Life — Feb ’20 Monthly Update

The trek towards healthier living continues, but for good or for ill, I don’t have much to say about it other than to point out the fact that gradual progress is so difficult to see on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I feel like I’m making no progress at all.

The Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

As you can probably tell, twice a week has been tricky for me, but I’m doing it, even if I’m several a couple hours late to most posts. I’m trying to tackle a lot of projects right now, so since my blog isn’t my main focus, I will attempt to allow myself to be more okay with skipping days. Occasionally posting a second time a week is still better than mostly posting only once a week! (Don’t know why I phrased it that way but whatever.)

In the next few months I will be devoting most of my writing focus to the passion project. Things are looking good, even if the stuff we’re making is slow and takes time. I’m still optimistic about a public Patreon going up this year.

Work has been… trying. Alright, but trying. That’s all I’ll say for now, but there’s possible news on the horizon.

D&D has been a blast. My brother has began his journey as a dungeon master and has been doing a great job! It’s pretty obvious to me that I am the weakest encounter builder among the three of us that have DM’d so far (or at least I will be once this brother actually knows what he’s doing), but hey, we all have our strengths. I also have been loving my Monk/Paladin. Rolling 8d20 and scoring critical hits on a 19 means I, theoretically, will crit at least once on more than 50% of my turns. In practice… well, I don’t usually roll above 10. Which is amazing because I roll so many dice on this character. I guess my character is so cool the dice gods decided to punish me.

Nothing to say on video games: I’ve been playing WoW mostly, as will probably always be the case in the foreseeable future. Also playing Heroes of the Storm here and there, and am very excited for the new Animal Crossing game in March.

I have only been listening to Critical Role as far as media goes, and even that I’m starting to fall behind on, but I hope to start a dedicated Dresden Files reread in the near future in preparation for Peace Talks!

And lastly, my resolutions. I’ve been trying to get up early to work out before work. It’s been going well, and I’m trying to eat more alongside that to gain weight. So far, by conservative estimations I’ve gained about 6 pounds, which is good progress! I’m not even a third of the way to my goal, but I’d be pretty shocked if I hit my goal by May anyway, so there’s that. For reference, my strict goal is 150 pounds, but I’d like to hit 165 eventually. I started tracking my weight a couple days into the trek, but my first weighs were about 128.

In other news, I’ve started seeing a therapist, and overall, I think I’m making the strides I need to to make 2020 a good year for me. Hopefully the first of many.

D&D — How to Make Interesting Player Characters

A couple of friends have asked me recently (for different an unrelated campaigns, even) about how I make a player character that I am excited to play. It’s worth noting that they were relatively inexperienced, and while they knew what D&D is and how to play, they didn’t have enough experience to know their options and how to capitalize them for maximum anticipation. I’ve talked about this a bit, but haven’t made a full blog post about it, so here it is, oh friends of mine from the future that have asked me this same question.

That said, this guide will be geared towards those players. I would say the majority of people who play D&D regularly as a hobby tend to have a backlog of possible characters they would like to play and are simply waiting for the opportunity to pull them out (like me). Even if that is the case, though, maybe they’re not as fleshed out as they could be, and this guide will help you learn more about that cool idea.

Here we go.

Step One: Identify your Rule of Cool. This can be anything. Maybe your cool thing is casting spells on your enemy to make them think you’re their friend. Maybe it’s the too-cool-for-school rogue that only feels happy when she’s stabbing somebody. Maybe it’s a backstory, like your parents were murdered by birds and now you are on a quest to kill every bird for revenge. It doesn’t matter what it is, just search deep inside your soul and find the answer to the question “How do I achieve maximum coolness?” because everyone should be able to feel cool when playing their heroes.

  • To follow along with an example of my own characters, one of my Rule of Cool things was that I wanted to play a Lawful Evil character. Somebody that is selfish and manipulative, but still helps the party. (We’ll get to that part.)

Step Two: Identify how your Rule of Cool manifests. How much of that thing is narrative, and how much of it is actually gameplay mechanics? Wanting to murder every bird is narrative, because it doesn’t have any influence on what race or class you are. Wanting to mind control all your enemies does inform your class, though. You’d be hardpressed to make a barbarian whose main purpose in combat is to mind control, for example. Once you figure this out, you can more easily identify what parts of your character you still need to figure out.

  • My Lawful Evil character was a dark elf, or a drow, because in most common lore, dark elves are lawful evil. So this Rule of Cool informed race, which helps inform backstory, but there is no hint of class yet.

Step Three: Find the ‘But’. This is the critical point in which your cool idea becomes an interesting and nuanced character. The idea here is to fill out the rest of your basic character concept with something that significantly contrasts your Rule of Cool idea. Maybe your mind control character is a big dumb goliath. Maybe the guy that wants to kill all birds is, secretly, a bird. Maybe your edgy rogue character secretly just wants to be loved. It doesn’t have to make sense (yet), it just has to be interesting enough to get you interested.

  • My drow still didn’t have a class here, so that’s what I used for the ‘But’. Lawful Evil drow? What if he’s a bard that sings songs and inspires people around him? How does that work?

And now for Step 4: Use those two mismatching ideas, and find a way to make it work. This will pretty much always tell you the basics of their backstory and make filling out details easy. How did this dumb goliath get mind control powers? Why did your edgy rogue turn to stabbing people when really they’re just lonely? Why does a bird and his parents get attacked by other birds? The idea with the ‘But’ here is that it allows you to ask specific and direct questions that inspire their own answers. The Cool idea and the But idea should be mismatched in a way that asks these obvious questions.

  • How does a lawful evil drow become a bard? Easy, he found himself orphaned on the surface (for reasons that aren’t important so I don’t care yet) and was adopted by a nice noble family. They loved him and cherished him. Gave him an education and taught him music. He hated it, because he wanted to have a cruel, twisted life so that he could use that hatred to be edgy and drow-like. Instead, he had a cushy lifestyle he was too embarrassed to talk about. Which is a fun secret to keep from the rest of the party!

And you’re done! …ish. It’s important to note here that none of this process actually nails down anything concrete. It can, but really the point is to figure out all of the important basics for your character and then decide what you want later. Our friend that murders birds still doesn’t have a class, for example. Our mind controlling-goliath has a few different options regarding class. Our edgy rogue can still be any race, and there’s lots of room for growth and exploration regarding their backstory.

That’s pretty much it. Getting interested in your character is really just a matter of brainstorming the right questions and coming up with answers that add depth and dimension to your character. The specifics can always be more refined later.

Poem — Tea for Who?

I once thought that I knew who
I was put on this world to be,
But then I was thrust into a new view
And ’twas not my cup of tea.

To learn that you have never stood
Where you say you had grown up
Would mess with your head for good—
It sure overfilled my cup.

All those friends I thought I knew,
Had all just been a dream.
A clever reconstruction, brewed,
Though that place had no cream.

To push ahead, I know I should,
But still I want what never was.
Things are better now than childhood
But I want to scream—as the kettle does.

(Proud to say I slammed this out in 15 minutes, though the sloppy flow probably makes that glaringly obvious. It was an hour past my bedtime before I even started. Whoops.)

Prompt: https://www.deviantart.com/sandara/art/Tea-Party-800368122

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Me — January ’20 Monthly Update

This one will be a bit different because, in addition to the normal monthly update, I’m going to introduce the changes I’m making to my life to make 2020 the best year it can be. Let’s waste no time.

The Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I will tentatively be changing the blog schedule to twice a week: Wednesdays and Sundays. I say tentatively because I may come to realize I’m asking too much of myself—only time will tell. I will also introduce a self imposed rule that I cannot publish two blog posts in a row that cover the same subject (referring to “Me”, “Review”, “Stories”, etc). This will force me to think of a new post if the only thing that’s on my mind is work, or me being lonely, or whatever it happens to be. I feel like there’s no point in having a blog if I feel like the only thing I have to say is “life sucks” in different ways once a week. However, this is another reason I might not be able to do twice a week. We’ll see.

Writing has been going well. The passion project has been making concrete plans on the road to Patreon, and so far I am very excited and optimistic with our trajectory. The second draft of the Lisa Stenton screenplay has been done for a while now, and I have no plans to edit it at the moment. I’m shelving it for now because putting more time into it at my current state is not helpful. Meanwhile my second short story anthology is still on my to-do list, but it is unfortunately getting pushed back by my 2020 resolutions.

Work has been alright. Not much to say about it, though I have been spending the last several days reorganizing and moving all the tables and machines around the shop. I even made a 1:12 scale model so that I can plan ahead and look at different layouts before I commit to anything.

I am done with school! I should be getting my degrees soon, but honestly, I’m just happy to be done, because now I have more time to focus on me. (If only that simply meant “more free time”…) As such, I will be removing “school” off the Monthly Update Topic Order™!

Friday is Session One of my brother’s new adventure, in which I will be debuting my new Drow Shadow Monk. He is DMing this campaign in my world, using characters that have, as of yet, only been mentioned by name. He claims to have an overarching plot that will solidify historic points in history, and I am both terrified and excited to see what he means. After he’s done (he only plans for this to be a couple of months), I will once again don the mantle of DM to tell the second half of the Knights of Fire’s story! I don’t expect that to start until June, to be honest, but only time will tell.

I have had little time for video games. As of right now, I am exclusively playing World of Warcraft, with a single Heroes of the Storm or Magic: The Gathering match if I only have 20-40 minutes to spare for something. Lately I’ve been turning on autopilot and farming gold, because I’ve been too tired to do anything else.

I haven’t been reading or listening to anything lately, but that’s mostly because Critical Role is still on it’s holiday break. I’m hyped to start watching the stream again this Thursday!

Alright: 2020 changes. It boils down to one thing that manifests in two ways. And for once, I’m very basic with my resolution.

I’m going to try harder to give myself an appearance I am proud of.

That is to say, I’m eating food, for one. These past several months I’ve been taking a nap at work for lunch because it was cheaper than buying/preparing food, but I realize that’s not healthy. So, for as much as it hurts my wallet, I’ve been buying things like meal bars and protein shakes and stocking up my bag when I go to work. I also got an app to track what I’m eating every day and what I should be eating to put on weight. I’d like to put on 20-30 pounds, and I think I need to be actively working out in order to achieve that result in a way I like. I don’t have the money for a gym membership and my house is full of people, so being self conscious makes working out hard, but I’m fitting it in where I can.

Lastly, I’ve been framing my actions in terms of what the “Ideal Kollin” would do, and I’m trying as best as my willpower will allow me to achieve it. I’m also keeping track of everything I do and how I feel, even more than I did last year. If I felt like I was productive, I mark that down. If I took a nap, I mark it. I’m tracking my weight every morning and when I wake up. I’m hoping to sync all of these stats with each other once I have some data so that I can maybe come to some conclusions, but it will be a couple months before I can start to do things like that.

So far, 2020 has yielded exactly 0 depressive episodes, and though not every day has been stellar, I’m content with how things are going so far.

I hope you’re all having similar experiences, and despite the upcoming struggles, you and I will overcome them.

 

 

 

Me — December ’19 Monthly Update

So. I’ll just say it. As far as my mental health goes, October and November 2019 put me in the worst state I’ve ever been in. I experienced lots of emotions I didn’t know I was capable of, and, well, it was rough. Only two people have any idea how bad it got, and not even they know the true extent. Luckily now, nobody has to know.

I felt like I was actively drowning and that in my flailing to grab anything—anyone—I would merely drag them down with me. I almost lost a very important battle before I even realized I was at war. I learned some things, but most terrifying of all was that it came and went with no specific warning or trigger, and with that knowledge comes the fear that it could strike again. I think the worst is over, but since I don’t know how it happened, I also don’t know what I can do to prevent it in the future. Either way I’m glad it’s behind me. I just wanted to let you know why I was so vacant last month. I’m still in recovery.

And so, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’m still going to do my best to update once a month. I have some story ideas and some blog posts I’d like to share, which doesn’t happen a whole lot. Maybe next year I’ll have more to talk about, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m actually going to take the blog off the monthly updates, as the cadence of once a week has suited me well for several months now.

I’m still chugging away at the same writing projects. My Lisa Stenton screenplay has finished a preliminary second draft (though I still need to make a few passes to “finish” it as a full draft), and I’m probably going to put that on the shelf soon. I still don’t really like it, even with all the changes I’ve made from the first draft. There’s something about the world of Lisa Stenton that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the magic system (or lack thereof) and how the supernatural ties to it. It’s the only thing that has ever held me back from writing more of that story, and the only reason this screenplay kind of works is because it has very little actual magic.

Other than that, the second anthology is probably not going to be published until the beginning of next year at this rate. With all that’s happened, I feel like I’ve lost a month and a half of writing time, but it is what it is.

Work has been fine. I’m not going to share details, but we’ve actually had several strong months in a row, as far as sales go, which is increasing morale and making the whole atmosphere a lot easier to bear.

Not much to say about school, but I only have a few classes left before I finish… maybe forever. That hadn’t occurred to me until I just wrote that. These next couple class sessions might be the last time I’m in that environment period. At least for a long while. Huh. By this time next month I will hopefully be sitting pretty on two AA degrees.

D&D has been going great. We’re almost closing what I’m calling Chapter Three of the Knights of Fire campaign. (The only one of five that I am not the DM for.) We’ll be taking a break from that for a couple of months to play in another short campaign before we resume with this story and, by extension, my role as dungeon master. I’ve already got the juices flowing as to How Chapter Four will start and what the main story beats will be.

I’ve been devoting the vast majority of my time playing WoW: Classic still, and let me tell you, in the last month, our guild has become a family. I can’t put it into words in a concise manner, but… I love the feeling that I’m part of a team and that people are talking about me when I’m not around. That’s part of my goal for regaining the sanity I lost in October and November. I’m planting the seeds that will make me feel like I’m important to people. I wouldn’t say I feel like I’m an essential part of the crew, but… I hope I will be in time.

Not much to say about listening. I’m keeping pace with Critical Role as well as I can, and that’s about it.

Not much else to say.

Me — September ’19 Monthly Update

August set the beginning of the end for my schooling (for now, at least), and after this semester I will be done. It had a lot of ups and downs, and I would categorize September as a return to normalcy. I feel as though I’ve finally, truly, recovered my purpose, and though I still don’t have the drive of “Be productive 24/7 and get all the things done”, I’m trying to be okay with relaxing. Between working full time and going to school, pretty much every day is productive. I’m trying to let go of the idea that a day is a waste if I don’t spend at least some time working on personal projects.

Anyways, onto the updates. As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

No blog changes. Once a week still suits me just fine. I like the periodic updates without feeling like I’m chaining myself to the website.

As of now, I’m still working on three different writing projects. For the passion project, I’m currently drafting up story beats and a prologue to the first big main story arc. (The details of that story won’t come for at least two years, as the project would first have to find its feet with a following, and we would have to develop better means of telling such a big story. Suffice to say it’s at least a novel length and needs context before being presented to the world.)

The first draft to Lisa’s full length play is nearing completion, and while I do feel the plot is ho-hum at best, I am proud of myself for nearly completing a work of such length, as I haven’t finished a full draft of that caliber in years. Stay tuned for more details on that, I expect to finish this play by the end of the year.

My second short story anthology is still in the works. Unfortunately, it’s at the bottom of this list. Still, these stories only need edits, so I hope to publish it by the end of the year as my first “real” book. (The first anthology was meant to simply be a means for family and friends to access a hard copy of some of my earliest works.)

Work has been slow going. It hasn’t been stressful, which is good, but that also means its been a little slow, which means my boss hasn’t been super happy. These past few days have been okay, but I still find myself thinking and preparing for any bad news he might present to me at any given moment. I know it’s not a good relationship to have, but it’s just how it is, and it’s something I can bear for a few more months.

School has been a bit rough. The play I had been planning on being a part of didn’t cast me, which was a bit surprising and my ego took a hit, but I suppose that’s a blessing in some regards. Being turned down has made me think about how my supposedly great audition really wasn’t as stellar as I had thought it was, and now I know how I could do it better in the future (not that there will be one, but still). It’s a bummer, but it also allows me to have week nights, which I had planned on giving up for the next few months. So now I’m only taking the one class, which has been a lot of fun so far. I’m trying to be more sociable, which is sort of working.

At the end of July, I passed the reins of the Aleor campaign to one of my brothers, who is taking the party to a new destination. I’m super excited to play as a PC again, and to finally explore Acelia’s personality. It makes me feel a little bad as I’m worried about overpowering the campaign. (The other two players aren’t quite as interested in roleplay as I am, even if they go along with it.) This isn’t a concern I have directly addressed to them, and perhaps it’s unfounded, but I honestly feel like I’m playing the way I want to for the first time. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy DMing—the Octopath Traveler soundtrack has become nostalgic to me for this specific campaign, but prepping a session is a lot of work, and I could use the break.

With the release (re-release?) of WoW Classic, that’s basically been how I’ve spent all of my free time. Two weeks later, I’m level 35, so it’s probably going to be about another month at least before I hit 60, but as per my last post, it’s definitely been the time sink I needed to unwind. Even if the game hates the player.

While playing WoW, I’ve been watching lots of Day9’s Day Off playthroughs, as well as Critical Role. I plan on returning my attention to the Dresden Files soon, (I’m halfway through my reread of #3, Grave Peril), but it takes more mental effort than I’m willing to give at the moment.

I actually don’t really have anything else. After that mental blow I took in June, I feel as though I’ve gotten back to where I was. That is to say, able to enjoy life. Last time it took me six months to get back to this point, so the fact that it only took three this time is a really good sign. Plus, it’s going to start getting cooler soon, and fall is probably my favorite season. Things are looking up.

Me — August ’19 Monthly Update

July really started off rough, but towards the end of it things have started to look better. I’ve noticed something strange about my moods, lately. According to my happiness tracker, the toughest weeks—the ones where I’ve been depressed and unmotivated—have pretty consistent scores, only having a rough deviation of 1. It looks like a generally state, if a little curvy line. The weeks that I generally feel better fluctuate a lot more, with ups and downs that look like a seismograph, where the worst days are about the normal level for my depressed states. Strange to think that if I’m happy, every other day will still be as bad as a normally depressing day, I’ll just have better good days.

Anyways, onto the updates. As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

With my last semester of college starting up in a couple weeks, I’m going to cut Saturdays off the weekly schedule and only post once a week on Tuesday. I expect to be pretty busy, being either at work or at school 60 hours a week (with free weekends, fortunately). More on that in a bit, but I think it’s time to back down on the blog now that my plate is full again.

I’ve been writing a lot recently! Work on the full length Lisa Stenton play has resumed, and the first draft of the first act is 100% done! I plan to start plucking away at the second act next week. I’m also chugging away at the collection of short stories for my passion project (which we hope to unveil in the next few months!), and the backlog is growing! I’m super excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on. Lastly, progress on the second short story anthology is going slow, as it’s not very high on my priority list, but it is going, and I’m collecting edits for the manuscript now.

Work has been fine. The last month was a slow one, as the summer always is in my line of work, but August is already promising to be very busy, with a ton of huge jobs coming in. I’m not sure how to feel about that, because on one hand, the boss is happy with the revenue, but on the other, the stress of deadlines and upkeep will be much higher.

As for school, I’m excited to say that, assuming all goes well, this will definitely be my last semester of college. I tried to get one of my AA’s last semester, but they said I was missing a class I definitely was not missing, which was irritating. Hopefully, that’s all sorted out, and I’ll have two AA’s and more than a couple certificates to boot. Plus, I plan on performing in my first full length play. I figure I’ve played every other part in the theatre world—writer, director, costumer, stage designer, tech crew, etc., that I might as well finish as an actor again, where my interest in theatre all started.

D&D. Buckle your pants. The Aleor campaign began with the Night of Fire, December 31st 2018 (or, Safepass 30, 427, if you’re Aloran). 7 months and 28 sessions later, my reign of terror awesomeness is over. The Knights of Fire (yes, that’s what they named the guild) have traveled hundreds of miles, fought a god’s familiar, deterred a rising evil, and restored a lost people. I’m going to take a break from DMing as this chapter closes, and my brother (one of the current players,) will continue where I left off as we explore what comes next. I’m very excited to play as a PC again, as I haven’t done that in quite a few months and frankly, I need a break! The last few sessions were really a blast though, and I’ve discovered that I’m already nostalgic for the Octopath Traveler soundtrack, as that is what I used as background for the majority of their adventures. I feel like I can start chronicling the campaign now, and I’d better do it soon before my notes and my memory are harder and harder to line up!

Nothing interesting to say about video games. Still mostly playing Heroes of the Storm and MTG Arena, but I also recently picked up Sunless Skies, which is a story-driven adventure game full of eldritch horror. It’s a sequel to Sunless Seas, and it is everything a sequel should be: all the features the last game had plus a bunch of quality of life changes and new mechanics! I love it, but it’s not one of those games you can sit down and play for twenty minutes, so it’s hard to find the time to enjoy it.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a reread (re-listen, rather) of The Dresden Files, because Jim Butcher just finished Peace Talks (no release date yet), and I want to remind myself of all the things that have happened and where we’re at because it’s probably been over four years since I read Skin Game, and it’s a lot to catch up on. I just finished Book 2: Fool Moon last night, and I’m starting to think I should pace myself if I don’t want to finish way too fast.

I actually have nothing else to say! I mean, that’s still quite a bit, but I’m excited for all the new things happening in August, and the next few months should be really busy. Can’t wait.