and change the word "jail" to "dungeon" and you're all set.

But really, Monopoly taught me at least two important concepts about gaming: Resources and Planning. It even taught me the relative value of possessions, which is akin to a player's strength attribute, or even the relative usefulness of a magic item, let's say. And although I never did consider myself any good at Monopoly, I was a better AD&D player, and a pretty strong force in both A&A, and Shogun. This due to perhaps some latent talent I might have owned, but probably due more to just being able to think outside of the box, which many of the gamers I have encountered in my life can do rather effortlessly.

I think that gaming has been, and will always be, a part of my life, because gaming, and writing, are my true passions. What are yours?

My first post for 2016!

So I've been thinking about so many things to write about that I didn't have time to write...weird, I know. But let's say that I am back...for now. That's not to say that I don't want to blog...it's just that with the family and stuff, finding time to type a few hundred words seems like a lost cause. Anyways, this has to be short and sweet, because I have two wee ones pulling at my t-shirt. Have fun and be cool everyone!