FL/RPGWW/NANOWRIMO- or How I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

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Its NaNoWriMo time.

For those readers not familiar with this acronym, this is – National Novel Writing Month. An annual event lasting the whole of November for writers to encourage us to attempt 50,000 words in a month – no research, no editing, no worries – just write.

This is my third year of taking part. Previous  years I wrote a sci-fi story and a historical/magical realism story. This year it’s fantasy.

Plus…

It’s RPG Writer Workshop month. A new pilot programme being run by Ashley Warren to help gamers write a ‘one-shot-game’ before the first week in December. Game writers range from absolute beginners; never played TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games), to those who have already had work published and sold.

This is the first time -obviously – and although I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for around 30 years or so, I am WAY behind with the changes that have taken place in this scene. Plus, it’s all online, so digital comms, chat rooms, etc are a challenge!

Plus…

FutureLearn  is currently running a course title, Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People. It’s running throughout November only and it’s something that will be useful for the job I am employed in – Learning Support Assistant.

This is probably the easiest of the three as I need no tools, except my laptop to access the course.

I have to say, I do not know how many people are on each of these courses, but combined, it’s thousands – NaNoWriMo itself gets around 500,000 writers enrolling. As someone who is not au faix with Discord, or chat rooms, or, let’s be honest, any digital technology beyond TV’s before the advent of the remote control, I do struggle, but people are so helpful. Really. The number of times I’ve posted in the wrong place, been unable to find something, couldn’t do whatever needed to be done – someone has ALWAYS come to my rescue.

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Things were getting heated in the chatroom. 

However…

I hadn’t really thought this through when I signed up for all these online courses. In previous months; the build up and promotion of these courses, I had paid very little attention to the time they all took place.

Of course, I just had to do NaNo again. And wouldn’t it be cool as a writer to be able to design/write games and sell them? Yup – sign me up for that too. And what opportunities are there for what essentially boils down to free training?! Most industries provide staff training, but that little extra you do yourself always goes down well. So, yeah, I’ll do another course to help me do my job better.

So I find myself now, a mere 9 days into November, staring at blank docs. A kind of numb terror creeping up on me….how am I ever going to get 50,000 words written before the months end? How can I read a whole new rule-set for games and make a decision. How do I complete ‘Thinking Diary’ when my brain is turning to cheese? How can I go to work and give my best to those who rely on me? I know, thinks I, I’ll write my blog – as if I don’t already have enough writing to do -but the folks will be waiting for something, some pearls of wisdom, some amazing insight into creativity and gardening – phtuh! – no pearls here folks – brain, cheese = panic…

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What if I get some hideous cross-over like in a 50’s B-movie!!

Characters from the RPG workshop sneaking into the NaNo story and developing depression!

The low mood student wends his/her way into the game writing and ruins the jolly humour!

My NaNo protagonists burst free and run amok amongst the comments section of well-meaning, kind-hearted people studying on FutureLearn, swords flailing, and continue the charge into the RPG workshop, dog-lock pistols ablaze – there’s bullets and documents flying…people fling their laptops aside as a black-eyed soldier leers from a video of a gentle soul telling his tale…nascent character ideas from the minds of newbie gamers are quickly laid to rest by a swift and smartly placed stiletto blade…and the Dark Order find an in-road during all the mayhem and the seeds of disorder are planted and then the NPC’s take over and…and…

Genre Mashups. Image from Indiereader.com

but that’s never going to happen!!!!

Or is it…

Oh, hey, remember that pearl of wisdom? Let me know if you find it! Right, I’m off to dig a hole and scream into it.

 

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Getting into TTRPG Writing

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Image curtesy of  @TTRPG Twitter

You all know I write stuff. ‘Course I do, I write this blog for one. Had some stuff published. Done posts for other blog sites.

So, what’s this TTRPG Writing all about Alex?

Table-top Role Playing Games. As opposed to LARP- Live Action Role Play (kind of like historical re-enactment societies, but with fantasy, and monsters, and probably more drugs!) or RPG in relation to video games (which I also spend quite a bit of time on)

It does what it says on the tin – you play it on your table, like a board-game, with dice and little pewter figures (painted or not), and maps, well some maps, sometimes.

I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for nigh on 30 years – oh, my wasted youth!

I have been DMing campaigns for about 10 of those.

Then a pal sent me a link to – https://morrus.podbean.com/e/8-whats-an-rpg-freelancer-worth/

What? People get paid to write gaming stuff? Thinks me. Of course I knew people wrote all the initial games books – Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Rulebook, Monster Manual, blahdy, blah blah – but get paid?

To write new ideas?

To create new monsters?

And magic items?

Really?

Wow!

But how do you do it? How do you actually go about writing a game for others to play? To sell? What’s the process? How should it look or be presented?

Who does what to whom and when and how?

I haven’t a feckin’ clue!

I have been trawling the internet for three days – and it seems there is some sort of D&D gaming conspiracy going on! *Sh! Don’t talk about it otherwise more writers and creative types will muscle in on our patch.

Today I discovered – Life as a Hired Gun: Freelance RPG Writing https://youtu.be/U7EXayaK-TQ

and I thank those guys (John Bennet, Keith Ryan Kappel, and Christopher Hunt), for sharing their experiences and suggestions.

I’m going to start putting a few posts up here as I go along to share what knowledge and experience I gain on my path to becoming an #RPG writer.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey – who knows where we will end up – roll a D10 and we could run into a brick wall and fall at the first hurdle, twisting our ankle and hobbling back home shamefaced – or – we could vanquish the mummy of apprehension and discover the giant glow-worm of enlightenment!

Huzzah!

Now, where did I put my +2 Bow?

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The female Archer is more deadlier than the male...

Let’s Play Dungeons and Dragons!

Running a D & D Game Is Much Like Writing a Story

I was recently asked by some young uns, how to go about playing Dungeons and Dragons.

There is literally tons of stuff out there for new adventurers; books, gaming stores, not to mention the dragons horde of information on the internet! In the past, everything had to be written down; by hand! I have kept quite a lot of my campaigns and characters, but I have also dumped a lot over the years.

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DM-ing with the advent of computers!!!!

But starting out fresh can be daunting, and this group were all ‘newbies’, none had played and none had acted as DM. How to help? By the way, I am talking about old-school, table top role playing game here, not online.

Okay, so first things, let’s get that idea out of your head about the ‘typical’ D and D gamer – we don’t all look like the cast of Stranger Things or The Big Bang Theory – see my post Why You Should Play Dungeons and Dragons; February 15, 2017. I have been playing for 30 years; so not a teenager!

Initially, we had one DM (Dungeon Master) and he was the boss, in charge, god almighty as far as the players were concerned. All games came from bought modules, all games were set in dungeons, all floor-plans were bought pieces. All decisions were the DM’s and the final word was his alone. Not any more.

What I recommend if you’re just starting out –

  • Get everyone in group to read at least something of the basic rules. Don’t give one person the responsibility, or the power! Go and look at this site for EVERYTHING: http://dnd.wizards.com/
  • Maybe start with a bought module – or find one online. N.B:only the DM will have access to all of this.
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D and D ready made game – there’s plenty out there.
  • Dice – you will need as a starter pack – 1 six-sided, 1 four-sided, 1 eight-sided, 2 ten-sided and 1 twenty sided. You need 2 ten-sided (2d10) as you will be rolling percentages sometimes. N.B: some people become obsessed with collecting dice, and still can’t find the right one when it’s time to roll!!
  • Figures, you need little people. These can be bought from specialist shops, or again, online. Why not hold a miniature painting session before beginning a campaign!
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“Look! Over there! More tiny people!”
  • Get a blackboard; you really do not need to pay for little packs of card corridors, rooms and caves. Draw it as it happens. You can create aerial views, maps and plans, draw objects in elevated view if verbal description not working.
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Player: “Whats that?” DM: “A boat! It’s a boat! FFS!”
  • Character sheets, try and get all players to make them the same, you can find templates in D & D books or online. We have kept pretty much to the original design for 3 decades.
  • Use your laptop if you can’t describe stuff – there are billions of images you can find on the internet, this will help create the ambience for your players; “You round the corner and your bullseye lantern picks out this only two feet away!” *show them picture of hideous creature.
  • I do recommend you buy a copy of the D & D Players Handbook; General Info as well as the D & D Players Handbook; Magic Users. Ours fell apart and mutated into folders – but – they’re still the same one’s from years ago that we use – it’s all we need.
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Players Handbooks
  • A box to store your crap – dice, figures including NPC’s (none player characters), pencils, erasers, chalk, board wipe, post-it notes (I have these so players or DM can pass private messages – you don’t always want everyone knowing what you’re going to do).
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Any old box will do to store the accoutrements that WILL build up.
  • Start with a small campaign. Games can last as long as you like, but if you don’t plan they can drift for months (even years!) aimless and endless and ultimately boring. Based on playing one game night per week of approximately 4 hours, have it last two months tops. Being DM can be hard work – which is why everyone needs to learn the rules and not rely on this individual.
  • Don’t be afraid to look up rules as you go along – we still do this, in fact, we had one player who could never remember which dice to roll whenever he needed to make a roll. Keep your D & D rules handy, keep the Magic Users manual on the table too – no-one can ever remember which spell does what and for how long.
  • Discuss, don’t argue. There is nothing more destructive to a new gaming group than arguments. People get very passionate about their characters, and if the DM is perceived as being too draconian and kills everyone off, then you’re not going to want to play again.
  • DM is the Dungeon Master, who will run the campaign and also voice the NPC’s as well as adjudicate the game. Probably best to have someone who doesn’t mind remembering more rules than everyone else and taking responsibility; for at least your first few games.
  • Rules are made to be broken, this is tough. You might have a player who is quite the expert on certain weapon types and brings this reality into the game; “My ranger should be able to shoot down the Drow elf with a single shot as the crossbow fires at 200 mph and it’s tip can penetrate…” yadda, yadda, yadda. WE KNOW, but this is a game and sometimes the damage and range of some weapons seems a bit off. The melee and weapons are designed so you won’t die straight away – if you want to kill the NPC’s with a single blow, then the DM is well within his/her rights to make NPCs that do the same!!! However – if you all think a particular rules stinks, then change it – so long as you are all in agreement.
  • Most importantly – have fun!

Running a D & D Game Is Much Like Writing a Story

After a while, you might want to write your own campaigns, we do. We each take turns to DM, which means it keeps things fresh. It also means that you know everything about the story, because you wrote it! When you decide that you want to try creating your own campaign, please realise this isn’t a light undertaking. It takes time, you must do research; because you know one player will ask what Counsellor so-and-so looks like, whats the written language, where can I buy such-and-such, How tall is this, how wide is that etc, etc. You are writing a story that the gamers are taking roles in, each quest should have a beginning, middle and end (at least in your own mind). Make the first one simple, for example – information from bartender is that there’s bandits in them thar hills and there’s a reward for their leaders capture.

If there is one piece of advice I would give wannabe DM’s its this –

you aren’t god, you’re entertaining the others!

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Characters are always worth a revisit.

Skyrim – When Will It Ever End!?

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The beautifully realised Solitude, Skyrim

I bought Skyrim for my daughter (Yeah, sure I did) some six years ago, and I have been playing it ever since.

For those who do not know, Skyrim is a fantasy video role-playing game. It’s correct and full title is, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It is an open world action role-playing video game by Bethesda Game Studios.

I am onto my fourth or fifth incarnation; the others got lost in PS3 game wipes, or I got bored and started a new character following a different allegiance.

When the first Skyrim games came out, game-players of all stripe were excited – video-gamers, LARPs and Dungeon and Dragons fans, flocked to play this well-rendered, highly populated, multi-themed addition to the Fantasy genre – who didn’t want to be that hero with the horn-ed helmet we saw as a cut-out stand throughout stores?!

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Who could forget this guy? Dragonborn

There is just so much to do and it keeps on coming (though some might argue it’s the same fight in a different guise).

The main quest is the resolution of the so-called Dragon Crisis – you do this, you become the Dragon Borne – cue expansive, emotional music. Then there are the the secondary quests: that’s all the ‘factions’; Thieves Guild, Companions Guild, Mages Guild etc, etc. Added to each guild are side quests. Add to this a civil war, which prompts you to choose sides, and all the side quests that go along with that. Then there’s the ‘gods’, dungeons, city stories, and bounty hunts.

Do I cheat? Of course I do! What’s a laptop for?

Currently I am playing a Level 62 Wood Elf (oh, did I not mention the races? Human, Elf, Argonian, Khajit, I’m not explaining them all), called Gylia Whitethorn. And this is one of the things I like about the game, you get to choose your race, your gender, your looks, your name; women enjoy playing sword and sorcery genres as much as males – and you don’t get the sexism like in Grand Theft Auto (that is such a male cisgender, ‘duh’ scenario). Gylia Whitethorn is, I suppose, what D&D players would recognise as a Rogue. She is an excellent Archer (100), Thief (100) and almost perfect Enchanter. What more could a girl want?!

I have completed the main quest, I am leader of ALL the guilds, I have been a were-bear and a vampire, I have lost, slain or accidentally had killed dozens of companions. I married and adopted 2 children, built my own houses and have collected enough gold and gems to choke even Smaug.

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Lakeview Manor – my first home don’t y’know

So why am I still playing it? When will it end?

Well simply put, the game NEVER ends; it keeps spawning dungeons, monsters, minor quests. I was expecting (five years ago) that there would be an ‘Hallelujah’ moment. I would be crowned Queen of Skyrim and all would come and bow before me -nah – members of the guilds are just as snotty towards me as ever before, and that is an irritating point, the ‘little people’ all have set dialogue, so even when you’re the head honcho of The Companions in Whiterun, no-one actually gives a toss, you still get sent on crappy little missions (should you choose them).

So why am I still playing?!

I honestly don’t know – sometimes I have played as a relief from a crappy day at work, “Eat my ebony arrow, Management.” In the beginning it was obviously to complete quests and gain treasure. But now I have so many magic staffs that I don’t know what to do with them all, honestly it’s ridiculous. I like the world the game is set in, I like to wander sometimes and just look about, until some wretched Ash Spawn attacks, and then, yawn, I take it out. However, when I look at images of Skyrim on the internet, there are many places I do not recognise or creatures I have not encountered, so what have I been doing all these years?

There have been long gaps between gameplay, over the years those gaps have grown, sometimes it is a couple of months I don’t play it.

Maybe the gaps will get longer until I just stop playing altogether, I can’t see me stopping altogether any time soon.

Maybe I will be an eighty year old granny, sitting in my fluffy slippers and dressing-gown, yelling at the screen through my false teeth as I take down another Draugh with a balletic swipe of my Daedric Blade. They will have to peel the controls from my cold, dead hands…

                                             “By Ysmir, you won’t leave here alive!”

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Skyrim, Slippers and Scones…