Saturday, February 16, 2019

SHOW DON'T TELL

DMing can be exhaustive vocally and lyrically. Here are some tips/tricks/tools that you can use to make the most of your words, both when talking actively at the table, and when writing notes/adventures for others (or yourself) to read.

SHOW DON'T TELL

You hear this a lot as a film and literature student. It's the biggest non-advice people want to give you. But it's only non-advice because instead of educating you on their uses, people tend to take a side and say one is bad and the other is good. It's important for an artist to make opinions on tools that they find useful, but it's counterproductive to try to teach in that regard. The English language has many tools for a writer or orator (both of which DMs are) to use to create their art.
Let's not take sides now. Let's learn and practice and share knowledge. This short article is set up as four tools, with an example, and a short description of what it does, or what it tries to do.

TELL

"It was winter."
What’s it do? The onus is now on you to fill in the scene with your winter. Was it cold? Windy? Snow or rain? Are you comfy or out of place? Your brain creates the scene. It’s personal to you and has nothing to do with an image of winter the artist is trying to give you.
"Tim is sad."
"Eric went to the store."
"It’s so cold out."
Most things we say are “telling”. Not because we are audibly communicating, but because we’re telling someone something instead of an alternative; leading them to a conclusion, painting a picture for them, making a comparison.

SHOW

Here are three big ways you can show instead of tell. Simile, Personification, and description.
Simile
"That winter was like a grave."
What’s it do? It creates emotion. Feeling. Vibe. Atmosphere. Again the onus is on you to fill in the look and the details. What is a grave like to you? What does that evoke? If it’s a solid simile it will create a universal image or draw upon tropes that everyone understand.
Personification
"Winter gripped my chest with its icy claws."
What’s it do? More of the above. Emotion. Feeling. It turns the inanimate into living creatures and monsters. It begs you to relate to it, like you would another living creature. Even if that relation is horror, or fear, instead of love or kindness. The relation it creates is entirely based on the relationship between the thing and what it is personified as.
Description
"The snow was shin deep and the pavement dried white. Black trunks of trees held bare branches. No birds were tangled in their limbs."
What’s it do? It’s part mystery, part riddle, part painting. Nowhere do I tell you it’s winter. I show you my winter. The purpose is for the artist to give you their image. The onus is on them to give you what is in their head and for you to see it and experience life in someone else’s mind. The fun for the reader/listener is the discovery of parsing the information together to create a unified image.

To end this article, I have a little tag line that I use to close out my pieces. "Good luck, don't die." But instead I want to ask a question. What's another piece of writing advice or wisdom that you've heard that doesn't make sense or seems contrived?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Desert Wind part 1

Here's what it has:

  • Basic layout, 19 locations and 35 NPCs
  • Nice, kind folk plucked straight from a Ghibli universe, filled with magic and wonder
  • Romance and personal drama to get embroiled in
  • An atmosphere where you're not pressured, it's a place to call home
  • An old, abandoned airfield that needs your help
  • Electricity
  • An aquarium, sushi bar, and bakery to add to the richness of the area
  • Good vibes, man
This is a wholesome place. All the feelings you get when watching your favorite Ghibli film are present and ready to be mined for character and plot points. The cast is diverse and unique. There's no unnecessary conflict. It's all personal and designed to give your PCs a home. A place to care about. People to fall in love with.
Let me know what you think of the village. I kept it simple for this, using just google docs and having this handy pdf for you to download. Along with an NPC chart that should help with the cast.

Here's all the links you could possibley need:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

MUCK session 3

Layout and play-testing continues with MUCK. It is looking beautiful:

That's a dragon!

And the play-testing is going really well. The party is knocking dominoes over. Shaking the foundation. They killed/eliminated one of the witch clans and also led one witch clan to killing the Giant head that likes to play games. 

They haven't left the bottom half of the map yet. They haven't met three of the other factions. And they've already done so much. I'm in love with this adventure location. 

I'm learning more about Muck. The characters there are all very transactional. This for that. Do this and I'll do that. And they all have their secrets. Things they'll do when other things happen. 

For instance - the Ladies of Oolice are all pretty chill and laid back. But when they found out one of the characters had an item that could harm the giant that protected faerie land, they traded as little as they could for it, and went and got some information. 

They didn't tell the party of these plans because, even though they're chill, the party had not done anything for them. The party had the option. They had the head of another witch clan and planned on giving it to the Ladies of Oolice, but instead gave it to another person for a favor. 

So they gained that possible ally, and didn't gain another. 

Everything is transactional. And gaining favor with one might gain enmity from another. 

I'm excited to see where Muck leads and feel that the writing won't be completed until the party leaves. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Snake Train #1

Snake Trains take you from point A to point B. They exist in your world for those time where you party wants to go somewhere and you have no idea what's in between where they are, and this new place. They're big snakes. And trains. Kinda like the catbus from Totoro but moody.

The first issue is a free, 8-page supplement detailing 5 passengers on the train, what the train actually does, and the first stop on this new journey your party is taking.

You can download the free pdf here. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Zak

This post is about Zak. It has nothing to do with DnD.

I'm writing this after reading this and revisiting this by Patrick.

I've read every blogpost Zak ever wrote. I don't remember how I found the blog itself, probably through Goblin Punch. But over the course of the 2016 summer, I read every. single. post. I did it because Zak is a good writer, and he changed me. My ideas of D&D and rpgs were entirely 3.5 based. All forgotten realms lore and monster manual lore. And his blog opened things to me. I had (up until just a few minutes ago) a folder full of 20 or so of my favorite blogposts that I would revisit.

The way he talked intimidated me. He talked with such conviction and unrelenting "rightness". He was never wrong, you just misconstrued what he said. I didn't know what to make of it. I was always reserved and never spoke like that. I lived with a lot of shame and didn't think my opinion was worthy of such devotion.

But I tried to be more like him. I defended myself, and fought, and was stubborn.

I was an asshole.

I am an asshole.

I remember feeling uncomfortable by the way Zak talked to people but "since he was famous" it was okay. I though that was the right way and *I* had been wrong all along.

Then I read Patrick's post, and False Machine was one of my favorite blogs. I still think Patrick is my favorite writer. Just. Period. I read Patrick's post and it was like my thoughts had been given a voice. Everything he said felt right and it made me feel better. "I'm not the only one."

I'm mentioning this because I believe Mandy. I believe Patrick. I believe their opinion more than my own, and more than the many more opinions that will become public soon after this information spreads. This coming from an avid fan of this man. From someone who wanted to be like him, to emulate him. Now I just feel gross and unsure of which parts of me are better because of him and which parts should be thrown away.

I believe Mandy because she was in a relationship with this man for a decade. People will say "there are two sides to every story", and that...is a poor defense. If one person makes a claim against another saying they're a terrible person, and they come back and say "no I'm not", that's not a good argument for a defense. Then if MANY more people say the same things as the original claim, and you still defend with the "no I'm not" defense, then you've lost.

THAT. IS. PROOF.

The testimony of the people who know this man as a friend and lover are more important than those of colleagues (though colleagues should not be discredited) and definitely more important than those he only interacted with online (though those TOO should not be ignored). All testimony is important, but when the people closest to you stand again you...there's a problem.

I'm not here to condemn anyone but myself. I don't know Zak. But I believed him. I was witness to his side of the story for all of these attacks that came against him. And I believed him because of the same things Patrick pointed out in his post. I was duped. I feel manipulated. I feel...gross.

I don't care what Zak has to say to defend himself. Because he'll be really good at it. This is what he's good at. This is why it worked on Mandy. Patrick. Me. And many others. This is what he does. His statements coming out in the next couple of days...they will probably convince many more people that Mandy is lying or something. Or just false. I doubt he will actually attack her.

All I can do is say that your opinion means jack when compared against the opinions and experiences of a person who *lived* this man, and the people who corroborate the story.

Read Patrick's recounting. See the tactics. Learn when you're being manipulated. Don't be like me.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Endsville - a primer

Over the last year I've written a lot about worldbuilding and various locations, and during all of that I've gotten a lot of requests to stitch it all together. This is the first attempt.
Roll here to see what race you are:
D100Race
1-45Human
46-60Drow
61-70Oni (tiefling)
71-80Goblin
81-90Half-Elf
91-95Unseelie
96-98Dragon Mutant
99-100Creation (elemental, living spell, robot)

All Humans are Orphans

Babies come from volcanic vents on the ocean floor. They are spit out in bubbles and rise up to the surface, riding the waves in groups or alone until they hit the coast. The occasional child is picked up by pirates or the Floating City. Most babies wind up around Ran, the world snake, where they are raised by whichever family wants them.
Drow
The moon may be the largest creature. It’s pull is so strong that when it is full, the babies that come out of the volcanic vents are different. Their skin is shaded from the lightest of silvers to the darkest of blues. Their bodies though function on a different level. Their skin absorbs light and turns it into food. They must be submerged in water for an hour a day to let their organs drink. But they can also breathe underwater.
Oni
Partly human, mostly demon. When a human gives in to temptation of a demon, their soul become tasty...edible to demon kin. When their soul is eaten entirely, they begin the transformation into demonhood themselves. It’s a slow process that requires eating a soul and learning the hunger. Unfairly, people, demons, and fairies can claim souls through contracts and just bad luck, causing some children to be born this way. Or, through the shittiness of life, the family that finds you near Ran could sell your soul as well. Life’s not fair, but being an Oni has its perks.
Goblin
We’re all goblins on the inside. That part of us that wants to just eat all the junk food, disregard courtesy and walk naked through the streets. The part that looooves alcohol and fucking. That curses and fights and cannot contain themselves. Also the part of us that lets our rooms turn into garbage cans. The part that gets stuck in bed for days at a time, unable to move. The ugly side of human emotion. It’s hard to point to the exact moment, but this can make you a goblin. Even just temporarily. Most goblins though are children stolen by the fae and transformed.
Half-Elf
When the elves were cursed to their life, the humans among them, gaining unnatural life through their closeness with elves, decided to go to the moon. It’s their that they stay, on the dark side. No more are born and they seldom die. On rare occasions, one will come down the moon on a quest. They do not return, as there is currently no known way to get back.
Unseelie
Animals with a human form. This happens on occasion. There’s really no other way to explain it.
Dragon Mutant
Most of these are cultists. Some though are people who had the misfortune of hearing a dragon talk. The draconic language is a disease and it changes you. Wizards are susceptible to this in their studies, as the Giant language form eons past is Draconic. There are the rare breed of human who seek out this change and take on obsessions to try to become dragons themselves. There’s no proof of this working.
Creation
This is for all the things that are created, either through humans means, magical means, or the natural means of the world. Robots, genasi, other elemental beings, living spells, and homunculi. No one is sure if they have a soul. Most people hardly have the time to care.

While Making your Adventurer

Keep the following in mind.
Animism
There are no gods. But everything has a spirit. From the smallest rock to the tallest mountain. Even emotions and ideas can take on spirits. Anyone can worship a spirit, but Clerics are chosen by a spirit to fulfill some grand scheme, and Paladins are mercenaries to the spirits, learning to worship and abandon spirits through rituals to gain and forfeit powers.
Oolithian Script
Wizards make bonds with alien creatures known as familiars so that they can read the ancient scripts and learn magic. But keeping a familiar means fulfilling their often strange demands. Warlocks trade their heart for a monster heart and ride the line between humanity and monstrosity to use magic. Witches marry something to gain its power, like a god spider, or the waning moon. Sorcerers are those who caught a falling star and hold its wish-granting powers to harness magic.
We Stand on the Shoulders…
The world is made of, and was inhabited by, Giants. They were immortal beings before the world snakes showed them the passage of time. Their war resulted in one dead snake and many dead giants. The wounded ones escaped into far and distant lands, known as--
Planes
The only “other worlds” are the dungeons inside people’s brains, and the Moon. The planes are just regions of land, adventure sites, where the giant’s influence has bled into the land and changed it to be weird and wonderful.

Welcome to Endsville

The last city. Risen up and safe from the chaotic world on the back of the world serpent, Ran. It’s a normal city, like Chicago, or Phily, or NYC. Normal meaning it’s a modern metropolis, made of sprawling neighborhoods and towering monuments. This is where you live. It’s big enough that you can go your whole life without seeing the edge of the snake.
Rebel. Burn.
And it keeps getting bigger. Like any snake, Ran sheds her skin down the length of her massive body, pushing neighborhoods off the side and away from the head, creating this gradation of civilization going back in time through cultures come and gone, going closer and closer to the first human kingdom.
Dread Lords
More and more buildings and neighborhoods are made, while those in power push to grow their neighborhoods towards the head. These people are known as Dread Lords. The rulers of Endsville who wage their cold war. They see all, hear all, and pull the strings for all the going-ons within the city.

Recorded History

What follows are the other posts that have been written about distant lands and other strange things that wait for you to claim.