Thursday, April 28, 2016


Finding my equilibrium,

As an additional response to a comment received yesterday, not having to do with my life or my troubles, I'd like to say that I have, at the end of a serious session, sat back and - with the party - considered the significance of what we've created.

Acknowledging that when I say 'significance,' I meaning the word in a very specific way.  I don't mean, as the comment suggests, in the ethical way we are intended to view Shakespeare by high school teachers.  Yes, obviously Macbeth's tragedy is the subject of greed and collusion, in which a well-respected noble finds himself tempted by more power than he deserves, only to find that he's bitten off more than he can chew and that the fates themselves have it in for him.  We are meant, we are told, to view the significance of the play in terms of how we choose to live our lives, recognizing that our time on "the stage," as Macbeth describes, is filled with sound and fury and that we should not put too much stock into it, but recognize that a tale told by an idiot is something that cannot be trusted.

This is not the kind of significance I mean when I say that after an adventure we sit about and think of it.  If we understand the origin of the word 'significance,' we find the Old French significantia: "meaning, force, energy."  Some games I have played have certainly carried these elements.  The monster dies with the last possible roll standing between it and a total-party-kill, the player makes the impossible roll that saves the character's life, a plan comes together so completely that the enemy is destroyed before it has a chance to breathe.  These are moments of great significance, producing memories in us that get told again and again - like that time the thief stripped down to loin cloth, covered himself in mud and then, with a dagger, took out the guards at the gate without taking a single point of damage.  Or the time when the mage tripped (blew a 17 dexterity check), tumbled down three tiers of the stepped pyramid and took 82 total points of damage, dying.  Or was shot.  Or found that weapon of the gods.  Or some other notable moment that turned the game around.

Are these moments as significant as Shakespeare?  Absolutely.

The key is to try and see Macbeth - or any other play of the reader's choice - from down on the ground, as it were.  Will the player or DM produce the lofty writing, the soaring eloquence, the stately aphorism that makes clear the literary prescription?  No, probably not.  But Macbeth - the real Macbeth, not the fellow spouting words on boards for an audience - his thoughts were certainly those of a 'player.'  Would a player take the opportunity to kill a king with an eye to seizing the kingdom?  Would a player be possessed and terrified by the ghost of a vanquished enemy such as Banquo?  Would a player turn to witches to get out of a crisis?  Would a player scream at Macduff, "Fuck yes, let's fight!" then lay on forthwith?  Yes, damn straight.

And when the player died or lived, how long would the telling last?

The trouble with 'significance' in a role-playing effort is that too often it is created, promoted and celebrated by the DM.  Note the other part of the statement with which I started the post: we have considered the significance of what we've created - not the significance of what the guy behind the DM screen has created.

And this, I think, is where Ozymandias is right: because we've been programmed to assume that if there is going to be 'significance' in the game, then it's going to start with the DM shoving it down our throats - as opposed to, for example, 'fun.'  Rather than having great fun slaughtering a king in his bed, followed by a deluge of drinking, debauchery and smiting our enemies until there's a land-sweeping battle-royale ending in a do-or-die one-on-one contest (or a series of them, where each player gets his or her moment in the sun), we're stuck with a series of propriety lessons soaked with witches pointing fingers repeating "Bad, bad, bad, bad . . ."

Because most people who put on Shakespeare or think of Shakespeare forget completely that long before it became the stuff with which we torture high school students, Shakespeare was F-U-N fun.  The groundlings shouted mockery and abuse from the pit while Lady Macbeth showed off her bloomers and spat at them, as the upper classes tittered with their hands under each others' kirtles and petticoats.  Shakespeare was a raucous, drunken, bloody, moiling, sexy farce-driven festival of greed, chivalry and sport, so popular that not only do we remember the plays, we built an entire industry of story-telling around the principles so launched in that century.  It's only dry today because we are sermonized to concentrate on the prude lesson that's given and not upon the cold-blooded sound of Macbeth severing the heads from the bodies of Macduff's wife and children.  We're reminded about how "senseless" it is - we're not supposed to remember how passionate it is.

When DMs take it into their heads to create significance, they make the mistake of climbing into the pulpit and not the charnal pit.  We don't listen at the pulpit to enjoy ourselves, we do it to redeem ourselves from the ecstatic revelry of the night before.  The voice on the pulpit talks at us; the crowd we know and love talks with us.  We don't play D&D on Sunday morning: we play it on Saturday night.

This is worth remembering.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This Isn't Ending


Was just let go from work.  Management says I'm not learning fast enough, I'm not keeping up.  Shit.  First fucking time that's happened to me.

They were polite about it.

The Lack of Women's Voices

"Tradition is what you resort to when you don't have the time or money to do it right."

I feel like I can breathe.

After a week of going from work to work, from the restaurant to the computer and back to the restaurant, I feel for the first time this morning that I can catch my breath.  I work tonight, which is a pity, but at least for a few hours my time is my own.  And of course what I want to do with that time is write.

More than a week ago I posted a song without comment - and it received no comment, which isn't much of a surprise.  There's no real way to talk about music; we feel music, and how it strikes us, motivates us, inspires us or sustains us, those things are almost impossible to articulate.

These last three years of putting together projects for publication have been instructive as to how I function as an artist.  After a certain point, as I near each deadline, the effort and the stress begins to overwhelm me and I begin to reach for crutches - anything that will help me limp across the finishing line.

I'm not sure I mentioned it at the time, back in 2014 . . . but when I was making myself get up and face How to Run each day, struggling to get it right and terrified of getting it wrong, as I knew how harsh the gaming community can be, the song that got me through that dark time was Sara Bareilles' Brave.  For, as I try to explain, writing is an act of courage:

"You can be the outcast or be the backlash of somebody's lack of love - or you can start speaking up."

I'm going to talk about music a bit.  I find it very strange what the fellows at the restaurant listen to for music.  Whereas back in the 90s, when I worked all the time in kitchens, the music was all radio.  Now, of course, it is a speaker and a competition for whose Ipod will be connected to it.

I work with three kinds of guys, regarding their music - and let me just make it clear that I like these guys, whatever their motivations or their proclivities.  They're not especially bright, none of them are educated or even imagine they will be educated, but they're brutally honest and up front about how they feel about things.  This is what I've always liked about cooks; there's none of the dissembling, passive-aggressive shit that turns up in office work.  These guys are straight up aggressive.

First, there are 18-22 year old white kids, all Canadians, fresh out of high school, complete with pimples and baby fat.  Every one of them, without exception, listens to black male hip-hop, exclusively.  They don't listen to music from white men (with the exception of Eminem's Slim Shady period - that earlier stuff, never) and they absolutely do not listen to any music with a woman's voice.

The second group are mixed-race Canadians, mostly white, in their mid-20s and early 30s.  They don't mind the hip-hop but when they play their music it is all 1970s progressive rock or - believe it or not - disco.  There's no early 80s new wave, no U2, no Def Leppard, no Guns & Roses, no metal and absolutely no grunge whatsoever.  It is like the music invented between 1980 and the present never existed.  To the negatives we can add in no punk - not even the light punk like Talking Heads.  For 70s stuff, there's no Clash, no Boston, no Supertramp, none of the bands that invented the formula that U2 or Guns & Roses capitalized on.  Oh, and no Bowie.  There's a little Pink Floyd, lots of Led Zepplin (of course), a little Anthem and then after that it is mixed pop-rock like the Eagles and Jethro Tull.  Finally, they absolutely do not listen to any music with a woman's voice.

The third group are all guys from overseas: Kenya, Sudan, India and Central America.  These guys just don't care.  They don't play their music - but I suspect it would be World Music if anyone gave them the chance.

This thing about women singers has always been there.  Back in the 90s, when kitchens I lived in listened to Grunge day and night, with the occasional old-school rap, the ratio would have been 9:1 male to female vocalists.  Now it is none.  I swear.  I have been paying attention and in four weeks of working in this kitchen, with about a dozen different pods attached to the speaker, no one plays anything with a woman.

It tells me that white boys have lost their voice entirely in the world of music.  They've embraced a music from another time, a music that my own generation grew up with and rejected as they reached for something more personal and - dare I say it - sexual in content than the repeated propping up of the male ego to which bands like the Sex Pistols or AC/DC desperately clung.  I was 16 when disco died, when for a year we went to the Death of Disco parties, rushing to the raunchy lyrics of the Cars, Blondie and Bowie.  Progressive rock by then had become so over-processed we couldn't bear that shit any more - but of course by the mid-80s everything became so over-processed that rap was inevitable.  So it goes.

Those white boys who can't relate to music that was old when their fathers were children are immersed in the music of black boys, like some weird parody of that scene at the beginning of Office Space when the white boy in his car, listening to rap, carefully turns it down when the scary black men walk by.

It's impossible to see the lack of women's voices in their lives as an 'option.'  It's fear, pure and simple.  As their lives are becoming more puritanical, between the hysteria of the feminist community and the toxic backlash of endless male pundits endlessly deconstructing every single thing wrong with women, ever, to hundreds of thousands of listeners, males are retreating.  Whereas once these aggressive males I work with would have peppered their steady discourse (cooks never stop talking) with sexual jokes, innuendo, flirting (there are attractive servers right there) and ever-present homosexual accusations, said in jest or not, now the dialogue is all drugs, all the time.  I need to get drugs, I need to do drugs, I've just done drugs, these drugs are better than those drugs, etcetera and etcetera.  Drugs are safe, drugs are a retreat, drugs do not include recriminations and risk, drugs help.  Women are scary and difficult to predict and it's probably just better - since we're all still young, dumb and full of cum - that we silence those voices.  And since the front house servers are all trying to get on the good side with the cooks, they do their best to act like one of the boys or they don't talk to the kitchen at all.

That is a pattern I've noticed at the other kitchens I've worked in the past ten months.  The division between front house and back house is more pronounced than ever - in part because of corporate-restaurant policy but I think it is also that there's less trust between the two sides.  There are always male front-house servers, of course, but they tend to either be bartenders (in which case they have the same characteristics as the cook, just better groomed and less morlock like) or they're a bit gay and they tend to side with the girls.

Anyway, I just quoted a woman singer as the sustainer of my soul, so it's obvious I'm nothing like these guys.  I live in a world - evident from my latest podcast - that has loud women's voices in it.  I do my best to pretend, however.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Preview Now

Well, I am good to go with the preview: and since it is April 26th in most of the world, I'm just going to go ahead and start sending out the preview now.

I thought it might be fun to make a list of the places on Earth to where I'll be sending my work off:

Alberta, Canada
Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France
Brussels, Belgium
California, USA
Dundee, Scotland
Greater London, England
Hertfordshire, England
Kansas, USA
Madrid, Spain
Maryland, USA
New South Wales, Australia
New York State, USA
Ohio, USA
Ontario, Canada
Oregon, USA
South Australia, Australia
Styria, Austria
Texas, USA
Tottori, Japan
Uusimaa, Finland
Washington State, USA

I'll just make the point that there were multiple receivers in about half the areas above: Oregon, London and California seem to be the hot spots.

I will be sending the content manually, so please allow some time for the material to show up in your email box - I should be through them all in less than half an hour, I'm sure.  It is seven minutes before the hour as I write this, so please judge from that.

If anyone doesn't get a copy, then please scream at me.  Somehow, you've gotten lost in my accounts is all.  If you don't see a copy, it is probably because I have the wrong email for you or in transferring my data from one system to another, I've skipped a line.  Please do not fail to contact me: I really WANT to send you the material.

Very well.  I better get started.

Preview Tomorrow

The preview comes tomorrow.

I am spending today completing a last review of the material, transferring the corrections from the editor and doing my best to hammer down the last bits of continuity.  Content will be going out when the material is ready, in pdf format.

I encourage readers who have not yet contributed $25 to the Jumpstart Proposal to give some consideration to the idea.  I know that many who have not will be happy to buy the book once it has been published in its entirety - and that they can easily wait.  I truly appreciate that.  But if you can bring yourself to help an artist in need, regardless of the permanency of the material . . . just consider me as you would a musician playing on a street corner.  The pleasure is found in the moment; the gentle reader can only take the memory of contributing a little to his box, not the music itself.  Nor is it a moment of charity; it is appreciation, pure and simple, for a fellow who has chosen to dedicate his life to art and the making of beautiful things, valued in far too little coin in this world.

Don't think of my hat being in my hand.  Think of my hat being at my feet, as I play for you.

And if $25 is too much  (and I'm sure it probably is) - then give the musician here a buck or so a month, for the sake of my dancing for you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tao & Tao's Daughter Podcast S01 E04

Here is our fourth podcast, recorded March 18 at the Indigo Bookstore in West Calgary.  There are some issues.  We edited fairly hard in order to keep the subject more or less on track, there is plenty of ambient noise (audio improves after fifteen minutes for some reason), there are seven people talking and for some reason, at the 27:30 mark the audio repeats itself for about two minutes.  Oh well, we're learning.  It fits that we talk about getting past making mistakes in the first five minutes because this applies to podcasts also.

Please enjoy:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Podcast Tomorrow; Preview on Tuesday

Three days to the book preview.  I've completed my end of the language editing at last - it is in the hands of my editor who, unfortunately, has been given less time than she really needs to look it over properly.  That is all my fault; I've been struggling for the energy to do a good job since the kitchen work started and I've dragged it out a little long.  There will be a preview sent out on the 26th, however, and it will be as long and as rich as I promised.  If an odd word is left out in the last four chapters, if there is a small technical error, it will be because the editor just didn't get to the end of the work I've given her.  Those issues will be fixed when the book is published.

I figure I have one more day of work on it - making the corrections the editor gives back and doing a last search through my document notes (which I write on the document in the form of text balloons through microsoft words) for continuity.  The plot is complex, there are many details in the book and continuity has been a bitch throughout - it is always hard to keep an entire novel and all the intricate details of that novel in one's head at the same time . . . this is even more difficult with a mystery- thriller, such as I am writing, as the devil is in the details.  I've never written a tale like this with this much depth - but I am extremely pleased with it and I think that when every last clue is fixed and herring caught, the book is going to be well worth reading more than once (just so the reader can enjoy all the subtle hints once they know where the story goes).

In other news, I have a podcast that I will be putting up tomorrow - the fourth in a series.  This one was recorded among my players at the Indigo Bookstore, on March 18.  Unfortunately, the sound quality in the first third is less than ideal.  It was something of a free-for-all among seven people and so it won't be like the first three I've put up.  We recorded it on a phone like a microphone, using a selfie-stick; in parts it works very well; in others, where the ambient noise gets too high (my sound editor for this did her best to buffer it out) it is just annoying.  I hope the gentle reader will forgive; like anyone doing their first, early podcasts, it is a learning curve.  We all feel the content is worth the listen, even if it takes a patient listener.

I wish I could put up something else other than details about my life.  I have done zero work on actual D&D since a week ago yesterday; which seems like an age and a half to me.  My blog posts make this evident, as I'm not talking about D&D.  This is what happens when we chase deadlines; my May and June - for now I realize there's no way I can have the book completely finished before the end of June - will be much like my present.  I am sad about that.  But the book is worth the effort and that's why I do it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Boldest Experiment

I was asked if I could satisfactorily answer the following:
"What happens when a character dies in a per-pay enterprise like this? Should they expect not to? Imagine the furor around a video game costing $59 where character death was permanent. Now multiply that by 100."

Sigh.  This makes me sad.  The very intention of the "what if" scenario proposes that people have become so fragile, so needy, so entitled that if they were to spend money for the privilege of playing a game, the ensuing tantrum of their dashed privilege would grow so onerous that my resolution would be swept away in a hurricane of screaming, self-righteous hysterics.

Multiply that by 100.

One hundred of what, exactly?  100 commenters on the internet?  100 players?  I'm certainly not capable of running 100 players at the same time and I find it impressively unlikely that I would be killing 100 players simultaneously if I was.  That would truly be a total party kill, not to be matched in the annals of the game.

But let's imagine that someone has chosen to play in my campaign - and that I've rolled a die, or they have, and as a result they've died.  They are so invested in the game, so invested in their character, that they choose to seek compensation for the death of this character through a means that will cause me harm in some manner.  Let's further assume that this person's perception of me turns so black over the death of this character (remember, paid for), that they truly, deeply, intensely hate me.  We need to multiply something by 100: let's multiply this hatred.  What are the possibilities?

Well, I'm on the internet with my real name.  It's reasonable to assume that someone truly motivated could choose to seek me out, hunt me down and kill me.  This is not the first time I've speculated about something like this.  A little over four years ago, I had a little troll who wrote nasty messages and personal threats and a lot of other things, causing me to remember the story of Billy Pilgrim and Paul Lazzaro from Slaughterhouse Five.

So it goes.

My father, who is 80 now, cannot get it into his head even after forty years of my deciding to be a writer that this occupation actually requires that I be, well, publicly known.  Just a month ago he was cautioning me in serious tones to "be careful" about who knows me on the internet because there are people out there just waiting to use personal information about me to destroy any chance of my getting a "good job."  He is, without a question, a doomsayer of the first order; I remember back in high school, when we first got a Betamax Video Recorder, that my father discouraged us from speaking about it to our friends, arguing basically, "If word gets out that we have one of these, there are people who wouldn't hesitate to break into our house to get it."

Today, my father lives in the same house that I lived in when I was zero.  That house, today, is worth around $800,000.  It sits amid a bunch of other houses that are also worth one hell of a lot of money - and it always has.  We would try to explain to my father that every person in our neighborhood owned a VCR, but that never seemed to get through.

Oh, in case someone is thinking right now, "Why doesn't your father help you?"  Well . . . in the original Fun With Dick and Jane, Jane goes to ask her father for money and gets this speech:

Father: "All right.  It's the monsoon season . . . and you're standing outside in torn raincoats.  Come through this by yourselves and you'll be dry for the rest of your lives.  Take money from me and you'll be wet.  Soaking wet from now on.  Jane, it's the best thing that could happen.  Especially for Dick.  I'm so happy for both of you.  Especially for Dick."
Jane:  "Dad, Billy is doing his work by candlelight."
Father:  "Splendid!  So did Abraham Lincoln."
Jane:  "How are you both doing."
Father:  "Never better!  Jane . . . we have sowed all our lives, and we're now reaping the harvest!  Reap!  Reap!  REAP!"
(this vid was the best I could find)

So, basically, I'm not deserving.

Okay, so I've gone around the barn, down to the store, gotten into an argument with the hairdresser next door and now I'm on my way home.  1.  I already have a public persona; 2. I've already been not liked; 3. every public persona risks some nutjob turning up some day; 4. Given my upbringing, I ought to be insanely paranoid but I've chosen not to be.

Let's contend with a far more likely scenario.  Said player's character dies.  Said player is unhappy.  Said player shouts about it on the internet, tries to raise x100 angry sentiment against me.

Sorry.  I don't see it.  First of all, I don't exactly know what horrible thing can be said about me that hasn't already been said.  Someone could claim to know something about me that's horrible - but that's already been claimed and it turns out that making shit up on the internet is quite ordinary.

Moreover, I ask the readership: consider if this argument would produce much sympathy:

"I paid $100 to play a role-playing game online and my character was killed.  And now I want justice."

Is there a way to add information to that argument that doesn't make the person sound, well . . . I'll refrain from the expletive.  I can at least feel reassured that, living in Canada, there's no practical way to bring a grudge suit against me on the basis of "I'm very rich and I like to use the system to fuck with people."  The legal system is different here; bringing suit is not just a matter of having money.  Moreover, I'd be operating under the legal disclaimer that exists on the Patreon website: so that as long as I follow Patreon's rules, I'm protected.  It would be very hard to bring a suit against Patreon at this time and there are much bigger fish in the kettle to contend with if that were the case.

As near as I can tell, this leaves my personal feeling of remorse or regret at killing a player character, given that someone has paid me for the privilege.  This leaves my self-esteem and my resolve in the face of pure, unbridled hatred, as I am told that I have committed a sin by running a fair and reasonable game in which a die roll may result in a character running out of hit points and being killed.

In 1985's Lost in America, the character's wife loses all the money the couple has at a Las Vegas Casino - and in one of the most painful scenes ever filmed in the history of American cinema, Albert Brooks, director and writer of the film, spends six minutes arguing with the owner of the casino in a vain attempt to get his money back.  I'll link the last four minutes of that conversation.

I don't know what sort of person could watch that scene and identify with Albert Brooks - but if that sort of person wants to give me money to play in my world, that sort of person is going to find that I'm on the casino owner's side.

Imagine the furor.

Yeah.  Furor.  Imagine it.

I'm just shaking in my boots.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Atrocious Suggestion

Jeez, I just want to start this post with an apology.

As soon as I'm done, I'm going to put up a poll.  I really want honesty - because I've just gotten off the phone with a friend who decided what I needed was a swift, spiritual kick to the head meant to alters my perspective.  There was yelling involved.

I ran an online campaign for 5 years.  That's evidence of commitment.  The campaign included maps, geographical and social details, combat, a continuous character narrative arc and a personal player sandbox agenda.  I did it for free.

My friend feels I should be paid for it.  I asked, how much would someone pay for that and he said, quote, "Why the fuck don't you ask them?"

My part-time job, which I am leaving for in about two hours, pays be about $1,500 a month.  Unlike the job I had when I was running the online campaign, I don't have a desk, I don't have a computer and I have zero free time.   Right now I am working, writing, getting a little bit of D&D done and that is about it, since occasionally my partner likes to see me.  The only way I would have time for an online campaign would be if I were working even less hours than I am now (about 28/week).  This works out to the measly sum of $75 to $100 dollars a day.

I figure I could probably manage two to four parties of 4-5 people each, either scheduled for a given night of the week and run partly on skype, or continously on email throughout the day as I did on the campaign blog.  This is a maximum of 20 people.  20 divided into $1,500 is $75 per person per month.  Let's further establish that I'm on the hook for at least 6-8 hours a week per party, both in direct playing and in answering questions, solving problems and prep-time.

Or I could cut the number of my shifts, keep working half the time I am now and charge less - but that is more work for the same amount of money.

The real problem, I think - and my friend admitted the issue - is that this is something of an all-or-nothing thing.  Right now, because of exhaustion and scheduling, I can't even run one of my live parties; and they get me in person, for free, when we play.  I don't know what or how I would run people on line.  Perhaps when the book is packed away and done.  I can't see it happening now.

I'm just going to ask in a poll, however - and christ on a cracker, I'm sorry as shit for doing this - what people would pay on Patreon to run online in my world.  It would at least tell me how many.  I remember when I offered this for free about five years ago, it wasn't that many people; but I would never have expected then that people would give me $3,000 in donations, either.


The results to the poll were as follows:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Preview Looms

We are 10 Days away from my releasing the Preview to my book, The Fifth Man.

This complies with the $25 reward offered by the Jumpstarter Proposal I first launched on the 7th of February.  Following the work I've done on it today, I feel that I can confidentially define what that proposal is include.

Laid out as a standard size paperback, 135 pages (or thereabouts).  In words, 40,000.  This will make it slightly larger than the Dungeon's Front Door in terms of content.

I wanted very much to provide a substantial portion of the book without undermining the book's larger story arc - while at the same time providing something of a meaningful resolution to the arc that dominates that first third of the story.  I haven't spoken about that arc (as far as my brain can remember) - so it should be a pleasant surprise to the reader, without any spoilers whatsoever coming from this blog.

The reason for a big preview is two-fold: one, I felt people deserved a lot for their contribution to the jumpstarter.  My gentle readers made it possible for me to continue living in my present space long enough to finally find work and my gawd, that is unaccountably huge.  This means I am writing this at the same desk in the same room that I have happily occupied for more than seven years now.  I'm home, I'm in control, I'm alive and the world continues to spin with something resembling hope.  For that, I wanted to give a lot, as much as I could.

My second purpose is to demonstrate, as strongly as I can, that the book is not a false hope, like so many things associated with kickstarter campaigns.  I have a lot of work left to do on the remaining half of the book - I am estimating between 45,000 and 55,000 words left to craft according to previous drafts, adjustments and character development; plus editing those words and bringing the book to a solid conclusion.  Every inch of this thing is established in principle and context; I know what happens with and to every single character; this thing will get finished, barring the possibility of my actually dying before getting it finished (in which case the existing draft will at least be made available).  So there's no fear that the readers won't know what was supposed to happen.  I trust that this preview will lay any notions like that to rest.

If you're interested and you're not among the gang that has already make a donation, please jump forward and help me out: it's $25 for the preview, but you get a module and other content as well, if that matters.  I have a lot to write and I'd love it if I could work more on the book than on a flat top, a deep fryer or a dishwasher.


Thinking seriously of writing a post called "The 7 Things Everyone Forgets When Trashing The Fountainhead" . . . but that's probably a bad idea.  Hah.

Climb That Wall

Let's talk about walls.

I've been working on the above table since this morning; I've decided to quit on it for a bit.  My previous take on this thing - the material components of musical instruments - was highly simplistic and I've meant to upgrade it.  This is still mostly simplistic - but it is more detailed than what I was doing before.

Thing is, it makes me want to pound my head on the desk.  Not that I won't eventually get through it - but the detail is exasperating for a variety of reasons.  Here are a few: just how much of a cello is made of sprucewood versus boxwood?  I can't find any information regarding that on the net.  Cellos are virtually always made of maple, which I don't have anywhere on my system because I have not found one damn place in Europe that boasts of making it.  Oh, I know that it's there, I just don't have any references for it and as people know, I'm insane about sticking to the originating material.  Still, I can assign it the same price as beechwood, I can even argue that in a world full of magic that MY cellos are made of beechwood and good-gawdammit, they sound exactly the same (so f-you).

I can argue that but unfortunately it annoys the bleeding crap out of me.  Moreso the fact that cello bows are made of two damn woods that are both found in the new world and for the love of fuck, I haven't included Brazil and the Yucatan into my trade system - so, no Pernambuco or Brazilwood.  Ever try to research if a cello bow can be made of some other wood?  It's fruitless.  I did find a single phrase that said, effectively, "We can't be sure what wood cello bows were made of before the discovery of the New World . . ."  Great.

Listen, I know that all of you can just put a brazilwood reference into some forest near the tropics of your world, but I'm screwed.  I have to make the cello bow out of blackwood for the time being; this is a dense wood from Africa - I did find someone advertising a cello bow made from it, though it probably sounds like bowing a cello with a taxidermy-dried cat.

I was supposed to figure out a harp next and . . . nope, not today.  I'm just not up to it.  This is what I mean by a wall.

Everyone hits them, working on their world.  The stuff can be interesting; I know a lot more about cello construction than I did an hour ago.  It can also be frustrating, searching for a specific thing that no one else in the world thinks matters.  On the other hand, without the net, I wouldn't have a hope - so there's that to thank.

What is it, however, that is going to get me back into the driver's seat, to look up harps, harpsichords, organs, drums, squeezeboxes, violins, flutes, recorders and so on?  Frankly, the players will.  Because everything has a price and the players will want to have a comfortable choice.  What am I going to tell bards in my game future wanting to pick an instrument?  That I couldn't be bothered?  That, sure, the cello price is logical but the flute price is pulled out of my ass?  Not me.

This isn't going to come off as kind: but I'll say it as someone raised by people who were much more concerned with themselves than with their children.  We do this thing for other people; if a DM doesn't have the will to sit down and make the world because it is exhausting or difficult or just takes too much time, I count that as, well . . . selfish.  That DM still wants to be a DM; they just want to do it without the work necessary to deserve it.

In my outline of How to Run, I mentioned the work we put into our worlds to make them beautiful. Here is the relevant passage:

"My world can’t rely on being what I hope it to be. It must be everything others hope it to be or it has no value. The cool, bitter reality of the effort is that I will have to build, install, renovate or ornament parts of my world in a way that I might find garish, graceless or camp: because that’s what players love. Theatre owners cannot only put on the plays that they happen to like. That is no way to bring in an audience. As I have said, I don’t even have the luxury of only pleasing an ‘audience’ – my players want to feel they own the place they’ve entered. They want to feel at home. I have to compromise my sense of beauty and please the entering crowd – else the crowd will simply walk out again.
Therefore, my world must be a masterpiece. It must devour the players, swallowing them whole, and doing it with a virtuosity that leaves them begging and panting in the world’s belly, never wanting to get out. I want my world to be something they cannot quit. The difficulty of that does not matter. It is what both my players and I demand. To have players I can count on, that they should wish to play at every opportunity. They should crave it. They know another world like mine is difficult to find.

That is why I waste my time with what seems like a silly detail - what sort of wood is a cello made of, how many ounces of spruce exactly and so on.  The lack of this sort of thing is what inspires endless youtube videos pointing out how one girl in the far background of one shot in a two-hour film was obviously not in character.  That lack is what drives you crazy when you see a tiny bit of pixellation in one short cut scene 18 hours into a game you paid $63 to own.  Gawdamn fucking lazy bastards - they should have fixed that.

So yes, it bothers me that I don't have maplewood in my campaign.  And it bothers me that I'm not going to find details on how much of what things a harp is made from, by weight, because it matters.  It all matters.  Moreso in a game where virtually everyone else's campaign is this horrid collection of crumpled papers, half-painted figures, buttons and game pieces for enemy orcs and a DM wearing a sloppy t-shirt that needed cleaning Tuesday.  I know I'm competing with that - but I'm still not inclined to be lazy.  My world must be a masterpiece.  So I'll overcome the annoyances and just get it done.

I used these once upon a time; more than 30 years ago.

Friday, April 15, 2016


There's a rhythm in rush these days,
Where the lights don't move and the colors don't fade
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow in a world gone lean;
Sometimes there's things a man cannot know
Gears won't turn and the leaves won't grow
There's no place to run and no gasoline
Engines won't turn and the train won't leave.

I will stay with you tonight
Hold you close 'til the morning light
In the morning watch a new day rise
We'll do whatever just to stay alive.

Jose Gonzalez - Stay Alive