A memoir in disconnection

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From “Cherry Blossoms After Winter” and also what I need people to do to me at times to yank me out of the bubble of safety I’ve created for myself

I can’t begin to list the amount of times people have told me not to think too hard about a piece of media. The justification is that it’s meant for us to turn our brains off and just enjoy it, to consume uncritically. We’re meant to let it serve as a distraction and an escape from the horrors of the world we live in. What I’m hearing though is that people don’t want to hear their favorite tool of escapism get applied to the real-world, and yeah, I get it.

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction from boring, difficult, or even terrifying aspects of daily life. Being alive isn’t fun. It’s not exciting most of the time. A lot of the things we need to do to just get by often kind of suck. Boy, do I struggle with my relationship to escapism. …


Your players are the most important characters in the story, but they need friends and enemies and everyone in-between on the way. Here’s how to make these side-characters feel dynamic and real

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Art copyrighted to Paizo Publishing

Wanting to create interesting and fun characters to populate our setting should be a no-brainer for most dungeon masters. We’re playing the game just as much as our players are. The non-player characters are the voices of the world your players interact with. They are quest-givers, merchants, soldiers, guards, and even plot-important characters your players run into along the way.

The difficult path we now fall into is how to make these characters feel like real people, but more importantly, make them interesting to our players. A common running joke is that most players will completely ignore the obvious badass-looking plot-centric NPC you have waiting in the bar and wearing terrifying powerful hell-armor to zero straight in on a random goblin you threw in for flavor text. This is something that can only be solved with some savvy improvisational skills and proper communication with your players. Let them know what sort of game you’re going to be running beforehand, but also find out what they find interesting. You may have a group of players who would be incredibly intrigued by scary death-knight in the tavern, but chances are this group is going to be way more into learning all about Boblin the Goblin. …


How to transform stats on a sheet into a dynamic character with a story befitting of legends

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Yes, you too can make characters this epic!

Coming up with a new character is one of the biggest challenges and tabletop roleplaying gamer can face, yes, even bigger than facing down ancient dragons. There are those who have played the game for years who still get stuck when it comes to creating their player-character bios and backstories and think about how to differentiate their new PC from their old one. For me, I have a few steps I always think through that helps create dynamic and interesting characters.

1. Talk to your DM

You should be doing this anyway at the start of every campaign. If your DM hasn’t provided you with a player’s handbook of sorts or a campaign-guide, ask them for one. If not, talk to them about what kind of campaign they’re looking to run. Get a general idea of where they are hoping to take the story and what they would like to see the player-characters accomplish. Tailor-crafting your PC to the DM’s goals and plot-line will make it easier for you both to rope your character in to the central conflict, while still having their own individual narrative and agency. It will also help avoid writing your character into a corner wondering why your PC would care about the central conflict at hand. …


A look at why secret societies resonate with queer audiences

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The bi-lighting isn’t the only thing queer in this action franchise

Most goth teenagers my age resonated with vampires. It’s an understandably popular fantasy in adolescence, particularly for me as a gay teen in a small town with few friends and a secret I hadn’t yet even begun to comprehend. The idea of someone taking me away, granting me with power and immortality and beauty forever was a compelling power fantasy. All the drawbacks of living a life in darkness and secrecy were already a part of my everyday world that it didn’t seem like such a harsh price to pay.

Even when we aren’t closeted, queer people walk a thin tight-rope every day of how much of our real selves do we share with the world. This extends even to our online interactions, where even expressing our romantic and sexual desires is done with an apprehension and nervousness cisgender heterosexual couples never once have to think about. In order to function safely and happily, many queer communities circle about one another, utterly cut-off from an uncaring cisheteronormative world. …


When characters go back in time to change past events, what they choose to change and what they can change says a lot about the way we view the world.

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DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and the Umbrella Academy

What if you could do it again, go back, do things differently? What would you change? It’s the thought we’ve all had. Regrets linger and we cannot help but wonder how it could be done if we’d made different choices in life.

At the moment, I think our culture is thinking on this as a whole. Our society is in one of reflection and regret coupled with an anxiety towards the future. Is it too late to stop the effects of climate change, or has that window passed and we’re now staring into an inevitable future of disaster? What more could we have done to stop the rise of right-winged fascists climbing into power? …


Conflict in tabletop roleplaying games should never feel routine

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“So uh…yeah roll initiative I guess.”

Every dungeon master has their own style. Some are more narrative and storytelling driven, while others run their games like gladiatorial arenas full of combat and danger, and there are those who are in-between. Regardless of how you approach the game, knowing how to make a combat encounter feel epic and exciting is an important tool in the kit of every dungeon master, and one worth well…mastering. Please don’t throw tomatoes at me.

Building Up To the Encounter

One of the most important aspects to understand in a fight is context. We need to spend adequate time understanding the stakes of an encounter, and what stands to be lost if the heroes fail. In many encounters with vicious monsters and other various beasts that populate the fantasy worlds of the games we play, this question is easily answered by a battle for survival, but for the truly epic encounter, we can raise the stakes even higher. Players get attached enough to their own characters, but perhaps there is a non-player character who’s life also hangs in the balance. We raise the stakes, creating drama and fear of failure within the hearts and minds of our players. …


World-building for a tabletop campaign is different than for a novel

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Planning to run a tabletop roleplaying game is a daunting task. While there are modules and adventures and pre-written worlds and campaigns to start in, many ambitious GMs seek to create their own world and plot a campaign within it. Some GMs with creative-writing experience may approach their world-building process the same as they would with writing a novel. This can be helpful as there are many similarities between the two mediums, but there are also vital differences worth considering. …


There are many stories of toxic DMs ruining a game, but what about players?

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“But if you look in the 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook on page 427…!”

What is a toxic player? I’m certain you can think of a load of examples from your own personal games. We’ve all been there, the person who absolutely ruins the entire night for everyone. They shout and argue with the DM, bully other players, and run ramp-shod over the entire campaign. A toxic player can turn a night meant for fun and adventure into an evening of stress and drama.

When you encounter a player like this at the table, it can be tempting to want to engage with them on their own level. Someone’s being a dick, you want to be one right back at them. This does not help. Rather, it can exacerbate an already bad situation. …


When heroes consider taking their enemies captive, it opens up a whole new set of ethical problems

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In sci-fi and fantasy fiction, we tend to make allowances for the high amounts of body-counts heroes and protagonists accrue along their epic journey. When you’re being attacked and in the middle of a dangerous situation, you are forced to defend yourself and things happen. It’s not so easy to hand-waive that away when conscious choices are made, and the heroes’ lives are no longer in immediate danger.

Let’s take CW’s The Flash as an example, the superhero show where the protagonist and his allies hold a secret underground prison facility where badguys are indefinitely imprisoned without due process. The Flash is not a legally-recognized authority figure, but a lawless vigilante. …


At least in tabletop rpgs, I can’t help you at the grocery store

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I know at least I would be having a good time. WOOF!!

As I branch more out into the tabletop rpg community at large, I’ve heard it more and more that some people absolutely despise shopping in D&D, and other tabletop systems. They’d much rather shell out the gold for the item, mark it down on their sheet, and move on. This is a completely understandable and valid way to play.

But if you’d like, you can greatly enhance the world-building of your story and use the shopping experiences to create interesting encounters full of humor, horror, and intrigue.

The first and most important thing to remember is that these shopkeepers are not faceless individuals who’s only role in life is to exchange goods and services to your player-characters. They have a background, a life-story that led them to this moment, this shop, this city. They have families they go home to, and their own aspirations and things that they want out of life. …

About

DorianDawes

Author of Harbinger Island and Mercs. Writing has been featured on Bitch Media and the Huffington Post. Known gender-disaster.

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