Status Update (and a Request)

My life went through some serious and primarily positive changes over the past several months. Those changes are now affording me the opportunity to do things that I was unable to do previously like taking time for myself and for seeing friends, pursuing various educational opportunities, and seriously evaluating my future, especially my future profession.

One of the things I will be doing is getting a serious education in a subject that fascinated me ever since my early teens, if not earlier.

That subject is hypnosis.

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Searching for a Specific Succubus

In today’s self-publishing market, many times authors must also be their own copy editors, cover designers and artists and self-promoters. Very few people are everything: one of my biggest drawbacks is that I am not an artist and I am forced to rely on others to supply the artwork (and sometimes photography) needed for the cover I want. I was fortunate with my cover designs for my previous self-published works (here and here) which were based on actual photographs and then photo-manipulated, but I am stymied with my current project, because my requirements for my new story ‘Sympathetic Succubus’ are pretty specific: I want a succubus. which is not difficult, in a suit, looking very professional, very sardonic and a little resigned and annoyed because of what is happening in the story, which is proving very difficult. That is why I wrote up this description so I have something to point people toward.

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Review: “Lucifer” (Pilot)

I just watched “Lucifer”, the television translation of the Vertigo comic series initiated by Neil Gaiman in his “Sandman” comics. The series builds off a number of things from the comics, then it goes its own way.

I will be following this one: it has possibilities.

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GenCon 2016 Event Submission

I will only be running one event this year at GenCon: last year, prepping and running two events was too much, and I want to play some, too, this year. What I will be playing is still yet to be determined, but I know what I will be running.

Doctor Who: Time War Is Hell

A collection of temporally transcendent individuals (legendary characters drawn from a variety of media: Captain Jack Harkness, Sapphire and Steel, Duke Dorian Hawkmoon, the Time Traveler and William Pilgrim) are “recruited” by the War Doctor to avert a plot by a traitorous Time Lord. Deep within Rassilon’s Tower in the Death Zone is a vault containing the weapons even Rassilon deems too risky to use, but the Daleks would use them against the Time Lords without hesitation, and the traitor Time Lord used the Time Scoop to send a squad of Daleks to steal them. Their mission: stop the Daleks while the War Doctor uncovers the traitor.

(I am so tempted to have one of those weapons be The Winslow.)

Great Gaming Stories: Ship Go Boom!

“In those glorious golden days of the 23rd Century, when the Terrian Federation was still in its infancy, long before the Peace of the Empire, when no ship traveled the Starlanes unarmed, all that stood between the fragile glassine towers of Terra the Beautiful and the ravaging hordes of Ralni, Dreenoi and other lurkers in the darkness were the men of the Starfleet Command. It is to the marines of the Federation Navy, the STARGUARD, that this record is respectfully dedicated.”

When I was in college, my roommate ran a D&D campaign that intersected with a space miniatures game called StarGuard. It was one of the first SF space miniatures games every released, way back in the mid 1970s. One of the quirks of the space combat rules was that if the spaceship’s engines were hit, on a roll of 1–5, that many engine boxes were destroyed but on a roll of a 6, they would explode and destroy the ship. Anyone reading this should probably be thinking that is what I’m going to describe, and they’d be right, but not exactly in the way they would be thinking.

The scenario involved my (future) roommate’s current roomie, who was flying a light crusier that got jumped by a heavy cruiser. Forced to fight, he fired off what was known as a splinter missile. A splinter missile is basically a multiple warhead missile, so each warhead was treated and rolled separately for each target and damage.

Now this is where the reader expects that one of the warheads hits the engine, rolls a critical, blows up the ship and the light cruiser escapes. No, its even stranger.

One of the splinter missile warheads strikes the heavy cruiser’s shuttle craft, in the shuttle bay. The shuttle craft location table was brought out, the location checked, and lo and behold, the engine was hit. The critical was confirmed. So the heavy cruiser got hit with a nuclear hammer as the shuttle craft blew up. The question remained, since this was hardly ever considered as part of the rules, is how much damage does the heavy cruiser take? There was much thought and consideration and it was eventually decided to use the ship collision rules to determine the damage, which was still considerable.

Needless to say, the heavy cruiser now had more important things to worry about than to keep attacking the light cruiser, which pumped its hyperdrive and boosted out of there, leaving me to wonder why such a drastic rule was implemented in the first place and ponder the necessity of expecting even the most impossible (but not totally impossible) possibilities when designing a game.


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Great Gaming Stories: My Tribute to Erick Wujcik

It was shortly after I heard the news that Erick Wujcik died, back in 2008. He was the one who introduced me to true roleplaying gaming, through the Amber Diceless Roleplaying game he created, and, in the process, refined roleplaying gaming into true role playing as a game. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 2007 and died in mid 2008 from complications resulting from it.

I was not playing in any Amber campaign at the time, but I was playing in a loose series of DragonStorm games, and I decided to run one that involved my favorite Amber character, Brigid of Amber, Seelie Crown Princess of all Faerie, as a tribute and memorial to Erick. (I could have used the Amber character of Damarian, who was actually from Erick’s GenCon Amber campaign, but I chose Brigid because she would work better for what I wanted to do here: mainly, she could be seen as as vulnerable as necessary for the scenario.)

My biggest problem was in not allowing the character to overshadow the other characters or the world itself. On her own, Brigid was as powerful as the most powerful beings in the campaign world, able to stand toe-to-toe with the biggest dragons and nastiest opponents and even use all of their special abilities: she was even capable of changing the world to suit her own desires should she desire. (She rarely does, however.) I’ve been in games where the gamemaster’s NPCs have overwhelmed the player characters, and I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted the player characters (and thereby the players) to be the centerpiece of the scenario.

Therefore, the player characters encounter Brigid as she comes riding into camp. (A camp in the middle of a blasted terrain, where all life was warped and changed to the worse: this will be important, later.) A totally exhausted Brigid riding a lathered, barely-able-to-walk steed. As she almost falls out of the saddle, she explains that something is chasing her, something that she didn’t have the power to defeat by herself, and she shifted Shadow to find the place where she would find that power, because tirelessly pursuing her was a Fire Angel. 1

A Fire Angel. A walking skeleton of a dragon with muscles and sinew formed out of elemental fire. (At least, that’s the way I described it.)

FIRE ANGEL — Large winged predator. F.A. Are [sic] extremely strong and have a lot of redundacies [sic] in their body systems, including three hearts. They are natural Shadow travelers and can be used to track (and assassinate) persons away in the Shadows. F.A. usually hunt in pairs. Natural habitat of F.A. is near the Courts of Chaos. F.A. are extremely dangerous but trainable beings. — Amber Dictionary

Fire Angels are the Courts of Chaos’ most dangerous weapons. They have to specially captured and trained to hunt one person and one person only. In the Merlin series, one is set out after Corwin, and it was difficult even for him to defeat it. Brigid is not nearly as battle-experienced as Corwin and could not normally survive being targeted by one, but she is capable of (and, through her Pattern artifact steed, assisted in) shifting Shadow to find the one place she would find the power to defeat it, even if she didn’t know what that power would be. That is how she managed to wind up on the world of Grandilar. (The reason she didn’t return to Amber or call any of her cousins or relatives to aid her was that primarily she wanted to demonstrate that she could take care of herself even under these circumstances. Calling for help was against the rules here, but shifting Shadows to find help was different, that was using her inherent ability as an Amberite to defend herself and was accepted among the Family as a suitable excuse.)

When she arrived, the characters could tell she was on the last remnants of her energy. (That’s Brigid: she pushes herself way too much, mainly because she doesn’t know the limits of her powers.) One of the characters managed to talk her into sitting down and getting something to eat before the Fire Angel arrived. That’s when the fight began.

It was a little touch-and-go for a while, but at least nobody tried casting fire magic at the thing. (My response would have been “How much did you heal it?”) It was only when one of the witches (earth priestesses) cast an Earth Power spell that Brigid realized just what power this world possessed that could battle a Fire Angel.

Earth magic, particularly elemental earth-based attacks. (As I said: “What puts out fire?” “Water,” one person answered. “What else? What else is elementally opposed to fire?” According to the way I laid out the elemental forces, Water and Earth surround Fire and stifle it, Air is across from it and nurtures it.) Brigid herself is primarily Fire and Air and Water, and Earth is her weakest element, so it was especially difficult for her to confront a Fire Angel. (Especially if she transformed into her primal avatar form, a phoenix.)

The Earth Power spell causes the earth to erupt underneath the target. It is a spell that can be augmented with additional spell power from the caster, and it is something that also can be augmented by others using special abilities. Brigid helped the witch recharge her magic, who then used all of it to cast the Earth Power spell. Brigid, herself a spellcaster, used the last of her own power to duplicate the spell, drawing what she could from the ambient magic of the world on a moment’s notice.

There was a moment when the number of dice being rolled for damage rivaled any Champions damage dice roll, but the effect was what I was expecting: the Fire Angel was destroyed.

And then Brigid fainted.

Shadowfax, her steed, appeared in human form to catch her before she landed, tsk-ing that she always pushed herself too much. But, given her supernatural and Amber heritage, she would be up and around in the morning.

And so it was: Brigid was not entirely recovered from her ordeal but recovered enough to repay the PCs by doing something that only an Amberite could do: change the world. After a long period of concentration, the land around them changed. It was now a vibrant land, full of primal magic, like what the world of Grandilar was like before Death Day and the Dragon Storms. And it had always been that way, nobody except the the characters ever knew it was anything else. (“She changed history.” said one of the players. “No, it was always this way, so she never changed anything.” “So she changed the past.” <facepalm>)

BRIGIDD

Brigid’s Trump

In addition, Brigid left them one of her Trumps, telling them to contact her if they ever really needed her help, but that they really, really had to need it or else she’d just come and take it away from them. Ever since, no one had ever needed to use it, and most players probably don’t even remember that its there: the player whose character eventually was given custody of it moved way years ago, and most of the other players aren’t a part of the gaming group any longer for other reasons.

But maybe one day, I’ll be playing at a convention or event and another GM will come over and say “Someone is trying to Trump Brigid: they need help.”

And she will respond, and she will help, because that’s what she does.

New WordPress Plugin: WP Link Pages Extended

I just released a new WordPress plugin: WP Link Pages Extended. This plugin extends the existing subpage linking mechanism that WordPress uses when the page or post author uses the <!--nextpage--> element to divide the page into subpages; this mechanism is what provides links to the various subpages at the bottom of the page, which is not to be confused with the inter-post link navigation system. I was very dissatisfied with the limited way WordPress by default presented the links, and I wanted something better for my own website, so I was certainly disposed to do something about it.

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New WordPress Plugin: Text Toggle

I just released my latest WordPress plugin: Text Toggle. This is the plugin that I use on my Resume page, to alternately hide and show sections of text. It was a very simple exercise in JavaScript and jQuery wrapped in a series of shortcode definitions and internal coding. Text Toggle can be found in the WordPress Plugin Repository here.

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A Hypnagogic Story Experience

It is a question writers hear a lot: “Where do you get your stories?” Well, in at least one case, a story came to me in a hypnagogic state.

Hypnagogic — Of or relating to the partially conscious state that precedes sleep; the drowsy period between wakefulness and sleep, during which fantasies and hallucinations often occur.

It was the weekend of Marcon, in Columbus, Ohio, back in (was it actually that long ago?) 1979. Katherine Kurtz was the Guest of Honor that year.

At the time, I was immersed with the creation of Morgana Black, my stage hypnotist vampire character for the White Wolf World of Darkness RPG. Since I knew Katherine was a trained Ericksonian hypnotist, and part of Morgana’s backstory was her training under Erickson, so I quickly wondered how Katherine would react to meeting Morgana. I never did mention anything about it to her, but the idea did live on in the back of my mind, with unexpected results.

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Abracadara: Superman and Magic

Many years ago, in 1969, to be exact, Larry Niven wrote an essay entitled ‘Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex’ which attempted to explain why the superhero character of Superman could not get laid. To this day, his postulations have remained intact.

There is, however, yet another question about Superman that remains unanswered, and I believe I know the answer: why is Superman (and by extension, all Kryptonians) so vulnerable to magic?

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