Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Reader's Choice Challenge: the Sequel

Last year I gave my readers a chance to suggest topics for me to write about.  This time it's going to be a little different.  I'm giving the readers a chance to suggest an idea for some fiction for me to write, or at least attempt to write.  You have until Monday, October 24 to make your suggestion.

Now try not to get too specific, but then again if you are too vague then I probably won't pick it.  Also I probably won't pick anything that's too gonzo, and a wild mash-up of multiple genres, and settings.  Then again you never know, I might get in a weird mood.

I hope the piece I wrote last night was at least a little entertaining.  It's a "what if" Earth had mythological races and dungeons, but I guess most people could figure that out.  There is a back story to it, but if I keep writing about this character it will come out in bits and pieces.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Quick & Happy

I pulled into a parking space in front of the Quick and Happy.  I really  needed to beef up my supplies.  The dive tonight was more of an exploratory expedition, and I didn't need much, but better safe than sorry.  Looking around I notice the rest of the lot was empty, and it kind of worried me.  Normally the convenience store was busy twenty four and seven.  It was odd.

The walk to the entrance was short, and inside I see there's a new clerk.  I walk up and notice the clerk is reading a magazine, ork porn.  Blech.  I clear my throat, and the clerk looks up.  I notice it's a he, and he's an elf.  Pale, pointy ears, and wooooooooooah... glowing eyes.  This one's probably a user of Wyzard, and that's never a good thing.

Wyzard, or Wyzz as it's called on the streets, is in simple terms, a "magical drug".  Not really illegal, but it is on the banned substance list, and can get you in plenty of trouble.  Wyzz can enhance your magic, but has serious side effects, and is very addicting.  Made by anarchemists, the stuff can be snorted, smoked, drunk, and in some forms absorbed through the skin.  Personally, I have never used it, and I never intend to use it.  I have seen plenty of promising wizards ruin their lives by using it.  It's bad juju.

According to the name tag, the elf's name is Edward.  Ed the elf, looks at me with his glowing eyes, and finally grunts at me.  "What you want?"

"I need... say do I know you?"  The elf looked familiar. 

He shrugged, and went back to looking at his porn.  "Piss off human..."

I turned and not really watching where I was going, because I was looking at Ed, trying to figure out why he looked so familiar, I bumped into a very large humanoid.  Very, very large.  Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice.  Well, I think it's a he because sometimes with humanoids it's hard to tell.

I stammered out a "I'm sorry..." anyway, and he looked at me.  He had been staring at the hot dog grill, and there was a bit of drool hanging from his lip.  He must be hungry.  I notice he's wearing a Dallas Minotaurs jersey.  I wonder if he's a player or a fan?

"Sorry?"  He looked confused.  Which was good for me, because I know I didn't want him angry with me.  So I shrug, and hold out my hand.  "My name is Luke, how are you doing?"  I notice he has a ID band on his right wrist, which means he's integrated, and no bounty can be collected on him.  Unless he goes rogue, then he's fair game again.

He shows me the band, "Torque, name is Torque..."  Then he turns back to the grill, and starts drooling again.

Torque?  Sheesh, some government creep probably gave him the name.

I step back, and get a better look at Torque.  His clothes are kind of scruffy.  It was obvious he was part ogre.  Probably half or maybe three-quarters ogre because this fellow is huge.  His monthly allotment probably didn't provide enough to feed him.  Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea, and also realized why there weren't any customers in the store.  Nobody really trusts the larger humanoids, even when they are supposed to be integrated and civilized.

"Hey Ed! Get Torque here a couple of those Dragon Dogs, make em jumbos!"

Ed the elf grunted again, and walked over.  I walked down the snack aisle, and grabbed some Dr. Ork Jerky Sticks.  It was a new brand, and I wanted to try it out.  I wandered around the store grabbing a few more essentials for the dive.  On a whim I grab a disposable camera.  I might need to document something.

I carried my purchases to the counter, and set them down.  Ed walked up, and started entering the items in the cash register.  The Quick & Happy didn't have one of the new magical scanners.  I guess management didn't trust them yet.  Too easy to hack.

Ed started bagging everything, and asked me a question, one I didn't really want to answer.

"You going on a dive?"

I saw no point in lying.  Elves were good at telling when people were lying, even ones high on Wyzz.

"Yeah, going to the old mines.  Heard some mongrels have moved in.  Hoping to get a couple and turn them in for the bounty.  I need to pay my cable bill..."  Which was the truth.  I had heard a rumor about a pack of mongrels moving into the mines, and I did need to pay my cable bill.  However there was another reason I was going to the old mines, but nobody needed to know that reason.

Ed grunted again.  "Boring..."

I paid Ed, and grabbing my sacks saw Torque walking towards me.  He had already wolfed down the dogs.  He was smiling, which I took as a good thing.

"Thanks...uh..."  Torque scratched his head. Ogres of any fractional lineage weren't usually very intelligent.

"Luke.  My name is Luke.  Say Torque you working?  How would you like to make some silver?"

I didn't think it was possible, but his smile got bigger.  Which kind of creeped me out a little.  I also notice his lower fangs had been filed down and capped.  Cruel government creeps.  It was probably a condition of his integration into society.

"Torque need work!  Torque work hard!"

"Ah good!  Follow me, you start now."  As I opened the door I remember why Ed seemed so familiar.  He had gone to the same high school as me.

"Hey Ed!"  As he looked up from reading his ork porn, I flipped him off.  He shrugged and went back to his ork porn.

Once outside I direct Torque to get in the cargo bed of my pickup truck.  He was way too large to get in the cab.  I was worried he might be offended, but he was still smiling.

"Torque ride!  Torque ride!"  As he stepped onto the bed of the truck I saw it drop low to the ground.  Oops.  I hope my shocks would hold up.

"Yeah big guy.  You get to ride..."  I laugh, and get behind the wheel of my used Ford Drake.  I turn the key, and the engine rumbles to life.  Looking in the rearview mirror at Torque I can't help but smile.

I'm Luke Ivorythorn, dungeon diver, and I have just hired my first henchmen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blogs to Behold!

Okay, tonight I want to do something a little different.  Explore the blogoverse, and point out some cool stuff.  I also want to do a little reminiscing about gaming, because that's always fun.

I'm sure everyone who's played Dungeons and Dragons that's over a certain age, knows about and may have actually watched the Saturday morning cartoon it's loosely based on. Well, I came across Mark Evanier's weblog POVONLINE , and he has an article about his involvement with the show. You might also know Mark as the writer of Groo the Wanderer, a wonderful comic book.

I've never met Mark, but I have met Sergio Aragones ( the artist of Groo the Wanderer ), and talked to him a bit about cartooning.  He liked my work, and gave me some pointers.  What a great guy.  He's one of my favorite cartoonists, well... okay he has the number one spot as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of comic books, if you read them in the 70's and 80's, then you should probably be familiar with Jim Shooter, for quite a while he was the Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics.  He also has a blog called appropriately enough, Jim Shooter .  He has many behind the scenes stories that are great.  Check it out.

Okay, now I'm going to hop in the Way Back Machine, and tell a tale of the awesome bravery of one of my characters. We had just started playing Rolemaster, and a friend of mine was the DM.  He was using some published module, I don't remember which one, I really wish I could, because  I would like to get a copy.

Now ICE didn't have a lot published material yet.  I think we were using 1st Edtion, which consisted of Character Law, Spell Law, Arms Law, and I think that was it.  Maybe Claw Law as well?  It's been a while. Nothing with monsters in it.  So he had to import monsters from AD&D, which was okay, because they had conversion tables IIRC.  The module was also for AD&D...

Both me and my brother played two characters because our gaming group was small.  Well, at one point my magician had taken point, and was entering a room.  Why was I in the lead?  I don't remember.  The fighter and warrior monk may have been in bad shape.

So as I entered the room, I asked what I saw... and the DM said, "You see what looks like a man with the head of a tiger... he was sitting in a throne, but now he's standing up..."  It was a Rakshasa.  I asked the DM if I knew what it was, and he ruled that I did, or rather that my character did.  My character turns around yelling, "RUN!"  ( For some reason I had this fear of Rakshasas as a player. They don't seem that bad as I read the listing in the MM. Of course a home-brewed version in RM could be a nightmare! )

The DM chuckles, and the Rakshasa lets loose a lightning bolt.  ( This was a home-brewed Rolemaster Rakshasa after all... )  I was sure I was doomed.  Doomed to become a pile of smoking ash.  Well, the DM rolls, and then gets a funny look on his face.

Earlier in the game we had found a magic amulet.  We couldn't figure out what it did, or what kind of magical properties it had.  The DM asked me what I had done with it.  I said, "Stuck it in my backpack."  He asked me "Where in the pack?" I shrugged... "Dunno... just in the pack."

It turns out that the amulet is an Amulet of Spell Reflection.  It's always on.  Remember when I spotted the Rakshsa I turned around to run away?  So the DM sighs, and says "I rolled really good on the lightning bolt the crit..."  At this point I am grimacing, expecting the worse.  The DM hadn't mentioned what was up yet.  So he says I hear the boom of the lighting, and that I smell some smoke... but I was okay.  I turn around.  The lightning bolt had hit my pack, and the DM randomly determined where the amulet was.  It had been stuffed close to the back of the pack.  Everything in front of had been destroyed, but I was okay.  The Rakshasa?  He may not have been a pile of ash, but almost...

Unfortunately, most of the magic items the Rakshasa had on it's body were destroyed.  Oh well.  At least we survived.  Talk about dumb luck, and a DM who was really paying attention!  Fun times...

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's obvious to me that my plan to focus on the Kinship project isn't going to work, and has in fact caused me some stress.  The kind of stress that may be the cause of the chest pains I've been having.  So I'm taking a step back, rethinking things, and have fun again, because trying to create a professional product isn't that much fun.

I wanted to turn Kinship into something other people might get some use out of, have fun with, and hopefully I would make a little cash on the side.  However, as I worked on Kinship I was writing the kind of stuff I probably wouldn't even read in a commercial project, and I want to create a professional,  polished, useful product.  It just wasn't happening.

Plus with no budget there was no way I was going to get some decent art for the book.  Now, I could probably do it without the art, but I think a good gaming book needs art.  The maps weren't a problem; I can create the maps.  The more I thought about the art the more I worried about it, which created more stress.

So for the past few days I have been "banging my head" on the desk, until I read this over at The Lands of Ara , and I had an AHA! moment...
This sort of stuff has been on my mind lately due to my decision to abandon the megadungeon project on the grounds that it was being "force fed" rather than organically grown through play. In the same post in which I announced the megadungeon's temporary cancellation, I mentioned my interest in other projects such as the Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 (due early 2012) and The Tower of Death (due 2012) -- both of which HAVE grown through play. That is why they remain viable.
The bold lettering in the quote above is my doing.  I have been trying to force the creativity, and that just doesn't work.  Well, most of the time it doesn't work.  Sometimes you can keep plugging away, and come away with useable gems, but it's rare.  If I write something on the blog it's because it's been boiling around in my brain for a long time, sometimes years, and it finally gets to the point where I have to write it down.

So is this the end of Kinship?  No way.  I am going to keep working on it as a campaign.  I like the concept, and I will keep writing the fiction.  I think I have a better chance of completing a novel about Kinship than I do a game book.  I do plan on creating something I can run at a local con.  A Kinship session would be a good thing.

Thanks to all the people who volunteered to do some proofreading and play-testing for me.  You guys are still on the list, and if I get some "campaign ready" material completed, I will send you the PDF.

I already feel better.  Tomorrow, more fiction...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Plan B

Okay I guess I've been working on Plan A of the Kinship project.  The truth is I haven't been as productive as I would have liked.  I've worked on Kinship, but I'm just not making any substantive headway.  So, for the next week or so, I plan on making a major push and get some writing done.  I've also got to get two of the major maps finished.  So for the time being, I won't be worried about posting on the blog.  I enjoy it, but writing posts is distracting, even writing the Kinship fiction is keeping me from working on the book.

If after a couple of weeks I haven't gotten anything good done I will rethink the project, and move on to Plan B.  What's Plan B?  Well, I'll cover that if Plan A doesn't work out.

So for the time being the blog is going "dark".  I may or may not post anything for a couple of weeks.  It all depends on what I can get done.  I would like to get most of it done by the end of November. Of course I'll still read other blogs.

I've gotten a few responses for proofreaders and playtesters.  If you sent me an email, and haven't heard from me, it may have ended up in the spam box.  I try to double check, but if you didn't put Kinship or proofreading in the title I may have missed it.  So the best thing is to put Kinship in the subject title.  I won't miss that.

Everybody take care.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

[ Kinship ] Saturday Night

Mac, sitting in a lawn chair, watched as the basilisk sizzled on the barbeque.  He had shot the six legged lizard earlier in the afternoon when it tried to claw it's way into one of the rooms.  Basilisks were dangerous,  one bite, and your flesh quickly calcified, turning into solid bone.  Now it was his dinner.  They were delicious.  Luckily he knew how to remove the poison glands.  He figured he would give them to Dr. Trance, or maybe one of the professors at the college.

The modest patio area he had built beside the office suited him.  A picnic table, the brick barbeque, and the awning he had scavenged from the outskirts of Shadowvale, gave him a nice place to relax.  Perhaps he should consider inviting some people from Kinship for a barbeque?  Sometimes it got lonely out on the highway.

Monkey, jumping up on the table, shrieking and waving his little arms around, startled Mac.

"What the heck are you doing Monkey?"

Monkey stopped and pointed in the direction of Shadowvale.

Standing up, Mac shaded his eyes, looking down the highway.  He saw a dark cloud that was coming his way.

"What the? Could be trouble Monkey..."  Monkey shrieked again.  Looking down, Mac saw Monkey had a pair of binoculars.  "Ah good work."

Mac looked through the binocs toward the cloud.  Demon bats.  Mac had never seen so many together before.  They never swarmed in such large numbers.  Something was up.

"Come on Monkey, lets get inside... I need to radio the sheriff.  Looks like this barbeque has been canceled.  We don't want to be outside if the swarm comes our way."


Switching on the mic, Locke picked up the notice Three had dropped off earlier in the day.  It was a birth announcement.

"All right!  Great news people.  Three and Eight are glad to announce the birth of their twin daughters.  In fact, they are co-joined twins.  I have been informed that co-joined twins in the number clan's culture are held in high regard.  The daughter's have been named... Eleven.  And now more great music courtesy of The Doors!  I hope everyone is having a great Saturday night.  This is Mr. Sniggles at KZAN, all Doors, all the time!"

Locke lowered the stylus on the record.  He puffed on his pipe, savoring the taste of his precious tobacco.  Suddenly, he heard the voice of Mac coming over his ham radio.

"Locke!  Big trouble coming your way!  A swarm of demon bats.  Some are headed my way, but they won't be able to get into the office so I'm okay.  Just wanted to warn you.  I've already contacted the sheriff..."

Keying the mic for the ham radio, Locke mumbled his response. "A swarm?  They don't swarm..."

"Well they are now, and they are moving fast.  I'm signing off... need to make sure everything is secured."

Locke set his pipe down.  "Umm thanks... stay safe."  Looking at the clock, he saw it was almost 8 P.M.  Standing up he walked over to the window, it was getting dark.  KZAN's  studio was on the second floor of the Kinship town hall.  He looked down on Main Street, and what he saw chilled him to the bone.  There were zombies.  More than he had ever seen before. And then he noticed other things, moving much faster than zombies ever did.  How had they gotten into town without the alarm being sounded?

He needed to alert everyone.  He walked back and grabbed the mic, and was about to sound the alarm when he was startled by a loud thud.  Turning towards the sound, he saw the demon bat trying to claw it's way through the window.

"You ain't getting inside here!"  Well, Locke hoped the protective wards would hold up.  He slid the volume up on his broadcast mic, and lowered the volume on the turn-table.

"Okay listen up people.  This is a RED ALERT!  We have a major zombie infiltration, as well as demon bats, and other unknowns.  All able body members of the defense force need to get armed and armored.  This is going to be a bad one.  I repeat this is a RED ALERT!  If you're not a combatant get to a safe place.  I'll be signing off for now, Mr. Sniggles is coming out to play!"

He ran to his office, and within five minutes he had his armor on, and all his web gear.  His trusty Thompson was strung over his shoulder,  and he grabbed his 12 guage Mossberg shotgun.   Then he placed his necklace of protective charms around his neck.  The last thing he did was light a cigar.  A very fine cigar from Cuba.  Very hard to get, especially in Kinship.  It tasted great and very handy to light sticks of dynamite.  He inhaled and then blew a line of smoke rings.

Running down the stairs, he paused at the door, and chambered a round into the shotgun.  Then he heard the town's sirens going off.

"About time!"  Locke kicked open the door, and stepped out, firing at the first group of zombies he saw.  "Yup, just another Saturday night in Kinship..."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Danak's Library

Yesterday while waiting on something to download,  I doodled a small dungeon.  I kind of liked it, and decided it could go in the fantasy sandbox.  However, it was a rough sketch. I could probably recreate it fairly easy with Paint.NET, but I decided to try something, a virtual tracing/light box.

Here's the initial sketch, as usual click to enlarge.
I decided it was just the sort of place that a wizard would use to store his more esoteric or even dangerous books,and conduct magical experiments.  It's not really useable like it is, so I needed to redo it.  Back in the olden days, I would just trace over it.  Since I didn't own a light box I would tape it to a window, and start tracing.  However, using Paint.NET I can do practically the same thing.  All I have to do is scan the sketch, and using layers I can trace over the sketch.  Easy peasy.  If I make a mistake, no problem!  Just erase or undo, and viola, no more mistake.  Here's the somewhat finished map...

Yes, it is different from the initial sketch, but that's the purpose of the sketch, it's an initial idea to be built upon. In the finished map I added guard's quarters.  As I was working on it I began taking notes on what I did, otherwise I might forget, and I ended up with a good start on a tutorial.  Not sure if I will post it, but you never know.

I like labeling the rooms.  In a larger dungeon this would be problematic, but it works on a small scale.

Working on the map, Danak the Wizard began to take shape in my mind, as well as his henchmen.  I'm always amazed at how synergistic creative endeavors can become.  So, one doodled map, has snowballed into a group of NPCs, and plenty of adventure and plot ideas.

Danak doesn't like to keep all his eggs in one basket, so he has more than one place he stores his books.  After his first workshop burned to the ground he takes precautions.  ( He really shouldn't have tried to train a Fire Imp. ) When possible he has duplicates of his books stored in different locations.

This location is just about stuffed with books, scrolls, and maps.  The library chamber has many shelves over-flowing with books.  Others are stacked nearly everywhere except the entrance tunnel, where it's a bit too damp for books. The workshop has a modest alchemical lab.

He has hired several guards, mostly half-orcs, that live in one of the cavern's chambers.  The conditions aren't the best, but it beats living in the forest, or the slums of Viphtry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

the Kinship Klan

I mentioned this a couple of posts back, but I thought I would mention it again.  If you would like an advance copy of he Town of Kinship Book, then here's your chance.  I'm going to create a special edition for playtesters and proofreaders.  You'll receive two copies.  One to mark up, write notes in telling me what sucks, etc., and a copy to keep.  This is going to be a limited offer.  The books really aren't 'free'; I'll want some feedback from you.  So let me know if you are interested.  I'll need your snail mail address.

This won't be anything fancy, just a black and white book, with whatever cheap binding I can get at the print shop.   Everyone who play-tests and proofreads it will get credit in the book.

Also if you are an aspiring artist, and would like to get involved let me know.  There's no budget as of now, but that may change.  At the very least you also get copies of the book, and of course credit, and my eternal praise.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Something, something.... It's Sunday...

Okay, sometimes if I want to ramble on about nothing in particular I can't think of a good title for the post.  Sometimes I can't think of a good post title period.

Anyone watch that new show Terrible Nova, err... Terra Nova?  Actually, when all the commercials where airing advertising Terra Nova, I thought it was probably going to be a real stinker.  However, the two hour season premier was okay, as in not bad.  So I guess the show could either get better, or worse.  I just hope it lasts for at least a season.

The show had a huge budget, and I can't imagine they will have that much to spend on each episode.  I can't imagine they can afford to even spend half, or even a quarter of what was spent on the first episode.

One thing I didn't like was how they glossed over the science.  Like, how did they discover the fracture in the fabric of time and space?  I've also been wondering if it's always open, or only open part of the time?  They obviously have a huge technological complex to deal with the "fracture".  Does it require energy to send people through?  So many questions...

The show has some neat weapons.  I guess they like the sonic weapons because they save on ammo.

I often wonder if other gamers over-think shows like Terra Nova like I do?  It's both a blessing and a curse.

I'm a little ticked off at KERA, our local PBS.  Last week, Saturday night to be exact, there was a Dr. Who episode that was the first of a two parter.  Well, last night they didn't show the second part.  I was disappointed.

Last week I received all three of the current issues of Loviatar.  It's a great gaming zine published by Christian, writer of the destination unknown blog, which for some reason isn't coming up when I click on it.  Loviatar is a digest sized paper zine, and covers material for Pathfinder, GURPS, WoD. and other gaming systems.  It's ONLY available in this format, which I think is a good thing.  I'm not the biggest fan of strictly electronic formats.  Go to the Loviatar blog, and check it out!

Okay, no more blogging for today. It's time for chocolate pudding, and Britcoms.

[ Kinship ] Room Four

Leaving the motel office, she walked towards Room Four.  She had decided to leave her car parked in front of the office, but thought maybe she had better keep it close.

As she was pulling in front of room four, there was a burst of static on the radio. and then a voice was calling her name.

"Suuuuzzzy...Suzzzy...Suzzy Roberts..."

Now she was hearing things.  Sleep was badly needed.  She shut off the car, and grabbed her bag, and put the pistol inside.  At this point she wasn't concerned about the file, and didn't really feel like lugging the box into the room.

She stood by her car, and scoped out the motel.  It was small; it only had six rooms.  It had seen better days.  Describing it as shabby would be a compliment.  The door to room one was boarded up, and so was the window.  There was a small alcove between rooms three and four that had the vending machines.  She would visit them after she was settled, if she could stay awake.

Stepping inside the room, she felt for the light switch.  It sputtered on, and out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw a dark figure.  She jumped, and fumbled for her pistol.  Her eyes adjusted, and she saw it had to have been her own shadow.

Tossing the bag on the bed, she sat down on the edge.  The room wasn't luxurious, but it wasn't too bad.  Then she noticed the lamp on the night stand.  It was a Lava Lamp, but it wasn't on, and after trying to turn it on she noticed it wasn't plugged in.  How odd.


The stupid monkey was still shrieking, and banging away on the cymbals.  Mac hated the dang monkey.  Mac hated the fact that he was out of booze and cigarettes.  Mac hated his job, well, sometimes he hated his job.  It was usually so slow he didn't have much to do, so he could indulge in his hobbies.

He set down the microphone and turned off his "radio".  Sometimes he liked to spook the guests.  Sometimes more than just spook them.  He liked to scare the hell out of them.  The new guest, Suzy, he had initially liked, but he didn't like how she doubted him.  It was a picture of Elvis!  Mac liked Elvis.  He hoped he would stop by for a visit soon.

Mac heard the beads rattle, and saw the monkey walking into the room.  "Oh you changed back to normal?"  He saw the monkey pull a cig out of nowhere.  It was already lit.  Monkey took a puff, and jumped up on to the desk.  "Hey, can you give me one of those?"  Monkey handed over the cigarette.  "Thanks, and thanks for letting me know what her name is.  I wonder if she is any good with her pistol?"  Monkey shrugged and summoned another cigarette.


Suzy had never heard the sort of sounds that were coming out of the machines in the alcove.  When she first walked into the small area all the sounds stopped for a few minutes.  Then they started up again.  The soda machine started first.  It went, "Thrung, thrung, thrung... vresh.  Thrung, thrung, thrung... vresh..."  The snack machine was even weirder.  "Snee vuk, snee vuk..."  The ice machine was mostly silent, except for the occasional, "Hrung. phut..."

The selections in the machines were odd.  She had never heard of a Veckers Candy Bar before, or Snweebo Soda.  She went back to her room without buying anything.  On a whim she plugged the Lava Lamp in, and turned it on.  Laying down on the bed, she fell fast asleep quickly.

As the lamp heated the wax in the Lava Lamp, it started rising and falling, then the globs started clumping together and took a somewhat human form...

To be continued...?