Tag Archives: Columns

Journal of the Emerald Specter 88: The Rise and Fall of the DWO

In an effort to keep content flowing with some updates now and then, I am going to be writing a few Journals to have that information flowing out regularly. This means that I am going to be covering some topics that don’t require timeliness, so here’s the first one that is me recounting “the good old days.”

I’m old.

Who knew I was going to utilize this banner again?

In order to talk about the title of this Journal entry, you need to understand a meager amount of history. The history is in the “eWrestling” era and before that era really began.

Way back in the 80s, professional wrestling was a big deal. Simulating that among friends without intense amounts of work was also a big deal. That spawned the Allied Wrestling Federation (AWF), which we had loads of fun with for about a year… then it died and we moved on. That led me to create another federation, less collaboratively run, and more me acting as the owner and others entering in their characters. That was the Further Wrestling Federation (FWF, and Further is the parent company I created to control things).

The FWF lasted for almost five years, with people drifting in and out of interest and a wide array of characters coming and going. That allowed for awesome story arcs and a hoot and a half. When it went away, I was sad, but I had also moved past doing most of the work.

When I joined the Navy, a fellow wrestling fan introduced me to “wrestling by mail,” essentially the same thing I did with FWF but via the Post Office. I did participate, but man alive was it slow. Participation lasted all of six months before I stopped playing because it was just too slow for my taste.

After the Navy, and during the rise of the Internet, I was introduced to “play by email” wrestling, or eWrestling… the early days, at least. I was in and out of a few federations before I decided that no one was doing it right, so I gathered some work friends together (all wrestling fans) and created another federation for us… thus the Dark Wrestling Organization (DWO) was born.

The DWO started in August of 1998 with only six handlers, those are the actual humans who control the characters, controlling six characters. Those six characters turned into 12, which also enticed several other coworkers into joining, and things got big from there… when I opened the DWO up to the Internet.

Originally, the DWO was a collaborative effort to get characters doing interesting things and have interesting storylines. One of the Internet players showed me the types of federations he was used to participating in and I decided to move a little bit in that direction.

The standard means of the Internet eFederations of the time was to create a post about your character, known as a “role play” or RP, and judge the two character’s RPs against each other and that’s how winners were decided. Unlike real pro wrestling, the storylines are determined less by interesting things the two players would do and became more about who could write some epic craziness more than their opponent. Thus, the better writers rose to the top while the rest lingered in the middle or eventually got better over time.

Not the way I really enjoy running the show. My preferred choice is known now as an “angle fed,” which means that the two players come up with their story arc, play it out collaboratively, and then move on to bigger and better opponents. Angle feds don’t allow the snappy one liners to flow out and players can’t openly insult each other, so it’s not really that popular. Imagine that.

The DWO attracted a whole new crowd once I introduced the RP element. Almost the entirety of the fed’s roster turned over as the coworkers slowly went away and the Internet players came out in droves. There were so many players at one point that there was serious talk of breaking the fed into two so that spotlights weren’t being hogged by the same few people at the top.

As more people came and went, more and more RP elements were pushed in while there were less and less of the angle elements. When the RP took completely over, I ended up announcing I wanted to “retire” from running the DWO… but didn’t want the fed to just end, so I turned control over to a pair of Australian friends who wanted to take the fed to new heights. I moved all my characters to a new, and smaller, federation that was more akin to the FWF and played there.

About two months after I openly left the DWO in the hands of others I received an email asking if I’d be willing to come back. When I was poking around the forums and the website, I uncovered a mass exodus about six weeks after I left because the rules had been shifted slightly to be a little more structured… and players didn’t like that.

I discussed the situation with the two guys, who miraculously turned into just a single guy because his buddy also left, and came to the conclusion that I had actually missed the DWO. We plotted out a “big comeback” and talked about what needed to happen in order to facilitate moving the rules less what they’d become and more what they needed to be in order to attract new players (or get the old ones back).

When I burst back into the DWO, without any formal announcements, things turned around almost immediately. Old handlers started coming back and re-apply for entry back into the DWO. Players were interested in restructuring the RP element back to what it was… which is where the beginning of the end really started.

The plan wasn’t just to return things to the way they were just before I left, but to return them to almost the point where RP was barely a factor again… when I had first introduced it. This was met with mixed results.

There was a big boom in player activity, storylines were running all over the place, and there was a level of excitement to the point where several of the other feds who experienced an uptick in activity started closing down because everyone left.

Those who were killer RP writers were having a field day early in the revival but started realizing their skills weren’t going to be in there for the long term. The players who were good storyline creators started seeing that their chance in the spotlight was on the rise and that the tide was about to change. The influx of returns and new players lasted about two months before the RP hardcore group started filtering out.

My Australian co-owner (because I never really took full control away from him) decided he wasn’t happy with the RP elements being phased out so fully. I actually discovered in the months after the DWO died that he was being talked to by the RP hardcores and was being influenced to start his own fed to bring the RP back to the forefront… to each their own. When he left, though, the fed did shrink to critical mass.

The legend of the DWO was far larger than the DWO actually was. My tag line had always been “once you’ve been in the DWO, no other fed is as good.” People ate that up and I used that in the declining months to bolster the storylines back to where interesting things were happening and the solidification of the DWO came down to a core group of about eleven people (including myself).

In the final 30 days of the DWO, we were finishing up some of the biggest storylines we’d ever run and players were having a blast… or so I thought. Three of the eleven were “humoring me” until I “realized” that RP was vital to survival. They left when they realized that wasn’t going to happen. Two of the remaining eight were lured to the “hanger on” fed that didn’t dry up when their mass exodus of former DWO players left, and thus began rebuilding. When three of the remaining six of us decided they wanted someplace with more activity and were worried about leaving me “high and dry.” I held an impromptu meeting with everyone and we decided, mutually, to dissolve the DWO officially in May 1999.

Yes, the fed only lasted a short time but is still remembered as one of the better eFeds on the Internet by those who participated in it. When the DWO ended, I’d started up a new fed with the intent of bringing in an amalgamation of RP and angle… it lasted only four months and it was because someone posted an RP after I’d already written up and posted the results, decided I’d done that out of spite for the RP he’d posted.

People took sides, things were said, and the fed died at the end of that week. Completely dead.

All in all, the DWO was fun and if I had the free time I did way back in the day, I might even be interested in running another fed. I don’t have that free time, though, and I haven’t watched professional wrestling in some time (years).

This was a little trip down memory lane, something to put out content without needing to do tons of research. I’m also happy that I can retell something that I haven’t talked about in a long time.

Those who were part of the DWO may not remember the whole story. Some of them might say that things didn’t last as long or things didn’t go the way I said they did. Maybe things didn’t go exactly that way, but since I lived it that’s the way I remember it.

Memoir may be more fun than biography anyway.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 87: Fixing Chess

The title is really a misnomer, sort of… I really mean “how to fix chess to be closer to a spectator sport than it currently is” and you can already see that title is too long. So, I shortened it.

I’ve got a story to tell, it’ll be less about just that sixth grade chess club (though that will definitely be included) and be more rounded to my entire chess experience. Come take a walk down memory lane as I lead up to the meaty part of the column.

I learned to play chess in the sixth grade and was part of, for lack of a better term, a chess club that ran itself like the WWE of the 80s. I call this the 6CC (Sixth Grade Chess Club). We had a World Championship for the top tier, an Intercontinental Championship for the second tier, and we had ourselves a really good time. Some of us got better as time went on and some of us didn’t.

I was a someone who got better.

Without getting into the minutia of how everything went down, I personally ended up as the club’s final World Champion before the end of the year. I took that championship into the “next wave” of the club, which was smaller and operated slightly different, but held on to the excitement we had all experienced. The new club went forward with everyone on the same level, and those who weren’t quite up to snuff for a championship run were helped to get better so they could have their own runs as champions.

We were an all inclusive and collaborative bunch.

The next wave club lasted twice as long as the first one but still suffered a pseudo-death. I wasn’t the one to end up with the championship for this transition but the guy who did wouldn’t last long into the newest club before I was once again the champion.

This newest club, which I’ll call the last club, was really composed of a hard core group from the first and second groups (because a few from each group joined) and we ran closer to what an actual chess club with a champion would run like… we had a couple of tournaments, we had some championships among the best few players good enough to hold it (I was one of them), and we ended when all but one player (yup, me) left the group.

Instead of thinking that no one was interested, you should be aware that the others left school (all of these clubs were based in my small home town) and some moved to different towns to go to different schools.

My final year of high school, I helped form the World Chess Organization (WCO), and the WCO decided that there would be a two player match for the WCO World Championship. I won’t embarrass the runner up with publicizing his name, but I won a “best of 13” by winning all 7 games.

I won the WCO World Championship on April 24, 1994 and defended it almost 10 ten times in three countries (Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United States) with contenders from over five nationalities (Greece, England, Philippines, Mexico, and Canada). The reign was not unbroken, I did lose the championship to the Filipino (and regained it). Except for three months, I was the WCO World Champion from April 24, 1994 until July 24, 2004… when I retired the championship and ended the WCO.

Now, I’d love to continue the WCO but I’m not a 2800 rated player. I’m not even a 2000 rated player. I have, though, been trying to figure out how to recapture that exciting feeling when I was back in that first chess club.

There have been many attempts to exactly recreate the chess club but each and every attempt has failed. Some times the failure was due to a misunderstanding about what the “club” was about, sometimes there was a lack of participation, and there have also been disruptors that basically sought to undermine the entire effort because they didn’t believe in it. (To that last point, why did they bother joining? I cannot answer that.

There have been a few different variations of the club attempt: straight up WWE style (again), something more akin to how boxing operates, a tournament series (akin to NASCAR), and some other options too numerous to list.

Then I made a connection with something I love that seems to have taken hold.

Merging sumo and chess, putting a time control on this that puts a little pressure on the participants, seems to have made an impact. The Emerald Specter Chess Club on Chess.com hasn’t gotten a full roster of players yet, but we’re only three events in and things are working.

The time control is a 1 day per move and if I had the time, I believe running an even shorter time control for a single day 12 times a year would probably get more steady attention.

The concept is to give an interesting competition for players who may never have a chance at a Master, International Master, or Grandmaster title in their lives. I’d like to see this go through as a bigger “organization,” modeled to have our own versions of Yokozunas (Diamond Adepts) headlining and hopefully eventually going on to do something more than they thought possible.

I’ve been evaluating what I’ve done so far and seeing what else might be able to be done with this format. Would it be popular enough to get a sponsor and maybe some modest prize money for the winners? Ideally, that would be great and then transitioning into more of a known entity… like the PRO Chess League.

The PRO Chess League took rapid chess and put a team play spin on it. Basically, this is the NFL of chess.

This doesn’t necessarily make chess a spectator sport. So, isn’t that what I told you I was going to talk about? Yes, and I needed all that to start talking about it now.

Every one of the clubs I was a part of in school had an audience for the chess matches. Every time I defended the WCO World Championship there was an audience for the chess matches. Every game played in the Chess Basho system in the ESCC has an audience for the matches.

Do you know who the audience was for each and every one of those? Chess players.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “of course, who else would be interested?”

THAT’S THE POINT.

I have been evaluating what I have been trying to do and how to make that fit into the vision of what I ultimately have been working towards.

The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to get the average joe interested in watching chess. I do not have the answer to this question and I know that is an unsatisfying ending to this column but I have learned something from all of this: if you want to build something for the masses, you need to start building for the players first.

Chess PLAYERS want some expert analysis while events are going on. Spectators that aren’t well versed in chess may not understand the analysis and are more just looking for a “what’s happening” type recap.

What else would the common person want from chess? This is what stumps me.

Part of the problem is over saturation. Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion, playing Fabiano Caruana, current next contender for the championship, isn’t big news in and of itself. Why? They’ve both played each other, I’m guessing, over a hundred times. Where’s the excitement in that?

Every active player in the top 100 of FIDE is similar. You have played everyone you’re ranked with at several tournaments already, you’ll probably play them a couple of hundred more times before your stint in the top 100 is done, and the only thing that matters is “how did that particular day go?”

The other killer for chess as a spectator sport is the time control. There is no reason to play a single game for 8 hours. Not a single reason. The PRO Chess League went with a much shorter time control and it makes the games more exciting because you know you aren’t going to be sitting around for 6 more hours waiting for a result.

Fixing these things is exactly as easy and changing the situation to elicit the results that you want. Sounds simple, right?

Do you want shorter chess games with vastly more activity? Make the time controls 15 minutes or shorter.

Do you want less drawn games? Score wins much larger than draws, maybe even going so far as to reward losses more than draws to cut them down.

Do you want to see games less frequently between the same people to make their meeting far more anticipated? That is something that would need to be figured out…

I made lots of references to the WWE style organization we used for the 6CC. When people hear or read “WWE” all they can think about is predetermined results and chair shots. There are two better references that can be made this two decades later that would be better analogies: UFC and poker.

I’ll start with poker.

Professional poker is a series of tournaments leading to a final tournament to determine the winner of the year. It’s kind of like NASCAR in the respect you have to win your way to the end, then win again at the end. The problem with poker is that you have multiple organizations claiming dominance and running their own tournaments irregardless of what the others are doing. ESPN shows the World Series of Poker, which some regard as THE championship, while Travel Channel as the World Poker Tour, which I believe is presented far more interestingly than what ESPN does. Personal preference, really.

If you’re interested in keeping the format a series of tournaments and running through to crown an ultimate winner at the end, this is definitely the scenario for you. In fact, don’t even limit the field of competitors… start the cycle out a hundred “qualification” tournaments all over the world, open to anyone. If you qualify from those, you get to then enter the next level and try to keep going from there. The field gets smaller and smaller as the year progresses until you reach a final tournament at the end to crown your champion. The later stages of the cycle are also where you’ll see the top players hang out as they’re really good at chess.

You could also use a point system to allow for advancement. Wins could be 5 points, losses could be 2 points, and draws could be 1 point. This encourages the players to actually play to win because right now “draw” is the word that you hear most often in results. The top 1024 point earners from the qualification rounds to advance into the heat of the competitions? Use the points.

Now, let’s talk about the UFC.

The UFC signs players to contracts, the best of the best in the world, to offer them a series of fights that heightens the excitement of the company as well as enriches the status of the fighters. Due to the fact that this is a combat sport, scarcity is a necessity… but the UFC doesn’t limit those who want to be really active and are healthy (see Donald Cerrone). They have multiple divisions for fighters to compete in based on their weight and they promoted the bejesus out of events to make sure they draw in the crowds.

Personally, I love the UFC and the way they do things. They get fighters scheduled to fight and let them smack talk each other the whole process, leading to the eventual fight to resolve the matter. WWE used to do this type of thing but their model is vastly different now.

This model, like the 6CC, would rely on some scarcity. In this scenario, ratings don’t matter… in fact, don’t even publicize the ratings of any of the players that sign on to this scenario. Group players in different categories so that super strong players aren’t taking on less competitive players. Behind the scenes, use the ratings to group them up… maybe in 200-300 rating point increments. Ideally, you’d allow for a little overlap per “division” so that someone who is getting better can opt up rather than be stuck in a division because they can’t find the competition to help them excel.

Yes, I’m saying keep ratings behind the scenes but don’t let the public know them. If John Doe is rated 1753 and Bill Fold is rated 1562, the potential spectators would know that Bill Fold’s chances are very low. If Art Work is the Gold Division Champion and his opponent, Jim Shoe, has played his way through some exciting games for a shot at the title, this is a scenario that would garner more interest because you aren’t focusing on the number. Sure, Art Work could be 1612 and Jim Shoe could be 1599… that could even be a selling point under normal circumstances, but keeping those numbers unpublicized makes the potential much greater (and if the players don’t know the exact strengths of their opponents, that eliminates them mentally beating themselves if their rating is lower).

Arrange matches (two game matches, one with white and one with black) to determine winners and losers. Use the point system from the poker example to keep draws almost non-existent (or use points per winning with white and black pieces specifically, same thing with draws… that would also be a winning combination to keep the draw counts down and allow for players to play for the win). Get players to “sign” for the organization to compete in so many matches, like the UFC, so that if the player wants to go on and do something else (or more traditional), they aren’t locked in for an indeterminate amount of time (but do have to participate a minimum number of games).

Hype the matches. Have the players do some smack talking about their opponents right up until the match. Even UFC fighters hug after the fight, showing their opponent respect. Chess players can do that, too. Really drive up the potential value of a, let’s say, blitz match between two championship contenders. Yes, they’d be ranked, which is another way to get them interested in smack talking and competing for ranking. The ranking and opponent’s rank could determine the prize fund (a #1 vs an unranked player might draw $100, whereas a #4 vs #7 would draw $300 because ranked players playing would be more interesting).

There is something I haven’t said in this column that would affect almost all of these ideas. Ratings are that subject.

Nothing I’ve talked about up to this point involves anyone rated higher than 2200. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re probably looking at a rating cap of 1800. The reasons for that may not be entirely obvious but they’re completely valid.

A player with a 2200 rating has a more “traditional” view of chess and would be less interested in the showmanship of what I’ve talked about. Players with 1800 ratings and up are more interested in studying games, figuring out how to improve their games, and are interested in competing for traditional prizes in traditional tournaments against other traditionally minded players.

On the lower end, players rated 1000 to 1300 seem to be more open to some shenanigans during their play. I have a regular game against a 1300-ish player that results in some fun back and forth while we play. We haven’t gone overboard with straight up smack talk but the potential is there. I’m also under the belief that players in the 1400 and 1500 range might also be willing to participate, as they’re in that “I’m not good enough for top ranked play but I’m better than casual games.”

The reason for the rating limit is to encourage those who aren’t really in any danger of winning any prizes to participate in something that will draw some attention to the game for someone who doesn’t necessarily play. I’m willing to lay money down on the bet that if you have an event (a single player v single player match, or maybe a couple of those) played at a faster time control with a whole bunch of smack talk leading up the actual games, on top of the event being promoted like a UFC fight, that you’d get non-chess players at least moderately interested. This draws attention to the game, allows players who are interested in doing something a little more on the “fun” side of the game to participate, and gives those interested in learning chess a platform to jump onto that isn’t a traditional “stuffy chess scene.”

I believe these ideas have merit. I believe that with the right group of people that a successful organization could rise up to bring chess to a wider audience. I believe that if some effort was put into these ideas that, if nothing else, could be a way for lower rated players to feel like their accomplishing something great, even though they may never reach a 2000 rating.

Isn’t that worth giving a shot?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 83: Building Bigger

The title of this blog doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be changing a bunch of things up. I wanted to leave the title vague enough to be able to accommodate a lot of options, while I’m not necessarily going to be speaking about making anything actually larger, the idea is that I’m going to be talking about what I’m doing and where things will be going.

If you haven’t listened to the Specter Show (episode 49), then maybe you want to… I explain a little bit about things.

Since this is a readable blog post, though, I’m more interested in where I’m going to be pointing for the majority of the topics here. I’ll be covering a lot of stuff here, so why don’t I go ahead and get things rolling.

I tried something new with the naming scheme of the Specter Show but it didn’t take when I downloaded the episode myself. The next time I’ll have to rename the entire post to see if that works, which means the graphics identifying the episode will need to be spot on for the download. The idea is to remove the show name from the title and just have the episode number and episode title.

This isn’t the only thing I want to talk about with this particular section.

The Specter Show has long not really had a focus. I’m going to be catching up on the numbering of where I should be after more than a year of recording and to do that I’m going to be doing some different types of episodes. There will be a little bit of BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG updates, which have become the centerpiece of the podcast, but there will also be some fiction read by myself (which fulfills the hope that I might someday get to record audiobooks).

Those will start as short story readings of public domain properties and possibly morph into (hopefully) writing and reading my own fiction.

Will the fiction reading take over the podcast completely? No. If things go well enough, or if there is enough interest in me continuing, then I’d spin the podcast off into its own thing.

Included with those above things, I’ve got two other projects that I’m looking to include into the rotation that I’m super interested in developing. The first one is a “funny news” podcast that I’ve written a script for (the first episode only), and as long as the news still isn’t out of date, I’ll be including that one real soon. Assuming that there is interest in continuing that, it would also eventually get its own podcast feed.

The second one is a little bit more complicated. Rather than having a weekly feed for this particular idea, I’m angling at more of a monthly show release schedule instead. What I’m talking about will require a somewhat in depth explanation… so here it is:

The Freemasons have a slogan that has always interested me: “We take good men and make them better.” In order to accomplish this, they have a set of lessons wrapped in allegory to teach those men how to be more well rounded. They call it “finding more light,” but whatever you call it, they’re teaching people about ideals and virtues that everyone should generally have. I’d like to research these allegorical lessons and turn them into a long form informational podcast.

Before you roll your eyes and start thinking about baby sacrifices, Illuminati plots, butt sex rituals, or any of the other conspiratorial things you associate with the Freemasons. None of that is true and believing it without proof makes you silly and ridiculous for believing things without proof. If you want to believe in conspiracies, then what I just laid out isn’t going to be for you, anyways. Just 15 minutes of research on Freemasonry without paying any attention to the Satan linking idiots out there taught me a hell of a lot, maybe others wouldn’t be so taken with conspiracies if there was some common sense involved in the research.

What I’ve laid out are items that I’d like to include JUST in the Specter Show, and if they’re interesting enough to folks, spin them out into their own podcasts.

I’m also going to talk about the Greatest Show. With all the hosts but myself, my wife, and Metal Jesus showing up on a regular basis, I’m trying to figure out how to adapt the show into the future. This means the infrequency of the podcast will continue until I figure that out.

The guest rotation thing, including people that I want to interview of just generally have a conversation with will be on the show at irregular times while I try to figure out what’s next.

I play the Sumo Game, where you pick who will win and lose each day of the 15 day sumo tournament (or basho). I’ve only competed in three bashos so far and I’ve managed to have a kachikoshi (more wins than losses) each time. The goal is to eventually become a Yokozuna (Grand Champion), just like real sumo.

I’d like to get more people playing, more people interested in sumo, and more attention to the sport that is far more nuanced than most people understand. Personally, I’ve only really followed THE true sumo in the Japanese Sumo Association, where the best of the best compete.

Much like Kintamayama, where I catch most of my “digest” style recaps of each day’s action, I’d like to have my own little sumo competition going on like he does on his own site. He was a Yokozuna for a time on the Sumo Game site, I don’t think he needed to start his own but it always helps to have a system for building up something from a common source.

Speaking about bashos, the Emerald Specter Chess Club on chess.com is the place for a merger of sumo and chess.

The first basho was a hit, the second basho was a hit… there have only been two people to sign up to be a part of the “permanent” rotation, so the cycle will continue to happen with the two other members, myself, and a slew of random folks.

The goal, of course, is to have a steady group of “top division players” to then start expanding out in order to build up a regular competition and maybe even get some attention of some big time players to want to compete (and by “big time,” I’m talking about titled players who aren’t in the top 100 but want to do something that is a little different than “normal.”

I’ve been jotting a few things down in the last few weeks. Some of those jottings have been about things to include into the website, and of course, some of those jottings have been about fiction. I’m not going to do a lot of talking about the things to include on the website, so this will be more about the fiction.

The “Journal of the Emerald Specter” that is currently on it’s 83rd iteration, has formed out of the original “Emerald Specter” column that I was writing and has evolved over the years that I’ve been writing it… what it currently is and where it appears to be going doesn’t really seem to fit with what things were way back when. If you went back to read the original column, then you’d see that there was more of a commentary going on than anything informational. I also had some legacy things going on from other columns I had written in the past (see: Think on it.).

With writing fiction, I’d like to have some of that see the light of day. Serial fiction is a big deal these days, see SerialTeller and SerialBox for examples, and if I wrote some short stories, I could release that on the site. I’m going to start by writing short stories and include those into a column rather than releasing them separately (or maybe separately AND inside another column).

I’m rambling a little on this because I’ve contemplated either renaming this column with a focus or, in the fashion of both Marvel and DC, relaunch the new column in a “new #1 issue.” I still like that idea, but we’ll see if that catches any traction with me over the next week.

I’m going to be hiring someone to work on this website. It’s going to remain a WordPress site but I’m going to be getting a custom framework built that I can update the graphics on periodically to keep things fresh. While what I have going on right now isn’t terrible or in need of updating, I am looking into the future for the next version of this site.

The thing you do as a web designer (which I can’t technically say I am anymore since I haven’t physically coded one in over a decade) is change things and that normally involves planning ahead. I’m simply talking about planning ahead.

See you.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 70: Building Something Wonderful

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

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

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

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

Let me start at the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what exactly is the plan?

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

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

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

All of this comes from a single ship, though.

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

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

Do I have anyone interested?

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

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

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

Join me?

The Specter Show 040: Hurt

The PRO Chess League Podcast, the Greatest Show, some BuJoRPG talk, and a little bit more. The description isn’t great but I’m hoping you’ll listen anyway!

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

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

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

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

The Specter Show 038: Reptile

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

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

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

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

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

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

Journal of the Emerald Specter 56: The Big Roundup

What the green hell is going on? Yeah, things aren’t all that terrible but I wanted to have a chance to talk about a lot of things in small chunks that have been happening so that I can roundup everything that needs to be rounded up before moving forward with other stuff.

So, first of all, if you aren’t listening to the Specter Show, you are missing things and that is something you should be listening to… because I am no longer going to cross pollinate information in multiple locations.

I think.

Anyway, no more preamble, let’s get to the topics!The Aki Basho is underway and this is a wacky one. The Wacky Aki is missing a ton of talent and some of the missing talent started the tournament but have dropped out for one reason or another.

Being out due to injury is known as kyujo and the rikishi out on kyujo are as follows (this is not a complete list, just the heavy hitters): Hakuho, Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Terunofuji, and Ura. That is three Yokozuna (of the four), two Ozeki, and the biggest “up and coming” rikishi in the makuuchi division. Some die hard fans are actually thinking this basho isn’t worth watching anymore, just because the names listed up there aren’t in this one…

But there is still a lot going on.

Ura missing is a big hit in my opinion but I’d rather have these guys sit out instead of showing poorly during the basho and getting more injured in the process. With any luck, everyone is back for the November basho and we can see something remarkable.

Harumafuji, the only remaining Yokozuna, has had a hard go of things this basho, but I’m really hoping that he’s going to perform like he did last time the rumor of his forced retirement came out… that was by devastating the competition for the remainder of the basho. It was epic.

Kotoshogiku is also having a decent basho, starting out 4-0 and (as of this writing) failing to win the next two… I’m hoping he pops back up, too, because a basho with Kotoshogiku running on all cylinders is a fun watch.

Where is the serial fiction, DJ?

Well, I made some progress and then I told you about mind mapping… I hope. I decided to use my mind mapper to work up what needs to happen in the “first season,” mapping the whole thing out (not in intricate detail, but the broad strokes) so that I can start writing again from the beginning with some cohesiveness.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the story, too. Think Game of Thrones, but with a Chinese/Japanese style of setting. Instead of knights (there are knights), you’ll have Samurai and jianghu warriors running about. There are also “mystical creatures” because I have a planet with multiples of species.

If that doesn’t wet your whistle for the project, I guess I’ll just have to get something out (maybe a teaser) sooner rather than later.

Oh, did I mention that I’m going to try to write the bulk of this thing during NaNoWriMo?

Amanda Nunes is still the Women’s Bantamweight Champion and Ronda Rousey has a “big website reveal” coming up. Why do I include these things together? Because I’m a big “lady fights” fan and these are two of the bigger names in the UFC.

Along with that, the Ultimate Fighter is currently doing for Women’s Flyweight Division that they did for the Women’s Strawweight Division: they are holding a season to crown the first ever UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion. With the introduction of the division, there is now a full (and connected” set of divisions for the women to move up and down in (so we can start getting some of the super fights, like the men do from time to time).

Joanna Jedrzejczyk could now move up to Flyweight, with someone like Holly Holm moving down to have a Flyweight super fight. This may not be high on everyone’s list but the more we have the women able to do the same things as the men the better off the UFC is going to be going into the future.

Do I think there should be even heavier divisions? Not a Heavyweight or Middleweight, but I wouldn’t say no to a Lightweight division.

I talked about a comic called The Resistants on the Greatest Show 137, from a creator I met at the Rose City Comic Con in early September. He is Big Blue Comics and I haven’t read the comic yet, I am very interested in getting started.

I mention this because I’ve got a lot of comics that I’ve gotten from comic cons that I haven’t yet read and I really need to make time for that. I also want to read these comics because of the current state of the comic book industry.

So, to summarize that article I linked to, Marvel is under the impression that the comic book reading public has no interest in diversity. Let that sink in for a minute. No diversity requested.

A meeting Marvel held with retailers gave them this impression. The ACTUAL impression that they should have gotten is that they need to stop changing their established properties to women, minorities, and whatnot but rather create new characters to increase diversity. Marvel’s complete tone deafness to this is unbelievable.

I understand that there is a market for Spider-Man. I understand there is a market for Captain America. I understand that there is a market for Thor. What I don’t understand is why Marvel, a giant in the comic book industry owned by a giant conglomerate, can’t realize that simply creating new characters with a more diverse background is the answer to their woes.

The Direct Market has been a terrible thing for the comic book companies. Series are cancelled, relaunched, and rebooted so often that fans have every reason to jump off and never come back. Books like the Walking Dead and Saga are doing great, not because they’re doing anything more complicated than simply pushing forward without trying to “have a new #1” every year.

People don’t want a new #1 so often that they outnumber the highest number of the previous run they collected, they want good ORIGINAL stories with characters that aren’t stale, tied to decades of continuity, and rehashing the same old things.

Get a clue.

I didn’t do what I originally planned to do and make a snippet for every header I currently have… because some of that would be rehashing the same topics I covered in the Specter Show and the Greatest Show.

What I do want to include, though, is that Fire Pro Wrestling World looks so awesome that I may get back into wrestling (at least producing something for the website) because it looks that awesome.

I did some eFeds back in the day, even so far as to compete in eFeds before there was the Internet. Doing a federation using Fire Pro Wrestling World as the engine to tell the stories the way I think that WWE should be doing it: with seasons and more thought put into them.

Time will tell but I think that it is more likely Chikara Pro will be a better business model than the WWE‘s current run.

Thanks for reading.

Where’s the Specter Show?

There has been some things going on in the background that have delayed the recording and release of the Specter Show this week. I’m a little glad, though, because now I can prepare the release of the BuJoRPG2 with the Specter Show… expect the show on Saturday, though I’ll release both items when they are prepared.

Thank you for your understanding.

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.