The Voices My Voice Follows: Authors

I've written about some of why I write/roleplay and how I got to the state of writing/roleplaying I'm in.  I think it's valuable to share some focus on the folks and fictions that inspire me.  Bear with me as this will be quite a few links with short explanations over the course of a few posts.  But seriously, these people are all awesome and might help you get some inspiration.  I'll start off this series with the authors who inspire me, because, after all, it was writing and reading that got me into this mess in the first place.

Simon R. Green - Author of the Nightside series, Deathstalker series, and numerous other fantasy/sci-fi/modern fantasy blending books.  All of his books are easy to pick up, quick to read, and feature resourceful heroes who rise to every challenge.  Sometimes it may seem a little too easy, but sometimes I need "popcorn fiction."

Robert Jordan - Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (finished in part by the next author on the list) is pretty much the opposite of popcorn fiction.  It's heavy in a way only George RR Martin really rivals.  There are allusions to basically every major religion in the world and a few that aren't so major.  Each name has meaning and there's a broad tapestry of characters who come and go.  The books are definitely slowed by that, but the complexity of vision is something I could only aspire to in my wildest dreams.

Brandon Sanderson - One of the coolest things about Brandon Sanderson (and the next author on the list after him) is his high interaction with fans.  His insights while re-reading and finishing the Wheel of Time series after Jordan's death brought even more depth to my understanding of the books.  He's described (I'm paraphrasing here) his new novel The Rithmatist as being like "StarCraft done with magic," which is a pretty nifty hook to catch my interest.  He talks to a lot of folks on twitter and shares a lot of insights.

Jim Butcher - Also a big fan interaction author, Jim Butcher writes the Dresden Files series.  These books begin to touch on the complexity of Jordan's allusions and plot complexity while still having more of an accessibility of Simon R Green's works.  Butcher tweets about his life in roleplaying and has let his books become a setting in the Fate system.  He's also answered some direct questions about the Dresden Files over twitter.  His bio photo is basically the greatest thing ever.

Cherie Priest - Queen of Steampunk.  Her Clockwork Century series is basically the pinnacle of meshing steampunk sci-fi sensibilities with alternate history fiction's "accuracy spun in a different direction," which is most definitely a term I'm making up.  Each book pushes you to find the revelation of it's steam-powered namesake while blindsiding you with other fantastic things like zombies.  She's also on twitter and out at cons quite a bit.

Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant - Yet another author on twitter.  A fairly prolific writer, blogger, tweeter, con-er, and podcaster, my favorite of her works are under the penname Mira Grant, where she authored the Newsflesh trilogy (and quite a bit of short fiction in the same setting).  I like that enough that I've already written about it here.

Neil Gaiman - Kind of the godfather of the modern blogging/tweeting author.  Gaiman has done everything from TV (Babylon 5), comics (Sandman), movies (Mirror Mask), to novels (Good Omens, Stardust, and so on).  Another font of advice and knowledge on writing and unafraid to get into a conversation with fans.  His relationship with Amanda Palmer is probably the prototype for a successful geek relationship, too.

Chuck Wendig - I've probably learned more about writing from Chuck Wendig than from any other single person, despite never having met him.  His books on writing are excellent, dripping with sarcasm and wit while still pounding home important information that can help an aspiring writer focus.  His novel Dinocalypse Now is a great blending of roleplaying (it's set in the Spirit of the Century world) and fun writing.

John Scalzi - Another great satirist.  Scalzi is a sci-fi titan that seems to mix equal parts Douglas Adams and Robert Heinlein.  His Old Man's War series is a great look at a potential fix Earth might use someday when in need of soldiers and Red Shirts is basically the best Star Trek parody ever written.  Seriously, it's a must-read.

Christie Golden - Christie Golden has written a little bit of everything, from Star Trek to Ravenloft.  Most of what I've read from her is in the WarCraft and StarCraft universes.  Her take on Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan in Devil's Due and Flashpoint really added tons of depth to the first two chapters of StarCraft II, and I'm sure that the material from the Dark Templar Saga and Project Blackstone have big implications for the third chapter.

Nate Kenyon - I think it's awesome that Nate Kenyon took some time to speak with me at Blizzcon mentioned to me about his experience writing StarCraft: Ghost: Spectres.  I never spoke with him about my own writing, but hearing his process meant a lot to me.  It's extremely impressive to me how he can switch from sci-fi mystery writing to horror fantasy writing seemingly without much difficulty and his versatility is amazing.


Scions Back on a Volcano!

Other posts on Scion and Leander.  Last recap.

Rivkah returned to the room and the Scions bedded down for the night.  Lha-mo took the front room, Brock the master bedroom, Leander chose to sleep in the tub in the bathroom where he'd covered all the obvious cracks, and the others spread out to various places.  In the morning, the team spread out to address various objectives.

Rivkah, having told the group about Tain, called to set up a meeting at a place called Pirate Johnny's for later that evening.  William and Lha-mo set out to the library to do research.  Brock tried to talk to Detective Kei, but was rebuffed by the detective.  Leander stayed at the hotel, duct tape intact, and used the internet to further his research.

Leander discovered more connections to Hawaiian giants and some new information on the the Hawaiian god of owls, Paupueo.  At the library, William and Lha-mo found a short Hawaiian man telling stories to gathered children, discussing the Menehune and the gods of Hawaii.  William gleaned some new information from that and talked briefly with the man.  Both William and Lha-mo seemed to feel that the man was more than he was letting on, but when pushed, the man repeated Kei's earlier warning to stay away and refused to give them information.  They also found pictures, taken by cellphone and printed in the local paper, of the men who abducted Pele, who looked more Indian than Hawaiian.

The Scions reconvened back at the hotel to share information.  Leander looked up more pictures of the abductors online and agreed they looked more like Indian citizens than Hawaiians.  At a loss for more avenues to persue, the band drove up the road to the volcano to inspect the location Pele was abducted from.  They didn't make it there before trouble cropped up, though.  Now that the Scions were back out in the open in a rented van, the Spider-Chick decided to make her presence felt again.  She darted in front of the van and hurled a car at it, which Brock's fancy driving only barely kept from destroying the van.  The team leaped into action.

Brock sped the car around, trying to get a view of the opponent.  Leander, William, and Rivkah all dove out of the van and came up in various states of readiness.  Leander spotted a young 13-year-old boy, but was quickly sure of his foe as the boy spied him and spiders poured from his eyes.  Lha-mo also jumped from the van, but instead of rushing into the fight, hurried off to check on the people in the car that had been thrown at the van.  Heroically, Lha-mo discovered they were injured and dedicated some yeti attention to freeing them and caring for their wounds, heedless of the battle.

Brock tried to slam the van into the Arachnae-Spawn, but the little bugger was too quick.  Leander tried to set up another chance to burn the spider alive but sliding under the car and severing the fuel line, but the Spider-Chick tried to keep distance between them.  William briefly tried to reason with it, but was ignored.  Rivkah wound up to join the fight, but was cut off by a "hello little sister" and a punch to the face that sent her flying.  Her half-brother, Reggie, had shown up, collar, cuffs, and glowing gem in tow.  He proceeded to set about pounding Rivkah's face in, though, she managed a couple shots of her own and pulled off a simultaneous punch with her corrupted sibling.  Still, she was clearly losing.  Lha-mo continued on the dangerous but noble path of caring for the wounded, but did summon the yak to join the fray.

At this point, the Scions began to turn the tide.  William got some fuel in his mouth and sprayed it on the Spider-Kid and Leander was able to light it on fire by striking sparks on the road with his spear.  Brock switched targets and shot the jewel on Reggie's chest, but there was no apparent damage.  Rivkah took to the air, but Reggie gave chase and attacked again.  Afterwards, Rivkah was nearly dead, but the yak intervened and the corrupted Scion was chased away.  The burning Spider-Chick managed to burst into many tiny spiders again and dispersed fire onto the surrounding vegetation.  A forest fire looked ready to start, but Lha-mo summoned a blizzard for a few moments, which doused the flames.  A bunch of tourists and travelers had caught the whole scene on camera phones and that seemed likely to end the Scions' anonymity.  Lha-mo got Rivkah up to the point where she wasn't dying and the team road the yak.

Unfortunately when the team got to the location, they couldn't figure out a whole lot.  There was a smell detectable to divine senses that corresponded to the Devas pantheon and also a smell of coconut that Leander last smelled when around Detective Kei. Unfortunately, time had worn away a lot of the clues and the Scions were no closer to finding Pele.

That meant the team had to fall back on their meeting with Tain.  They came up with a plan of attack that involved Brock going to the restaurant early to scope it out, William going in before the team but well after Brock, and the rest of the group arriving with Rivkah.  Brock's early arrival allowed him to overhear Tain talking to other members of the Atua pantheon about the Scions, debating if they could be trusted.  That made for an interesting precursor to the meeting.


Meandering Journey

So this is a companion piece to yesterday's piece on "what if's."  I think it's important to look at "what is" in the process of how I became a roleplayer and writer, however limited my audience may or may not be (because who knows how many people are really looking? I get 10-40 pageviews a day when I've got new content, and I've no idea how many of these are people I know and how many who saw the link on Twitter/Google/Facebook/wherever.  I appreciate what I've got).

I started writing in third grade, so far as I can really recall (though maybe my parents or grandparents would tell another story).  Our teacher had the whole class write "books" which were "published."  Being obsessed with dinosaurs (seriously, I wanted to be an archaeologist/paleontologist in kindergarten and used those words, to much laughter from the other kids, to tell everyone so), I wrote a book called "The Futuristic Dinosaur" in which a dinosaur was teleported to the modern day, learned to speak English, and went to school with a teacher named after my teacher.  I still have the cloth-bound book that I got as a result.  Even though I'd walk away from writing for long periods, I kept coming back to it, and I doubt I would have had that in my life if it hadn't been for that book.

I was a rather awkward child.  I was sure I was "normal" in terms of schooling until about 4th grade, but felt like the kids laughed at me so often that I must be "weird" socially.  And that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The more awkward I felt, the more awkward I became.  And then I figured out, via testing, that I wasn't "normal" in terms of schooling.  I was "gifted" and needed to be in "special classes."  Which meant getting up and walking out of "regular class" at a specific time.  Which is about the worst thing you could do to a kid who felt like an outcast already.  I tried to overcompensate by being "the funny kid" but I was pretty awful at that.

In 5th and 6th grades, I was introduced to the Robotech RPG and then Battletech by my older cousin.  I started reading the Battletech novels and entered two separate writing contests while writing fiction based on the Battletech unit (The Stanley's Callers) my cousin and I had come up with (we had t-shirts, deal with our awesome).  Those entries went nowhere, and coupled with a major knee surgery, the divorce of my parents, my dog running away, and having to leave all my junior high friends while heading to high school, I pretty much stopped writing and barely roleplayed at all (though I kept collecting books, for which I am now quite thankful).

It was almost a the end of my Freshman year (though at the time it felt like decades) when I met the core group of friends which would grow into my Terminus roleplaying group.  One of them roleplayed online, as well, with people from both the US and Canada, and after working up the courage, I joined the forums (hosted back in the day by ebulletin if I remember right).  This dovetailed with my idea to write fiction based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  Kids, don't let people tell you fanfiction is bad; you should aspire to come up with your own stuff, but world building is hard and characterization is more important, fanfiction is like training wheels for writing.  So is roleplaying, which does many of the same things as writing fanfiction; using a pre-created setting, sometimes pre-created characters, and putting the writer's/player's character into the center of the action especially when it can serve as wish-fulfillment.  Definitely aim to take the training wheels off, because you won't get rich trying to sell Harry Potter fanfic, but use the resources you have to practice.

When I went to college, I continued on in the "be what I'm not" compulsion that I'd formed way back as a kid and tried to be a computer engineer.  I was pretty bad at it; I passed my classes, but I often struggle to make my code work, got C's on tests, and fell asleep in class the only time it's ever happened to me.  After all that angst, I was done.  I switched to being a creative writing major, gave up dreams of getting rich off writing software, and got back to writing.  I wrote a lot, too.  I was writing at least a page a day roleplaying, plus writing out elaborate backstories for those characters, and writing papers for class.  I also made more friends who roleplayed, which would form the core of Sunday Game Group later on.

I took five creative-writing specific classes in college.  Two were fiction-based, two were poetry-based, and one was autobiographical.  I mention this not to tout my creative writing genius or education (because seriously, five classes in which most of the class had no major interest?), but to relay a story.  My advanced fiction writing class was the second time in my life (and first time for fiction) I've been accused of plagarism.  Afte the professor praised a myth-style story I'd written as being "right out of the Pohpol Vu," a classmate asked me if I'd really written it and where I'd gotten it from.  It was pretty much at that moment I decide, for sure, that I'd be a successful writer someday.  I was fairly furious that he'd question my skills and honesty that way, but figured if people assumed I'd stolen published work, I must be producing publishable work.

The key drawback, I think, in my writing over this period was self-motivation.  If I was getting feedback or writing collaboratively (in other words, the things I got instantaneously from roleplaying), I could write prodigiously.  If I was feeling a  strong emotion, I coukd crank out 500 words in minutes.  But when things were just "fine" and feedback was sparse, my writing would crawl to a halt.  It took an odd writing gig for my job to change that.  I worked for a now-defunct tutoring company which focused mostly on college e trance exams.  I got offered the chance to write material for our new ACT textbook, which was a chance I jumped at as I could claim it as published work (to my knowledge, it never got to that stage).  I wrote six pieces and 120 or so questions for that project but got minimal feedback.  What I did get, though, was practice writing to a deadline and getting paid for my writing.

That led to me applying for a blogging job at a page-click-for-revenue news site covering roleplaying games.  I quickly discovered, though, that my pageviews weren't worth a consistant value and that they'd hired another local writer to cover the same material as me in the same local area as me.  I quit within a week.  I created this blog but let it fall into disuse as I struggled to write consistently.  I kept roleplaying, though, and eventually things came back around.

I got in the habit of telling my girlfriend, who became my fiance and then my wife, stories upon request, which challenged my ability to come up with coherent and compact stories.  I needed to come to a point swiftly but still make the story engaging.  And then I attended Blizzcon 2011 (actually, I've been to every Blizzcon but the first).  There, I got to see a talk with the folks who write novels for Blizzard and heard how a past winner of the Blizzard Writing Contest was now writing fiction for them.  Later in the sane day, I got to chat a bit with Nate Kenyon when he signed my copy of StarCraft: Ghost: Spectre.  Those two events gave me a kick in the rear.  I was determined to win the next BWC.  Unfortunately, the next BWC hasn't happened yet.  But in the interim, I finished one StarCraft-based story and made great progress on a second.  They've integrated the lessons I've learned along the way and I feel proud of both.  If nothing else, I could submit one or both the next time a BWC occurs and feel I gave it my best efforts.  Similarly, the exercise of writing frequently inspired me to ressurect this blog in an effort to make connections to folks with similar interests.

So that's a long ramble on how I got to where I am.  I'm not really published, rich, or famous.  But I'm happy with the path of my writing and hopeful for its future.  And at worst, I can use those skills to entertain myself.

TL;DR: I like writing and roleplaying, am happy with both, and can talk at length about it.

Philosophical Meanderings

One of the things that lets me be strongest as a roleplayer and writer, I think, is the fact that my brain is constantly running "what if?" scenarios.  Some are as mundane as "what if I have a bagel instead of a power bar tonight?"  Others are as complex as "what's my escape plan if the zombie apocalypse happens and I'm at my condo complex?"

Sometimes I wish I could turn them off.  Lately, I've been wondering about what if's involving high school and college.  I wonder, if I had gone to the high school most of my junior high friends had gone to, if I'd be the same person.  A girl I was maybe sorta friends with on in junior high (okay, I also had a crush on her back then and avoided her despite kinda being friends with her because of it, I was a stupid child in some ways) is now a comic artist/colorist for DC, after having been one for Marvel and Top Cow.  I wonder if I had gone to high school with her if that connection would have been something I could have given a chance and if that it would have given me a chance at writing in those places.  Interestingly, most of my friends now had friends at that high school and it's entirely possible I could have ended up hanging out with the same people for the most part.  Almost undoubtedly I would have had a broader friend group than I did through high school and college.  I suspect my confidence level would be much different.

Similarly, a...  Friend?  Acquaintance?  Is there a word for "know him too well to be acquaintances but weren't friends?"  Anyways, he's going to be starring in Agents of SHIELD this fall.  If I had chosen to become better friends with him, would I be talking to someone who could show my writing to Joss Whedon (yeah, yeah, nerdgasm)?  I think that would change who I am less, honestly.  I was way more formed at the end of high school than junior high, which is hopefully the way with most folks.  But the concept intrigues me.

In any event, I think this is a key facet of why I can roleplay or write well (at least in my own opinion).  Not only do I contemplate what if's for myself, but for my characters.  Over and over until I know them like I know myself, and can anticipate the decisions they might make.


Scions on a Volcano!

Other posts on Scion and Leander.  Last recap.

Turns out that landing a plane with a hole in it, while piloted by someone who says they don't know how to fly it, will cause both the paramedics and Homeland Security to show up to see what's going on. Who woulda guessed? (Leander, Leander saw this coming.)  DHS looked past Leander and Lha-mo and zeroed in on the rest of the band, in particular William, who they quickly racially profiled and ordered to surrender.  Brock started to offer an explaination, but Nick, thinking quickly, stepped right in.

Thinking quickly, but not carefully.  Nick told the DHS officer that he worked for Interpol and that he'd caught Rivkah, William, and Brock as terrorists (and Serafiia, too, but less notably since her player was absent).  The DHS guys recognized Brock as they were zip-tying his hands and asked for autographs.  Brock, however, was growing displeased.  Which he told Leander, who had come over to escort Brock in hopes that no actual DHS person would do it.

DHS seemed initially ready to see through the ruse, but Nick managed to use his illusionary powers to fake a confirmation of Nick's story.  Luckily, the fact that DHS was assuming Leander and Lha-mo were with them meant that all the Scions were able to get into the same SUV, which they took no where near the army base DHS intended them to go to.

Instead, they ditched the SUV after a few blocks and made their way to a helicopter tours office.  Along the way, they discovered that the area around the caldera of Kilauea had been declared a no-fly zone after the volcano had gone quiet mysteriously three and a half days earlier, which the band realized coincided with Pele's disappearance.  Leander also suggested that Pele may have been taken while working through an avatar and therefore at a less powerful state.  Brock paid the pilot of the helicopter 10 grand for use of the chopper and the group headed up the volcano, landing near the science station at the top.

Of course, Rivkah was given no answer as to where to land, so landed the chopper in plain view of the research station and the scientists saw the Scions emerge.  Nick even waved to them.  The group quickly snuck away, though, and circled back.  Unfortunately, they had a slight problem.  Brock's agent called, informing Brock that he was now an escaped suspected terrorist and that Nick's ruse had been discovered.  Worse, when Brock demanded the agent get him out of the mess, the agent wasn't quite sure how to proceed.  Brock fired his agent, casting Leander in the role of replacement agent, and handed Lee the phone.  Lee found out that the phone was being tracked, so Brock chucked it into the volcano.  But it was too late.  DHS was nearly there.

The Scions headed back into the science station and DHS arrived moments later.  Again, they assumed Lha-mo and Leander were part of their team, but this time everyone else, including Nick, was taken into custody.  Lha-mo got into the DHS transports with the team, but Leander faded into the background and stayed at the research camp.

The other Scions were taken to a nearby military base and separated.  William had come up with a story that stated that Brock was intending to strike out on his own as an actor/producer and that Nick was a hired assistant who'd thought that DHS was part of a movie script they were testing.  They cast William as a consultant and Rivkah as a driver.  Unfortunately, no one told Rivkah this.

Back at the science station, Leander used the assumption that he was with DHS to ask questions, determining that there were no signs of imminent eruption before the volcano went silent and no other geological oddities.  He asked a few questions framed as potential motives for terrorism, which helped him discover that a woman had been kidnapped nearby.  He was also told a detective named Kei was working on that case.  Leander headed to talk to the detective.

During the interrogations, Rivkah was confronted with the idea that her mother would disavow her.  But the offer was also placed before her that she could become an informant on her bandmates in order to receive reduced charges.  She told the story, leaving out the supernatural bits, but it was the truth and not the one William and Brock had cooked up.  William and Brock stuck to that story, and Nick mostly did...  Until he managed to use his divine charm to convince the investigator, and those watching from the other room, that he was fully innocent, leaving William and Brock as the most likely to take the fall.  Lah-mo drank coffee.

Leander met with the detective, probing with a few questions about Brock and the volcano in relation to the kidnapped woman.  The detective refused to see a connection between the two, but as he was about to leave, Leander indulged curiosity and used his divine perception to check the detective for divine ichor.  Lee discovered the detective was a member of the Atua pantheon, but offers of help were again rebuffed with "family will handle this."  Leander decided to head to the bank.

Back at the base, the investigators broke to discuss things.  They decided they needed a drink.  Lah-mo had Irish coffee.  The yeti overheard them saying Brock was bound to be arrested at the ringleader of the terrorists, but there wasn't much she could do.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, that's when Rivkah got a visitor.  Clay began to seep under her door, slowly forming up into a muddy clay giant.  It made to attack Rivkah, but was stopped by the appearance of shadowy ninjas (zinjas?) who sliced the giant up.  They were joined by a man who introduced himself as Kane Taoka.

Leander arrived at the base and quickly found himself a computer in a break room with internet access.  He discovered some information on Hawaiian giants called Nawua.  He also began looking into the detective and the other goings on.  He also followed up on a report he'd overheard earlier that a hollowed out dolphin had washed up on the beach and discovered it had been hollowed out from the inside.  He had a sinking feeling he knew why.

Taoka spoke to Rivkah of the Titan War and the efforts of Muspelheim.  He went on to tell Rivkah "the enemy of my enemy is..." and told her he'd free her if she'd continue to harass the fire giants so that his master could have an equal shot at plunging the world into darkness.  Eventually, he did free her and the other Scions and on his way out, he was vigil branded by Lha-mo.  They departed, heading to a hotel and Nick called Leander.  Leander hinted that the spider-lady wasn't dead and Rivkah took the phone from Nick to run over the conversation with Taoka.  Leander, Brock, and William pushed for the conversation to happen in private.

Brock, now cleared, rented out the penthouse of a fancy hotel and the Scions settled in.  Leander, once he arrived, set about duct taping all the openings into the room, so as to prevent spiders from entering.  William began questioning Rivkah in the shower and eventually everyone joined the conversation.

Leander began to lay out the suspicions he'd had brewing for a while.  He caught some of the Scions up on the major issues of the Titan War.  The Titans, now free, each desired to drown the world in themselves.  Muspelheim would be fire, but if it was Gaia, it would be vegetation and animals.  Worse, should the Titans die, as had happened to Ymir, the world would be briefly (for a few hundred thousand years) plunged into the effects of the Titan's power.  The group then realized the need for the Titan's prison.  Leander theorized that the Titan's goal in kidnapping a fire goddess, and potentially other fire gods, might be to create some of that effect, ritually linking their powers and killing them to create a similar imbalance to the death of a Titan, which would empower Muspelheim and allow it to win the Titan War.  Alternately, Leander worried that an avatar-form of a god might be subject to the same danger as the Scions; namely, they might be able to be controlled by the chains that had almost been used on Brock and Rivkah.  He surmised that this may have been the way that some of the gods had been convinced to join the Titan's cause.  There was also a brief divergence on to the idea that Loki, or some other Aesir, may have been trying to short-circuit Ragnarok by helping Muspelheim.

And with that set of unsettling ideas, the Scion settled in for a time.  Rivkah headed down to the bar and was approached by a man who called himself Tain, who offered her a job helping him transport weapons and threatening harm to the Scions if they didn't abandon their cause...


Characters I've Played: Eli/Rosie

Rifts has long been one my favorite settings.  Giving me a game world where "anything can happen" isn't just a catchphrase but typically an important part of gameplay really gets my creative juices flowing.  The system can sometimes frustrate me (like when it took us two hours to get through a 4 turn combat), but the setting always overcomes my distaste.  As such, I have many, many characters who hail from the world of Rifts.  But the ones to follow here are probably my favorite.

In case you don't know, Rifts is set on a technologically advanced Earth many years after a magical apocalypse that opened gateways (rifts) to other times and places throughout the multiverse.  This meant demons, dragons, elves, dinosaurs, superheros, Cthulhulian horrors, aliens, and giant bugs poured through onto Earth already rich with mecha, artificial intelligence, genesplicing, super-steroids, and lasers.  And then people discovered psychic and magical powers as the world crumbled around them, both from the invasions and the natural disasters causing and caused by the rifts.  Rifts also has a "prequel" setting called Chaos Earth, which will be relevant here.  In Rifts, the rifts have been open for hundreds of years; in Chaos Earth players play characters who are experiencing the first days of the apocalypse that will create Rifts Earth.

Taking to heart all of that, I came up with a dual character idea the last time we attempted to play Rifts that I think will carry forward as the most likely character for me to reuse.  The "main" character of this dual idea is Master Sergeant Eli Mercer, NEMA (Northern Eagle Military Alliance, a joint US, Canada, and Mexico military force) Fire and Rescue (nicknamed Roscoes) trainer, from the Chaos Earth setting.  The "secondary" character is Rose Marie "Rosie" Mercer, a wilderness scout obsessed with finding pre-rifts artifacts (thus a Legacy Scout in game terms), from the Rifts setting.  Rosie and Eli are bound to one another, though they don't know this at first, by a strange form of temporal displacement in which one of them is present in the world (at the time of the Rifts setting) and the other vanishes during that time.  Then, suddenly, they switch.  To them, no time has passed, but they appear wherever the other had been.

As usual, I'll stat them both out in Fate Core.  I'll start with Eli.

Name: Eli Mercer

The High Concept for Eli is a little more bland than my usual fare, but because it's got to pack a lot of information about his job and training in, there isn't as much room for flexibility.
High Concept: NEMA Roscoe Master Sergeant

Eli's trouble, though, is where things can get a little juicy.  He's on the other end of the apocalypse.  The military he worked for is gone.  And he's bound to a girl he's never met and likely never will.  That's a lot to pack in.  Mechanically, though, the fact that he and Rosie switch places is important (and works great as a compel in Fate Core).  I could use something like "Time and Space Displaced" or "The Other Side of Armageddon" here, but I think neither quite sums it up.  I think focusing on the thing that's hardest for Eli will fit best.
Trouble: Bound for Change

Eli's first phase aspect (aka background), is all about where he's from.  And in this case, I think it can help me bring back something from an aspect idea I passed over.  Eli's a fighter who'll always push to keep going, and he's definitely in a hard situation.
Phase Aspect (Background): Lost the Apocalypse, but Still Fighting

The second phase aspect is about guest stars, but Eli's weird situation doesn't present well for that.  Rosie's already tied to him and most of what's gone on in his life is well separated from the world he's in now.  But it might be able to match up later.  Still, a big aspect of Eli is that he's a skilled melee fighter and determined rescue operative.
Phase Aspect (Guest Star 1): Up Close and Personal

Same thing applies for the third phase aspect.  Another facet of Eli's personality that might be worth playing up a bit is that he's calm and generally willing to put a positive spin on things.  He's been trained to deal with the worst, so he's rarely overawed or intimidated.  He's also extremely well-trained physically, having to work in high pressure situations and preform extreme physical tasks, especially when wearing his NEMA-issue power armor.
Phase Aspect (Guest Star 2): Resilient Spirit, Armored Body

To keep this from getting too insanely long, I'll spare the justifications for Eli's skills.

Great(+4): Fight
Good(+3): Will, Investigate
Fair(+2): Athletics, Empathy, Shoot
Average(+1): Physique, Craft, Drive, Rapport

Eli's stunts are all fairly straightforward.  He has a stunt called "Carry it Forward" which allows him to use the momentum of a successful melee attack into a second attack.  Another called "Roscoe's Intuition" which allows him to use Investigate to Notice people in danger situations.  And a third called "Jury-Rigger" which gives him an extra +2 on trying to fix mechanical devices.
Carry it Forward
Roscoe's Intuition

Now for Rosie.

Name: Rose Marie "Rosie" Mercer

Her high concept is all about her curiosity.  Rosie wants to discover the past and will search the modern world to find it.  She can also sense temporal anomalies  which fits in well with her curiosity, as she's more likely than not to seek them out.
High Concept: Time-Sensitive Relic Collector

Trouble for Rosie is mostly about her connection to Eli.  She feels acutely the time she loses while he's occupying her space in the world and it frustrates her that she can't figure out why it is happening.
Trouble: My Life is No Longer Mine Alone

Rosie's background is fairly tied in to the setting.  She was trained in Fort Hawkins in Florida, where she was within striking distance of quite a few potentially important areas of research into the pre-rifts world.  This is the key for her background.
Phase Aspect (Background): Trained by Pennant and Gran

Rosie is well-tied to the Rifts world and has lots of opportunities to guest star, serving as a guide or informant.  She's also got a lot of gear collected from these excursions and can pull from these things at need.  Her current prized item is a NEMA jeep (which was once Eli's) filled with NEMA gear.
Phase Aspect (Guest Star 1): My Jeep's Got Just the Thing

For a second guest star situation, I think the thing that should be brought out about Rosie is that she's fairly gifted.  She's pretty.  She's smart.  She's technically savvy when most people aren't.  And she's fully aware of these things.  She tries to stay humble, but she's pretty proud of her girl-genius status.
Phase Aspect (Guest Star 2):  Brains, Beauty, and the Best Toys


Great(+4): Investigate
Good(+3): Notice, Shoot
Fair(+2): Athletics, Empathy, Will
Average(+1): Physique, Craft, Drive, Rapport

Rosie is a bit trickier for the stunts, but I think there's a couple that stand out.  She's got "Target-Rich Environment" for when she's got to get her gun-fu on against overwhelming odds.  She can use "Just a Southern Belle" to use Rapport for Deceive when trying to charm an opponent into believing her.  And "Fixing Old Stuff is Fun" to give her a bonus for fixing up pre-rifts mechanics.

So I think that sums this pair up.  They're a lot of fun to play, and hopefully I'll get another crack at it someday.


Video of Scions on a Mountain! Part 2

Second part of the video here!

Thorren in Combat

The axe crashed down at Thorren, but he was ready, clawed gauntlets already in place to deflect the blow.  It was rare something towered over Thorren’s 9-foot-tall frame, but this Iron Vrykul managed it.  Despite the defeat of the Lich King, some years before Thorren’s departure from Thunder Bluff, the Vrykul remained hostile to the non-Vrykul races.  This one had pushed into Horde territory near Warsong Hold, far from the usual haunts of the Vrykul.

The Vrykul leapt back as Thorren swung at its gut, seeking to tear into the half-giant’s midsection and end the fight.  Thorren had been in Northrend at an elder Shaman’s request, journeying with a message to the Taunka tribes of the frozen north.  The Vrykul pushed forward again, snarling rage at the “fleshy cow!”
Thorren laughed in its face as the half-giant’s spittle flecked onto him.  “I’m no cow, servant of death, I’m a bull!”

With a mighty shake of his head, Thorren raked his horns across the Vrykul’s face, driving the half-giant back.  It howled in fury and raised a hand to grasp at the rent across his face.  It swung blindly with its axe, trying vainly to hit the Tauren, but Thorren had shoved back.  Muttering briefly, he raised a fist to the sky and let a bit of blessed powder loose into the crisp air of the Borean Tundra.  At his side, a pair of spectral wolves sprung into view, howling their master’s fury.  As the Vrykul recovered, the wolves darted forward, sprinting around and biting at its flanks.

Thorn dropped back a step and felt out toward the elements around him.  He drew upon the electricity of the storms that raged throughout the north.  Pausing for thanks to the spirits of the elements, he drew back a hand and pushed it forward with explosive force, lightning leaping from his claw and arcing towards the metal body of the Iron Vrykul.  Between the assault of the wolves and the lightning, the half-giant crumpled.  Thorren stepped forward anew, the wolves prowling in search of a further threat, and searched the Vrykul.  Nothing showed why it had come so far, but if it had slipped past the Taunka, it concerned Thorren.  He was sent to rally Taunka allies in the face of Garrosh’s corruption of the Horde.  If they’d befallen dangers or been abandoned by Garrosh’s forces and fallen to the Vrykul it would be a mighty blow against the power base being gathered by Baine Bloodhoof, young High Chieftan of the Tauren.

Thorren scowled at the thought and called out to his mount, a large and heavily armored wind rider.  It bounded close and stood still as Thorren climbed astride it.  With a word, the wind rider leapt to the skies and Thorren set out seeking the Taunka.


Video of Scions on a Mountain!

So following up on older videos, the storyteller for the Scion campaign got the video up for two sessions ago.  So it is now embedded here!  You should check out his Youtube channel, and if you want to watch live (six days from today, meaning May 12th, starting sometime between 5 and 6 is our next session!) here's a link to the Justin.tv account.  Note, some NSFW language (because we swear sometimes and such).


Characters I've Played: TJ

TJ is a character I've come back to a few times over.  Like some other characters I've played (funny how it's happened), she started out as a character for a zombie horror game that didn't last terribly long.  But when Sunday Game Group was discussing having regular roleplaying for the first time (which was maybe 4 or 5 years ago, now!) we discussed starting off with the Cortex System from Margret Weis Productions using the Supernatural setting.  So TJ seemed like a natural fit for an update into Evil Hat's Fate Core.

So a first thing to throw out there is that TJ is what's generally called a "crossplay" character.  I've actually seen the topic of "is it possible for guys to play girls in RPGs?" come up quite a bit lately, so I feel like it's important to acknowledge the discussion.  Personally, I've never seen much of an issue.  The characters I play aren't me and as a writer I tend to make characters based on what fits the story I want to tell.  So in this instance, TJ just fit.  Do I play her as a woman would play her?  I have no idea, to be honest.  But I try and keep in mind that TJ should be a complete person with opinions and feelings.

That means that TJ has a sexual orientation (which is bisexual) and standards as to what she wants in that orientation.  I have the list of what she likes in my head and I can use that list to go back an assess things from her viewpoint.  Which, I think, is the value of roleplaying to me.  I know what I'd do, or would like to do, in a lot of life situations.  It's far more interesting to see if I can build a story for someone else and carry that to outcomes.  It's a test of my writing/creating skills and a test of my ability to create logical reasonings for things.  In that sense playing a girl, for me, isn't really all that different from playing a Tauren.

So that all said, a bit of story about TJ.  TJ was born in the Portland, Oregon and was a gearhead from a young age.  She has a number of tattoos, which reflect successful missions as a hunter.  She is strong but still has a figure rather than an overly-muscled frame and she cares deeply about people and the environment, but is fairly apolitical.  There's a couple of secret bits of information about here that I'll try to hint at here, but not reveal.

TJ's original system was D20 Modern, then she rolled over into Cortex, and then from there we did manage to briefly continue our Supernatural game in the version of Fate used in Strands of Fate.  As a reminder, I'll be going over TJ's High Concept, her Trouble, 3 Phase Aspects, her Skills, and her Stunts.

TJ's High Concept is an easy one for me, because it was the first set of words I came up with when I was first creating her.  She's a biker, a girl, she's got tattoos, and she hunts the supernatural.  All that rolls together well.
High Concept: Tattooed Biker and Huntress

TJ's Trouble is similarly fairly straightforward.  She's a striking woman, with all the tattoos.  She's not gorgeous or hideous, but she's fit and has strong features.  She dresses in a tomboy fashion and doesn't do "meek and demure."  Add to that a loud motorcycle and a penchant for baseball bats and shotguns and she's pretty hard not to notice.
Trouble:  Hard to Forget

The first phase aspect is usually the background for my characters.  In the Supernatural setting I like to make this about what made them a Hunter.  For TJ, this goes back to when she was visiting a friend in Santa Cruz and an angry ghost decided to crash their party.  It turned out the ghost was haunting the locket TJ's friend had picked up at an antique store and assumed the girl had gotten the locket from the ghosts' husband, who'd cheated on the ghost so many years ago.  TJ stopped the ghost by destroying the locket, making a pretty clear aspect.
Phase One (Background): Ghost Lock-down

The second phase is a situation in which the characters form some of their initial connections.  One of the main characters that TJ has had repeated adventures with is named Jane, who is a bookish, smaller, quiet hunter, which serves as a good foil for big, loud TJ.  We've never quite fleshed out their first meeting, but it's been hinted at that TJ saved Jane from some monster and Jane saved TJ from the cops.  TJ also showed a penchant for breaking down the obstacles in her way.
Phase Two (Jane Guest Star): Break Stuff

Third phase, like second, should be another guest starring situation.  I don't know that at this point any of the characters I've played with in the past fit particularly strongly for this slot, so I'll leave it open for the day we play again and I need to fill in.  A key feature of TJ's persona is the fact that she uses her tattoos to record her hunts, so it's an easy choice to make this aspect about that.
Phase Three: Stories in Ink

Skills wise, TJ is fairly straightforward.  Her key ability would probably be fight, as that's where she makes her living.  Beneath that would be the drive skill (for her motorcycle) and the craft skill for her mechanical inclination.  Following that would be physique (because she's got the ability for a lot of stamina), athletics (because she works out regularly), and shoot (because it's her other key mode of combat).  Filling out her skills would be rapport, empathy, notice, and contacts.

Great(+4): Fight
Good(+3): Drive, Craft
Fair(+2): Physique, Athletics, Shoot
Average(+1): Rapport, Empathy, Notice, Contacts

In terms of stunts, TJ uses them to fill in a bit of her weak areas.  She has a strength with shotguns, but relative inexperience with other guns, so I give her a shoot stunt that boosts her shotgun skills.  I've called this "Buckshot Blast" in the past and I'll stick with that here.  Similarly, TJ isn't a great investigator, but sometimes can make leaps of insight that get her where she needs to be.  I'll make a stunt in this case that plays off her empathy to take on a trapping of investigation.  This, I think, should be called "Seeing the Pattern."  Finally, TJ is fairly intimidating and can get what she wants out of people using her looks or her brawn.  Both of these fit in with physique, so I'll give her an ability to use physique to intimidate or charm over rapport.  I'll call this "Woman of Note."
Buckshot Blast
Seeing the Pattern
Woman of Note

So that's TJ.  Feels good to update her though she's less out of date than others I might do in this series.  Hopefully another chance to play her will come up soon.

Previous in this series: Thorren


Scions in an Ambush

If you want to see what's come before, there are two recaps here and here, and videos here, there, and everywhere.

Picking up where last we left off, the Scions were introduced to the silent Yeti, called Lha-mo.  They were further informed that Lha-Mo would escort them to the top of the mountain where they'd discover more about their quest.  William requested some added warmth for Brock, at which point Lha-mo picked Brock up into a fireman's carry.  Brock, of course, assumed this meant that Lha-mo was a big fan and would be happy to carry him.

The events leading up to the Titanspawn attack were discussed, and Rivkah, apparently suddenly very motivated, decided to regale the assembled group with stories of how various deities had had sex in various unconventional ways (such as Loki getting pregnant as a horse and Zeus going out as a swan).  Everyone else cleared away a bit...  At one point not long later, Brock asked to be cold again and Lha-mo virtually drowned him in snow, which gave everyone a pretty good laugh.

When the group reached the top of the mountain, the discovered a blue-skinned man in meditation.  He held up a finger asking them to wait and the group complied momentarily.  After a brief continued meditation, the man introduced himself (but I, at the moment, can't manage to figure out how to spell or pronounce his name) and explained that we were gathered out of prophecy, but reiterated what we already knew, that the Titans had an interest in the prophecy, knew who we are, and had managed to turn some of the gods to their side without revealing which gods those were.  The group discovered that he was part of the Tibetan pantheon and that he was tasking Lha-mo to accompany them.

He then informed the Band that Pele had been abducted by Muspelheim.  Which is kind of bad.  This appeared to be part of a larger plot intended to set the entire world aflame.  Which is kind of worse.  He also informed the group that he would transport them to the airport where a plane would be waiting to take them to Hawaii.  Leander asked about what forces might be arrayed against them, and was told that Titanspawn that hadn't been seen for ages were reappearing.  Brock asked about who to trust.  And there were a few other questions I'm fuzzy on at the moment.  Those answered, the blue-skinned being transported the entire group into the airport, past security with packed bags and stashed gear.  Which, really, takes quite a bit of juice.

The group set out into the airport but were almost immediately approached by an attractive woman who suggested she could take them to their chartered plane.  The Scions were suspicious, but determined that she was neither Scion nor Titanspawn, but that she clearly had some sort of divine lineage.  She suggested that she worked with the blue-skinned man (dubbed a smurf by Nick and Brock, to the consternation of Lha-mo, Serafiia and William) and led the Scions to a private jet.  The group chatted a bit in-flight, with everyone being offered a drink that aligned with their general preferences.

The group relaxed briefly until Brock and Leander felt small pricks on their necks and discovered squashed spiders in their hands.  At which time they quickly discovered spiders crawling on the entire Band and throughout the plane.  The attractive woman emerged, but didn't make it far as the spiders were swarming over everything.  Leander quickly drew his spear and intended to use it to crush spiders by rolling it along surfaces, but it quickly became clear that she was part of the situation as when she looked at the group, spiders poured from her eyes.  She took several strides and backhanded Leander the length of the plane and into the rear emergency door.

Laying there, Leander grabbed a large bottle of vodka, a strip of cloth bandage from his vest, and a lighter, preparing to burn down his foe, but it was not to be.  It seemed immediately clear that she had eyes only for Leander as her dark, spider-y sockets stayed fixed on him.  The other Scions tried to intervene, but she evaded them.  At this point Leander realized what she was: a child of Arachnae.

Eventually, crawling on walls, ceilings, and across seats, she reached Leander and used him to bash out the emergency door behind him, exposing them to the outside elements and snuffing the budding Molotov cocktail.  Lee grabbed her wrist and held on as she cackled about killing the only true-blood child of Athena.  Lha-mo and the other Scions managed to pull them back into the plane.  In return, the Arachnae-spawn hurled Leander back to the other side of the plane.  Serafiia stepped through shadows and into the cockpit to check on the pilots and found them covered in webbing and drained of fluids.

Once more the spider-lady advanced on Leander, ignoring the others who had slightly more success in stopping her.  William, Lha-mo, and Rivkah scored hits which caused the Arachnae-spawn to shove herself back down to the other end of the plane.  Finally, Leander had an opening.  His spear rolled to a stop at his feet.  Using it to lever himself up, and wiping blood from the corner of his mouth, he hefted the Molotov.  Calling, "Hey, Brock...  Hot potato..." he hurled it at Arachnae's daughter.  In mid-flight, Nick shattered the bottle and and Brock lit the fluid inside, causing a tornado of flame to catch the spider-woman full force.  She burned mercilessly and the ashes were sucked outside the plane.

Leander flopped over, badly beaten, into a row of chairs and put a breathing mask on.  William and Lha-mo administered first aid while Serafiia's tiger broke down the door of the cockpit and the other Scions set to freeing it of webbing.  Rivkah, in a moment of divine inspiration, discovered she could apply her own ability to fly to the act of flying the plane, and managed to set the team down in Hawaii.  Properly reminded that they need to be cautious, the Scions paused to gather themselves.

I got to award two ChrisG points this session.  One went to Lha-mo for holding Brock under the snow.  The other I'm blanking on at the moment, but when I remember I'll add it back in here.