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Journal of the Emerald Specter 53: Vampires, BuJoRPG 2, and Stuff

I’ve started trying out a few little tricks in my current WordPress template to see if I can make things look decent before just wiping this version aside and going with the next version that I’ve been tinkering with in the background. That’s not even the surface that I scratched with what I’ll talk about today, so let’s set things up a little.

Two days ago (as I write this, three days ago for you reading this) I fell off a step while working and sprained my left foot (not the ankle, the foot… the outside of my left foot) and I’m stuck wearing a boot for a few days. This has made me unable to work, so I’ve got a little time on my hands for a few things… first, I’m writing this column so that I can get this week taken care of and I can get to the other thing that needs to happen today: podcasting. Second, I have been making copious notes for BuJoRPG 2 and I am going to start tinkering with the formatting of the “look” so that I can formulate a beta version to release. Yes, I bolded that so it was an obvious statement for those looking for that information… and I’ll talk about that more lower in this column.

Now, on to the meat of this thing… 

You are reading that correctly. The banner says “Vampire.” I hadn’t originally intended to include a banner that said anything near that but I’ve stumbled across a few things that I hadn’t realized were quite as fleshed out as they actually were, so I stumbled in gladly.

In 1994, I started playing Vampire: The Masquerade with a group of players that I played with almost non-stop for 3 years. We did expand through the other game lines (Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and Wraith: The Oblivion) but Vampire was definitely the anchor to the whole group.

When I left the Navy, things sort of went a little downhill.

I’m a big fan of Vampire: The Requiem but Masquerade will always hold a special place in my heart. The reason I said that things sort of went downhill is because Masquerade didn’t really update anymore… until this year.

I follow White Wolf and Onyx Path on Facebook. The other day, I saw a link talking about something called the Storyteller’s Vault and I was ecstatic. I started looking for more information and that’s what I’m about to talk about now.

White Wolf Publishing is releasing the Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, or V5, and they’re doing all kinds of awesome stuff with that. The Storyteller’s Vault is part of that effort… I’ve watched the V5 Presentation and the WoD Keynote on YouTube and I’m excited for what might be coming down the road.

I’m keeping an eye out on Vampire: The Requiem (over at Onyx Path Publishing), but this column is definitely about V5.

White Wolf is updating V5 for the modern day. There is also a distinct “Requiem-ification” of some of the aspects of the new Vampire that I am definitely a bigger fan of… allowing me to tell a story I was preparing for Requiem IN Masquerade, and releasing that story as a supplement on Storyteller’s Vault.

Yeah, this just got all kinds of awesome.

I’ll let you watch the presentations and read the updates, but what I’m interested in is getting away from just telling my isolated stories that don’t affect anything else (like has traditionally been the situation) and getting a larger world scope going on… if that means I’m the only one doing that, too, then maybe that’s how it has to be done. White Wolf is allowing the players to run the metaplot, though, and that gives me some hope.

I’m going to start investigating running a game via messages (iPhone, Facebook, etc), post (Facebook Group, forums, etc), email (yes, people do still like to play things via email), and maybe even include a little bit of YouTube (the video element seems to have worked well for the Vampire the Masquerade YouTube Experiment (also called New Sarum, New Sarum 2, and New Sarum 3).

There is a story I want to tell and I’m willing to let anyone help me tell it. More on this as time passes, I do want to wait for the V5 to be released first before firmly establishing a start date.

I’ve made some folks real happy by stating I’ll be releasing BuJoRPG 2 as a beta to help playtest it. I didn’t realize that would be such a popular idea, but I guess I should have… the response to BuJoRPG has been astounding and I’m looking to expand my user base with BuJoRPG 2.

So, what’s in BuJoRPG 2?

One thing that I got a lot of feedback on is wanting stats, or more accurately, Attributes. I hadn’t included them in the original BuJoRPG release because I wasn’t really aiming at the “adventurer on missions” type thing with BuJoRPG 1, so finding a reason to have them was something I needed to work on in order to get BuJoRPG 2 (henceforth referred to as B2) going.

There are four Attributes that will do some modifying of things in your B2, they’ll relate to the Physical, Social, Emotional, and Mental aspects of your self improvement journey. They have proper names, they have a purpose, and I just need to format things in order to give you more information. Enjoy this nugget, though.

I’ve also revamped the HP system, changing how it works and what it actually does. Remember, the goal is self improvement so I wanted to keep you moving forward as a person in development rather than just creating something to have as another “tracker” in your journal.

Habits will have a function, Items will also be included (formerly Gear in B1, and there will be specific Items for specific benefits), Quests have been reformulated to be a specific mechanic, I’ve got To-Do lists for the major time periods to use (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly), and I’m bringing in Chores to this (for the means of accomplishing the combat I was so looking for in B1).

The best part of all this? Well, instead of filling out your “character info” multiple times (i.e. for each day you essentially set up your current status), I’m giving you a layout for a “Character Sheet,” which you can refer back to while you’re just tracking your progress on the daily or weekly spreads.

Character Sheet. Yes, I don’t know why that wasn’t a thing in the first place.

Today, I’ve got to get this column and a podcast out of the way. I have to make me some product for my wife’s business, and I’ll be making scribbled notes about B2 the whole time. When I have things at a satisfactory spot, I’ll release the beta… and the beta will help me get things working way faster (since more people will be helping).

This all leads to something I’ve avoided doing but have to ask at this point: Patreon support. I’m going to be updating all the goals, backer level rewards, and so on… the reason I’m asking is that B2 is something I really want to do and if I can get a little financial help to work on that, it’ll be pushed higher in the priority queue… money talks.

This was shorter than I intended. I don’t know if you want to read a long and bloated explanation of things beyond a few “quick hits,” so I am cutting this column off here. I’ve always got a few things on my plate and though I’m interested in getting all of them done at all times, I have to prioritize.

Oddly enough, all this “working on B2” has left me not journalling for almost 2 straight weeks. Between work, getting B2 mapped out, and trying to get a couple of my other projects moving forward, I’m lacking in journalling.

Time to stop making excuses and start making progress.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 52: Inspiration Strikes

I am writing these well ahead of time in order to be ahead of the curve, for those times when I’m struggling to keep afloat with all of my tasks. This has been nice to be ahead and I’m going to be making this one a long, long column because there is a lot of stuff that I want to cover.

As the title suggests, this one is because inspiration has struck me since I wrote the last column. I’m talking about BuJoRPG inspiration, chess playing inspiration, working out inspiration, organizing inspiration, and other types… having a weekend off has done wonders for inspiring me to get things done.

Why don’t I stop being vague and start getting into the meat of what this column is about?

The original inspiration for the BuJoRPG was when I came across the website ClassCraft, an RPG system for classrooms that looked interesting. I’ve since watched several seminars and explanations of things in order to get more depth on this subject and I’ve used some of the ideas to expand the intent of the BuJoRPG in general.

This has what has become BuJoRPG Version 1.0 (and currently, the development stages of BuJoRPG Version 1.8, which has not been released for public consumption). I am very near releasing this expansion and I’ve decided (definitively) that this release will NOT be a full version number higher than the original (Version 2.0 should be wholly different than 1.0, thus the new release will most likely be Version 1.8 or 1.9, as that is likely where I’ll be when I do the write up of the system).

Over the weekend that I’m writing this (for those interested in the “behind the scenes,” this is being written on August 6, 2017), I randomly did a search for some YouTube videos that I thought might result in finding someone using my BuJoRPG system… I came across videos that I wasn’t really expecting to find.

There is an app (for mobile and desktop) that I’ve found in the past called Habitica (or HabitRPG, as it was originally known). I watched a video from someone using the desktop version and I listened a lot closer than I normally do. Then, boom, inspiration struck.

As I’ve stated before, I was working on expanding the Quests operation by splitting them into long term and short term. That works, it’s in Version 1.8. I’ve also stated that I’m working on the gear and monetary system, which I’m pretty sure works but I haven’t actually used that in practice, yet. I’m willing to stick that in Version 1.8 for sure just to move on to what I think needs  to be done for Version 2. This means I’m actually setting a release date for Version 1.8 as August 30, 2017.

Soon, right?

There are a couple of caveats that I’m doing that will expedite this process: I’m NOT releasing a new template and I’m only releasing the Rise of the Iron Garden (and the base system) updates. That’s it. Further expansion on BuJoRPG Version 1 will be done by you (the users) or won’t be done at all… progress comes at a price.

Now it’s time to talk about what I want to do with Version 2.

I’ve stated numerous times I wanted to have a character collecting aspect to the game. I have a means of doing this but I’m not going to put it into Version 2, so don’t worry about me rehashing that information again. This is still going to be very much about personal improvement and development, meaning you’re the only “character” in this game… sort of.

You will now have stats. I’ve seen a lot of people adapting what I released and portioning out some of their goals, quests, and other stuff into specific stats. I’m going to full-on put stats into Version 2, which will affect how things interact with the system. Tired of having your HP get knocked out so easily because of how Version 1 works? Version 2 will have a stat that modifies the HP instead of having a base value and damage that is variable based on your level.

Gear will modify things, and gear will most definitely be a part of Version 2. These modifications will change your stats efficacy, stats value, modify your XP earning for stats, and even change the variables that you will be interacting with… meaning there are multiple reasons for having gear!

The concept of the “Dailies” was to complete things that you should be doing on a daily basis (duh). Around my own house, and work, I will be expanding this into Weeklies and Monthlies, perhaps even a Quarterlies or Yearlies (maybe). This will provide different levels of earning XP and expand on what you should be paying attention to for the short, medium, and long term of your self improvement!

Habit tracking is a part of lots of folks’s bullet journals. I’ve seen these used as both habit trackers and progress bars, and since this is an RPG being developed, I’m going to be integrating progress bars in place of habit tracking.

As you can see, this is getting more complex and (hopefully) more fun.

To Do lists are a big part of self improvement, for example, I need them for things around the house (or related to chores, shopping, etc) to be sure I’m not forgetting things. Thus, they’ll be integrated into Version 2 in a big way.

In Version 1, XP was really the only reward for doing stuff… in Version 2, you’ll get rewards of XP, coinage (I say that because I don’t know what the money system will be called, yet), powers, gear, and all kinds of neat stuff. This is to encourage you to break out of habits that you might have fallen into that aren’t the best for progress.

Like what you’re reading so far? Well, maybe I should get to the good part.

I’m going to make the “sheets” for the BuJo in Excel. I’ve created my own personal template in Excel and I’m going to make the interactive (i.e. automated calculations) in Excel, too. I said this from the beginning that I was working towards making a BuJo in an electronic version to take care of all the tracking for you.

What am I still writing for? Get to it… I will, right after I explain the rest of the column.My feedback has come back on the PRO Chess podcast host possibilities… and it’s a no. So, I’m going to do this by myself and hope to attract someone at a higher level than I am to participate as well.

I’ve started back in on Chess.com‘s tactics puzzles and I think I’ve gotten a little better just over the past week or two. I’m going to continue working on them in the hopes that I actually slow myself down a bit during my actual games, which I’d like to point out that I’m now looking at the games as “tactics puzzles” in order to keep the same mindset with both the puzzles AND the games.

Having said that, I totally “checked out” on my games this morning and made two disastrous blunders that are going to set my rating back a few points. I didn’t look at the games the way I just told you that I was and so I now have to pay the Iron Price (Game of Thrones reference for the win).

I’m also going to fully integrate chess into the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what? You just spent most of this column talking about the BuJoRPG and you’re going to talk about it in the chess section, too?

Yes. Read on.

I am building BuJoRPG Version 2 for me, specifically. That means the battles are going to involve some chess, development will involve some chess, and hell, I may even make the layout look a little more chess-like, too. Developing my chess game will also help me develop my self improvement, which is also part of my goal to be better overall.

Chess is a game that is a good mental exercise to keep your mind healthy, keep critical thinking at the forefront, and help you treat “moves in your life” more like a game of chess. Want to get that promotion at work? You need to be thinking three moves ahead because the competition isn’t, which gives you the edge.

I haven’t decided exactly how integrated chess will be at the early stages but I’m hoping that I can make it a bigger part of the BuJoRPG, which would help me be more active with my own journaling.

Look, I made a header for the end of the column! It will help tie the loose ends together.

I didn’t mention the inspiration as much in the chess segment, but that was an inspiration to start back in on the tactics puzzles. I know I need to slow down to get better and I need the tactics puzzles to be able to identify the tactical advantage I can get, figure out how to pursue the end result, and force my opponent into doing what I want them to do in order to achieve my goal.

Simple, right?

Inspiration has been coming in waves. I wrote a chapter on my serial fiction and was inspired to write more, though I had to back off to accomplish other things. I read a little bit about something I do not want to explain right now, but I did the research to find what I needed to know and I’ll tell you about that once I have a better idea on how to put into words what I’m trying to accomplish. The Jon Jones win got me inspired to watch more UFC. The NFL season returning soon has inspired me to get things done to watch the games that I’m going to want to watch during the season. A new podcast I found has inspired me to get more involved with my soccer viewing, too!

Find out what you can use to inspire you and hopefully the BuJoRPG Version 2 will get you moving in the right direction, too!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 51: Battles and BuJoRPG

Another Journal entry is being made and you’re here to read it, for which I am thankful. There is another dose of this and that, with some larger pieces of the puzzle being more prominent, I’ll still be covering a plethora of topics.

As a note, I’ve seen my traffic dip even further down. I knew that things would taper off but I was hoping that some would come here to see all kinds of stuff, not just come here for a singular purpose. I’ve got a lot of interests and I guess I was hoping that there would be “something” that would keep readers coming back. Maybe what is contained within this article will help with that, at least in a couple of the subjects.

I’m starting out with the one thing that has kind of dominated my week. As I write this, I’ve dove deep into the game to get my mind working in the direction I need in order to grow my chess.com rating from the meager “mid-1100s” and back into growth. I’d like to be back up to the “mid-1200s” pushing to get over the 1300 hump again, and that means playing games and studying.

I’ve joined a number of chess clubs on chess.com, some of which were because I was looking for regular players to play against (without the randomness of just opening up a game). This includes my continued membership in the Team USA, US Veterans Chess, and Team USA: Northwest groups. I’ve added World League, Chess.com Chess League, Rose City Chess, Chess.com iOS Club, Knights of the Square Table, Knightmares Finest Chess, Chess.com League, and the PRO Chess League.

That last one is the one I’d like to expand this article into… a little history needs to be dropped, first.

In 2005, the United States Chess League (USCL) was formed to be a United States “nationwide” organization for team chess play. The league expanded over the course of 11 years to include 20 teams, running in a similar fashion to the other sports leagues of the United States.

I say 11 years because in 2016, the USCL announced a change to include the entire world worth of teams, and changed its name to the Professional Rapid Online Chess League, or PRO Chess League.

In 2017, the PRO Chess League ran 48 teams through a seven week chess season, ending in a five week playoff season to crown the St. Louis Arch Bishops the 2017 PRO Chess League Champions. The biggest development in the PRO Chess League over the USCL was the inclusion of some of the biggest names in chess today competing, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway Gnomes), Wesley So (St. Louis Arch Bishops), Hikaru Nakamura (Miami Champions), and Fabiano Carauna (Montreal ChessBrahs).

The 2018 season is going to be organized in a different fashion due to the confusion of having 48 teams. There will only be 32 teams for this second season, 24 automatically qualify to participate, and the other 24 will battle for their chance (along with any new teams that may spring up) to be one of the final 12 teams to compete in the 2018 season proper. This is as close to a “promotion/relegation” system that PRO Chess League will get, though I will be very interested to see how this format works.

Along with the analysis of my own personal games through this column (perhaps a separate column in the future), I have approached someone about being a co-host on a PRO Chess League podcast. Depending upon how that contact works out, I would be interested in making the podcast the “official” podcast, then be able to have access to official video, commentary, and interviews with the stars of the league.

If this approach ends up not panning out, I’ll still attempt to do what I’ve stated above, just as a solo host, and I’ll still try to get the podcast labeled official. The thing I lose without the co-host is the analysis of someone who knows what they’re doing at a much greater level.

I do have other option, I just really want to work with this person.

No game to analyze this time, I have several games going at the moment and I’ve earmarked a specific game for analysis (which, as I write this, is still underway). Stay tuned.

I haven’t been into the UFC as much this year as I have in the past. There was a long run of the past four or five years where I was actively watching matches, following certain fighters, and making sure that UFC was “appointment viewing.”

In 2017, I’ve only watched two UFC events and I’m a little sad about that.

Writing about the UFC is something I enjoyed doing, following the UFC has been much more interesting than following boxing (for fans of mine who don’t know my history with boxing, I used to be a devout follower of the sport… until hugging and terrible matchups started ruining the experience). I want to dedicate myself to at least commenting on the UFC a little as I work my way back to following the big fights and upcoming superstars.

So, onto a little commentary…

UFC 214 was a nice way to break back into the UFC for me, allowing me to see some of the best fights in a while. Cyborg beat the hell out of an undeserving Tonya Evinger (I have a column about my disgust with her shell of a victory in Invicta over an opponent by the Missouri Sports Commission rather than getting it done in the ring)… good job Cyborg. Woodley defeated Maia in a match that was mostly boos by the crowd but I understand why that one turned out the way it did. Finally, the main event of the evening was the much anticipated rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, something that has been scheduled at least twice before but failed to happen. This will be the focus of this segment.

Despite seeing what Cormier has done against opponents as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, I really considered Jon Jones the champion since he never lost the belt… he was stripped of the belt. Having no Jones in the UFC has been an experience that I don’t want to experience again… but the problem was Jones’ inability to stay clean or out of trouble, which is all up to the man I considered the champion going into this fight. The closer this fight came to happening, the more I worried that one of these guys wouldn’t be able to fight due to an injury, something that has happened to Cormier a lot in his reign.

With the win of Jones to regain his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, we return to the situation we were in before Jones started having “out of ring” issues. I look forward to seeing what else Jones can do now that he’s back with gold around his waist.

The event, overall, was epic.

The biggest traffic getter on EmeraldSpecter.com is, by far, the BuJoRPG that I released. I continue to test, expand, and bullet journal. The traffic drop off that has been steadily declining is the traffic coming to the site for bullet journaling specifically. I can’t argue that I made a good move developing the BuJoRPG, but I’d like to keep the hits coming…

Testing and development in the BuJoRPG system has been changed in a slight way. If I tested the way that I tested the first time, you wouldn’t see another BuJoRPG release until almost the end of 2017. I don’t want to wait that long, as a result, I’ve modified how I’m testing things to be able to develop the BuJoRPG system a little faster.

I don’t know why I didn’t do things this way in the first place.

I’ve modified the Quest system, breaking it up into long and short term lines. XP varies for each of them and I think that I’ll be fine leaving the system the way I am currently using it (as of this writing).

A promise of bringing in “gear” has caused the biggest delay in the next release. I am doing a “real time” test of the money system (RPG money, not real money) to be able to acquire the gear because I want to see if the acquisition of the initial items is realistic and gives you something to shoot for… and I’m liking what I am seeing so far.

With the response I’ve gotten and what I see others using the BuJoRPG system (with or without modifications), I am seeing if there is anything else I’d like to include as I stray closer to putting together the next edition of the system. I’m working with version 1.8 at the moment, so I think that I may be releasing “2.0,” whether or not the changes are significant enough to call it “BuJoRPG 2.”

I think using the version system, I can leave the door open for “sequels” in the way I just used that… Ver 2.0 vs BuJoRPG 2…

Things are definitely looking good and I’m excited to show you all what I’ve got coming out.

I stalled in starting working out when I said I was going to start. Work hours ramped way up on me three days before I wanted to start and I was freaking exhausted when the actual day rolled around. I really wanted to have something specific to report, but I guess I’ll just pass along what the plan is for the start of the next week.

My week starts on Saturday. This keeps my postal week, bullet journal week, and workout week all on the same rotation. I don’t want any confusing day changes just because a “traditional” rotation for working out starts on Sunday. My workouts, my week.

The plan for the week looks like this:

Saturday – Legs
Sunday – Rest
Monday – Back and Biceps
Tuesday – Chest and Triceps
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Legs and Abs
Friday – Shoulders

Friday is going to be a rest day until my shoulders stop hurting. I have an impingement in both shoulders, with my left shoulder being exponentially worse than my right, I don’t even think I could do half the exercises that I ned to in order to work them out… I’m not super worried about my shoulders being worked out right now, since I’m no longer working for a “swole look,” I’ll just be making sure most of the groups even up.

If you’re wondering about cardio, that is an interesting topic. I am a letter carrier for the post office and I basically have cardio going on all day long on days that I work. I’ll be doing some form of pre-workout cardio in addition to all that, but I am leaning heavily on my job to provide the majority of the cardio as I start back out on this journey again.

The other important part of this journey is getting back to clean eating. Due to my wife locking down the spending in our house (we maintain a specific dollar amount in the checking account as we put regular amounts in savings each paycheck), we started going back to eating at home more often than not.

Several years ago, when I had issues eating dairy in any form, my wife and I started eating much better. My working out was accompanied by even better eating and we haven’t stopped eating the quality foods that we switched to (when we eat at home), allowing us to see weight loss on days we eat at home (for me, at least).

Any diet is a lifestyle change, if that diet is to work. As soon as you go back to eating the garbage you were eating before your “diet,” you’ll start regaining all your nasty weight again. This is something most people aren’t aware enough to understand. This is why most people fail at their weight loss goals.

All in all, I’m eating out far less… the money constriction is a blessing in disguise. I just need to lay off the sweets now and I’ll be back to eating completely clean.

Baby steps, I guess… baby steps.

I’ll close this column out with the storytelling header. This won’t talk about the serial fiction, though, this will be about the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what?

The base system for the BuJoRPG will be without a storyline, but the templates won’t. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to hint at the possibility for EVERY template to have a story.

The one I’m most interested in is the Wuxia template, though. I’m going so far as to release the title of this next version of the template… that title will be the Rise of the Iron Garden.

Interested in learning why? Well, that is also allowing me to elaborate on the initial Wuxia template story, then I can properly build up each successive expansion.

This is short, but I hope it was interesting.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 50: Welcome to the Journal

Since this is a journal of everything I’ve been doing, want to do, and will speculate about, thus begins the old “Emerald Specter” column in the new “Journal of the Emerald Specter.” You are not incorrect when you see “50” behind that, because this is the 50th edition of this column (even though it has a new name).

I whipped up a “graphics package” for this column and as you can see, I’ve decided to begin with the “aged paper/olde timey log book” look. If I decide to switch up the look, I’ll just go ahead and do that without any further “big announcement,” because aesthetics aren’t worthy of a big announcement (unless it’s for the whole website).

So, since we’re here on a new column pushing forward with a new format, let’s see what we have involved with our headings that applies for today.

I sit and write this column before my attempt to finish out “episode 2” of the serial fiction that I’m working on. My third editor has actually received episode 1, and much to my delight, has already begun reading what I sent. That has encouraged me to move forward and get episode 2 done and work towards the ending of season one.

In the world of No Man’s Sky, I’ve been playing randomly zipping through the galaxy while I wait for the update 1.3 (Waking Titan) to drop… and I’ve really gotten enthusiastic about my game again. I played for six hours over the course of the last two days and I’m looking to really push into the game again today to see what else I can accomplish. The storytelling elements for the narrative are still falling into place, too, as I work out the bugs of where the story will go. I can only do so much on that front at the moment, though, because without knowing what will be added to the game, I don’t want to plan an air tight story that can be upset with the slightest “new shiny” being added to the game.

While the next storytelling piece technically belongs under this heading, I’ve determined that it needs to go under this one, instead:

I have been testing out the processes of the new things I’m working on, and even though I am really, really early in the testing process, I think this is going to be a good development. Knowing that things are going as well as I think they are, this will bring me to what ties this segment into the above segment.

As promised, new releases of the BuJoRPG would be accompanied by “story elements” to build up a narrative that anyone using the system can participate in. The “base system,” or the system without a template, won’t get this story element but I have begun working on the barest of an outline for the BuJoRPG: Wuxia template and the Untitled BuJoRPG Space template… yes, new template for a new release.

Do you have a template idea you’d like to see? Well, there are two ways you can see that come to fruition for future releases… the first one is to create the template yourself and send the link to me so that I can share that with the world (full credit to you). The other is to email emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com and float the idea at me, giving me something to consider for future releases.

The return of SpecterFit! As prophecies many moons ago, I have resurrected the column in the form of a segment in the “flagship” column of the whole site. I had a hard time filling up my personal column size requirement (periodically) before, so now I’m going to do this as large as it needs to be as part of THIS column.

Starting yesterday (as you read this), I began working out again at home to get in a weight loss mode intending to lose another 15 to 20 pounds before deciding on a gym in my area.

In North Dakota, where I came from, there was a Gold’s Gym that was on the way to work. That made going to the gym before work super convenient and I was energized to go because I had no excuses for missing.

In Oregon, I don’t have access to a Gold’s Gym in a reasonable travel distance. I am searching for other gyms in the area to visit, before work preferably, and that will allow me to get the workouts done before draining myself for a long day of delivering mail.

One thing that I realize is that I didn’t really know what my focus for going to the gym was… was I going to gain mass muscle and get “bigger?” Well, yes… was I going to lose weight and get slimmer? Um, yes… and there lies the problem.

Weight loss is all about making a number shrink to achieve a poundage that fits with the body image that makes me healthier in general. The simple way to achieve this is to lift weights for toning and load the rest of the workout with cardio (the primary means of burning the fat).

Trying for muscular gains is a whole different ball of wax. Muscle weighs more than fat, and so if I’m both trying to lose weight and gain muscle, I can’t really concentrate on the number that shows up on the scale. I wasn’t thinking like that in North Dakota and now that I’m thinking about that here, I really need to decide which one I really want.

While I would love to be bulked up like professional bodybuilders, I think that the shedding of the weight and toning up the muscles that I already have should be my primary focus. That means I’m not looking to lifting the heaviest amount of weight I can as often as I can to build impressive looking muscles. I have gained some mass in my arms and legs, but not nearly what I hope to gain in the process… and I’m sorely lacking in “an ass.” Like a lot of males in the modern day, my glutes have shrunk in the absence of my cross country running from high school to zero running for anything other than a cardio boost before lifting.

What I’m saying is that I need to shape some of this body and once I attain that short goal, maybe then I can look at bulking if that is still something I’d like to do in the future.

Unless you’ve never read anything I’ve ever written on this website, you know that I love the game of chess and follow the professionals in a casual way. That means I know who Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishwanathan Anand, and Hikaru Nakamura are, where they generally fall into the hierarchy of modern professional chess, and which tournaments that they participate in but I am not so much into following the “break down every game” of the tournaments they play in.

I am, however, going to start seriously investigating my own games and seeing if I can present them in the way that I think pro chess can be presented to the world at large for a larger audience.

That leads me to ask you all who are reading that play the game: would you like to play a game or two of chess with me?

I am a member of chess.com and I have a paid account, meaning I can play quite a few games at a time. You only need a free account to play me and I believe you can play at least a couple of games at a time without worrying about needing to play more than that. I invite all levels of player, and at the time of this writing, my current chess.com rating is 1191 (I’ve had a bit of a dip due to several losses in mini-tournaments that I was one of the lowest ranked players in… I usually run between 1175-1300).

The reason I would want to “play a couple” against you is to analyze both a game where I play white and one where I play black.

Finally, I end with one of my favorite sports: sumo.

The Nagoya Basho ended with Hakuho winning his 39th Yusho (tournament victory) and setting the all time win record at 1049. I’m happy for him and I’m also interested to see whether or not he’ll retire now (since he’s accomplished so much) or if he’ll wait until he starts doing worse in competitions just so he can make that win record so high it’ll be hard to top?

Time will tell.

I wanted to include a bit about this, even though there isn’t a basho going on right now, because if you have any interest in sumo at all, NOW is the time to start watching. There are several new, young sumo wrestlers (rikishi) that have entered the top division (Makuuchi) in the past three months that are worth your attention.

Ura and Ishiura are the two “little guys” really making waves right now, and even my wife comes to the TV to watch Ura’s matches with me (because he does some wild moves, things I’ve never seen anyone else do, much less at the frequency with which he performs them). Ishiura does some wild stuff, too, but he’s seemingly struggling to stay consistent as Ura is as far as competing at the high level he started out at.

The next tournament is in September and I would suggest you check out Kintamayama’s YouTube Channel for the “daily digest” releases (for those of us who can’t see anything near a live feed or an all encompassing “recap” of the matches). He’s the best.

* * *

I should have a “breaker” graphic for the finale of the column, I’ll work on that for next time… and as NFL season starts up I’ll talk about football, as Premier League season starts up (same season) I’ll talk about that football, and so on… if it interests me, it’ll probably be in this Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Toodles.

Emerald Specter 49: Storytelling

If you haven’t been paying attention, Emerald Specter.com is quickly shifting to telling stories. Stories about all kinds of wonderful things, some in “real time,” and some pre-written. With this focus, this branding, I’ll be moving things in directions that I hadn’t necessarily intended when I started moving the site in this direction.

In August, No Man’s Sky Update 1.3 will be released and that will (apparently) introduce all kinds of new little goodies to the game. There is an ARG, or alternate reality game, that is currently happening (entitled Waking Titan) which is leading to this update’s release. This is all important because I’ve decided to tell a narrative using No Man’s Sky but not using No Man’s Sky “narrative,” if that makes sense. I’m waiting for the update to come out to see what other things I’ll have access to in order to tell the narrative that I have in mind. I’ve come up with the basis of this narrative, now I wait to see what alterations I need to include with the release of this update. This IS happening and I’m going to be doing this a little differently than I initially intended (though included as an option everywhere I’ve talked about it).

There will be two narratives going on at the same time… the first is the narrative of the live stream of the game I’m playing, complete with audio commentary as I go and my “co-pilot” will join me at being somewhat “in character.” The reason I continue to put that term in quotations is that if something comes up in the real world while I am playing, I’ll break character and may even have some “dead gameplay” happening while we figure out what is happening. I’m planning on a schedule of when to follow along live but this is really just gathering the information for the other part of this narrative: the edited and “finished” product.

Ideally, the idea is to have a cohesive “season” of story told through several installments. When you watch one of these polished episodes, you’ll get some of the live in-game audio but you’ll also get a lot of voice over narration, telling the story that is harder to pick out from the live feed. Did you see me react a certain way on a planet and didn’t really understand format he live feed, even after watching the scene three times? Well, in the voice over polished episode, you’ll hear about the story beat that was intended to be included in the live feed but my “in character” perspective wouldn’t necessarily understand what was happening.

Yes, I am thinking deep on this one. I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve got planned.

Moving along, I’ve mentioned on the Specter Show about writing serial fiction for this site. While I stalled slightly after writing “episode 1” of the series, I have started in on the first third of “episode 2” and I’m not looking back. I’ve gotten Kevin Couick (from the Greatest Show) interested in the writing of a serial, so we may have a second serial gracing the site that I am not directly involved with! I’d edit, as I have asked him to do for me, but I wouldn’t be writing anything about it.

With the series I’m working on, which I’ll call “Untitled: Series 1,” I want all 12 or 13 episodes completed, edited, and released in 12 or 13 consecutive weeks (as if I were HBO releasing one of their original series on their channel). Once I’m done with the editing and scheduled set up of the release, I intend to start working on another series. Will that be Untitled: Series 1, Season 2? Probable, though I don’t want to exclude the possibility of New Series Season 1. With Kevin in the mix, I wouldn’t feel the pressure to expand into another series right away, as there would be more content to release that would be interesting for you (the audience).

Keep strong if I decide to write a different series instead of season two of the first one… there are lots of stories I have to tell and some of them need to be out there before continuing with the already released “sequels.” Besides, if you like both series, THEN which one do I write third? Right?

All this talk of writing may also result in audio versions of these episodes. So, with the release of a season and then a release of the audio versions at a future date, I would essentially have a novel and an audiobook released within a relatively short span of time.

Also, I don’t know if Kevin intends to novelize his offering but I am intending to novelize mine. Some people like to hold a book when they read and I’d like to be able to sign something for those that really enjoy what I will write.

If you’ve been paying attention to some of the things I’ve talked about on past episodes of the Specter Show, you’ll note there are a couple of items that are completely missing from any sort of documentation in the last few columns or episodes… that would be the narration I was talking about doing for the Doctor Who synopsis readings that I’d promised. I haven’t forgotten about them, I have pushed them to the background because I am actively writing and do not want to interrupt the creative process. I may also discover that I don’t have time for that until a “lull” in the writing process, too, so perhaps saving it for later would be a better thing.

The final thing, which is sort of a storytelling topic, is the concept of columns. I have been writing multiple columns at one point, would liked to have gotten back to that for the sake of content, and I have failed to relaunch things like I’d promised. Well, I’m considering doing something a little different and that would mean an explanation of how and why I’m considering this.

I used to write a professional wrestling column waaaaaaay back in the 20th century (which ran for 350 weekly releases for a website that has since gone down in quality). That would be six years plus of writing about professional wrestling. How did I accomplish this feat? What made the column last that long?

First and foremost, I chose a single topic and talked the hell out of it. Sometimes it was about a match, sometimes it was about an angle (a storyline between two or more wrestlers), sometimes it was about history (lineage of a championship, progression of a specific character, or the rise/fall of a federation), and sometimes it was just about what was currently happening in the world of wrestling (at that time, it would have been between WWE and WCW… later being between WWE and TNA). After the first 50-75 columns, though, topics started to be a little tougher to fill out the entire column length (which was about 750-1500 words, depending on the topic). My audience was clamoring for more, so I did something unexpected…

I added sections to the column.

The first part of the column then became a brief “info dump” about what I thought about what was currently going on at the time. This was about 250-500 words, depending on how interesting the angles were at the time.

The second part was the “traditional” column, containing a focus on a single topic that was now reduced to 500-1000 words, depending on the specific topic. This was also an opportunity to revisit ideas I’d already written about and retell them in the shorter format.

The third part was a story I started developing as part of a series of fictional accounts. At first the story would be released to fantasy booking (setting up angles or shows with specific matches or whatnot). Once the fantasy booking started to see a lull, I created a fictional wrestler and ran him through entering the business and eventually becoming a Hall of Fame character in the twilight of his career.

That third part was, by far, my most popular feature. The third part was also another 500-1000 words, depending on the era of the wrestler’s life I was currently in (and whether he was involved in some random, small federation or one of the “big 2” at the time). There were random columns through the remainder of my run that were nothing but the third section, and those were the highest read columns I ever wrote.

Unfortunately, those columns are not available on that website any longer… not only have they drastically redesigned, they apparently dumped their historical information (I checked), so most of what is on that site now is either new or just plain “in the now.”

If you’ve been paying attention and haven’t gotten distracted by my recounting of my wrestling column, you may have figured out that I am thinking of doing that with this column (or a brand new one). I would write about a topic that relates to the website (like the Emerald Specter column you are currently reading), include the SpecterFit column that I have wanted to relaunch (which wouldn’t always be long enough to warrant a full column, so this new format would fit much nicer into what I’m looking to accomplish), and there are other columns that I wanted to resurrect as well (Storytelling Specter, Game Specter, UFC Specter, Footie Specter, Chess Specter, Ingress Intel, Fantasy Football Specter, and Specter Who) that can be included as pieces or rotating pieces in the final column.

Everything on this site is in a constant state of change. I am adapting as I go and rather than wipe the site and reboot, I want to show a progression of where I came from to where I am at, currently. This column will reflect that.

Starting with Emerald Specter 50, the column will be rebranded slightly with a name that will encompass more about what is going on with the site as a whole (including all the sections I mentioned). I don’t have a name picked out at the moment, but it’ll be something similar (and expanded)… something like Tales from the Emerald Specter, Wrath of the Emerald Specter, Welcome to the Specterverse, Journal of Emerald Specter.com, or something along those lines… the numbering won’t be reset and we will see if that works to move into the future.

I’d love to hear feedback… @EmeraldSpecter on both Instagram and Twitter, email me at emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com, or simply submit a comment on this column.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next week for the grand opening of the new column.

Emerald Specter 48: We Are Still Here

A new graphic for a new era. Welcome back to the Emerald Specter column on Emerald Specter.com!

With the release of the BuJoRPG to the world through bulletjournal.com, I received an uptick in traffic. One would expect such things, especially through a charged creative community like bullet journaling. That said, I had gotten a ping on Patreon, which I’d all but given up on, and I have decided to update the Patreon page and keep that going, now, meaning we’ll be re-adding the link to the Patreon page again to the side bar.

There is a lot I wanted to mention in a lot of different places. Primarily, I was looking to get some writing done and one of the things I hadn’t initially considered was writing a column. Sometimes I forget to write a column, which is funny, since I had a plan on writing this column up to edition 50 and then resurrecting the SpecterFit column anew. That has not fallen by the wayside, as I am going to renew my dedication to getting this site back to where I had it going in the first place… forward.

I will be talking more about my own personal fandoms. YouTube will become a more important part of Emerald Specter.com, as well. I have both the “old” Emerald Specter Channel (hereafter referred to as Channel 2), as well as the new Emerald Specter Channel (hereafter referred to as Channel 1). Those who are observant will note that Channel 1 is completely empty as of this post… that’s because we’re getting ready to content the hell out of it… be patient, Channel 2 is still there.

SpecterFit will return as promised. If you’re just joining us, the column is about getting fit, doing more fitness, learning about nutrition, and all that to include weightlifting or bodybuilding. I’m jumping back on my fitness bandwagon and that will result in all kinds of wonderful content.

Maybe this website will turn into a “digital bullet journal” for the site? I doubt there is a plugin for WordPress that would accommodate that, so let’s not speculate down that road too far.

I’ve mentioned on the Specter Show about my intent to create a story around No Man’s Sky (the game). There is a nice little story in there, but I wanted to expand on the options I had by creating a bigger narrative that I thought would be interesting to follow. Some of the content would be live streamed, with my wife and I being “pseudo-in character” for the broadcast, but another tale can be told in a far more edited fashion as well. I can either tell the same story or tell two different stories, but I think the same story would be easier to go with for my inaugural venture into this type of storytelling. There is a big update coming (in the form of Waking Titan), so I’ll be holding off on developing this until that comes out… knowing what new options I’ll have may take the story in a special direction. Time will tell, of course.

Where is the content that was promised from the other hosts of the Greatest Show? Great question, because I am also wondering about that. Kevin is apparently still waiting on others to join his group, Metal Jesus hasn’t gotten to where he wants to be for a show, Bob is working most of the time (I’ve got an idea for Bob that I’ll be sharing with him in the next couple of days), Rachel said she’d be podcasting on her own channel (and that hasn’t happened at all), and that’s where I am at the moment. Who knows when any of that will start, since I’m the only one creating content actively at the moment, I guess I’ll worry about myself.

The Greatest Show will be returning on September 9 and I’m pretty certain we have our first guest locked and loaded for that broadcast. After that, I’m still working on other guests to come on board… my initial idea was to get other podcasts, YouTube shows hosts, and bloggers to come on to “cross pollinate” our audiences a bit. That has resulted in zero responses, even to people who initially said “we’ll get back to you.”

Really, when?

So, I’ve decided to spread the options out a bit (of which I discuss on the 25th Specter Show)… with luck, we’ll get some hits and see where we can go with the show.

Lastly, I’m going to start scheduling things. I want to start working out again, I want to set up a regular writing schedule, I want to make sure this/these columns come out on a regular basis again, and I want the podcasts to continue being a regular thing at a regular time on a regular basis. Since I have a bullet journal, I think that I need to get my act together a lot more than I already have to get things moving forward on this site…

Welcome to the new age of Emerald Specter.com… we are still here.

Emerald Specter 47: No Man’s Sky

Specter’s Log, Earth Date 20170709.14

As some of you that have been perusing the Emerald Specter Official YouTube Channel may have noticed, I’ve been playing a lot of No Man’s Sky lately. I’m just randomly posting the live stream whenever I have a chance, it isn’t seamless or nonstop, but I have been documenting about 30-90 minutes of my adventures in a ship which I’ve named the Fat Rat Express (because it’s a piece of garbage). I have been playing around with some concepts in the background, which you can’t hear because the inability to post my audio because of the limitations of the PS4 controller… but something is there.

Let me drop some ideas on you and see where that goes. Feedback is necessary.

I am currently playing one of two games that I have started for NMS: 1 Normal Mode and 1 Creative Mode. I haven’t played Creative Mode but a couple of times and I don’t know that I’m necessarily going to go back to that anytime in the near future. My Normal Mode game is from the initial launch of the game, or rather about six months after the initial launch.

The reason I am specifically mentioning the launch part is that several updates have come out for No Man’s Sky since that have expanded the capabilities of the game considerably. My game is from when you simply needed to find “a ship” with more slots that basically looked different (or similar) to what you already had, and that would then leave you looking for suit slots from drop pods, no freighters, and all that fun stuff… this is way back before space combat, even.

What I am thinking of doing is restarting my Normal Mode game, creating a narrative around the experience, and live streaming the entirety of the adventure on YouTube on a new Emerald Specter YouTube Channel (the reason for a new channel is to have a fresh start for the website, as the current channel still have deep ties to the old website and with the Greatest Show being on hiatus, this is the time to launch a new channel). I would like to know if there is interest in something like this out there in Emerald Specterville…

The narrative that I am speaking of is not necessarily going to be the in-game narrative. I would either use that narrative, or elements of that narrative, or just completely use the elements to create my own narrative that I believe would be more interesting in the long run as a story.

Imagine if you will my new home planet being in Korvax space, where I come to be greatly connected with the Korvax peoples, eventually leading me to be an ally of the Korvax over other species that I encounter (limited to, of course, the Gek and Vy’keen). Maybe my narrative has me deep in Vy’keen space, battling them in the name of the Korvax (because maybe that narrative has those two species at war). Perhaps this causes me to be a hauler of freight for the Korvax, or a combat pilot against raids on their freighters, or maybe even a deep space explorer on their behalf, reporting back to them…

Or maybe I’m on the run from all the species, using the anonymity of just popping up in a system, mining and trading until the narrative has me discovered, then popping away to a new system before my presence is discovered by “the authorities.” That actually sounds like a little fun, and I’d have to figure out a trigger or two in order to keep me from determining when I am discovered… things to consider.

Running with the theme that I normally do, I created this graphic as the potential “cover” of this adventure:

The title certainly lends itself to the “fugitive” angle, and I could keep the exact reason I’m a fugitive a running “secret” as the narrative unfolds. This could even go into the Doctor Who style of running narrative, lasting for a long, long time without ever really getting a deep insight as to the reason why he’s running (though I’d have a reason, I may only drop little tidbits out along the way to follow, keeping that as the “grand arc” of the story while the other, smaller arcs unfold much faster).

In any case, there will be a new YouTube Channel coming… I’ve had some discussions and I think that the time is right to get that underway, which will hopefully allow me to be more of a G+ Page rather than an entire profile, because I would honestly like to have fewer G+ profiles (each gmail account creates a G+ profile and I want to stop using so many gmail accounts).

I’m not changing my focus on the website, I’m not shuffling anything into the background as far as projects go… this would be running along side everything else that is currently being developed (the serial fiction, the BuJoRPG, the Specter Show, and the Greatest Show), and I would absolutely try to maintain some sort of semi-regular schedule with all of that.

Life does get in the way sometimes, though.

The BuJoRPG is under constant development, so no worrying about anything but releases for you out there. The serial fiction, which I am attempting to write 500 words a day minimum, is looking more like a couple of thousand words on a day off in one shot. The Greatest Show is really about just being somewhere at a specific time to broadcast to the world with the guests I am actively booking (I have 3 who are in the “pick the date” phase). The Specter Show will just keep on moving forward, because I want to hit episode 52 before I start taking time off from that.

All in all, I would love to hear from you, the reader/viewer/listener. I like telling stories, that is the point of what this website was initially launched for, and you would be the ones consuming those stories. This would just be the first time I launch one with a full on video component.

Let me know at emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com, on Twitter @EmeraldSpecter, or on Instagram @EmeraldSpecter.

I’m always listening.

Emerald Specter 46: Progress and What’s Next

Writing is happening, actually happening, and I’m focused on producing the first thing in a long time that will appear on this website that I’ve been promising for years: serial fiction.

No column for months and then two in the same month? Whoa.

On the Specter Show, and on this blog, I’ve mentioned the SerialBox and SerialTeller serial fiction sites. I don’t know what the word count is (nor how many episodes there are) on SerialBox, but I experimented a little with the SerialTeller word count suggestions and I have to say that anyone reading a story in tiny little pieces like that must be bored to tears (waiting week to week releases, or in some cases, once every two weeks).

As a short recap, SerialTeller suggests releasing at least twice a month between 600-1,250 words an episode. While I love that they think this will make a novel within a year, I can’t even fathom how small a book like that would be… not to mention the fact that while I was setting up each of my test episodes, I could barely tell a story in those short bits and certainly couldn’t build any tension.

That was rough trying, too.

I have started writing the first draft of a series I don’t really have a working title for, and instead of getting worried, you should understand that I have given it many names in the past. This latest installment, though, will be given new life in the form of serial fiction exclusively on EmeraldSpecter.com. Each episode will consist of 6,000 to 8,000 words and there will be between 12 and 13 episodes. I’m using the HBO model, where I can technically put out four different series a year, though even I’m smart enough to understand I don’t shoot for four right out of the gate.

Let’s concentrate on one, first.

I have asked my wife to edit my writing and her requirements were that I write only a single thing, stay focused, and finish that thing before attempting to do anything else. Part of my bullet journal (#BuJoRPG if you hear me!) will be removing all other distractions to focus on that one thing: writing. I will continue to learn Vietnamese, but I am dribbling that out slower than I thought I would, so the new language won’t really get in the way.

The key to giving me mad drive towards getting this writing project done will not necessarily be XP, though that will play a big part in the process. Anyone that has been following the BuJoRPG development knows I’m working on breaking up Quests into short term and long term, as well as developing a “gear system” to help achieving achievements. This will be helping develop that tiny aspect of the BuJoRPG.

Now, now… don’t think this is going to turn into a bullet journal column. I’m writing about writing. I also want to tell you how I got to where I’m at, so buckle up.

George R.R. Martin has created the wonderfully complex A Song of Ice and Fire, off which Game of Thrones is based upon. If you didn’t realize this in the myriad of reviews, videos, blogs, and other information about how he came up with this wonderful story, then let me full you in… the series is basically the same thing as the real life War of the Roses, which was how England kind of arrived at what they have today as far as royalty and such.

My first inclination was to grab some other historically awesome conflict and write the same type of thing… and the basis I wanted to use was Eastern culture (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese… THAT Eastern). I couldn’t really find anything I felt fit the bill, and I took the rough (rough, rough, ROUGH) draft of an old story, put a twist in it, and started mapping out what I wanted to do.

Initially, I had a pretty complex map laid out (similar to the beginning of the first Martin book/Game of Thrones season one) but when I ran that by my wife, she rolled her eyes and said she wouldn’t edit that…

Because I haven’t really finished anything and if I can’t tell a single story, how can I tell multiple stories?

So, I went back to the drawing board and looked at what I had. Yesterday, as I write this, I figured out that I should start with three characters, each with a different perspective, and I can still have the world around them continuing on as normal while they show us the world through their eyes.

For example, Joe Schmuckatelly shows us how one facet of the world operates, introduces us to the different species on the world that they inhabit, and gets to meet some of the visitors to this one specific location that will be leading us to other important things in the future… Jane Doe also is one of our characters, who also gets to meet some of the other people who will be important in the future AND she is going to be venturing out into the world on an assignment, allowing us our first glimpse at what the world looks like and how that world operates. John Q. Public is our third character, and he has a very specific task, which paints a completely different picture of the world (looking the other direction, basically) about what is going on and what is on the horizon.

I can’t really give you analogs of who is who compared to Game of Thrones characters because they’re each their own character. I am excited about writing this and I am currently 3,000 words in on the first draft already.

Things are starting to look up for making the entertainment I wanted to make and hopefully that continues well into the future (with more series!).

Thanks for stopping by and have a successful day, everybody!

Think on it.

Emerald Specter 45: The Roundup

It’s been a while since I’ve written a column. The time seems to be right, as there are several things that are going to be happening that I’d like to let everyone know about just before things start happening. Rather than preamble about vagaries, why don’t we just get to the meat of this column? There will be bolded topic headers this time, so you can skip past the parts you don’t care about reading about.

The Greatest Show

When Bob and I started the Greatest Show a little over three years ago, we just wanted to have fun conversations and talk about all kinds of neat stuff. We would get the occasional guest, plenty of viewership, and we would just have a grand old time.

I miss those days.

Once we got past the 50th Epiversary, things started to change. This is not a bad thing, but they changed nonetheless. We didn’t necessarily get together as often, or we started adding the next wave of hosts (Kevin Couick, “Metal Jesus” Kevin Lama, with appearances by Rachel, Saurabh, Miss Miniver, and Quinny from the Periodic Table of Awesome Podcast). Some shows were themed, some had an “anchor topic,” and other shows just sort of meandered about having no real direction.

We had some big hits (the lure topic, which does contain instructions, in The Greatest Show 89: How to Hide Porn on Your iPhone) and some accidents (The Greatest Show 84 Parts 1 & 2, which were filmed while I was watching UFC 200 and some folks thought I was illegally live streaming it).

As far as the latest news, there has been trouble determining how to get everyone together for one big show. I attempted to do it on episode 100 (where we had Bob, both Kevins, Tricia, and myself… though I was attempting to get on all past hosts like Saurabh, Carl, and Morgan) and also for other shows (like the Miss Miniver and Quinny appearances, where we had shorter casts than normal both times).

We still have issues. We are all adults living adult lives and doing regular living of life. Saurabh has a job where he can’t really make tons of plans to appear because of a pseudo-“on call” status. Bob has a job where he’s working tons of hours and the shifts aren’t always the best. Metal Jesus has RPGs that come up from time to time and he doesn’t want to miss them. Kevin Couick has his own rounds of gaming he does that interferes sometimes. Rachel has school and work, which for a student is a hectic schedule. Tricia and I would love a few weekends off, and since I’m the driving force behind the show, that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

This Saturday, on June 17, we will be having The Greatest Show 135. There will then be following (sometime before the end of June) the very last “scheduled” Greatest Show Fight Series. After the GSFS, the Greatest Show will be going on hiatus until September 9, when the Rose City Comic Con is in Portland and we have a load of geek to talk about again.

I’m sad the show is taking another extended break but everyone needs some time. We talked about shifting the recording time but no one can agree on what is best, which gives me an idea to have at least two casts that rotate but we’ll see how that works out in the future. There are other guests I’d like to bring on, semi-permanent hosts I’ve been working to get into the act, and other neat stuff, too… but if I want to get done what I’d like to get done, I also need the break.

It is not dead, just resting.

BuJoRPG Development

I get a lot of traffic from YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram when I post or talk about the BuJoRPG. I knew people would like the concept but I’m shocked at how much traction it is already getting. This, of course, pushes me to develop a little harder than I was before, and I probably won’t be talking about it for entire shows (the Specter Show, for example) until the next release is ready.

There is a direction I definitely want to take the system in, I want to have a “collector” version (where you’re unlocking characters to collect), and I definitely want to figure out a way to have some sort of “encounter” within the confines of self improvement. I’ve been calling that last part combat up until recently.

With the next release I want to update the Wuxia template and release a brand new template, too. I’m hoping others will get in on the game and create some templates, and I’ll even link them here with full credits to the creators.

The Specter Show

When I started the Specter Show, I wasn’t super sure what I was going to talk about. Updates from the site, some discussion about what happened on the Greatest Show, and a single main topic has really developed out of the show that I didn’t really want to keep up with in that way.

The last episode, the Specter Show 020: Throw This Away, I spent most of the episode discussing a single topic. This is more than likely going to be the way I go from here, talking about a single geeky topic that I love and if there is some “news” that needs to be discussed in a semi-timely manner, I’ll include that, too.

My listenership has dipped a little, but I’m still getting enough downloads to make me happy and driven to want to continue. With Apple’s WWDC announcement about podcasts (this isn’t the announcement, but they do talk about podcasting a bit), I’m really interested to see what I can use the information for in order to develop my main show into something bigger. The gist of the announcement is that there is going to be heavy back end data that I’ll have access to in order to see what my listeners want to hear, what the skip, and I can develop new shows from that point to improve the site as a whole.

Serial Fiction

If you don’t understand why this topic header is here, go listen to the Specter Show released yesterday.

The latest craze sweeping the Internet is serial fiction. People are posting short “chapters” of fiction that may or may not be geared towards eventually making them into a novel. Some people are just posting them in one, long continuous story. The Starkiller Cycle, for instance, is just a side project for a couple of authors on the side, whereas places like SerialBox and SerialTeller are places for serial fiction authors (SerialBox is for professionals, SerialTeller is for the rest of us).

As you can imagine, or if you have a long enough memory, you will realize I’ve been trying to do something like this for over a decade and with the Greatest Show going on hiatus, this is the chance I have to start something up.

I am toying with two release models, both of which I will use to see which one works best for my audience (and my own personal schedule). SerialTeller suggests chapters be between 600-1,250 words and be released at least twice a month. I personally believe that 600 words is way too small, but I am going to utilize this model to see how it works for my storytelling. I have a series that will be utilizing this format for at least the first “season,” then I will see if it continues in that format.

The other format I’m toying with is the one I call the HBO format. Using 1,000-2,000 word “episodes,” I’ll release a season at a time in 12 to 13 straight weeks. After the season, another story will be told using the same format. This can be done four times in a year because 52 weeks breaks down into four 13 week segments. Welcome to HBO’s model.

Am I looking to do four series a year, rotating in a new series now and then? Not right away, but there is certainly room for that… unless the SerialTeller model works better for me. I do like the idea of a non-continuous release schedule, though.

The Doctor Who Podcast(ing)

I mentioned on the Specter Show a ways back about reading episode synopses for Doctor Who and putting out the audio as a podcast. Well, with the hiatus of the Greatest Show, this is going to start happening. There will be time to record some episodes and as promised, I’m looking at releasing at least the first two stories before deciding whether or not I’ll continue.

There is another thing I toyed with and I thought I’d put it out here, just in case someone else is interested.

What if there were synopsis reads that had some added value? I’m actually talking about using the Doctor Who story with a little “rework,” something to make the whole of Doctor Who fit into a narrative (created by me, and others if they want to help). How about an example?

An Unearthly Child is a story (four episodes) about the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara going back to 100,000 BC and helping get a tribe back on the right track with fire building. Now, with my “narrative addition,” I’d add something like an observer in the background… or a whole additional episode dealing with something related to the cavemen but including a Silurian (just a thought)… or perhaps we learn something about the Doctor that we didn’t know before…

The idea is to “refresh” Doctor Who a bit, and allow me some creativity towards one of my favorite properties. I’ve also thought of slipping in a few of my own stories, like the one where William Hartnell’s Doctor and Colin Baker’s Doctor try to undo a failed time experiment. What about the one where all versions of the Master combine to finally make a run at the Doctor in a way they never have before (the as-yet-unseen multiple Master story)?

These are just thoughts. I’d love feedback.

Comic Book Universe

The hiatus is the launch of a few of my project options, notwithstanding, the one where I start creating my comic books. The Greatest Show isn’t a crutch on this one, nor is it on the serial fiction part, but I’m using the added free time to really get into the projects I wanted to actually complete.

I want to have a full script written for my initial graphic novel before December 31 2017. I want to have the first GN drawn before the end of 2018. I want to release the first GN as soon as possible after that, all the while I work on the next installment in the shared universe I’ve spent the better part of two decades working on.

Hopefully you are excited in reading what I’m offering, and hopefully the price point is more than sweet for you to actually pay to read it. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it nailed just right, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, yet.

Site Branding

The last thing I want to cover is the Emerald Specter brand.

This isn’t about changing the theme on the website, or totally redesigning the direction I want to go in… or even about changing anything major about what I’m already doing.

I am talking about giving the site a definitive identity as far as branding goes, so if you see the Emerald Specter logo you can guarantee that logo means “x” rather than “what the hell is that?”

With the serial fiction, my series will all be given “banners” with “An Emerald Specter Original” on it. The podcasts will also be branded with the logo, some with “exclusive” and some with other terms, so that you can start seeing the logo as a meaning of a certain level of quality.

But DJ, the Greatest Show, while entertaining, has always had a fast and loose feeling… how will that change with “quality” control?

When I used to run my old website, LimeFlavored.com, I had an accompanying podcast with that where I was firmly using a show format to produce the episodes. I had a rundown, how long to talk about which topics, and all the prompts to keep me from “umming” and “ah-ing” my way through the audio. I haven’t really ever done that for the Greatest Show.

When the Greatest Show returns, there will be a format… new graphical elements (like cover art on both YouTube and this website when the audio version is put out), new video elements (like an original opening and closing sequence), we will have a firm rundown (a list of topics that we will stick to, or if we have what we had on episode 134 with Quinny, we’ll roll with the wonderful impromptu stuff because it turned out awesome), and we will have themes. Geeky, nerdy, pop culture, and generally entertaining themes.

The Specter Show will also be soon using a rundown on a weekly basis. I’ve been doing the show off the cuff and while I’m getting better at that, I want to be far more professional sounding than I currently am. There will be some audio changes in the future, too, as I establish my rundown creation I’ll also start ramping up the audio quality. While I don’t have a podcast studio at present, recording in sound quality environments will begin occurring as soon as humanly possible.

With both the Greatest Show and the Specter Show, editing will be happening more frequently and with more care. I still like the live aspect of the Greatest Show but consideration for removing the live element will be considered in favor of a higher quality product.

Any new podcast will BEGIN with this higher quality of audio production, which means that you won’t get a new podcast until you start noticing a wonderfully improved Specter Show. I am setting a deadline, including that in my bullet journal, and that way I’ll achieve that goal.

I don’t expect millions of people to this site, but I’d really like to be able to expect a couple thousand, even if only to check things out. The branding is about accomplishing that goal.

Lastly, if you were wondering what 2,000 words looks like for the serial fiction, this column is 2,411 words long. I just wanted to give you an idea at what you’d be looking at for reading.

Thank you, and think on it.

Emerald Specter 44: BuJoRPG, Bullet Journal RPG

The title will be a little misleading, I’m not releasing the BuJoRPG here… but I’m here to talk about the point of the bullet journaling roleplaying system here and what to expect when the release finally happens.

Welcome back to the writing… as this will be one hell of a long column.

For anyone who has been under a rock, or hasn’t ever read a column here on the EmeraldSpecter.com website, bullet journaling is a way of journaling to improve your organization in life that was created by Ryder Carroll and has been sweeping the Internet for a couple of years now. I took up bullet journaling late last year and came up with the wonderful idea of gamifying the idea of a bullet journal, specifically building up personal improvement within the structure.

I came up with the BuJoRPG, which is what I’ve been working on since March and am almost ready to release the 1.0 version. As I write this, I am utilizing version 0.7 and building the forms and instructions for general release is basically what I’m going to be doing to release this version (at which it will become version 1.0). This will be the culmination of almost four months of testing and refining in order to have something workable to release to the general public for use. Once this “base” is out there, then the layers of the onion will be added, which was the plan from the beginning.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what the hell we will be releasing in the very near future.

The basic idea was focused on self improvement, has always been about self improvement, and how to make that self improvement tangible… something to see measurable results in. A roleplaying trope is to have levels, milestones, quests, and the like… so I added that into the mix as well. This is an RPG where you actually have to do things in order to advance. Who wouldn’t like that, right?

I’ve broken down the improvement things into a few categories: daily things, necessities, and wants are the basics. Once I figured out what belonged where, I developed the ideas behind these to make them into a routing of what should be done daily, and fairly often.

Let’s start with the necessities.

A necessity is something that needs to be done daily, done by you, and should not be rewarded when done but rather punished when not done. These would include basic household chores that have no business not getting done. Doing or folding laundry, washing the dishes, picking up around the house, locking the door at night, keeping the yard clear of debris, making sure the car stays clean, and keeping your room clean. You really have no reason, any good reason, why these things shouldn’t be getting done on a regular basis. These will be the items that you are either already doing semi-regularly and want to increase to daily, or you’re doing them infrequently and they really need to be done daily. These things will cause a loss of hit points, which can only be refreshed in one of two ways… that I’ll wait to reveal for the release of the BuJoRPG.

Hey, parents… did you notice that “keep your room clean” note? I’m thinking that if you have a child that is having a hard time focusing, isn’t doing their chores, or basically accomplishing basic living skills that the BuJoRPG is the source for correcting that! You might then be wondering about how to get the child to actually do the journaling to get better at these things, and that is what I’ll address next.

Next I’m talking about the daily items.

A daily item is something you want to encourage into a habit by rewarding that habit with experience points. Experience points are the only means of advancing in level and thus this is how you establish positive daily habits. In the last full paragraph, I suggested you want to encourage the child to journal to be doing the necessities, so what you do is make “bullet journal” one of the dailies. See how easy that is? All of these things will be items that you want to build habits of, so if you want to journal on a daily basis, add that here. If you want to write so many words per day to build that into a habit, add that here. If you want get better at chess by playing often, add your “play some chess” option here. Completing each item in the daily list will come with some (albeit minor) experience points, but completing the full list will provide a bonus amount, which will encourage completing the daily list daily.

Now let’s go on to the wants, which I’ll explain why that is different than the daily.

A daily is something you want to reward for accomplishing on a daily basis, because that is something you can do on a daily basis. The want, however, is like a daily but will have milestones rather than a daily completion list because completing that daily would be unrealistic or impossible. An example I have been working on using is learning a language. If you want to learn a language, you might be tempted to add this into the daily list in order to learn something daily. Having tried to learn a language myself, I can tell you that perfecting the little bits you actually do learn is more important than just memorizing phrases, because building a syntax of the language can’t be done with pure memorization. A want will have milestones to complete, and in the case of the language, here are the examples I’d use: (1) learn a simple phrase (like good morning) for 100 XP, (2) learn 5 new phrases (on top of the one you’ve already learned) for 500 XP, (3) learn 10 new phrases (again, on top of what you already know, bringing your knowledge of phrases up to 16 at this point) for 1000 XP, and so on.

The wants list is different than the daily… because you can only accomplish the milestone once. Ever. You learn that one phrase, you can’t just learn another simple phrase for another 100 XP because that isn’t what you’re trying to build. The wants are getting you to learn something to improve yourself that will take more work than a daily schedule. I used the example of a language, but this can include a martial art, coding in a particular computer programming language, or any sort of art project (drawing, sculpting, photography, etc). These milestones are there to get you moving in the right direction, not be a source of easy experience points for your advancement.

After all, if you’re going to cheat your way to the end, did you really improve at all?

When I release this to the world, I’ll be hammering home something important in the whole process: be honest with yourself. Did you forget to add your journal notes in for Monday? Be honest and note that on Tuesday, but do not fill out Monday as if you’d added it when you were supposed to because then you aren’t improving, you’re just gaming the system. Do you want to improve yourself or just get by?

This is one of the reasons that I suggest adding “journal” into the daily list, because if you already have a “gimme” item on the list, the fact that you’ve done the journaling and updating gives you some automatic experience points. This then leads one to be positive about embarking on the BuJoRPG because as long as you’re doing JUST the journaling of the one thing, you’re earning at least a tiny piece of experience each day.

Along with everything above, I’ve got something I’ve been calling “achievements,” which are more for tracking on an individual basis and still working towards goals to earn experience at certain milestones. Don’t confuse the milestones of the achievements with the milestones of the wants. Maybe instead of “milestone” I should say benchmark? Every achievement is something you track to reach a benchmark. Let’s say you are tracking your steps (one thing that I am currently tracking in my own achievements for the play testing), and you want to accumulate a full track of each step. This is an achievement.

Using my own steps for the example, it is important to note that I am a city letter carrier and my route is roughly 13 to 15 miles for a single delivery day. This equates to anywhere between 26,000 to 31,000 steps per working day, meaning my totals will probably be much higher than what you’ll want to use if you’re not regularly making this high of a daily step total.

Starting at the beginning of my play testing period, I started tracking my own steps every day (except for the two days I missed, which do not count because they weren’t logged when they should have been). Every 100,000 steps, I earn 100 XP. When I reach 1,000,000 steps, the benchmark will be triggered and I’ll get my XP multiplied by two. That means once I get past the million step mark, every 100,000 steps will be 200 XP. Every 1,000,000 steps I gain a new benchmark and get a new multiplier. So, when you see how high the experience requirements for level 50 are, you’ll understand why you need the multiplier for achievements.

That leads me to now discuss the roleplaying aspect of this, what I have at the moment, and where I want to take this thing in the future.

I chose the roleplaying genre because that is the genre of game that I am most interested in. If you follow my podcast, you’ll know that I have skinned my own personal BuJoRPG as a martial arts style skin, but for the release I’m stripping out all my “skin” elements to give you the bare bones of the system. Once I release the basic system, I’ll release my own personal skin I’ve been using (and maybe one more), at which point you should be able to skin your own system based on your personal preferences… and I’ll start working on the next version of BuJoRPG.

In a roleplaying game, or RPG as I will hereafter refer to it as, you gain levels based on advancing your character’s skills, items gathered, and experience in/around the world you are exploring. I felt that this concept was the best fit for the BuJoRPG because you’re going through a process of self improvement and that is kind of like exploring a game world and improving “your character.” You, after all, are the character in this scenario.

I initially had some big plans for the initial release of the BuJoRPG. There were elements that I was tracking that were eventually going to feed into a system that I ended up removing because I couldn’t get the other items developed due to my attention being spread too thin. The focus really needed to be on the “core” of the system, then I can start adding in the layers of the “onion” that I was mentioning earlier in the column. What you’ll be seeing in the next month or so is that core system, the “basic” level of everything I’ll be building upon.

There isn’t anything more than a tracking system in this core system. You’re tracking progress, making sure you’re doing the things that you need to be doing, and there are RPG elements in that core system to keep you moving forward through your “levels.” That means there is a lot of journaling that needs to be done, but there are things I’ll be releasing in the future that will make all of this easier.

With the core of the system out there, I can start working on the next plan and that is turning the “wants” system into something far more interesting to interact with. I’ll be frank with you here (hello, Frank), the wants in my system are known as Quests. The reason benchmarks are in there are to give your multiplier some fun interaction and to develop this system into something way cooler than the initial offering I’ll have in version 1.0. I don’t want to get too detailed here because I may add a little bit more before the release.

In fact, I am working on ways to make the whole process more interactive (and interesting). The basic operation of the BuJoRPG system will be as basic as anyone wants, but will be as intricate as I’d like to have it end up being. Eventually, I’d love to have a BuJoRPG app for cell phones, but let’s start with the analogue system working before I go tackling the most complicated part of the process right away.

Currently, I am creating each of my tracking pages by hand… individually, daily tracking info by hand. I am drawing all the squares, making all the art, and formatting all the pages one at a time. For the release of the BuJoRPG, I want to have printable templates for everyone to use if you would rather just print out the sheets to either attach individually to the pages, or basically print out an entire bullet journal formatted as you need. The templates will be basic at first, but I’ll develop those, too, as time goes on.

The task which I have undertaken is a large one. Developing a game, essentially what I have undergone, is a process. First, you create the core (or the foundation), upon which everything else will be built. If the core system doesn’t work, all the pretty graphics and neat artwork you add after that will do nothing but draw attention to the things that don’t work. Second, you build on that core system with some other items that really need to be developed as their own “core” items, so you can add the next layer to that onion.

My idea for building this will be to add onto the framework I’ve created by developing one piece of that framework at a time. The core will be out, then I’ll work on the Quests to be a little more interactive/interesting. When that is out, I’ll go ahead and develop the daily list (which is simply known as Dailies) into a process (because this is a habit building devise, after a certain period of time with this you should gain habits without needing 365 days worth of reminders to do these things, helping you improve in the long run). After that, maybe I develop out augmentations to the base “RPG character” to make earning XP different and more fun. Hell, there may even be a combat or exploratory element added to this before I start working on alternate versions of this type of system.

Alternatives?

Yeah, initially the idea was to develop something akin to Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, where you collect characters (or toons, as the slang goes) to complete different things to advance and grow your toons into a formidable fighting force for special events and other things. That changed slightly into what the BuJoRPG has become, but I’d still like to develop things that would be different to interact with.

So, like I mentioned, maybe a SWGoH version of the game… or perhaps a Final Fantasy element (where you’re accomplishing things on a “rail,” which means you’re completing things and then moving on to complete the next stage of the thing as if you were following a map). How about something like a development resembling a chess game? I’ve got all kinds of ideas, but the important part is to keep the self improvement at the core of everything that is going on.

The important part of this whole process is making sure that once I create what works for me, I really would like to know what works for all of you. I would love some feedback about what you see when I release the core system, or ideas you would like integrated into the BuJoRPG before the release (or in future releases), or tell me what variation you’d like to see incorporated.

Along with all of the podcasting I’ve been doing with the Specter Show and the Greatest Show, would you also like to see something like a page through of the bullet journal I’m using? Would you like to see the set up of a bullet journal from the BuJoRPG perspective? Would you like to see bullet journal hacks? Would you like me to go all the way back to the beginning and have a video about what the hell a bullet journal is and what you would want to use such a thing for?

As someone who is trying to develop this website (and a YouTube channel, Instagram account, Facebook page, Twitter account, and other social media) into something with more interactive elements, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Now I’m probably running a little long in the tooth on this column, but since it’s been such a long time and I’ve worked on the BuJoRPG so much, that I figured long would be better at this point.

Think on it.