Monthly Archives: November 2017

Journal of the Emerald Specter 66: Resurrecting Awesome IPs

The title will be a little misleading but I wanted a means of drawing your eye in to read a little more, so hopefully you’ll forgive me a little. I will actually be talking about a great many intellectual properties (IPs) but that talk will be done in a little bit different way than you might be expecting.

In order to ride a little bit of the “nostalgia factor” that everyone is experiencing with Stranger Things, I wanted to talk about turning those IPs I love into RPGs or prose fiction.

Yes, this may technically be another “RPG” centric column but I’m going to label this one in the more broad sense of being… 

If you can’t see the title, there, it’s “Storytelling.” I guess I shouldn’t just let that be without explanation.

There are a lot of IPs that I’d love to see brought back, or continued, that are sitting in development hell, are already completed (as far as the story goes), and didn’t have the “multiples of billions of dollars” made in their one attempt so they just put it on the shelf.

I’ve got a little bit of a history of making a fairly entertaining version of a property that I would never be able to gain the rights to, so I made my own… this was when I was younger, much younger, and I would like to resurrect that piece of my history to give something like this another run.

Let’s start with Tron (as well as Tron: Legacy).

Creating this particular IP back in the early 1980s, Disney took the “computing terminology and technology” of the era to come up with a digital world where games were real and programs were humanoids with real problems. This all fell under the control of the company’s “overseer” program, which in the digital world was the “big bad” of the story. In the sequel, many of the terms (which were long out of date) were still being used and the general concept was similar in nature to the original, just updated for the new technology to make everything look prettier.

That being said, I love Tron and I loved Tron: Legacy… so much so that I really wanted there to be more sequels to Legacy that are just never going to happen because Disney didn’t make a bazillion dollars and had to settle for a few hundred million. What will they do now? Reboot it, most likely, and try again.

What I’m considering doing with one of my solo RPGs is run in a world very similar to Tron. Yes, I said similar.

I’ve spent a bit of time coming up with how I wanted to run this thing. I’m going to concentrate on the story, rolling a set of dice with the Mythic Game Master Emulator as the GM, to determine the outcomes and general direction of the story. I am literally going to “wake up without a clue as to what is going on.”

Like Tron, there will be (generally) black clad programmed entities that will glow with a light or color and my goal is to figure out where I came from and whether or not something more to be discovered in this digital world. Unlike Tron, I’m not going to have an “outside world” component to the story. This will be more “program dealing with programs,” though I’m probably going to update the terminology to be more like what we actually use today.

No “User,” now it’s Developer. No “Program,” now it’s Application. No “Grid,” now it’s probably going to be something witty that I haven’t come up with, yet… but you get the picture.

And the beauty of this is that I don’t have to come up with a vast amount of history or anything because I don’t know any better as a character, I get to discover this along with you (because I’m publishing the results in a prose-like format).

Before I move on to the next IP, what if my “Tron” ends up being somewhat like The Matrix? I love the Matrix, all of them, and I wouldn’t mind if that ended up going in that direction… but I’ll let play determine that.

Moving right along, let’s talk about the Bourne series.

Derived from a series of books that are as blandly written as one can experience, the film series features a super spy who is seeking out his origins and a means of freeing himself from the ones who put him into the position he’s in of being a super spy. We even had a single “non-Jason Bourne” movie that delved a little into a spy who wasn’t the titular character, which much like the Disney “Tron: Legacy” example above, didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped so they scrapped all future editions that didn’t feature Jason Bourne.

I’ve loved the idea of being a super spy, amnesiac or not, and working my way through a world who is out to get me because of one reason or another. This also technically fits into the John Wick mold, being in a world that is awesome and having awesome skills as I try to get the hell out of my predicament! If I go with the amnesiac angle again, sure it’ll end up being somewhat of a trope, but I can discover the world along with you, the reader.

Or I can develop a little bit of the basics and move along from there… which is far more likely than the not remembering thing… but we will figure that out before play actually begins, I just know I’d rather be more Jason Bourne than James Bond.

How about going with a property that you might not expect from a grown ass adult? I’m talking about Centurions: Power Extreme.

The cartoon was a “far off future” where technology was running rampant over the globe and a special force of three guys wielded awesome weapons against a cyborg evil doer and his dolt of an apprentice.

In no way, shape, or form does the premise or the technology hold up, but the overall idea has lasted… and this fits into another wonderful solo RPG idea, where I would play as one of the weapons specialists fighting against something more sinister than a couple of inept cyborgs to save the planet… and the weapon systems would have to be far more generic and be far more diversified than they were in the cartoon.

Yep, this was a cartoon, dear readers… go watch the five part series opener and the five part series conclusion to experience some of the most awesome parts of the show.

My version wouldn’t be called Centurions, they’d be fighting something more realistic (or at least more along the lines of what G.I Joe: the Rise of Cobra did as opposed to the actual cartoon’s “far future” premise)

Sticking with the cartoon factor, I’d like to hit on Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.

As with all hokey 80s cartoons, a planet of highly advanced technology did something to screw themselves in some way and magic returned to their world, controlled by a wizard who granted a bunch of Medieval-esque knights the ability to change into animals and whatnot.

My own concept would be more akin to Samurai, as I’m a bigger fan of Eastern settings than Western settings, and the magic would have already been there and not gone away… maybe the wizard is someone who is actively removing the magical abilities and the Samurai have to go and knock the crap out of him so they can retain their hard earned magical abilities.

Yeah, that sounds like an idea I wouldn’t mind running through. No amnesia, which means I’d have to have a basic understanding of the background of the setting, but that shouldn’t take too much of the fun out of the adventure of going up against a nearly omnipotent foe for the greater good.

What about a space themed adventure? I could go with a Star Trek-like experience, or a Star Wars-like experience… but I’m going to actually delve a little more closely into a Firefly experience.

But DJ, you hate Firefly! Yes, I do… but that’s because it’s a Western… that happens in space, and I don’t care where a Western happens, I don’t like Westerns (generally, there is always an exception to the rule).

The basic idea that I’d be interested in exploring is a crew on a ship, doing something innocuous like shipping freight from one location to the other, but belonging to some form of official government in a limited setting (like the Solar System) and getting drawn into some sort of conflict that is a little bit bigger than the crew of the ship.

I like the idea of a small crew, of a military nature, operating in a “small but powerful ship” that is doing things and gets called into service. Star Trek, in this case, is too vast as far as space as well as ability. Star Wars is a little to fantasy for the science fiction I’d like to be doing, though I’d take away the “ships just do stuff” aspect from the Wars. As much as I don’t like the series, the Firefly move Serenity was great, and I really do like the “comfy little crew” aspect of the dynamic.

Since I mentioned the franchise earlier, I’d like to draw from the G.I Joe: Retaliation installment of the seemingly dead movie franchise.

The idea I’m going with, here, is the idea of a military unit being hunted for a reason and that unit being forced into action to defend itself.

Well, this kind of relates to the Bourne idea above, as in there is probably a secret we (as the unit) know something about something that we go into hiding for, only to be flushed out by over zealous people who just can’t let sleeping dogs lie… and that forces said unit back into action, exposing that secret while killing all the bad guys in the process.

This is actually a story I developed for a prose novel I wanted to write and never did… if I turn this into an RPG setting, I can leave the secret up to the game emulator. I gave a link earlier, and it’s the one I’d use because it’s the one I own.

Since I love me some Vampire the Masquerade and Vampire the Requiem, why don’t I look a little bit at the Underworld franchise for the next idea?

I’m looking at the “war versus another supernatural creature” aspect of the vampires in my own solo RPG experience. I’ve toyed with the idea of the “brand new vampire discovering the world they actually live in” angle, and I’m not necessarily ruling that out, but I’ve also recently wanted to do the “ancient vampire rejoins the world and discovers they’re really an overpowered child learning the ropes of the society they’ve created” angle…

One of my favorite series of novels from the VtM line was the Masquerade of the Red Death Trilogy of books, which were almost immediately made “non-canon” because of whatever reasons… they are a damn good story, a little on the long side, but at no point are you sitting there thinking “when are we going to get to the damn action.” They also contain all of the major supernatural splats from the game lines (vampires, werewolves, and mages, though I don’t think the werewolves did a whole lot in the story now that I think about it).

I won’t spoil the story for you, but there is a ton of stuff in there to mine as far as story possibilities… but that doesn’t relate, necessarily to the Underworld aspect.

One thing I didn’t like about Underworld is the lack of super powers by the vampires. The lycans had all kinds of abilities (well, the ability to transform into a monstrous killing machine) and I would want to expand on that a bit… which means the “new vampire discovering the 411” is probably the best angle for this one, as well as one of the VtM or VtR splats being the best place to host the story in (at least the framework of how vampires and other supernaturals work).

There IS another variation of this, which I’ve created a vast and wonderful world around, that I could do and have some form of “random learning” going on… and that is a werewolf version of Vampire Diaries or True Blood but with more focus on the wolves than anything else. I have named this venture Moonrise, because the story was originally about the heir to the werewolf throne in a time when the politics of the society are starting to unravel… and that would be what I’d consider using as a basis for a story along these lines.

I’ve covered a lot of IPs… not all of the ones I was thinking, but with a column word count over 2,000, I think it’s time to wrap this edition up and consider a sequel (once I write down another series of possible IPs I would love to turn into my own little creations as possible solo RPG options).

The biggest reason for my concentration on solo RPGs is that I can’t get anyone else to play with, reliably. There are groups in my area but I’m not super interested in playing D&D, Pathfinder, or anything like that… I don’t want to necessarily physically go somewhere, either. Online, I don’t have anyone who can meet regularly enough in order to run a game more than just a week (see Greatest Show episode 109), where I reference Green Team that ran exactly once… and the entire cast has never been all on at the same time since. Hence, my point.

So, until I find a crew (hopefully containing a GM so I can be just a player once in a while), I will look into the solo RPG avenue.

Stay tuned for a second part if I have enough material!

Thanks for reading.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 65: Playing the “Unique” Characters

I was three or four paragraphs into expounding on a topic I’ve already covered when I decided that I didn’t want to rehash the same information… and realized I didn’t have much more to say than I’ve already said. So, why don’t I just go over that little bit and move on to the topic of this particular column.

When thinking about Discovery versus the Orville, the Orville is the one worth watching. If I want dreary, un-Star Trek like Star Trek, I’ll go watch something other than Star Trek. CBS has not only missed the mark, they’ve actively started driving away long term Star Trek fans, of which I am one. I just don’t care about what Discovery has to say anymore.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest again, let’s move to a little RPG topic I decided to come out and talk about… 

Wherever there is a roleplaying game, you can be sure that someone playing in that game wants to play something either completely off the wall or something that has been specifically stated they can’t play it…

In short, if you’re told in a Star Trek game you can’t play a Borg, one of the players will inevitably say they want to play a Borg.

I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted to play some unique characters, too, but I listen to the barriers erected by the person running the game and tried to work within that specific set of parameters. Basically, I’d try to come up with something interesting based on what was available and what kind of mood I was in.

There was a time, though, I actually got into an argument with someone over this very subject. Since the argument was involving Vampire the Masquerade, I’m going to go into depth on that.

I was coming into a group that the game master (GM, storyteller in VtM) had specifically limited the available playable Vampire clans to the Camarilla (meaning Brujah, Gangrel, Ventrue, Toreador, Malkavian, Nosferatu, and Tremere at the time), with no exceptions. So one of the other players, whom I’ll call Steve, wanted to play an Assamite… they are the stereotypical assassins of VtM.

While you’re looking at the list of Camarilla clans, you’ll notice that Assamite is not one of them. The GM didn’t want an Assamite in the game, so the request was understandably denied. Steve fought and fought, basically throwing an adult version of a hissy fit.

I was originally going to play a Brujah gang banger… then Steve and I got into an argument.

What I asked Steve, point blank, was why he couldn’t play an assassin from one of the available clans? His response related directly to the stereotypes of each of the clans (Brujah being gang members and bikers, Gangrel being woodland folk, Venture being uppity socialites, Toreador being airheaded artsy types, Malkavians being “ha ha” crazy, Noserfatu being sewer dwellers, and Tremere being conspiracy magician types). If you wanted to play a Ventrue, by Steve’s understanding, you HAD to play an uppity socialite.

I challenged Steve that you could be anything from any clan, meaning that the stereotype was a broad generality and Steve was not seeing that they could be anything but their most base generic surface features. Steve complained and I replied that I could be something that, in his mind, wasn’t possible.

May I also say that the GM found this argument very entertaining, mainly because Steve was being an inflexible ass and someone else was standing up to him.

Steve challenged me to do exactly what I said I could do… so I chucked out my Brujah gang banger, totally in the stereotype of the clan, and decided instead to play a Toreador assassin.

Yes, a Toreador assassin.

The Toreador, as a stereotype, are into art and music. They make paintings, sculptures, clothing, and all kinds of things that make them the generic airheads Steve thought they were because that’s how he saw “artsy types.” I want to go on record that I do not see artsy people like that, but in order to drive home my points, I’m using the Toreador stereotype in a somewhat derogatory way.

Silas Bancroft was born in the early 60s, grew up and was embraced into the clan in the middle of the “free feeling and loopy” 70s, finally to be trained as the personal assassin of the Prince of Memphis (Tennessee). The game was being played in the early 2000s and that made my Toreador a whopping 40 or so years old.

Steve was beside himself. How could anyone become a quality assassin in such a short period of time? That was along side the fact that if he wasn’t admiring the latest Jackson Pollock painting he couldn’t possibly function.

Well, Steve pointed out that the clan flaw of the Toreador was to be “unable to turn away from a thing of beauty.” That meant I had to play Silas as someone who couldn’t pass a bus stop advertisement because it was a pretty picture. How could an assassin be effective stopping to smell all the roses along the way?

The GM and I both understood that the weakness meant that Silas had his own beautiful thing he couldn’t turn away from… and I decided that Silas really loved the sight of the true dead. The reason he’d been trained as an assassin in the first place is his desire to see things die, in a most permanent fashion.

If you think that Steve lost his mind, you would be correct. He couldn’t tolerate this “complete lack of respect for the rules” and decided he didn’t want to play anymore. Steve then left.

Before I move on, I ended up playing that Toreador assassin until his untimely demise (which came when I botched an assassination attempt and was killed by the bodyguards of the target).

The whole point of this scenario was to show anyone that you can play something “unique” without having to bend the rules to achieve that goal. Steve really wanted to be the unique Assamite in a game that Assamites weren’t allowed in more than he actually wanted to play an assassin.

I’ve played in and run email SIMs that took place in the Star Trek universe. In those games, despite being expressly prohibited from playing “connected Borg,” you’ll get at least one player asking to be a Borg who is still connected to the Collective… why?

Someone reading this is probably one of those people and that person is probably saying they do it because they “want to shake things up.” Why? In a galaxy without Jedi, you want to be the one guy who still uses the Force as a Jedi? You need to absolutely be the one Borg who isn’t disconnected? The thing that makes you complete as a human being means you need to be the only person who is allowed to play a human Cylon when you weren’t allowed to play them?

Take the game that you are going to play in, look at the limitations, and figure out what you want to actually accomplish in the game and then work with what you are allowed to work with from that starting point.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a few actual play podcasts in recent days and I am overjoyed to hear things that I haven’t ever personally experienced: players creating characters within their limitations AND the players not being antagonistic towards the GM.

Yeah, the GM isn’t the enemy! A story is being told, it isn’t a competition!

I’m interested in telling stories with friends in a game where we’re all bound and playing within the same limitations. If I want to play something I can’t play, I will find a way to get as close to that WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS as I can… because I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake like Steve was in my example. He’s a delicate little flower that needed to have his way or he was taking his ball and going home… and he did.

Do what you can with what you have and let’s all start playing better games, shall we?

Update on the Specter Show

So, if you haven’t guessed, there is no episode for November 20, 2017… I haven’t had the chance to record one and I am not sure I’m going to be able to record one anytime this week, either… this means I have to make some decisions.

I am working almost 60 hours a week (as well as being called in to work on my days off) and that leaves time for me to get some restful TV watched or do other things… I’m choosing the relaxation over producing the podcast.

If I can get an episode recorded, I’ll release it, but I’m announcing here that until “Christmas season” is over, the episodes may be more sporadic than I’d originally intended.

Thank you for understanding.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 64: Emerald Specter Chess Club

After a nearly 3,000 word rambling on my first draft of this column, I have decided to rid myself of the innocuous terminology from the first attempt to just go forward with something far easier to read. The other one was detailed, it explained a lot, I just didn’t really format the thing in a way that was productively explaining what the topic intended to explain.

So, here we go again with the second attempt! After a brief preamble, I’m hoping to keep things moving in a specific and cohesive direction.

On this day, November 16, 2017, I am announcing the official formation of the Emerald Specter Chess Club. I’ve had a chess club with the previous domain that wasn’t successful, but that had more to do with the lack of a specific direction than anything else. The Emerald Specter Chess Club, or ESCC, is going to combine two things that I love into one wonderful experiment of chess awesomeness. What are those two things? Chess and sumo.

The origin of this idea came to me when I was coming up with different methods of holding chess events towards the common goal of producing a competition that could be completed annually. While I came up with quite a few methods to accomplishing this, the one that really stuck with me was the sumo format.

Sumo Grand Tournaments, or honbasho, are held six times per year. Each honbasho pits every member of the top division against 15 opponents, one per day. After the 15 days have elapsed, a winner is crowned and from that series of results a ranking is produced. Without filling you with too much information, only the top division does 15 matches.

When I started working on this idea, I’d given it the working title of “Chess Basho.” Since I have made a few important decisions on how to translate the sumo honbasho format for chess, there are noticeable differences in how things are going to develop.

That’s the point of this column. I need to give the rules for the ESCC, or the previously referred to Chess Basho Project.


The ESCC will be organized into divisions of 12  with each player playing every other player twice (once with white and once with black). Every player will play a total of 22 games to try to score the highest possible results to compete for the tournament win, as well as titles.

Divisions in the ESCC will be titled after metals on the periodic table, with the top division being the Gold Division. As membership grows, other divisions will be added and given their own designations (such as Silver, Copper, etc). Each division will have 12 players.

In the Gold Division, players will be ranked according to their performance based off of previous tournament results. Initially, the ranking will be strictly done from‘s Elo rating, but only for the initial launch.

When there are more than one division, the top four finishers in the lower division will be promoted into the higher division, and the bottom four finishers will be relegated into the lower division. Only the Gold Division will have no promotion for the top finishers, as there is no higher division to be promoted into.


The players in the Gold Division will be ranked from one to 12, alternating “east” and “west” (with east being higher than west), except for the titled players.

In order to avoid providing titles beyond the scope of the club, the terms “master” and “expert” will not be used. In order to avoid providing the sumo versions of titles, none of the sumo titles will be granted within the ESCC. The ESCC will provide titles, in ascending order: Sapphire Adept, Ruby Adept, Emerald Adept, and Diamond Adept. Each Adept title will have requirements in order to be promoted into or demoted from.

A player can be promoted into a Sapphire Adept (SA) simply by earning 5.5 points in a tournament. Players can be demoted from this rank by simply failing to score at least 5.5 points.

An SA can be promoted into a Ruby Adept (RA) simply by earning 5.5 points in a tournament. Players can be demoted from this rank simply by failing to score at least 5.5 points. Once achieved, there can be no less than two Sapphire and Ruby Adepts (combined) at any one time.

An RA can be promoted into Emerald Adept (EA) by achieving specific benchmarks. First, the RA must have scored at least 24 points over the last three tournaments, with the last tournament being at least a score of 8.5. There can be no results in these tournaments less than 5.5 points and a tournament win will eliminate the requirement of 24 points over three tournaments, simply allowing the RA automatic promotion to EA. Demotion from EA is a two step process: failing to achieve 5.5 points in a tournament will mark the EA as “chipped.” A second straight sub-5.5 point result will result in demotion back to RA. A player can return to EA immediately if they score at least 8 points in the tournament immediately following their demotion.

An EA can be promoted into Diamond Adept (DA) by achieving specific benchmarks. First, the EA must have scored at least 32 points over the last four tournaments, with no sub-5.5 point results as well as having won a tournament in the ESCC. Winning two consecutive tournaments as an EA automatically promotes the player to DA, as long as they did not score sub-5.5 points in the tournament prior to their consecutive wins. If there was a sub-5.5 point result prior, then the performance following the consecutive tournament wins must be 9 points in order to receive promotion to DA, else the previous requirements must be met. Demotion from DA is just like demotion from EA, the DA will first be chipped and then demoted with sub-5.5 point scores. In order for the EA to immediately return to DA, though, they must score at least 9 points in the tournament immediately following their demotion, unlike the 8 point score for EAs.

I know that all looks a little confusing but it makes sense. Unlike sumo, there CAN be demotion from the top most title.

ESCC Tournaments

The idea is to hold four tournaments per calendar year, quarterly. They will be Winter (beginning the second Sunday of January), Spring (beginning the second Sunday of April), Summer (beginning the second Sunday of July), and Autumn (beginning the second Sunday of October). The time control for these tournaments is one move per day, allowing for an accelerated pace and wrapping of the tournament results prior to the next tournament starting.

Ideally, players would participate in every tournament every year. Life happens, though, and a provision will be made to miss one tournament per year (12 months) without penalty. This would be treated as scoring 5.25 points (a score not possible in chess) when rankings are considered. If the player misses two tournaments in the year (twelve months), the result will be considered 0 points and rankings will be adjusted accordingly.


Prior to the tournament (as far in advance as is possible), a ranking will be released based on the prior tournament’s results. Scoring 5.5 points or more will result in going up the rankings and scoring 5.0 or less points will result in going down the rankings. The missed tournament considered at 5.25 points will leave the player as close to their previous ranking as is possible.

Rankings will always include east and west positions, with titled players being ranked in order at the top. A sample ranking follows:

John Smith   DA         -vacant-
John Doe    EA   Jane Public
Sally Smith   RA        Jane Doe
Bill Fold   SA     -vacant-
Someone   1   Someone
Someone   2   Someone
Someone   3   Someone


Since I’m realistic, I’ve decided to launch divisions with 12 players per division. This would make the rankings only contain 6 lines per division. If the need exists, due to the popularity of the ESCC demanding, divisions may be bumped up to 24 players per division, with two groups of 12 players competing (in an east and west format), with the top two finishers advancing to a special (untracked point) round for the ultimate winner of the tournament.

In the event that this would occur, revisiting the rules would be done in order to ensure that provisions would be put into place for the “advanced round” of play, as well as requirements on how many titled players could exist at any one point in time. 

The reasons that certain things here are spelled out in some detail is because I’d like to personally participate in the ESCC, at least initially. In order for me to do that, and be the “overseer of the ESCC” at the same time, I need clear rules and benchmarks for all of the above in order to avoid the perception of any impropriety. Thus, I am bound by the same laws as the rest, which is how things are supposed to be, without bias.

Is this a gimmick? Sure, and I’ll readily admit that. Is this something designed for super strong players? The intent is that players under 1700, ideally, would be the ones most interested in this (as players that strong or higher tend to be working towards specific chess goals). The tournaments will all be rated and no interested player will be turned away.

This isn’t in the official rules above because I don’t really know if this is going to be an issue in the future, but players who just stop showing up for tournaments all together will be “retired from competition.” Retired players can always come back into play, but they’d start at the bottom (the lowest division, untitled) and have to work their way back up.

I personally am hoping for at least five divisions of 12 players each. I’d love 24 players per division, but I don’t want to get my sights set too high. That would mean we’d have a Gold, Silver, Copper, Nickel, and Cobalt Divisions (with a possibility of bumping up the Gold to Platinum and eliminating the Cobalt). I won’t count my chickens before they hatch, though.

One thing I eliminated from the original draft of this column was the consideration of a “fighting name” (what the Japanese call shikona). Using the handles on will be sufficient and eliminate any possible confusion as far as who is who.

I hope you’ll join me in the inaugural tournament and in the ESCC (the link is here). Most likely the first tournament will be open to all, with the results hopefully enticing a few of those players to stick around after being ranked.

Thanks for reading.

The Specter Show 042: The Art of Self Destruction, Part One

Do you want a BuJoRPG podcast that is video? Audio? Both? Feedback is needed and this one is about what I’d be offering as your BuJoRPG podcast… so chime in!

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Dirk Manning

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 63: The Benefit of Hindsight

Technically, this will be a “random history” column, but will also fill the role of figuring out how to move forward with concepts and ideas… it’ll all make sense as I role this out.

The problem with this particular bit of random history, I find myself unsure of a heading image to use… I want to continue using headings that get made and I’ve already created three that I don’t think will ever get used again. I could be wrong, of course, but the idea of the headers is to give me ample options when I’m writing these columns.

So, with the thought process on this next one, I think I have covered a wide topic while still keeping the general topic at hand in one piece. Things will look a little weird in the beginning but I promise that I’m actually going somewhere with this, so without further ado:

In late 1996, Bob (of the Greatest Show fame) and I decided to form an American knighthood. Bob came from a background, of which I only vaguely remember, that had him and his hometown posse with lengthy “titles.” The idea that Bob would be able to add “sir” to that was something he was interested in. If you’re wondering, I also had a lengthy title, thanks to Bob inducting me into the gang, and after the knighting between the two of us, my title was now Sir Lor Tian Dark Tiger, Teydani Priest of the Werecat Clan. I haven’t used that in two decades, but I have retained the knighthood.

The idea of the knighthood wasn’t anything more than improving myself and having a background to do so. The Emerald Knights, as we were, had a bit of a falling out and when I left the Navy, I took the knighthood’s concepts with me back home.

I was going to build the Emerald Knights from the foundation that was what Bob and I had established. There was a small recruitment and I ended up adding friends (Viper, Dan, Kyle, and Angus). Yes, two of those are nicknames and rather than struggle with forcing my use of their real names, I’ll just call them how we all referred to them for all this time.

Establishing a structure by which the Emerald Knights would operate was our first order of business. We established a hierarchy, recruited a few more members, and we were well on our way to being better. Our mode of self improving wasn’t quite solidified, though, as we were entrenched in trying to build that idea from scratch. The “from scratch” is what you should remember as I continue with this tale.

Building the Emerald Knights slowly converted from a self improvement group to creating shadows where shadows didn’t need to exist. A faction within a faction was eventually created, bureaucracy in our meetings was formed, and we stopped growing and sort of just treaded water at that point.

Here’s where things got rocky.

Trying to control things without necessarily having a goal in mind, I ended up driving a wedge between myself and Dan, the person I would have chosen as the successor to the “leadership” that was (at that time) myself. The wedge was so deeply driven that I hadn’t even spoken to Dan (or any of the others) for almost two years, when Dan and I started talking again.

Gone was the idea of doing anything with the Emerald Knights, as far as the group was concerned, but I did still want to get back to the focus of what the Emerald Knights was supposed to be: self improvement with some flowery caveats to entice the populace in general.

Here’s the call back to what I mentioned before, and in hindsight, I realize that building something from scratch when resources existed to build up from was a terrible idea. With several failed attempts at rising up into a management position in my working career, I realize that I should have formed the basis for the organization and stepped back to let the others grow that as I simply filled in with input now and then.

Basically, induct everyone into the organization with the idea of growing it in a certain direction and then stepping down from leadership into a more ceremonial role, leadership emeritus if you will.

If Dan, Kyle, Angus, Viper, or any of the others read this above description, they might be confused by what the ultimate goal initially was… we didn’t really have a lot of clear communication on that front, which was part of the problem. Reconnecting with Bob and bringing up the concept again, the Emerald Knights just kind of “died on the vine” as our distance didn’t make the idea of a knighthood (for self improvement or otherwise) feasible.

My concept for self improvement has had a resurgence in recent times (by recent, I mean in the last couple of years). Discovering bullet journaling, then building the BuJoRPG with self improvement as the very core of the system, I was making progress again on a solo level. I’ve never liked the solo idea in totality and believe that groups can improve better as we have each other to draw from rather than drawing from a single source.

This leads me to a more recent set of ideas that I’ve wanted to develop.

The core “tagline” of Freemasonry is “making good men better.” I’ve toyed with the idea of joining the fraternity several times, but after digging into what the fraternity did as far as ceremony, I’ve decided against becoming a member. Personally, the deep connection to a “supreme being” isn’t a terrible idea but intertwining that concept with almost everything is what really turned me off. The other item that bothered me is that while the fraternity claims to be enlightened (at least more than the common individual), they retain that women aren’t really worthy of being part of the group and thus Freemasonry is a “men’s only” club.

If the switch from the Emerald Knights history to Freemasonry seems jarring, bear with me. I didn’t have a great segue to get from one to the other.

Freemasonry teaches “good men to become better” by teaching lessons of allegory wrapped in symbolism and ritual. I think I’ve covered all the buzz words in that sentence. That all boils down to each lesson is a play, acted out by the initiate (the Mason seeking that degree) and other members, to “bring light to the Mason.” The concept of the “bringing light” is where I came up with the enlightenment bit, though I don’t believe they, themselves, consider themselves enlightened.

I’ve known for sometime, from the words of the Masons themselves, that if you look on the Internet, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Freemasons. If you look for yourself, the important thing is to push aside all the asinine conspiracy theories to find out exactly what is at the core of the organization.

What I was looking for, and will point you at now, are the lessons of the degrees themselves. Since the Scottish Rite has 32 degrees, I felt that the “more lessons” would better my self improvement far greater than just the generally accepted “three degrees.” Thus, I began my search for the rituals (as that is what I believed was what I needed to find). I came across a little bit more, though.

Discovering what the actual “play” of the ritual was, while tedious in its reading, contained the basic information I was looking for, I also discovered the lectures (which contain most of the same information but also go on to describe in more detail what needs to be learned from the ritual itself). I tried just learning from the lectures themselves but noticed, when I went back to look at the rituals, that the pair of them were important to have together rather than separately.

Thus, my research now includes both ritual and lectures, but also is expounded upon by dogmatic and esoteric research for each degree by Masons “of old.” Together, these sources flesh out the concepts that help make “good men better.”

I’ve done a lot of research that I plan to produce a podcast explaining each degree. The podcast would be a monthly podcast, probably be a little longer than I normally do (on a solo basis), and would each concentrate on one of the degrees of Freemasonry.

Things that won’t be included are the secret passwords and handshakes… mainly because they do not further my own self improvement and are what the Freemasons actually consider the “secret” portion of their fraternity. No conspiracies for world domination, no ritual butt sex, and no manipulating the world to suit their own needs.

Here’s where I tie everything together.

If I would have used the Freemasons as the basic foundation for the Emerald Knights, the Emerald Knights would still be a thing today. I don’t believe the general idea is lost but I don’t think that I, nor any of the others I mentioned above, could be the ones to resurrect it.

My own self improvement will be benefitted from researching the Masonic degrees. I’m not into the conspiracy theories, I won’t have a “grand organization” from which to govern others in their own self improvement, and I’m content to leave the past in the past. I’m not even sure that building an organization around this is necessary.

The morality within Freemasonry is rooted by their religious background, something to give a “reason to be moral.” Religion has used this concept to give others an anchor for their moral actions. If you need an anchor to be moral, then what kind of monster would you be without that anchor? I don’t need an anchor, personally, and since I don’t I’ll have to be content without the “brotherhood” aspect of Freemasonry that I think enriches the general concepts of their lessons.

Hindsight being 20/20, the Emerald Knights should have found a basic foundation from somewhere else (actual Medieval English chivalry, Samurai Bushido code, Freemasonry, etc) and built up from there. Coming up with the concepts from scratch would have meant (I now realize) decades of refining things that others have already done the work on.

Without revolving around self improvement organizations, this should be applied to everything you do. Want to create a roleplaying game? Why build everything without the benefit of looking at the work of others? Why not take the foundation laid down in other games and build up from there? What about bullet journaling? Why “recreate the wheel” instead of just using the concepts in the system already created?

Why do we make things so difficult on ourselves?

When I was young, just like billions of youths before me, I thought I had all the answers and knew everything I needed to know. What did I need from the older generations who had lived life and tried to pass on that knowledge to me?

I didn’t exactly shun that information but I should have listened a lot earlier, a lot more, and definitely put more effort into following the advice.

I sit here typing this column up as someone who has 40+ years under my belt. I’ve seen things and made mistakes that didn’t need to be made because those mistakes had already been made by others. Now I am the one who points out the mistakes I’ve made to prevent others from having to make them, trying to enrich the “youth” of tomorrow from coming to the same realization that I’ve outlined (in general concept) in this column.

Maybe there DOES need to be an organization that does what Freemasonry does, but be far more inclusive to the world at large?

I can’t be the one to build it, though… not alone, at least.

Thanks for reading.

The Specter Show 041: Memorabilia

A review of Thor Ragnarok that includes the lovely Tricia Allen, who joins the Emerald Specter himself in a little talk about a movie we just finished seeing…

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Dirk Manning

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