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.

 

Me — July ’19 Update

I’m going to try my best not to make this month’s update too depressing, as June was kind of a mess for me and I don’t want it to bog down my July. I’d rather talk about the news I’m excited for rather than the bad stuff that’s been happening (that I’ve admittedly been talking about nonstop the last few weeks).

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

I’m honestly thinking about taking “blog” updates off of the monthly topic list, because this entire year has been consistent of Tuesday and Saturday posts, even if the Saturday posts always seem to be late. I’m still pretty happy with that consistency, though. It keeps me accountable and keeps me writing. So unless I have some changes to make, I won’t be including the blog on the regular list of updates.

Writing has actually been going well! The story I wrote for my passion project is done (well, it’s first draft is), and I’m relatively satisfied with how it turned out. My original plan for a simple 1500 word “establishing shot” of a location turned into a 10k word novelette with lots of mystery and intrigue. A happy accident, I suppose. It won’t end up here on the blog, though. Our current plans are to monetize it along with other parts of the project. In other news, the second short story anthology is still in progress! I still have lots of edits to make on the stories, but it is something I am actively working towards, and I hope to publish it some time this year.

Work is still not going great. I did get a pay raise, which was nice, but it wasn’t as much as I was hoping, and the amount of stress I had to deal with a couple weeks ago when the manager was on vacation was not worth it. Still, I survived, and work has been getting slow so I managed to leave a little early a couple days, and for as much as I’d like the money, staying home to relax is more valuable to me at the moment (even if home hasn’t been particularly welcoming lately).

There isn’t much to say about school, because I’m not taking any summer classes, but I will reiterate that my hope is for the next fall semester to be my last, and once I’m done, I’ll have two AA degrees that will be basically useless, but hey, at least I don’t have student loans to pay off.

The DM fatigue of my current D&D campaign is hitting me hard, and it’s getting very difficult to thread the story beats I want to while also just trying to get through the sessions. I have a climax to the arc I want to earn, but if I don’t do a good job in the upcoming sessions, it will feel sudden and hand-wavy. It’s tough, but I really just want to take a break from DMing, cause it takes a lot out of me, and currently it’s been adding a lot of unnecessary stress to my life! Last month I was hoping we would have five more sessions before the arc was over, and even though our sessions are weekly, my current scope is now about three more sessions (because things take longer to happen than I expect).

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for video games, lately, but when I can spare a minute I play Magic: The Gathering Arena, and when I’ve got an hour or more I play a few games of Heroes of the Storm, usually while listening to Critical Role or something similar. (I’m almost to level 75 with D.Va, which is exciting). That’s about it, though.

As before, I’m still getting caught up with Critical Role, as a few busy weeks brought me behind, and I’m excited for Peace Talks, which I expect will have been released by this time next year. I’m planning on doing a reread through the Dresden Files. If/when I have time.

And that’s about it. I don’t have a whole lot else to talk about, though I’ve been trying a few new things lately to break myself of the monotony that has been driving me a little crazy with the stress my life has brought the past month. I’m planning on sharing my thoughts on them soon, and I’m excited for next month, when I start what is almost certainly my last semester of college.

Here’s to the future and digging ourselves out of the wholes we dug.

 

 

Me — June ’19 Update

With the spring semester finally over, it’s back to working full time. Theoretically, this means I have more time to pursue hobbies like writing and investing more time into D&D, but we’ll see where that goes.

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

I’ve been trying to upload at my scheduled times more consistently. It always kills me a little bit inside when I miss the 5am deadline on a blog post and I have to upload it later (or skip it entirely). That said, two posts a week still feels like a good pace. A lot of my creative energy has been being spent elsewhere, so if more content does come, it probably won’t be through my website (though I’ll certainly advertise it here, too).

That said, I’ve been writing a lot for the passion project, and we have big plans coming in in the next set of months. I’m very excited, but we want to make sure everything is in place before we hit “Go”. Apart from that, I’m planning on working on the second Act of my full length play over the summer. I don’t think that will ever find its way to the website because it wouldn’t be fair to myself to do that, but I certainly intend to throw out snippets (even if it’s just plot points) out when I do finish it. Also, a second short story anthology may be on its way relatively soon?

Work has been a little rough. As I’m writing this, I’m about to go into the first day of work with our new hire (whom I will be teaching), and the day after that is my overdue yearly review. By the time this posts those two things will have already happened, so if you’re reading this, that’s my bad. I should have came back and edited this paragraph. But if I don’t, know this: I’m leery. I want things to get better, as the pay is not comparable to the amount of work I do, but I don’t think I’ll get much of a pay raise in my review. We’ll see.

School! The spring semester is over, as I said, and I should only need one more semester of classes to walk away with (at least) two AA degrees and a few certificates. I’m also thinking about auditioning for the main stage play in the fall. Never being in a full length production was always one of my biggest regrets from high school, and I don’t want to leave college making the same mistake, even if I end up hating the experience.

D&D is going well. I’m planning on passing the DM reins to my brother once we finish this story arc, but the arc is taking longer than anticipated. I predict we have about 5 more sessions to go, and if that’s accurate, I should be done by July, but as long as we finish by August I don’t care. Mostly I’ve got a lot of DM fatigue that I need a break from, and once I’m done with school I should have a lot of fun stuff to play with to get me excited to take the wheel again. I also hope to start writing more Aleor campaign diaries and uploading them to the blog. Stay tuned.

As far as gaming goes, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. I’ve still been playing Magic: The Gathering Arena trying to save up cards to make my own deck instead of modifying the ones the game gives you for free. It’s a shame the game requires so much in order to get the cards you want. Stupid card games are so expensive. I’ve also been messing around on Heroes of the Storm still. I only have eight heroes left to level up to ten. Lastly, my brother and I are planning on starting Final Fantasy VI for our retro game night this week, and I’m bringing a fellow nerd along for the ride. FF6 has been one of those games I’ve always been very excited to play, so it should be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, all of this leads to me not having a whole lot of time to myself. The only media I’ve really been consuming in the last few months is Critical Role, and any leftover free time is devoted to Day[9]’s livestreams. That said, I’m about 3 episodes behind on Critical Role, which is about ten hours of content. On one hand it’s nice to just be able to watch new (to me) episodes whenever I want, but it also means I can’t participate in the community because spoilers.

That’s about it. I recently cleaned my room pretty extensively, and I packed the majority of my decorations/nick-knacks. I don’t really plan on moving soon, but it’s been on my radar for several months and it just felt time to start making myself more scarce. I really hope that my life looks very different a year from now. I’m at least trying to set myself up for big changes. On that note, I think I just recently saw the beginning of a really good friendship, so cheers to that.

 

D&D — Campaign as Storytelling

Hello again, friends. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Dungeons & Dragons directly (or at least not something that had a specific correlation to my Aleor campaign), and I’ve been having some thoughts I’d like to share.

Obviously, I’m a storyteller. I’ve been writing for about a decade now, so I theoretically know my way around a plot. It’s been interesting to explore plot development through what I would consider to be my first real experience as a dungeon master. Aleor isn’t the first campaign setting I’ve done, but it was made to be in the world of D&D, and is built to be a ‘world’ much more than a place for stories to exist in.

The problem with that last part is that I still want those stories to happen. I have visions. Dreams, if you will, of amazing scenes and climactic moments to share with my players. Before the campaign even started I had an inkling of an encounter involving the three party members fighting alongside (or as?) good-aligned dragons against a big bad. Part of the problem with cool ideas like that is that I can still do that in this campaign, but the location that encounter would happen in hasn’t even been mentioned in passing to the players. As in, they aren’t geographically close enough to have even heard of that place.

Now, I know you’re just going to yell at me to move that encounter closer if I want it so damn bad, but there’s the rub. Aleor is a world full of cultures, and that location was built with that encounter in mind, and simply moving three powerful dragons to another place in the world just because it is more conveniently timed on my part would ruin the entire pacing of the story. They are only level 5 at the moment, after all. Level 5 characters don’t get to be allied with powerful dragons.

But the thing that frustrates me quite a bit is that the current arc of the campaign—the story they are wading through right now—has some really cool moments and scenes I’ve been looking forward to for months, and I want nothing more than to skip to the good parts. But I can’t. Things need to take time in order to make the narrative flow well, and in order to give those moments the most impact.

It’s a little sad, because I obviously want to make the “in-between” sessions and encounters interesting and meaningful. I’m very leery of turning the campaign into “The Encounter of the Week”, just stringing combats together and arbitrarily throwing suitable creatures at the party to fill in the time.

I don’t care what’s guarding the door, but I can’t wait to reveal what’s behind the door. Problem is, if I don’t make that guard interesting (not powerful—interesting), then the reveal will just be neat rather than amazing.

D&D should be about the fun moments you create and the stories you tell afterward. I’m trying so hard to tell interesting stories, I just get so impatient!

D&D — Why Do You Play?

Dungeons & Dragons means a lot of different things to different people. It might mean wish fulfillment of getting to be your own Mary Sue. Maybe it means number crunching and being as powerful as you can be (which is wish fulfillment in its own right). Maybe it means escaping reality by doing good and saving the princess. Or maybe it just means hanging out with friends.

I think everyone comes to role-playing games like D&D because it’s the ultimate sandbox in a lot of ways. Depending on who your dungeon master is, the only think limiting your abilities is your creativity—you can do what you want, as long as it’s not impossible within the rules of the world (which may or may not coincide with the rules of the game). “Choices are infinite—consequences are mandatory”.

For me, D&D is about two things. I love the escapism it provides in allowing me to pretend to be people wildly different from myself, and since I’m a storyteller at heart, it also lets me feel like I’m part of a crazy adventure in a fantasy novel than simply writing one.

I feel as though I’m in a weird minority in the community. The vast majority of people I’ve interacted with in regards to D&D aren’t (particularly) interested in the story, or when they are, it’s always in the framework of their character. For me, the story and the character are often two separate entities entirely. I built a character that is fun to pretend to be, not one that has an intricate backstory that has strong connections to the world they live in.

I have a few friends that with whom I share D&D stories on a regular basis. I’ve certainly considered inviting them to the game that I run, but deep down I know that they wouldn’t have any fun. At its current state, the Aleor campaign is a lot of talking to normal townsfolk rather than an epic adventure of heroes and villains, and I can’t accommodate a player who wants to be a Jedi.

Finding the D&D group that you mesh with is tough. Since everyone’s playing for different reasons, the obvious, most accessible group to you may not be the best one for you. It may not even be the right one, and since the type of person to be playing the game tends to be the sort of person who doesn’t make a habit of socializing with strangers, it becomes very difficult to find the perfect fit, because for you that perfect fit might only be online with the help of meetup groups like Roll20.

For me, Critical Role is the pinnacle, most ideal version of what D&D could be. Other streams are entertaining, but in my experience, none of them are stories being told the same way that Critical Role is. If I wanted to mess around and goof off at a table with a bunch of friends, there are dozens of different board games we could play with way less effort. Dungeons & Dragons is the only one that allows me to alter my identity.

D&D — Aleor Campaign Diary 1: The Night of Fire

(Here is the first of a series of posts retelling the story of my most recent campaign. I’m going to translate this into mostly narrative, but there will be a few D&D terms as well.

If you’d like to read the Lore intro to Aleor, you can catch up on it here.)

Our story begins in a tiny village called Soulrest. Little more than a pitstop, Soulrest is famous for its large inn, being a convenient place to rest for travelers between the region of Eastbend and what remains of the once-great Aloran Empire to the west. The town counts its population in the hundreds here. Everyone knows everyone else, and the most notable thing to happen in the span of a few months is when Ubin, the de-facto mayor, was uncharacteristically nice to some people.

There is no adventuring here. At least, not yet. But at year’s end the town gets excited for their yearly bonfire: a ritual called the Night of Fire. This holiday is held at the top of the ruined tower that overlooks the village, and a great bonfire is lit where townsfolk throw away things they no longer need in preparation for a new year. Jeremy Squips, a traveler from Eastbend, is staying at the inn when he hears about this event. He had planned on continuing on, but decides to stay an extra night so he can enjoy the festivities.

Our players, not yet heroes (or even adventurers by any means), are Balgraff Greyhand, the dwarf blacksmith, Sieg Warsen, son of the inkeeper, and Buck Holder, son of the cobbler.

Many of the townsfolk gather at the top of the old tower. Ubin has lit the huge bonfire, and its height allows it to be seen for miles. Then, one by one, the people go up to Ubin’s large red orb, touch it, then throw something into the fire. Not everyone does this, but a good many folk do. Jeremy chimes in with a bit of music to add to the festivities. Buck is given a box by his father to throw in. He doesn’t know what was inside, but he takes it. As soon as he touches the orb, it cracks, and for a moment everything stops. Ubin rushes up to him, but when he inspects the orb, there doesn’t seem to be any missing or sharp pieces, and Buck appears unharmed. The wise old elf appears clueless, but Buck swears he saw him nod to himself ever so slightly.

The Night continues until a loud explosion centered in town fills the air. They look to see the Happy Camper, the local general store, going up in flames. Everyone bursts into action, but none are as quick to act as Buck, Sieg, Balgraff, and Jeremy. They hasten down the hill and start doing all they can to fight the fire, throwing water pails at it and smothering it with whatever they can find.

When all is said and done, the fire is put out, but not before it destroyed the town’s beloved store. The smithy and inn were on both sides of the Happy Camper, and they sustained a bit of damage on their own. It’s a bad start to the new year, and to top it all off, Jeremy comments that he saw hooded figures running into the nearby forest immediately after the explosion…

To be continued…

Me — April ’19 Update

I feel as though I have some big decisions down the line. I’m not necessarily going through a lot at the moment, and my life isn’t particularly stressful, but my path is nearing a precipice, or perhaps a simple fork. The thing is, the choice that I make in the nearing future is going to impact the rest of my life.

But before we get into that, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, D&D, and other things.

Once again I feel as though the blog is in a good spot. Twice a week is a great pace for somebody whose writer’s block has become mentally crippling. No changes on the horizon.

On that front, I’ve been sort of working on a story for the passion project I’ve been collaborating with, and even that has proven to be an insurmountable slope. So far, in 10 days, I’ve written two different beginnings, each roughly 400 words long, and the story is simply supposed to showcase a piece of worldbuilding, nothing even largely important or exciting, really. I did recently write nearly 8,000 words in a month (not staggering by any means, but with a mental block as powerful as mine’s become, I was pretty proud of it.) I was able to do that because I was given very strict time limits to adhere to when I wrote each scene, and was held accountable for it. As it turns out though, I cannot self-impose similar time limits on my own projects, because I know that there won’t be any consequences if I fail. I know there’s a workaround in my head somewhere, I just don’t know what it is yet.

As far as gaming goes I’ve been playing a lot of World of Warcraft lately, but almost purely as a time sink as I mindlessly kill monsters, because…

I’ve once again picked up The Dresden Files. This is my second time going through the series, as Jim Butcher is nearing the end of Peace Talks and I’m optimistic that we will (finally) get a release date in the coming months.

I’ll hold off on the school topic because it ties into decisions.

D&D has been going quite well. Buckle your seat belts. The Knights of Fire (the party in my Aleor campaign officially has a name!) has just left the city of Craydon to venture into ancient Elven ruins for… reasons. I make no promises, but I intend to start posting a campaign diary of all that’s happened very soon. Perhaps even starting Saturday.

The other campaign I’m a part of (as a player, not a DM) just ended, and my character was the only one that died in the final boss encounter. The poor orc mystic only ever wanted to be a tree, sleeping on dirt and meditating as often as possible, and only in death did he get his wish, having helped save the world! I will note that this is basically the first ever campaign I’ve been a part of that we played start to finish consistently, even coming to a natural end. It wasn’t until our DM gave us the epilogue and one of the player characters visited Ki’s grave that I got a little sentimental. That campaign was very much a “silly over rules”, and neither our characters nor the plot had any depth, and I didn’t really like the mystic class, and we’re planning on starting a new campaign soon, and I might be more excited than I’ve ever been for my new character, and yet, I can’t help but feel a little sad that the story of Ki and his friends is over, doomed to fade into obscurity as new campaigns and new characters take to the stage.

*Pause for dramatic effect*

So, other things. At risk of getting too personal, I’ve grown to actively dislike my living situation. Specifically, I have never once in my life had my own room, and therefore have never really known a true sense of privacy or ownership of my own space. Most often this is fine. The brother I share a room with has the same interests as me and now that we aren’t kids anymore we get along great. The problem is that our lifestyles are very different and not conducive to sharing a space. Added onto that is the fact that I do not like living in Southern California, primarily because of the living cost and lack of weather. As such, I’ve been seriously considering and making tentative, mental plans to move north, to Oregon or Washington. My trip to Portland felt in a lot of ways like I had found a home, and I’m desperate to go back.

However. There is an increasing likelihood that I’m going to be staying in SoCal for a bit longer. I have to take an extra semester of school, as I’ve previously established, and that alone sets me back a year. What’s more, my job may “require” me to step up my hours, as we’re going to be short handed soon and since I like working there, I’m more than happy to give them a hand and return to working full-time. In addition to that, there is a possibility I might be teaching improv more seriously next school year, and I have confidence that the passion project I’ve been working on will have legs to stand on by the end of the year. All of these are heavy incentives to stay, and I like the prospect of pretty much all of those things.

And yet, if I do stay here, part of me feels like I’m delaying a transition to a new life I would be much happier living. New friends, new job, new everything. Scary, yes, but I’m not really one to let something like that get in the way. My problem is that I know I need to move in order to preserve my sanity. Moving within the area I live might solve some problems, but the larger issues of living in Southern California would remain and would delay what I believe to be an inevitable migration northwards.

I feel as though I can’t win, because choosing one means losing out on a lot of things the other option yields. The nice thing about this situation is that both options are promising, and I’m not picking the lesser of two evils, and in addition to that, this choice is only presenting itself now, and I won’t be required to make any life changing decisions for a few months at least.

Until next time!