Dungeon Mastering is Cooperative Pantsing.

When it comes to writing, I am–for the most part–a Pantser. When I come up with ideas to write about, they usually start with a premise about an event or technological breakthrough that makes a big splash on society. Most of the time, the society is human or a mix of human and alien. It may be futuristic, dystopic, or it could even be otherworldly or magical in nature. The setting rarely matters.

The Pantsing Wizard art by Julie Pascal

My point is that my ideas don’t start as an outline for a full story with a discreet start, middle, and end. Instead, I have to come up with the story that happens in my ‘imaginary world’ as I go along. I have an instigating event, into which I add characters to experience it. I write their reactions to this event in my imaginary world, and then I write some more… and some more… and some more. Eventually, I come up with the ‘big problem’ for them to overcome (if the instigating event wasn’t it already), at which point I know what the whole story is going to be about and how it will end (i.e. getting the problem solved). After that, I have to go back and fill in the middle. I never know how long it’s going to take for my characters to fix their problem, so I just write until it all ties together.

The writing style is often referred to as Pantsing. No, I don’t mean pulling someone’s pants down around their ankles and laughing. It’s derived from the phrase ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ which was coined in the early days of aviation when pilots flew their planes without instruments to help them.

Now, I have read ‘writing advice’ from some very famous authors saying that you should never write the first word until you know the ending of your story. I have also read the exact opposite advice from other authors just as famous. What this tells me is that no one should give writing advice as if it’s the Gospel.

So here’s some absolute Gospel writing advice… Do it the way that works best for you. Try Plotting, which is the opposite of Pantsing, and outline the whole story before you start. Most teachers will tell you to do this. The problem is that most teachers are trying to get you to write term papers and essays, not fiction, but I digress. Try it. It might work fine for you. If not, you may be a mix of a Pantser and Plotter. Or, you could be like me and be stuck with letting the story tell itself.

OK, OK, so what does all this have to do with the blog title? What is Cooperative Pantsing? What does Pantsing have to do with being a Dungeon Master for an RPG? Well, I’ll lay it out for you… but first, let talk about what happens in a typical D&D campaign for the uninitiated.

The DM (Dungeon Master) creates (or borrows) a world. They decide the rules that govern reality in this world (does it have magic, high technology, psychic powers, normal boring Earth existence), the physical shape and make-up of the place (land, water, space, etc.), and what its current state of political existence is (unexplored frontier, a cityscape, medieval towns, a deep dark dungeon, a wide land full of empires and city-states, a loose conglomeration of un-allied planets in a strange galaxy, anything you want, really). For example, Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaigns often take place in Faerun, a massive continent that is both ancient and unexplored in a time of swords and sorcery.

The players (PCs) create characters of various classes (jobs with skill sets) and races (types of beings such as Humans, Elves, Dwaves, Gnomes, Tieflings, etc. – There are many). They take those choices and combine them with some random dice rolls to come up with a unique character that they add other customization options onto within the rules of the RPG being played. Next comes the really fun part… the backstory. The players decide WHO their character is, what happened to them in the past, what their motivations and personality are, all the things that make them an individual.

The DM also comes up with a quest, or series of quests in which the players engage. It may be a huge over-arching one, an unplanned free-form series of them that are thought of on the fly, or a combination of the two. Examples: Free the kidnapped villagers. Kill the dragon terrorizing the countryside. Rob the rich noble or the wizard’s tower. Find a valuable treasure in the deep dark dank dungeon.

So, do you see where I’m going with this yet? Here, let me start pulling the strings together with this statement:

A Dungeons and Dragons campaign is a cooperative creation of a story generated by the same method a Pantser uses to write a novel.

Here’s how:

  • The DM invents (or borrows) a world, and creates an instigating action.

This is the same as establishing the initial idea for a novel. The Big Problem or Antagonist(s) causing it set the stage for the conflict to be overcome.

  • The Players are inserted into this world and must deal with the situation(s).

This is how I create the main characters of a novel. They are the heroes of the game or the protagonist(s) in the novel. In this case, the players will do it themselves, but there are writers who claim that their characters define themselves as well. I’ve experienced this to a certain degree myself, although I keep a tighter rein on my characters. They are MY voices after all!

  • The DM describes/decides how the world reacts to the players’ decisions within its established ruleset.

The author does the same for the setting in a novel. They might introduce other characters to help further this, which is the equivalent of creating NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in the D&D game. Those characters have their own motivations, goals, and personalities that the PCs have to then deal with.

  • The Players develop, change and grow during the journey.

Character development is a primary key to any good story. Sympathy (or Antagonism to) the characters is what helps a reader invest in the outcome of the story. In the case of D&D, it’s what keeps the players interested and provides the enjoyment to everyone, including the DM.

  • The DM leads the characters toward the major event/conclusion/Big Bad Evil Boss, but the characters/Players decide how they want to get there. The route can be very circuitous at times, and a good DM rolls with the punches.

This is how a Panster must write the middle of the story as the main character’s personality dictates their reactions. It’s even worse when you have no control over the decision process like a D&D game. I have often compared DMing to Herding Cats! I can’t imagine how painful it would be to be a Plotter and try to do that with a D&D campaign! It would all be wasted in a heartbeat!


So, if you are a budding writer with a desire to create, but you just can’t seem to keep up with those strange voices in your head. You know, the ones that keep going in directions other than the ones you intended? Maybe you should take break and try being a Dungeon Master for a bit. You’ll gain valuable experience in Cat Herding that you just might be able to use to your advantage in writing. You’ll also have a lot of fun in the process!


Check out my books over on Amazon.com! I currently have two published. Both are available on Kindle Unlimited, and on Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free if you have Amazon Prime.

If you like intrigue, humor and a bit of speculative technological supposition, you should pick up a copy of my technothriller-comedy eConscience Beta from Amazon today!

Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.

Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few?
And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?

Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.


If Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

HORIZONS UNLIMITED

Matter conversion technology—Matt-Con—has broadened the scope of mankind’s existence. It has opened up the real possibility of viable colonies on other planets in our solar system, and even space itself. Anywhere matter can be captured or energy from the sun can be felt, the possibility of expanding human habitation exists.

In this volume:

Quicksilver

The space station Chariot of Helios—on its way to Mercury to become a power collection station for Earth’s growing need for energy to power matt-con tech—encounters a strange anomaly that threatens ship and crew.

Escaping Aurora

The sudden destruction of mankind’s first atmospheric terraforming platform leaves three unlucky exonauts struggling to survive in the skies of Venus aboard a cobbled-together airship. Meanwhile, the commander of the space station above battles obstacles that might keep her from rescuing her stranded husband and crew in time.

HAPPY READING!

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2018 Year In Review: Books & Writing & Dungeons & Dragons, Oh My!

Well, 2018 has certainly been a year, hasn’t it? Time to examine those accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide what to do with the next 12 months (or not). As you can see, my motivation is at ebb tide at the moment of this missive, so maybe the act of looking back will help… let’s see…

I did manage to exceed my 2017 read count by a whole 176 pages! I was down two books though, with only 29. I do know that much reading that is not counted up includes tons of editing (re-reading), research for writing, and also research into Dungeons and Dragons rules and lore. I’m totally counting the Dungeon Masters Guide & Player’s Handbook for D&D 5th Edition this year! The D&D wiki is also a rabbit hole of infinite depth down which one should carefully tread, lest you be engulfed and never return! So, yeah, I’ll count all that as a win.

The writing has taken a backseat for a while, although I did publish my Horizon’s Unlimited Anthology. I wrote and expanded on several short stories and submitted those. One was over 22,000 words! I have not yet been able to settle into a mindset that will allow me to continue another novel. I also have picked up that new hobby that I mentioned before…

You see, early in the year… Feb/March? I decided to try my hand at being a Dungeon Master for D&D 5th Edition starter set campaign The Lost Mine of Phandelver. This RPG is supposed to be a fairly short introductory campaign to help new players and new DMs (Dungeon Masters) learn the ‘art’ of play D&D. I had played through that campaign myself as a player, so I was hoping it would prove to be an easy way to get started as the man behind the screen… Weeellll…

I have a tendency to embellish things when I think they are a bit on the boring side. My players also have this same characteristic trait. I quickly found that if I dangled a shiny side-story in front of them, they would instantly shoot off in that direction before I could comprehend what I had done to myself. This is how LMoP become a nearly year long campaign with a follow on Custom Campaign #2 to be run me in 2019.

Oh, and we’re maybe…sorta…kinda… going to try recording it an seeing if people on YouTube want to watch it. That means I now have to learn video recording & editing software, etc. I have already started this, and it will be time consuming. It is why the ‘plans’ that I mentioned back in November never really happened.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with my life and hobbies at the moment. But, let’s get back to the BOOKS!

I only had 4 books that (5 if you count my own, but I’m biased) made the 5 star cut this past year. 7 earned a 4 star ranking. There were some good comics/graphic novels in the mix as well, but I count them separately.

Here’s the breakdown for my reads & reviews this year.

Total books read for the year: 23 (+4 Comics/Graphic Novels + 2 RPG Source Books)

Total pages read for the year: 7,646

Book ratings: 5 – 5 stars, 7 – 4 stars, 11 – 3 stars, 2 – 2 stars, 1 – 1 star

Comic ratings: 1 – 5 star, 1 – 4 star, 2 – 3 stars

I would love to hear from any readers in the comments.

How many books did you read in last year? What were your favs?

Wishing you all Happy Reading for 2019!


Showcase of some of my favorites from 2018 are below…

Five Star Books

Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1
A Space Adventure Anthology
by J. D. BeckwithMy Book
Planetary: Mercury by Superversive Press (includes a short story by ME!)

My Review

A Place For War (Z-Day #3) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

I Am Justice (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #9) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising #3) by John Ringo

My Review

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1, #2 & #3 by Matthew Colville & Matthew Mercer

No Written Review – Buy Here

Four Star Books

Planetary: Venus by Superversive Press (includes a short story by ME!)

My Review


Fade & Night’s Black Agents by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

Retaliation (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #10) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising #4) by John Ringo

My Review

CTRL ALT Revolt!
(Soda Pop Soldier 0.5)
by Nick ColeMy Review
Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1, #2 & #3 by Matthew Colville & Matthew Mercer

No Written Review – Buy Here

 

State of the Wampuscat – November 2018 (Week 46)

State of the Wampuscat

Week 46 of 2018

I don’t do this often enough. Blog about myself, I mean. I will attempt to correct that by forcing myself to type up some BS each week from now on.

If any of you have looked at my bio, you may remember that I’m an Engineer by trade. That’s the day job. By night, I’m a creator of elaborate schemes for writing books and becoming famous and then finding ways to avoid doing any of the actual things it requires to accomplish that. Procrastination is my favorite hobby, and I’m good at it!

However, I know that my dreams of being a writer with a legacy of well appreciated word-smithing that spans the generations is not going to happen without some buckling down. I’m turning 45 in a few days, so the clock is ticking if I want to get that bibliography nice and plump. It would also be nice to eventually see money flowing a direction other than AWAY from me in regards to the publishing of my stuffs. That means creating more stuffs, talking about stuffs, and doing marketing (yuck!) for my stuffs.

So, with all that in mind, I invite you to see the man and peruse the plan, as it were, of what I’m working on at the moment.

If you’ve followed the blog this year, you have seen mention of my anthology, Horizon’s Unlimited, as well as the 3 Planetary Anthologies from Superversive that were released with stories of mine in them. The summer was long and work went mostly full-time again–I do contract Engineering currently–so there was not a lot of new creation happening. The work schedule recently went down again though, so I have some free days now, but I’ve been playing catch up on postponed (pronounced procrastinated) projects around the homestead. Those are almost done(ish).

Between catch-up projects (and weekly D&D games) I have had some recent accomplishments. I was working on a submission for an anthology in Daniel Humpreys’ Z-Day series for a long while. [I just posted my review of book #3 in that series, A Place For War, on Friday, go read it!]. When I finally got some free time I managed to finish it. It suffered from the same struggle I always seem to have with short stories… keep them short! I submitted a whopping 22,099 word missive for that and hope that it can, and will, be used. Fingers crossed!

At the same time (first week of free time), I got word that my story submission for the Jupiter Planetary Anthology was on the ‘we like it’ table. I did some tweakage on that one, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be part of that anthology.

Earlier in the year, I did manage to write a few other short stories. I have a submission out for the Uranus (snicker) Anthology that I have not yet heard back from anyone about. It’s a funny one, and if they decline it, it may just get expanded into a novella and put on Amazon. I also have one submitted for the Luna Antho that I actually managed to keep short. I also have one that was rejected for the Saturn anthology that I plan to expand into a full novella for Horizons Unlimited Volume 2 or 3, and one that I wrote for Pluto that I plan to make a stand alone novel, possibly with a sequel/prequel setup that is still TBD.

So, there are ideas and plans. I do not have a shortage of things to write about. Unfortunately, I keep locking myself into a rut. I feel that I need to continue with the Horizon’s Unlimited series. I have several ideas and partial story plots in my mind, but they are for Volume 3 or even later. The part I need to write NEXT (Earth based events after Xolotl Ressurrected, but long before Quicksilver & Escaping Aurora) are just not fully fleshed out. I COULD finish writing the stories planned for much later in the timeline, but I’ve found that keeping track of what happens later and making sure what happens before doesn’t interfere with it are a bit of a challenge. For me, it’s better to write things in chronological order so that I don’t get confused or contradict myself by accident. So…

While I hate unfinished projects, I think I’m going to have to let those rest a while and just jump into something completely new until I can think the idea out.

The one thing I need to do at least once a week is post something here. This post was supposed to be done on Sunday, but I got side tracked with a Veterans Day picture post on Facebook (I do genealogy and have lots of military pics from family members that I wanted to share). So here I am in the early AM of Monday finishing out this thing.

I may not (probably won’t) be able to keep up with this, but here’s my rough plan for writing:

Blog:

Sundays: State of the Wampuscat (this is the first one)
Every 2nd & 4th Wednesday/Thursday: Book Review
Every 3rd Wed/Thurs: Short Story

Novels:

Horizon’s Unlimited Vol #2 – March 2019
eConscience Beta Anthology – July 2019
Horizon’s Unlimited Vol #3 – Nov 2019

In the mean time, inflate my ego and help me make progress by buying & reviewing my existing stuffs!

If you like intrigue mixed with humor, get my technothriller, eConscience Beta on Amazon.

But, if Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Please enjoy this random cat pic…

Jinx-in-the-box

LibertyCon 31 – My First Con as a Pro!

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LibertyCon 31 ended Sunday. Now I haz a sad. When you anticipate something for a year, then go do it for three whirlwind days (I swear there is a time-warp that speeds stuff up around this Con), you can experience a euphoric crash after you get home. It doesn’t last forever, but I do seem to have it happen every year. I just want more! It’s a drug, man!

The trip up to the ‘Noog was picture perfect. I didn’t even have to argue with the Google Maps app about wanting me to go the wrong way to I75. The hotel app let me do a pre-check-in the day before, so when I got there, they handed me my card and said enjoy your stay in about 2 minutes. The attendant schlepped my luggage upstairs (including my too many boxes of books) while I went an parked the truck. I took a photo of my slot so I would remember where I parked (not that it helped b/c slot 509 is on floor 6… ). Then off too the room… a very nice room. The Marriott is the best hotel I’ve stayed in in Chattanooga thus far.

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The view from floor 12 was pretty awesome.

I got to observe one session before my own schedule kicked in. I was highly entertained by the Black Tide Rising panel featuring John Ringo and friends. The tales of how the stories in the anthology came about were quite entertaining. The announcement that volume 2 is coming out in 2019 was also well received.

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Black Tide Rising Panel – (l to r) Sarah Hoyt, Eric Flint, Jason Cordova, Jody Lynn Nye, Kelly Lockhart (aka Gary Poole), John Ringo, Mike Massa, Griffin Barber, Kacey Ezell, Chris L. Smith, Robert Hampson/Tedd Roberts

After that, it became super busy time! The reason is that I was attending as a PRO. Yep, I’m officially listed in a convention handout as a professional writer. Who’da thunk it!?

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I got to try to sell books. ‘Try’ being the key word here. I had my spirit animal, Grumpy Cat, with me for good luck. It was awful. Didn’t sell a single book that time, but I think it was the fact that it was so early and people were still checking in and such. It did a bit better on Saturday & Sunday. I am not a salesperson. I hate marketing. This must change. Goals, I have ‘em.

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Author’s Alley – Day 1

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Author’s Alley – Day 2 (photo by Anita Moore)

Right after that I was on a Panel for the Superversive Planetary Anthology with a vast array of writing stars.

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Planetary Anthology Roundtable – (l to r) Hans Schantz, Mona Lisa Foster, Julie Frost, Arlan Andrews, Jagi Lamplighter Wright, A.M. Freeman, Jody Lynn Nye, J.D. Beckwith, Jon Del Arroz, John C. Wright, Lou Antonelli (picture by Robert Dean)

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Yes, that’s correct; I was sitting next to Jody Lynn Nye. I watched her crochet something under the table while still remaining completely engaged in the conversation. It was all I could do to keep my elbows off the table (which was not always a successful endeavor). I have  discovered I’m a leaner (see above). Need to fix that. More goals.

Also, the ever-chipper April Freeman (left side of the above picture) and I finally realized that we both reside in the same county… AFTER we talked on Facebook a day after the convention closed. Folks, the world is small and full of tricks and shenanigans.

By the way, if you want to read some really amazing stories written by these folks, you need to grab a copy of the Planetary Anthologies. There are four out now, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and also the just released Earth. I have stories in Mercury, Venus & Earth.

After that, the official Opening Ceremonies commenced. We were highly entertained by an adaptation of ‘Brandy’ by the talented Gray Rinehart, followed by this year’s MC, Chuck Gannon who shared with us some rather curious theories of the ‘real reason for LibertyCon’.

Here’s Gray’s Intro Song!

 

Immediately after, I went on a book buying binge. I got autographs, some oldies from the Huckster’s room and then some generous soul dropped a load of free books on the table outside! I was like a really excited euphemistic analogy (think about that for a minute)! And then I took the heavy bag of books to the room and took a picture in really bad lighting! See!

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I did some posting and slide-show editing for my next Author’s Alley stint, then went down and tried to play some Call of Cthulhu, but was force to my bed by a headache before it got too interesting. Such is life.

Saturday was a blur. I went to several panels for Indie Authors. I got some good advice from others in the field on how to do things right, or at least how to avoid doing some things wrong. Then had another sales stint. Sold a few, but still not many. I’m not too worried about that though, because it all counts as experience. I’ll do better in the future.

Afterward, I made a trip to the Urban Stack, a local restaurant that serves some of the best food around, with a D&D buddy. We had an awesome meal together, and caught some interesting scenery on the way. Only at a Sci-Fi Convention will you find a tricked-out Zombie Response Vehicle with programmable Gatling gun outside your hotel door.

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Zombie Response Vehicle

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Zombie Response Vehicle – complete with bumper mounted Gatling gun

Late Saturday was the Mad Scientist Roundtable. I was invited to be a panelist, but I really felt out of place. The people on that stage are seriously in the realm of super-geniuses! As happens every time I attend one of the Mad Scientist events, I got smarter just by being in the room with these people.

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Mad Scientists’ Roundtable (photo by Arlan Andrews)

 

Sunday was the Kaffeeklatch, where I got to meet and talk to some other authors, as well as some fans. I had a great run-down of the Taylor Hoch D&D session (which I didn’t get to go to b/c they were both during my sales times..arrrgh!) from one of the kiddos who got to play.  Right after was my 3rd and last Author’s Alley stint. It was my best sales day, but also a rush because I had to deal with check-out right after.

And now, I am seeing all the posts and pics on Facebook, realizing that even with the fun I had, there was still so much more going on that I missed! I’ll have to seriously consider if I want to try bookselling again next year or not.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got on this years LC adventures. It was a blast as usual!

Tickets for LC32 go on sale at 8AM July 4th. Get ’em while they’re available, because they will not last long! The location is going to be The Read House hotel next year, and rooms in the discount block will be available starting September 1st.

Chattacon 43: Dead Cons Tell No Tales – But I do!

—Note: Migrainus Interruptus kept me from finishing this yesterday, but things are better now… if much later than planned. I started this blog, but only got half-way through before I had to ditch the effort, so please excuse any seeming time-shift… carry on.—

Chattacon 43 is now dead.

Drive the last nail.

Throw the last shovelful of dirt.

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Chattacon 43 Convention Booklet

I know… Cheery sounding, right? Well, it matches[ed] my migraine hangover. But don’t worry, as the home brewed coffee tries to kick in and ‘fix’ the last remnants of the sinus/neck/head-ache that clobbered me starting Saturday eve and lingered through my ride southward home, my mood will slowly return to it’s mildly pessimistic and wholly sarcastic norm. In the mean time, I will regale you with a tale of terrible accommodations in a foreign land along with a terribly fun time with some really awesome people.
Chattacon was great. Remember that… set it aside, but keep it in mind as I bitch…um, I mean explain.

Friday, I arrived bright and early (1 PM), with zero traffic grievances along the way, at The Chattanoogan… then I drove all the way around it because my smart-ass phone (TM) wanted to just show me where it was, but not actually how to get into it… which you do around the back side, FYI. I was able to check in early (yeah) and ended up on the fifth floor (not so yeah, but elevator). Two trips had me ensconced in the room. I noticed  a slight odor from the bathroom, but figured it was just a lingering scent from previous guest that had yet to clear, because the cleaning crew had just recently left. I closed the door to let the vent system do its job, and thought no more about it. Next was put the vehicle in the parking garage, which took three floors of circling. I kept a careful eye out out for Parking Fairies, but thankfully they remained hidden. (I found it when I left today that it’s because they have two full time Leaf Blower Ogres that roam the garage during the day making lost of noise and blowing dirt around randomly to keep them under control.)

Next, to the registration counter…badges not ready yet for staff (I volunteered to help with gaming). So, then it was on to the meeting where the jovial game crew would be assigned their tasks. I walked in the direction where I though my map of the hotel had indicated things would be. Did I mention the front is not really the front, but the back is more the front for guests? This makes mental maps turn upside down in case you don’t think about it carefully. After a nice half-mile hike to the farthest reaches of the hotel I was fully convinced that someone had closed a corridor off and failed to put a detour sign.

I returned to the other wing of the building and, with a slight pant, asked the front desk just where the heck was the Ochs room (gaming room name for a former Chattanooga mayor or something… I knew that much… Mental map, you see). I was pointed in the opposite direction down a hallway that I had failed to notice the first time through (registration was set up on the opposite side of the REAR foyer).

After pondering the situation, mentally flipping my mental map like a lost person seeking north without a compass, I proceeded down said hall. Encountering others with badges and various nerdly attire convinced me that I was not, indeed, being punked… right up to the point I encountered the wholly unexpected T-junction in the hall that was no where in my mental map. I paused, mentally crumpled the mental map and discarded it as useless, then proceeded to enter cartographic mode in order to create a new one based on the new-found junction. I felt like Columbus charting the Indian Isles!

I headed off to the right while my Right Guard, having had enough of the long journey, decided to mutiny and go left. Had I listened to my armpits, I would have arrived sooner, but alas, my course was set. As the corridor curved, I passed the art show, and dealer’s room, and the con-suite. A hard left at an unexpected corner revealed a rest-room and the Amphitheater. I recognized this from the previously discarded mental map, which I immediately tried to un-wad in my brain once again, but by this point I was sailing on a cloudy sea at midnight with no compass.

I continued my leftward journey and found yet another con-suite… and then a third… and then an art show yet again. Just as I was about to use my emergency snack crackers to leave bread-crumbs for myself, I noticed the sign which read ‘Gaming – Miniatures’. Ah ha! Something new! I persevered and finally found ‘Gaming – RPG Room’… I was getting so close! At this point, I had somehow gone left at at least seven ninety-degree corners and had yet to return to my starting point. I come to believe that I was inside a gigantic conch-shell, when at last I found the ‘Gaming – Board Games’ room. At last Columbus had found the path to India!

 We met and hung out for a while discussing the do’s and don’t’s of proper game lending. I eventually decided I should go back to my room and bring down the pile of games I brought with me. Of course, I decided to go the opposite direction from which I had arrived, just prove to myself that the corridor was round. It was… I went around it twice before I found that stupid hallway leading back to elevators. I did solve the mystery of the repeating rooms in the process when I finally realized the art show and secondary con suite were in fact accessible from two sides of the Tardis… I mean hallway.

Games were delivered, badges picked up, and soon I had time to kill before Opening Ceremonies.

I placed some of my bookmarks for eConscience Beta on the freebie tables.

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Front

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Back

Then I swung by and perused the Art Show where I was able to harass some old friends. There were some great pieces in there, but well outside my price range. Next was the first panel I wanted to attend. It was going to be ‘Publicity for Newbies’ which would teach me how to Pulicitize stuffs! Unfortunately, influenza (or recovery from such) held several guests back from attending (to whom I am grateful for sparing the rest of us) which meant the schedule had to change last-minute. The result was basically an almost empty room that turned into a random conversation between four people and the fill-in panelist for thirty minutes, which was quite pleasant, as I got to know some new people that way.

At the Opening Ceremonies, attendance was low. I got there a bit early and was entertained by a ten year old girl (the con chair’s daughter) sitting up front with two of the GoH’s, Todd McCaffrey & Peter David. This same girl was given the task of introductions, and some subtle lessons in humility. Note: No matter what you have accomplished, a ten year old is not easily impressed! With a round of detailed introductions and speeches, the con was declared officially open!

I was to host a game of Castle Panic at 10PM, so I decided it might be a good idea to find some dinner. This was the beginning of my hotel disgruntlement. You see, it had been revealed when I arrived that there would be not ‘hot food’ at the con suite because The Chattanoogan did not want the competition with their in-house restaurants. I had been expecting to subsist on that source, but now I had to ‘scrounge’. Of course, as luck would have it, Friday night was ‘All you can eat seafood buffet’ at the Main Street Grille. I’m sure many would appreciate that, but I, being allergic to seafood, was not please in the slightest. I was even more displeased when I learned that it that the ALL in ‘All You Can Eat’ had a double meaning… there was NOTHING ELSE BEING SERVED. So, I spent the next hour trying to find an outside source of food that would not charge me an arm and a leg to deliver. Finally, I ended up waiting almost an hour for a pizza to be delivered. I planned to use that for my meal the following lunch as well.

I managed to scarf down three pieces before my slotted time for hosting the game rolled around. I set up and then waited until some unsuspecting victims arrived. We spent the next hour and a half getting our castle torn down around our ears. We almost had the Orcs, Goblins and Trolls defeated, but managed to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory with a really bad last pull of the cards. Alas, defeat!

But the night was still young. I manned the gaming desk and sat bored for an hour, occasionally rattling my chains to draw attention to my book that I had stowed away on the corner in hopes of a sale. My sequestration did not last long, however, as I was soon rescued with more conversation with friends, old and new. This lasted up until the clock struck two, then I excused myself to my boudoir in preparation to turn into a pumpkin for the night.

Now, my ire at the hotel in general was still only in the range of ‘slight’ at this point. When I reached my room, it went back up a notch when I discovered the bathroom had retained the odor I previously mentioned. Just out of morbid curiosity, I checked to make sure someone had not dropped  deuce in the tank of the toilet out of some morbid spite, but that was not the source. It was not something I could point toward, complain, and get a resolution of quickly, so I let it slide. It wasn’t ‘horrible’, just slightly off-putting. I didn’t want to have to change rooms. I wanted to sleep. So, I closed off the bathroom and let it slide. I never found source the entire weekend, nor did it go away.

The next morning, bright and early at 10 AM, I awoke to enjoy my first mug of coffee. I always bring my own pot because ‘no coffee’ is ‘no good’. I always manage to forget something too, which in this case was filters. I used three tissues carefully arranged to make up the deficit, though, so hurray for Engineerity! It was really a good thing I had that coffee to warm me up, too, because when I turned the shower on to it’s fullest ‘hot’ setting what I got was lukewarm water at very low pressure. This was my last straw as far as patience went with The Chattanoogan. It had been added the ‘shithole country’ list.

With that poor beginning to the day completed, I managed to warm up with my second mug of coffee and proceeded to my first panel of the day. ‘Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox‘ conducted by Peter David.

Peter David

When I arrived at the room, I found said Sir, sitting grumpily outside the door waiting for someone to let him into the room. Hotel staff were soon badgered to do their job (strike seven… or was it eight?) and the doors were opened five minutes past starting time. Once inside, it was just myself and Mr. David, who was a bit surprised that the attendance was so low for a Guest of Honor panel. I explained that there had been copious amounts of alcohol consumed the night before into the wee hours of the morning by many con-goers, so many of them were probably still stumbling around finding breakfast and hangover meds. It did allow me the opportunity to mention my own book, of which I showed him a copy. I gave him a bookmark as well, but I have no idea if he kept it. Yes, that’s right, I showed off my SINGLE SELF-PUBLISHED novel to Peter David, prolific author of over 100! So… what’cha gon’ do about it! :p

Others finally showed up, and soon we were regaled with tales of pitfalls and head-butting, many quite humorous, that had happened to him in course of his writing career. I knew he had written for Star Trek (I have 31 of the damned books). I did not realize he had also written episodes of Babylon 5, many movie novelizations, and a huge number of comics. I’m not a comics guy, so please forgive what must seem unforgivable ignorance on the subject. Taking in the tidbits, as an aspiring author, I have an admiration for his ability to bite his creative tongue and do the work. The take-away secret that I acquired with regards to playing in someone else’s sandbox was ‘don’t get too attached because the work, world and characters don’t belong to you.’

An hour break before the next panel of interest let me head up to the room to scrounge my left-over pizza. Strike nine was the front desk informing me that not a single microwave was available to use to heat it. Of course, they could bring me one to my room (and charge me a fee), but it would take time… if they even had one left. It was at that point that I resolved that never again will I attend a convention without sammich makings. Lunch would have to wait for another hour and a half unless I wanted to miss the next panel, at which point I would have to spend another twelve dollars minimum in the bar downstairs for a burger. Not to mention the fact that most of a $15 pizza was going to be wasted. My stingy wallet was groaning in despair at this point.

The next panel was about ‘How Much Science Should A Science Fiction Writer Know.Stephanie Osborne was one of the ‘out sick’ panelists, but Mark Wandrey, Rob Howell & Christopher Woods ran with the theme. Ultimately, two conclusions were reached. One, you should have just enough science to satisfy your audience, but not so much that it becomes info-dumpy (unless you are David Weber, in which case rules do not apply to you). Two, Mark Wandrey likes mechs. 🙂 I’m going to have to add his Four Horsemen series to my ‘to read’ list now, I think.

Finally, the rumblings of my stomach forced me to override the grumblings of my wallet and I decided to head to the Foundry for a burger. The con had provided us with tickets to potentially win a free 2 night stay with entries earned by patronizing the hotel food establishments. For that reason, I ignored a friend’s advice to go across the street. The friend tagged along, and after seating ourselves, getting our own menus, we eventually got to place an order fifteen minutes later. The poor waitress was the only one working the place at 2 PM, although she did get some help about thirty minutes after that. This new person we flagged down and asked if we were going to be served our food. She went to check and found that they had apparently given it to someone else. ??? There were only seven people in the whole place. I informed her that I had to be elsewhere at 3 PM so they needed to bring me mine in a to-go box. I did eventually get the food, which was good, but I was going to be late for the one panel I did not want to miss. I was wondering about my Karma at this point, but my friend reminded me that I should really consider the Karma good because I did end up getting the meal for free. I’m still not sure about that.

On a positive note, I did make my panel before the book signing began. It was the Peter David Meet & Greet. I had to drag my box of books out of its hidden cubby in the game-room, stuff them in my bag, and hustle through to the back of the panel room, but I still made it. More tales of daring-David-do ensued. I learned some fannish lore (apparently well known in Comicon circles) regarding Teddy Bears and Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski. I also learned some inside scuttlebutt about Star Trek movers and shakers. It was highly entertaining, and Mr. David is quite the casual name dropper. I was a bit impressed, but then again, I’m not a 10 year old. Anyway, below is a picture of the books I got signed. It’s not all I own (15 out of 31), but I would not have had time to get them all signed anyway.

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After that, the convention was a series of games interspersed with bouts of a sinus/neck-pain induced headache. I did manage to shake it off to play host for Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naquala with some new friends. I had to call it quits early though, and decided to see if the shower in my room was hotter at one in the morning… nope. Strike fourteen?

Sunday was the wrap-up with game & prize give-away and the Closing Ceremonies. Attendance was anemic on that one. I delivered my complaints. They were heard, but most likely ignored. Many excuses were given for why things would probably not change next year. I nodded, smiled, and wrote it off as a lost cause.

Summary: Chattacon is disorganized but fun. I would go again if they changed hotels and found a way to make the con suite have hot food. I have a bad feeling they are going to crash and burn as a con if they don’t up their game, though. Which is a shame, because the people are fun and friendly.

 

Captain Sugar Britches, Parking Fairies & LibertyCon XXX: A Post Convention Report

OK, so the title is click-bait, I admit it. That’s right; I’m not really a Captain. But I was inducted into the Grand Rislandian Army, and I did lead my Blob army to a couple intergalactic victories, so almost.

Hmmm? What’s that?… Oh, Sugar Britches? Well, that part is actually kind of true… here, let me start at the beginning…

So, last Friday was the start of LibertyCon XXX (that’s Roman numeral 30 you dirty minded things, you). I arrived later than planned, but still too early to check in. As always at the Choo Choo, if you aren’t blessed by the Parking Lot Fairies, you end up miles from your room. I got a mixed blessing by getting a spot close to the Convention area before check-in time. It was not so close to the hotel, and my room-to-be, but I didn’t know that yet.

Anyway, I missed the first panel I wanted to see due to lateness. I managed to catch most of the next one, Stealth In Space, all about how to hide things in space when the way you see stuff is through heat and light, and there’s nothing to hide behind. Space is big and cold, but if you’re trying to sneak up on someone (for reasons) you’re probably going to have a really hard time doing it if they are looking. I learned lots of back-of-the-mind things for possible later reference in writing.

After that, I had a gap and it was late enough that my room was ready. It was all the way up and all the way at the end as far from the parking spot as you can get… of course. And, also of course, all the parking fairies were hiding in the bushes laughing at me as they had let everyone else have the other closer spots. This brings us to the cause of the accident… well, besides the fairies, of course.

You see, I always take too many things when I travel. One of them is that heavenly anointed maker of happiness and giver of energy, the coffee pot. It is accompanied by its lesser servants: the remover of bitterness, carnation creamer; and the source of all pre-lunch energies, the sugar canister. They are weighty minor deities, but nonetheless must be appeased.

Naturally, being a Manufacturing Engineer, I have the gift (pronounced curse) of organization and efficiency. (Parking fairies can sense this, by the way, and use it for sadistic purposes – more on that in moment). Well, I discovered that I had room in the pull-behind bag for said coffee condiments, which would allow the number of trips to the far far away vehicle to be limited to just one. Huzzah for organization! Therefore, they went into the bag. With the clothes. (It should also be noted that Parking fairies also have a bit of foresight that I, as a human, do not posses).

Fast forward to a long hot walk and bumping the luggage up a flight of stairs (elevators are too slow… poor efficiency for the transition of a single flight). Once in the room, the plan was to utilize the redundant sleeping surface as a platform for accessing the case of holding for the weekend (unpacking is dumb… and inefficient).

Nope. I opened the case and found that approximately 1 pound (this quantity is known because a full sugar canister is half of a four pound bag of sugar, and I had filled it before leaving home) had escaped its containment device and liberally coated everything in the bag.

Now, I know what you are thinking… Why did I need two pounds of sugar? The answer is both simple and two-fold. The first, of course, is efficiency. When you prefer your sugar with a bit of coffee, as I do, it is quite annoying to have to open twenty small packets of sugar to fill a four cup mug. And you can only do that once because all the sugar packets are gone. Then you have to go borrow/steal from others. It’s very inefficient. Secondly, I didn’t really need two pounds, I only needed one, but the other was my redundant sugar. My only mistake was putting them both in a non-redundant container… and near my… well, I’ll get to that.

The majority of the sugar was now at the bottom corner of the suitcase… right where the undies were carefully stored beside the socks. I say majority because a very persistent minority of it was IN the socks… and the undies.

So, for the next thirty minutes I was forced not only to unpack shudder, but also to carefully shake out each article of clothing, each book I had brought for autographs, and each and every small crevasse of a suitcase. Of course, this meant the floor was now sugar coated as well. It had to be dealt with because… I mean, do you want ants? ‘Cause that’s how you get ants.

I was sure I could hear giggling from the parking lot when I made my way back to the truck for coffee mug I had forgotten in the cup holder. After that I made my way to game room to check out what was what there. I kibitzed on a little OGRE action and reacquainted with some folks I’d befriended last year.

Then I made my way back to the panel on Short Story Writing Tips which covered the usual range of ‘everybody does it different’ mixed with a few examples of ‘everyone agrees: don’t do this or that’. It was interesting to hear, and I did manage to pan a few small nuggets out of it.

Next, Opening Ceremonies kicked off the Con with Dominatrix (ices?) Toni Weisskopf and Brandy Spraker whipping the audience of filthy minded minions of LC XXX into… record scratch So anyway, the Con kicked off with a very humorous MC rattling off the many many many pros in attendance, and the annual drafting… welcoming of the slaves… um first timers. After, we all parted to revel in the festivities.

Later in the evening, I found myself making new friends in the game room again. Not only did I meet my first Critter (see Critical Role fan) in the wild, but I also discovered we shared an alma mater (Hail State!). The world is indeed small.

Soon, many of us were getting our initiation into the world of Star Realms courtesy of Mr. Jon del Arroz (still lugging a suitcase and wearing formal attire… I don’t think he got the memo about the South being hot and muggy.) I did not win the tourney, being taken out in round two by said memo-less del Arroz, but I was allowed to join the Grand Rislandian Army (from For Steam & Country) and got a set of cards out of the deal. Thanks Jon!

Check out his Star Realms: Rescue Run book too. I added it to my TBR pile as soon as I got home.Star Realms: Rescue Run by [Del Arroz, Jon]

Somehow, I managed to miss the dinner bell at the Con Suite and had to subsist on chips and soda, but the gaming and company more than made up for the exchange at the time. More games and coffee later, we began a late night Call of Cthulhu session. Our Keeper, Anita Moore, pushed us through time into a Nameless Horror adventure where I played the lovable rogue, Theodore Maynard. He had a knack for very poorly timed humor. It was a good fit, overall. I got to practice my British accent skills (have you ever heard a Britt that sometimes sounds like a good ole boy?). That lasted until just past 3 AM. I was quite insane by the end… so was Theo. I didn’t get to exhausted sleep until 4 AM.

FF to the next day and… What? Yes, yes, yes, I’m getting back to the Sugar Britches part you bunch of sensationalists! Have a little patience.

So, Saturday was going to end up hot, wet and exhausting (calm down). It started off with the hotel deciding it was very important that they mow the little patches of green between the wings of the building at 8:00 AM on the first night after the start of a convention because, obviously, that’s always a good idea and everyone must be awake by now. eyeroll I missed breakfast, but managed to fumble through a shower and get to the autograph session with John Ringo and my planned loop through the Art show.

I bought yet another Sarah Clemens Magnus & Loki print… I can’t resist them.

Magnus & Loki: Still Evil

It rained heavily a few times and the steam content of Chattanooga went up to somewhere around 113% plus or minus delirium.

This is where the problem came in. I wrote the giggles off to lack of sleep this time, but I now realize it was the Parking fairies. They play the long game, those fairies. I returned to my room for another infusion of coffee and to use the facilities. Now, I won’t get too graphic, but let me just say that I was very surprised to find myself unable to let go of certain body parts after using the restroom.

Now, for anyone not familiar with the details of men’s undergarments, in the front there is an area where the fabric overlaps, called the ‘fly’. It serves the purpose of both a potential access way and room for… expansion… in Engineering terms… a redundant mechanism for an extra degree of freedom of movement. In short (shorts?), it is arranged in a way that makes it quite possible for fine granules of a substance (say, sugar) to find their way into this overlap of materials and become trapped there… undetected. If said granules are water soluble, (also, like sugar) it can become mixed with sweat and then permeate through the cloth to coat… other things. I think you see where I’m headed with this, so I won’t bore you (or gross you out any further) with any more details.

Suffice it to say, the next thing I did was take another shower. The next thing I did after that was make sure ALL the sugar was out of any other articles of clothing before wearing them. (Damn fairies) [Thus ended (thankfully and forever) the not so daring adventure of Captain Sugar Britches.]

Tired and perturbed, I decide to grab another hour of sleep, then went to scrounge in the Con Suite for scraps because I had missed yet another meal call. I hung out in the game room until the next panel I wanted to see rolled around at 2 PM.

At the Baen Traveling Slide show, I acquired swag and list of books that I want to read on top of all the ones I am already behind on reading. I wish those Parking fairies could make me read faster. I bailed out after the first hour for another panel of interest.

At 3 PM, I was educated on the International Space Treaty by Space Lawyer Laura Montgomery. This was fruitful in that it gave me a good idea for a short story. Did you know that if you catch a cold in space, that it could technically be illegal to let you come back to Earth because you now contain a mutated organism?

Next, I learned a lot about Planetary Formation, exoplanets, and n-body models (No, they were not Swedish, nor were they wearing bikinis. I told you before ‘XXX’ is Roman 20170701_160941.jpg

numerals for 30!) from the Science GoH, Elisa Quintana. She works for the SETI Institute on the Kepler program. They look for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. She wrote the predictive model that tries to explain how they form, and determine where a good place to look next will be. I’m pretty sure she is much smarter than anyone else at the Con. In fact, she is probably an extra terrestrial being with partial amnesia who is trying to use Earth’s resources to re-locate her home planet. I spoke to her afterwards and tried to convince her to turn her n-body model into a video game for nerds. I’d play it.

Am I boring you? Ah, who am I kidding, no one reads this blog anyway, so I’ll just keep going for my own sake.

The next event, hosted by my friend Doug Loss, was an RPG game called ‘One Last Job’. It’s an RPG where the players make up the story, describing what happens and giving out scars and legends to each other that can be used to help with dice rolls in situations that determine failure of success of the mission objectives. My new friend (Critter/MSU grad), his wife and I were the only ones who ended up playing due to the unfortunate time slot. Yep, right at meal time. I was starving by this point, so I had to beg a delay to get grub before the game. Anyway, it was still a great time. We invented some characters, told some lies and made some hilarious memories. Heck, I may even write the scenario up as a short story someday. You can get the pdf for the whole game and a few scenario ideas for free here.

After that, I tried to resolve some sleep deprivation, but… noise. Next year I will have earplugs that link to my phone so I can use them and still hear my alarm. Anyway, I gave up and returned to the game room where I was sucked into a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was deplorably fun, but I ended up with a migraine and had to abandon all hope at midnight. The parties below my room kept me from sleep for a few more hours. (The Choo Choo’s strike number three for me, as I had specifically asked to be on the other side. I would not stay there again even if the Con was not going to move.) I did get at least six hours I think, and the migraine went away.

When Sunday rolled around, I was up and checked out before the Kaffeeklatch started at 10AM. I decided to skip out early on that and instead just sat in the rocking chairs outside and enjoyed the morning air, which was not quite as stuffy as the day before. I caught up on email and Facebook, then headed to the Space Opera panel. It was fun, but mainly just turned into a ‘what’s your favorite/least favorite tv/movie space opera’ as answered by the ‘pros’.

I picked up my pre-auction art bid winnings (another neat print) at the Art Show and celebrated my friend Anita Moore’s win for Best 3D Art.

19657152_10154773811197005_9001426274413251804_n.jpg (960×540)

She does really amazing 3D-scapes that can be used for all kinds of miniature style game sets. If you’re in the market, you should definitely check her stuff out on her Facebook page here.

A round of lunch at a nearby shop with friends, old and new, followed by the Con closing Bitch Session, would conclude my LibertyCon XXX adventures. As I left, I thought I’d gotten the last laugh when I walked out the door and was right there at my truck. Then I realized I needed a new drink for the ride home and had to go get some ice… across the parking lot… at the back of the hotel.

Stupid Parking Fairies.

There’s No Dark Side to Critical Role – A Fisk of TheDMsCraft Video

This is not my normal blog fare. This is not a book review or some creative writing. This blog is about Dungeons & Dragons, and specifically about a video regarding Live Broadcast RPGs on the internet.

 

If you have never watched Critical Role, then this post is probably not going to make much sense to you. If you’ve never played D&D, or some other RPG (or at least watched someone play), then it definitely won’t. If you have, then you can get the gist of the discussion.

For those who don’t know, but want to keep reading… a bit of background…

The internet (youtube, twitch.tv, etc.) has created a platform for game streaming of all kinds: Video, Tabletop, RPGs, etc. RPGs themselves are a big & expanding part of that.

Critical Role is self-deCRshowPage-241x160[1]scribed as a program where ‘a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors get together and play Dungeons & Dragons’. It can be seen live on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch Channel Thursday’s at 7PM PST (10PM EST). It is nearly up to 100 episodes, most of which are at least 3 to 4 hours long, with many going longer. You can find all the back episodes on YouTube as well. The DM & players are Voice Actors with huge presences in video games, anime, and other media.  The cast is made up of Matthew Mercer as DM and the players: Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffee, and Marisha Ray. The most well known actress in the group is Ashley Johnson who plays Patterson from Blind Spot, and was also the child star who played Chrissy in Growing Pains. Taliesin Jaffee also played several child star roles, including the little boy with the woobie in Mr. Mom. IMDB these folks, and you will find a lot of credits. Anyway, it’s an excellent, entertaining show that I really enjoy watching each week.

If you want to see what it’s about, you can find Episode One here.  They start out seemingly ‘low budget’ in quality, but trust me, it gets progressively better and is so worth it. If you do start watching it, start from the beginning, and please come back and let me know. I would find it quite pleasing to know that someone began their CR journey through my blog!

Now, back to the subject of the blog…

After seeing this video by TheDMsCraft cross-posted on the Critical Role Fan Club on Facebook, I just had to comment on it. As a Critter, a fan of Critical Role, it seemed to me to be a video full of opinions that were pretty much all-around wrong, IMHO. DM Scotty seems to have a bit of an ego, and I think this video shows him to be feeling somewhat threatened in his niche. Anyway, it irritated me, as a fan, so I’m fisking the video. Topic points are paraphrased or summarized.

Watch the video first. Fisking below:

  • “I don’t feel that RPGs are a great spectator sport.”

Of course you don’t. That’s because you are looking at it from the perspective of control. You are a DM, and you don’t control this one. That grates on you, doesn’t it?

But, let’s examine the reason you actually stated. You are comparing it to the experience you get as a player; as someone who wants to be immersed and BE the ROLE PLAYER. However, if you actually watch the shows (which I suspect you have not, or at least not much because you are pre-biased against the possibility of it being good), you will soon come to realize that you can still get an emotional connection with the players and their characters. You can become vicariously attached to them in an emotionally satisfying way. And if the Player is great at it, it will have much more pull than you can imagine. This is no different from any long running series. Soap Operas, for instance have a very similar ongoing story that millions of people follow daily. Reality/Talk Shows pull in millions for short intense sessions of immersion in someone else’s lives (scripted or not)… think of these as One Shots. These are all spectator sport RPG analogs.

Can you get the same experience out of WATCHING an RPG vs. playing a character in one? No. It’s different. It’s not meant to give you that experience, it’s meant to give you a similar, yet unique one. And, since it’s mostly a new form of entertainment that’s evolving, we (fans and producers) are just discovering the actual format differences. Critical Role is not Acquisitions Incorporated, and neither of those is Harmon’s Quest… but none of them are ‘wrong fun’, and they all have loyal and large audiences. That fact alone disproves the initial argument.

  • The Camera Effect

Yes, there is a camera effect. It was noticeable when Critical Role started. It is still there now. They do tend to keep the audience in mind… as they should. They are not playing a home game for self entertainment. Although some fans argue – ad nauseum – that it’s ‘THEIR GAME’, they ARE playing for an audience. Granted, they have fun, and they have said that if it ever becomes ‘not fun’ for them then they will probably stop playing. Fair enough. But yes, Matthew Mercer as DM, with obvious consent from the players, guides the story to be ‘non-boring’ and keep it moving forward. For example: Shopping – a boring thing mostly, is done off-line, or when it’s done live, there are lots of comedic moments involved. If it gets bogged down, Mercer clamps down on it. Other example: Crafting – planned and done off-line for the most part. Other other examples: Character Advancement, XP awards, etc. All these things are not something the audience wants to watch unfold (well, some of us really nerdy folks might, but not most) so it gets done offline. That’s for the camera. So, yes the effect is there. So what? What’s wrong with that? Answer: nothing.

If what you are really concerned about is the effect on the way characters are played, then I have to say it is even less, and as time goes by, the camera is mostly forgotten and they just play their game. This is true for all the live RPGs I’ve ever watched. The Critical Role cast is a very talented group, and they do it very well. They also had the added benefit of established characters coming into the live stream. The cast of Aquisitions Incorporated plays toward the audience more, but I have also seen them tell the audience to shut-it! The new AI C-Team is very ‘chat’ participatory (Jerry Holkins actually lets them make narrative choices and refers to them as the Shadow Council). These Camera Effects are bonuses in my opinion. They don’t take anything away from the enjoyment, they add to it. The premise that the Camera Effect is in some way ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ is another ‘your fun is wrong’ statement that should not be applied to a Live View RPG event. Again, it is not the same as playing yourself, and it should not have to be.

  • DM Scotty would never make a basic mistake.

Oh come on dude! If you are as great/seasoned as you claim, then you should know that: A) No one knows all the rules, and B) The rules are made up, so changing them is OK, too. It’s right there in the DM guide… go lawyer it… I mean, look it up.

  • I’m the Best DM

Who are you again? Other than this video someone posted because you pissed them off, I’ve never heard of you before now.

  • Danger of Critical Role – Unreasonable Expectations

Yes, Scotty, we Critters understand that these are professional voice actors we are watching. No, they did not start out with the best equipment. It got better because the fans supported the show because they were just that good.

It is not edited, other than for rebroadcast. And why would you worry about someone watching the show being discouraged from playing because they can’t produce a twitch video? Didn’t you just say that the point of the game (paraphrase of your words) was to become a character, not show off for an audience? Your fears seem more to me like justifications for you dislike of something that is becoming more successful than you THINK you are. Again, who are you?

Also, you obviously don’t know squat about the Critter Community that’s sprung up around this show, or even Matt Mercer’s GM Tips. For those attempting to become GMs BECAUSE OF CRITICAL ROLE (tons of new face…BTW), the fact that they will not be close to flawless (aka, Mercer Level), and will have to work at it, is something that is known. And yes, they understand that playing does not require the use of many voices for characters, PC or NPC. We’re not as stupid as you must think. #WeKnow

The other thing you are not aware of, or simply discount, is that this community is very supportive. It’s a place where encouragement abounds. Tips, tricks, resources, and advice are freely shared here, and that, I believe, is going to grow Critters into a DM showcase. (Hmmm… Critter Certified DM has a nice ring to it. It should be on a shirt, maybe… or the bottom of a mug at least.) So, perhaps you don’t know enough about the audience of this show to even comment on things like this. Or, maybe you do, and that’s why you feel threatened in your niche? Either way, it’s an audience that you have very much riled up.

So, dear blog readers…to sum up…

Critical Role is a show that has succeeded beyond the expectations of anyone. It brought me into the world of D&D. I now play on a regular basis because of it. I will probably DM eventually. The rise in popularity of D&D, at this point in time, is a direct result of this show. I know it existed way before, but CR was a tipping point. I have a feeling D&D is about to peek it’s head into ‘mainstream’, which brings with it a whole other set of challenges for the ‘old school’ players. DM Scotty seems to be one of those. He’s seems worried that too many people will start having fun the wrong way, and maybe change the landscape too much for him. He doesn’t seem to realize that the side effect is that more people will enjoy the game the way he does as well, thus growing and giving new life to it. It’s going to be OK, Scotty. We can have our fun while you still have yours too.

Be Pleased.

Dragons and Rockets and Wandering Puppies – The Hopes of a Sci-Fi Fan

I don’t love dogs. I like them alright, but I don’t love them. My experience with them has been a mixed bag. Aside from one or two I’ve know, I’ve found a majority of them to be on the slow side. Dumb dogs really irritate me. And I despise the overly vociferous ones… be they large and growly or small and yappy. But, puppies are OK. I mean, who doesn’t like puppies, right? They do silly stuff, but they don’t know any better yet. They are great… right up to the point they start chewing stuff up and pooping right where you have to walk… that’s when they become dogs and a choice to like or dislike them must be made.

 

I’m much more of a cat person. There’s lots of reasons why, but I won’t go into that because that’s not what I’m writing this blog for right now. Suffice it to say, cats share my personality and sensibilities. I do my own thing, and for the most part, I prefer to be left alone.
What this blog is really about is an issue that has been ongoing for several years now. I’ve never talked about it mainly because it is polarized to such an extent, that to even hint at an inclination to one point of view or the other could get you instantly ostracized by the opposite side. This will probably happen to me at some point anyway, so I’m not going to sweat it anymore. So what is this topical bush I’m beating around, you ask?
It’s the Hugo/Puppygate debacle. If you are a Science Fiction & Fantasy reader, but are not familiar with this… good. Stay ignorant. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy your books. But I caution you, if you ever look into the real world lives of your favorite authors, you may be sucked into the maelstrom. And once in, you will have an awful time extricating your mind from it.
That brings me to the explanation of ‘why now‘. Why blog of this kerfuffle if it is so ill-advised to become involved? Well, I have winced at the on-goings for a while, and have become a very Sad Kitty in my own right because of it. You see, I sort of like the writings from authors on both sides of the argument. I have strong leanings and empathy toward the points made by the Puppy side however, and as such, find myself loath to support the works of the Puppy Kicker side. That’s why I warn readers to remain ignorant. It is bliss, and you will enjoy your SF&F more that way. Alas, I am not ignorant, and have no recourse to ‘unknow‘ things.
The sad runs deep, and the doom of Things I Like seems to hover over the literary portion of fandom. The Rockets of the Hugo Award have been tarnished, if not down-right sabotaged, to the point where they are no longer Fan Worthy. Two sides of a social argument will never agree to coexist peacefully again. I do believe that the side of fiscal profitability will prevail, but the damage done by the failing side as it rails against its own self-imposed darkness will no doubt cause a backlash onto the side of the light. If you have ever read Jordan’s Wheel of Time, compare it to the Dark One’s counter-stroke against Sadin. Put plainly, some great science fiction will fail to be made because of boycotts that keep authors from making a living at it… not because of the writing, but because of the politics of the writer. That is sad.
It’s doubly sad to me because I hope to soon join the ranks of sci-fi authors by publishing my first novel. There is a divide, and it seems you must choose one side or the other. Being a cat-minded individual, that’s like holding the door open and expecting me to choose to go in or stay out! The horror of such decisions!
And I must admit my own guilt of bias against some of those authors who have been actively kicking sad puppies. I have also frowned at and declined to investigate the works written by some of the more growly and yappy puppies on the opposite side of the fight… because, again, I don’t like loud dogs. Sure, we need them to stand guard, but when they bark at shadows, or just have a howl-off with the other dogs around them, it becomes annoying to me. It isn’t always necessary to bark at every squirrel. Sometimes I just want to sit and read a good book in peace and quiet.
But… and this is the reason I write this today… there is a glimmer of hope. I think that glimmer may reveal itself fully tomorrow, when the new Dragon Awakes… The first annual Dragon Awards will be presented on Sept. 4th, 2016 @DragonCon. This award has been established on an open platform for both nominations and voting. It does not require memberships, only interest in participating. It is truly Fan Worthy. The only question is, can it avoid the taint… the backlash of the existing conflict… and be a non-gamed award?
I sure hope so.
Anyway, before anyone reading this assigns a label to me, I will present you with the one I chose for myself.
I am a Wandering Puppy. I am searching for the things I like. You can try to fence me in, but I will dig out and keep looking. If you kick me, I will not stay to receive more… I’ll run away. If there are too many growly and yappy dogs around me, I’ll run away.  I’ll keep Wandering until I find the home that’s mine. Don’t bother trying to find me and make me come home so little spoiled Suzie can pull my ears. I’ll just run away again. Your Lost Puppy signs are a wast of time, for “Not all those who Wander are Lost”.
As I thought of this analogy, I was obviously reminded of the poem from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. After re-reading that, I was struck with a comparison to the whole debacle that I think fits the poem quite well… you decide. (comparisons are mine, and probably silly)
All that is gold does not glitter,
                (Tarnished Hugo Awards no longer impress anyone)
 Not all those who wander are lost;

                (Wandering Puppies of Fandom like me keep looking for good Sci-Fi)
The old that is strong does not wither,

                (Real Sci-Fi isn’t squashed by propaganda)
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

                (Good Stories from all points of view will survive)
From the ashes a fire shall be woken

                (WorldCon fades but PuppyGate ignited a fire in Fandom)
A light from the shadows shall spring;

                (DragonCon created the Dragon Award)
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

                (The Dragon Award replaces the Hugo)
The crownless again shall be king.

                (Science Fiction Fandom retakes the throne)
– J.R.R. Tolkien
Good luck to all the nominees tomorrow, but honestly… I really hope the Fans Win.

My D&D Alignment?

I saw this quiz and decided to find out what character alignment fit my own personality best.  Here are the results.

I Am A:

Lawful Neutral Human Wizard (5th Level)

Ability Scores:

Strength-11
Dexterity-12
Constitution-12
Intelligence-17
Wisdom-13
Charisma-12

Alignment:
Lawful Neutral A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs him. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot. However, lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is his spells, everything else is secondary. He learns new spells as he experiments and grows in experience, and he can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate his spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves him. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?

The Evolution of the Wampuscat

This blog is inspired by the moniker I have chosen as my net identity. It originally was my handle back in the CB dabbling days of my youth. I often get the comment… “Cool name! What’s a Wampuscat?” when people see it in my email address or a login or something. I even had a character named Wampus_de_Cat, as pirate captain, in the first MMORPG I ever played, called Bounty Bay Online. I like it because it is so unique and memorable. So, where did it come from, and what does it mean? Well, that’s a bit of a story…

Growing up in the hills just outside the Mississippi Delta, I learned many old stories from family histories. Stories about how things were done in old ways in old places, and usually a fair share of funny tales told about relatives. One thing we didn’t have too many of though, were folk-lore or legends. For some reason though, I like those kinds of things, which is why I suppose I remembered and held on to this one. For my family, it was one that was used very effectively to manage the hard-headedness of young boys (and later girls) who ran around outside all day, playing in the woods. That legend was the Wampuscat.

Now, to understand the existences and perpetuation of this particular legend in my family, you have to be aware of the environment in which it was used. You see, when the light of day starts to dim, it gets really hard to see things clearly in the woods, so moving through them become a bit tricky. Even though it is still bright enough to see, details tend to blur and merge. Low limbs and thin vines blend into the background, and you can’t see them until they smack you in the head or snag your throat like a hangman’s noose crossed with a garrote. Things lying in shadows lose the colors that make them stand out (sticks, stumps, wash holes, etc.) which keeps you from spotting them until you step on or into them. It’s also at that time that things like snakes like to start moving around… you know, just when a person looses the ability to see them very well and avoid them.

The other piece to the ‘why’ puzzle of the Wampuscat legend being used by my family is of course the audience. As you may know, young kids, especially boys, are not fearless, but they are also not very concerned with caution either, so it takes constant reminders from mom, dad, mamaw (grandmother for those who don’t know who that is – it’s pronounced ‘ma’am aww’ and spelled my way because I said so), papaw, aunt, uncle, etc. to get them to pay attention to things that they need ‘to be careful of’. The big problem is that ‘being careful’ at dusk is hard to do, even for adults, so the best thing for kids to do is to come on in the house. Now, if you are a young person playing in the nearby woods with only as much caution as you have managed to remember from the last reminder, you are very reluctant to heed that distant call to come home from an authority figure. Besides, if they can’t find you, they can’t make you, so why hurry? This is especially true if you are in the middle of some critical game or imagining. This, of course, means that the previously mentioned authority figures must find other ways to motivate you to abandon your secluded dungeon or fortified fortress or embattled pirate ship and return safer arenas. Thus derives the adaptation of an old folk legend modified to fit the needs of our elders when I was young.

The Wampuscat was a creature of the night. It took the form of a huge black panther, but it wasn’t just a panther, it was smart, like a person. It could out think and out maneuver you. It could trick you. It could also scare you to death with its wail… a mix of a cat growl and terrified screaming woman. It lurked in the woods, ready to snatch up and eat anyone found there after dark. It’s favorite food, of course, were small children, especially the ones who didn’t obey their elders. And chances were that if you waited around to be spotted by it, you couldn’t run fast enough to get to the house where you would be safe. The Wampuscat never went near streetlights or porch lights, but flashlights didn’t scare or even bother it at all. (Don’t believe me? Shine a light into the woods and catch a pair of eyes with it… they just stare back at you. Now pretend you are a ten year old with a vivid imagination and someone telling you it might be the Wampuscat. Believe me now?).

So, the Wampuscat was our boogeyman. We did not stay out after the light began to fade. Unless it was a dare, of course, but then we usually scared the crap out of each other so bad we ended up racing each other to the house like our tails were on fire and our ass was catching. Thus our parents could be fairly sure we would come when called, and try to be in before the fading light became the reason for some serious injury in the woods.

Of course, as we grew up, we realized that the tale was tall, as they say. However, I can tell you now that I still get nervous being in the woods at dusk. I always try to have a big stick in my hand too… preferably one with a trigger… just in case.

Later in life, I remember my dad telling me a rhyme about the physical makeup of the Wampuscat, but I struggle to remember all the words. I think it was probably something he got from somewhere else and switched it around to be about the Wampuscat. The phrases I remember go thusly: “he had razors for claws and a barbed wire gut, a corncob peter, and cotton ball nuts…” Yep, that was my dad telling me that. It was funny, and probably why I can’t remember it… I was laughing too much.

Fast forward some years, and I decided to look up the legend on this new thing called the internet. I managed to find a book that tells of Southern Legends with a mention of the Wampuscat in it.

…One of the most widespread legends, which probably had its origins in Indian mythology, centered on the “Wampus Cat,” an impossibly hideous critter said to have the head of a man, the body of a wildcat – only larger – and the soul of a demon.

Like Bigfoot, the Wampus Cat was said to lurk among the gloomy bottoms of the South and to take fiendish delight in preying upon hunters, fisherman, and others who stayed too far of the beaten path.

Great Southern Mysteries – E. Randal Floyd (pg. 130)

Great Southern Mysteries by E. Randall Floyd

Of course, only portions of that fit the legend of the Wampuscat of Carroll County at all, but that’s to be expected. Legends change to fit the needs and memories of those who pass them on to new generations. This did not completely satisfy my curiosity, however, so I would continue to revisit this legend’s origin from time to time, hoping to find new information. I would share with you here the things I have found about it to date, but alas they were paper and have disappeared from the world in my many relocations. Of course, you can Google it yourself now, but back when I started looking for it, it was not nearly so easy… we had this place called a library, and…. oh well, I digress.

Probably one of the best references to it that I have been able to find is from a book called Spooky South by S. E. Schlosser.

The Wampuscat excerpt can be found here:

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/08/the_wampus_cat.html

It’s short, so go read it.          I’ll wait………..

Good, huh? See, told ya!

The whole book that comes from is available on Amazon here.  I just bought a used copy for $6 for myself.

Anyway, back to the evolution….

In 2006, I decided that I might try to start my own business.  It was to be an Engineering Consulting business at first, with hopes of expanding into a multi-functional set of enterprises… thus the name Wampuscat Enterprises was born.

Yes, that is the name of my company.  No, it has never done a single cent’s worth of business because I have always had a job and never enough time to go figure out how to make a business work.  I did come up with a sales pitch and motto though….

Wampuscat Enterprises is an owner operated Custom Engineering Services company.

We specialize in Manufacturing Engineering Services to help our customers achieve their company goals by providing Engineering expertise for special projects, equipment design, lean consulting, or any other Manufacturing Engineering tasks that would be better serviced as an outside contract endeavor.

If you need Mechanical or Manufacturing Engineering services, but not a full-time engineer on staff, then Wampuscat Enterprises is a perfect fit for you.

Our Promise to our Customers: We Engineer Success!

Pretty good huh?  (just nod your head yes and smile, dammit). Sadly, it has sat idle for many years now, but who knows, this may change soon.

Right now, though, I’m trying to write about stuff and thangs, so….

I plan to write a short story based on the Wampuscat, and I will post it on here for you to read.  I hope to have it on here for Halloween, maybe.

OK, that’s all I have in the way of explanation of the origin and evolution of the Wampuscat.  I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Leave me a comment if you did. It will make me feel good.  But don’t pick on me, because I hate that.

And don’t stay out in the woods after dark!