Recently I got into a brief conversation on the nature of practice. In fact it’s a topic that keeps popping up lately, someone else I know was crowd sourcing ideas on how to get in to writing when you lack confidence in your ability to do so, and I found myself considering some advice that works for me, but might not be all that great for anyone else. Here’s what I didn’t say:
“Write. Keep writing. Don’t stop until you hate yourself for doing it. Then stop, because tomorrow you’re going to do it again.”
I have forgotten the last day I spent without writing anything, I carry a notebook in my manbag, I have a notepad installed on every mobile device I own, at work I carry notepads that get consumed faster when writing notes than on actual work related purposes, and even when I’m ill, or depressed, I’ll excise my frustration through words, or simply force myself to put pen to paper, hand to keyboard, black to white in some form so that I can say “today I created something”.
It works for me, I’ve looked back over some of my old work and, while I appreciate a lot of the ideas behind some of my old pieces – even on GeekOut – I still mark several differences in my writing style since I began. Even now I’m writing this at… let’s see, 00:51, ten-to-one in the morning, having woken up at an obscene hour to start the day, desperately constructing a quiz for tomorrow’s (today’s) GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet, printing the bomb defusal manual for Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, and getting the daily duties done like eating a real meal and not just coffee and another cookie.
I do it because it makes me productive. It forces me to strive, and to accomplish, to complete projects that I set out to achieve, like the books I’m working on, the company I’m trying to set up, something more than watching all of Deep Space 9 so that I can draw judgemental comparisons to Babylon 5. And dammit I have kept to my schedule of work, producing regular content for GeekOut, beavering away at side-projects, and getting things done.
I wrote the comment above, and deleted it, in that dramatic “hold down the backspace button even though you don’t have to” fashion. Why would I encourage someone wanting to enjoy an old hobby to dive so fanatically into it in the way I have? If they had the mad devotion to writing I have then surely they wouldn’t need the advice, and if they take that advice they’ll soon lose interest in writing.
I don’t draw for example. I can draw, and I’ve no doubt I could get good at it if I devoted myself to the task, but why would I do that when a quiet doodle every now and again helps me relax after a month of hard written work? I enjoy it enough, and tend to destroy my sketches once they’re done to my satisfaction, but I take no pride in the work or set much store by the end product. It is fun.
Ultimately, if you enjoy something enough that you are willing to exhaust yourself to do it, then you are going to get good. That goes for writing, drawing, programming, the physical activities, or even public speaking. Bur don’t motivate yourself out of a good thing. Keep your hobbies as just that, and only let your passions consume you.
… Yeah, that’s what I should have wrote at the time!
My friend Nathan has been turning his hand to writing of late, because he has an idea and he’s damn well going to run with it. Now, he’s the first person to tell you that he’s not a great writer, and very sensibly and admirably turned to myself and Kim from Later Levels for advice on writing form, but after years of gaming with Nathan I can say that he has an excellent grasp of character and motivation, the impact of a character on narrative, the impact of a character’s history on their decisions, and he also has a perverse sense of humour.
Enter the character of Tom Permahorn, typically “Nathan” in that the character has an odd brutish nobility, a family tie to a clan of orcs (he really likes his orcs) and a uniqueness that sets him apart from your typical sword-and-sorcery brute. Despite the wall of text unfettered with paragraphs, the faltering pace, and some difficulty surpassing the grammar and choice of words, it took very little effort for me to see the bones of something of great quality. Nathan sent me the first few thousand words of The Misadventures of Thomas Permahorn, a fantasy farce with the eponymous Permahorn as the questionable protagonist.
The piece began in medias res, the barbarian undertaking his first ambitious quest, to topple a far larger opponent with reckless abandon because the payout at the end would be incredibly high, and would help build a reputation for him as a mighty warrior. Here I have grabbed a snippet that I loved for what it could be: (more…)
Fighters are the soldiers, mercenaries, warriors, the armour + weapon meatstick that goes first through close corridors and stands at the front of a fight yelling “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. They’re often cold, functional, and unimaginative, fine for a new gamer, but if you’re comfortable with the rules you can play something more interesting.
The problem with spells is that you can get very locked into the descriptive text of a spell and struggle to stick your own stamp on it. The same goes for the styles of monk, the divine domains of clerics, the pacts of warlocks. It’s all to easy to read the words in the book and say “that’s me” rather than thinking about your character and then deciding what class and styles match your ideas most closely.
Fighters should be the most free of all! Ripped from the page they’re cardboard cutouts, grey plastic minis for you to plaster with paint. And yet all to often when it comes to play I either never get a fighter in the group, and those fighters that I do see are bland and bloodthirsty, perhaps a noble, just, and true meatstick. In combat they go from enemy to enemy beating them to death in turn by putting out the maximum possible damage that their class abilities permit. (more…)
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an event that takes place annually in november. The event has been running since 1999 and in that time the company responsible for the event, also called National Novel Writing Month, has become a nonprofit. But what exactly is NaNoWriMo and what can you get out of the event? We’ve written about this event several times, but we’ve never written a sort of primer on how to get involved, or what you need to know. If the idea of writing a novel in a month sounds like a blast, a terrifying prospect, or something you find slightly curious – Then read on, as NaNoWriMo is a beast that should be taken on by all comers!
Skipping along the chart for a moment, the True Alignment is too big for a single article, so I’ll jump to the second biggest alignment to deal with because it’s often done so badly! It’s almost a stereotype that the words Chaotic Neutral might as well read “Doesn’t know how to play”.
The problem tends to be that inexperienced players understand that the alignment is for those who are in it for themselves and damn the consequences, but play the alignment to some comical exaggeration, like a bizarre and psychotic prankster without direction or purpose. A bad CN player is a Tazmanian Devil let off the chain, a destructive force that sews chaos for chaos’ sake, playing the alignment instead of applying it to a character. (more…)
When we step from good but do not reach evil, we must instead discuss what is justifiable, and law, chaos, or whatever other ethos you use becomes simply a means to an end.
While there are those who fall within Lawful Neutral’s umbrella who see the law as the end to which all means are necessary, and blindly pursue upholding the law as a duty in itself. Still others are simply searching for a peaceful life, or the pursuit of their own goals within the confines of the law, or in accordance with some code of conduct or ethics. LN characters are not necessarily interested in saving lives, nor are they necessarily out to enforce their law upon others, but in their actions they are constantly guided by an outside force. (more…)
Meet the Robin Hood of the D&D moral alignment system. Here we find the vigilantes, the renegades, and the rebels willing to stand up for what’s right in a world gone tragically wrong, and most importantly the heroes of freedom. For those who swing towards chaos on the side of goodness and the rights of the people the call to heroism comes when tyrants, slavers and oppressors threaten the people and their ability to live their lives in peace and quiet, without the demands of others to intrude. Sticking up for the little guy has the potential to lead people into trouble, and a tendency to run afoul of the law, but that’s all part of the fun for a CG character.
It’s one of the easiest alignments to play, but it’s worth looking into how to play Chaotic Good well. (more…)
I hate Neutral Good.
As a player it’s an easy pick, all the advantages of heroism without the need to be tied down by an ideology like the rule of law or the right to be free, ignore the rules whenever you please – oh sorry, whenever the cause is just – without suffering the wrath of the police. On the bright side it allows players to explore ideologies and philosophies more readily than might a lawful or chaotic bound player, and different perspectives on what one must do to be considered “good”. As a player it needn’t be a cop-out, claiming to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing, it can be a chance to explore what can drive someone to a life of heroism. (more…)