Book Clearance: What I’m Reading This Year

Book Clearance: What I’m Reading This Year

I have a lot of books. Most people know this, but seeing my new Durham/Raleigh friends’ reactions to the multitude of tomes I own has been amusing, and then even more fun when I say that this is half what I owned in NJ. But despite the culling before the move, there are still too many books. And I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t purchase any new books until I’ve read through what I have and decided what to keep or sell.

So this year I’m going to go through a number of series with the caveat that if I ever get to a point I’ve lost interest in the story, all the books in the series get the boot of my shelves.

Continue reading “Book Clearance: What I’m Reading This Year”

2017: The 2016 Redo

2017: The 2016 Redo

So, yeah. 2016 happened. I think for most people it was a roller coaster ride. I know mine was. There were many irons in the fire last year and then, on a very uncharacteristic move, I became very social IRL and life swept me away from the many projects I wanted to work on last year. So 2017 I’m usurping as a 2016 redo.

Continue reading “2017: The 2016 Redo”

My Twitch Début

Hey Everyone!

It’s been a quiet I know, but I have posts set for later this week. Some of which will detail what’s happened since my last posts.

But what I wanted to let everyone know is that tonight a game called Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment goes live. It’s a team based first-person shooter. Now, I haven’t really played on of these since college and we had dorm battles in Quake 3, but I played in the Overwatch beta and fell in love with the game, even as terrible as I am.

Tonight won’t just be the début of Overwatch, but also my tenure as a Twitch streamer. For those that aren’t sure what that means, Twitch is a site that lets gamers broadcast them playing games live. The viewers can chat with the streamers and generally create the sense of playing games with friends on the couch, it’s just replaces the couch with the internet.

I’m not expecting big things, but it’s one of those things in life you have to just jump in and see if you learn to swim before drowning.

But it’s always great to have spectators! If you feel like either helping me out, check out the game, a bit of both, or watch me figuratively drown in public, come over to my channel at 8pm EDT. I’ll probably play for 2-3 hours.

Project Genesis: Star Wars Edition

Happy Star Wars Day!

To celebrate, I thought I’d share a system I invented for the Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG series: Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny. As some may know, I’m running an EotE game. One of the great things about running any kind of game in a universe like Star Wars is the amount of information to create a campaign. Between the books, comics, TV shows, movies, video games, and other products that added information, there’s a lot of established lore. Even better, there’s a dedicated community that catalog this information in wikis and, even better, a full on google map of the galaxy.

But there is a down side too. To have all that information also means that there will be holes. Not everything in the Star Wars universe is fully fleshed out. This is a problem that my group stumbled on towards the end of a session. I’ll set the scene:

Our crew, gathered together to rig a one million credit Sabacc tournament, are surrounded by a platoon of Stormtoopers as soon as they unlock the docking bay that holds their newly won ship. They race on board where our Falleen smuggler, Barry Manilow, jumps into the pilot seat while our Toydarian mechanic tries to boost the engine start-up. It works and they rocket out of Kwenn Station at full speed. But a squad of Tie Fighters begin chasing them down. The group manages to take a few out and make it to a safe jump point, but they took a lot of damage from the fire fight. So they had to jump to a system close by. Here is where they were:

Kwenn sector

I said they could make it to any of the planets in this image, since they were with in the same space sector before bad conditions effect the ship. After a lot of discussion, they wanted to stay in Hutt space (dark gray portion) and want to use the safety of the hyperspace lane, so we ended up on choosing Nar Bol Sholla. Then we looked it up. It seems that barely anything happened here or was related to the planet. Most likely, it was a name that came up to add to dialogue for some event in some story. Instead of taking the time to go through all the planets to see if there were any that had pre-established info, I decided to stick with it and figure out how create a planet.

One of the aspects that set the FFG games apart from other games, Star Wars or otherwise, is the dice. The idea is that instead of rolling numerical dice that give a very defined result, you roll dice with various symbols to determine cinematic ebbs and flows of action. So, if you were playing D&D, you’d roll a d20 (twenty-sided die) and take the result and add what ever modifiers for skill or whatever, and you’d either succeed or fail, possibly in epic style if you roll a critical. In EotE and the other FFG games, roll a pool dice made up of stats and skills with these dice:


And you have six different symbols that work together and cancel each other out to determine the narrative action:


There is the possibility to failing, but setting up an advantage or creating a game changing moment, or to succeed, but make the situation worse. I really wanted to use this system in the creating of the planet. Eventually I came up with this system that let the players set up the backbone of the world then I flesh it out and tie it back to the storyline.

Each of the players choose a skill they want to roll (there’re a lot to list here but if you want a reference, try this). They roll that pool and the same pool if opposing dice (So, if they roll 2 green and a yellow, they also roll 2 purple and a red). The results of that roll will determine that aspect of the planet. For example, our Wookie Bodyguard rolled Pilot – Planetary to define the topography, geology, and points of interest of Nar Bol Sholla. You resolve the cancelling of results just like a normal roll in the game and then interpret the remaining results thusly:

  • Success: A specific person, place, or thing that benefits you and/or the planet
  • Advantage: A positive influence over the planet and/or the culture/society.
  • Triumph: Add anything you want good for the party or something connected to the force.
  • Failure: A specific person, place, or thing that’s a detriment you and/or the planet
  • Threat: A negative influence over the planet and/or the culture/society.
  • Despair: Add anything you want bad for the party or something connected to the dark side of force.

The player get to create up something for each remaining result of the roll. Two of the rolls there a handful of the same results that the players couldn’t come up with one for everything, so I said that the results are more like a hard limit, but if there is more that two of the same symbol, at least try to get two. The GM does not get to use left over results. You get to have fun with everything they come up with later, so you’ll get to add your mark to the planet then.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to write down the dice results, but I thought I would at least share with you what my players came up with for our Nar Bol Sholla

Pilot – Planetary (topography, geology, POI)

  • It’s an arid planet, much like the Arizona Badlands with large stone columns.
  • There is regular seismic activity planet wide.
  • The architecture has an asian influence.
  • There are ruins of a Jedi or Force using group atop one of the stone columns.

Mechanics (industry and tech level)

  • Hutts control all active mining.
    • Imperials are keeping an eye on the Hutts activity.
      • Hutts are keeping tabs on the Imperials.
  • Swoop gangs have taken control of abandoned mines and gaining influence.

Knowledge – Criminal (criminal elements, illegal ventures, state of scum and villainy)

  • Main swoop gang is the Bothan Battalion lead by a former friend of a PC.
  • Swoop gangs are backing a burgeoning movement for union labor.
    • They help make sure that pay is guaranteed.
    • They are enforcers for workers on the planet.

Charm (elements that create interest to off worlders)

  • Swoop bike gangs run on a matriarchal structure.
  • There is a theme park being built.
    • But it is a cover for a child slavery market.
  • There is an established smuggling and fencing contact that has worked with a PC many times and has a good history.

From that, I created a world that, if the players want, could play a whole campaign here, or can easily be used only to get their ship repaired. This generation rolls took about an hour or two to do, after I explained how it worked and what the skills would represent in the context of the roll. We played the first session this past Saturday and the players really enjoyed everything I set up for them with what they gave me. If you a playing one of the FFG games, feel free to use this for any of the established empty planets in the lore, or to even create your own planets whole cloth.

April Art – Variations

It’s been longer than I wanted between posts. April was a crazy month, but I do have some awesome thing to announce later in the month. A lot of details still being worked out in the back-end. So I will lots to talk about here.

Anyway, let’s start with today. One of the things I’ve kept working on is my art and I’ve received good reception all around for it. It’s an awesome feeling when a friend comes up to you and says, “Where can I get a print of that,” or the notification pops up that a piece is a featured post and you see hundreds of strangers liking it for days.

Lately, I’ve given myself challenges to my creative process. In the month of April, I decided to make myself use the same base image for the week’s art. So there will be some similarities between some of these. I wanted to used the idea of “variations on a theme” to see what I created. Hope you enjoy these. I plan to get some of these up on my RedBubble store later this week. If you want to keep up with my art as i make it, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I try to post Monday-Friday, with #TutorialTuesday posts where I let you in on how I work and help others get into making digital art. My first post for Minimalism May is up and getting some good traffic.

Clean Slate

“Woah! Woah dude! What have you done?”

I know, I know. The blog feels a bit…spartan. If you’re one that followed for the last 8-ish years, you’ll notice that there is about 273 posts missing. I deleted them. I’ve deleted everything and cut down on some the content that is still around from before. And there is a very good reason for that. For the last 3 years, I barely touched this blog. There was good reason. After the transplant, it was rough trying to get back to my normal blogging mode, and writing in general. Rebounding back took a long time, and even now, you could say I’m still trying to recover from that event 6 years ago. To help get my brain back to where it was before, I decided to go back for my MFA. That just took time away and most of what I wrote was for school. Once I graduated, I only had about a month before I got sick from what we now know was lymphoma. And someday soon I’ll write a post about that, but, for brevity’s sake, let just say it was wearing. And it got to the point where I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. Thus, I posted last May I was taking an indefinite hiatus.

I put together many of the pieces of my life in that time and I now feel like I can try to getting back to some of the old habits. The problem was that, towards the end of the old version of the blog, I kept trying to reorganize and update it so many times that it was just a mess. I’m also finishing the unpacking from the move down south and I realized that sometimes it’s best to just junk stuff that is no longer useful to you. That’s what these old post really were. So, I cleaned house and starting again. And it fits with the new start that began back after the transplant. I’ve transitioned from one era of my life to another and that is what this blog will catalogue.

But I know my readers well. You are smart, inquisitive folk where half your brain has concerns and other has conspiracies running through your thoughts. So why don’t I address some of those.

1.) “Isn’t it important to have an archive for new people to read and get to know you?”

This is idea I’ve heard a lot in the last decade or so, especially as a writer who must be part publicity agent. It’s a sort of “do it now, so you don’t have to do it later” idea that you’ve presented a tuned image of yourself in the case you get something published that draws people to learn more about you. But here’s the thing, this is an idea is almost antithetical to the era that devised it. Be honest, how many blogs do you actually take the time to go through their archive? I’m gonna guess a handful because you have a finite amount of time to devote to it. So, its benefit to readers is relative to your audience. I did not have that active an audience, so I have a feeling old posts aren’t going to be missed by most. In my mind, it sounds better to start fresh and try again rather than have a boondoggle of eight years of wildly random stuff (this is not to say I won’t continue to be wildly random, as that is just my nature, just better organized)

2.) “Ain’t this just a way to change yer mind on ideas like dem there politicians?”

In fact, it is! Despite the common thought that changing one’s mind is a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing. Especially when those ideas are from a time when we are younger, less knowledgeable, and less experienced.  While I start this blog after I graduated with my M.A. from Seton Hill, it was still an extension of the blog I created way back after I finished undergrad. I used that one to stay in contact with friends from college since most of them lived in different states than myself. In that time, a multitude of life events have happened that have changed the way I think, reason, and react to life. And I feel I’ve change significantly enough that it would be easier to understand who I am now without the eight year backlog that I would have to always have to take into account, most of which, I don’t even really remember what I said. If anyone really has a need to know my positions on things through out my life, that is what the internet is for. Just ’cause I’ve deleted posts doesn’t mean they aren’t stored somewhere.

3.) “This is about that ‘snuff fiction’ post, isn’t it?”

Oh man. For those who are new or don’t know about the snuff post, here’s the skinny. Couple years back I wrote a post on a trend I saw in a lot of horror short fiction, especially new and/or indie and small press writers. I dubbed it, for lack of a better term, “snuff fiction” as it all tended to lack any real story or character development and was purely an exercise of using all the synonyms of viscera possible in a story.  It generated some discussion, which I was proud of, but it had an unseen consequence. It is my most visited post, but not for the reason you might expect. Since I wrote that post, I consistently had at least one visitor a day because they searched “snuff” on Google. After a while, I grew tired of it and really didn’t want those readers to be a part of my audience. So it helped in my decision to delete and start again.

4.) “What about all those reviews/interviews/guest blog posts/all the things you did to help friends and fellow creators?”

One of the things I do feel bad about is the fact that these posts were swept clean too. Granted, it’s not like any of them created much traffic after the first week of them being posted. So, again, they really aren’t doing anything for either of us now. And while I’m still open to the possibility of doing more at some point in the future, I think I may stay away from them for a while. There are a lot of reasons, especially when it comes to reviews, but those are a post in of themselves.

Now, this isn’t just a relaunch of the blog. It is also the launch of my RedBubble store and a new project I’m working on: Angst & Ennui.  My art is something that I discovered while recovering from chemo. It has taken a lot to get back to my writing, even just to write this blog post, but creating the art helped keep that restless of not being able to write to a minimum. As I created, people asked where they could get some as prints. So, I decided that I should take the dive and put it out there for sale.

Angst & Ennui also evolved out of chemo recovery. After moving down here to North Carolina, I decided to get back into tabletop role-playing games. Once the more debilitating part of chemo finished, rpgs became the way I was able to get back into society. I was exposed to a lot of systems in that time and ideas for possible games percolated in my head. Angst & Ennui is my effort design one of them. While I may talk about it here, from time to time, I’m making it a separate site so those interested in progress have an easier time staying informed.

I’m not one to make promises I don’t know I can’t keep, but I feel like, barring yet another life threatening medical issue, I’m back for good.

So, that’s me, how are you doing?