Tag Archives: Journal of the Emerald Specter

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 86: Friendship

I’m sure you’re wondering about the title. Well, the whole point of a title is to draw you in a bit, and unlike my normal columns, I’m going to do some dwelling on things that aren’t necessarily “fun, lighthearted,” or site related.

I’ve gone through life knowing a certain kind of person. There have been plenty who haven’t fit that mold, so I’ll start with the good before I hit the bad.

In high school, I was best friends with two others that made getting through life bearable. When I was in the Navy, I had a group that would also fit that mold… actually, lots of buddies for all kinds of occasions. Since that point, though, I’ve really only been able to rely on one super friend for all things: my wife.

Here’s where we go with WHY.

I’ve known a plethora of people who would use the word “friend” to describe their interactions with me but I can’t really reciprocate that word in the same way. The reason for that is because what they call friend is more accurately called an acquaintance.

Here’s a little bit of a “normal” interaction. Forgive the dramatics, I’m sort of merging a bunch of first hand experiences into one so that I don’t single out anyone who might be reading this.

“Hey, Joe Q. Public, I’m having a get together at my house on Friday and we’ll have ourselves some drinks and we can watch some quirky movie,” I say.

“That sounds good,” said Joe Q. Public, “But I’m waiting to hear from John Doe about going to Far Town. I’m also thinking about going to Nearsville on Friday with Ron Random.”

So… what you witnessed there is the “friend” of Joe Q. Public literally told me (paraphrased): “I’ll be happy to show up if absolutely nothing else comes up that interests me in the slightest.” I have run into this response many, many, many times. People who claim to be a friend but would rather do anything else than hang out with me.

Now, before you say something like “these people have lives, too,” I want to let you know that these same people expect to be able to show up on my doorstep unannounced, wishing to have me literally drop everything to do something on a whim.

Why should I drop things and take off on a whim? I have a life and I have things that need to be done. I also have a desire to do things on MY schedule once in a while and never getting that reciprocated at least occasionally and that almost never happened. In some cases, it never happened.

I was listening to a podcast today that brought this type of thing up, people who want to hang out with you but never actually do that on your schedule. They want you to adapt. They want you to do all the work. They want you to be irresponsible and just not do things to hang out. Those people are also interested in mainly entertaining themselves and in the above example, those people really aren’t interested in hanging out with you… they’re interested in you because you’re 37th on their list and you’re the first one to answer “yes.”

These people bother me. They bother me to the point that I have to actually relate to you a story about a specific person and how that friendship ended.

The age difference between myself and this other person wasn’t so drastic as to be unable to understand each other’s point of view. I’ll call this other person, for the sake of ease, Ray. Ray and I met before I married my current wife. We hung out occasionally, mostly in the company of others, but came to understand that our own aspirations were lofty and were mostly pointed in the same direction.

Ray had his own best friend, Mike, and they hung out a ton. Mike’s aspirations also fit ours, loosely, but Mike’s seemed to be more oriented towards moving away from others. The pairing of Ray and I seemed to be merging more as Mike wasn’t around as often. Then came the offerings of hanging out and that’s when things started to skew in the direction I gave in the example above.

I would call and try to arrange some hangouts and Ray did come periodically. Then things slowly started working away from the automatic yes and less hanging out was done on my terms. I tried to hang out on his terms as often as possible but as time went on, I got less amiable to working outside of my comfort zone.

My wife and I used to have an annual Super Bowl party where we’d invite a butt ton of people over to eat and watch the game (or commercials). The party started out large and as the years went on, people started making excuses for not showing up. Hell, some people didn’t even make an excuse, they said they’d show up and just wouldn’t. This type of thing is a good example of what I’d been dealing with.

I invited Ray to some sort of party, I don’t remember the details. It was likely an outing or a New Year’s Eve thing… something that would have been just hanging out and drinking like the old days. The response that I was given boiled down to “if nothing else comes up, sure.”

If nothing else comes up. Not like the example above because I was told yes… “except.” Then it was “except if this” and then “except if that” and finally “except of this other thing.” In the end, there was no plan made because I’m not going to base my plans off of a “only if I have nothing else going on” answer.

I picked on Ray because it’s the best example of what I have to detail my dislike.

I understand that people have their own lives but this isn’t having their own lives, this is claiming to be one thing and ending up being just a “in case I get bored, can I count on you?” No, no you can’t.

If you want to be a friend, friendship is a give and take. Friendship is a “I’ll help you move because someday I will need help moving.” Friendship is hanging out both when its convenient for you and when it’s convenient for the friend.

I hope other people read this, identify their own similar “friends,” and kick them to the curb because that isn’t what you need in life. I’ve got better things to do than work twice as hard at a friendship as the friend the friendship is with.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 85: Projects, Projects, Projects

There has been a question about what the hell is all the stuff I’m working on in the background and how much time is actually being put into each of these projects. I have a hierarchy of what needs to be done before other things that come on board and I decided to write a little bit about everything I’ve been working on, have previously worked on that is still being considered, what projects have been added as future fillers, and what this all means for all the talking about doing things and seemingly not doing things that I’ve done on this site.

THE top of the pile, THE main project, THE thing that I’m interested in finishing is the BuJourneyRPG basic ruleset. The link there is the category, which is everything that has been tagged with BuJourneyRPG specifically. If you haven’t been paying attention, I invented BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG is the next step in that evolution. If you have been paying attention and you’re waiting for me to drop that ruleset, I’m not ready to release it. With another, related, project involved, I have to make sure that I’ve got all my ducks in a row rather than release with a headache of fixing things in post-release.

What’s that related project? Physical bullet journal items that I’ll be selling. Time is money, folks, and if I can’t make money off this then I have to work to make a living and work on this as a side deal. I’d like to have some BuJoRPG-related income (including BuJourneyRPG), which means I could cut some hours at work and put most of my free time into working on the two systems and physical items. The physical items project is being done in small bits. Progress is being made and when I have something to release, I’ll probably announce that with links and such when the time comes, but know that I’m not stalling for the sake of stalling, I only have so much time to work on stuff at the moment.

In the last column, I announced I’m considering revisiting the ESPL. That is a distant thing, really looking for a 2019 restart of that. How can I add this into the mix without having the above two items taken care of? The key is: I haven’t added anything. Once the ruleset and accompanying physical products are out there, I’ll have “fiddle around time” to work on logos again. Read the post if you want more information, but just know that I have this on the list but not on the “active” list.

Something that is going to be happening more regularly is the Specter Show. On episode 50, I mentioned that I’m interested in “catching up” with my releases and get back to where I actually SHOULD BE with the episode/date. Having said that, I rolled back my lofty goal to look at more of a “two per week” or “three per week” option, instead of going for the original three to five per week I’d mentioned. The readings that I tested have ate up WAY more time on my end and I’m hoping that I get better at that for future releases. What readings? Listen to the episode.

Speaking of podcasting, let’s look at the Greatest Show. I attempted to turn the show into more of a seasonal offering, not overtaxing the hosting troupe with a show per week (meaning 52 shows a year), or running like we used to with a “if anyone else can be on, we’re having a show.” I stopped updating that schedule and haven’t decided how long that page will remain up… the idea now being different with what I’m trying to do. I have wanted to have more guests on and that will allow us to move the recording times/days to whenever necessary. We will still broadcast on a Saturday night now and then, while having an episode in the middle of the week with a special guest or whatnot.

The bullet journaling and the podcasting is at the top of my active list. I just wanted to drop a note here to say that.

There is another podcast that is coming, for sure, that is tied to another project that I’ve been leaving stale for about eight months now. The project can go forward because I’m ready to fill you in about what I’m wanting to do… this deserves a banner to change gears (the first of two banners you’ll see before the end of the column).

The project’s working title (like an OS codename, so less a working title and more codename) is Stellaris. There are several components to this particular project, and I’ll detail each one a little here before moving on to the next one. But first, a little history… brief history.

I’ve written short stories in the past (if you visit the way back machine, I’m talking my school aged years around 1989 to 1994). One of the most prolific “series” I wrote was my version of Star Trek, which would be more relatable as a version of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica or a combination of the two. (Keep in mind the reimagined series didn’t air until 2003, so I’m not claiming credit for that… but I am stating that my idea was much like it.) I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of two million words (at best guess). There were several “crews” that basically crewed a line of starships with the same name, creating a universe around their adventures. I did have a “revival” of my writing late in my Naval career (let’s say 1996 or 1997), but those never really went anywhere.

Using that as the basis, I have sort of been building up a mythology and background for new fiction. I’d also like to have a SIM fleet, like I’ve mentioned in the past like Obsidian Fleet, running in this universe. That’s a “further down the road” segment of this project, let me get back on track.

The podcast that will be born of this project is that of the history of the planet of origin for Stellaris. There are multiple species, almost 10,000 years of “recorded” history, and a wealth of background that can be translated via voice to the listeners interested in the “how the hell did we get here” portion of the fiction that I’ll be eventually writing. The podcast will be formatted much like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, with the obvious change that I’m relating fictional events from a fictional location to the listener. I haven’t decided on how often the podcast would happen, but know that it is unlikely to be weekly.

When the history gets to a certain point, I’d start writing the fiction because you’d have enough background to know why certain characters are the way they are. The fiction would be serial fiction, with an intention to release in a novel format. The serial version of the fiction would be run as if the website was HBO and there would be a goal of 13 episodes per “season,” which means 13 installments within the book.

Speaking of serial fiction… 

I’ve talked about writing serial fiction in the past and I’ve decided to start writing it. I’ve got lots of “series” that I’d like to write and they’re all literally sitting in a file somewhere not getting done. So, I’m going to go ahead and start writing.

Will the series fit the above mentioned format? I’d like to believe so, but I’m not going to tie myself entirely down. I’m going to start writing a series based off of a short story I wrote for a college project, and I’m going to “revamp” the mythology behind that as I start writing. There will be installments, they’ll be released as they get completed, and I plan on working the mythological rework as I write.

That means NO “big write up” before writing. I’ll just keep track of things as I go.

Once I get a few installments released, I will consider doing other series. I may even try doing some background informational write ups for those before hand, but no so detailed I never get moving forward on the stories themselves.

The other big thing I wanted to move towards is… 

My goal of creating a comic book from start to finish before the end of the year is looking like that isn’t going to happen. I’m not done with the year, obviously, but I’m a realist. So, that leads me to giving a little bit of background with what I’d like to turn this into.

Yes, Specterverse.

So, when I started collecting comics in 1988 (beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #303 and branching out to many Marvel titles from there, as well as adding DC titles after that and I jumped in with both feet to Image when they launched), I had created my own superheroes and many of them, I’ll admit, were thinly skinned versions of some of my favorite heroes.

Since their initial conception, I’ve worked on my heroes to fit more of an original bent rather than be skins of other heroes. I’m basically telling you that I’ve been working on my own comic book universe for the better part of 25 years.

Yes, for real.

Since I’m unlikely to be a comic book writer, since I can’t even get seem to follow through with my goal of producing a comic book in a full calendar year, I’m going to aim to work towards JUST writing scripts. I’m intending to write them as Graphic Novels, so that there is no presence of a “monthly” release.

Using Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as a template, I’d love to write a graphic novel, or two, annually. My art is what I feel is holding my progress on this particular project back.

This is not high on the active list, but I wanted to detail it here.

I have announced in some form or another doing things that have less intense involvement on my part. These include Specter of the Galaxy, Specter of the Octagon, and Final Fantasy XV SpecterQuest where I play these games (No Man’s Sky, UFC 3, and Final Fantasy XV) and release the gameplay in installments. None of these are high priority and neither my wife have the time to play these at the moment.

So that is a rough rundown of some of the projects I have in the making. Some are nothing more than an announcement, a planning stage, etc… others are, as listed, active and noted, in the column.

There are some that weren’t mentioned at all and those are not on the active list but are under consideration. One thing I can do is talk, those things are podcasts, and that means I could just talk more… but I would need to be able to keep up with what I’m already doing, first.

Anyway… I’ll type at you next week.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 82: Chess Basho UPDATE!

Are you interested in a chess tournament that happens six times a year with a one move per day time control? Are you interested in competing against no less than 11 other players to fight for titles in a sumo-style tournament brawl?

Well, the Emerald Specter Chess Club is for you, then.

And to make life better, here is an update on what’s happened so far in the world of the ESCC.

The Emerald Specter 2018 Winter Basho, also known as the 2018 January Basho, concluded in February and saw the first set of “Sapphire Adepts” added to the list. This led to mass invitations out to the original players with a shot at new players getting involved for the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho. The tournament hadn’t been “invitation only,” and the original players never really got a shot to return for the second tournament as a whole new batch of players flew in to snatch up the spots.

That leads us to where we are now, with players interested in continuing to build and play while others still wanting in (yes, I’ve gotten requests for inclusion in the future).

First things first, though, let me state that ESCC competitors should sign up to the ESCC group on Chess.com in order to be considered for the tournaments that are invitation only. After 2018, the ONLY way you can continue to be included in the top division will be by being a member of the ESCC group.

That being said, an invitation was sent out to every player who participated in either the Winter or March Basho this year to be allowed in to the invitational circuit. If there isn’t a full roster of 12 players (minimum) who sign up, invitations will be granted to interested parties who make contact with me.

The March Basho finished as such:

ArturFaust – 21
homozzapien – 20.5
anujvaniya78692 – 15.5
biraandrada – 14
King_of_Not – 13
ardirahendro – 13
Aurel1954 – 12.5
Fredl1963 – 9
EmeraldSpecter – 7
PietroSalem – 4
sarotaromchuen – 0
vedantachess07 – withdrew

With this we’d have SIX Sapphire Adepts, just like last time… though we’d only have added one if the original players were still involved (assuming the standings remaining the same in both cases).

Thus, we will begin with a soft reboot of the ladder (division) for the top, depending upon who joins the club and who does not. I will also be starting an “Open Basho” each time to allow for the experimentation of the newer players and for a promotion/relegation system to begin being looked at, as that is also part of the sumo system.

The remaining Bashos in 2018 will continue with the naming structure as the others have (May, July, September, and November) with one caveat: the numbering for future installments will be added. That means, since we’ve already had two Bashos, the Emerald Specter 2018 May Basho will be listed as Emerald Specter Chess Basho 3: May 2018 will be the title. After 2018 ends, the naming will more than likely just be everything before the colon.

I will personally be competing in at least two more Bashos this year, and if my luck with the rest of you remains steady, I’ll probably withdraw just to administer this effort. I’ve enjoyed playing but work took a toll on me by causing me to miss a number of game moves in the allotted time, so I guess I would have done a little better (optimistically speaking) than I actually did.

Anticipating that about half of each group will want to continue participating in the future, I can see a solid 12 player division being constant before we reach November, leading to a need for expansion if the interest continues to grow.

One move per day is the quickest time control I can create without forcing people to be online at the same time to play real time. If we get to a point where real time is something people want to do, I’d consider expanding this into a 12 annual tournament “live tournament” cycle in the same manner as the one move per day, though the two would be separate from each other.

Hopefully things keep looking up.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 81: Audio from Written Word

Plans, plans, and more plans. Things start up, things fall through. Things don’t get started and life tends to get in the way.

“If something is important to you, you make time.” ~ Captain Montgomery Scott to Captain James Kirk in Generations.

I guess I have to start making time for the things that are important.

I’ve been talking about writing and completely producing a 22-page comic book before the end of the year. If I don’t actually start doing that I won’t ever get it done. By this time, I should have had a full script written and working on the layout for the book.

Have I done that? Nope. I have a script started but it hasn’t progressed.

There are tons of other writing projects I want to be knee deep in right now, too, but that falls into the “time isn’t happening” category. that’s also going to be grinding to a halt.

I produced a story for a writing class when I went to college back in 2005. The story was just the beginning of a much bigger venture and I’ve often thought about where that story goes. There are details within that story that I’ve long forgotten about and if I dig the story up to freshen the whole thing up. With a rewrite and some additives with the new details, I think it’s ready to be brought out to the world.

I am going to accomplish these things because I have a lot of stories I want to tell and I’m going to tell them.

I’ve been lax with getting out the Specter Show lately. Not that I’ve really meant to not record or to release shows, with the last episode being on the pathetic end of the scale, I’ve just allowed life to push me around.

Yep, there it is again… life pushing me around.

I’m going to start doing some experimental things with the Specter Show. There is another podcasting idea I’ve had that I wanted to try out and while I will definitely be producing at least one full episode of that idea WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show and if I enjoy it but don’t want to fully make a new feed that is also not going to be getting a ton of attention, I’ll produce a few more.

There is also a “research project” that I’ve been meaning to write up and produce into a podcast. Once again, I don’t want to produce a podcast that gets left to flap in the wind on it’s own feed while I struggle to keep up with what I’m already doing. What’s the idea? It’s going to be me producing long form content about a series of subjects all related to self improvement. That’s as far as I’ll go with the reveal so far and just like above, I’ll probably release the stuff WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show once, maybe twice.

Why within? Well, the Specter Show intro and outro would still be in the episode, and with these two ideas I would basically have a “this isn’t a normal episode” warning. If the content is popular or interesting enough, I’ll break it out into it’s own feed and release the episode sans Specter Show bookends.

I am stating right now that I am going to be getting back on the Specter Show wagon and producing content again, and really working to make content that doesn’t suck.

Moving along to the Greatest Show, I don’t see the group sticking to a “season” format… mainly because only one person outside of everyone in my house shows up regularly. This opens up the Greatest Show format changing into two different format options: a roleplaying session that only Metal and I are part of or me running an interview style show at irregular times with the guests I’ve been unable to work on getting on the show due to (you guessed it) life.

Both of those things are going to be a thing and that is where I’m trying to take the show. Unless the old crew comes back together, or Bob is able to make a regular appearance with me to have a reunion to the “old school Greatest Show.”

I said all that in the writing section to get to the meat of this column. The title, so far, hasn’t made a ton of sense in this column and that is about to change.

Let’s say I’m writing a serial fiction series about a school of wizards… and let’s say that the series gets a little attention from readers who would like more. Let’s also say that the series gets some feedback about people who like the premise but don’t have the time to read all that to get the information.

Well, here is where we come in with the title: Audio from Written Word.

I have software that will combine mp3 files into a large m4b file. If you don’t know what an m4b file is, that’s what an audiobook file is (at least through Apple). I am saying that I’d record the serial fiction into an audiobook format.

There are several things that I need to state about this before I go on. First, my time is not free and I’d be asking for a fee. If you consume even a fraction of the audio that I consume (because constant movement at work allows me to hear things but not really to sit and read things), then you’ll appreciate that paying someone to listen to a reading of fiction isn’t a terrible thing. Second, the audiobook files would be complete “seasons,” like the entirety of the series (season 1, season 2, etc) as one single file… this keeps me from seeing to basically having to produce a podcast release schedule to keep up and I can provide a bigger “hoopla” if I just do the bigger release. Third, I could also start writing the serial fiction as just written word and produce an “audiobook” to compile the season… or after a certain number of seasons I can simply produce and release the audiobook “seasons” after a free launch.

The idea is that if I want to start doing things I want to do instead of just doing things I have to do in order to kinda do the things I want to do then I won’t get 50% of what I want to do done.

My wife is a fantastic business woman. She takes an idea, develops the idea, and starts producing product for sale. In a few months, tops, that idea is now a viable business process that works and earns her a living. These ideas also keep her busy and doing things she enjoys.

I’d like to take my ideas and do the same thing.

The funny thing is that I just showed my wife those last two “paragraphs” and she said it would be nice if I did any of my ideas. Like, for example, my bullet journal ideas (I said I’d like to make stickers for the BuJoRPG… primarily the templates for the first version and the templates for the second version, too). That is first on the list.

I deleted Facebook and Google+ from my phone recently and I’ve been less consumed with anger and frustration as a result. I’ve also had a ton more free time to do other things and I know that is a better thing.

I am also going to be removing one of my two regular games from my phone because I’ve progressed to a point where I don’t think I’ll be getting much farther any time soon. Without progress, I don’t really want to keep grinding because the game isn’t that important AND is getting in the way of doing what I want to do.

See, things are getting better already.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 80: Star Trek

I’ve been listening to a lot of Star Trek based podcasting recently and decided to try another “what would I do” thing.

My DCEU experiment wasn’t as popular as I had hoped, though I hope that it will gain some more views and interest in what I’d do (exactly) with a phase two or three or four.

This experiment? I traveled back in time and discover that there was no Star Trek… at all. Thankfully I have some Star Trek reference material with me and I’m going to bring the world Star Trek… the way it should have been done.

There is no Gene Roddenberry, which initially worries me, but the world must have their Star Trek. Things will be a bit different, though.

The year is 1958, and I heavily invest in the stock market… some well placed investments make me billions by 1961, independently wealthy and ready to make something fantastic.

I present the script for a feature film called Star Trek to be released in 1963. What’s the script? Well, a crew of exceptional people are needed to intercept a phenomenon headed towards the center of the United Federation of Planets: Earth.

If you think you’ve heard of that before, you have. I’m setting the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the very first slot… but I made some casting and character changes. This is long before the Kirk and Spock you’re familiar with, so I decided to add something from the history that we’re all familiar with.

The captain of the Enterprise is Robert April, with a few other little sprinkles of interesting around him. Captain Robert April is played by Gregory Peck, who was drawn to the project after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, Star Trek being a progressive outlook on humanity’s future. Leonard Nimoy does appear as Spock, and in the role he plays in TMP… but he is a Vulcan who is trying to figure out his place in the universe (as a new Lieutenant in Starfleet). We see V-Ger, all out special effects, and the crew of the Enterprise seems to fly off happily after the film ends.

Part of the deal with this film, which does gangbusters at the box office, is to create a series after the film to further develop the universe. Gregory Peck wasn’t signed to do a series and I didn’t want to have him beyond the movie… because I signed the original crew of the Enterprise (starring Jeffrey Hunter with Leonard Nimoy as a Lieutenant Commander several years later) in the “pilot” called The Cage.

The pilot airs in late 1965, unlike in our reality, and just as expected, Jeffrey Hunter doesn’t want to do more… so we get to advance Spock once again to First Officer/Science Officer under William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk in early 1966 for the first season of the new series.

Since the network (NBC) isn’t paying for this series, they allow this to run for a guaranteed five years… we actually get our Five Year Mission.

Season One goes off as before, not including episodes Miri, Catspaw, or Shore Leave and the Menagerie is moved later in the season (to the season finale). Season Two also goes off as before, not including episodes The Ultimate Computer or Assignment: Earth. Season Three goes off as before, not including the episode Spock’s Brain.

This leaves us with a gap to fill, which I had planned for already… that is now Season Four, where the stories told in the Animated Series but are reworked to be more adult (less “cartoony”) in nature and be a solid 22 episode season. That leaves nothing for Season Five, though, right?

After working under my guidance for over five years, the writers would be tasked with original stories (I use the word original, only because I know the future here) for Season Five. This would also be a 22 episode season and would be oriented towards exposing the world to the first serialized version of Star Trek, with a few “mini-arcs” present without a “part 1, part 2” scenario.

Then, in spring of 1971, Star Trek leaves the air as a cult favorite. Fandom grows around the concepts and a clamoring for more is put out into the world. Hints of a movie are released in magazines and newspapers and work begins on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As final touches were being added for the 1982 release, work on Star Trek III began behind the scenes in secret. Since I’m paying for the special effects, I spare no expense to ensure that the version I (we) remember doesn’t look decidedly less awesome than TWOK.

As Star Trek II was a hit, rumors about the ending were running amok and the revelation that there was another Star Trek movie deep in production was released to the population, drumming up hype early. Since the special effects were going to be far better than the original versions, I had high hopes for this installment.

In 1984, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock hit screens and received a positive series of reviews, not nearly the showing I had hoped but better than the one in the original timeline.

Did I already start work on the fourth installment of the series and the end to the “trilogy” of post-series Trek? Yep.

In 1986, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home hit screens and was lauded as being the best Star Trek movie by non-fans. Fans still looked toward TWOK as the granddaddy of movies, but the reception allowed everyone to come and enjoy a wonderful movie. Behind the scenes, the next version of Star Trek was already being worked on.

Once again, since I’m paying for the whole thing, I sit down with some television executives to work up the next Star Trek for public consumption. The series would be shown on ABC this time, with Patrick Stewart in the lead role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I set up Star Trek: The Next Generation with the idea that I’m fixing what I know didn’t work in the original timeline. The show debuts in 1987 on ABC and becomes a hit.

Only side notes about this series. Uniform designs are from the original third season to completely avoid the spandex design. Special effects were spared no cost and the plan of seven seasons was followed through. The cast was informed when they came on board that they would be expected to do a few feature films after the show’s run, which they had no issues with. The final note is that Season Two’s introduction of Polaski as a replacement for Crusher was scrapped, instead adding Polaski as an additional character in the medical department. This altered the show’s timeline a bit as she became a part of the remainder of the show’s events rather than just up and disappearing.

While the Next Generation is on the air, 1991 sees the release of Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country into theaters. Our original timeline makes this the sixth movie, but since that story had some issues, I opted to remove it from the timeline. This sees the retirement of the main cast of characters but also gives us Captain Hikaru Sulu, who was optioned for the sixth installment of the film series as the lead.

Before I go into that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiers in 1993 with a new cast and runs at the same time as Next Generation. The series starts off with a positive outlook and runs as remembered in the original timeline. There was a rider in the contracts in this version, though, that required theatrical appearances of the cast (if not as a whole, then in other productions).

In 1993, George Takei and the on screen crew of the Excelsior (to include Tim Russ as an ensign science officer) in Star Trek VI: Lions of the Night, where the crew is forced to fend of a Kzinti invasion of Federation space. If you know about failed projects, then you’ve heard of the concept here (see Memory Alpha, scroll down for this project).

Since I’m the one developing this and paying for the whole thing, I’m saying that my attempt to bring a large solution to Star Trek’s movie future utilizing the original cast has hit it’s first bump. While the reception of critics was poor, fan reception wasn’t great (but fairly positive). My attempt to make a sequel with George was met with resistance from George himself, thus I moved on with the next idea…

As Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped in 1994, plans for their first foray into movies was at hand. While filming the finale of the series, the crew was also filming their first movie: Star Trek: Generations. Unlike the original timeline version, less emphasis was put on Picard’s family, the “space ribbon” is a little more defined, and time inside the ribbon progresses to avoid the weird situations we saw inside it originally. Shatner does appear as Kirk but isn’t pulled out by Picard, rather feels the need to help on his own and joins Picard in saving the day (ending in his certain death).

More well received than Lions of the Night, Generations was given more leeway with production because of the previous installment. Little did the world know the next movie was under development!

On the TV side, Star Trek: Voyager was placed onto TV screens in 1995 and would run for seven seasons. There would be continuity ruining episodes removed from the series as a whole and as with DS9’s cast, the rider for feature films was in place to guarantee a Star Trek feature film future.

In 1996, Star Trek: First Contact was released and was definitely better received than Generations. In 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection was released with far better special effects and notes on how this is a “return to Star Trek’s message” roots. This movie, my version, was much better received than the original due to more action being added to the script and a deeper mystery element to draw in the audience. Was it considered the greatest movie? No, but it was more popular.

As Deep Space Nine was wrapping in 1999, the cast didn’t want to do a “DS9” movie series. The “appears in other films” contingent was enacted and some plans were made for the next two movies. Yes, TWO movies. Voyager wrapped in 2001.

Directly on the heels of the ending of Voyager came the new series Star Trek: Enterprise, featuring Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame leading a new crew of an experimental Enterprise on missions exploring the galaxy. The Xindi storyline would be introduced much earlier than the  original timeline and the series would run for six seasons, since I am paying for the whole thing. There would be riders for movies as well, as would be the standard since DS9. The show would end in 2007 with the formation of the Federation.

In 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis hit the screens and before you roll your eyes at me… this one was much different. Shinzon, a Reman warlord and scavenger, returns to Romulus with a new ally: a rebuilt Lore. Lore aids Shinzon in taking down the Roman government, a hostile takeover, and then takes a fleet to Federation space for the first salvo in a planned war. The Enterprise-E is forced to fend off the attacks by leading a counter-attack (joined by the Defiant with Colonel Kira, Lieutenant Ezri Dax, Chief O’Brien, Dr. Bashir, Lieutenant Nog, and the commanding officer Captain Worf). When hope looks lost, Data sacrifices himself to blow up the lead ship with Lore on it, leaving an unprepared Shinzon to die and the rest of the hijacked ships to retreat. The Federation and the Roman Empire begin peace talks in the wake of the “old guard” being wiped out.

In 2004, an extragalactic threat would arrive to test the Federation. In Star Trek: Revelations, the Enterprise-E is commanded by Admiral Picard, who leads the fleet to take on what they discover to be machines… the machines, in fact, that created V-Ger. Enterprise is joined by Defiant (Worf commanded as before), Voyager (commanded by Chakotay and filled with the rest of the Voyager crew), and Titan (Riker’s new command). A fundamental “man vs machine” theme would run through this one and man would win… at a high cost. Defiant wouldn’t make it out of the conflict, Voyager would be severely damaged and several crew members would have died, as well as Enterprise suffering greatly in the results. Deaths of characters would include Kira, O’Brien, Nog, Paris, Chakotay, and Neelix. Picard and Admiral Janeway would have Riker seek out any remnants of the invasion, gaining the crew of Dax, Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, and a newly promoted Captain LaForge.

This movie, while not hated, wasn’t the blockbuster I was hoping for. Critics gave it generally favorable reviews but fans panned it stating “too many characters died” in the melee. Taking that under consideration, I put into production one more movie before my time in this timeline ends (due to being very old and in poor health by this point). I also opted to delay the release of this movie by an extra two years to ensure the highest quality.

In the summer of 2008, Star Trek Beyond hit the screens to thunderous applause. Unlike the original timeline version, which was part of the reboot franchise, my Beyond was a continuation of the timeline I’d already started. Audiences were stunned when the Enterprise NX made it’s way towards the planet Kismet, where they are forced to battle a fleet of ships that act in coordination with each other. The ship crashes on the surface of the planet as most of the escape pods are sent safely away. Those who did not make it were T’Pol, Trip, and Reed who learn that there is a species of cyborgs mutating the inhabitants for an impending invasion. Fast forward to the 24th Century, Captain Riker in command of the Titan comes upon Kismet while investigating and discovers that there is a large station in orbit of Kismet sending signals out of the galaxy. Some spy work from the crew and a battle cripples the Titan, forcing it to crash onto Kismet’s surface. They manage to disable the cyborg and mutant populations, as well as send a signal that this galaxy cannot be conquered to prevent another invasion. We discover that this was the “advanced party” for the machine invasion and mutants were being used as slave labor.  The film ends with a goodbye to all the franchises we adored along the way and the reigns of Star Trek were turned over to Paramount for future plans.

That’s a hell of a ride. I’d love to hear some feedback on my non-original timeline versions of movies and I’ll be back again in the near future.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 79: 13 Reasons Why… I Reflect on My Own Past

There have been multiple times I have wanted to write about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why but I wasn’t done watching the show then. As I write these words, I’m watching the last episode and I’m far enough through the show where I can comment on the aspects of the show that I am going to end up commenting on.

So, there will definitely be spoilers in my column, so if you don’t want to be spoiled in any way, shape, or form then you shouldn’t read further. The point isn’t to talk endlessly about JUST the show, the show sort of sparked a thought in me to write about my experience growing up. This may also involve some current events, but I’m not promising anything.

If you have been under a rock, there is a Netflix show called 13 Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who committed suicide and left a series of tapes to the 13 people who basically caused her to go through with the act.

There is a central theme of the suicide, and while I’ve had my own personal tragedy in this area, that isn’t what I want to talk about. My primary concern here is really not going to talk about the suicide at all, but to talk about what the culture of the school is like and how that relates to what I experienced.

I may talk about more of the show, too, but that is why I’m putting words out there into the world. This goes under “Storytelling” because I used the show to launch into this and this is a story about my experience.

When people on TV talk about a “small town,” they’re talking about something in excess of 50,000 residents. I am from a small town, the population was roughly 3,100 residents. SMALL. If you did something, the “trope” of everyone finding out about it actually happens in a small town. A TRUE small town.

I graduated from high school before 1995, and that’s about as specific as I’m going to get in an open forum like this. My high school, which I’ll just call “Smalltown High School,” or SHS… there were 63 people who graduated in my class. There would have been more but some didn’t make the grade and ended up getting alternate diplomas after the fact.

When watching 13 Reasons Why, I see a class of kids interacting with each other in a large groups (whether or not they were really close or not) and I look at what I experienced. In the show, there were the tight-nit jocks hob knobbing with the cheerleaders and both groups would  routinely mistreat the nerds (or the “nerd-like”). Everyone generally treats everyone somewhat respectfully in the flashbacks, though things tend to be a little less so after the tapes start getting circulated.

How is this relevant to me?

When I was in high school, there were better than 75% of the class that I’d been in kindergarten with, so we basically grew up together. After we got into high school, we segregated into the social groups that existed with the rest the high school. At the time, those groups were jocks, preps, nerds, and “loads.”

The jocks were, predictably, the ones who participated in multiple sports throughout their high school years. Some were track, basketball, cross country, football, hockey… there may have been a few other sports back then that I can’t really recall, but they were primarily involved in the sporting events (often as many as they could be a part of).

The preps were the socially active members of the school, participating in all kinds of clubs, cheerleading, and they almost exclusively held the top slots in the “grade point average” race to be valedictorian. While not exclusively, this group was largely populated by the girls of the class… they were the ones who spent the most time concentrating on their studies and social interactions. I wasn’t ever part of this group so I only have an “outside looking in” perspective on them.

The nerds were the socially awkward group, very often only interacting within their own group and often being left out of the clubs and sports. Nerds were picked on relentlessly, depending on who they were and how much they would resist. Interests here revolved around things that have nothing to do with school and being at school very rarely played any part other than being a distraction.

Lastly, there were the loads. This was originally a derogatory term for the rebellious kids who participated in partying with drugs and openly with alcohol. I say “openly” because the jocks drank almost as much as the loads but their offenses were often looked past, looked over, and generally considered “too good to touch” when it comes to partying. Jocks and loads rarely, if ever, commingled. Jocks couldn’t afford the “bad press.”

I was part of three of these groups. The first two years of school, I fit tangentially into the jocks because of my participation in cross country. I say tangentially because I would really have called myself a nerd for the totality of my freshman year. That changed my sophomore year when I became a load, full force.

Let me step back a minute.

Everyone in my graduating class, for the most part, got along until we reached high school. Things really took a turn when we were full fledged high schoolers. Many of them got worse as the years went on.

On 13 Reasons Why, the class was far more intertwined than my own experience. I am not without a point of reference for the camaraderie the show displayed. The grade just below mine  were almost completely united in their caring about being friendly with each other. Watching them, honestly, made me a little ill… the show would be what they were dialed down and a bit closer to my own experience.

The group of people that I was hanging out with in the first year of high school with the nerds because I hadn’t really managed to be interested in many other things. One thing I was, though, was lazy and nerdy… so I wanted to get out of taking PhyEd and there were four classes one could take as well as two years of a sport. So, here I come cross country!

Did I suck? Yep, but I did my two years (and the four classes, by the way) to avoid PhyEd as I wanted. But during that whole time, I was picked on… though I’ll say that I was picked on by the worst possible people to be picked on by, so at least I was choosing the best… worst?

In the show, Tyler receives LESS torture than I had for the first year of high school. Then, something wonderful happened. A random person in algebra asked me what I was doing one Friday night. I’ll call him Smith, because it’s a generic last name and because it was his last name. That Friday night had me hanging out with the loads and I loved it.

And the bullies left me alone. Completely.

Did I do drugs? No. I did enjoy the hell out of some alcohol, though, and invented Dr. Peppermint (between one to two ounces of peppermint schnapps per 20 ounces of Dr. Pepper… and before you say “that sounds gross,” try it. I’ve introduced no less than 100 lifelong Dr. Peppermint lovers to my wonderful concoction who swear by it… and I discovered it by accident).

In the show, the class seems to be broken down into only two real groups: the jocks and the not-jocks. Granted, we don’t get to see a large cross section of the class, as I am sure there are more than 63 students in that class. We get to see the jocks (Bryce, Justin, Zach, Montgomery, Jeff, Marcus) interacting with some cheerleaders (Jessica, Sheri), some outcast types (Skye, Tyler,  Ryan), and a few people who fit into other categories of “not-jocks” (Sheri, Courtney, Alex), most of which end up working with each other in some form or fashion to keep the tapes a secret.

There wasn’t much diversity portrayed on the show. Real life was more broken down than that, as I explained.

What I wanted to cover, I have. I didn’t have an experience in high school that was portrayed in the show. I don’t have friends from high school I still talk to (the last one turning out to be a social justice extremist who doesn’t listen to reason)… the ones that I still talk to, mainly those of the “load” social group I belonged to, all have their own things going on and we are cordial.

The closest experience I have to relate to what I witnessed in the show was the Navy. Even though I fundamentally disagree with some of the views of my brothers and sisters in the Navy, I would still rather hang out with and talk to them than some of those people I was in high school with.

This was a longer post and didn’t really fully explore what I had on my mind. Honestly, I could write a book on what I had on my mind and unfortunately I know that I won’t really get that done, either.

Hopefully someone gets something out of this, though.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 78: My Version of the DCEU

Many moons ago, I posted an article stating reasons why the DC cinematic universe would fail (now known as the DC Extended Universe). I mention something along these lines a couple other times on this website, but I wanted to address what I’d have done with the DCEU if I were the one running things…

So, why don’t I write about it?

Rather than storytelling, this one really deserves to be under “movies,” since I’m talking about building up the DCEU on the big screen.

First, the rules. I am proceeding as if the DCEU has failed, meaning the releases of the already slated movies after Justice League are no longer going to be released… or already have been and have had little success. Since I’m not worrying about release dates, I’m just going to list them in the order I’d release them, with a little explanation here and there.

So, without further ado… the first movie.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

This is not exactly an origin story, since we don’t need to worry about origin stories. Why? Well, with Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel, I think another origin, “proper” origin, is unnecessary. The tale of this movie would be Lex Luthor fighting to rid Earth of the last Kryptonian. His new mechanized suit of armor, in conjunction with aid from Brainiac, would be an epic team up against Supes on screen. There would be easter eggs galore in this one, mentioning Wayne Enterprises, the Lantern Corps (plural), Themyscira, Mars, and more. One of the most important hints will be that there is more going on in Earth’s history than we know.

Stinger at the end of the credits? You bet… this is a big plan, and that means setting things up properly. The end credits scene is the planet Apokalips moving out of orbit.

Wonder Woman: Warrior

Not a period piece like Wonder Woman was, this one is all about Diana coming back to Themyscira to fight off an assault on the once hidden island… led by Giganta, or so we all are led to believe. The real brain behind the assault is actually Gorilla Grodd, who is after a very specific artifact hidden in the island’s vault (the Cosmic Rod). Giganta doesn’t manage to escape but Grodd obtains the item and absconds with it to places unknown.

Our stinger shows Grodd passing the Cosmic Rod over to Devilance, who takes it through a portal.

The Fastest Man Alive

Barry Allen… AND Wally West (the Flash and Kid Flash) are pitted against Reverse Flash, who came from the future in order to stop “something terrible” from happening. The terrible thing is the Earth splitting in two from an attack, but Reverse Flash’s solution is to remove the “Speed Force users” from the equation, including himself. On top of this bombshell future villain, Captain Cold is busy trying to steal a special key… which would unlock Mr. Freeze’s prison cell in Arkham Asylum, but he fails when Jesse Quick and Bart Allen (Impulse) foil the attempt.

The stinger on this one reveals to us that Granny Goodness turning from a spaceship monitor showing Apokalips and states that “he’s coming.”

In Brightest Day: Green Lantern

Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner convene on OA to plan a reunion on Earth but are forced to deal with a direct threat to OA when Atrocitus and Sinestro lead the Red and Yellow Lantern Corps on an assault, where the main focus is trying to get into OA’s vault to liberate the Book of the Black. The attack doesn’t succeed… but while Sinestro makes a second, more intense “last ditch” run at the vault, he cracks open a cell holding Larfleeze, who wreaks havoc in the aftermath (escaping, eventually, with the Book). Jordan decides to stay on OA to help fortify the planet, Stewart heads towards Earth to investigate the other oddities happening, and Guy Gardner tries to follow Larfleeze to wherever he’s heading.

We have two stingers in this one, the first one is “mid credits” revealing Saint Walker (the Blue Lantern) is also headed towards Earth after Sinestro, who received a message from Earth. The second stinger, at our traditional end again, is Larfleeze towing a trapped Guy Gardner towards Apokalips.

Shadow of the Bat

Batman is plagued by a new threat, the Court of Owls, terrorizing Gotham and trying to rid the city of their self proclaimed Dark Knight. When Bruce Wayne can’t handle the onslaught of the sheer number of Owls, he enlists the help of Robin, Nightwing, and the Birds of Prey… together, they rid Gotham of the Court but unfortunately releases some Arkham prisoners (Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy, and Mr. Freeze among them).

The stinger? Yeah, it’s got just one… and it’s Lex Luthor on the phone saying “I think we need to form a Legion.”

Justice League United

Well… we got to this one in a similar fashion to Marvel, but the point isn’t to do something different, the point is to do something big. Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg are enlisted by Flash to help stop the future disaster from happening, one step which occurs “now.” The Legion of Doom (Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Sinestro, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta, Scarecrow, and Riddler) unleashes their fury on the world, which causes the Justice League to fully form (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern John Stewart) to fight them back into submission. The fight causes a tear in spacetime, which unleashes Bizarro, allows Sinestro to flee through it, and shows the League the impending threat of a fiery world heading towards the Solar System.

There are three stingers in this one… the early credits scene stinger has the League giving the “watch” over to Martian Manhunter while the rest of them go to deal with the repercussions of the Legion of Doom. The mid credits scene gives us Nightwing and Robin talking about heading to deal with a new threat, hinting at the “Titans” coming soon. The end credits scene gives us a full on view of Darkseid demanding that he deal with the threat personally… that threat being the Justice league.

From here, I’d introduce the Titans as a team, head back for some sequels (Wonder Woman darling with Cheetah and Giganta, Batman figuring out his legacy by recruiting Terry McGinnis as a trainee against Riddler, Flash going up against Captain Cold or Savitar, Green Lantern Corps dealing with the Blackest Night and Black Hand, Superman facing off against Bizarro, Aquaman and Black Manta going at it, and introducing characters that really need to be introduced to blow the doors off the DCEU like Shazam, John Constantine, Green Arrow, and Doctor Fate… just to scratch the surface).

And Darkseid hasn’t even gotten to Earth yet! He’d be the Justice League sequel villain, or maybe even the third one.

In just my tiny little run of movies, though, I’ve introduced a slew of characters that can either be expanded upon in other movies or ignored for other introductions all together. Hell, “mini-DCEUs” could spring up following each character (a-la Sony’s Spider-Verse).

What do you think of what I would have done?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 77: Life Strikes Back

Things are not going as well as planned… hell, I can’t even plan at this point. When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Unfortunately, I have no water or sugar, so I’d just be squirting sour juice into my eyes and that’s already what it feels like, so I’m not really digging that idea.

That, and I’m not big on lemonade.

The biggest thing to suffer in the attack on my free time is the BuJoRPG.

There is, in place, a plan for me to accomplish a certain series of things by certain points in time to complete the thing that everyone is really waiting for: BuJourneyRPG. I’d really, really like to get moving forward on that and I’m continuing to spin my wheels trying to just get through work.

So, I’m anxious to unveil SOMETHING about BuJourneyRPG, so I’m going to drop the “cover” of the BuJourneyRPG book… revealing, also, the “logo” for the new system.

Are you ready?

I chose to go with a library look and that lends to the idea that the system will be the basis for a slew of options. That means the “templates,” which are the “splats” that you’ll be somewhat familiar with as a concept if you’re an RPG fan, and those will help build the “library” of content.

This past weekend was supposed to be my “long weekend,” but I was denied one day of that and I had another project which HAD to be started/completed and that limited my ability to do a lot of extracurricular activity.

The time is being scheduled, though.

Without getting fancy, here is the first ever “ESCC Banzuke” (rankings) from the first ever Emerald Specter Basho (previously called the Winter 2018, though shall also be known as the January 2018):

Sapphire Adept #1 (East): Alexin2
Sapphire Adept #1 (West): Nikbasketball12
Sapphire Adept #2 (East): Sim_zama
Sapphire Adept #2 (West): dukenukem123
East #1: tom36adams
West #1: pantheon-67
East #2: AlCzervik
West #2: ANTE1990
East #3: OlegMalikov1965
West #3: mancroft
East #4: EmeraldSpecter
West #4: bespaly

As you can see, I placed second to last (since this is literally just a finishing listing from top to bottom, which the first rankings was always going to be)… and we had one player, bespaly, break Chess.com’s fair play policy and forfeit all of his games. Other than that, I think things went swimmingly.

Now, we see whether or not anyone returns to compete in the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, which is scheduled to begin as soon to the spots are full. There are still only 12 slots available, and since bespaly is out, the first one to join who wasn’t re-invited is welcome to join the fray. If some others don’t rejoin (allowances will be made for keeping their rankings if new people join first), then the experiment grows with a wider array of possibilities.

I’m curious if anyone would be interested in hearing a solo RPG actual play podcast? The idea crossed my mind that I’d like to publish the results of my solo RPG adventures (which I haven’t started playing, yet)… but I would need to know something: is the interest (if there is one) in the actual play part, or the story being unfolded as play continues?

The actual play would be me, on mic, playing the game of choice vocally and you’d be privy to all the rolls and mucking about. Unless you’d rather hear the results (moreso), and then the focus would be on the results of the story and I could more work out a sound effects option in line with the narration that would be part of the production.

Which would you rather hear? Would you like to hear anything of the sort?

In the end, I’m playing the game. Whether or not anyone else hears what goes on is entirely up to the potential audience.

So the Greatest Show appears to need a re-envisioning. Not a reboot, I’m not starting numbering over or wildly changing anything, yet. There is going to be a few more shows with (at least) myself and one or both of the Kevins. If I can’t get the rest of the cast to come back on, then I’ll be working on the changes that need to be made.

As soon as I get a chance to actually work on guest scheduling, I’ll do that, too… but work is a problem.

Let’s end with a few things regarding “work.” Ideally, especially outside of the peak season I’ve referenced so often, work would be a long day on Mondays and Tuesdays, then a crap shoot for shorter days the rest of the week, leaning shorter most of the time.

That is not what has happened.

I won’t get into the logistics or the specifics of what is causing the problem, know that I’m a side effect of a personnel shortage on certain days and the problem is actively being corrected, though not for at least another week or two.

What I do want to get into is the fact that I’m being too flexible. My wife will tell you that I give in too easily and I’m about ready to stop being so nice about things at work. I am not on the “special over time list” at work, so I shouldn’t be getting near the amount of over time I currently am… mainly because I don’t want it.

I’m going to fix that by waking up a little later in the morning. I’m going to be rushing in the morning because strolling in early enough to hang out isn’t what I want to be doing anymore. That means I can stay up a little bit later at night and, you guessed it, means I can work on things after work.

Wake up, get ready, work, supper, prep the next day, watch a little TV, and work on BuJourneyRPG… days off, get a little house stuff done and work on BuJourneyRPG.

Time is coming and it’s because I’m going to make sacrifices on how I operate to get them done. That shouldn’t be how things work.