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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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Some of you among the three or four who read this blog (after blowing the dust off it) might recall that for several years I worked as a freelance writer in the roleplaying game industry, writing adventures and supplement books for various companies. Most of my work was for the late, lamented Hogshead Publishing, which held a license to produce product for one of my favorite roleplaying games, the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. (WFRP)

Anyway, I stopped working in that industry after one particularly bad experience (largely of my own doing, to be fair) convinced me it just wasn’t worth it anymore: lousy pay rates (a per word rate averaging three cents per word, what writers were getting in the 1930s), large word counts and short deadlines, no time for a regular life…. It had stopped being fun.

I had kept in touch with the hobby, however, by tracking a few web sites that dealt with RPGs, particularly James Maliszewski’s Grognardia, a now-moribund site dedicated to what was called the “Old School Renaissance,” a movement focused on reviving and supporting roleplaying games as they had been played in the 70s and 80s, centered mostly around D&D clones.

James had announced a cooperative project that he would edit called “Petty Gods,” a book of godlings and minor deities a referee could use in his campaign. You can read the original announcement of it here. It sounded like a fun project, and, after spending a frustrating morning looking for some mislaid keys, I came up with “Galdu Aurkitu, God of Things Mislaid and Found.”

Name: Galdu Aurkitu
Symbols: Keys on a ring. A single sock.
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 180′ (60′)
Armor Class: -3
Hit Points (Hit Dice) 90 (19 HD)
Attacks: Special
Damage: Special
Save: T20
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: VIII, XVII
XP: 10,000

Galdu Aurkitu is the petty god of all things mislaid and unexpectedly found. A relative of the gods of good and bad luck, Galdu Aurkitu appears in one of three forms: an elderly, forgetful man; a young woman with three walnut shells and a pea; and a helpful lad. When encountered, each represents an aspect of Galdu Aurkitu’s role: forgetting where one put something; being sure something set aside was there just a moment ago; and suddenly finding in an unexpected place something thought lost.

Galdu Aurkitu is often invoked by those looking for a mislaid object, from something as minor as the house keys to something as important as a secret treaty. He (or she) can be a capricious god. If a person annoys the god (or one of the god’s divine friends), Galdu Aurkitu will cause a needed item not to be where it was supposed to be, even though it was just put there a moment ago. The idea is not to cause harm, but to annoy and inconvenience the victim. On the other hand, Galdu Aurkitu can take pity on those who have lost something dear to them, such as the son who was sure he lost an heirloom ring, or the poor widow frantic because she can’t find the rent money. The item will be found in the least likely place to look, and it is still up to the searcher to find it. Whether causing an item to be lost or found, Galdu Aurkitu takes great pleasure in mortals’ reactions and may well be nearby, watching.

In combat, Galdu Aurkitu attacks by “mislaying” opponents’ weapons and magic items: the fighter will reach for a sword, only it’s not there – he must have left it back in camp. The wizard will reach for a scroll, only to discover it is not where it is supposed to be. In each case, the item will be in Galdu Aurkitu’s hand, who will then put it to best use. The petty god can use this power once per round.

When truly angry, Galdu Aurkitu can curse a mortal, ensuring that, for the next 24 hours, an item will be missing when most needed. This will occur once in those 24 hours. If Galdu Aurkitu particularly likes a mortal and decides to bless him or her, then something treasured and thought long-lost will be unexpectedly found and returned to them sometime in the next week, or perhaps opponents in combat will mislay a weapon or magic item. This latter blessing lasts for only 24 hours, however, and, like the curse, only happens once..

Reaction Table (roll 2d6, use INT for modifiers):

2 Friendly: Blesses 1d4 nearby targets.

3-5 Indifferent: Blesses 1d4 nearby targets if properly propitiated.

6-8 Neutral: Ignores nearby creatures.

9-11 Unfriendly: Curses 1d4 nearby targets if not properly propitiated.

12 Hostile: Curses 1d4 nearby targets.

I submitted this to James back in 2010, and then… nothing. For various reasons, the projects James had been working on, including Petty Gods, encountered near-fatal difficulties and had to be rescued by others. In fact, I had thought Petty Gods had died and had largely forgotten about it, until a few weeks ago at DriveThruRPG, where I saw this:

Petty Gods

Imagine my surprise. The PDF is free, so I downloaded it and, sure enough, there was little Galdu with his very own illustration. Apparently someone had rescued the project and it went through a few hands until the product pictured above was produced. And, judging from the PDF, the new developers did a great job.  It’s available in print-on-demand paperback at Lulu.com: I may just get myself a copy.

So, that was a long-winded way to share my amusement at still being published in the hobby-game industry. To be honest, it made me smile.

If you’re running a campaign in which minor gods could conceivably walk among mortals (as in the style of Thieves’ World or Liavek), download the free PDF and give it a look. I think you’ll enjoy it.

PS: It’s a shame James has largely withdrawn from the hobby, though I hear he still plays. Grognardia was a wonderful blog, and I’d love to see it revived.

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"King & Maxwell"

“King & Maxwell”

As a wannabe writer, I have certain pet peeves, things I would never do in my own writing and hate to see in TV shows I’m following. They’re what I call “lazy writing” and they show a lack of respect for the craft, for the performers, and the audience. One among them is putting the main character in danger of their life, maybe about to be dropped into a pool of sharks by an evil villain.

Now, think about it: this is lazy because you know they’ll never kill the star of the show. I mean, give me a break. You’re ABC and you’re paying Nathan Fillion millions to star in “Castle,” for whose character the show is named and because of whom people watch, and you want me to believe there’s a serious chance the bad guy is going to gun him down? Puh-leeze. Any writer who proposed that would be fired the moment the show runner realized he’s serious. Sure, some among the audience watch to see what clever way the writers will rescue the hero, but, without the genuine threat of harm, it’s really just a cliché way to keep to keep viewers from changing channels.

But, you know what’s worse? When writers have the characters do something mind-numbingly stupid in order to get to that “star in danger” moment.

Case in point: Monday night’s episode of King & Maxwell, the fifth in their premier season. Starring Jon Tenney as Sean King and Rebecca Romijn as Michelle Maxwell, two former Secret Service agents now working as private eyes. The first four episodes were enjoyable, albeit not stellar, but last Monday night… (spoiler warning)

Here’s the set-up. “Maxwell,” (Romijn) is captured by the killer and held at gunpoint by him in a car. Oh no! Heroine in danger! But wait! She tricks him, surprises him, beats the crap out of him! Heroine wins!! Now all she has to do is…

Get out of the car and run off into the woods, leaving him his gun? WTF??

She could have done anything: get his gun. Grab his cuffs and handcuff him. Keep beating him until he’s unconscious and then call for help. Anything… anything!… except run away and leave him his gun so he could recover and pursue her, putting her in, yes, mortal danger, setting up a last-second hackneyed rescue by her partner.

Like I said, lazy, easy-way-out writing that cheats the craft, the show, the performers, and the audience. I’d like to think Romijn felt like an idiot having to do that scene.

I almost swore off the show right there, but I like it enough to give it some more time.

But not much.

Okay, “what should they have done” is a fair question, and I’ll give you a fair answer. Instead of putting the stars in mortal jeopardy, have the killer threaten a likable supporting character who is nonetheless expendable for being minor. This is cable (TNT), so the risk of supporting character death is reasonable. Maybe it’s happened before. The point is, the audience will believe it, the heroes still face danger and risk (of failure), and then no one is treated like a sucker.

See how easy it is?

Now, King & Maxwell writers: you try it.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Anthony/Barliman adds:

I don’t post here nearly as often as I should; I spend most of my time writing about politics and other un-fun stuff elsewhere. This blog is for more fun stuff. One resolution for 2013 (among many sure to be broken) is to post here more often about writing, TV, and the weird, odd, and amusing** things one runs across in daily life.

That should make it all the way to January 2nd.

**(And I have to say that a post about marijuana and Jeff Spicoli being the most-hit post kind of amuses me.)

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Come on. A naked spy with kinky sex preferences found stuffed into a duffel bag in his bathtub — and he worked on top-secret UK intelligence matters?

An inquest held just across the Thames from MI6’s headquarters here has brought forth details of the bizarre and lonely death in August 2010 of Gareth Williams, a 31-year-old rising star in supersecret counterterrorism work. He was found in a fetal position, arms crossed on his chest, locked inside a duffel bag resting in an unfilled bathtub at the government flat assigned to him in the upscale Pimlico district of London.

His naked body had been in the bag for a week before it was discovered, so badly decomposed that the police and pathologists have been unable to determine whether he was murdered in what his family’s lawyer has suggested to the court was a plot by others skilled in the “dark arts” of spy work.

That theory has played prominently here, with Mr. Williams depicted alternately as a victim of Russian secret service hit men, extremists with Al Qaeda, or a multitude of other potential assassins working in the murky world of espionage who poisoned him with potassium cyanide or an overdose of a powerful sedative drug, GHB, a theory pathologists said could not be effectively tested because of the advanced decomposition.

While the police and MI6 officials have refused to rule out those theories, they suggested a more likely but mundane explanation: that although the day had long passed when the agency dictated agents’ lifestyles, he was leading a doubly secret life, as a licensed MI6 field agent and as a sexual fantasist.

Naturally, in the world of British TV mysteries, there’s much more going on here than  meets the eye. Surely this would involve cover-ups, blackmail, scandal… and maybe even the Royal Family. (Hey, if they can blame the royals for Jack the Ripper, why not?)

This just begs for Inspector Morse or Jane Tennison.

 

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Oh, come on. You know that was fun to say. Both are real English words, but obsolete — no one uses them any more. If you deliciate in archaic words as a much as I do, you’ll find 17 more in this list, courtesy of Heather Carreiro.

via James at Grognardia

Update: Forgot to mention — a fun book chock full of archaic and obsolete English words you can use to confuse and  annoy your listeners is Jeffrey Kacirk’s “Forgotten English.”

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I was really enjoying last night’s Person of Interest, “Blue Code,” until they had a bit of a “lazy cliché” moment.

(Spoilers below the fold)

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While it’s only part one of a two-parter, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in last night’s “Castle” episode, “Pandora.” In plot and subtext, it’s very similar (so far) to the season 2 two-parter, “Tick,Tick, Tick” and “Boom!” In both…

(Spoilers hidden under the tag.)

(more…)

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