Category Archives: Blog

This is the main blog feed category.

The Specter Show 038: Reptile

Another podcast about bullet journaling, BuJoRPG development, and getting the life back in order… yes, another one, but with a bigger focus on what needs to happen for BuJoRPG development!

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: Theo Rossi

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign #selfimprovement #PROChessLeague #PROChessLeaguePodcast  #chess

The Greatest Show 140: The Greatest Boot (Audio)

The trio of DJ, Tricia, and special guest Dan from Fear the Boot, the crew talks about RPGs (and a little bit more)… to include volunteering, being an objective reviewer, and the tale of the Drug Tree! There’s so much more!

Hosts: DJ Allen, Tricia Allen, and Dan from Fear the Boot!

Twitter: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter,,, and

Journal of the Emerald Specter 59: Content is King

I’m not entirely sure what kind of banners I should use for this particular article. This is going to be another attempt at a full length article here, but I’ll be touching on different types of content (podcasts, articles, YouTube, storytelling, etc)… so, why don’t I do what I think I need to and just go ahead and make something custom?

I am all about making content. Content is the easiest thing I can produce without needing to be doing something for a living, somewhere specific, for someone else. Sometimes that content may seem erratic, sometimes that content may seem like a waste of time, but the content is always accomplishing the task of putting something on this site to keep people poking back to see what else I’m doing.

Last year, I started doing the ESPL (Emerald Specter Premier League) based on a project that I love from the Chris Creamer Sports Logos Concept forum, which is basically creating a league and developing the logos from their initial appearance until the modern day. In that thread, the AFA is in their 1987 year… the thread is HUGE. I bring this up because I had an epiphany the other day.

So, when I was running the ESPL, I had a big concentration on what was happening in the games (and the league) from week to week, with a passing “side enterprise” with the designing of logos (which was the whole reason I started the damn thing up in the first place). Veras (the creator of the AFA thread) runs some simulations in the background and gives some broader recap rather than an in-depth look “from game to game,” with a heavy concentration on what the whole point of the thread is: logo, uniform, and field designs.

Unless I wanted to go back in time and start doing the ESPL in some randomly selected year in the past and work my way forward, that approach won’t necessarily work for me. I do realize that the reason the interest waned somewhat was that I was being bogged down in the tedium of running a fictional league “in real time” rather than enjoying the process of creating concepts for the logos, uniforms, and whatever else… If I were to rebirth this concept, I’d be concentrating on the broader overviews of the ESPL and keeping the week to week format, but being far more general as I released the uniform and logo concepts throughout the year in a longer format (instead of a big logo reveal extravaganza followed by the tedium of details of the league).

Would you like to see a second attempt at the ESPL?

I have several podcasts at the moment that I’m enjoying producing with several others I’ve got in the “concept” stage. The Greatest Show, my long running YouTube (and our original channel) show that initially started out as a pre-produced show and turned into a live show (followed by a more produced version, so that I can release audio versions of the show again on a feed). The show was started with a forum for my best friend, Bob, and I to have conversations about “the good old days,” geeky topics, and whatever else crossed our minds.

The show developed into the conversations while watching my wife make wonderful food, which enjoyed a solid run of interest from all kinds of folks, and saw an uptick in our traffic. We developed into a later night show, moved away from the cooking segment, and added a whole slew of other hosts (as Bob was having a hard time making appearances). What we have going now is an attempt at running the show in seasons, rather than continuously, and we’ve only got experiments to run as we figure out what the next stage of the show is…

And speaking of that, we’ve added a regular rotation of guests into the mix. I got a good push of guests right up front and have since had an issue lining up more as the season progresses. I’m doing what I can but the effort is monumental in scope and I’m hoping to have a better process for the future.

I wanted to speak about this show specifically at length because there is an issue that has arisen where Saturday nights, while they work for the majority of the cast, don’t seem to be able to include everyone AND our viewership seems to have declined (in the live arena, anyway) because of the time slot. Metal Jesus has school, Rachel has a new job, Bob’s job is giant in scope, I have a fluctuating schedule, Kevin C. has activities from time to time, and Tricia doesn’t believe the time slot is convenient. All of these things make it hard to continue the show in the original vision and I’d be interested in getting some thoughts on the possible future of the show.

Options, before I move on, include returning to the “pre-produced” and uploaded version from way back, the cooking while talking version, and moving the recording time to a variable option to open up the possible guests that can be included in the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Specter Show is my personal show, which has only been me talking to the audience (save one episode that included me talking to my wife). In a conversation with my wife, I was told that I spend a lot of time talking about what I’m going to do rather than doing what I say I’m going to do. A good example of that is the BuJoRPG 2 beta, which hasn’t been touched at all in a month… more on that in a few paragraphs.

I originally wanted to keep the Specter Show “off the rails” so that I could talk about anything I wanted without worrying about sticking to a genre or topic. While that has worked in large part, there are episodes I’m not super pleased with because I’ve just sort of muted through and released a show to release a show.

One of the original intents of podcasting, for me, was to present myself as a viable radio personality that could carry a show for 30, 60, or 120 minutes (or maybe even longer). I’ve dropped my desire to be on the radio, not because I’ve lost interest, but because the radio isn’t going to allow me to accomplish the expansion that podcasting will… and that leads me to a history lesson of sorts.

When I originally launched the Lime Flavored Podcasting Network, I had the vision to create a lineup of shows that would give me a place to talk about a multitude of topics and build up a network like TWiT, which has blossomed into a viable podcasting business. The reason that TWiT works as well as it does is because they have a broad umbrella under which they operate: tech related podcasting.

The LFPN had an expanded topic lineup: the Greatest Show, the Lime Flavored Podcast (which made it to 50 episodes), Limelight on Apple (our tech news show), Echoes Darkly (our RPG centric podcast), and Comic Cast (our comic book industry show). When we (my wife and I) were into FitBit deeply, we also sort of launched a half hearted attempt at a fitness show, known as the FitBit Challenge… all of these shows collapsed for one reason or another except one, the Greatest Show. (In order listed above after the Greatest Show): one show stopped because the domain was sold, keeping up on tech was tough to maintain with busy lives, my co-hosts all became unavailable, and we just weren’t collecting or reading as much as we’d like to have been… that all led to the LFPN death, mainly with the loss of the domain, and a reevaluation of my dream.

I’ve currently got three podcasts running, with one in a concept phase. The Greatest Show, the Specter Show, and the PRO Chess League Podcast (new, concentrating on the PRO Chess League). Since the last one hasn’t been running (due to the season starting in January), I’m confident that keeping up with three shows is a distinct possibility. I’ve offered shows to Kevin C., Metal Jesus, Bob, and Rachel… all of them are in some stage of development, but we’ll see what develops there. This is a good start, but as the title of this column says: content is king. Only three of these are producing any content.

Now I come to my “bread and butter,” the BuJoRPG. Since launching my initial bullet journal roleplaying game, I have developed that as far as I felt it could go before bringing out the next concept for what I thought was possibly, namely BuJoRPG 2. I had promised to release the first “version” (a post-beta) as it was developed but I’ll be honest, I’ve not had the time. I also haven’t MADE the time, either.

This is where my wife’s comments about talking about something and not doing it come in.

I have a concept for what I want the BuJoRPG to ideally become. That requires a lot of work and with the release of the open beta, I’ve asked for help and feedback. Since releasing that open beta, I’ve received neither help nor feedback on the BuJoRPG 2, making me think the effort is being wasted. Without a drive of an audience to see the result, I can’t be faulted for not wanting to work on the product. Would you like to know what I envision for this in the future?

Ideally, you’d order something I’ll just call the “BuJo Box.” The box will be prepacked and contain (at least, but not limited to): a lore book (for the BuJoRPG world of the Jade Realm), a preformatted bullet journal (for the BuJoRPG), some bullet journal pens (in various colors), some dice (since they are part of the BuJoRPG 2), a wall map of the Jade Realm (it would unfold to include the “basic” map, which is everything before “expansions”), and maybe some stencils to aid in the creation of the BuJoRPG style graphical elements.

Doesn’t that sound nifty?

Finally, I’d like to talk about some of the things I’d planned on for the future but will decide whether or not they’ll make the cut. These each will be a “mini-paragraph” of information, just to explain enough to let you know what I was hoping to do but might not actually develop it (to shut the door on the “talk about doing what you should be doing but aren’t” conversation).

A podcast for each degree of the Freemason Scottish (and York) Rite, as I wanted to learn the lessons they teach but do not like the religious overtones within the brotherhood. I’ve got all the materials ready, I’ve read what I need to, now I just need to put fingers to keyboard to write up the material and start recording. This is a “monthly” podcast, rather than a weekly one.

Serial fiction has been written, not edited by any of the editors that I’ve enlisted, and sits collecting digital dust in the cloud. With the Greatest Show crew talking about running an RPG before the show, this is being converted into the game that I’ll be running (inside the Green Ronin Fantasy AGE system, although probably more closely related to Will Wheaton’s TitansGrave version). There are modifications that I’ve made to the story but the general theory is in tact.

A re-release of SpecterFit, my fitness centric blog/column/podcast that would help you along your own personal journey to getting more healthy. Since I’ve been injured, I can’t really do much other than eat healthier and I haven’t written or podcasted about this at any length, so it’s sitting in development hell.

Specter of the Galaxy, which I’d intended to play No Man’s Sky at least weekly with the release of their Waking Titan release, I’ve taken multiple weeks off between the second to last and last podcast that have made the future of this in doubt… I just haven’t had the time with everything else going on.

In a few months, or within a few months, the Fire Pro Wrestling World game will be released on PS4 and I had intended to run a new eFed (electronic federation) on Emerald, which I haven’t run anything like this since 2002! The original eFeds from “back in the day” were all angle or RP feds, the FPW World fed would be a CAW (create-a-wrestler) style fed… but that requires a little bit of time.

With the declining interest in the “Greatest Show Fight Series,” I thought that running a two division UFC fighting league might be a possibility without centering around the hosts of the Greatest Show… but I’d likely wait for the next release of the UFC (UFC 3) before doing anything like this, leaving this dormant.

Spawning from the aforementioned “serial fiction” paragraph (since I have the planet’s entire history mapped out), I was going to launch a SIM (similar to those run on Obsidian Fleet) within this story’s universe… my server died, was resurrected, and requires lengthy work to get this to where it would allow me to do this, and I’d need a lot of help getting the flagship SIM working so that expansion into other “ships” would be possible.

Quite a list, huh?

Well, I’m hoping to get things moving in a generally positive direction. With the end of 2017 comes the “behind the scenes” development of a new look for Emerald, which has been planned for some time. I’m running through some concepts and will have something to launch whenever that is ready… but it is actively being worked on. With this new release, I would conceivably use that refresh as a way to relaunch things that went dormant, launch new things I’ve talked about here, or just freshen up the graphics on the site as a whole.

I’m done talking about doing things and not doing them… I’m going to do things, now.

Right now.

The Specter Show 037: Eraser

An unexpected server issue held this release up, it is corrected now.

Speaking of server issues, DJ discusses the server getting fried on October 1, talking about doing things that should be done rather than talked about, bullet journaling without the RPG, BuJoRPG 2, and a few other things. He even gets off on a tangent and literally gets lost.

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: Theo Rossi

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign #selfimprovement #PROChessLeague #PROChessLeaguePodcast #SpecteroftheGalaxy #ESPL #chess #health #nutrition #bodybuilding @MadebyTricia #madebytricia

Journal of the Emerald Specter 58: Changing the RPG Mentality

I’m going to angle towards writing another single topic column here, I’ve got my topic and I’d like to see where this thing goes. There is possibly a little more at the end but let’s get to the meat of this thing!

Specifically speaking, this one is about roleplaying and roleplaying games. I touched on this in the Specter Show but this is the place I’m going to flesh things out, thinking about exactly what I need to do in order to accomplish what I’m about to explain.

Kevin Couick and I have discussed running roleplaying games before the Greatest Show every week so that we can actually play the games we’re talking about wanting to play but never actually do play. Basically, we’re trying to figure out how to put up or shut up, and I’d rather do the putting up because I think this thing needs to happen.

In a typical gaming session, there is a ton of cross talk, joking around, odd pacing, sometimes there are props, and always a struggle for the game master (GM) to keep the players rolling towards the ultimate goal. Quite often there are also problems like players missing for a session, forcing side quests or just generally playing a different game. With these as the primary hinderances to the cast of the Greatest Show playing an RPG online, it is hard to think we’d be able to come up with a means of getting some gaming in (rather than just talking about all the games we want to play).

Kevin has been reading up on Star Wars: Force and Destiny, using a timeline to choose the era he’d like to run the game in as well as deciding what canon to use as the background. He’d like to see something around the Old Republic era (Sith War type era) and I’m into that as a player. I want to be a Force user in a war time situation where I can explore the gray area of the Force.

I’m exploring running a couple of different things, one being a return to the system that I know the best, being either a Vampire the Masquerade (5th Edition) or Vampire the Requiem (Blood and Smoke)… or starting out in a new system with an excitement that I’ve not felt about a system in a long time, using the Fantasy AGE system (either specifically TitansGrave: Ashes of Valkana or a setting of my own design). In either case (speaking of the broad systems rather than the specific products), I’m going to run something.

This means we need Metal Jesus to run something to be a three person rotation, allowing us options to play. If I had to guess what he’d run, I’m guessing Burning Wheel, which is something I’d be interested in trying. I’m sure he’d be interested in running something, and the rest of us would love to play in that something.

Here is the issue, though: not all of us are present every week for the Greatest Show.

Kevin and I discussed the solution to this on one of our post-show conversations, that’s running episodic stories that may or may not have a longer term arc involved. This would allow us to explain away why one of us is missing without completely ruining what we play. That would mean that the Green Team story I was running would need to be “rejiggered” a bit in order to fit this new format, and that leads to what I wanted to talk about.

My personal storytelling style (in the RPG sense) is epic in scope. I don’t think I’ve ever had a “one shot” or short term story in mind… ever. Thinking episodic, I’d have to make the story into smaller “missions,” allowing for the absence of one of the players and allowing for a larger arc to be referenced for cohesion. This would allow for “seasons,” too, and we could have guest players pop in to play in “character focus” stories, kind of like a real TV show having a character focused episode now and then.

All this use of “episode” allows for another term to get entered into the record: season.

If I run TitansGrave: Ashes of Valkana with the idea that I’m going to have a 13 episode “season one,” that means I can do that and then take a break to become a player for Kevin’s 13 episode “season one” of Star Wars: Force and Destiny. Both of us could then become players for Metal’s 13 episode “season one” of FATE of Us (a use of the FATE system with a random title, no relation to what he’d run).

When we all complete our “season one,” then what? Well, assuming we are the only ones playing/running seasons, then we return to TitansGrave season two, then Star Wars season two, and FATE season two.

Basically, I’m suggesting we become the HBO of RPGs.

Would Bob fit into this rotation? I’d like to think so. I’d see his games being more “one shot” stuff, maybe being more attuned to “feature length” style games, like a two hour one off… or maybe he’d bring in a system and do the 13 episode season and enter the rotation.

This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try out other systems being thrown into the mix, either. Maybe after Kevin’s season one I run a 13 episode season of Vampire the Requiem before we get to Metal’s FATE of Us. Maybe Metal adds Numenera into the mix after my TitansGrave season. Hell, maybe we even get another new cohost who jumps into the mix with their own game season and we have a bigger option available to play.

The point of this is that we actually get to play the games. But how would the episodes differ and be as streamlined sounding as I make them?

For the explanation, I’ll be the GM of TitansGrave and I’ll have Kevin, Metal, Tricia, and Bob all as players. Each “episode” would have to be far more focused, as GM I would have to design things to not spend 20 minutes hoping the characters uncover that clue that will lead them to the next stage of the story. The clue would just have to be there, obvious, and lead the characters to the end of the episode so that everything is wrapped up at the end of our session. Cross talk and joking around would have to be minimal, as well as everyone being dedicated to being involved in moving the story forward and utilizing randomization minimally. This might all mean we roll dice less, or that we forego the investigation rolls to get the plot moving forward. We would all have to be very focused on moving forward and telling a story, collaboratively, and getting to the point of each episode… because our time is limited.

This type of gaming lends itself to being recorded, minimally edited, and released as either an “actual play” or the events in story format that are based on the “actual play” (that means I’m eliminating the mechanics and only including the actual story elements for the presentation).

Could we all be that focused? Sure. Would it happen right out of the gate? I wouldn’t expect that to be the case but with each of us being supportive, I think we could definitely get really good at playing episodic adventures.

As the GM, how to I cut up my “formerly epic saga” thinking into smaller chunks? For me, personally, that means taking my “designed as an RPG adventure” story and turning it into a TV drama-like format. Kevin is the mage, Metal is the barbarian, Tricia is the cyborg, and Bob is the half breed tank and each of them has a backstory that I can use to jump to when one of them is missing. Maybe Bob’s erratic appearances mean his tank only shows up in these flashback sessions or maybe he just plays the part of the antagonist in these sessions. If Metal is out at a concert or wedding and can’t make the session, maybe that is the session we see his character’s inability to score a ride to the castle comes out and the others complete the quest without him… or maybe we delve into Kevin’s backstory and tell that one instance where he didn’t save his buddy during a battle.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I can think sage length adventure but I need to have consumable chunks that can be wrapped up relatively quickly while still tying into the overall epic in the background. I’ll have to be more prepared for whatever gets thrown my way as well as being able to improvise the story I’m telling based on who shows up for the session.

That is something I’ve never done before.

Another single topic column in the books. I’m hoping this is a possibility for the future and I’d like to think we could include the full Greatest Show roster to be a part of the adventures… and if we trim down our show time for the Greatest Show to an hour rather than two, we have more time to actually plays these games…

Can I entice Bob to show up for regular gaming sessions? That is the question that plagues me at the moment. We shall see.

The Specter Show 036: A Warm Place

Who’s life got all out of whack in the last six weeks? The Emerald Specter returns to the basics, discussing how bullet journaling without the BuJoRPG system is going to get him rolling back in the right direction. There is chess, conversation about getting healthy again, focusing on what matters, moving towards self improvement again, being a better person, getting out in the world more, some Greatest Show talk, an introduction to the introduction of the new PRO Chess League Podcast, and there are a couple of tangents that actually relate to the main topic!

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: Theo Rossi

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign #selfimprovement #PROChessLeague #PROChessLeaguePodcast #SpecteroftheGalaxy

Journal of the Emerald Specter 57: What Does That Look Like?

I have talked many times about how a chess club that I played in around the fifth grade was the greatest chess memory I had. I have also talked many times about how I would love to recreate that in a more adult manner (by which I mean toned down and changed to actually work for adults). I have also talked many times about how I have tried to start up “online clubs” to get this ball rolling, but now is the time to look at what I’m saying and evaluate.

This column will be mostly, if not entirely, about this recreated chess club.

Part of the reason I’m going to write this is to actually write down what I’m talking about and part of the reason is to show me whether or not this idea will actually work as I envision it. Expect a definitive result when this column is over, because the second part of this is to see if talking the hell out of it will actually show me that I’m completely out in left field with this idea.

Instead of rehashing the story as a whole and then talking about how to adapt that, I’m going to include the snippets of the story in and amongst the rest of the talk. Enough talking about talking about it, let’s just start this shindig.

Chess is a game that is accessible to anyone. As long as you have the basic pieces and a board, you can play the game. Hell, there is even a way to play the game by just using pencils and paper to move your pieces… I’ve even done this myself when a board wasn’t available! What I’m saying is that anyone can learn the basics and play the game.

Those who study the game in detail are the ones who rise above the others.

You can look at me and claim that American football is accessible to everyone. You can say that hockey is available to anyone. Basketball, tennis, and even baseball are all accessible by everyone… supposedly.

Unlike all those sports, chess is available for anyone who puts forward an effort. Those sports? They all require some athletic gifts to rise to any “decent” level. Sports have barriers that genetics can actually block.

Chess does not. If you really apply yourself to the game, you can go from a beginner to a “club strength player,” which has different meanings as far as a rating goes… but the point is, chess is open to anyone who puts forth the effort, regardless of genetics.

When I was taught the game, I fell for every single trick that my teacher wanted to use on those who didn’t know any better. The Scholar’s Mate? Yes. Losing both rooks because I tried to bring them out early? Yes. The queen trap where the opponent gets the queen out early, takes out a ton of important pieces, and really decimates me in the process? Yes, I’ve fallen for it all. I would say we all do, in the beginning.

I would go so far as saying that my rating in the early stages was an average of 600-700, which for anyone who knows would realize that is low. I was ten, so it was acceptable. I kept pushing to figure out how to get better, and that meant playing more games.

What I’m hoping for in this “new age chess club,” which I’l hereafter refer to as the Internet Chess Experience (or ICE for short), is that we bring in people who are interested in learning the game and helping them to build up their playing strength. ICE should be a gateway for anyone wanting to get into chess with a presentation that is more “excitement” than “professional chess.”

Some of the games that were played early on were just between about four or five of us, with two of the players being heads above the others. As someone who was a big fan of the WWE back then, I saw the opportunity to try to convince everyone else that we could structure this like professional wrestling and work some fun into this new game that I learned.

To my surprise, when I brought up the idea of championships, everyone went all in. I wasn’t the only wrestling fan and they all saw that they could have fun doing this, too… so we created a “World Championship” that was won by one of the two strongest players in their initial playoff. I’m going to call this the Gold Championship, because there would be more championships to come.

At the age of ten, as most of us were, we didn’t know about the world of professional chess. We weren’t aware that Garry Kasparov was trouncing the competition in the “real world” as the World Champion, competing in (and dominating) tournaments all over the world. We weren’t even having tournaments, we were just having “single games” against one another.

Our enthusiasm, to read “smack talk matched with a fast paced chess game,” emboldened a few others to join our little group to bring us up to a much deeper level of competition. That influx of new players allowed me to teach someone, take advantage of them in the same ways I was initially prey to, and then help them become a better player in the process.

We had enough new players come in that we created a “secondary championship,” which I’ll call the Silver Championship. The best players would compete for the Gold Championship and the rest of us played for the Silver Championship. Joining the top two players were only a couple more, and even those new “strong players” were a far cry from the playing strength of the two top guys.

Back when this was going on, someone in the WWE who was vying for the World Championship wouldn’t bother with the Intercontinental Championship because they were “above that level.” Those guys who were too strong to play in the “pool” for the Silver Championship didn’t necessarily get much better.

This is where I need to take a sidebar to explain that we didn’t play in tournaments. Yes, I said that already, but that meant we weren’t having multiples of games against the exact same people over and over again. Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Chess Champion, plays his top rated opponents (the ones who would be top contenders for his championship) more than ten times a year. Every year.

Without us in the fifth grade chess club doing tournaments over and over again, we didn’t have that issue. If the top guy, our Gold Champion, wanted to defend his championship, he made a deal with the competitor that would be a challenge and a good match via handshake to compete for a “title defense.”

(Another sidebar, somewhat related to the topic. I’ve avoided using the word “titles” to describe championships because titles in chess refer to something different. Titles are Grandmaster, International Master, FIDE Master, etc. Championships are different. Knowing this, if I slip into using the word “title,” I’m referring to the championship. Americans use the word to describe championships, despite that not being correct. Carry on.)

What I’ve described so far is a two tier system, where the top tier “headline” our little events and the second tier filled out the rest of the event. Our events, by the way, were named in epic fashion and would be promoted by all involved to those who didn’t have a match to be a part of them. Chessmania, Battle on the Board, and Knightmare were just a few of the events that pitted several of us against several of the rest of us.

ICE would have to remove the constant, annual tournaments that pit the same players against each other over and over again. So now, I’ve discussed having single matchups that focus on two players rather than larger tournaments that happen often. I’ve even suggested that ICE use the “two tier” system. Let me elaborate on these points, starting with the tiers.

This ICE idea would need tiers of competition. Because I understand that there is a vast difference between a 1000 rated player and a 1600 rated player, I’m suggesting we have at least four tiers, if not five. The top tier would be the “best of ICE” level, where you’re noticeably stronger than the other tiers and shouldn’t be competing “down to the tiers below.” ICE is about improving as much as spreading the game to others. Using chess terminology (i.e. pieces), the tiers could be King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, and Knight. I only suggest using five tiers because the Pawn level would be the “developmental pool” that doesn’t get to be appearing on events.

Ratings are another thing that would have to disappear. If players see John Doe is 1623 and Joe Smith is 1419, then the expectation is that John Doe will win (definitively). That vast gap means less when players are rated 2400-2700, but one still looks at the ratings expecting the higher rating to win. Spectators who aren’t deeply involved in chess analysis aren’t going to watch a 1600 face off against a 1400 because the 1600 is going to win. The tier system groups up people of a similar strength without broadcasting that their playing strength is “1600.”

Players who “sign on” for an event as competitors are also expected to build the hype for that event. If John Doe and Joe Smith sign up to play each other at Chess Fest ’17, then they should be doing what combat sports do to build that excitement: promotion.

Were you interested in watching Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor box? How about after they started “jawing” at each other in public, boasting, making great claims of superiority, and trying to make their fight the event to end all events in 2017? They promoted the crap out of that thing and as a result got a lot of people to put down $100 to watch the fight.

Back when the fifth grade club was running, and trying to explain the hype machine part of that in the more modern day, I would say it was a combination of professional wrestling and chess. What people read, or heard, was that the games weren’t real and therefore not worth playing. What I actually have as an example now, that works hundreds of times better, is UFC and chess… or poker broadcasting and chess.

Before I get into the angle I’m working here, let me say that taking a current event (like the FIDE World Cup) and presenting it like ESPN or the Travel Channel presents poker events would be a great way to start showing chess off. I’m going to stick with the combat sports analogy, though, as I think that the poker angle relies a lot on the network and commentators to do the hyping where the players, in my ICE example, are the ones responsible.

When the UFC signs two fighters onto one of their events, those fighters do a promotional tour and hype their fight. The UFC puts effort into the hyping as well, but the fighters are really the ones doing the heavy lifting. Each fighter claims superiority, explains how they’ll conquer their opponent, and they do this right up until the fight is over, where the actual winner stands in the Octagon and explains their opponent was a great fighter and they were happy to have fought them.

Why can’t this be a thing in chess?

In ICE, we would hold events like the UFC or professional wrestling. These wouldn’t be tournaments, or at least not all of them would be tournaments. With each tier having a championship, each tier could headline an event in a one versus one style matchup. The rest of the event would be filled with competitors battling other competitors in their tier to try to work their way into a championship match in the future. Everyone on that event card would then do as much hyping as they could to build up the event and bring in potential spectators.

I can already hear the groaning that chess isn’t a spectator sport. I even pointed out how the “poker on TV” system would work great for professional chess currently but isn’t ideal for ICE. This is the part where I tell you that professional, or traditional, chess time controls aren’t a thing in ICE. In ICE, we don’t go any slower than Rapid Chess.

Rapid chess time controls are 15 minutes for the first 40 moves, with 10 seconds per move increments added for each move. This makes a chess game far quicker than a traditional time control and far more interesting to watch. Rapid isn’t even the fastest mode of play I’m suggesting ICE concentrate on, either. I think that Blitz should be the “normal” time control, being a fixed 10 minutes per player (meaning a total of 20 minutes per game). Games would end quicker, require more action in a shorter time, and this is where the spectator part of the sport comes into play.

Draws also happen a lot less often at this level.

So now we have the ICE Chess Fest ’17 event headlined by a “two game match” King Championship by John Doe vs Joe Smith, with several others on the card in various tiers to give as much exposure up and down the ICE organization as possible. Doe and Smith haven’t met yet in ICE, have almost no history against each other, and their ratings aren’t a thing in ICE so we aren’t distracted by a number… the event happens, knowing that the next event is three weeks away and is filled with a whole card of other players in a similar situation.

Having gone this far in the column, does this sound like something that isn’t at least a little appealing?

The last thing I want to address in this column, relating to this ICE idea, is the types of players (both level and personality) that would benefit from this format.

I do not believe that a 2000 rated player or higher would benefit from ICE, as they actually have potentially lucrative careers in the rest of the chess world. That being said, there would be a personality that would also need to be present for this to work, and that would be the extroverted personality. I’m talking about someone, not unlike myself, willing to promote themselves and their playing strength against all comers in an interesting way.

Everyone is a potential member of ICE. If there is a 2000 or above rated player that is interested in joining, I wouldn’t turn them away, but they would have to get used to the style of play ICE would promote. If Doe vs Smith is scheduled in two weeks, those two shouldn’t be playing each other in any public forum before hand (as that would diminish their great collision at the event). Scarcity needs to be manufactured, a little, in order to help build the vision of what I’ve been talking about for more than 2,500 words now.

The idea is to build a place for the rest of us to play, in a larger forum, with our own setting, hyping our own games, and competing with people of a similar strength encouraging us to get better in the process.

If I’m the Bishop Champion, but I’m dominating the division to the point where all of the “best contenders” have already been beaten, then moving into the Rook Championship contention is where my goal should be and would allow those who haven’t had a chance to shine to do so in my absence.

Maybe, just maybe, if you give this proposal a consideration, the idea is worth building upon. Ideally, an event formatted in just this manner would be a good example of what I’m trying to explain and I’m hoping that this lengthy explanation lets you ponder the idea further.

I would love to hear some feedback on this issue, too.

Since I’ve spoken my peace, I’ll leave you with this as the first single topic column since I went to the Journal of the Emerald Specter format… hopefully you enjoyed reading it.

PRO Chess League Podcast 001: Introductions

Welcome to the PRO Chess League Podcast!

The introduction for the podcast, reasons why the podcast exists, what to expect from the podcast, and a little bit of information about what the PRO Chess League is are all contained within! Join the audience and help boost the PRO Chess League so we get more great chess.

Host: DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Hashtags: #chess #PROChessLeague

The Specter Show 035: Big Man With A Gun

A little bit of a lot of things as the Emerald Specter talks about chess, the PRO Chess League Podcast, comics, and a little bit about the Greatest Show. What about the “getting back to basics” with bullet journaling? Yeah, that too.

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: Theo Rossi

Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign

The Greatest Show 138: You Look Tired, Thank You

With Metal Jesus’s new girlfriend joining us, DJ leads the team (including Kevin Couick, Metal Jesus, Melanie, and the lovely Tricia) in a discussion about Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) topics, the “Big 2” in comics (Marvel and DC Comics), the World of Darkness documentary, Storyteller’s Vault, Star Wars (RPG, the Last Jedi) and more!

Hosts: DJ “Emerald Specter” Allen, Tricia Allen, “Metal Jesus” Kevin Lama, Melanie the “Metal Magdalen,” and Kevin Couick

Twitter: @LPOKMNJ @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter