Tag Archives: RPGs

Journal of the Emerald Specter 92: Building a Better Emerald Specter

Um… what?

This is a column I’m about to detail a whole bunch of things in and it’ll involve everything to do with EmeraldSpecter.com, the podcasts, the articles, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and the future. This is a roadmap to getting me from where I’m at to where I want to be, which will include what I’ve done in the past that worked that I’ve stopped doing.

Despite my sincerest desire, “winging it” with a lot of my content isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. There are spurts where I can do just that but I also have the opposite, which is long periods where nothing works. This leads me to look back at what has worked, which means looking back to LimeFlavored.com.

When I started Lime Flavored, I literally just needed a place to do things online that entertained me… and hopefully along the lines someone else would be entertained as well. That philosophy has definitely held up for the years and has become a pseudo-business model for what I’m doing with Emerald Specter. There was a point, though, where things needed to have a little more structure.

Fast forward a few years (from 2000 to about 2010), where the Lime Flavored Podcast jumped into the world. The show started as a place for me to talk about this and that, sort of like how the Specter Show has been, and then I started bringing on guests to talk to… several episodes then were mainly about the conversation between two people. This eventually led to me having regular cohosts for the show, with two dominating the show for lengthy runs, but died down when excuses from those cohosts began to take down the recording schedule. That’s when I initiated “the show format.”

Rather than beg guests to come on, or talk about the random this or that, I came up with a weekly rundown of segments that would be structuring the show into something more… structured. This version of the show was the most popular, got the most downloads, and fell to the wayside when trying to edit the video content for episode 50… the LAST episode.

Lesson learned, although not immediately.

During the run of LimeFlavored.com, as well as falling well into EmeraldSpecter.com, was the Greatest Show (originally known as the Greatest Show Online). This was me and my best friend Bob getting together to talk about whatever we wanted to, which ran like this for a long time, including my wife into the show as something for us to watch (she cooked while we talked and filmed the cooking), turning eventually into inviting a few more friends on to turn the show into a round table discussion of the more recent years. Special guests have been had and though most of the hosts aren’t on most of the time, those that show up when they can are welcome. Guests have also started to become a big part of what the future of the show is going to be…

Back in the early days of Emerald Specter, I had a multitude of columns. There was the generic “Emerald Specter” column, Gaming Specter, UFC Specter, Storytelling Specter, SpecterFit (also known as Fitness Specter), and those are just the ones I can name without looking up the others. Each of these were short, primarily to keep content flowing, but all eventually started dropping off here and there in favor of a more generalized column… that would be the current Journal of the Emerald Specter (which you’re reading issue 92 of right now).

I’ve added the Specter Show as a podcast as well, doing the “winging it” audio I was in the early days of the Lime Flavored Podcast, along side the Greatest Show (which takes longer breaks between episodes than I’d like but as long as it keeps going I’m good).

This is a lot of unstructured things happening at once, most of which interfere with my ability to progress on structured things like life, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and producing more content that I’ve wanted to start producing.

So, I am going to make some changes to streamline, structure, and produce higher content.

Starting with what has become the flagship content provider of the site, the Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Each issue of the Journal will be presented with a unique “cover,” going along with the comic book feel of the site’s aesthetic. This will more than likely convert to a square cover instead of a more comic book traditional shaped cover, but this will be the first step.

Next comes the banner topic, the “geeky thing on my mind” in a smaller than current segment. This could be about anything I listed above but will be concentrated on that topic alone. I plan on planning out these topics in advance, too, allowing for the research that might need to be done when writing.

After that comes the first ever serial fiction I’ll be writing. I will be writing an installment of a serial fiction story with the intent of finally putting out my fiction that I’ve wanted to create for a long time. Including this into the column will allow me to remove the self imposed requirement of having the story completely written before hand and just get my ass writing again. I don’t know how long the installments will be, I’ll let that flesh itself out after a couple of columns.

That is followed by a sports commentary of some sort. I often want to write entire columns about sporting items and rather than dominate a column like I have with chess over the past two issues, I figure I can throw a tidbit into this in order to quench my thirst. Ideally, I’d be covering whatever sports are actively happening but I am not going to limit myself to just that. I’m hoping that continuous commentary on certain topics might one day pan out into a paying gig on another site.

Next comes bullet journalling updates. I am going to include an update EVERY SINGLE TIME and that means I better be making progress on things in the background. Play testing the BuJourneyRPG hasn’t started as of this writing but I’m on the edge of actually being able to do that, and that means I can definitely have content for this segment of the column.

Finally, there will be an RPG tidbit included in each column. This might be a story hook, a review on a new game, a story about a game that I participated in, or just a general discussion about merits of why a certain system works well. This won’t be as big as the main topic but I want to start doing something gaming related and that means writing is probably the best place to start.

That is just the Journal of the Emerald Specter, folks. Let’s look at the Specter Show next.

Just like the Journal covers, the Specter Show will also be getting custom covers for each episode. You might be wondering why I’m interested in doing this for both of these and it’s because I’m interested in putting out quality content, meaning that if everything is planned ahead of time I don’t have to scramble to accomplish anything.

The show will be led off by a geeky topic of discussion, I’m thinking that this might be the place where I talk about my love of TV and movies (reviews, reactions, etc), but I am not locking myself into anything specific. Media seems to be big on the podcast scene so that is definitely where I’d be looking towards for inspiration on this.

Also like the Journal, there will be an installment of a serial (not the same serial), read aloud of course… and this would probably be on the shorter side but with this being altogether different than the written stuff, I’m interested to see what kinds of wonderful pours out of my head in the near future on the serial fiction front.

Finally, the show will include a “what to watch for” segment. The reason for the media being in the beginning could relate to what I’m talking about in the “coming up” section. Movies, TV shows, comic books… all that I’ll be consuming in the near future.

I also had a plan for the Greatest Show, but I won’t be locking anything down on that front because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone else into following a strict rundown. Time will tell what form the show takes but what we’re doing seems to be working for now.

When will all this go down? I did have specific issue/episode numbers for when I’m rolling this out but I want to make sure all the back end stuff is done before I roll out everything. There will be a few graphical updates to the site, too, but they won’t be monumental in difference.

The Greatest Show 148: Eddy Webb is an RPG Mecca

In an Emerald Specter first, I’m posting the YouTube link to episode 148 of the show. Attempting to present the channel as a “go to” as much as this website, the Greatest Show has a few episodes on Channel 1, and the entire back catalog on Channel 2.

Eddy Webb joins DJ, Tricia, and Metal Jesus in talking about RPGs, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, conventions, and living in Ireland… among other things! Enjoy episode 148 here!

Emerald Specter 17: RPGs, The Greatest Show, and More!

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How do you like the new Emerald Specter? I love it.

It’s time to do a little bit of a round up of everything that needs to be discussed here at the Emerald Specter.com. This will include, but not be limited to role playing games, writing, the Greatest Show, and more. Strap in and hang on.

As was discussed among the only 3 hosts present on the latest Greatest Show (Metal Jesus and DJ), the impending idea of actually running an actual play game on the show is being bandied about more heavily than before. I am familiar with Vampire, thus I’m working on a Vampire mesh of Requiem and Masquerade, which I hope can also be turned into a longer campaign if that is what the players want (Tricia, Kevin, Metal Jesus, and Bob). “Metal Jesus” Kevin Lama wants to run him some Burning Wheel, which I will be interested in giving a shot (despite my lack of love of fantasy genre stuff). Bob had previously mentioned Fate, and I’m hoping he goes with that, and “Soft Rock Messiah” Kevin Couick hasn’t really emphatically stated what he’d run. If this turns out to be popular, maybe we’ll migrate to “once a month” actual play, “every third week,” “every other week,” or maybe just turn the show into an actual play. Who knows?

If you haven’t noticed, the Greatest Show cast has grown over the years. Bob and I were running strong, with the occasional appearance of my wife before she started coming in every single show. Kevin Couick got invited on and just sort of hung around (not that we mind that at all). Kevin Lama popping in also added him to the regular rotation, so much so that he’s on almost every show now… good job, Metal Jesus! Saurabh will become a more frequent visitor and Kevin Couick will make a return in the near future as he’s experiencing the same sort of thing I am with my job: an inability to commit to every show.

In the past, we’ve had Morgan Imperial and her fiancĂ©, Carl, grace us. I’m hoping that we can resurrect the “Lime Lords” on the Greatest Show (a Doctor Who review) with the original trio of us by getting Morgan back on more often. This type of addition to the Greatest Show would allow us to rotate a Doctor Who episode, maybe an RPG episode, a random episode, and maybe a “special edition” type episode that we’ve been doing more of lately. In any case, making the show focus more on an anchor topic has been successful in bringing in the fans, so the “Lime Lords” return would be a good thing.

The last thing I’ll say about the Greatest Show specifically is that we are going to be bringing back the cooking. We had stable, steady viewership when we were having food being made (and eaten) on the show, so we’re going to start collecting us (or inventing) some recipes to be making on the show. While I was thinking of having a meal made every episode, maybe we want to rotate that, too… which wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

My job is shifting to something different again and when that happens I will be releasing a new podcast (audio only) called the Specter Show. I’ve had the link as the show being “coming soon” since January and I want to actually have the show. It’ll just be me having a topic (or maybe a couple) to discuss, and I’ll start that out as a weekly show and maybe work up to multiple times per week. I’d like to be on the radio (or at lest one time I did), so having a podcast that has a steady (and frequent) release schedule could be the next best thing.

I don’t often finish what I start when it comes to writing. I’ve started lots of writing projects, and I’ve completed a few, but those that I have completed have been really short in length. If I was to call what I’ve finished a “novel,” it would be comparable to the Ian Fleming James Bond novels from the 60s in that the books normally run about 50,000 words (which is small for a modern day novel). Trying to compete with this “structure” that I feel things need to fit into has brought me frustration, so I’m going to be releasing written fiction in whatever lengths I feel I can do at the time that I want to release them. No structured release (like an HBO or Showtime “13 part run” of specific lengths), no cliffhanger endings (unless that part happens to have a cliffhanger) and I’ll be writing multiple stories at the same time. For example, if on Monday I feel like writing a portion of a science fiction space opera, that’s what I’ll write. If on Tuesday I feel like writing a post-apocalyptic world of zombie survival, that’s what I’ll write. No specific lengths, no in depth editing, and I’ll release them as often as I feel I can. So if I need to take a three month break from writing because I’m in the Bahamas, then there will be no releases.

In the writing mode, I’ve also mentioned I want to write comics. I just cannot draw in the detail or the style that I want my finished work to look, so I’m stalling on that. My determination is still solid but I’m really needing an artist that is willing to want to create with me so I can concentrate on the script portion of the project.

Moving on to SpecterFit, I’m calling it right now: SpecterFit events are not going to launch in 2017, if at all. The lack of interest I’ve experienced with the announcements and the columns (the readership has dropped to almost nothing compared to the high numbers I was experiencing before) I am suspending the events portion of the SpecterFit brand. I will be writing more columns in the near future, because one of the facets of my job shift is that I will be walking a LOT more than I currently do, so I want to get back into the habit of writing healthy things as well as doing those healthy things.

Let me get back to the awesome image that I mentioned at the beginning of the column. I wanted to move away from the recolored Space Ghost and more towards something that actually looks closer to what my image of the Emerald Specter should look like. The jacket is super elaborate but it’s closer to the look that I have in my head… and this new image gives me the desire to want to tell the story of the Emerald Specter. Yes, it’s a character that I created after I bought this domain and I’m hoping the story of the Emerald Specter interests you as much as it interests me.

At least I have you interested in the concept… I hope.

The last Emerald Specter column was a random history column about my involvement with fantasy wrestling (or eFedding as the new Internet age has termed it). I also mentioned I may try to branch out from the ESPL only to include another “sporting event” simulation, that being professional wrestling. I’m not sure that I want to go with professional wrestling at this time, but I won’t discard the idea entirely for the future. I’m developing the possibility of a “digital MMA league” that would do what I used to do with a dead property I had many moons ago: IPRACE.

What the fuck is IPRACE? I’m glad you asked.

IPRACE stood for Internet Professional Racing Association for Computer Enthusiasts, and was an “digital racing” version of, for example, NASCAR. Instead of a car, you raced “pods.” Your pod was made by a computer manufacturer (when this was out, it was companies like HP, Apple, Asus, and Gateway to name a few) and your “engine” was a brand of hard drive (Seagate, Hitachi, and Western Digital… for example). You’d have sponsors, normally of a brand related to computing, gaming, or food, and there was a spreadsheet that simulated the races. If I were to resurrect this idea for Emerald Specter.com, I’d change “computers” to “cellphones” and alter some of the parameters to make the races operate a little differently.

I say all that to go back to “digital MMA,” meaning weight classes wouldn’t be heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight, and the like but would be based on bytes (or bits, or hertz, etc) and the names would be limited to six characters, or something like the old school RPG video games used to do. There is a spreadsheet simulator mostly built (as I love working with spreadsheets) and I would hold “events” like the UFC does, just solely on this website. If someone wants to have their own fighter, I’d be open to working on some sort of “development path” to allow them to start as a n00b and work their way up to see if they could capture “digital gold.” If you asked me to choose the next sport I would be bringing to the site right now, I’d default to this idea.

I am a sumo buff, though, and I do like the idea of having my own sumo league pyramid (allowing others to bring in their characters to compete, too).

So, I’ve talked about the Greatest Show, actual play RPGs on the Greatest Show, the expansion of the Greatest Show to include the Doctor Who review show High Council of Lime Lords, rotating the programming of the Greatest Show, releasing my fiction, wanting to focus on writing comic scripts, cancelling the SpecterFit events facet but wanting to keep writing the SpecterFit column, discussed the defunct IPRACE, talked about digital MMA, and mentioned briefly my love of sumo. You’d think that would be all I could cram into this column before I move to do something else, right? Well, you’d be wrong.

About once a year I get an itch to participate in a email sim. The most popular type on the Internet today is the fleets and fleets of Star Trek sims that are out there (like the ones at Obsidian Fleet). The problem with this is that I get the itch because I get a snippet of free time to ponder a character, I make said character, and I start simming… only to flake out and stop posting a couple of months later because the snippet of free time was fleeting and wasn’t really anything more than a short breather. Now, I don’t want to sim in the Star Trek universe, but I’m getting into the idea of simming as an option more in the direction of what the YouTube Vampire the Masquerade Experiment (also known as New Sarum) has become… a living RPG.

Now, New Sarum allows players to (basically) run their character’s life through posting YouTube videos in character and interacting with other players. While I don’t know if I like the video aspect of the idea, I do like the idea of the same basic premise being used in a text (email or forum) format a lot better. While there was “technically” a game master, everyone was really interested in the living nature of the game, so a game master isn’t technically necessary… except for the trolls and crybabies.

I’m looking at how such a thing would work, as the old Sanguinus Curae website had run via email with only two central storytellers, and just allow most of the vampire characters do the stuff they want and if they come across a “metaplot” element created for something bigger to do, then they can either jump in on that or choose to ignore it. This is how people work, for example, with Pokemon Go. Lots of people are doing it but there are some that just don’t care to participate. Just floating that idea out there.

Lastly, I’d like to mention all the games that those of us who are on Emerald Specter.com participate in. We play Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, Ingress, and Pokemon Go and we invite you to join us. SWGoH has a guild which is those of us at Emerald Specter with some random folks who have joined us, Ingress and Pokemon Go are teams that you can just sort of be part of a larger group. We want you to play with us and enjoy the games we enjoy because, as you may notice, we talk a lot about these on the Greatest Show. Why not jump in on that conversation.

Thanks for reading!

Game Specter 10 – Stealing Ideas

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If you were a multi-million dollar making film creator, you’d probably not need to worry about running a vampire political intrigue game for your friends. Since you aren’t, or at least if you’re reading this I suspect you aren’t, maybe you want to steal someone else’s idea and put the trappings of whatever game you’re playing over top of it.

Yeah, I’m telling you to steal your ideas.

I want to run a vampire game for my buddy Bob and his two or three friends. We’ve decided on some political intrigue and I really can’t think of anything to use for a game as the backdrop, so I decide we aren’t going to play and we never talk again. Wait, what? No, that doesn’t happen. I go out looking at movies, books, and other games I’ve played and I steal something to put the trappings of vampire on top of that.

Silly you, thinking I’d just pack up and go away.

I go out and I grab the Godfather and say to myself “let’s turn this into a vampire game.” Vito Corleone turns into the Prince of the City, who is fighting for ultimate control against the other four major factions fighting for power. The Prince is Invictus, he’s battling the Carthians, the Dracul, the Crones, and the Sanctum for ultimate control of the city. The Prince has decided that he’s been doing this too long and goes to choose his successor, who will ultimately be the one running the city in the end (Michael Corleone… or maybe the players are each some piece of that successor). If we are going along the Godfather line and one of the players is the chosen, maybe that player is manipulating the other players as well as slowly taking down each of the other groups to leave the Invictus as the only real power left in the city.

Doesn’t that sound like an interesting game?

What about something less “legendary movie” as a source?

The humdrum life of several vampires in the city goes on without much ado. As if by chance, a long time “legend” of the city returns hunting for the lupines that he’s famous for hunting. He brings with him his team, which are slowly taken out by these crafty lupines and your player characters, including his best friend, which spins him into almost a catatonic state. The player characters help trap the lupines as they make their last desperate attempt to “root out the evil of the vampires” from “their” city. The catatonic vampire joins up with the players just in time to get rid of the lupine scourge.

Sound interesting? Yeah, that’s the storyline to Critters 2: The Main Course. I just took a terrible movie and made it into a decent sounding vampire game. There’s stuff everywhere out there, why not look a little?

All in all, you don’t need to come up with something from scratch. Steal the ideas. Critters 2 isn’t a great movie but there are story elements that would make a good vampire game. Hell, you could make a good non-vampire game out of it. Just look around.

Game on.

Game Specter 6 – Creating a Game

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As I write this, I have had a discussion with my buddy Bob and will begin designing a game for a group of us to play together… online. So, the question then becomes (especially considering the last column’s content): what am I going to run?

While the subject of this column is sort of up in the air, there is a list of game ideas that I really want to run for the group. I’ll be more than happy to be the first GM, and that game will come AFTER the Christmas holiday is over for the USPS, so I want to lay out some ideas that I think that the group might like… and I haven’t even met the group yet!

One of the ideas that I want to run is a classic World of Darkness game… specifically the Vampire the Masquerade line. Bob and I used to run in a group that ran oWoD and that makes this the perfect “get back into the swing of things” game. The VtM setting would be modified from the “metaplot” that was running in the background, mainly because the metaplot had the ending of the world happen back in 2003. Yeah, that kind of puts a damper on a game set in 2014 or 2015. Definitely. I am thinking that the setting would contain bits and pieces of the metaplot, being geared towards more of a one shot adventure in a city no one is super familiar with, and leave open the possibility of extending the adventures of this group beyond this one shot but not mandating that.

There is also (sticking with WoD) the possibility of using the new Blood & Smoke rules for Vampire the Requiem and running a game set in the nWoD. While these two games could definitely be linked, or similar, I have two separate ideas for each one. The VtR game is less geared towards clan politics and more towards a “nothing exists outside this city” type setting. There would be a mystery with both but those mysteries would be completely different. If anyone of my potential players are reading this, maybe they want me to run BOTH games… which I would be happy to do, just not close together.

Moving towards Fate, I was thinking of running the “Green Team” game that I wanted to run for a group of players a few months back. Towards the end of the Echoes Darkly podcast run, I had gathered together a group of players to play through a WoD-style military/mystery scenario I was calling Green Team. Now that I’ve read up on Fate, I think that the Fate system fits better with what I wanted to do, and I think that Bob (being ex-military along with myself) would be a good “team leader” in the scenario I have written down. I still have all the notes, folks, and yes, I’d even give the original players a spot if they wanted one.

I have also decided to consider the opportunity to run a game that may not involve dice at all. There is a story that I’ve been dying to tell that really doesn’t need a game system to run. In fact, as long as all the players are on board with exploring the characters they create, we wouldn’t need dice at all… we could just tell the story that needs to be told.

With any luck, there is enough I have listed above to get anyone interested. Why not let the players decide, right? Now I just need to get them together to decide. Bob?

Game on.

Game Specter 5 – All About the Story

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I am pretty sure that I’m read for running some Fate. I am also highly interested in running some classic World of Darkness (vampire), too, because of some recent podcasts I’ve listened to… and that makes me confused and depressed because I don’t have anyone to run these things for and I can’t play in my own stories. That’s like gaming masturbation. I don’t want that and you shouldn’t either.

Something I have been thinking a lot about isn’t the system I’m using nor is it the people whom I’m running with… I’ve been thinking about telling a damn story.

If you think about what gaming has been like, things may be different than how I think about gaming. Right now, if you asked me what gaming has been like for the past 20 years of my life, I’d say “competition.” RPGs these days aren’t supposed to be competitive, they’re COLLABORATIVE. Why can’t I find players that share this philosophy?

My primary goal is to tell a story. Like the Knights of the Night, I’d like to get a story across that people can interact with. Those players want to make their own decisions, move towards an end goal, and explore WITHOUT competing with the GM. The GM, too, isn’t looking to screw the players at every turn… they collaboratively tell a story and that is what I’d like to do.

I’ve been told that if I want to tell a specific story, I should just write a book. RPGs aren’t stories, they don’t “survive first contact with the players.” That’s a bunch of bull and I’m tired of that being “the norm.” I have the framework of a great story in mind and I need people to interact with that to flesh that out. Could I write it into a novel? Sure, but that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as watching how my preconceived notions are torn down as the players do things in this story I can’t possibly prepare for. That’s part of the run of gaming.

When I move away from North Dakota, I plan on finding myself a playing group that is interested in what I’m interested in. There should be a bigger pool of players available and I am even open to including Google+ Hangout games, widening the field even more. I’m even hoping I can be a player now and then… even though I really have a lot of stories to get out of me.

Right now, though, I want to tell an original story in an original universe with players who don’t see me as the competition. I want to make sure that there is something interesting going on at all times and I want to see what the players do with the direction and story that I wouldn’t have considered being a possibility. Why can’t I have that where I am?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll try to be getting this going more regularly than I have been… with this being Christmas, though, I have a lot of work to do. Some of you will know why.

Roll on.

Game Specter 4 – All These Stories

I am going to be running a Fate game as soon as I have the time. If you’ve read any of my other columns, like Fitness Specter (particularly the 13th one), you’ll know that I am in the process of moving from one place to another. No, I do not know when that is going to happen. No, I am not able to get a time for that as of writing this. Yes, the move WILL happen. That just means I need to hang on a while before I can gather together my players.

GameSpecter300I’ve read through the Fate guide online. I have listened to the Knights of the Night actual play podcast, especially the episodes where they’re playing Fate. I want to really dig in and start playing this system because the only system I’ve played for the past decade is World of Darkness. Well, there’s one other thing I realized while wanting all of this: I have a lot of stories bumping around in my noggin.

I want to be a writer. An author, actually, and there is a difference. This means that I’ve got a bunch of stories rolling around in my head, anyway, but I have come to realize that some of those stories will never be novels or movies or plays because those are gaming stories. I don’t mean “Joe and I were sitting around when he rolled a 5.” I mean the stuff “Joe and I” would be playing. The battle against Cthulhu or the epic leap over the moving car… not the mechanics or the meta-gaming. THE game.

There are, of course, vampire ideas that involve things like running around and politically trying to win a city. Werewolves fighting to save this or that… even Geists doing things. But I also have super hero ideas (more like Heroes and less like DC). What about an investigative idea that leads into a series of murder mysteries that can be solved by the group (a la Numbers or Scorpion or etc)? How about episodic adventures on a spaceship or something in a computer system? I’ve got these things in my head, I’d like to novelize them, but I know now that these are gaming stories.

I used to have an actual play podcast. Dark Green: The Blackwood Chronicles, for anyone wondering, and no you can’t find it in iTunes anymore because I moved everything and closed the feeds down. When I get back to gaming, though, I’d like to have another one and I’d love for that to be what my friend Bob and I have come up with: a rotating group of GMs running different genres in a rotation of sorts. Everyone included, telling stories, and telling them so that you can all hear them. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Well, what I’ve described is what the Knights of the Night are already doing. I’d like to go into different areas than they have (genre/game-wise) but I’d also like to tell the quality stories they are. We all aspire to something.

Game it.