#nerdy9th: NaNoWriMo is Coming! And World-Building!

It’s #nerdy9th, and that means time to share some geek-deep love of something!

PrintI’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2002, and have written several unpublished novels in the program. Sometimes, I write with a hope of publishing, but mostly, I write for the sheer joy of writing. It’s like when I was a kid and my favorite vacation involved holing up with a typewriter for a week.

Many years ago, I wrote a world-building website I as part of an exercise in writing CSS. In 2004, I adapted it into a 30-day world-building guide for potential novelists and gamers to use for creating a setting. It takes about 15 minutes a day and it doesn’t make a static world. It makes a rough draft of a setting that you can then use in your creative work. It focuses on the mood of your piece– what are you trying to get people to feel when they read your novel– and then throws all the creative ideas around. Every week, there’s a check-in with the mood, however, and you toss out or set aside anything that doesn’t support that mood in your setting.

That guide has been used in classrooms, writing groups, gaming groups, and online websites. I CC-by licensed it, so anyone can use it with attribution, even if they sell it. It’s been translated into a few languages, and is one of the things I’ve written that probably has had the widest reach. I’m proud of it, even though there are spots where the science is a little weak (the geography bits are informed by my college science courses.)

This year, I am planning a Choose Your Own Adventure style novel for NaNoWriMo. I don’t fully have the title yet, but it’ll come to me soon. The mood is a dark, broody adventure in which the setting shifts slightly as the reader goes through the various paths.

Oh, yeah. If I win this year’s NaNoWriMo, I will have written half a million words as a direct result of the project. Some good, some terrible. Some amazing moments in writing that reminded me that I love to write fiction, and to keep doing it.

NaNoWriMo. Because why should “professionals” get all the fun of making art?

Posted in Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

August and September 2015: Books and Games


#20: Cloud Atlas (m)

#21: The Martian (m)

#22: Assassination Classroom #1 (m)

#22: The Fault in Our Stars (m)

#23: Younger (f)

#24: The Lost Art of Listening, 2nd Edition (m)


#64: Love Letter

#65: Cthulhu Live (played twice over Gen Con weekend– once in July, once in August)

#66: Magical Fury

#67: Red November

#68: Ssh!

#69: Love Letter

#70: Roll for the Galaxy

#71: Incredible Expeditions (5 players)

#72: Trail of Cthulhu (4 players)

#73: Spirit of 77 (5 players)

#74: Fate Accelerated (3 players)

#75: Fate (3 players, new campaign, character creation)

#76: Our Last Best Hope (5 players, all female game)

#77: Monster Under the Bed (2 player, female designer, horse in the race… this is the┬ácard game I’m working on)

Posted in BookReviews-text, Gaming | Tagged , | Leave a comment

#RPGaDay 25: Favorite Revolutionary Mechanic

This one almost sounds like it’s written for Apocalypse World’s "fail forward" mechanic, but I rave enough about the PbtA system. So instead, I will talk about something that is anti-AW: doing away with XP and having milestone-based advancement.

I think this is done well in Fate, where advancement is essentially a matter of adding to your skills or approaches, recovering from consequences ("healing"), and changing your character’s aspects. In fact, the aspect development part of Fate is where the milestone-advancement shines. It is entirely possible to play an entire Fate campaign without changing your die rolls, but to instead advance who you are, rather than what you do or how well.

There was a moment in a D&D 4e campaign I was playing in a few years ago where the DM said "look, where I want you guys to go next is an epic-tier adventure. You kind of skipped past the stuff I had planned in the meantime, but I feel bad robbing you of 4 levels of adventure."

I shrugged and replied that, if the story is epic tier and he doesn’t want to scale it down, then he can just level us up. Our characters aren’t going to be surprised that we can now do all kinds of cool stuff we couldn’t do before. We certainly don’t need to spend 4 levels "grinding" on monsters that don’t move the story forward, after all.

By letting go of the burden of keeping things scaled to our power level, the DM was able to skip to a more interesting part of the story, the part he wanted to focus on. It’s not a video game, after all. We can skip over the boring stuff.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged | Leave a comment

#RPGaDay 24: Favorite House Rule

Hero_PointsMy favorite house rule is one that is so popular, it forms the basis for many current RPG systems. The fate point, hero point, benny, stitch, or similar abstract "get out of a tight spot" mechanic that rewards players for role-playing well, and gives them an opportunity to control the dice a little bit more than they otherwise might.

Back in my AD&D 2nd Edition days, I used hero cards, a set of homemade index cards with little bonuses written on them. If you RPed well (or brought snacks), you got a card that had a circumstantial bonus, like "you take no damage from this fall" or "you have the upper hand in this grapple." The idea what that you could save your hero cards to use one time, at some appropriate later time. The execution was weak– nobody liked having to keep track of cards from session to session. But it was one of my better ideas for a basic, circumstantial benefit for players. If I were to make something similar today, the cards would be class-specific, and you would simply be able to draw one from your deck when the GM wanted to reward you (like having Inspiration in 5e). And your deck would be shuffled and you’d have no cards drawn at the start of each session.

Come to think of it, this would make an interesting deck-builder type of thing for RPGs…. No. No, let me put that aside. I have enough project going as it is….

Posted in Gaming | Tagged | Leave a comment

#RPGaDay 23: Perfect Game for You

See yesterday. The perfect game for me is one where I have players who show up!

Actually, the perfect game is one where we play for 3-6 sessions, completing a full story arc, but not lingering too long in the world. The players are engaged and interested and want to tell a full story, but they aren’t so invested in their characters that they get mad if someone dies.

But the perfect published game system for me hasn’t been written yet. There needs to be a nod to story structure. There needs to be an emphasis on social and intellectual challenges, over physical ones. There needs to be excitement, a mechanic for managing secret information, and the very real threat of things going badly for the heroes, but it turning into a great story anyway.

If I had found my perfect system, I would use it and stop trying to design games. Timewatch comes close– very close, actually. Whispering Road sets up a structure that I adore, but the conflict resolution mechanic could use some tweaking (or just clarification, really; it’s hard to let go of the idea that you roll dice not to resolve conflict, but mainly to decide how well a scene addressed someone’s core need as a character.)

Anyway. Perfect is the enemy of good. There are hundreds of good games out there that I love.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged | Leave a comment