Monday, February 29, 2016

Politics. Pheh!

Gentle readers, I'm going to ask for your forbearance today.  As a general rule, I try to avoid discussing politics.  However, as it is February 29th, a day that only comes around once every four years, and because we will be voting for a new President in the USA this year, I am going to comment very briefly on the current candidates.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think that we're pretty much fucked.
I wouldn't trust any of these people to sell peanuts at a circus. I certainly don't want any of them as my President.
At this point, three of the Republicans (Carson, Kasich and Cruz) don't actually have a hope in hell of winning the popular vote.  That leaves us with Rubio, Trump, Sanders and Clinton as potential candidates.
I'm tempted to call them the cream of the crop, but cream isn't the only thing that floats to the top, ladies and gentlemen.
Trump is a self-aggrandizing egotist. I don't think he gives a good goddamn about you, me or the country.  He wants to be President so he can strut across the world-stage and win global recognition. That's it.
Clinton isn't any better. She's a Washington insider, a career politician in the worst sense of the word. I don't trust her and I certainly don't respect her.  She'll promise the moon to her supporters but once she's in office, they'll be lucky if she even remembers them. She's just after money and power.
Marco Rubio strikes me as a deadbeat. Not only does he have the worst attendance in Congress, there are reports he has skipped out on paying his bills to numerous individuals over the years. Also, there are claims that he misappropriated funds from his own party to pay for personal things like house repairs, travel, groceries, etc.  Like Clinton, I think he wants the job for the money. Unlike her, he probably needs it to pay off his various debts.
As for Sanders? To me, Bernie Sanders is a one-note wonder. All he and his followers seem to talk about is free health care for everyone. Only, nothing is free. Someone, somewhere, has to pay for it.  His policies don't seem very well thought out and, to be honest, I think Bernie Sanders is just too damned old to be President.  The man is 74 years old! Sorry, but I'm not willing to vote for someone who's likely to drop dead in office.
Actually, Clinton and Trump aren't spring chickens either. If either of them croaked in office, who the hell would we get stuck with?
We'll have to see how things play out, but I don't hold out any hope that the next President will make things better for anyone but themselves.
As I said above, ladies and gentlemen, I think we're fucked.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Worldbuilding: Organic Growth

Good evening, gentle readers!
Last week, I wrote about how I'd found a creative outlet in the D&D game I was Dungeon Master-ing.  I told a little about the world I'd built; about how it was a Bronze Age setting, not the typical Medieval fantasy world most gamers are familiar with.  I described it as a young world, with a few scattered cities, separated by vast swathes of dangerous wilderness.  Travel in the Known World occurs mostly via water, as civilization has evolved and expanded around a trio of seas: The Cradle, the Sea of Splendors and the Sea of Trials. There are 22 deities, 13 cities and 4 races.
And that's all great.
But when you DM a new setting, when your worldbuild, you keep adding new details.
There were four languages when we started; one for each of the core races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human). That didn't include things like Thieves' Cant which I forgot and Druidic, which inspired me to authorize Temple Languages, unique to the clergy of each deity. And then, a player asked if he could speak a Pigeon dialect that might have arrived in marketplaces. This seemed like a fine idea, so I said "Sure!" And then I decided there was an original language, the Old Tongue, the four races spoke before a Tower-of-Babel like incident scrambled their languages. Most of the cities in the world are named in the Old Tongue.  And then, last week, a wizard joined the party, prompting me to authorize a Wizard's Tongue.
So, suddenly I have gone from 4 basic languages to 32 separate languages.
Which, from a creative outlook, is fucking awesome!
It demonstrates how settings like this can become organic and take on a life of their own.
And now, heaven help me, there are regional dialects popping up.
I introduced a character last session from the North who speaks with a faux Russian-esque accent and now everyone from that part of the world will speak the same way.
Fun, but requiring notes. 
Lots and lots of notes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Worldbuilding = Soulsaving

Dear readers,
Sunday nights are my favorite night of the week. Why? You ask.  Because it's Game Night; the night when me and a bunch of friends get together at the local game store and play Dungeons & Dragons. I got back into D&D a little over a year ago and it's been a lot of fun.  I'm with a good group that does the unexpected in campaigns, much to the chagrin of our DM.
A couple of weeks ago, our current DM announced she would be unavailable until May.  I was asked if I would like to DM a game.  It's been years since I did so, but I said 'Sure.'
This led me to consider settings.
If I'd been lazy, I would have just set the adventure in the typical medieval fantasy world that most of you are familiar with. Instead, I decided to shake things up a bit and gave the players some options for settings.  One was the typical fantasy setting, one was a sort of modern setting and the other was a swords & sandals setting.  I also decided to mod some of the races.
The players seemed intrigued and after some discussion they agreed to play in the swords & sandals setting. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, think Conan the Barbarian and Clash of the Titans.  It's a mostly Bronze Age setting.
With that decided, I sat down and got to work doing some worldbuilding.
The world would be young and mostly uninhabited. Civilization would have arisen around the seas. There would be cities, but they would be spread far apart, separated by vast swathes of wilderness. There would be no roads connecting them. Travel and trade would occur via water. 
I limited the races to the four core D&D races: Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Humans. Then I modified them.  Dwarves in this world are monument builders. Elves need sleep and have no connection to the Fey.  Halflings lost their Luck and Bravery but became stealthy. Humans sacrificed some ability scores but gained extra languages and proficiency with some type of tool, etc.
I wanted to have a closed setting so rather than import the usual D&D pantheons, I created a pantheon for this world; twenty-two gods, covering most of the classes and divine domains, as well as a couple of extras. 
Once the foundations of the world were laid, I got down to designing an adventure. I spent a week statting out NPCs (NonPlayer Characters), coming up with some divergent threads the players could follow if they wanted, a general overview of the city they would start in and then, I said enough was enough and put it all down.
This past Sunday, the group got together.  I sat at the head of the table, notes laid out around me, and began the story.  The players went around and introduced their characters: Human Rogue, Human Cleric, Elf Sorcerer and Human Druid.  
The story began in the most cliched of settings: a tavern. A tavern on a dark and stormy night.
The session lasted about two hours and things went pretty well. There were some hiccups with initiative order, but nothing major, and I was liberal handing out Inspiration this session. Also, from a world building stance, I realized I hadn't considered how money would function in this setting. Overall though, I think things went well. The players seemed engaged; the main plot hook was swallowed and everyone had a good time. 
To me, that's what's important. 
I'm looking forward to next week's game, when the players meet some new people and, hopefully, begin their quest in earnest.
But the thing that really makes me happy is the fact that I've managed to find a creative outlet. I can't seem to write stories these days, but putting together this adventure was incredibly satisfying. So, even if I don't have another book in me, it's nice to know I can still create something engaging and interesting.
And that's good enough for me. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Writing? Eh. Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Good evening, gentle readers.
I hope you've had a good day. Maybe enjoyed some sun.  Had a nice lunch.
It's been unseasonably warm here the last couple of days, not that I've taken advantage of it. I've spent the last two days in bed, trying to write.
Please note my use of the word, 'try.'
Nothing happened.
The screen/page remained blank.
However, I'm hopeful that something will kickstart my creative juices.  The D&D group I play with asked me to run a game later this month and I accepted.  I'm hoping it will be a good way to get some creative energy moving around.
I've already got a story in mind.  It's a bit bare-bones, but I haven't run a game in forever and I want to ease my way back into it.
So, I've taken a break from the attempted writing to do some worldbuilding, come up with some NPCs and enemies and flesh out some alternate routes the story can take.
Knowing the guys I''m playing with, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we wind up on a different plane of existence.  That's just the way this group rolls.
At the very least, it won't be boring.