Let’s talk Underdark

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In the wide wide world of the d20 systems of Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons, there are a plethora of different places and environments that you can throw your players into.  Be it frozen mountains, lush forests, or the ruins of a lost civilization, there is plenty for a player to explore and enjoy.

A environment that I find is not used nearly as often as some others is the Underdark.

What is the Underdark exactly?  Many would say that it is a vast series of tunnels that network together underneath the surface world.  While that is true, it is also something so much more complex than that.  It is an entire world, with it’s own races, cities, trade routes, and monsters.  Even the vegetation is completely different than any other location available in the D&D realm.

I’ve been studying up on a prefab campaign called Out of the Abyss which takes place within the Underdark.  I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I am ready to run it for my players, but I have heard great things about it.  In my preparation and study of the contents it quickly became clear to me that the Underdark is a very different kind of place to account for.

Dangers can surface from anywhere: the cavernous ceiling (giant spiders anyone?), tunnels along the walls, or the mysterious creatures which lurk in the deep.  It is a great place to meet Drow, a sect of elves constantly viewed as explicitly evil, and their unusual society.  You may also find mind flayers, dwarves, deep gnomes, and even sentient fungi called myconids.

The vegetation is a variety of fungi ranging from stalks that stand as tall as trees to the small phosphorescent fungus that lights many of the tunnels leading from one place to another.  Many of these are poisonous, but there are still quite a few that can sustain a creature for days if need be.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the Underdark is the concept of faerzress which is this strange magical energy that interferes with spells such as scrying and teleportation.  In the D&D world, too much exposure actually leads to the madness of those subjected to it.  While they may not go mad initially, it can eventually drive even your party members insane.  This leaves an opportunity for some very unique gameplay.

 

That’s all I have for this week.  See you next time!

Keep it Safe! How not to lose ALL of your work.

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I’m sure all of you have had that moment of terror when your computer simply shuts down, or freezes, mid-sentence of a story or some other project you were working on for hours.  That moment of dread when you wonder when the last time you saved your document was and you can only hope and pray that your word processing software did a good job saving in your place.

It’s a heart dropping moment to experience this, and one that I find myself falling into a little too often.  As a result, I have discovered a few tips that you might find helpful to keep your manuscripts safe and sound on the off chance that something irreparable happens to your computer.

Get Dropbox (or Google Drive)
This is my “go-to” software of choice for most of my projects.  Dropbox is a great place to save multiple files in a cloud server.  You can access it through its website online or you can download the software and your computer will treat it like any other folder.  The best part of all is that it is free.

Another thing that I really enjoy about Dropbox is that you can pick and choose which files you wish to share with others and gave send them a link to the file or share a folder with multiple files in it.

I will make a note here that Google Drive now does many of the same things and so it is also a valid option.

Get a Flashdrive (or External Harddrive)
While having a cloud saving software is incredibly useful, the possibility of something happening to your files and losing your work is still there.  So, I also have found that keeping a “hard copy” is an important thing.  I personally use an external harddisk drive for most of my files, but I also keep a lot of other information on that HDD as well.  A simple flashdrive (jump drive) should be more than enough space for most of your documents.

Keep Multiple Files
This can lead to a cluttered work space in your files if you are not careful, but having multiple files can prove to be incredibly useful.

In this sense, I’m not speaking about having multiple copies of the same manuscript, though I’m sure that is not a bad decision.  When making multiple files I am actually referring to each draft you run through.  My reasoning behind this is two-fold: you can see how much your writing has progressed from your first draft, and if you decide to go back to how you originally wrote something the transition is easier to make.

 

What are some practices you use to keep your book safe?  Let me know in the comments below and see you next week!

 

Chapter 8 – Ambush

Roshaun arose early the next morning. His body felt as hard as ice, frozen by the cooler air that pervaded their campsite. As he stood, he glanced around the area; Chrono and Sharon had bundled up together in their bedroll, Jalia was still sound asleep in hers as well, but Garoth’s was empty. Roshaun guessed that the old man had gone off to relieve himself and Roshaun realized he needed to do likewise. He walked away from the camp a few yards before he picked a large tree and attended to his business. Everyone was still asleep when he returned and Garoth was still nowhere to be seen. What had happened to that old man?

The fire that they had used during the night was nothing but a pile of smoldering ash, but Roshaun could see the smallest hints of a fire still nestled up safely within the confines of the powder. He added a few logs onto the pile and blew gently hoping the tender flames would feed on the new fuel. Once satisfied that the fire would pick back up, Roshaun down and began to recall the morning exercises that Chrono had encouraged him to practice during his training. He closed his eyes and took a slow deep breath and exhaled. He raised his right hand and conjured a small orb of water; it was hard for him to believe that it had been so difficult to manage even this only a few months ago when now it was so easy. The orb floated lazily above his hand and shifted its shape at his will; at present, the water took form of a small cat running after an unseen mouse.

“Sheh, sheh, sheh! That’s quite an interesting talent you have there!”

The orb in Roshaun’s hand popped as he jolted from the sudden presence of Garoth who now stood only a few inches away.

“Geez, old timer! That’s the second time you startled me in less than twenty-four hours!” Roshaun turned to face Garoth and put a few feet of space between them, “Do you ever make any sounds?”

“Sheh, sheh, sheh!” Garoth chuckled, “it’s an old habit from my younger days.”

“Oh yeah?” Roshaun asked, “what were you, an assassin or something?”

“Who knows?” Garoth’s smile did not reach his eyes, “are you the only one up at the moment?”

“It is still pretty early,” Roshaun replied, “The sun is just now starting to break the treetops.”

“Good,” Garoth replied, “good.”

Roshaun felt ice run down his spine and suppressed a shiver. There was something about Garoth that was different than the night before. A sense of foreboding filled Roshaun with dread; he stood up and began to walk away from Garoth pretending to stretch his legs. He did not make it very far before stopping short. Hidden amongst the trees, Roshaun could see figures waiting to pounce. No, it was not sight that allowed him to perceive this enemy, but rather a sense he could not name. The enemy’s intent to kill was near palpable as he looked in their direction. Garoth sighed.

“For as oblivious as you tend to be boy, you sure are perceptive.” All the humor in Garoth’s face had disappeared.

For the rest of this current chapter or to read the rest check me out on Wattpad.

GotM: Mass Effect 1-3

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There are just some stories that I feel a desire to re-experience again and again.  Whether it is a book series like Harry Potter or The Inheritance Cycle or a individual or series of games, there are just some stories that are so good I can’t help but desire to be thrown back into that world again.

Mass Effect is one of those stories that I love.

Each installment of the Mass Effect experience can stand well enough on its own, but I find that it really shines as a whole when you put all three together.

For those who don’t know, Mass Effect is a sci-fi space exploration style of RPG/Third Person Shooter (TPS) that follows a human known only as “Commander Shepherd”.  As with most BioWare games you get some customization for your Shepherd: gender, background, specialties, etc. which will influence your experience in the story.

Shepherd becomes the first human to become a Spectre, a super elite force run by a council of various alien races that have joined together as a unified people.  As a Spectre, Shepherd learns of an ancient mechanical race known as Reapers who aim to harvest the advanced races for their own sustenance.  You spend the span of three games trying to prevent this from becoming a reality.

The summary I’ve given is a mere bare-bones simplification of a story that I find to be immersive.  The worlds presented are vast with a wide variety of life, culture, and experiences.  Every decision you make has potential to affect the economy of the galaxy as a whole which always makes me want to calculate my responses when necessary.

The characters you meet along the way are each unique and interesting in their own way.  Some you will come to love, others you might learn to hate, but each one presents a dynamic viewpoint that you may find yourself begrudgingly considering as an acceptable option or vehemently opposed.

When I play these games I find myself sucked in.  I don’t want to stop at all.  They are, in my opinion, one of the best set of games BioWare has made to date and I look forward to the release of their new title Mass Effect: Andromeda scheduled to release in March of next year.

Those of you who have played the games know that there was a lot of controversy over how the game ended originally.  Understandably, it felt as if all the work you had done up to this point was meaningless and it certainly hurt the satisfaction levels of many a player.

While I am glad they decided to provide a “better” ending as a service to the fans, I personally believe that they had no obligation to do so.  As a writer, I would not change the ending of my books just to make my readers happy, just as I would not expect any other artist to adjust their creation merely for my own benefit.

That said, I also was not bothered by the ending as much as others that I know.  Still regardless of how it ends, I feel the story is worth the experience and highly recommend it to anyone who asks.

What about you?  Did you like or dislike the Mass Effect series?

Let me know in the comments below!

See you next week, and don’t forget you can get early access to the story chapters I post here by following me on Wattpad.

 

National Novel Writing Month

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Well it’s that time of year again.  It is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

But, what exactly is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is an event run by a non-profit organization every year in November.  Thousands of people come together across the world to participate in a community that aids and supports other writers as each attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 Days.  Or, to put it another way, one novel in one month.

Not everyone goes on to get their books published, but many have used it as a stepping stone in their book writing process.  In fact, I am working on a new novel this month myself and should hopefully hit about 6,500 words this week.

If you have ever wanted to write a novel (be it fiction, non-fiction, etc) then this is a great time to do it!  NaNoWriMo has places where you can record your progress and get support from other authors if you have questions or want feedback.  Even if you don’t write the full 50,000, you will still be making progress which means you are already doing more than those who aren’t writing at all.

You might be worried about the time constraints.  After all, 50,000 words feels like a lot to write and 30 days, but truthfully it is much more doable that it appears.  The trick is to try and write in smaller chunks rather than trying to write it all at once.  For me, this means spending about 2 hours every day and writing about 1,500-1,700 words every day.  For others, it might be writing whenever they can; be that 100 words at a time or working extra on off days.  All that to say, there is a way to do it without it overwhelming you.

It is a tough goal to pursue, but there is something incredibly satisfying about creating a goal and accomplishing it.  The process will require discipline (which is something I struggle with constantly when it comes to my writing), but it is well worth it in the end.

 

I invite all of you to join me in this adventure this year, and let’s see how far we can take it!

 

You can learn more about NaNoWriMo here: nanowrimo.org

Chapter 7 – Garoth

Chrono led the party eastward down the main road at a steady pace. The air was cool and crisp and the trees were beginning to clothe their leaves with Autumn colors. Roshaun felt exhilarated by the ride as the thunder of Sado’s hooves filled his ears. His enjoyment of the ride faded, however, as the hours wore on. By the fourth hour of riding, Roshaun felt so numb that he began to wonder if he would be able to feel anything again. It was right around this time that Chrono signaled them all to slow down.

“There is a small river up ahead,” he said as the others drew closer, “we will take a small break there to give our horses some time to recover from their run.”

“Thank goodness,” Sharon said, “I could use the stretch.”

“I imagine we all could,” Chrono nodded his agreement, “just a little further now.”

Chrono pushed his steed forward again and the others followed behind. After a few minutes had passed, he steered them off the road and into the outskirts of the wood that surrounded them. The faintest sound of water gurgling over stones reached Roshaun’s ears and he began to feel a little rejuvenated at the prospect of ending this leg of the journey. Once they had reached the bank of the river Chrono hopped down from his horse and stretched. Jalia and Sharon did not hesitate to precede similarly. Roshaun, however, found it difficult to get off his horse. His legs that were once numb now felt raw from the ride. Every muscle in his legs ached from where he had subconsciously squeezed the against the horse’s flanks. He winced as he slowly lifted one leg over the saddle and tumbled slightly as he stepped down onto the ground.

“The first time is always the worse,” Chrono clapped Roshaun on the shoulder. His knees almost buckled under the weight.

“I’m sure you say that about everything,” Roshaun grimaced.

“Not everything,” Sharon said with a knowing wink, “just most things.”

“Come along Roshaun, we shall water the horses so the ladies may refresh themselves,” Chrono handed two sets of reigns to Roshaun and guided him to the riverbank. They stood in silence while the horses took in big droughts of the glistening river.

“How long will it take us to reach Lavir?” Roshaun asked after moment had passed.

“A few days at least.” Chrono replied looking across the river, he patted Mastiff gently on the neck, “We will have to ford this river, then go beyond the mountains. After that there is the Argmien Plains, and then the silver wood.”

“Oh is that all?” Roshaun watched a minnow hide from the current behind a rock. He watched it as it would swim out into the current for a few minutes, then back again behind the safety of the stone. In and out, like it was trying to work up the strength to reach a destination that Roshuan could not see. Finally, after another minute the minnow darted out into the current and swam vigorously upstream. Roshaun cheered for the minnow internally as he watched it struggle for several moments before it reached the safety of the next stone.

“I know you have had much thrust upon you lately, Roshaun, but you’ve grown quite a bit since your arrival.” Chrono gave a sideways glance to Roshaun as he spoke.

“And yet, I am still weak,” Roshaun replied. He kicked a nearby loose pebble into the river.

“No one starts off as strong, lad,” Chrono turned toward Roshaun, “even that minnow has to develop the strength to swim against the current, or else it will never survive.”

“Oh, am I doomed to fail then?” Roshaun’s voice turned icey.

“What?” Chrono exclaimed, “No, that’s not what I meant!”

“Sorry, Chrono,” Roshaun sighed, “I guess I have been under a lot of stress.”

“Exactly,” Chrono nodded, “You have been a hard worker and a real trooper. I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you.”

The words rang deep within Roshaun’s soul. He felt his chest swell and feared it might explode. He had never made anyone proud before and he found that he quite liked the sensation. Roshaun had experienced his own fair share of happy moments, but this feeling was something new. For the first time in his life, Roshaun began to understand what it felt to have a father.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

“Sheh, sheh, sheh!”

Roshaun and Chrono both spun quickly to see an old man standing behind them with his hands behind his back. His silver hair escaped from the tops of his scalp into the length of his beard. His frame was frail and slightly bent, and his skin was darkened from the years spent in the sun.

Check out the rest here on Wattpad.

GotM: The Last of Us

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Since it is the month of all things scary and thrilling I figured we would take a look at one of my favorite installments into the horror/survival genre I have come across in the past few years.

While I don’t really classify The Last of Us as a truly horrifying game as we understand horror (jump scares, disgusting monsters, etc) there are still several times where I found myself horrified by the events that I had just taken part of.  Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the monsters that I found myself afraid of, but rather the people who were doing monstrous things to each other just to survive.

To give a quick run down of the game if you haven’t played it yet; The Last of Us follows a middle-aged man who survived what can essentially be called the initial “zombie” outbreak and has been living for several years in a sanctuary that has been created by the military.  The creatures aren’t really zombies, but they act much like them so for simplicity’s sake that is what I’ll call them.

As the years pass he eventually runs into a group of people who are looking to cure this disease that has turned everyone mindless.  Through a series of frustrating events (for the character) he gets roped into escorting a young teenager to a lab several days away.  The girl is special because she is immune to the effects of the disease these monsters seem to spread.  The lab wants to use her as a baseline for the cure they have been working on.

Naturally, things do not always go as planned and, if you are like me, you will find yourself thinking several times “why couldn’t we have just stayed here.”

The story of this game is very evocative.  I can remember having my heart pound, or to feel the potential of tears threatening the corner of my eyes.  I adore it.

The gameplay is pretty good too.  As it is a survival game you are presented with a plethora of opportunities to craft and upgrade gear.  The way the system is set up is simple and easy to understand but allows for a wide variety of options as well as the standard tool set you’ll find yourself crafting over and over again.  Bullets, naturally, are hard to come by and should be used sparingly for the big events.  It becomes a game of stealth and luck if you find yourself ill equipped, which can easily happen.

The musical score is also very good.  Most video games have adequate music for what is happening, but The Last of Us does a good job on allowing the music to emphasize the emotion that is being presented to the player.  It is very dynamic and at times unpredictable, as the game can be as well.

If you have a PS3 or PS4 and haven’t picked up this game yet I highly recommend it.

 

What do you think?  If you have played the game did you enjoy it?  If so, what were some of your favorite parts about it?

Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you guys next week.