Posts Tagged ‘Tabletop RPG’

The Night of the Fire

June 9, 2018

Panther had seen the fire firsthand, standing there for a moment and looking into the hypnotic movements of the flames. The heir had shaken him from that brief moment and then they had returned to warn the tribe. They had time but not much before the fire would spread and burn the tribe’s land. It still struck Panther as odd that the lost child they had found in the shuffle was still asleep in a tree by the water. Things in the tribe had never worked so well but things were still strange. Magic was awake and, although they had seen similar forest fires for a long time, Panther could not help wondering if the magic caused the fire. The presence of magic had him jumping at shadows and doubting everything. The interference of the spirits may have reassured others in the tribe but Panther was nervous. Still, he had a job to do and a tribe and family to protect. The fire was at their backs now and they would soon cross the river.

Panther walked along with the tribe. He and his family walked on the outside in case there was trouble and within shouting distance of Blaze or Ro. Ro’s radius was arguably much larger. That thought made Panther smile a little to himself. Keeva gave him a questioning look but he shrugged and shook his head, it would take too much to explain. Little Kyri clung to his back, still sleeping. It should have bothered him since she was pressed against the fresh wounds from his midnight fight with the sabertooth tiger. Instead, he soldiered on and accepted the pain so that Kyri could sleep. Like her siblings, she would be strong but she was not there yet. She still had time. Panther remembered how small and weak he had been as a child and how that had all changed. Besides, he would be around for a long time before his children needed to stand in his place.

“You still have its blood all over you,” Keeva said. “Although, I am used to seeing you covered in blood by now.”

“I’ll wash it off when we get to where we’re going,” Panther said.

“I’ll tend to your wounds then as well,” Keeva said and Panther smiled at her. “What? We don’t need the snake in the grass medicine woman for this. I can tend to cuts. It’s easy enough.”

“Yes you can,” Panther said. “You’ve had enough experience.”

“Ah yes,” Keeva said with a smirk. “The bravest warrior in the tribe always charging into battle. Limping back to his wife for help.”

Panther laughed. “You are just jealous that you did not get to be in the fight.”

Keeva shook her head. “No. I’m jealous that you got the killing stroke.”

Panther laughed again. “Yes, there it is. The claws come out.”

“Cease laughing,” Keeva said with a smile. “Or I will steal your tongue.”

“I would like to see you try,” Panther said.

“When you least expect it,” Keeva said.

“Daddy always expects everything,” Kyri said sleepily.

“Go back to sleep, child,” Keeva said. “And who do you think taught your sister to move so stealthily? Nobody sees me coming.”

“Speaking of awareness,” Panther said, tossing a small pebble at the back of his son’s head. Rock looked back annoyed. “How is the new man doing? Sobering up?”

“I’m fine,” Rock said sullenly. He was carrying a spear over his shoulder but Panther was not sure if his son was up to a fight at the moment.

“Are you sure?” Panther asked. He smirked, enjoying lightly teasing his son. “We didn’t interrupt anything with our emergency?”

Rock turned and walked backward for a bit so he could look at his parents. “As a matter of fact, I was interrupted. Well, almost.” He turned back around to face forward.

Panther and Keeva shared an amused look. It was not every day that a coming of age afterparty was interrupted by a forest fire. “Well, I hope you treated her well,” Panther said.

Rock huffed. “I treated both of them well, mother.”

Keeva laughed. “Slow down, little one. Who were you entertaining?”

“Taya and Spider,” Rock said.

“A dangerous combination,” Panther said. “How did you manage that?”

“At the same time,” Rock said matter of factly and walked further down the line to get away from his parents for the time being.

Panther smiled a little to himself. His family was thriving. His youngest, Kyri, was on her way to being just as strong as her siblings. Yuna would have her own coming of age ceremony in a year or so. Until then, she was the leader of a squad of stealthy spy children. Rock had come of age and was well on his way to becoming his own man. Soon, he would be going on his own hunts and Panther would be taking Yuna instead. Keeva was a deadly force herself.  Panther was proud to have her as a wife. As for himself, Panther had somehow become a trusted lieutenant to the leadership of the tribe. It probably had to do with the Stone Group being particularly touched by magic.

“Thinking too hard again?” Keeva asked.

“Just thinking about what path this tribe is on,” Panther said. “The future.”

“We survived the end of the world, didn’t we?” Keeva asked.

“We did,” Panther agreed.

“We have survived the awakening and the arrival of the spirits,” Keeva said.

“So far,” Panther said. Even after ten years, the situation still seemed like it was in flux and there were things even the experts did not know yet. The motivations of the spirits were still a bit mysterious, especially the spirits who had not made themselves known yet. Panther had a feeling that the events of ten years prior would come back to haunt the tribe.

“We have weathered the storm and escaped the fire,” Keeva said.

“And yet there is still the water,” Panther said. “If we are not careful, we might drown.”

“Not us,” Keeva said.

“I hope you’re right,” Panther said.

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Panther and Keeva

May 26, 2018

Panther walked back to his sleeping area. The matter between Ro and Metalstone had been stabilized but not settled. He had not been present for most of the arguing over what to do to punish Metalstone but he had been present for the pronouncement. He was not sure if it was the right choice but it was a choice that he would have to abide by. He had watched Metalstone with some curiosity over the years but the two of them had never been friends. All of the direct contacts with spirits still troubled him and this ‘magic’ stuff was beyond his understanding. He had relied mostly on his own personal strength and it had worked out so far. He always kept an obsidian knife close in case the spiritual threats from years past returned. He was far from the frightened little kid who had watched his companions succumb to magic one by one.

“Stand down,” Panther said without looking. His wife Keeva stepped out of the shadows along with his daughter Yuna. They were both carrying large, sharp knives. Little Kyri was digging in the dirt a few feet away. His son, Rock, was nowhere in sight but he remembered what it was like in the time after you become a man. Panther bent down and rubbed Yuna’s head affectionately before giving her a gentle push toward her sister so the adults could talk.

“Everybody heard the noise Ro was making,” Keeva said. “Were her fears warranted?”

“I think so,” Panther said. “The monkey is always worth watching. He keeps a lot of their intentions to himself.”  However, Panther had been convinced of the man’s humanity after watching him with Minnow.  Clearly, the man was a puzzle.

“As do you,” Keeva said with a smile.  “You are my silent predator.”

He smiled and stroked her cheek.  “The difference is that I have no grand plans,” Panther said. “But to answer your true question, I do not think he hurt the children.”

“Then did our son make it safely into manhood?” Keeva asked.  She had been busy attending to the children and had not attended the rest of the festivities.  Truth be told, Panther had not watched the tent his son had slept in and had gone off to celebrate.  Rock had done well in the fighting tournament but Panther sensed something strange had happened during it.  Next time, his students would beat Blaze’s students for sure.  He had been surprised by Tam’s child but their mother was formidable in combat.  Of course, Panther had lost in the first round in his ninth year but the kids were trained a lot better now.

“He did,” Panther said. “I observed Metalstone long enough to believe that. He fell asleep in the sweat and passed the night peacefully.”

“So he did not bond with a spirit?” Keeva asked.

“Thankfully no,” Panther said.  “There were four who conversed with spirits and he was not one of them.”

“Just because you rejected that snake spirit from the Snake Woman when we were small it does not make it an aberration to bond with the spirits,” Keeva said. “Many after our year have done so.  It has given some great power to help our tribe when it needed help the most.”

“I know,” Panther said. “I just don’t trust it.”  Things had been quiet for ten years but the tumultuous time during and after their naming ceremony still haunted him as he imagined it haunted others.  Panther had been helpless against things nobody had ever seen before and yet he had survived.  Only that last fact gave him strength.  Keeva had also been there for some of it, part of the same group during the naming ceremony.

“I know,” Keeva said. “But someday we might have to trust it.  Especially if one of our daughters should be chosen.”

“That might be true sooner than later,” Panther said. “Part of Metalstone’s bargain is that we will go back and appease Wood.  They are going to do some more magic back at the old land of the trial.”

“The spirit that turned some of the other children into trees out of spite?” Keeva asked. “And you’re going with them, I suppose?”

“They could use my help,” Panther said. “I’m not that little boy like last time.”

“You really aren’t,” Keeva said with a proud smile. “They would be lost without you. See how they lost their heads until you took the monkey captive.”

Panther smiled. “You’re kind, my dear.”

“You know how skilled you are,” Keeva said. “I just wish I could go with you.”

Panther made eye contact with his wife and lover. They had fallen for each other when they played hide and seek years and years before. They had conceived their first child, Rock, out in the woods during a hunt. Since then she had given birth to two more children and both daughters were just as fierce yet kind as their mother proved to be. Panther looked forward to training Kyri and Yuna the same way he had trained Rock and other children in the arts of hunting and fighting. He placed his hand gently but firmly on Keeva’s belly. The fourth was on the way. Panther did not want the unborn child to be exposed to whatever magic was back in those cursed woods.

“You can stay here and hunt,” Panther said. “Rock will want to go too but I’ll tell him he should accompany you and learn a few more things.”

“I’ll make sure he listens,” Keeva said. “I’ll make sure he does not brood about not going. Though, with the noise Ro made, I’m not sure if there will be hunting for days.”

Panther laughed. “That gives time for our son to celebrate becoming a man. Keep an eye on the rest of the clan. Last night was different in ways I don’t really understand yet.”

“Something changed the night of our trial,” Keeva said. “Something that is not finished yet.”

Panther nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “It’s a new world.”

Gaming Chronicles: PlanetFall

April 7, 2018

(When last we spoke, we talked about the very first campaign I took part in The Frozen Star Among Us. Today I will be continuing the series chronicling the games I have taken part in so that I can remember them.)

When the Frozen Star ended, I had been playing with the group for months and I had started to figure out the dynamics of this tabletop roleplaying game thing. I felt like I was slowly making friends with the group and I was gaining courage with my choices. When we decided to move to the next campaign, I knew that I had to do better. My earlier characters felt more like cardboard cutouts than actual characters. I looked back at what they were and realized that they barely wanted anything beyond “to save the day”. I needed to reach back to the brief training I had in acting. It would help me focus on what my character wanted at the moment and also overall.

The new campaign was helmed by a different Game Master. This gamemaster had been a player who had previously pushed me to do better in my disastrous first character. I had thought that he did not like me but I now know that I was projecting my fears. But back then I was nervous to start a new campaign with him in charge. This new campaign was another science-fiction story. It was about people who lived on space stations who did not conform to society and were banished to an alien planet as a prison colony. This was immediately an exciting idea. My character would have a life before and after his fall from grace.

I started to try and figure out who I was going to be. I started with how my character fit into the society on the space station which would also shape his role among the other player characters. The background information we had been given had mentioned that the planet was littered with alien technology. I thought I could be useful as a repairman, a guy who worked in an appliance repair shop and fixed things people brought him. This was later shifted to being an engineering worker as our world changed and we reimagined the space station a little bit. So what was the fatal flaw that got my character banished? I knew that he was a good guy. To support his family, he had started to fight in an underground fighting club and he had been arrested when it was raided.

Later, as we played more and I thought about it more, I came up with more of the backstory. He and his sister had been orphaned when their parents died of a drug overdose. He was the only one captured in the raid because he lost the fight and was knocked unconscious. He was deeply troubled by being banished to the planet because his little sister had been left alone on the station. He felt that he had been betrayed by the government that he had respected but he also felt that he belonged down below. All that was left was a name for my character. I decided to name him Phillip Brooks, stealing CM Punk’s real name. This started the trend of me creating characters with pro-wrestlers’ names but this one was the most egregious.

On arrival at the planet, my character teamed with a ragtag group. There was a thief, a computer programmer, a fashion designer, a mad scientist, a religious zealot, and arms dealer. (Later, the arms dealer was replaced by a soldier). Not long after getting to the camp that would be his new home, my character was propositioned by the mad scientist. It was mindless, meaningless sex but it was a comfort in the new situation. Later, on an expedition to explore their surroundings, the group found foreign berries. Before the scientist could taste test them, my big strong character volunteered with the belief that he would survive. The berries were basically a strong narcotic and my character became an addict. Phillip became angry and sullen and eventually, he nearly died. The scientist saved his life, bringing him back from a coma.

The combination of her saving his life and their brief sexual encounter made Phillip want to protect her. That became my character’s prime directive and he often hung around her, making sure she was safe and practically became her pet. He became dedicated to proving that he was actually a good person and that he was not the monster that he had become. He wanted their community to thrive even if he and the rest of them probably did not deserve to do so. Along the way, they fought the planet’s natives who were strange cat people who may have had good reason to fight the new invaders. The group also discovered a race of sentient trees which were later used as part of a water filtration system for the camp.

In the end, Phillip and the party were sent out on a mission to reestablish contact with a mining operation in the mountains. Phillip was starting to feel better about himself and when they arrived, he was pointed toward a busted radio. The radio was the reason that contact had been lost. Given the opportunity to fix something electronic unlocked something in Phillip and for the first time in a long time, he felt happy again. Unfortunately, an explosion went off in the mines where the rest of his party was and we left the campaign on a cliffhanger on whether everybody else survived or not.

This game was my first experience with the FATE system. For those who do not know, the FATE system is an attempt to simplify the usual D20 system of play. Players role four six-sided die with pluses and minuses on them. A failure on a roll would be mostly negative dice and a success would be mostly positive dice. There were also many skills that characters could have. In addition, characters had abilities and character flaws that responded to “fate chips”. These chips were used to help to reroll or alter rolls to succeed where a player might have failed because of a bad roll. It was an interesting system to learn and, so far, it is the system we have used the most in our group.

Game Soundtrack:

The Pretty RecklessHeaven Knows

I still think this is the perfect song to describe the ragtag group that Phillip became a part of. They were a group of criminals and misfits (for the most part) and they probably all deserved the punishment they got. It was best to just own it. It also described Phillip’s guilt at being banished to the prison planet in the first place.

The Pretty RecklessMy Medicine 

I heard this song and I instantly thought of Phillip’s battle with addiction. He thought he was eating some berries that would at worst make him feel ill but ended up an addict like his parents had been. He felt so hopeless.

Avenged SevenfoldBat Country

This was one of my jams during the time that we played this campaign and it just seemed to reflect where Phillip was. “Too many doses and I’m starting to get an attraction”, “My hand is on the trigger”, “Nobody can save me”, and other phrases just seemed to reflect who Phillip was becoming from the addiction. But what really sold me is the quote “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

Mercer Holliday

February 26, 2018

Mercer Holliday was an android assigned to cleaning up sector 7G of the Haverford Complex for the Titus Corporation. Of course, that was not something that he had any interest in doing. Mercer was loyal and would never abandon his duty but he had different ideas. He knew that he had been constructed for this purpose or a purpose closely related to it. He knew that he owed his manufacturers his life. He had been happy to be a janitor for a long time, never doing a bad job and never leaving a single spot uncleaned if he could help it.

The question was posed a long time ago that if androids dreamed, what did they dream of? The cute answer had been electric sheep. Mercer could tell you that he dreamed of being a hero. After an efficient cleaning of his area of the facility, he would go back to his small home. He was an android and he did not need much which was good because he had very little. Still, when he returned to his abode, and before he powered down to recharge, he always watched a movie. He watched a lot of different genres but he had fallen in love with the ‘Western’ of the American Southwest of the planet Earth. He had never been there but he loved the tales of gunfighters who took on crowds of ne’er-do-wells with nothing but their grit.

He wished that was him. He did not want to be a war machine like those war droids who had been programmed for fighting. He wanted to be a defender, a seeker of truth like the gunfighter, the superheroes, and the knights from the stories he liked so much. He did not know if it was possible but he spoke of it whenever he had the chance to whoever would listen. He wanted to be the guy that people called on when they needed help when nobody else could help them. The dream burned within him and it perhaps once again raised the question whether androids had a soul and what that soul might be imagined as.

“Mercer!” A voice called out that broke Mercer from his reverie. He had been mopping on autopilot, an ability that made it obvious why you would utilize androids as workers instead of biologicals. It was Dr. Toma Wright, the young rebellious prodigy who had arrived a few months earlier. Unlike many, Toma did not ignore those around her and excitedly discussed whatever with the menial workers in her sector. That included Mercer.

“That’s my name,” Mercer said. He tried to blink realistically and Toma laughed, appreciative of his efforts to appear lifelike.

“Yes it is, Mr. Holliday,” she said. “I’m glad I caught you.”

“Holiday is not part of my official designation, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. His official designation was Mercer-2547 after the scientist who had designed him, Victor Mercer. Most androids had no need for an original name.

“No, of course not,” Toma said. “However, I think it suits you after you recommended Tombstone to me. Doc Holliday was one of the most famous historical gunfighters of Earth.”

“I am aware, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. “I admire him very much although he had many ethical failings throughout his life. In the end, he was very loyal to lawman Wyatt Earp.”

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” Dr. Wright asked. She watched Mercer as if his face would give away some emotion. Of course, he did not even blink.

“Yes,” Mercer said. “If I had my way, I would be a hero like Mr. Holliday or Mr. Earp or Mr. Eastwood in his many roles.”

“Yes,” Doctor Wright said, cutting off a rant she knew might be incoming. “I’m aware you prefer Mr. Eastwood over Mr. Wayne.”

“I just find Mr. Wayne’s dialogue so stilted,” Mercer said.

Toma choked back a laugh and shook her head. There was something profound there perhaps but it was not worth pursuing. “Maybe I can help you achieve your dream.”

“How so, Doctor?” Mercer asked.

“Come with me,” she said. She led him back to her lab and she pressed a button and opened a few compartments. She pulled out a few chips and loaded them into a gun-like device. “Please expose your upper port.” Mercer trusted the Doctor and so he reached up to his neck and worked loose a panel and exposed a communication port.

Toma took up the device and plugged it into Mercer’s neck and pulled the trigger on the device. Information flooded into the construct that was analogous to Mercer’s brain. He suddenly knew how to operate weapons. Guns, knives, and hand to hand combat were suddenly second nature to him. He also suddenly knew more about computers and he had the first inkling about how to perform a ‘hack’, something he would never have even thought of previously. If androids could smile, Mercer would be grinning ear to ear. This was indeed a great gift.

“I’ve also included a program that modifies your hazardous materials containment device,” Dr. Wright said.  “It will now create a protective shield that will allow you to protect yourself and others.”

“Why have you given me these things, Dr. Wright?” Mercer asked.

“I want you to go out there and find some way to protect people,” Dr. Wright said.

“But my position is here,” Mercer said. “I must clean Sector 7G. Forever.”

“Somebody else will fill your position, Mercer,” Dr. Wright said. “I think that your passion will help you be a better hero. I think there are heroes out there without half of your passion. Besides, I have another gift for you.” She opened up another compartment and there hung a long brown duster. Mercer instantly grabbed it and put it on, a little unaccustomed to wearing actual clothes instead of panels that simulated clothes to make humans more comfortable.

“Thank you, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “I have a few contacts that I can hook you up with and soon, you will be on your way. Meet me back here tomorrow and I will have your ticket to your first job. Once you have your foot in the door, nothing will be able to stop you.”

“I will be here as you say,” Mercer said.

Gaming Chronicles: The Frozen Star

February 10, 2018

(This is going to be an ongoing series where I describe the Tabletop RPG campaigns that I have been a part of and the characters that I chose to play. There are already some short stories and descriptions on this blog but I have not really gone in depth about what the game was actually like. At the end of each description, there will also be a short song playlist that will attempt to capture how my character felt about their situation)

The first actual in-person tabletop gaming game I joined was at my friend’s house and it was a real awakening. You see, I was not actually friends with any of the people I still play with yet. In fact, I had only met two out seven of my new companions. I petitioned to be part of the group through my cousin’s brother in law who said he would ask the group. I was nervous as hell because I had never played at the table before and I really wanted to impress these people. When I arrived, they briefly interviewed me to gauge my experience and desire which came from listening to D&D podcasts and studying Vampire books in high school. They allowed me to join their campaign.

The campaign was a space opera-type adventure already in progress when I arrived. The Frozen Star was a spaceship crewed by a ragtag group of mercenaries in the tradition of a lot of science fiction stories. The ship was captained by a being made of pure energy. The crew also consisted of a computer expert who was of an insect race, a deadly birdperson sniper, a lizard-like engineer, a turtlewoman, and a speedster human. I first joined as a charismatic new “Faceman” but I was too shy and new to pull it off. Instead, I joined the crew as an ex-soldier human who had super strength powers. As James Garen, I wielded a laser longsword and prized loyalty above everything else.

My character had attended academy with one of the crew so that was my “in” so that I trusted them and they trusted me. As soon as I joined, we were off and running. We were dodging a galactic government, dealing with a crime syndicate, and also with terrorists. Along the way, my character got to show off his immense strength and prowess in battle but I was still green when it came to actually roleplaying. The simple character helped as I was still getting the hang of things and I was able to watch the other characters. I also got to know everybody in the group a little better and everybody seemed to become more accepting and relaxed about the new addition.

I saw my first player character deaths as the turtlewoman and the insectman argued until both were brutally killed by a hacker sabotaging the lab they were in. I became enthralled as I watched our story unfold. I learned how to deal with my first Game Master, learning what he was into and also what our group liked to do. We like to advance the story a lot but we also take time out for comedy and a little character progression. Roleplaying is something we do not always actually engage in. However, even if we do not talk out every conversation, we do write full backstories for our characters. Having a backstory really helped me to immerse myself in the story. I had to play catch up but I eventually started to figure things out.

Disturbed – Indestructible

James Garen was a soldier like his father before him and his grandfather before that. At the time, I was drawing on my own family’s history in the military (which thankfully stopped before it got to me). Also, this song hits as hard as James could.

Black Sabbath – Neon Knights

After choosing that my character should be human and that he should have super strength, I was given the choice of what his chosen weapon would look like. The weapon I chose was a laser longsword that I poured some of my energy into to make it ignite. Also, at one point, I hit a space dragon in the face with it.

John Entwistle & Alice Cooper – Space Pirates

James was briefly part of a crew that was killed by space pirates before running into the other player characters. It was also at this point that I learned that you do not blurt out your entire backstory the first time you meet the other characters. I totally blurted out that my former crew was dead which did not inspire much confidence in my character’s abilities. Oh well.

No Longer Samu

November 6, 2017

“Where is that child!?” Calo yelled. He was storming into the area in search of somebody. He was looking right and left with a wild look in his eyes.

“Who do you mean?” Akikka asked. She stepped in front of him, knowing the danger of getting in the way of a rampaging beast. She also knew full well to whom Calo was referring. Anybody with half a brain knew who was in trouble. Again.

“Your monkey of a son!” Calo shouted. There was practically steam coming out of his nostrils.

Akikka stayed absolutely calm. She even smiled slightly and cocked her head to one side. “Which son do you mean, Calo?” Akikka was a brave woman and more cunning than most of their kind.

“You only have one!” Calo shouted. “Samu!”

Samu stifled a laugh from his hiding place behind a rock. He was always getting into trouble but he had yet to be caught.

“Oh!” Akika said. “And what has he done this time? Explain it to me?”

Calo started to rant and rave but Samu just slipped away, slinking away low to the ground. Soon he was off to another place on the other side of camp. It had been clear from the welts on his face and the rage in his voice what had happened. Apparently, the honeybee nest he had carefully placed near Calo’s sleeping place had done the trick. Several others would have been hit as well but Calo was just too easy and too fun to wind up. He tried to stop himself from doing it but he just kept going back to it. He could not help himself.

“They’re going to hold you back from the ceremony,” a voice from behind him said. Samu froze and turned to see little Rena.

“What?” Samu had been preparing for the coming of age ceremony for months. He was absolutely scared of it but also excited. He was ready to earn his new name and leave the old one behind. He loved being Samu but he was excited to see who he could become next. He saw himself as a brilliant hunter and a hero like all the stories. He would strike from the shadows and win the hearts of his people, even the ones who he had played tricks on.

“If you keep playing tricks they won’t let you go until next time,” Rena said. She was only seven and would not be part of the ceremony. Samu felt a little bad about leaving her behind seeing as how she had been a constant companion. Finding somebody who put up with his crap on a regular basis was rare.

“They can’t keep me out,” Samu said. “My mother won’t let them.”

“You can’t rely on your mother forever, Samu,” Rena said with a smile.

“I know,” Samu said. “I owe everything to her and my father but I will earn my place now. They have to take me. What I do, it shows how good I will be out there. How I will be a great hunter.”

“So you keep saying,” Rena said. “And yet you spend your time sneaking around and farting.” She laughed and Samu frowned.

“Keep laughing,” Samu said. “I will be a great hunter.”

“Not greater than me!” Rena said with a laugh, pushing Samu slightly and running off so that Samu had to chase her.

* * *

Everything hurt. The three kids (or was it four?) had pulled Samu from the tree and beaten the daylights out of him. If the others had not shown up, he did not know what would have happened. He was covered in blood but thankfully it was not his own. It was the deer’s blood, the subject of his second successful hunt. He had dreamed of being a hunter like his father, like so many before him. He had seen the day when it happened and he knew everybody would be so proud. His parents would be so proud. Rena would be proud. Even Calo would have to be proud.

They were safe. The girl with the grandmother had said that they were safe. She did the ceremony with the deer and the axe and she declared that the members of the stone group were all safe. Being safe from the spirits had brought courage to Samu. More courage than he had ever had. It gave him the courage to be out in the forest by himself. He had scared so many all by himself. However, the ritual only protected them from spirits, not from angry members of the bone group. They had chased Samu up a tree and then pulled him out of that tree. They had given him the bruises he now proudly wore like a badge of honor.

And then the sky had exploded and the moon had disappeared. Rocks had sailed toward where Samu knew his parents were waiting for him, where he would earn his new name. He stood startled, scared out of his mind not far from where they had defeated the bone group. Fire had been something that had fascinated him for a long time but now it had filled the sky. The world was a different place than it had been when the ceremony had begun that morning. He did not know what it meant or what would happen next and that fear was like a stone in his stomach.

He kept repeating it over and over in his head. “We’re safe.”

Dungeons and Dragons and More

April 5, 2017


My friends and my enemies.

Dungeons and Dragons is something that I ran in parallel to for a long time before recently getting to play it for real. I listened to podcasts and read the literature. I played a forum version of it which is just not the same thing. Dungeon and Dragons is not a whole lot different from most tabletop roleplaying games. It is a system of collaborative storytelling where you and friends are playing both with and against a friend calling themselves the dungeon master (or game master). Tabletop roleplaying puts you into the shoes of your character and you must control them as you act and react in an imaginary world. Personally, it has helped me come out of my shell a little more.


Like most young kids in the nineties, I wanted to be a vampire at one point or another.

I was a shy kid. I talked to my friends but I did not take a whole lot of chances when it came to social skills. As a hopeless introvert, becoming somebody else was my fantasy. I wanted to be somebody interesting. I played a lot of video games but when I grew up, games were played by yourself or with one friend. A woman I had a crush on in theater told me that she and her friends played a game called Vampire: The Dark Ages. I was enraptured by her stories. I really wanted to play too but I was kind of underage at the time so that invitation never came. I created characters on my own but I never got up the courage to ask my friends to play. Some of them probably would have done it but I will never know now.


And yes, you can work through some issues with roleplaying.

Now that I am running with a group, I wonder how I was ever not doing this. Also, I realize how helpful it is. It forces me to make decisions about what I want to do and what I must do during pretty dire straits. However, those dire straits are imaginary so there is a very low risk. Dungeons and Dragons is really good with this. The game can turn brutal in an instant and what was looked easy has now brought you to death’s door. Will you go down the left or right path? Will you attack the ogre or his wizard pal? In this safe space, you get to act as something more than yourself. The fantasy is an outlet for seeing different parts of yourself. Most of my characters spring from something I wish I was or I hope I am not.


I resisted making this next bit political.

There is also the axis of alignment. That is an incredibly important concept that arose in roleplaying games and Dungeons and Dragons in particular. It actually teaches a bit about the real world. On the far left of the axis is chaotic and the far right is lawful. In between is a spectrum between lawlessness and lawfulness. On the bottom of the axis is evil and on the top is good. In between is the spectrum of kindness and spite. In the exact center is neutralness. I have thought recently about who I am. I know that when I was younger I was lawful good but as you saw in an earlier story, I wanted to be seen as chaotic good. Now, I think I am somewhere in between. I am neutral good. I want to work towards the good of all people but I understand that some laws are good and some laws are bad and you cannot just obey the law blindly.

Luck is for Losers (I Still Hate my Dice)

March 13, 2017

Luck is for Losers

Because you don’t want to be lucky, you want to be good at what you do.

Phillip Brooks (better known as CM Punk) has a tattoo that says “Luck is for Losers”. That phrase has resonated me ever since I saw the tattoo. As I have stated in the past, I am a skeptic. As a skeptic, I am picky about what I believe in. I believe in science even if it does not need me to believe in it. I believe in gravity, genetics and free will. I believe in a lot of forces of the universe but I do not believe in luck. I do not believe in a magical force that pushes outcomes one way or another based on the whims of the universe. Who or what would control such a force? Believing in luck feels weird and wrong.


But seriously, don’t buy too many lottery tickets.

I do believe in chance and probability. When I was in high school, I took a probability and statistics class. I learned all sorts of practical things. I learned that if you buy a lottery ticket, it is best to pick numbers that are not a day of the year. You do not raise your odds of winning but you lower your odds of sharing the prize if you happen to win as a lot of people play birthdays, anniversaries or other significant dates. I learned that specific numbers (like 666) can pop up at any given time and they do not mean anything. I learned about the chances of owning a mentally ill dog, a concept that had never occurred to me. The mathematics made sense to me.


I missed and everybody watched it happen.

Of course, I started playing tabletop roleplaying games a while ago and my beliefs were challenged. Lately, this has really started to bother me. On Saturday, our group once again met to deal with dungeons and/or dragons. Our adventuring party (including my character Bron) set out to deal with some bandits that were plaguing a small town. While we made mistakes, we would have done fine if we had not consistently rolled low when it counted. When you are rolling dice, the house always wins eventually but in a tabletop game, 7 people should be able to cover for low rolls. This was barely the case.


Oh Wil Wheaton, bless these dice!

Of course, we have all had bad streaks of rolling dice. One of the things I like about the group is that we are all huge nerds and geeks. The group is mostly made up of people of science. Vets, patent researchers, and IT professionals. As a former theater guy, writer and legal professional I guess I am comparatively a ‘poet’ in the group. They are all also very creative people but we all love science in our own way. And yet, we do a lot of superstitious things. We talk about ‘blessing’ dice with good luck or ‘cursing’ dice with bad luck. We switch dice after a horrible streak of dice and we retire dice ‘responsible’ for particularly bad numbers.


I thought about smashing my dice but I just watched this a few times instead. Therapeutic.

It does not make any sense and I find myself fighting against it. I also find myself fighting the feeling that I am responsible for my bad rolls. I have to believe that if I could roll well by skill and knowledge of the physical realities then I would. For example, if I knew how to move my hand and when to release and how hard to throw the die, I would practice all of those things. The reason that it bothers me is that this is my character. I wrote him to be such a strong fighter and he cannot seem to actually hit anything. All of that backstory is not matching up to the realities when it comes to game time. It is frustrating. I just have to hang on to the belief that eventually, my rolls will average out.

Character Creation

February 13, 2017

I have been part of a gaming group for a while now. If you look to the right of this post, you should see the story archives and you can check out all of the tabletop roleplaying game characters I have made so far in various games. It is the nerdiest thing I have done which is saying a lot because I have attended Magfest and studied Star Trek starship blueprints. I really enjoy the camaraderie of making a story together. We have a great group full of funny and smart people and every session has great story twists. When I first started with them, I bit off more than I could chew with my first character. I created a face man character who would be a negotiator and while I can write that character, I found it hard to actual bring him to life. It was my trial by fire and I almost quit entirely because of it.


Pretty close to my disastrous first try at tabletop gaming.

Since then, I have created a soldier, a mechanic, a detective and a doctor. Lately, I have created a pretty vicious barbarian. I was thinking about my character creation process and I thought I would write a little about it because it is a really fun process. First, I read through the backstory and the setting of whatever campaign we are heading into. Everybody running a game so far has been really good about providing a good starting point for creating a character. Some of them were homebrewed and some of them were written by game companies but all of them provided all of the necessary background info. Plunging into a setting written by somebody else is really fun as I think of what position I want to take in it.


Both Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar informed the movement and look of Bron in my mind.

For me, a character usually starts when some image sparks in my mind. Often, that image will give me the feeling of the character and maybe a mental movie. This is actually really similar to how my flash fiction on this site works. When I was reading the player’s handbook for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, I was thinking about the origins of a half-orc barbarian. I thought about how tough it would be to grow up in a tribe where you were different from everybody else. I thought about how my character would have to fight every day to prove his physical superiority just to survive. That brought up the image in my head of Roman Reigns. A while back he had a catchphrase of “One vs. All” which really resonated with where I wanted the character to go. In his origin, Bron literally takes on several members of his former tribe alone without standing down. He will not give up especially when he has been enraged.


Sorry headphones user.

When I was filling out the alignment section of the character sheet, I got tripped up on the fact that orcs are inherently evil and half-orcs feel the call of the orc’s evil god in their blood. The phrase “I do what I want” popped into my head. I knew I would be joining a team of adventurers but my character had been nearly killed by the last team he had been a part of. I thought of Braun Strowman stating that instead of being on Team Raw, he was on Team Strowman. My character may be working alongside do-gooders but he is really looking for a good challenge. On any given day, he has bad intentions but those bad intentions are often focused on bad guys rather than good guys.


I turned this guy into an engineer and a drug addict. Fun!

Finally, it was time to figure out a name for the new character. For some reason, I got roundly mocked for naming my first tabletop gaming character Lionel which was the name of a guy I had known previously. My second character had the more generic name of James Garen. About that time, I participated in a forum version of D&D and created a character named Sabin which started a new tradition. Sabin was named after Chris Sabin, a veteran pro-wrestler (who got his stage name from the Final Fantast character). Phillip Brooks was named after the real name of CM Punk, a character who inspired his creation. Dean Wyatt was named after Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt, foreshadowing the character’s mental illness. Felix Graham is an exception as his name was created from a Harry Potter potion and the hero of the King’s Quest games. I returned to the tradition by naming my new Barbarian Bron.


I’m sure the party is going to get along well.

Of course, the final part of character creation is getting through the first session. As Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” This is relevant both figuratively and literally for each character I have created. I can post character biographies or short stories on my blog all I want but at the end of the day, my character needs to integrate into the larger collaborative story. I left Bron’s origin open-ended because I was not sure how he would meet up with the heroes. When I arrived, the Dungeon Master gave me the idea that Bron was a bouncer at the tavern which was the starting point of the adventure. This subtly altered how I saw the character which sparked more ideas. In addition, Bron is now working alongside people who annoy the crap out of him. More than that, he is fighting alongside a cleric who actively hates him for what he is. Only time will tell if Bron will snap and actually fight with his so-called comrades or maybe he will grow to respect them somewhat.

The End and the Beginning

December 3, 2016

Bron lay face down in the dirt. When he opened his eyes he could see it was dirt. He was not sure where he was or even if he cared where he was. He closed his eyes again. He tried to think about the night before and it was like pulling on a fishing line. As he pulled, the memories started coming to the surface.

All he had known was life in the Blacktooth camp. It was brutal and dangerous but there was a joy in joining the fight every single day. He had grown up believing in the survival of the tribe against all odds. The kids his age had made that hard. They had always ganged up on him. They had not cared that he had no father. Bastards were common enough. They were upset that Bron was only half-orc. They hated his human side.

Bron did not see it that way. His human half did not make him less, it made him more. The thought fueled him and the hunting and the hunting and constant challenges made him even stronger. Too strong for the elders of the tribe. They had told him that he would never be accepted. Bron had countered that eventually they would die and he would take over. Then he would have to be accepted. They promised that this would never happen. Bron had just laughed and walked away from that meeting. That was what he assumed was the day before.

In the night, they came for Bron. They dragged him away and into the wilderness and he fought but there were twelve of them. One against all is not good odds. Every time he fought back, they hit him with fists or clubs until he was dazed or blacked out. They pulled him to his feet in the middle of a field. He was face to face with Urka. He did his best to spit blood in Urka’s face. He succeeded.

“You’ve never beat me, Urka. So you needed your friends to join in,” Bron said.

“Your time here is done, Bron. Your words are useless,” Urka said.

“You will have to kill me to get rid of me.”

“Good.” There were no speeches, there were no announcements. Urka pulled out a long, wicked dagger and immediately Bron fought hard. He charged Urka but suddenly he was blindsided by an orc with a spear. Bron could feel it going through his body. Then another spear hit his other side and pierced him. Urka walked toward him, grinning like a devil.

The knife drove deep and Bron instantly knew that it was very bad. Urka cradled his head as Bron sank to his knees. Urka drove his knee into Bron’s face. Something cracked. He drove that knee again and again and there was warmth and wetness. The world turned black after that third knee landed.

So here he was. He had no idea how long he had been out. He pushed himself to his feet but the high sun was much too bright and Bron found himself blinking and shielding his eyes for a moment. Beneath his feet, there was a great pool of blood that had mixed with the dirt and then dried. There were two spears as well but no knife. Bron thought Urka must have taken it with him. Bron smiled to himself. He was not dead. He actually felt fine.

He turned and there was a small robed woman standing and staring.

“Who the hell are you?” Bron growled.

“Hmm. It is a long time since I had a name,” The woman said. As Bron approached to strangle her, she held her hand up and he paused. He was merely surprised at her courage. “You can call me the Noonday Witch for now,” the woman said.

“Whatever,” Bron said dismissively. “What do you want? I have necks to snap.”

“I healed you. I did not want to depart without making sure you were alright.”

“I’m fine,” Bron grunted.

“You did not look fine,” The woman said softly and carefully.

“There was twelve of them.”

“Twelve and you lived. Impressive,” The woman said with a slight smile. “The currents of fate may have something big in store for you yet.”

“Whatever. I’m going back there and I am turning Urka inside out.”

“Do you feel the pull of Grummsh that strongly?” The woman asked. The name sent pulses of dread through Bron’s body.

“I am half-orc. I do what I want.”

“If you do not share their ideals, you will never rule them and they will never rule you.”

“What do you care?” Bron asked. “It’s all I know.”

“My point is that there is more world out there. There are challenges more worthy of confronting,” The woman said.

“Like what?” Bron asked. He was suddenly interested. He loved a challenge.

“I see your path going that way,” she said. “If you go that way, it will be hard not to continue down the path.”

Bron squinted at the witch. “Those currents. Can you see the future?”

“Maybe,” she said and smiled cryptically.

“Maybe?”

“It depends on if you go where I suggested,” she said with a shrug.

“Maybe I will. Maybe I will show them my strength,” Bron said. Visions of new faces awed by his strength danced behind his eyes. Maybe he could create his own tribe. A new tribe to crush the Blacktooth for rejecting him.

“Maybe,” the woman and seemed to think about it for a moment. “I like maybe. I hope you will carve your own path some day.” She seemed to flicker like the flame of a torch for a moment and then she was gone. In her place, there was a great ax. Bron walked forward and greeted as if it was a new friend.


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