Gaming and Writing

Gaming and Writing

Dungeons & Dragons Gaming DiceI’ve played D&D for years, starting back when it was not the popular thing to do. I’ve always found it a very pleasant pastime and a good way to express creativity. Sure, there are rules (more guidelines really) and getting a handle on the complexities of the system can be daunting, but if you are a creative type, it is definitely worth giving gaming a chance.

So, you may be asking, what does gaming have to do with writing? Well, for many, when you play D&D, you are telling a story. Sure, there are stats and numbers and random dice rolls to make decisions, but for most, it is less about the stats and more about the adventure that unfolds.

The Dungeon Master

For most of my gaming life, I have been the Dungeon Master (or DM). For those not familiar with D&D, this is the person who acts somewhat as a narrator that sets the scenes and guides the players on their journeys as well as an arbitrator of the rules. However, the best DMs ignore the rules (or dice rolls) when doing so tells a better story. After all, the DM’s goal is not to kill the players, but to challenge them and help them create an interesting experience.

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Planet Comicon, here I come

Planet Comicon

Heirs of Cothel Series CoversPlanet Comicon starts on Friday and I have to say I am really excited! It is the first big event I am doing this year and I have missed hanging out with the crowd of very talented authors, artists, creators, and cosplayers. In all, just a really great group of people to spend time with.

This year they have many wonderful actors and celebrities attending and I am jealous of those who will have a chance to meet them all (I, of course, will be mostly behind my table).

This year I have new maps to go along with the books and I really hope everyone will love them as much as I do. I learned a lot in creating them and will definitely be doing more of the old world style maps. In you are interested in them, I am offering a bundle deal.

Map of CothelMap of the Sea of Tet

My table is in the Artist Alley area, number 2340, stop by and see me!

In high school, my wife divorced her husband when…

Telling Lies

dishesLast week I told some people the story of when my wife was in high school and she divorced her husband because he refused to buy her a dishwasher. I enjoy watching people react to that leading line, and the best part is, my statement is completely true.

However, as in life, characters in stories don’t have to be truthful. They can be deceitful and manipulative and try and influence people to do what they want, or react in a certain way, as I had intended by my high school divorce statement. In fact, a story is often better when it includes that kind of behavior because telling lies mirrors real life. Unfortunately, this aspect of storytelling is too often overlooked.

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Old World Maps

Old World Style Maps

Map of CothelIt took a bit of time, but I finished my first old world style map! It shows far more detail of Cothel than my original maps and I actually had a lot of fun making it (aside from all the bloody trees). Everything is hand-drawn, from the trees to the border lines, to the compass rose. My aim was to generate something that looked authentic and old. In the process, I found quite a few maps on-line to use as references. My favorite map site is Old Maps Online. It lets you browse through maps that correspond to an area on a current world map.

In the process of creating this map (which is 20″x16″ in size) I really learned a lot. I wanted to have the underlying parchment appearance come through to overlays or what I intend to be ink washes. I scrapped more than one layer and went back to rework entire effects several times. But I think I have the process down now and hope to be able to do the next map in perhaps half the time this one took.

Another thing I learned is that old maps really did have a lot of bright colors in them. Initially, I felt reluctant to use anything too bright (and I did mute quite my map a bit to give it a faded and used effect). However, many of the reference maps I examined actually had some neonish coloring to them.

I have prints on order and will have them available with boards and bags for Planet Comicon at the end of the month. I also have mailing tubes on order and will make the map available for order on-line as well.

Map of the Sea of TetIn addition to the old world style map of Cothel, I have produced a 20″x16″ version of my large world map. I formatted it down to size and ordered prints that I will sell at Comicon and on-line. This one should be easier to read than my 8.5″x11″ copies.

What’s Next?

Well, now that I am done with crunch time for Planet Comicon, I will get back to writing more. The time I spent on the map did eat into my writing time a little too much. The next map should hopefully take less seat time, but I will stretch out the actual drawing time to about the same length so I am not single focused on the task.

I also need to get back to purging things for my #Minimalism2017 challenge. I put a lot of the “going through things” on hold to draw the map. Now I can get back into my closet and deal with a few boxes of items.

And lastly for this post, find some time to do some hiking. The weather is getting nice and I’m itching to do some camping and put in some miles on the trails. Yesterday my FitBit told me I had traveled a lifetime of 2,400 miles while carrying it. The gave me the Monarch Migration badge, which made me think about how many miles I have actually walked in my lifetime before having the FitBit. A big factor as a kid was that I had a paper route. So roughly 4 miles a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 4 years or so comes out as just under 5k miles. My feet have done a lot of walking and that doesn’t include the several miles a day walking to and from school for a couple of years.

Minimalism — 2017 Challenge Update

Minimalism 2017 Challenge

Earlier this year, I set a minimalism challenge for myself, get rid of 2017 items in the year 2017. There are a number of rules I set for myself. So far, I am just a little behind my target (36 items as of Sunday). I have managed to get rid of 356 items ranging from CDs, to decorative items, to school notes, to DVDs.

At first, I found it exciting, the challenge was new and thrilling. I managed to get rid of quite a few items in those first few days. Then as I started working through a backlog of stuff, it became a little daunting to process folders with hundreds of pages of notes (and only count the whole folder as a single item). However, I am now into something of a groove and I have been able to generally keep steady progress each week, moving through parts of the house and collections of belongings.

Have I found it hard to get rid of things?

To be honest, not really. I have never been overly connected to physical things. But, even still, I did amass a fair amount of stuff over the years (just not an overwhelming amount). For the most part, I am really just cleaning and organizing with the question my wife keeps asking: Do I want to pay someone to move that? The answer for the most part tends to be no.

The real benefit has been that I have found a number of items I forgot I even had. Add in the fact that I have cleared space on shelves, and now I can even display those things.

In Progress map of CothelThis week left me a little behind for a couple of reasons. First, I spend some time mudding a ceiling in the bathroom (we are removing the popcorn and making the ceilings flat). Second, I worked on a map. Here is a bit of a preview. I have more mountains to add in, a lot more cities to draw, not to mention forests, marshes, and other details. I had a few redo’s when I first started working on this project. However, as with the getting rid of things, I think I am now finding my groove. When the map is done, it will be 16″x20″ and if all goes well, I hope to have prints available at Planet Comicon.

FIRE – Financially Independent, Retired Early

Also known as F*** It, Retire Early

Financially Independent MoneySomething that often goes along with Minimalism is FIRE (Financially Independent, Retired Early). They don’t have to go hand in hand, but from what I have seen, many FIRE people tend to divest themselves of unnecessary and less important things (a.k.a. they are minimalists). They tend to purge the expensive items that bring less value (or even negative value) from their lives.

There are extremes in everything. For instance, some people will take the aim of financial independence and turn it into a competition to see just how little they can spend each year.  Others take a more measured approach, but they still divest many of the trappings of modern life.

For those that are successful, they manage to cut their ties to day jobs and live off saving, residual income, or small odd jobs that help them get by when they need a little more spending money. With their modest lifestyles, they are often achieving a goal of not having to worry about grinding away their lives for someone else.

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Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition, Thoughts So Far

Dungeons & Dragons Initial Thoughts

ArchwayWell, I’ve had a week to look through the Player’s Handbook so that I could learn the differences between the 5th Edition and my tried and true 2nd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I can say that some of the changes I really like. Others, I am not so certain of yet.

For instance, a number of items are simplified. The stats all have the same modifieds, the experience and level progression are the same for all character classes, and saving throws and ability checks have fewer rules and types. Some things such as advantage and disadvantage (where you roll two dices and take either the higher or lower of the two values) have a subtle brilliance to them.

Other items, like healing all your hitpoint damage after a “long rest,” or what is an 8-hour break, seems to be an over simplification. If you are cut up with slashes and punctures or your bones are broken, a night of rest won’t return a person to being whole again. There are other rules for getting back hitpoints for just an hour of rest. I understand the reasons behind such a change in the rules, it brings Dungeons & Dragons in-line with computer and console games of today where a health is relatively easy to recover. Playing out long days of slowly healing or having characters die frequently or having to constantly stop to use healing magic is not that attractive for some. I’m just not sure I like that change so much. Of course, as a DM, I could put in house rules to limit such healing if I wanted.

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Dungeons & Dragons … 5th Edition?

Dungeons & Dragons DiceDungeons & Dragons

I have had a love affair with Dungeons & Dragons for my whole life. I grew up with friends who had the first edition. I have a full shelf of D&D books and modules, mostly Advanced D&D and 2nd Edition Advanced D&D. I played regularly at that time (the wear on the dice in the picture has been well earned). I had invested loads of money and time into what I owned before I was even out of high school.

After school, the members of my regular group drifted apart. I tried a couple of other groups, but never really resumed regular play until a few years ago when I started playing on-line with one of my original group. Using Skype and video sharing, we’ve been able to get together around once a week, even when he’s half-way around the planet.

But, we still play 2nd Edition, and honestly, I had no intention of upgrading to new version of Dungeons & Dragons. I had learned the rules of 2nd Edition, we created house rules that fixed the things we didn’t like, and expanded what we did. We both have the same set and it all just works.

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Movie Review – Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures MovieHidden Figures

Over the weekend I finally saw Hidden Figures and I really enjoyed it. As someone who loves math, science, and technology, I really wanted to see more about the people who made our ventures into space possible. It is a movie about people that history tried very hard to ignore and forget.

When the space race began, multitudes of people were needed to figure out the science and math necessary to not only get us into space, but also to safely return. This is the story of three strong willed and very intelligent women who assisted with the math and engineering behind that effort.

In the highly segregated 1960’s, although the three worked for NASA, they lived and endured a culture that assumed the worst of them because of their skin color. The movie follows some of their struggles as they try to be heard and make a difference in the world around them.

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Books in the Bottoms

West Bottoms Entertainment DistrictBooks in the Bottoms

Kansas City, Missouri’s Historic West Bottoms includes a lot of different shops and activities. They have a First Festival Weekend event the first Friday of the month. In February, I will be taking part in the Second Annual Books in the Bottoms Event. with a lot of other Great Authors.

The event takes place at a number of the West Bottoms’ shops and restaurants on Friday and Saturday. Authors will be located at different shops during the event, so check the schedule in the press release below. Come out and visit some of the unique shops, get a bite to eat, and have fun!

If you will be looking for me, I’ll be at the following locations:

Hope to see you there!


Here is the press release:

Books in the Bottoms