Category Archives: Role Playing

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Journal of the Emerald Specter 74: BuJoRPG and 2018

Wait, wait, wait… hold on! Whoa! What is this?

An entire column dedicated to the BuJoRPG? Well, yes and no. It’ll be bullet journal related, heavily centered on the goings on for the BuJoRPG, and I’ll keep on track.

When I started bullet journaling, I was all over the place and having a hard time coming back over and over again to the journal. It’s what led me to come up with the idea of making journaling into an RPG. That led to the BuJoRPG, highlighted on bulletjournal.com… but you aren’t here for a history lesson, you’re here to hear about the system, the future, and what the hell is actually going on at this very moment.

The last column talked a bit about the possibility of a BuJoRPG3 replacing my BuJoRPG2 efforts… wait, what? I didn’t talk about BuJoRPG3? Funny… I guess I’ll let that idea out of the bag.

But before I do that, let’s talk about the first two iterations and how they fit into the future of the system as a whole.

As much as I may have alluded to such a thing, BuJoRPG ver 1 is not actually dead in the water. I created this to center around a martial arts theme (with plans to release other skins) and concentrate 100% on self improvement. I dropped Rise of the Iron Garden as if I mic dropped and walked away from the version in favor of the “new shiny.” Keep in mind the concentration on the “self improvement” aspect of Version 1 while I move to briefly discuss a little more.

BuJoRPG 2 broke out with an open beta, which absolutely no one jumped on board for, and stopped being worked on because I dropped the thing right before the postal “peak season,” which is Christmas, and I’m just now starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel. The actual idea behind this was to make the original version a little more structured and actually create a world/lore for the user to explore in the “down time” between actual self improvement bits. So, if Version 1 was the “self improvement” version, BuJoRPG2 was the story heavy self improvement version with a more “game like exploration” feel.

Now we enter the phase where I talk about what the future is for what is already here and what lies in store for the only teased BuJoRPG3.

I am going to be creating several new skins/templates for BuJoRPG1. Very little is going to be done with the structure of the set up or running of the game. There may be a little refinement, so the version numbers might change with each new template, but I’m going to actually do what I promised to do in the first place… and I’m going to come up with some sort of better explanation for quests, goals, and all kinds of things that have been asked of me through PMs and email while people use the original BuJoRPG.

The complete and entire focus of the BuJoRPG1 will remain solely focused on self improvement. Sure, all of BuJoRPG is really focused on that, but the heart of what BuJoRPG1 is actually revolves around the small steps to improve oneself, learn a language, get organized, or whatever. There won’t be a “story” component in BuJoRPG1… and that’s because you’re more likely interested in BuJoRPG2 for that.

Since the open beta hasn’t really gone anywhere, and I actually haven’t even gotten a chance to finish the rewrite of the tutorial… and I haven’t completed the teased “map” I made for the tutorial, I’m going to fix that by completing both of those components… BuJoRPG2 will have the first step of the tutorial completed and the map, the only one I’ve made, released in conjunction with that (as it will be included in the tutorial PDF). There are also bits that need to be added to what I have to release to get this version to be something more than a hollow shell of a version.

One of the features in the “story” version of BuJoRPG are the Skill Tree, Attributes explained and  advanced, as well as the prospect of future map bits for the world to explore. Yeah, I’m going to work on the mechanical aspect first and then start poking out the story bits… because the mechanics will actually need to dictate what the story will actually reveal. Will there be more maps released? That’s a possibility, but if I’m spending hours and weeks making a map instead of working on the mechanics of the system, the maps are going into the trash and I’ll make my efforts in the form of actual content instead of visuals.

I’m also going to write up some things that make this the version of the BuJoRPG for the creative personalities. Writers, artists, and the like will want this one… rather than just play a game, as a passive third person participant, the user will be able to create their own world along with the game so that they are creating their own content. I’ll briefly discuss something similar to this in my own bullet journaling for 2018.

That leads me to the enigmatically alluded to BuJoRPG3…

When I knew that the peak season was ending, I started coming up with the concept for version 3 of the BuJoRPG and what I actually wanted to make the BuJoRPG into in the first place: a collection tool.

I’m not deep into any sort of planning, mapping out of mechanics, or anything like that… I have broad, and I mean BROAD concepts jotted down, where I wanted to change the self improvement from statistical based rewards to a collection system (much like the Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes game has you collecting heroes and ships). This one will set up a framework to work towards very specific improvements with an aim away from experience points, leveling just yourself, and work more towards the collecting aspect of what I wanted in the first place.

This one will be worked on here and there but not until I get some of the other stuff listed above done. I want to hook BuJoRPG up to jumper cables and get this thing back on the road.

Which leads me into a little bit of other site related news…

I had mentioned on an episode last year that I would be alternating the Specter Show with a new show based on only BuJoRPG updates… I’m just going to keep the Specter Show periodically updating you on BuJoRPG instead of starting a new podcast… because I really don’t need another project to keep up on, even if I won’t be overlapping at all.

The show is going to have the familiar “updates here and there” stuff that I’ve done in the past, but now I’m going to be tossing in some experimental material from time to time. There are things I’ve wanted to turn into podcast but didn’t have enough material, or the belief in that spinoff, to actually move forward with a separate podcast.

What this means is you may download an episode and it’s a dramatic reading of a story, or a “what if” line of thinking on a series (movie, TV, book, etc), or something I haven’t even conceived of yet to explain here… I want the Specter Show to be interesting and a bit more random.

Back to BuJoRPG now… or rather, my own bullet journaling.

This 2018 bullet journaling for me is the year of Doctor Who. I have themed my own bullet journal with Doctor Who elements (a TARDIS decal on the cover, my monthly spreads contain TARDIS console elements, etc), and this year I’m going to create some story synopses for my own version of a Time Lord, the Specter. I’m the Emerald Specter (that’s the site you’re on) and therefore I’m running Specter Who.

I’m going to be releasing cover images (I’m toying with mocking up Big Finish versions of the covers or altering them to be something a little more original)… and will feature the actor (or actress) I’ve chosen to represent “me” as the Specter in the story being told. I haven’t decided to acknowledge the existence of the Doctor or to pretend the character doesn’t exist… and yes, I started one version of my plan only to have a change of focus for February to make something better than what I was doing.

I don’t know how many stories I’m going to come up with or whether I’ll keep this going in my bullet journal after 2018. Time will tell, but I think it’ll be an interesting thought experiment, and is the source of the concept of creating the BuJoRPG2 for creative types.

Lastly, on the BuJoRPG subject, I’m interested in knowing who is interested in what I’m calling a “BuJoBox”? This would be a package put together by myself that would contain some page templates (a series of stencils I’m currently working out), a couple of bullet journal friendly pens, a set of dice, a rulebook for whatever version of the BuJoRPG your box would be for, a journal, and perhaps some stickers for the theme of the box selected… would that be something you’d be interested in? Yes, there would be a fee for such a thing, but you’re basically paying for the price of everything on top of shipping, but you’ll get everything you need for the theme you’re looking into as well as a hard copy of the “rulebook” of BuJoRPG. Email if you’re interested.

So, I’ve got a really long column almost exclusively about the BuJoRPG. I hope you enjoyed it, I hope you’re rejuvenated by my desire to return to every version of BuJoRPG, and I hope you’re ready for 2018 like I am!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 71: Bring on the New Year

Shut your mouth, it’s 2018!

Yeah, yeah… I know, “hey DJ, you probably wrote this last year and we are only just seeing it now.” Well, that is true… but I’m a lot closer to the actual release date than previous articles have been over the course of December, so I’m nearly real time.

But enough talking to myself, it’s time to look at a “New Year’s roundup” of sorts.

So, it’s time to start thinking about the BuJoRPG again. I’ve been overwhelmed over the course of the last two months and haven’t had a chance to put any effort into the bullet journal at all… like, I mean if I was bullet journaling steadily all year I wouldn’t have a single entry for November or December.

Work hurts.

When I last left off from working on the system, I was deep into creating a map for one to explore a “storyline,” more information on the “Jade Realm” that I’d pseudo-created for the BuJoRPG. Well, having had a chance to really give that a thought over the last couple of months, maybe I want to step back from world building to actually just build the basics. I’m reevaluating the approach, and I’m not starting over, I’m just going to hold off on the world building part. BuJoRPG2 may see some upgrades, slight rewrites, or things of that nature… but I’m going to be working on it again.

Speaking of bullet journaling, I wanted to start a new journal for 2018 and I had previously wanted to power through my original journal before I did that, but I’ve decided to use that journal as a testing ground for the BuJoRPG stuff and just start a new journal entirely. On January 1, 2018, I will have started the new year with an attempt to get re-organized and hopefully that leads me to a better chance at 365 days of journaling.

This month, the inaugural “basho” begins for the year as the Emerald Specter 2018 Winter Basho kicks off as previously announced. As I write this, there are four competitors out of 12 that will be participating in the event and I’m hoping that the rest of them jump on board before the actual kick off day.

The time controls are one move per day, which is as fast as I can guarantee I’ll personally be able to play. With my working schedule, several life unknowns, and just not really wanting to tie the event down to a single day or something like that, I’m hoping that the play is fast enough to ramp up the basho schedule from four to six for 2019, though we’ll see how this all actually plays out.

Realistically, I’m anticipating half of the players in the 2018 Winter Basho to not participate in future bashos. While I’d love to believe that the gimmick of chess crossed with sumo is enough to bring back people to compete for the “titles” that are involved, I’m enough of a realist to understand that to build a steady “roster” of players, this is probably going to be a two year plan. Some people will get it right away, some will pop in and check it out before deciding it isn’t for them.

This is one of those years where I haven’t payed as much attention to the NFL as I have previously. There have been years where I’d watch all three games on TV on Sunday, then watch the Monday game and when it was available, the Thursday and Saturday games.

This year? Pfff… I can’t tell you how many Sunday mornings I’ve woken up and just didn’t realize football was on TV. Hell, there have been days where my wife and I went out to eat and the only reason I knew I’d missed football is because it was on in the restaurant.

I’m mentioning this specifically as an NFL subject, but I’ve also slacked on watching the Premier League and the MLS, too, as 2017 hasn’t been a good “sports year” for me.

In 2001, I made a spreadsheet that was able to track the “picks league” I’d run for the people I worked with. The NFL schedule came out and I went to work ensuring that you could just input the scores of the games on the appropriate sheet and everything would update automatically. You could track up to 20 people in this league making the selections and while the coding of the spreadsheet was a little time consuming, I really enjoyed making it.

I’ve only made one similar since that year. When the 2018-2019 NFL schedule comes out, I plan on doing that again. I’m not sure I’m going to include places for people to keep track of their picks but if I build the basic sheet, I’ll be happy enough with myself.

Sticking with sports, the UFC has had a damn good year in 2017. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for 2018, too, as I’m going to start watching more of the events that I’m interested in seeing. I’m a big fan of the women and would guarantee to see the “lady fights” that were on whenever they were on but 2017 didn’t really let me get into UFC as much as I’d wanted.

Going out to watch UFC is something of a problem, as nearly all the bars and restaurants in the area that show the fights are packed to the hilt and have waiting lines out the door. Watching the fights at home is a costly endeavor, too, but if I can find out who at work likes to watch the UFC and is willing to split the cost, I’ll order the fights and none of us will take a giant hit on the price.

Yeah, I know that isn’t how the UFC intends these things to be watched, but we’re still paying to watch the fight and the groups aren’t going to be bigger than five or six people, so it isn’t like I’m hosting a public showing.

The last month or so, you’ve been treated to the “resurrecting old IPs” columns for possible future solo RPG adventuring. I’d even gone so far as to say I was going with my “Tron” idea and started figuring out what system I was going to use…

Then the holiday rush started and everything went to the back burner. EVERYTHING.

Well, if I’d have started RPing that scenario back in November or December, I might be supercharged to keep on with that storyline until some sort of “break” or “conclusion” came along… but since I haven’t even gotten to start the thing, I’m deciding whether I want to use another scenario or just move forward with the Tron one. Finding others to play with has forced me into using solo RPG as the only option I have.

Hey, DJ, what about the last column? You mentioned building some sort of fleet?

Yes, I did, and I’m glad you mentioned that.

Right along side working on the BuJoRPG2, I’m also going to be writing articles for the new fleet. The world that I’m creating does need some explanation and these articles can basically be used as the “training” for anyone wanting to play in the fleet.

Things I need to write up (generally speaking): biological information on the available and known species, a brief history of the planet from which the protagonists hail, how space travel works in this fleet, cultural backgrounds of the different nations on the planet, military structure, and basic things like how to run a SIM.

There is a lot to write and I’m really the only one that can write them up. I’ve got someone lined up to help design starships for the graphics side of things and with any luck, they won’t all look like a single person designed them (similar to what Star Trek ships look like).

I’ve attempted to write prose for a long time. There have been many, many false starts, and even fewer endings. The sad thing is that the “space series” short stories that I used to write are all in the past and I’ve seemed to have lost the ability to keep doing that sort of thing. So, I’m going to give myself a year to accomplish a goal that, if I don’t actually start doing it, I’ll never do.

I’m going to write a single issue, 22 page story, comic book script.

Not only am I going to write 22 pages of comic script, I’m going to then draw the damn thing, ink it, color it, and see how long the whole process takes me. There is no illusion that I can get this task done to completion in a single month, but if I’m going to write the script I want to see the end result.

I’ve talked about, pined over, and romanticized creating comic books since I started collecting them way back in 1987. There were six issues of a homemade comic that I made that have long since been lost that I even made, though I would tell you right now that they are horrible and the stories wouldn’t hold up at all under any scrutiny.

If I don’t do this in 2018, then I cam put that dream away and forget about ever doing it because talk is cheap and I’m tired of not doing anything about it.

The whole goal is to finish this project in 365 days, have a finished product by the end of 2018. I think that is a realistic goal and I’m hoping that it will inspire me to make more if I can complete one.

Wouldn’t that be great?

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There has been both super positive and super negative reaction to it, and I’d like to throw my two cents in as well.

“Old school” fans will proclaim from the mountain tops that the Original Trilogy (or OT) is really the only Star Wars there is, claiming it to be untouchable for its greatness. The majority of these fans are over the age of 40.

The younger generation of fans, the ones that grew up during the Prequel Trilogy (or PT) are the ones who understand that the OT is good but really love the PT and hold that as the standard to which Star Wars should strive.

We also have a few fans out there that like all of the saga, none of one of the trilogies aforementioned, and there are even still more with other variations of likes and dislikes.

The OT fans that hold up that trilogy as the best profess to wanting more stories with those characters and we are getting that with this Sequel Trilogy (or ST), but things aren’t working out exactly as they’d hoped. The OT super fans are also the ones primarily upset over the loss of the Expanded Universe (EU) that was turned into “Legends” by Disney after the purchase of Lucasfilm.

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in theaters, OT fans initially went orgasmic because they could now ignore the prequels entirely and just focus on moving “forward.” Well, you either seem to really like TFA or really dislike TFA, I haven’t really seen any “in between.” The movie was basically an entire “fan wank” rehash of the OT condensed into a single movie. Yes, there are redeeming bits and interesting beats in the movie, too, but overall, it’s the OT retold in a single movie.

Now that TLJ (The Last Jedi) has taken us into new territory, officially, the OT fans are crying super hard that this new movie isn’t their Star Wars. I have mentioned in some Facebook posts that I felt the movie didn’t really feel like Star Wars but I accept that things need to change in order to not continuously rehash the same story over and over again.

My question to the PT haters has always been: how can you hate half of something and claim to be a fan of it?

If I rank the Star Wars movies, and I’ve done this before TLJ came out, I’d have a different order if I included the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story into the mix… I don’t normally add that one because it’s not a numbered episode, so after putting thought into what I really think about TLJ, the order I’d rank the films in the saga are as follows:

  1. Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith
  2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  4. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  5. Star Wars: A New Hope
  6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  7. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
  8. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

With a prequel toping the list, I can feel (through the Force) millions of “fans” cry out in agony. RotS is a superior movie, although the film suffers a little from some lumps, it isn’t as “hole filled” or terrible as the OT people want to make it out to be…

I’d probably slot Rogue One right behind The Last Jedi if you made me add it to the list… but since I’m not going to rank the Solo film (as I have zero interest in it) or a Boba Fett film (as I also have zero interest… and as an aside, the character did literally jack shit on screen and he’s super popular? Why? He has literally done nothing to warrant the popularity), I leave Rogue One off that list as well.

When George Lucas made the prequels, the OT fans cried that he ruined their childhood. Those same fans rejoiced at the purchase by Disney, leaving GL out of the mix entirely… and now they’re crying about the fact that Disney is actually doing something interesting, albeit not what they wanted, with the franchise.

You can’t hate and love the creator simultaneously. Pick one.

Star Wars has a bright future. Rian Johnson was given the green light to have his own trilogy, divorced from the Skywalker saga entirely. What have I heard fans think the new trilogy will be about?

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Mandalorians
  • Knights of the Old Republic

Really? These are completely divorced from the Saga? I don’t think so, McFly.

The key words are “divorced from” and people are having a hard time grasping that concept.

I want to end this segment by boiling down a little 411 for the kids reading this: Luke Skywalker, son of Anakin Skywalker, with R2D2 and C3PO, are what the Saga is about. This links them to Rey, Kylo Ren, Snoke, Darth Vader, Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine), Padme Amidala, Chewbacca, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, Admiral Ackbar, Mon Mothma, Jabba the Hutt, Biggs, Wedge, Mace Windu, BB8, and more characters than I can continue to name before I have to start looking them up… If Rian Johnson is going to tell a trilogy that is original and new, then there can be no connection to these characters aside from a passing mention.

Speculation ran rampant about Rey’s parentage and it comes down to the fact she’s a nobody. Why does everyone in the galaxy, read GALAXY, have to be related? Let’s do something new, something different, and let’s stop living in the past.

Nostalgia is for people who don’t know how to move forward.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 70: Building Something Wonderful

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

There is a little bit different look to things, if you haven’t noticed, as I’m launching the new look by replacing graphics over the course of the next few days (or weeks)… I’m not going to wholesale switch everything immediately, as that tends to stress me out and I don’t need that right now.

BUT… the time has come, and with this, the time has come to discuss an upcoming project in the detailed manner to which you’ve come to expect from the Journal entries as of late… 

I’m heading this one with the Storytelling banner because it really doesn’t fit much of anywhere else. Basically, this IS a story about storytelling.

Let me start at the beginning.

I’ve mentioned this on the Specter Show many times, but I’ve got the entire history of an entire planet that I want to tell the story of in pieces, thus I break down the story into “eras” and I would like to tell that story to the world at large. The part of that history I’d like to go over at this particular moment is the “future” part.

The basics you need to know, though: there are eight sapient (meaning sentient, intelligent, and peacefully existing) species on this world, there is almost no religion to speak of (due to the atrocities in the “past” that led to some pretty terrible results), the technological advancements of the combined species led to quick development into space flight (despite there being multiple factions on the surface of the world itself, they largely work together towards advancement… the species intermingle, the governments don’t necessarily do the same), and it is this “future in space” era that I’ll be discussing.

I know you’re probably wondering what the eight species are, I’ll not be divulging them all, but some will be discussed in this article.

With this future era of this planet, that I’m calling Dhumin (yes, that is a reference to the Cthulhu Mythos deity), there will be a space fleet that will be doing space fleet things… and I’d like to turn this into an opportunity to include others in this fleet.

How does one participate, you might ask? Look at Obsidian Fleet for an example.

What I’m proposing is beginning a fleet, in this universe that I’ve created, with a single SIM. One single SIM (or in this case, a “ship”). If you weren’t sure, that is basically what makes up the Obsidian Fleet: ships.

In Dhumin’s future, which I guess I’ll stop referring to as the future and start referring to as the Space Age, there are fleets of ships doing things in space that are interesting. There are three branches of the military, of the “primary” government that will be the focus of the fleet. Those branches are Fleet (the Navy, space Navy, etc), Flight (the Air Force, or space Air Force), and Force (the Army, Marines, and basic security/ground troops).

While I intend to write fiction about the “main plot” of this world, I’m realistic enough to understand that the SIM fleet will probably be far more productive in collaborative writing than I ever could.

So, what exactly is the plan?

A SIM is run by a game master, or Captain if you’re on board a ship, and that Captain runs a story for everyone to essentially collaboratively write within the bounds of, for all intents and purposes. Unlike a traditional RPG, a SIM is more about telling a story than rolling dice.

As the first Captain, I’d run the crew of whatever initial ship I would choose (“space” aircraft carrier, destroyer, stealth ship, transport, freighter, etc) and hopefully get a couple of the crew interested in captaining their own ships… thus the single SIM would expand to two or three (someone would take over the initial ship, too). I would move up in rank (mayhaps Admiral?) to keep the stories consistent with the world I’ve created, since I’m really the only one that knows what the hell is supposed to be going on at the present.

Overseeing a larger fleet (as Admiral), I’d be answering questions from the Captains about what they can and cannot do (story wise). I’m interested in heading off things that would “break immersion” in the universe, not stifling storytelling. If a Captain wants to invent a new form of FTL, that may come with some heavy restrictions, since there is an FTL present already and further development could grab the attentions of unwanted universal entities. There ARE future stories that will be told that will “break open the bonds” of the restrictions.

All of this comes from a single ship, though.

Maybe I start with an aircraft carrier, that spawns a special forces Force unit AND a squadron of Flight detached from the original aircraft carrier… that involves all three branches of the military right away.

Will there be bits and bobs we come across as we get through to the point where the doors get blown off? Yep. There isn’t a big “surprise” moment, there are clues leading to the big reveal… and there is a larger story being told, I just want to include the vision of others in along the way.

Do I have anyone interested?

I’m a big fan of SIMming. I’m a big fan of Star Trek, but the two have run into an issue that I am hoping I can provide some resolution. Most of the fleets online today rely on the “advancement into the future” from the end of Star Trek Nemesis, which by my count has made the SIM community stagnant because Nemesis came out in 2002. That is 15 years of running in a world that is never going to see another update.

If you pay attention to these sorts of things, new ship classes were developed all the time in the franchise. Uniforms were updated periodically, certainly more often than not at all in 15 years. The connective tissue to role-playing in such a distant time makes things less solid, in my opinion.

The world I’m offering is wholly original and ripe with opportunity. There is a roadmap and a man steering to get us there… me, by the way… and I’m interested in including others vision in this, too, as long as we don’t break the world I’ve created.

Join me?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 68: Resurrecting Awesome IPs (Part 3)!

Well, in this column I’m going to talk a lot about the history of dirt and really dig deep in on the subject…

Naw, just kidding. It’s part three of the “IPs as solo RPG settings” series… and I will do my best in order to get into the setting descriptions a bit more, like fleshing them out.

I have some good ones!

I’m going to kick you right in the face with this first one… playing in a setting like Mortal Kombat! Yep, the ultra-gory fighting game that revolutionized the genre!

You can certainly look at Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, and Killer Instinct as examples, but the grandest of stages I want to examine are those in Mortal Kombat’s storyline.

A series of warring “realms” that were created by some Elder Gods formed a tournament, known as Mortal Kombat, for control of said realms. On these many different realms came a variety of combatants, some having different appendages while others having fantastical powers, each with their own stories coming into the tournament… and that’s only the surface!

I’d be interested in this type of setting, as it fulfills the “what the hell is going on” factor, has built in combat, and the story is literally as deep as I would want to take it. In evaluating the original revelations about the MK storyline, Shang Tsung was on the cusp of winning the tenth (and final) required Mortal Kombat tournament to take over Earthrealm, Liu Kang won in favor of Earthrealm… Shao Kahn was then revealed as pulling Shang Tsung’s strings and was really wanting to be the one to rule Earthrealm, and failing a second time Shao Kahn lures Earth to Outworld for another one (failing again). Shinnok then tries his hand at it, resurrecting the Dragon God Onaga for another installment, and things spiral out of control from there… basically, the stakes were raised with each installment but without doing what movies fail at doing (by going so large in the first installment that there was nowhere else to go).

They are in the process of a “soft reboot” of the franchise, but the idea is that I (the warrior of whatever origin I decide) would have my own interest in completing when I’m dragged into some sort of weird tournament that draws me into something much larger (like a tournament for the fate of the realms), but still needing to resolve my own issues in the process… perfect!

Moving right along, I’m going to dive head first into Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra as the next stage!

A long time ago, I was privy to a conversation between a dude who was going to formulate a way to create a “Last Airbender” RPG set about 10-25 years before Aang was found… and that was something I was very much interested in participating in! Unfortunately, said dude turned out to be a vindictive, unreasonable asshole who decided to steal from the very business he was so proud to have “helped run” in which he suggested this game…

But now I am taking that idea, and digging into it!

While the impulse is to play as the “Avatar,” or the world’s grand superpower individual, I wouldn’t necessarily like to be the center of all the attention. There are other things that could be interesting to develop and this is probably the first of the ideas that I’d actually run IN the actual setting… I’d also probably go closer to the Korra era (or after), which means I’d be simply wandering around the world that was already established…

During this whole journey, I’ve been talking about remaking the IPs in order to produce a setting that would be original (or very closely modeled after) so that there wouldn’t be any sort of worry about the owners of the IPs getting in the way of producing results… basically, I have been proceeding with the intent of “owning” the property I’m creating. The “Avatar” setting is the only setting I’d be willing to go into without worrying about that. Then again, I could make my own and discover it from scratch like the audience did way back when…

Enough of that dwelling! Let’s talk about the next “big idea” to expand on: Assassin’s Creed!

If you’re new to the Creed saga, then the idea is basically that a progenitor alien species have all kinds of highly advanced technology that two secret societies formed to find and control: the Templars and the Assassins. Basically, the Templars want to remove free will from humanity to create peace… and the Assassins fight for free will to allow humanity to make their own choice.

My broad stroke concept I’m looking at here isn’t being an assassin, far from it… though murder may be involved, I’m actually concentrating on the opposing secret societies idea. Both groups basically move around in the shadows, manipulating world events or searching for some mystical super thingy that grants them whatever they, as a whole society, actually want to achieve. The Templar/Assassin balance is actually kind of present in Ingress, where the Resistance is fighting to enslave the minds of humanity for peace and the Enlightened are looking to expand the human consciousness. I’m on the green team in that one.

With the opposing societies, it really wouldn’t matter what they’re called unless a “usually deep undertone” could be thought up in the process, would basically both be fitting into that mold. One to enslave and the other to remain free. CrossGen comics signature “Sigil” embodies that in a simpler form: red is selfish, yellow is selfless.

I’d take the role of a member in one of these societies, becoming (more than likely, as treasure hunting is something I love) a sort of expert at finding whatever it is we’re looking for, and in the process battling the opposing society’s agents after the same things. The possibilities are wide open and since I’ve included CrossGen and Ingress as references, you have also probably already mentally equated this same thing to other properties I didn’t even mention (like the Jedi/Sith from Star Wars, another great example).

This entry is going to be a little on the shorter side because I don’t want to get into another property with the deepest focus I’ve already applied to the ones above. I do want to dive deeper in what I’m looking at but I’m also interested in actually playing in one of the settings I’ve talked about in these three parts.

I do have more entries to add to this one in the future and I’m sure that I will go ahead and do further expansions, maybe even going back for a deeper dive on the settings I’ve already mentioned, too… in any case, since I actually want to get playing one of these I’m looking at formulating some basic information to start.

If you’re wondering, as I write these words the “Tron” setting (my own version) is where I’m looking first. I do have some other ideas I’ve never even mentioned as settings but this is the one I’d like to begin with, I think.

More to come as things develop and next week I’ll hopefully have a topic that doesn’t revolve around what I’ve covered over the last three weeks!

Thanks for reading!

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?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 61: The Chess Story

I’ve told a chess story from the fifth grade on my websites for years, one might even say more than a decade, and I continuously end up coming back to revisit that topic from time to time. I’m not going to recount that story here, again, so don’t worry about that… but I wanted to talk a little bit about what I mentioned on the most recent Specter Show (episode 39) about integrating this concept in with a solo RPG experience.

I’d like to flesh that concept out a little bit here. Won’t you come on this adventure with me?

The roughest concept of what I’m going to talk about is my fifth grade chess club running itself like the WWE. Replace WWE with “UFC” or “poker on TV” if you need to not have glazed eyes at a professional wrestling reference, but that is the basic idea. We were 11, so give us a little break.

In my solo RPG research, I came up with the idea that I could integrate this concept (for adults) in with playing actual chess games to include in the “episode posts.” Bear with me, here.

Let’s create a quick character concept in a man I’ll call David Charles Price, who is a (roughly) 1100-1200 rated chess player and is aged somewhere between 35 and 40-ish. David is my character who is approached by John Smith (yeah, all that work to name the very next person John Smith) about recreating their “fifth grade chess experience.” After some discussion, the concept that anyone rated above 1700 wouldn’t like this idea and wouldn’t participate, so the rating limit is made at 1400 (initially).

Player invitations happen “in character” and test games are run (by test games I mean games played to familiarize everyone who is playing together gets familiar with each other’s style). The players who need help to compete are taken aside and taught to get better, while David C. Price and company continue into creating “personalities” and getting ready to compete “on camera.”

All of this would be character interactions in this RPG that I, DJ Allen, would be using to play the “Chess Story” scenario. Dice would be rolled and different strengths of players would be determined in their character creation.

The stage would now be set.

As David C. Price, whom has adopted the moniker “DCP” as his persona, I would begin using my own Chess.com games against real people as the chess games in this Chess Story to advance the DCP character into the story. I’m taking actual chess games to integrate them into my chess RPG story that I’d be telling.

Centered around the fifth grade chess club concept. The “What Would That Look Like” column discusses the idea of no restrictions and introducing this to the world at large.

I’m taking that column bulk and restricting the situation to chess players under a certain rating level. Someone who isn’t really following “profession chess” can even understand that someone rated 1400 will more than likely beat someone rated 1100 with some ease. This would have to be eliminated as our “rating system” for this RPG to be more interesting and to be presented more like the UFC than the actual FIDE chess federation. As a replacement, because I’m creating this around the concept of “under 1500” rated players, I’m suggesting using a martial arts style belt system (as an example, here’s one of the pages that gave me the idea).

You, as a potential chess spectator, are more likely to watch a game between two green belts (not really knowing which one might win) rather than a game between a 1412 rated player versus a 1356 rated player.

In the game, advancing from one belt to the next would require performing on the board at a specific level or maybe beating someone from the higher belt color. That can be determined through the playing of the solo RPG elements of the game, but everything would be outlined on the site for reference.

Would there be a specific career path in this Chess Story RPG? No, that would come out as part of the play. Maybe DCP ends up advancing until he reaches a wall that he can’t beat a specific player, or maybe every time he gets an opportunity at a championship he fails miserably (on the bright stage of the “main event.”). Maybe DCP becomes the strongest player in the league and becomes legendary player for others to aspire towards (or to aspire in defeating).

Obviously, if my actual games are the ones being presented, I’d have to be getting better along the way to be that “best player in the league,” assuming any of the characters end up being closer to the 1400 rated player, because I have my issues playing them at my paltry 1100 level.

But you wouldn’t know that if it was DCP (Blue Belt) vs. Giant Pawn (Blue Belt) for the League Championship… see how that modifies the scenario a little?

I’m not 100% positive that I’ll be running this exact thing as a solo RPG, but since the basic elements are present and possible, why not throw a little actual chess into the mix to make things a little more fun in my RPG?

The content will be produced and published on the site and I think that I’d have a grand old time playing the game (and the games). Hopefully, you’d find the story interesting enough to follow along, too.

That’s all for this week, see you again next week!

The Specter Show 039: The Downward Spiral

What do you do when you haven’t done what you’d said you’d do? DJ talks about bullet journaling restart (3rd attempt), solo RPGs (because some research was done and there will be a great many things that can possibly get done), and making everything work in unison… technically, this is all about bullet journaling and content creation from that bullet journaling!

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

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
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Journal of the Emerald Specter 60: The Big Roundup Edition

If you woke up this morning wondering where the Journal of the Emerald Specter was, you’d be right in thinking you just can’t find it. Well, here it is, and it wasn’t prewritten for a number of reasons.

I normally write the Journal on the same day I record the Specter Show, which is Sunday. Every once in a while I’ll write the Journal earlier, giving me less “rush” to record the podcast (knowing I also have a column to write). This week has been a bit of a hectic push to get things going and I’ve had to dump a truckload of stuff out of the way to make way for everything else coming in.

Along with the issue of the podcasts not downloading (the backup server we are using from the server crash last week was being temperamental, so we had to finagle some things), having multiple appointments for my foot (I have been cleared for full duty at work, finally, so the appointments will cease and I can have a little bit more free time without having an appointment to worry about), and TV season kicking back into full swing, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

Enough about me whining, though, let’s get to some decent content, shall we?

On October 28, from 8:00 AM Pacific until sometime around 3:00 PM Pacific, the PRO Chess League will be holding their qualifying tournament to kick off Season 2. I don’t believe the event will have much to do with team play, which is confusing for a team based league, but once the event is over, we should know the teams competing in the 2018 PRO Chess League season (which I’ll be covering on the PRO Chess League Podcast).

When I woke up this morning, the PRO Chess League had it’s very own website (where it was using a Group Page on Chess.com before). The site is still fairly sparse, though, that is going to change with us coming into a new season.

I’m excited for the chance to see the season happen instead of finding out about results well after the season is over (like I did for season 1).

On a personal chess note, a podcast that I recently listened to inspired me to work on my own chess development in the way that the guest suggested. The podcast is the Perpetual Chess Podcast, hosted by Ben Johnson, and the episode in question was episode 44 with GM Jesse Kraai. The way that Kraai teaches is by deep diving on the analysis of a student’s games. The way he explained how he does his own development is that he replays the game, analyzing every move, as to understand what both sides were thinking and seeing what could be improved upon. He said “write it down,” which I’ve taken to mean on a “standard sized sheet of notebook paper” and said that when some people start out, they have a hard time filling a couple of pages. Kraai makes it sound like you should be writing a small book for each game.

Knowing this, and knowing that I’m starting back into my bullet journaling again, I’m going to start deep diving on my own games. My rating on Chess.com has slipped from around 1150-1250 to under 1100, which was not making me very happy. I won’t ever be a Grandmaster, or most likely never even be a titled player, but I’d like to be playing at 1600 or better.

Doing this will also help me beef up my pages in the bullet journal, since I had a hope to start a new journal at the beginning of the year. Maybe a 15 page game analysis would be beneficial to eating up those pages a little faster.

If you weren’t aware that I love professional sumo then you must be new here. The Banzuke (pre-tournament rankings) for the November tournament comes out on October 30, and for the first time, I’ll be playing in the Sumo Game to try to see how good my sumo knowledge is and picking winners.

I bring this up because I’d like to see others participate, as well as putting my own skills on notice as I embark on a “pick ’em” style quest to become the Sumo Game’s 4th Yokozuna. When you sign up you have to pick a Shikona (fighting name), so I’ve combined my last name (Allen) with my favorite rikishi’s Shikona (Ura)… that makes me Allenura.

I’ll post updates here to see how I do, since my time zone is in a wonky location for daily picks (because the matchups are made following the day’s activities), we’ll see how well I can keep up with this and see how far I can go.

Remember above when I said that I was cleared for full duty at work? Well, there is a caveat to that (in that I am not quite brave enough to start running again, yet), but I’m going to start back up on the road to fitness and nutrition.

I say that after having eaten six Krispy Kreme donuts in the past 12 hours.

When I injured my foot, my weight had been on a down trend with me seeing a good possibility of not only dipping under the 270 mark but remaining there… then the injury happened and my weight went up (albeit slowly) up to 290. I’ve been hovering around the 288 mark for the last couple of weeks and since I can do my job again without restriction, the weight should once again start coming back off.

On the nutrition front, my wife and I decided to start planning out our meals on a weekly basis (for the purposes of grocery shopping as well as getting back into healthy habits). I’ve had a wicked sweet tooth the last two months and I really need to start loading up my diet with healthier snacks. The bullet journal will come in handy here, too, as I start logging what I’ve eaten and how healthy I’ve been with my meal choices.

The bullet journal is coming back!

My wife and I watch a lot of TV together. There are a number of shows that I’m prepared to drop for the sake of not having an overwhelming amount of things to catch up on but we still have quite a few shows that we watch together that we barely keep up with at present. I wanted to comment on a few of the shows, making decisions on whether they are even worth my time anymore.

The first one is Star Trek Discovery. While I’ve been a big Star Trek fan for decades, and I’ve always been big on the “new” rather than dwelling on the legacy aspects, Discovery isn’t hitting the right buttons for me. I’m interested in the arc for this season but the show, in my opinion, isn’t Star Trek. One of the issues, in my opinion, is that the show is struggling to jam in a story without altering the continuity any.

Just like Marvel and DC in the comics world, Star Trek Discovery should be unbound from continuity to tell their stories and not try so hard to fit within the tiny time period they’re trying to in order to appease the assholes… sorry, die hard fans, that can’t accept the fact that trying to remain tied to a TV series from 1966 isn’t the smartest thing to do.

While I’m not the hugest fan of J.J. Abrams’s style on many things, his take on the Star Trek movie franchise was out of this world. I didn’t care for the amazing rank jumping that Kirk did in the movies, but I can let that go because Star Trek was fun to watch! And do you know why that is? Because he wasn’t held down by decades of continuity.

Abrams only misstep, in my opinion, was trying to retell that Khan story. If he’d have left that one alone, I’d say the new trilogy would be unmatched (save only by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

The next show I wanted to discuss was Netflix’s Castlevania. So many people watched this and so many people said this was the greatest thing since sliced bread and I’m just over episode 3 and thinking “um, why is this so mind-blowingly popular?”

Did I play the games? Yeah, I did. Was I a super fan over them? No.

The story of Castlevania is an interesting one but where I’m at in the series, we JUST met Trevor Belmont and I’m not even sure he and Dracula will meet in this first season.

If I had to choose right now, I’m pretty sure I’d drop Castlevania like a bad habit in favor of making time for other things.

Next let’s talk about some of the “standard network programming” that I’ve been watching. On Fox, the Orville is what Discovery should have been… more story, less flair. It’s corny, and I can blatantly see the formula they’re using, but I’d rather watch that than CBS’s offering.

Midnight, Texas is another one that I’m watching, though I’m not really sure why. The concept of a town full of supernaturals is interesting but since Charlaine Harris is the one who created it and I know that, I can see the last couple of seasons of True Blood in the show (the seasons that really ruined things). Stop putting it all out in the open, discovering the supernaturals is part of the fun.

The Exorcist is a refreshing take on the old movie, though I’m already a little annoyed that they’re dragging out the storyline already. I can understand they need to fill up a season, but when will the networks jump on board the “only enough episodes as necessary” instead of their tired old “22 episodes a season” schtick? What worries me with this one is that it’s on Fox, meaning they have a solid premise that they’ll probably ruin by having way too many seasons (like Prison Break, the Following, etc, etc).

Welcome to the section of this that is going to (most likely) take up the most room. What I’m going to talk about here is going to be covered on the Greatest Show on Saturday (assuming any other host shows up), and that’s solo RPGing.

I’ve known for some time that there is a way to play a roleplaying game alone. What has always nagged at me was how to tell a story that would be surprising to me (as a player), but would be planned out enough to be interesting (from a GM standpoint).

How do I surprise myself?

About a week ago, I came up with an idea to tell a long form story about a spaceship tooling around the solar system (ours) while discovering all kinds of new bits and bobs about the way things work. I’ve come up with a few plot ideas that I would like to explore and I even started jotting down a rough timeline of events to arrive where I arrived. The last thing I wrote on my note, three days ago, was “is this worth developing?”

I was about to sideline the idea when I decided to start poking around my favorite SIM group (Obsidian Fleet), as well as some of the others I have found in looking around the Internet (Bravo Fleet, Pegasus Fleet, Horizon Fleet, Theta Fleet, and the like). They are all Star Trek-centric SIM fleets, with a few of them having a non-Trek SIM here and there. Whenever I get an itching to seek out a SIM to participate in, I check these and I’m normally looking for a Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) SIM… and never find one. My hope is that someone will take BSG and say “the show premise was wonderful, but let’s SIM in the era before the complete loss of Caprica or maybe the events of the show never happened” or something like that. Nope and nope.

Two days ago, though, I decided to try to find SIMs that were far more generic. I decided to search for something that would be almost identical to what I was looking for but wasn’t necessarily tied to a “fleet.” I popped into Google and looked for “online rpg writing free.”

I discovered a whole slew of stuff I didn’t know existed.

The first thing that really caught my eye was what I thought I was looking for: Storium. Storium is basically a writing exercise for telling a story (and using “cards” to add twists, quirks to the characters, etc) in chapters. After perusing the site for a while, I have decided that the idea, while sound, was not doing what I needed it to do (for me).

I kept looking.

After searching through the results, I came across Die Heart, a blog dedicated to solo roleplaying. The “big list of solo RPG resources” is really what led me to the G+ group and looking into solo roleplaying as my hope for telling stories.

Jackpot.

One of the people who was writing his blog as a means of “instruction” (to improve his own solo RPG experiences) mentioned that he was utilizing the “bullet journal style” in recording his gaming… and that drew my attention, again.

The concentration on using notation of things in the solo RPG, for those folks, is to make notes rather than write down everything (to avoid them slipping into just “writing a story”). I’m interested in turning my solo RPG experience into content for this site, so I’d be looking for taking down information for the entirety of the solo RPG rather than just note taking… which will be the true test of whether I can RPG rather than just “write prose.”

Once again, we return to the fact that I’m getting back into my bullet journal.

Without writing, word for word, exactly what is happening, I’m going to track my solo RPG experience into what these sites are calling “reports” so that I can create longer form content. Learning recently on the latest Greatest Show (the Greatest Boot) that the Expanse was actually just an RPG setting turned into books, I want to make my aforementioned space adventure into an RPG that is basically a story (where I don’t 100% control the outcome).

I also had an epiphany that my “hopeful comic book” creations could also be made from solo RPG sessions. Holy crap, right?

In order to avoid “talking about doing things rather than just doing them” I’m going to stop writing this column for this week. I’m going to do some bullet journal set up and prepare myself for a rocking space adventure that I’ll publish onto this site in installments. I’m picking a game system to use first, then I’ll figure out which GM-less engine I’ll use to run the game for me… and hopefully awesome will then ensue!

Thanks for reading!

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!

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www.FearTheBoot.com, AP.FearTheBoot.com, www.MorningSkye.com, and www.BloodMoonGoblins.com