Monday, August 11, 2014


Having gotten my first full-on review from a reader, namely Jeremiah Scott, I've added some links on the sidebar for reviews for the book, should anyone wish to write another (at Lulu also, as of now).  As I want to add another post today, I don't want that Reviews post to disappear.

Throughout my experience as a DM, I have often stumbled into periods where I 'go dry' on the detailing or design of my world.  Sometimes, these periods have something to do with troubles in life, sometimes they're just a reflection of having given too much for too long.  Just now, the latter case seems to have taken hold of me.

Just after finishing the Guide, I still had a charge of creativity in me, so I happily reapplied myself to my world and worked on a series of pages for the Sage Abilities - fully expecting that I would finish druid in another week and thus move on to fighter.  And then . . . I completely crashed.

And here I have been now for more than a week.  I get my head together to write a post here and there, but working on D&D?  Blah.  Nothing.  I am just dead in the water.

It's the drop, I know.  Towards the end I was working from six to ten hours a day on my book, ten to fourteen a day on the weekends, as well as holding down a full-time job, writing on the blog, carrying out day-to-day responsibilities and thoroughly going out of my head.  Then, like with the end of all projects, kerblooey.  End of project.

I remember back in October, when I was talking about taking off the month of November entirely, writing nothing on the blog and not running the online campaign, I had been so rushed with creative energy that it was going in 18 directions at once.  I wanted to get off the blog and focus that energy on projects I hadn't had the time to address - never knowing that with the first of the month I would become focused on the one project I carried through to fruition.  Today, nine months later, I feel as though I've just stepped out of a time machine.  Summer is already swinging past the zenith and I'm wondering where the hell 2014 went.  I was here, yes, but it doesn't quite feel like I had time to look around.

But now that I've got time, I'm just, well, depressed.  I've toured around, seen some films, done a bit of acting, collected the printed book, organized for the next adventure and so on (setting out to buy a lot of clothes and other things this week) . . . and I've gone out drinking with friends I haven't seen in awhile.  Yet I don't seem to be having any fun.

Correction.  Moment-by-moment, it's been good.  But when the moments end, here I am again, feeling hollow.  I felt stressed and frustrated and momentarily inspired, but most of all I'd felt fulfilled, working at a project that plumbed my soul.  Now I just feel grouchy.

In that grouchiness, I've been trying to think of another project that would apply to D&D.  I've been half-heartedly been working on a personal memoir of experiences I had as a boy at my parent's cabin, where I spent many summers and where I most acutely feel the effects of social change and nostalgia, but that is mostly to be written for my family and a small audience that likes that sort of book.  Another D&D book would be a different matter.

I would like to write some setting think pieces - organizational frameworks for 'domains' describing the functions and structures of people, places, things, animals, vegetables and minerals, relationships therein and adventuring possibilities, using real Earth places as templates and then allowing the readers to change the names and possibly the geography to fit their needs.  I know there's a dearth in making places feel 'real' for players, while avoiding the standard tropes for character and state motivations, and I think I could be useful there as a writer.

The main thing, however, is that I'm not sure how such a book could conceivably fly without art.  I think illustration would be a necessity.  As such, I'm looking for an artist and any work along those lines will have to wait until I can scare one up.

It has occurred to me that players and DM's alike might be interested in a series of backstories.  I'd have to experiment with that, write a dozen back stories on the blog and see what sort of response I got.  I know that many people seem to have found the player psychological breakdown in the Guide to have been most interesting, so I assume there's room there to encourage imaginations.  I would like to think that the standard tale of 'my parents died and I'm seeking revenge' is more the result of players not having a better idea of motivation rather than a deliberate will to repeat the same old story a hundred times.

The only other idea I have at the moment would be to take a series of standard fairy tales and break them down into their constituent parts, then suggest various ways in which they might be incorporated into a campaign.  For example, there is a common legend about a king in the mountain, in which a legendary hero or some other powerful being lies asleep in a hidden cave, waiting to be discovered. They might be discovered by a peasant, who tells the party, or by the party themselves, or by a Rube Goldberg that makes awaking inevitable.  The king/hero may return to sleep, may rise to change the status quo, may simply rise to seek a quiet life, yet possessing vast knowledge about a time eons ago to which the party may now have access.  The king/hero may be good or evil, may be pursuing or fleeing a cause, may in fact be merely a stepping stone to a greater conflict or may be set up to end a conflict that has brought the party to this final solution.  There are many ways in which the one fairy tale may be implemented, all of which could be investigated and deconstructed in a manner that would help inspire many different adventures, while at the same time aiding DMs in understanding the process of breaking down stories into their constituent parts.  A book comprising of eight to ten such breakdowns might have some real use.

I'm still trying to have other ideas - yet inspiration seems thin on the ground.  I will continue to think about it.  Perhaps this funk will be lifted once I've managed the FanExpo in Toronto at the end of the month.


VeronaKid said...


When you go to write this new book of yours, and you are looking for a way to raise funds (like you used the "How to Play a Character" mini book this last time), please consider another collection of essays. I would love to have, say, 15-20 short essays under the heading "Simple Things You Should Try To Make D&D About a Thousand Times More Interesting than It Is Right Now."

Just in the last few months, you could include your essay on why 1 HP monsters don't make any sense, along with your discussions on Stunning and Wounding. If you could scrounge up 15 such essays so that we don't have to dig through your enormous backlog of posts, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Alexis Smolensk said...

If there's anyone out there that concurs with you, Verona, I'd love to hear about it. Only, why not 10-15 NEW essays on the subject?

Matt said...

I love reading your work. I'd concur that another small book would be a sure purchase from me.

Your large book ideas sound good too. I'd love to have a book on how to build a setting that is functional and believable.

Barrow said...

I would also buy a collection of essays similar to "How to Play a Character". My interests in your work ranges from essays on game mechanics to in depth setting analysis to creative ideas such as your suggested king in the mountain breakdown.

I'm not sure how structured you like your creative writing, but I would be happy to buy an on going series of creative shorts. The interest being in seeing how you develop character(s), settings or narratives. For example, applying your Druid tables to a character in your Don Cossack setting.

Alexis Smolensk said...

There's plenty of content of that sort showing with the Online Campaign, Barrow. All that is missing is my body language and tone of voice - but the character, setting and narrative development is covered there.