Category Archives: Role Playing

The hobby of role playing, in all its glory.

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
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

Hashtags: #TheSpecterShow #bulletjournal #bujo #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #soloRPG

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!

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter

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

The Greatest Show 140: The Greatest Boot

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!

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter

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

Here’s the SHOW!

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 Specter.com, 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 Specter.com, 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

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

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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

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

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