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role-playing | Intentionally Vaygh

Tag Archives: role-playing

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New Essay: “For Those About To Roll…”

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Categories: Essays, Gaming, Geek Stuff, RPG, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This essay is an edited version of my first required essay this semester in my Composition 1 class at Rock Valley College. It is the first essay I’m making available online. I hope to add more as coursework and time allows.

Some of my real-world friends may recognize themselves in the essay. Be advised, I’ve fictionalized you where needed. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty). Enjoy!
 

For Those About To Roll, We Salute You

Eli walked down the stairs into the basement. His hands were full: a case of Coca-Cola in his left hand, a grocery bag full of snacks in his right. On his back, a burgeoning, grey knapsack threatened to burst its seams. As he made his way down the stairs, the small, gold crucifix around his neck bounced out from under his T-shirt. The shirt itself was black, a gaming-inspired riff on a classic rock band design: an isosahedron (the twenty-sided die ubiquitous in fantasy role-playing games) appeared with the phrase “AC/HP” in a heavy-metal font.

Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, Eli set down the soda and tossed the bag of chips on the octagonal, faux-wood table dominating the room. Eli took his seat at the table after unloading his backpack. Though the sack was heavy with books, pencils, and dice, Eli seemed happy to haul it. An easy smile came to his boyish face as he considered his cohorts in turn: Rob, Josh, Jenny, TJ, Carlton, John, and Tom.

Rob leaned back in his chair. His shaved head glistened under the track lighting in the basement. Tan skin belied Rob’s mixed Haitian and Mexican heritage. Rob flipped through some pages in a legal pad, the handwritten notes printed in meticulous, all-capital letters.

Josh was a tall, broad man with a booming laugh. His hands were as large as oven mitts, dwarfing the mechanical pencil he held. On his finger, a size 15 ring emblazoned with a pentacle proclaimed his pagan spirituality. Josh reached over to turn the volume down on his laptop. A Megadeth song had been playing.

Jenny was the picture of soccer-mom suburbia. Her brunette hair hung to her shoulders, and she dressed in casually conservative style with jeans and a sweater. A tasteful diamond ring shimmered on her left hand. Her pale, blue eyes flitted to and fro, following whomever was speaking like a hawk tracking prey in the underbrush.

TJ was pure gothic-punk. Two rings intersected her lip, and countless hoops and studs lined her ears. The lacy, black tank top she wore revealed no fewer than a dozen tattoos decorating her arms and shoulders. A purple, velvet skirt covered TJ’s snow white legs.

Carlton (like Josh) was tall, but his frame was loose and lanky. His ebony skin stretched over ripcord muscles. Unlike his fellow males, Carlton did not wear jeans. Instead, he had on neatly pressed khakis. A proper broadcloth shirt completed his simple – yet classy – ensemble.

John, a slight man of Korean descent, was quiet and unassuming. His soft voice and gentle laugh made his small body seem even smaller. A faint odor patchouli (or something else?) clung closely to John’s skin. The Fu Manchu mustache he kept was, perhaps, the only thing about him designed to draw attention.

Conversely, Tom went out of his way to get attention, at least from the fairer sex. His hands worked the keys on his cell phone as though possessed. When not absorbed in texting, tweeting, and Facebooking, Tom’s gaze bounced between Jenny and TJ (and not exactly their faces, either). He barely acknowledged Eli’s entrance.

After greetings and pleasantries were exchanged; snacks and sodas situated; books and dice readied; Rob brought the game to order: “You find yourselves in a dark and dank dungeon…”

In the 1970s, when the first fantasy role-playing games appeared, gamers were almost without exception white, teenage males. This homogenous group was perceived as isolated, insular, and immature. Poor hygiene and poor social skills went hand-in-hand with those early gamers. As the hobby has grown, however, the base of players has likewise expanded and old trends no longer apply. Just as the games have changed, so too have the players.

Contemporary gamers are a diverse bunch. Blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics, males and females all engage in the benign escapism that is role-playing. Catholics join forces with pagans in vanquishing dragons. Democrats and Republicans plot together to overthrow the evil sorcerer-king. High school dropouts ponder ancient glyphs with graduate students.

Most gamers now are adults: parents and workers. They have active lives outside of the hubby. They own cars and homes, with the bills that accompany them. They have real-world responsibilities. Gaming provides these adult players with a safe, inexpensive way to escape the stresses of daily life. Many other role-players are young: middle- and high school students. These younger gamers have new ideas to challenge older players. The only factor common to modern gamers is that they are gamers. Shared love of the hobby binds these disparate people into a common clan.

Diversity is crucial to the continued health and vibrancy of the hobby. Without new and flesh perspectives, the stories told in role-playing games will become as stagnant and cloying as the musty basements many gamers still congregate in.

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My Favorite Malkavian

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Categories: LARP, Randomness, Rockford, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, at work, I was listening to the song Fade to Black by Metallica and nearly broke down in tears. That song reminds me of my friend, Jamy Schumm, who died nearly ten years ago. I don’t know exactly why this particular day, and this particular listening, choked me up; I’ve heard that song several times in the past decade. Still, there I was, sitting at my desk, trying to stifle a sob.

Jamy died in November of 2000, shortly after his 28th birthday. I remember there was some controversy surrounding his death when it happened. Some people thought he fell; some thought he was pushed; the official verdict was that he jumped from a parking garage in downtown Rockford. How he died does not change the fact that he’s gone, however. It also does not change how much I miss him.

I will not pretend that Jamy and I were very close friends. Many people knew him far better than I. Many people suffered his loss more profoundly than I. Jamy’s death did, however, affect me deeply. I was twenty years old when Jamy died. I thought, in some unconscious way, that I would live forever: that everyone I knew would live eternally. Jamy was among those everliving fixtures of my universe. We gamed together, and hung out at That One Place (erstwhile coffee shop extraordinaire) together. We shared laughs, and tried to solve the world’s problems, as twenty-somethings oft do, over a cup of Joe.

I really started getting to know Jamy when we were players in the Vampire: the Masquerade LARP held weekly at That One Place. Jamy was one of the core players in that game. In fact, he’s one of the finest role-players I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaming with. His Malkavian character was so well-played and central to that game, I can’t even remember his name: (though there were other Malks in the game) we always just called him “The Malkavian.” I don’t know if it was a true gift for drama or his own inner torment, but his characterization of insanity was honestly disturbing to watch at times. I think it was a bit of both.

I wish that I would have had the chance to get to know Jamy better. I bet he was even cooler than I thought. I wish that Jamy knew how many people truly cared for him. I bet he’d still be here if he did. I wish that he were still here to meet my daughter. I bet he would’ve been great with kids. I wish he could’ve been at my wedding. I bet his costume for the reception would’ve been awesome.

But wishes don’t bring people back from the dead, except in movies and games. Instead, I’ll wish that everyone who knew Jamy, even in passing, would keep his memory alive. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: in your heart, he’ll never die. If you knew Jamy Schumm and want to share a story, please do. I’ll keep the comments on this post open forever. It’s the least I can do.
 
Rest in peace, my favorite Malkavian. You are sorely missed.

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Status Report

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Categories: Angst & Wrath, Blackhawks, Family, Gaming, Hockey, Poetry, Shadowrun, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I posted something, so I thought it would be prudent to put together a quick update on what’s going on in my life right now.

The Olympics are over. I’m quite happy with Team USA’s performance in hockey. Both the men’s and women’s teams medaled, which is excellent. The men, especially, should be proud of their performance. For  a team that no one thought would make it to the medals round to go to the gold game and then force overtime on the Canadian team is quite exceptional. The real superstar of Olympic hockey is not Sidney Crosby with his reputation saving, national hero overtime goal, however: it’s Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks. In seven games, he racked up an impressive eight points (seven of them on assists) and had a plus/ minus of plus-9. He also lead Team Canada in faceoffs won, “winning just under 65 percent of his draws,” according to the Fighting Sioux website. Wow! I’m sure glad that he’s a Blackhawk.

I have managed reduce my weight to 215, a net loss of five pounds from my starting weight. I’ve also gone down one notch on my belt just the other day. Slowly but surely I’m making progress on my weight loss goal. It’s not happening as quickly as I might like, but I am making progress, so I’m happy.

My daughter has to wear glasses now. She’s only two years old. They seem to be helping a lot and she doesn’t fuss with them much, so I guess it could be worse. Her eye still wanders a bit, usually when she’s tired, but she goes back to the ophthalmologist in a few months. I’m sure her current pair of glasses will not be her last. Thankfully, we paid less than $40 for them, so if she does need another pair (or two!) before the end of the year it’s no big deal.

My debut poetry book, Angst & Wrath, is published with about as much success as I’d envisioned it would have. Thanks to those of you who like me enough to buy a book of poetry. Let’s face it: America is not the culturally enlightened Mecca that, say, France is. I’m well aware that poetry is dead and that any asshat with a word processor can spew out a book of shitty poems. That’s OK though: I published the book for me.

On a related note, I’ve finished writing my first children’s book. The project is now in my wife’s very talented hands. It’s short and simple and will be beautiful once Tiffanie is done with her part of it. We’re planning on self-publishing for now, though I may be interested in shopping it around to some agents too. The title of the book is “You Can’t Tickle A Goldfish” and should be released later this year or early next year.

Thanks to a scheduling change, I am once again participating in a regular role-playing game session. I have become a full-time player in Alex Rodriguez’s Shadowrun 4th Edition game. Aside from a few minor issues, it’s been going great. I’m honestly just happy to be back at the table, rolling dice like the good old days.

That’s about it for current events in my life. My friend Dan Sehr, who’s in the Air Force, is leaving in a few days for an extended overseas tour. He’s been back in town on leave the last few weeks and it’s been great to see him again. I wish him the best of luck and hope he comes back safe and secure. We all appreciate what you do, Dan. Thanks for standing up and doing what’s right.

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T Minus One Week

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Categories: Aegis Studios, Angst & Wrath, Poetry, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be just over a week away from the official release of Angst & Wrath, my debut poetry book! I’ve received my proof copy of the book in the mail and it looks just as great in person as it did on screen when I was laying it out. It’s almost better, honestly. There’s something nice about seeing your name in print. Of course, I’ve had that experience before with the various role- playing game books I worked on when I was involved with Aegis Studios, but this being the first time a work is all mine, I have a slightly different kind of fondness for it.

Poetry was my first love as a writer. Publishing this book is almost like reuniting with someone you’re madly in love with but thought dead for a decade. In a way, putting this book out has rekindled my relationship with verse. I’m as head over heels for poetry as I ever was. Maybe someday we’ll get married…

And while I’m still going to be crafting poems for a follow-up book (tentatively called Exercises in Exorcism), my next project is a children’s book I will be working on with my wife. More news to come on that front.

While you’re waiting for the official release of Angst & Wrath, why not follow me on Twitter or become a fan of the book on Facebook?