Archive for the ‘D&D’ Tag

Smells Like Chaotic Neutral

I came across these RPG scented oils from ThinkGeek, and I think they are a great idea. Dab a little behind your ears and smell like your favourite rogue. This is supposed to bring a touch of extra realism to your tabletop games.  Somewhat idealised, perhaps. Having done live action role playing, I can say with authority that after a weekend of tramping through the woods with a band of sweaty adventurers, with kit that doesn’t get washed between games and shower facilities few and far between, most members of the party end up smelling the same, regardless of character class.

edda_rpg_class_scented_oilsI think this is a really cool idea, though. What does chaos smell like? According to this product, “a whirling mélange of multicolored musks with wasabi, rooibos, heliotrope, and mastic.” Not even sure what half those ingredients are, but it sounds impressive. I like the sound of the rogue scent: “Soft, well-worn black leather, hemp, and rosin”. My favourite D&D character is a rogue called Kaylia. I played her for years. She was chaotic neutral, and this does sound rather appropriate for her.

I like Think Geek’s comments on this product about what they delightfully refer to as “Nerd whiff”  never being completely eradicated “as there will always be that guy who rates his need for gaming above his need for a shower”.

I’ve been a tabletop roleplayer for nearly 30 years. Trust me, I’ve met this guy a few times…

WIP Update – March 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time for an update on current Works in Progress.

I’ve got several things going on at the moment. The most progressed WIP is the horror novel. It’s been to beta readers, I’ve had feedback, and I have recently started work on Draft 4.

This novel, in summary, is about a group of live action roleplayers who unwittingly unleash a lich on the world during a game. Said lich wields powerful dark magic, and leaves death and destruction in its wake. And it sets about raising an army of zombies, as sort of a sub-plot. Anyway, on the whole the feedback was fairly positive. All my women beta readers love my main female character – she’s a crack shot with a shot gun, she’s ace with Resident Evil, she takes out many of the real-life zombies and she saves the boy.

There are some plot holes, and some characterisation issues, and these I am working to fix in the current draft. But I’m feeling pretty confident about this one. This one will be finished before the end of this year. In fact, I’m aiming to have it out on sub before 2014 dawns.

In the meantime, there’s a second project – a collaboration with Hubby. Now, he’s not a writer. But after more than 25 years of running D&D games, he’s pretty good at plotting. And he’s a musician. This new project is a crime thriller featuring a young female bass player, against the backdrop of the music scene in the late 1960s. We start her off at the Monterey Festival in 1967, and then bring her to London. This project is at an early stage. We’ve been doing a lot of the plotting together. And I have started doing some of the writing. But there’s a long way to go yet, and since I’ve never collaborated with my life partner on a writing project before, it’s somewhat uncharted territory.

And what of Shara 2? Well, that one’s still languishing in a drawer. I got a bit discouraged after the crit session. Every time I get it out and review how much work there still is to do on it, I get depressed and put it away again. And DEATH SCENE has not exactly been flying off the cyber-shelves, so it’s not as if I have a long queue of fans impatiently waiting for the further adventures of Shara Summers.

Nevertheless, she has one or two fans. And I would rather like to get this one finished. So perhaps I’ll finish it for you. You know who you are.

This does make three WIPs on the go at once, however. And talking about them doesn’t make them any closer to being finished. It’s time to get back to the writing.

My Life in Books: The Sword of Shannara

In this series of blog posts, I have been talking about books that made some kind of impact in my life.  Terry Brooks’ SWORD OF SHANNARA made an impact, alright, but a very different impact to the other books I have been blogging about.

I mentioned that I got into science fiction after becoming obsessed with Star Wars.  In grade 10 I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, when I joined my high school’s D&D club.  I enjoyed the game, and thought perhaps I should read some fantasy, since it was this genre that inspired it.

The first fantasy book I picked up was this one.  And I thought it was a dirge.  Overstuffed with two-dimensional and boring characters and overlong descriptions of foliage, it was a world with a complete lack of strong female characters and it left me cold.  I didn’t finish it.  And that’s pretty unusual – to date, I can count the number of books I have abandoned halfway through on the fingers of one hand.

If I had started with something like LORD OF THE RINGS, would my perception of fantasy be different?  It’s possible.  I still connect fantasy fiction with overlong descriptions of foliage, plodding plots that take ages to get going and a mysogynistic society that has no real place for kick-ass women.  I am sure there are plenty of books out that that can disabuse me of these notions, but I never felt passionate enough about the genre to go seek them out. And for that, I’m still blaming Terry Brooks.

On the other hand, it might just be that fantasy will never be my genre and my life-long fondness for kick-ass women solving mysteries and stories about supernatural monsters eating children would have prevailed no matter what.

Bizarrely, I enjoy watching fantasy films. I’ve still never read LORD OF THE RINGS, but the Peter Jackson films rock. I particularly enjoyed the kick-ass women that were Arwen and Eowyn. I have been told that in the books, neither of them are quite so kick-ass.

And I still enjoy playing table-top D&D, where the world is interactive, the players control what’s going on, and in the games my husband runs (he’s still my favourite GM) there is generally a mystery to solve. And if I want to play a six-foot Amazonian female warrior who’s a demon with a quarterstaff and is, frankly, a one-woman killling machine, I can.

In fiction, I still prefer reading about kick-ass heroines with a mystery to solve. However, if someone can name a fantasy book that fulfils that criteria, I might be prepared to give it a try.

Geek Games

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s, right at the height of its popularity. There was a D&D club at my high school. We used to play on Mondays, after classes, in one of the science labs. I was 15. I developed a crush on the DM (that’s Dungeon Master, for the uninitiated – the person who runs the game), who was a classmate of mine. Sadly, beyond the fact that we played D&D together every week, he barely knew I existed, and my affection was entirely unrequited.

I first met my husband 22 years ago, also through playing D&D. He, too, was my DM. Clearly I have a thing for DMs. I think it’s all about the power. The DM has god-like power, controlling the game and having final say over what happens to the characters. If you’re staring down a dragon and you fail all your saving throws, the DM has control over whether your character lives or dies.

We still play D&D, and my husband is still the DM. About once a month, generally on a Sunday afternoon, our dining room table becomes the games station, covered in coffee-stained character sheets, dice, lead figures, pencils, and snacks. Don’t forget the snacks. They are a vital part of table top role playing. The unhealthier, the better.

I have noticed that the vast majority of table top role players are my generation – those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s when D&D was all the rage. The generations that have come after are more interested in the online role playing games than those that require dice, pencils and calculators. There’s also a trend amongst 13-year-boys nowadays for Warhammer, which seems to have come out of D&D, but is more about building an army big and powerful enough to smash your opponents, and less about strategy.

D&D Game In Progress

D&D is more than just combat. It’s also about strategy, decision making and role playing. And the role playing is a big part of its appeal. When you play a D&D character, you can become someone you’re not. It’s all about escapism. My current D&D character is a kick-ass warrior woman. She has incredible strength, she wears plate mail, specialises in the quarter staff and is a one-woman killing machine. She wades through the beasties smashing them to a pulp whilst barely breaking a sweat. The down side is, she really isn’t very bright. So when the group is discussing strategy, I sometimes have to remember to keep quiet. Sara might have this idea, but Hylla probably wouldn’t. Therefore I should stay in character and not vocalise it.

Playing a character that’s so far removed from me, though, is rather fun. And orc-bashing is a great stress reliever – almost as good as zombie slaying.

Archetypal Fears

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

What do you see when you look at this picture? Do you see cute toys? Or do these dolls give you the creeps?

I’ve always been very fond of dolls, to the surprise of my friends, as I am very un-girly in most other aspects. As a child, I had dozens of dolls. They all had names, and personality traits, and family backgrounds. Dolls, to me, have always been characters. I am still fascinated by dolls, and those in the picture above represent part of my collection.

However, a lot of people get creeped out by dolls. I think I understand why. They are a parody of humanity, with cold hard skin and unblinking eyes. They are lifeless objects that make a mockery of life. And they are an archetypal fear. Why else would they be the subject of so many horror stories?

My collection of dolls used to occupy shelves in the dining room (or ‘roleplaying’ room, more accurately, as we play D&D in there more often than we dine there). But some of our roleplaying friends do get creeped out by dolls, and they objected to spending hours at a time in the same room as the dolls.

Fortunately for me hubby is not in the least bothered by dolls, because they now live in the bedroom. Alongside the shelf with all my Star Wars action figures. Bizarre as it may be, this rather sums me up.

Dolls may not bother me, but there are other archetypal fears that do. But maybe that’s a topic for a future post.

Geek Heaven

Further proof, if it was needed, that I am a geeky girl. I am getting very excited by this website. Hubby discovered this site when he was looking to buy me Christmas presents last year – he got me the Sunnydale High School T-shirt.

There are so many wonderfully geeky things on this website, I can’t choose my favourite. I do rather like the T-virus T-shirt. Of course, all Resident Evil fans know how quickly the T-virus spreads. You put this shirt in your drawer, and before you know it, all your T-shirts will be turning into zombies and going off on a murderous rampage…

I also like the “+20 shirt of smiting”. That would come in handy on the underground, when I can’t get a seat.

If none of this makes any sense to you, you’re not a geek. I, on the other hand, want to buy everything on the “ThinkGeek” website. And this comes after a week of wandering around clothes shops on Oxford Street looking at dresses, and failing to find anything I was inspired to buy.

Again, I repeat the mantra: Say it clear, and say it loud. I am a geek, and I am proud.

Geeks Who Play Together, Stay Together

My husband and I are, this year, celebrating twenty years of being together. As I was twenty when I met him, it means that after this year I will have spent more of my life with him than without him. Quite a thought.

We met over the gaming table, playing Dungeons & Dragons. This is a hobby that still plays a big part in our lives. Our dining room is more often used for gaming than dining. The book shelves are full of modules and rules systems for various RPG games. At least once a month, various people come and sit around the table with character sheets, multi-sided dice, and snacks. Oh yes. The snacks are important. There is something about playing D&D that makes one want to consume vast quantities of junk food. This is probably the reason why there aren’t too many svelte gaming geeks around.

For those of you for whom this is an unfamiliar world, check out the film “Dorkness Rising”. This independent feature-length film is a highly entertaining and spookily accurate insight into the geeky world of table top role-playing. And it demonstrates very clearly that it’s not just for nerdy boys anymore.

Here’s the trailer: