Journal of the Emerald Specter 97: The Bullet Journal RPG Updates

There are a great many out there that are going to read that title and breathe a sigh of relief that something is coming. Well, I’m here to lay down a little bit of information and let you know that “winter is coming” and that may throw a wrench into the works. 

Without further ado, let’s get into the meat of what we need to discuss as far as BuJoRPG, BuJourneyRPG, and what the future of updates look like from this point on.

At least you can be happy that I haven’t forgotten about you all. 

I introduced BuJoRPG early last year with a promise to expand it as I had time to do so. That has proven to be a bigger task than I realized and some things have obviously gone awry in the attempt. The big push for me is still BuJourneyRPG and that’s probably where the focus is going to be for the foreseeable future.

The problem is that I haven’t gotten much of a chance to work on it in the past three months. That is a quarter of a year gone without hardly opening the document that I am writing the instructions in.

Complaining that work is taking up all my time isn’t even much of a problem. I have limited hours at work now due to an injury and the rest of my “work time” is helping out MadeByTricia.com produce her stuff. Life is pretty full because business is picking up.

Anyone who has ever worked on anything worthwhile understands that everyone needs some downtime, too. I am no exception. I’ve gotten back into playing No Man’s Sky (they just released a new update called NEXT) and I’ve been playing that now and then.

I’d also like to be playing some UFC 3, but I haven’t really gotten the chance to learn how to play in order to actually play the game. That is a big want for me as well.

But that has nothing to do with Bullet Journal RPGs… at all. Just me needing a little space to breathe.

I’ve been trying to make time to work on both BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG and because I’m stretching myself thin in trying to do that, I need to make a decision. BuJourneyRPG will be completed before I do anything else with BuJoRPG at this point, and there is another little caveat in there that you weren’t even aware was a thing until now: digital journal creation.

I’m making custom digital bullet journals, or rather I will be doing so. Both my wife and I have my first two that I made and I’m going to make that a thing that will be released on this website for the future as a possibility for you to purchase. The process takes a lot of time (links, creating or manipulating the graphics, deciding on the design elements, including everything that needs to be included, etc) but once I get a template set up, changing out the “pretty bits” should be easier. This means that I probably have to start working on this now.

While I’m watching TV before bed with my wife or have a lot of time to sit in front of a computer watching whichever sport is on TV at the moment (soccer, NFL, sumo, UFC, ONE, NASCAR, etc), I can be making the framework of the digital bullet journals. When the framework is done, then I’ll be able to sub in graphics to make a few options for you all to decide what you’d like.

In between that and 2019, I will be getting two weeks of vacation from work. Undoubtedly, my wife will occupy a chunk of those weeks doing stuff for her business, which is completely fine. I am, however, setting aside a single 24 period each of those two weeks (they aren’t connected, so one 24 period per week) to finish up the BuJourneyRPG sourcebook. That means that I’m hopefully actually going to be releasing BuJourneyRPG by Christmas (what a present, right?).

Stepping back a bit, I mentioned the digital bullet journals for two reasons: 1, they are a thing now and can actually be taken anywhere without any worries of messing up a physical journal and 2, I can include my BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG special releases in them… so if you use the system and you want access to the rules (sourcebook) or one of the expansions, you’ll be able to get those in the digital bullet journals. They won’t JUST be in them, but they’ll probably be in them.

Time management is something that is supposed to be a big part of the Bullet Journal experience. I haven’t even gotten a chance to use my digital journal a whole lot yet and that is because I have no damn time to do it. I need a chance to step back and work at what I need to get myself back in line.

If you took notice, I used my new graphics package for the headers on this column. I was going to “boom!” introduce them all at once but I’d rather roll them out in little bits as I start migrating towards the site refresh. Some things won’t get updated yet (like the comic book cover) but they’ll be updated soon enough.

First, though, I need to work on producing what I said I’d produce.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 96: The MMA Battle

If you’re looking for some pithy commentary on an upcoming UFC event, you’re looking in the wrong place. Well, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

What I’ll be talking about today is actually about how the UFC will be up against in the coming years. This is the battle between the UFC and ONE Championship.

Many, almost universally in the western world, consider the UFC the best MMA organization in the world. There are plenty of outliers, though, many of them also in the western world… but the biggest organization in the eastern world is actually ONE Championship.

If you’re not familiar with them, ONE Championship started as ONE Fighting Championship… which they changed due to linguistic reasons (since English isn’t the dominant language in Asia).  ONE has a stranglehold on the east, much like the UFC does on the west, and there may be a time coming soon where ONE actually starts pushing into the UFC’s market.

I mentioned the biggest reason in the UFC-ESPN column I wrote a couple weeks ago. With the ESPN deal for the UFC includes removing them from a more mainstream audience, ONE Championship has done something remarkable… and just the opposite:

ALL the events and ALL the fights will be free on their app.

The barrier, as one could imagine, is that some of the names won’t be immediately familiar with American audiences. I was tempted to say “western audiences,” but only those who are wearing blinders don’t realize some of the best fighters are actually in ONE.

Ben Askren, whom I do not personally enjoy watching fight due to his style, is one of the top 5 welterweights in the world and is the current ONE Welterweight Champion. Martin Nguyen is their version of Conor McGregor, he’s the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight Champion. Aung La N Sang is also a two division champion, holding both ONE’s Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion. Angela Lee is the ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion (for those wondering, that is the next division lighter than Strawweight).

I could certainly list a lot of fighters and all of their champions, but I won’t keep going on that one. The “octagon” is more of a circle and you’re going to see all kinds of talent from the newest of new to the most experienced of fighters.

Some people like watching Bellator or Invicta, as well as Professional Fighters League (formerly World Series of Fighting). They’re all big organizations, they all have their own niches for fans, and they all have great fighters. There aren’t a lot of them that are paying top dollar for their fighters, though, which is why the better ones tend to end up in the UFC.

ONE is paying top dollar AND they are the “go to” organization for most Asian countries. China, for instance, is having many of their up and coming fighters go straight into ONE. With China having been cut off from the world so long, there are a ton of athletes that will be joining the rest of the world’s biggest organizations and making waves (like Yao Ming).

Let me stop trying to sell you if you’re not interested in anything outside the UFC on the fighters. The events are free, literally free. If you like fighting, why not give some of them a shot? It’s not going to cost you anything. I’m pretty sure all the previous fights (or at least the more recent ones) are also free. Free. You can watch people punch each other in the face for free.

Give it a shot.

I think that the UFC’s ESPN deal may end up having a few people go on over to check out ONE, since they’re free, and maybe ONE can start getting a bigger foothold in the western world.

Having seen many of the events in the past, I’m a fan of MMA in general and want to see great fights. I like Invicta, I like ONE, I like UFC, and I like watching good fights.

Does ONE have duds? Absolutely. Is the whole event worth checking out? Sometimes, but normally you’re going to be interested in the last four or five fights, just like UFC.

Give is a shot. It’ll be worth a little bit of your time.

Testing the New WordPress Editor: Gutenberg

Since this is going to be the future, I decided to drop in with a little bit of content… well, random and perhaps sporadic content.

A prototype website image… that I’m probably not going to use.

There are a great many things that I think will be beneficial using the new post publishing things. That isn’t too terrible… I won’t mind giving this a little more time to get used to, though… 

The next installment of the Journal of the Emerald Specter (that comes out tomorrow) will be the last one written with the old WordPress editor… if Gutenberg is the future, then I guess I should start working towards that end.

Maybe a theme change would be in order now that the future is here… maybe I can get a website to lay out like the new post editor? We shall see… 

Journal of the Emerald Specter 95: Starship Design

This seems like a weird title, right? A topic that one wouldn’t necessarily see in a column about geeky stuff… right?

Wrong. Starships and their designs are as geeky as all get out and I’m going to say that there is probably going to be more images than any other column on the site, so sorry about the bandwidth usage on this one.

I didn’t want to make a brand new header for this one, so I’m tossing it under the Emerald Specter banner.

Starship design is a thing that has been around as long as the idea of starships has, and science fiction starship design is what I’ll be talking about (not the real space craft). The classic design of what people thought we’d get to space in looked a lot like the missiles we had been launching at each other on the Earth:

Your “rocket” is showing.

This is the “Buck Rogers” and corny B-movie science fiction space technology that people thought would take us to the stars. They had a weird failure to see some of the dangers that this type of vessel would pose but they also didn’t understand a lot about space at the time. Barbarella, for example, used liquids on a dark background as space and there is no liquid in space.

We did get better looking ships when Gene Roddenberry came onto the scene with the now infamous Star Trek. The Enterprise was a great design and an entire galaxy worth of ships came out of the design.

Looks pretty, but the bridge is an obvious target.

Another leap forward was made when George Lucas came out with everyone’s favorite Star Wars, changing up the starship looks from a template (like Star Trek) to just a free for all. The Millennium Falcon was the ship that everyone latched on to as a great look, and it is, but there are so many others that people tend to forget are great looking ships.

A small sampling of Star Wars ships.

There were X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers, Slave I, and a whole lot more. Each one unique, each one with a glorious look, and all of them fit together in the same universe because that’s just how things went.

Several other science fictions IPs have also got great ship designs and have taken those in their own directions. Babylon 5, Andromeda, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century are just a few of the options that popped up over the years. They each also had their own designs, flaws and successes alike.

Every single one of these has a good look for space and every single one of them has the same flaw (at least the larger, capital ships): they are laid out horizontally as if they were in constant gravity.

This brings me to the Expanse.

We understand a lot about space, though there is still tons more to learn. We understand how gravity in space actually works, and though the “artificial gravity” excuse works in the universes I’ve already listed, I’m old enough to appreciate the need to experience something a little more realistic.

I really wanted to call this column “How the Expanse Changed the Way Starships Are Designed” but went with a more generic title instead.

The Rocinante (originally the Tachi), is the perfect example of how starships would actually be laid out. Writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham wanted to have a more “hard sci fi” feel to the Expanse universe and making sure things worked the way they were supposed to was a start.Click the image to see it full size.

In the Expanse, all the ships are laid out like office buildings (tall) instead of like aircraft carriers (long). When you are under thrust you have gravity, thus you would need to be flying sideways if you were in the Enterprise, unlike the Rocinante that has decks designed for thrust gravity.

Does the Expanse take some liberties with some of the hard sci fi elements? Sure, like the Epstein Drive doesn’t exist but would need to in order for the story to be what it has to instead of a story about people constantly floating around looking for more fuel.

I’ve long tried to design a “cool” looking starship. I have made more than a few attempts at actually figuring out the ins and outs of accomplishing the milestone of having that “one awesome ship” that I can then design an entire fleet around. All of those attempts have been with the horizontal deck layout in mind.

Until now.

Some time ago, I came up with the concept of a “space submarine.” There is no wind resistance in space, so having all the winged looks, fancy domes, and swooping lines of most starship designs would be a waste of time and effort (considering how space is an extremely harsh place to operate in). So, I thought “why wouldn’t we just build a submarine in space and tool around in that?” I had the right idea, just not the right reasons.

When I ran this space submarine idea by a hard sci fi friend, they commented that the ship wouldn’t need to be aerodynamic in space. Well, sure, the space sub is aerodynamic to reduce drag in the water, but we also wouldn’t want to waste a lot of time making the thing look pretty because we need the utility to matter. Function over form, shall we say?

Then the Expanse hit the airwaves and I realized that there can be some extraneous elements on the ship itself but my biggest design flaw was the horizontal nature of the ship. Simple fix: all the decks now go from “port to starboard” rather than “bow to stern.” Throw some shielding elements on the outside (where the unique looks would start to come in), along with some weapons, and the space sub is now a space office tower that uses gravity realistically.

If you think about all the ships used on the Expanse TV show, every single one of them has this same basic layout. So, for example, the Donnager looks like it would be of the “horizontal deck” ilk but is actually just a much larger version of the Rocinante.

Click the image for a larger version, and the Tachi can also be seen in the pic.

The “top” of the Donnager isn’t the dorsal side not visible in that picture, it’s the tip of the ship launching the blue bolts. Everyone on board would have the tops of their heads facing the tip and that is how gravity would work without coming up with an “artificial gravity” excuse to make the pretty ship look the way you want it to… and if you look back up at the cutaway I posted, you’ll also notice the ships are modular!

I’m not saying that the other franchises are bad, I’m just saying that the way I’ll be designing starships from now on is more like the Expanse. I stopped reading way ahead on the books so I can experience the show (which is better than the source material) as the show is released.

There is another book series I read that utilizes realistic and hard sci fi elements into it: Ian Douglas’s Star Carrier. I would love to see this adapted to the screen but I’m guessing the sci fi is a little too hard in that one.

With this new design philosophy I’ve also started rejiggering an old project to utilize the new design process instead of trying to come up with reasons to use the horizontal layout. This has actually affected the “pre-space” history of the story a little, too, which is exciting. Hopefully I can have something written sooner rather than later.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 94: The UFC-ESPN Deal

The UFC has signed a five year television rights deal beginning in 2019 with ESPN, the quote/unquote “sports leader.”

I’m here to look at what was, look at what is to come, and let you know what I think of the deal.

I’m not going to look all the way back at the UFC before Fox. That is unnecessary and would only pad the word count of this article that I’d like to keep concentrated on what will be coming. I do need to go over the Fox deal, though. Just the “outside perspective” of the deal, not the meat and potatoes.

Fox and the UFC helped to bring a lot of MMA to people who probably wouldn’t have watched any otherwise. There is a reason why the UFC has continued to grow over the past few years, seeing larger audiences on television than they used to get (which were, technically, barely any before Fox). There were lots of Fight Nights on Fox, FS1, and a good chunk of the prelims would also be televised. Exposure was given to a lot of fighters that wouldn’t normally see exposure because they wouldn’t normally be on TV.

The UFC produces about 12 pay per views annually, with another 38 shows on Fox or FS1. The preliminary bouts on the PPVs normally air on FS1 and the main Fox channel has seen bigger headline events as time progressed forward.

Apparently the Fox deal ran out last year, though, and that meant they have just been cruising on autopilot for about a year.

The ESPN deal will have 30 events per year on their platforms, with 10 being on the main “ESPN network” channels and the other 20 being on the new ESPN+ app. This will obviously not affect the PPVs as they will still be “pay per view.” The key to this deal is that 20 events will be on an APP, a streaming service ESPN is attempting to launch with the UFC as it’s big draw.

Here’s where my issue comes in.

I don’t subscribe to cable. I have watched the UFC events on Fox, prelims and full events on FS1, and looked forward to getting more into the UFC over the course of the next couple of years. Since I don’t subscribe to cable, I do not get any ESPN channels… nor am I going to sign up for the ESPN+ app.

How many other people out there are going to do the same?

I think that the ESPN deal will hurt the UFC viewership overall. People aren’t streaming content in the numbers that ESPN would need to really shove home calling their app a success. CBS All Access launched as their guiding light (an unconnected company launching an app primarily showcasing their biggest property, Star Trek: Discovery) and will look at that as what to shoot for in measuring success.

The problem is that CBS All Access isn’t doing as well as they’d hoped, it’s going to miss their subscriber goal, and most of their biggest surge of subscribers came from Trek watchers who unsubscribed after the season was over. Hell, some people are actively signing up for the one week free, binging the whole season and then dumping the service before they have to pay.

I know this because I have friends who have done this.

So, why does ESPN think their endeavor will by any different?

ESPN has largely had their successes tied to the cable model. A chunk, and that is more than a little, of everyone’s cable payment goes to ESPN, a deal I’m not sure how they scored but have been reaping the rewards of for decades. They do have a few sports which they have rights to broadcast, but the largest chunk of ESPN programming are talk shows.

Sports Center is easily their most popular show that isn’t actual sports and it is also the one thing most people can live without. Nothing on ESPN’s list of shows (to include College GameDay, Outside the Lines, E:60, Around the Horn, and Sunday NFL Countdown) is really all that interesting. Bringing those shows to the ESPN+ app will do little to draw anyone to watch it in great numbers.

It’s LITERALLY filler.

Putting the UFC on ESPN+ will draw in a few more people that might not have subscribed otherwise. The large majority of UFC fans, though, are probably going to be doing what I’m going to be doing: not watching those events that aren’t on ESPN proper.

My prediction is that the UFC will take a serious hit in streaming viewership. Sure, ESPN is paying the UFC a lot of money and they may not mind, but after five years of seeing no viewing growth through streaming, the UFC is going to have some serious repair work to do.

Right now, I probably watch 60% of the UFC events on Fox. Some of these are due to when they’re on (early events I tend not to be able to watch) with some of these not being interesting enough for me to watch (I have fighters I’ll go out of my way to watch but don’t necessarily do that just because of the UFC hype machine). I catch about 25% of the UFC PPVs annually, either paying for them myself, which is about 10% of that 25%, and watching at sports bars for the 15%. My viewership, personally, is going to drop with the UFC events not on mainstream ESPN and I’ll probably continue with the same rate of PPVs that I currently do, assuming they are interesting enough for me to keep up my pace.

Am I the only one that is going to be doing this?

I’m friends with a few fans that don’t go out to watch OR pay for any of the PPVs. They ONLY watch the Fox and FS1 events. Those people are going to almost completely stop watching the UFC because none of them will pay for an ESPN app. Will ESPN+ get rights to other sports that can drive up their numbers? Who can say until they announce something?

My thoughts are that the UFC will get out of the ESPN deal when they feel that there is more money to be made with a more mainstream broadcaster. Hell, they may even go with a streaming option of their own, which would still perpetuate their lost viewing numbers, but at least I’d pay for a UFC streaming service that carried most of the events.

The UFC is going to lose fans because of ESPN. They’re going to have to rebuild some of their base once the ESPN deal ends. I just wish they’d seen the longer term effects of this move rather than simply looking at the amount written on the check that ESPN handed them.

No final thoughts today… just disappointment.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 93: State of the Comics Industry

There is a great disturbance in the comics industry. Things are looking both grim and hopeful and I’d like to talk a little bit about that now.

As long as I’ve been collecting comics Marvel and DC have dominated the scene. They are, admittedly, the largest two comic book producers in the market, but recently they have been joined by two more “big companies” (Image and Dark Horse) and a whole slew of smaller companies (Valiant, Boom!, Dynamite, IDW Publishing, Lion Forge, Aftershock, Aspen, and Titan to name a few).

The basis of the industry has always been the floppy, or the single issue. Everyone used to play around with different formats in the past but the tried and true means of selling comics has been 22 to 24 page single issues. While there can be many issues that make up a single story, there can also be a single, self contained story within a single issue.

Over the last couple of decades, though, the term “writing for the trade” has come up as being a means of writing stories. A trade paperback, for those not in the know, are six issues collected into one large graphic novel like book. There has not only been a trend in writing for a trade, there has also been a movement in simply waiting for the trade and skipping the floppies.

There is an occasional original graphic novel, or OGN, that comes out of the big four, but most of the OGNs are independent creators putting out stories they can tell in one lump rather than dribbling it out over a monthly floppy schedule.

If floppies are the comics industry’s version of TV, then OGNs are the comics industry’s version of movies. In the end, this is really what the column is going to be about.

Marvel and DC have long standing histories, continuity, that they seek to maintain in their current stories, despite the illogical problem of explaining away decades of continuity by stating that time doesn’t flow the same way in their respective universes. Marvel has stated that despite 75 years haven taken place in the real world, only about 12 years has passed in the Marvel Universe.

First, I’d like to talk about looking at the history and talk about why continuity is so important… to Marvel and DC.

There is a subset of fans that read Marvel and DC that insists that continuity be maintained. Superman has to be from another planet, lands on this planet, and has had every single adventure that he’s had in comic form. Captain America also has to have every single adventure that he’s ever had. No matter how ridiculous, everything that they’ve done has to have been done.

DC has somewhat gotten around the diehards by having their “Crisis” events, which resets the DC continuity (or at least that’s what they hope) and then they move forward. There are subsets of these fans that only really like “pre-Crisis” or “post-Crisis” events, even to include the recent Flashpoint (which launched the New 52) and so on.

As far as DC is concerned, I was a big proponent of the New 52 because it relaunched their entire company with only about “five years of history” build into the revision. Most people reviled it so they dumped it. There was so much more awesome that could have been told.

Marvel has also attempted to do little things to “soft retcon” their line. Things like “Heroes Reborn” (a retelling of the origins of the Fantastic Four, Captain America, and a few others) to update their origin stories… but then they were reintroduced into the continuity as if they’d only been momentarily taken out of time. While these soft retcon (short for “retroactive continuity”) attempts didn’t really do anything to further their hopes, Marvel did do something that was revolutionary and totally awesome: Ultimate Marvel.

In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis was handed Spider-Man (under the Ultimate Marvel imprint) and told to tell the Marvel Universe over again… from scratch. Ultimate Marvel ran for more than a decade and is largely the basis for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s origins of the heroes, but Ultimate Marvel stopped hindering themselves with over 50 years of continuity. Ultimate Marvel also did something that neither DC nor Marvel has dared do in their “main continuities”: allow changes in the world to happen as a result of their heroes.

In the Ultimate Marvel line, X-Men are still hated by many and that has led to sweeping changes in how the governments of the world react to them. This fundamentally changed the world in which they live, unlike in the 616 (Marvel’s main continuity) where nothing really changes. Technology that the Fantastic Four created crept into the Ultimate Marvel world, unlike the 616 where even though Reed Richards has a flying car no one else seems to have technology anywhere near that.

Basically, I’m saying that Ultimate Marvel was glorious and awesome because it affected the world in which they live. Not having Tony Stark’s armor tech seep out into the world, even little useful bits of it, is unrealistic. Fanboys will cry about Ultimate Marvel not being realistic, but in the end, they look and sound ridiculous because they’re reading a world that never gets changed by the things that happen in it.

I made a comment a while back on a forum that I tend to peruse from time to time that if Marvel’s 616 has 75 years of published materials but only 12 years have passed, that means the Avengers change their lineup about twice a week and have an announcement about their lineup changes every other week. How can Captain America lead the Avengers against the greatest threats if he’s busy announcing the new members from what they had two weeks ago?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Since the industry is changing, actively, speculators are starting to see what the future of the industry is: trades. If writers are going to write towards the trades anyway, why doesn’t the floppy disappear and allow the readership to just read trades instead?

This would mean (for Marvel and DC) a quarterly (at most) release schedule on their most popular heroes. Sure, there would be some snags in this, like new heroes not being created and flopped stories being highlighted all the more because of less material, but there are too many people waiting to get the trades instead of the floppies anyway. Why not just make the plunge now?

I’ve got a better idea, though. Instead of “writing for the trade” or releasing just a trade paperback in a quarterly fashion, why not do an OGN version of the MCU?

Hear me out.

You put a creative team on Captain America and tell them to write a graphic novel about a particular adventure that Cap is going to have. They can include things that other creative teams are doing on their own assignments or they can just keep themselves self contained. Six months later you have a 200 page Captain America story that is better than what we would have gotten in six floppies or a trade.

Now, you have many teams working on many projects like this… Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, etc… you have them use the same process I said for Captain America but you aren’t trying to eek out six months of floppies on each title and you’re allowing for complete stories to be told that are far more interesting.

Sure, Captain America might only come out once or twice a year, but the story that is in each OGN is far better than you would have gotten in floppies. Utilize an MCU approach by building up a decade worth of OGNs and you have a comic version of the Avengers in the MCU that would be just as epic. After a decade, or however long they decide to run their epic length OGN universe, they could just say “ok, this story has been told” and begin again with new titles, heroes, and a new epic length story.

Wouldn’t that be better?

DC could have a Superman OGN that tells a complete, updated origin for him which lead to a great OGN. Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the lot could each get theirs, building on the appearance of the “first hero” and have their own epic decade long tale. Just like my Marvel example, you could just tell everyone you’re done and restart when it’s time to do something different.

No more rebooting every couple years. No more retconning decades of history. No more wondering why technology isn’t helping the world even though the beneficial heroes could save lives by handing it out.

This OGN universe theory also solves another problem: constant relaunching titles.

Every third week there seems to be a long standing title (Superman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, or Justice League) that ends it’s 25 or whatever issue run to be “relaunched with a new #1!” That’s BS and the companies know it.

Their reasoning for using this method of selling comics is that they want to bring in new readers, and apparently they think new readers only come in when there is a #1 issue. I’d like to argue that you lose more readers than you gain by relaunching every other year just to have a shiny new #1 on a cover.

The industry could be doing more to keep themselves working at an optimal level but they seem beholden to the old model. If I were in charge of the companies, I’d start looking at moving to the new model ASAP, because there may be a gap if they don’t get their ducks in a row soon.

And by “gap,” I mean something catastrophic for the sales departments of the companies.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 92: Building a Better Emerald Specter

Um… what?

This is a column I’m about to detail a whole bunch of things in and it’ll involve everything to do with EmeraldSpecter.com, the podcasts, the articles, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and the future. This is a roadmap to getting me from where I’m at to where I want to be, which will include what I’ve done in the past that worked that I’ve stopped doing.

Despite my sincerest desire, “winging it” with a lot of my content isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. There are spurts where I can do just that but I also have the opposite, which is long periods where nothing works. This leads me to look back at what has worked, which means looking back to LimeFlavored.com.

When I started Lime Flavored, I literally just needed a place to do things online that entertained me… and hopefully along the lines someone else would be entertained as well. That philosophy has definitely held up for the years and has become a pseudo-business model for what I’m doing with Emerald Specter. There was a point, though, where things needed to have a little more structure.

Fast forward a few years (from 2000 to about 2010), where the Lime Flavored Podcast jumped into the world. The show started as a place for me to talk about this and that, sort of like how the Specter Show has been, and then I started bringing on guests to talk to… several episodes then were mainly about the conversation between two people. This eventually led to me having regular cohosts for the show, with two dominating the show for lengthy runs, but died down when excuses from those cohosts began to take down the recording schedule. That’s when I initiated “the show format.”

Rather than beg guests to come on, or talk about the random this or that, I came up with a weekly rundown of segments that would be structuring the show into something more… structured. This version of the show was the most popular, got the most downloads, and fell to the wayside when trying to edit the video content for episode 50… the LAST episode.

Lesson learned, although not immediately.

During the run of LimeFlavored.com, as well as falling well into EmeraldSpecter.com, was the Greatest Show (originally known as the Greatest Show Online). This was me and my best friend Bob getting together to talk about whatever we wanted to, which ran like this for a long time, including my wife into the show as something for us to watch (she cooked while we talked and filmed the cooking), turning eventually into inviting a few more friends on to turn the show into a round table discussion of the more recent years. Special guests have been had and though most of the hosts aren’t on most of the time, those that show up when they can are welcome. Guests have also started to become a big part of what the future of the show is going to be…

Back in the early days of Emerald Specter, I had a multitude of columns. There was the generic “Emerald Specter” column, Gaming Specter, UFC Specter, Storytelling Specter, SpecterFit (also known as Fitness Specter), and those are just the ones I can name without looking up the others. Each of these were short, primarily to keep content flowing, but all eventually started dropping off here and there in favor of a more generalized column… that would be the current Journal of the Emerald Specter (which you’re reading issue 92 of right now).

I’ve added the Specter Show as a podcast as well, doing the “winging it” audio I was in the early days of the Lime Flavored Podcast, along side the Greatest Show (which takes longer breaks between episodes than I’d like but as long as it keeps going I’m good).

This is a lot of unstructured things happening at once, most of which interfere with my ability to progress on structured things like life, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and producing more content that I’ve wanted to start producing.

So, I am going to make some changes to streamline, structure, and produce higher content.

Starting with what has become the flagship content provider of the site, the Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Each issue of the Journal will be presented with a unique “cover,” going along with the comic book feel of the site’s aesthetic. This will more than likely convert to a square cover instead of a more comic book traditional shaped cover, but this will be the first step.

Next comes the banner topic, the “geeky thing on my mind” in a smaller than current segment. This could be about anything I listed above but will be concentrated on that topic alone. I plan on planning out these topics in advance, too, allowing for the research that might need to be done when writing.

After that comes the first ever serial fiction I’ll be writing. I will be writing an installment of a serial fiction story with the intent of finally putting out my fiction that I’ve wanted to create for a long time. Including this into the column will allow me to remove the self imposed requirement of having the story completely written before hand and just get my ass writing again. I don’t know how long the installments will be, I’ll let that flesh itself out after a couple of columns.

That is followed by a sports commentary of some sort. I often want to write entire columns about sporting items and rather than dominate a column like I have with chess over the past two issues, I figure I can throw a tidbit into this in order to quench my thirst. Ideally, I’d be covering whatever sports are actively happening but I am not going to limit myself to just that. I’m hoping that continuous commentary on certain topics might one day pan out into a paying gig on another site.

Next comes bullet journalling updates. I am going to include an update EVERY SINGLE TIME and that means I better be making progress on things in the background. Play testing the BuJourneyRPG hasn’t started as of this writing but I’m on the edge of actually being able to do that, and that means I can definitely have content for this segment of the column.

Finally, there will be an RPG tidbit included in each column. This might be a story hook, a review on a new game, a story about a game that I participated in, or just a general discussion about merits of why a certain system works well. This won’t be as big as the main topic but I want to start doing something gaming related and that means writing is probably the best place to start.

That is just the Journal of the Emerald Specter, folks. Let’s look at the Specter Show next.

Just like the Journal covers, the Specter Show will also be getting custom covers for each episode. You might be wondering why I’m interested in doing this for both of these and it’s because I’m interested in putting out quality content, meaning that if everything is planned ahead of time I don’t have to scramble to accomplish anything.

The show will be led off by a geeky topic of discussion, I’m thinking that this might be the place where I talk about my love of TV and movies (reviews, reactions, etc), but I am not locking myself into anything specific. Media seems to be big on the podcast scene so that is definitely where I’d be looking towards for inspiration on this.

Also like the Journal, there will be an installment of a serial (not the same serial), read aloud of course… and this would probably be on the shorter side but with this being altogether different than the written stuff, I’m interested to see what kinds of wonderful pours out of my head in the near future on the serial fiction front.

Finally, the show will include a “what to watch for” segment. The reason for the media being in the beginning could relate to what I’m talking about in the “coming up” section. Movies, TV shows, comic books… all that I’ll be consuming in the near future.

I also had a plan for the Greatest Show, but I won’t be locking anything down on that front because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone else into following a strict rundown. Time will tell what form the show takes but what we’re doing seems to be working for now.

When will all this go down? I did have specific issue/episode numbers for when I’m rolling this out but I want to make sure all the back end stuff is done before I roll out everything. There will be a few graphical updates to the site, too, but they won’t be monumental in difference.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 91: FIDE and Chess

Yes, yes, I know… another chess column. But if you didn’t like chess, then why are you coming to this website?

Before I begin with the meat of this column, I should note that the things that interest me are the things I talk about. Those include, but are not limited to: chess, sumo, NFL, UFC, soccer, comic books, bullet journaling, RPGs, TV, storytelling, writing, NASCAR, podcasting, fitness, and movies. I try to keep from talking about one or two things too often but I honestly cover things when I think of them or something in the world happens that relates to them.

With that said, there is a chess story in the news I thought about and that leads me to talking about what I’m going to be talking about.

There is an election coming up for the president of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), where the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been in power since 1995. The election is not the first to attempt to unseat Ilyumzhinov from power but this is the first election to really have a shot at making that happen.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been plagued with corruption his entire run as president and has even been placed on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department, meaning he can’t do any business with US dollars. Since that is the currency a lot of the world use (though by no means is it the strongest currency), he can’t actually open bank accounts (they’re frozen) for FIDE… which is a problem for an organization that needs funds in order to operate.

While we could be ending up with an alternative to Ilyumzhinov, we might end up with a thinly veiled new version of him because of the Russian Chess Federation.

One of the candidates running is Arkady Dvorkovich, who has now been officially recognized as the candidate for the RCF. I don’t know anything about this guy at all but from what I’ve heard, there may be other issues that prevent FIDE from being looked at as corrupt if Dvorkovich wins the bid.

So, what is the issue with FIDE?

FIDE has a serious image problem. They give official tournaments to places that ban certain players (like a not so long ago tournament) or allows shady happenings to occur with voting from the General Assembly (absentee voting, even when not absent, is an issue). There is also a perception (based on practices) that lead most players and interested parties to see FIDE as discouraging the very game they are charged to administer.

That last sentence is like the NFL actively working against the teams in American Football.

Dvorkovich is unlikely to make the sweeping changes necessary for chess to survive long into the future under FIDE’s control. There are two other candidates but worries about the General Assembly passing anything that doesn’t directly benefit those who are benefitting from the current system is a real concern.

So, how does one fix this dilemma? Simple: provide an alternative to FIDE.

As I see it, FIDE began with good intentions and somewhere along the line started falling out of that in favor of lining people’s pockets. FIDE should be a non-profit organization, or at the very least, be doing everything humanly possible to make chess the most popular game in the world.

FIDE needs to die and something better needs to be there to take its place.

Here’s how I would like to see things:

The formation of another chess governing body should form (for the purposes of this little thought experiment, let’s call it International Chess Association… or ICA) and immediately recognize the largest chess federations in the world. Right off the top of my head, that would include the All India Chess Federation, English Chess Federation, Russian Chess Federation, and US Chess Federation (there are more, but I’m not into just coming up with a large list). The ICA should also immediately recognize the World Chess Champion (who at the time of this article is Magnus Carlsen).

Sponsorship deals should be formed to fund the ICA. There are several options for what exactly sponsors could be paying for: ratings list, specific tournaments, website, federation naming (like the English Premier League for soccer is currently sponsored by Barclay’s, making it the Barclay’s Premier League), and merchandise. Let’s say that the ICA, now sponsored by Coca-Cola, becomes the Coca-Cola Chess Association, publishing a ratings list (using the URS method instead of Elo) will be sponsored by Tesla (the Tesla Top Players List, or the Tesla Ratings Report), and all of this can be found on the official ICA website (something like ICA.chess) sponsored by GoDaddy.

The ICA should also spell out how competition will work, ideally allowing for multiple ways to compete in the sport. I’m personally envisioning a couple of distinct means of competing but I’ll limit my ideas to just two: match play and tournament.

Let’s begin with tournament play.

The Grand Chess Tour is a series of tournaments set up to be chess’s version of tennis or golf, determining a “champion” by means of pivotally important tournaments. Rather than come up with an alternative, allow the GCT to continue with ICA support and get them to expand from five annual events to six (one every other month, ideally). Recognize the winner, give that winner a slot in the World Championship Cycle, and just generally encourage the GCT wherever possible.

Match play is a different animal.

Traditionally, chess (and more specifically, the World Chess Championship) has been about match play (two players getting together to play a series of games to determine an ultimate winner). At some point in the past, match play became less of “a thing” and gave way to tournament play. Sadly, tournament play is almost exclusively how chess players interact with one another.

This is where recognition of the World Champion comes heavily into play.

Set up a ladder system for the ICA, encouraging match play between players at different points on the ladder. The World Champion would be listed at the top, and then using ratings, determine a definitive ranking of players from 1 to 100. Rather than only defending the World Championship once every three years (see the 2018 cycle’s results), match play would encourage an annual championship defense… with every third year being a required player based on the outcome of the ICA’s World Championship Cycle.

An automatic qualifier for the Cycle would come from the GCT (as suggested above), the top two qualifiers from the Chess World Cup, the top two rated players on the ratings list (that are not otherwise qualified from the other categories), a nominated player by vote of the General Assembly of Federations (one vote per federation, no absentee voting, no giving your vote to anyone else to cast), a nominated player by vote of the top 100 players, and a fan voted nominee (utilizing a poll or some form of verifiable social media to prevent multiple votes being cast). These eight players would then compete in a double round robin tournament (no more than two games per day per player, preferably one game per day per player) to determine the “mandatory championship contender.”

Outside of this cycle, however, individual match play would be encouraged by the ICA to give a competitive feel to match play that hasn’t currently existed outside of the World Chess Championship match since the pre-1950s. Encouragement would come in the form of match prizes being funded by whichever sponsor wanted to jump on the specific “match card” for promotion (like the UFC has sponsors plastered all over the Octagon during fights).

This idea is the one that will meet the most resistance but I believe will draw the most attention from non-chess players (casual players or fans of competition that don’t necessarily include chess) because they can latch onto big names that provide “exciting competition.” Ask someone who five of the top 50 players are right now and only die hard chess fans would be able to come close to being correct.

There is one more competition variation that I did not consider… but now that I’ve gotten this far into the article, I want to include it. The PRO Chess League is team play, run and formed by IM Greg Shahade, and is another exciting version of chess. The ICA would formally recognize the PRO Chess League and work to aid in endorsing the promotion of team play.

Now that we’ve got some basics out of the way, there are some bullet points that also need to have the ICA declare for better chess:

  • No tournaments will be held in locations that will prevent all competitors from attending.
  • No tournaments will be held in locations that force local customs on the competitors.
  • Proven cheating will result in a 5 year ban from the ICA, meaning the player cannot enter any tournament where the ICA is providing the prize funds. They would also be removed from the ICA rating list for that time. A second offense results in permanently banning the player.

I believe that allowing for an alternative that promotes chess, doesn’t charge players for being listed on the ratings list, doesn’t charge member federations for belonging to the organization, and is generally trying to do things that would be working towards making chess more popular would have federations leaving FIDE in favor of this ICA idea.

Without getting into detail, the ICA would be able to put chess on TVs like poker has been, provide high quality documentaries, build chess academies for youth players (or maybe financially supporting already existing chess academies), provide a spotlight for chess play (both promoting match play events as well as tournament play events), and maybe even working to include other forms of competitive play (other than team, match, and tournament).

Corruption is bad. Perceived corruption is the same as corruption. Perception is reality. If someone perceives FIDE to be corrupt, it is corrupt. FIDE has to work on correcting that image and the only way to do that is to get rid of those who are in the spotlight of the perceived corruption.

None of the ideas expressed here would be without consulting some of the top players in chess. One thing that FIDE is famous for is ignoring the very members they are governing in favor of just doing whatever the hell they want. I’m honestly surprised that the top players in the world haven’t already formed their own federation and driven FIDE out of business.

Wilhelm Steinitz declared himself World Champion in the 1880s (utilizing a match with the next best player at the time to legitimize it) and there was no governing body back then. FIDE didn’t pop up until the 1920s, and wasn’t even a position of power to do anything until 1946. Why is a floundering and corrupt body being allowed to continue when FIDE isn’t even really completely necessary?

Before FIDE, players determined who would play for the World Championship based on the ability to raise funding. I don’t think we should go back to those days but FIDE isn’t running the show in a sustainable and uncorrupt way. A replacement is necessary unless FIDE can right the ship, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

I just wanted to put this out there as a possible alternative.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 90: Chess Basho Roundup

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’m going to be covering ALL of the Chess Basho stuff in this column. There will be a mini-history, a recap of the first two Chess Bashos (the unnumbered ones), and then I’ll cover Chess Basho III and IV (I’m hoping that by the time this posts that Chess Basho III will be over).

Let’s get to the good stuff.

I had an idea that I thought was worth exploring. That idea turned into combining the competition of sumo with the game of chess. Thus Chess Basho was born. The Emerald Specter Chess Club (the rules are here, and the running posts about what else is going on can be found here) was created on Chess.com to organize a regular series of tournaments to allow for people who will never be called “Grandmaster” or “International Master” to have a chance at earning other titles.

As of this post, only two others have joined the club to pursue this. It should be noted only members of the ESCC can hold the titles.

Chess Basho I, originally known as Emerald Specter Winter 2018 Basho, was the January 2018 event that introduced everyone to the system. Including myself, there were 12 players that jumped in to compete and much to my delight, there were more than a few strong players who entered the tournament. The results were as follows: WINNER Alexin2 (21), Nikbasketball12 (19.5),  Sim_zama (14), dukenukem123 (13), tom36adams (12), pantheon-67 (11), AlCzervik (11), ANTE1990 (11), OlegMalikov1965 (9.5), mancroft (5), EmeraldSpecter (5), and bespaly (0). The top four were initially made Sapphire Adepts but haven’t returned to competition.

Chess Basho II, originally know as Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, was the March 2018 event that saw no one return but competition was just as fierce. No Adept titles were granted from this as there was some interest to return from the original group but I’d opened the tournament up to the world and it filled too fast. The results were as follows: WINNER ArturFaust (21), homozzapien (20.5), anujvaniya78692 (15.5), biraandrada (14), King_of_Not (13), ardirahendro (13), Aurel1954 (12.5), Fredl1963 (9), EmeraldSpecter (7), PietroSalem (4), sarotaromchuen (0), and vedantachess07 who withdrew.

Having communicated with the original group and the second group, almost no one wanted to return for a regular cycle of events. Their interest was primarily in a tournament that was quick (1 move per day) and they weren’t interested in what I was trying to accomplish… which is completely fine. It was learning this that I instituted the requirement to be a member of the Emerald Specter Chess Club to be promotable, getting automatically invited, and getting notified when new tournaments opened up. Two players joined, only one of which had previously competed: King_Of_Not.

Chess Basho III, fully known as Chess Basho III: May 2018, saw a full roster of players jump in to compete, including the three members of the ESCC (I am, of course, a member). As of this writing, only two players have the chance to win the whole thing: syibil (currently at 19 points with one game to complete) and FlashyFerrari (currently at 16.5 points with four games to complete). King_Of_Not will be promoted to Sapphire Adept for achieving 11.5 points, while both Mmuse and EmeraldSpecter (myself) failed to achieve the 11 point requirement. King_Of_Not is the first person to actually have a shot at being the first Ruby Adept after the next tournament.

As Chess Basho III stands, I have a chance at increasing my points to 7.5 if I can win my final game, which will again be higher than my previous finish. I’ve noticed that my games are all over the place with how I’m performing (I beat some higher rated opponents but lose to much lower rated opponents just as often). I am going to compete in the Chess Basho system until at least the end of 2018, if I fail to achieve an Adept title by that point, I’ll likely step aside to allow 12 other players to compete without the founder in the way.

Since July is fast approaching, I announced the Chess Basho IV event with a pretty new banner and a start date of July 8, 2018:Both King_Of_Not and I have joined already and I’ll be opening up the signups to everyone on July 1 or the end of Chess Basho III, which ever occurs first.

Hopefully everything keeps going super smooth for a long time, though I’m also hoping for membership to start picking up.

I am going to be devising a means of advertising the ESCC more broadly. I feel that there is a lack of exposure that is hindering the club and the goal of the club, which means I just need to get the thing out there and up front.

I’m also interested in creating a match play league, which wouldn’t rely so heavily on membership but could definitely drum up at least a little interest if done right. The details are still in the air a bit, but if you’re struggling to think of an analogue for match play, consider thinking about the UFC. One vs one. There would be an altered point system to encourage fighting to the end (i.e. no draws) and I’m interested in building mini-events around them.

Let’s get the Chess Basho system working fully, though.

148: Eddy Webb is an RPG Mecca

Eddy Webb joins DJ, Tricia, and Metal Jesus as they discuss a wide range of geeky topics, including things like Pugmire, Monarchies of Mau, Fetch Quest, Onyx Path Publishing, living overseas, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, and more!

DJ can be reached at EmeraldSpecter.com, @EmeraldSpecter on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com.

Tricia can be reached at MadeByTricia.com, @MadeByTricia on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email madebytriciapdx@gmail.com.

Metal Jesus can be reached through astral projection and smoke signals.

Eddy Webb is EddyFate on literally everywhere… so you can find him on any social media by searching for EddyFate… no, really.