This blog entry is a link between what I was doing early in 2016 when I stopped updating this site and early 2018, when I started updating again.
2017 was a mixed year for me. In March of that year, I decided to begin a long-term project. I wanted to go back to the earlier table-top role-playing games and settings and explore them. Note: I have a somewhat unusual opinion of Dungeons & Dragons. I do not consider it a role-playing game. It is, from my experience, a transitional form between a miniatures war-game and a role-playing game. So, the first table-top RPG I could find in print at the time was the current version of Tunnels & Trolls. The first edition of that game dates from 1975. That was my first stop on what I came to call the “Magical History Tour”.
That month, in a hastily scribbled note on a loose piece of notebook paper, I stated the intention to start a solitaire campaign of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. Tunnels & Trolls was designed with the ability to play the game solitaire. It was far more difficult to find other people to play a role-playing game with in the Seventies than it is now. I set up a binder with a storage pocket for loose notes. And I kicked off a campaign journal. I play solitaire sessions by logging them, noting dice rolls and significant game events. I also found a PDF on DriveThruRPG which served as a guide for solitaire role-play.
I have been going through the archives of this blog to look for inspiration. In March of 2106 I posted about the Pathfinder campaign I had started. It began in March of 2103. I hosted at my FLGS. By agreement with the store staff, it is an open campaign. Anyone may join the game and play as long as they show up with a character of the appropriate level and and a set of dice. I have a set of guidelines for being invited back to the event, largely based on the guidelines used for Paizo’s organized play events. It has been running for five years. A lot has happened in that time. I have only had one regular player who joined the campaign at the start.
I have changed the setting name. I call it “Golarion of the Slack” to differentiate from the published canon version of Golarion. I changed the name of the first campaign arc to “The Ambition of Oda Thelsikar”. That arc recently ended when the player group, now called “The Noble Raptors” (randomly determined by the GameMastery Guide) traveled from Sandpoint to Riddleport. There I started the second arc, titled “Riddles and Pirates and Drow, Oh My”. I like to slip pop culture references into my creative writing. It is loosely based on the “Second Darkness” adventure path published by Paizo. It is a Drow invasion from the Darklands!
As I posted previously, I have begun learning how to play Bethorm: The Plane of Tekumel from UNI Games. Any references I make to playing in the Tekumel setting are derived from Bethorm and are not intended as a challenge to copyright. I have been searching the Web looking for reliable information on Tekumel. References in later posts may come from the sources I have found.
Tekumel is the creation of Professor M.A.R. Barker. It is a science fantasy setting far in Earth’s future. Professor Barker primarily created material related to the Tsolyani Empire. Tsolyani values are far different from those of 20th Century Americans. Slavery is a fact of life. A Tsolyani person is aware of their part in society and acts to play out their assigned role. The value of a person’s life is determined by their social status.
Tekumel is an unusual world. It was terraformed by space faring humans and colonized by them. They were joined by alien allies. There are two intelligent species native to Tekumel, who were conquered by the human colonists. The time period for play using Bethorm is long after the discovery of Tekumel by humans. Human civilization on Tekumel is tens of thousands of years old. It has fallen from the technological high point of the colonists. It is now savage, from a 21st Century person’s point of view.
Since we live in an age where content advisories are necessary, I have devised one for my creative writing. Advisory: My creative writing is not intended to be read by minors, sensitive people, house pets or other defenseless mammals. May induce rational thought supported by evidence-based reasoning. If you experience ennui for more than four hours, consult a counselor acceptable to you to resolve any existential crisis you may be having.
I started keeping a personal journal in the Autumn of 1982. I was in college and I kept forgetting to do important things. So I started writing reminders to myself in an empty notebook. Perhaps I had a memory of that passage in The Hobbit, which states that Bilbo only remembered things when he put them down in his “Engagement Tablet”. I have continued to keep a journal since that time. The purposes I use it for have changed and grown over the decades.
I discovered that I need to journal at leave five hundred words a day after about fifteen years of observation. If I write less than that during the day, I feel unwell the next next. The upper bound is 2000 words in a day. If I write more than that, it means I am feeling anxious.
While it is fairly common knowledge among readers that the first diary published was The Diary of Samuel Pepys, it seems that far fewer people are aware of the first journal which was published. It was The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. She was the sister of the poet William Wordsworth. And the most interesting part of the journals I have read so far her stay at some place called “Grassmere”. There is a difference between a diary and a journal. “Journal” is the more general of the two terms and covers a number of different forms of publication. A private journal, a record of events, is a diary, from the Wikipedia article “Journal”.
Much more recently, I began splitting off special-purpose journals to better organize my creative writing. I have the organizational skills of a cat. As I mentioned in a Twitter thread, the first such journal I started was a “campaign journal” for the Pathfinder Open Campaign I host every month an FLGS. I was writing adventure and setting notes on loose sheets of notebook paper or in my personal journal. And losing track of them.
The second such journal I started was late in 2016. Both my ancient desktop and my notebook computer suffered fatal hard drive crashes. This is significant because I had the developed the habit of typing my flash fiction pieces into a word processor. My latest work to that point is still locked in the hard drive of a dead computer. That’s the bad news. The good news is I was backing up my files on multiple flash drives. So, about the other journal. Late in 2015 I was in a bad place. I decided to start journaling more. And then I started revising my creative writing. That came to a crashing halt when both my computers failed. So I started a “creative writing journal”. I gathered up all the flash fiction printouts I had made since 1999. I started copying them into an empty notebook. And when I got stuck for a story idea I wanted to revise, I began ransacking my memory for the books I had read over five decades and the influences they had on my creative writing.
#amreading #amwriting #journal
I change my reading list about once every two weeks because my interests and needs for reading material change over time. My list at the start of May was six books. I cut it to three because there were three books I wasn’t bothering to read:
The Lord of the Rings
Bethorm: The Plane of Tekumel
Space Opera is by Catherynne M. Valente, who I follow on Twitter. The book and its contents kept popping up on my feed during April, so I downloaded a sample from the Nook store. The blazing wordplay in it is astounding. So I bought a copy as soon as I could. Social satire on a galactic scale.
The Lord of the Rings is by J.R.R. Tolkien. I am reading my third copy. My father gave me my first copy circa 1979. He had read it and set it aside. I still own that copy, yellowed and worn with age. More recently I bought and read the fiftieth anniversary edition. I just finished reading that copy last year. My third copy is the e-book in one volume. I bought it because I kept losing track of where my second copy was in my personal library. Also, it was on sale. I am re-reading it now on the impulse to bookmark the pages with meaning for me.
Bethorm: The Plane of Tekumel is a tabletop RPG source book. It describes the science fantasy world of Tekumel. Generic fantasy settings with happy birds and singing elves have lost their savor for me. How my taste in settings shifted is a subject for another blog post. My first step away from generic settings was Trollworld, the established setting for Tunnels & Trolls, which has Teutonic and Celtic elements and is thoroughly lethal to player characters. Tekumel is another step away from generic fantasy, a savage world set in the far future. Full disclosure: I know one of the co-creators of Bethorm via Facebook. Jeff Dee, artist and tabletop RPG creator.
At the end of April, I began reading a book by Catherynne M. Valente called Space Opera. As I tweeted at the time, it shook some things loose, mentally. I made two major changes. I significantly altered my reading list. And I decided to stop playing Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. I have moved on to the next stop on the Magical History Tour, Tekumel.
I first heard of Tekumel c. 1983, when one of contributors to an APA magazine which I wrote fanzine for wrote about Empire of the Petal Throne, a tabletop RPG. He said something about” playing a barbarian and not wanting to commit a faux pas and get impaled by the Tsolyani”. While I was intrigued, there was not much I could do about it, as Empire of the Petal Throne was out of print by that time.
Fast forward to 2017: A small press tabletop publisher named Uni Games did a Kickstarter for something called The Kurt Hills Atlas. Full disclosure: I found out about it because I am Facebook friends with Jeff Dee, one of the two members of Uni Games. In exchanging comments about the Kickstarter, Mr. Dee told me that Uni Games had published a tabletop RPG set on Tekumel. I made a note of that and put it on my DriveThru RPG wishlist. And late in 2017, I bought the PDF version of Bethorm: The Plane of Tekumel. I began skimming it with an eye toward learning the system and learning about the setting.
#amreading #ttrpg #Tekumel