Friday, July 27, 2007

Crazy

B mentioned he was waiting for me to post a link to the second season of Barsoom Tales. And now I have done.

The Story Hour is an interesting entity, somewhere between fan fiction and "real" writing. Story Hours probably don't appeal much to anyone who doesn't game, even the ones that --

(Sorry, I'm listening to Patsy Cline singing "Imagine That" and she bursts into laughter at the end and it's totally awesome. Had to share.)

-- aren't particularly deconstructable down to actual table-top game play. There are tropes from the table that if you've done any amount of gaming you will recognize. There are cliches peculiar to this form of story-telling, dictated to some degree by the very nature of the medium.

(Now she's on to "Crazy". You must be EVIL to not love. Nazi-level EVIL.)

The grandfather of Story Hours is (contact)'s "Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil", closely followed by Piratecat's "Defenders of Daybreak". Those author names probably seem weird to you if you don't spend much time on discussion forums, but in the circles where the Story Hour is well-traded, they are the grand masters of the form. A form that hasn't existed much more than a few years, really, which points to how much the world has changed in a short short time.

I suspect many players (and especially DMs) experience the urge to write down the tale of their adventures. But ten years ago, the motivation to do so was tiny, because the potential audience was so tiny. Sure, maybe your players would read it (MAYBE), but who else would even be able to parse those tropes and cliches that RPGs lean on? Most campaigns would be incomprehensible to somebody untutored in the ways. And anyways, how could you present it? A massive typed manuscript? Yeah, that's easy to hand around and read.

But now, with massive discussion boards hosting thousands of members, all of whom share an understanding of the RPG structure, there's suddenly a great big audience who will potentially enjoy your efforts.

I've had a lot of fun writing my Story Hours, and given that writing is a craft, I'm reasonably sure I've learned some. Practice is hard to screw up. But it's sure great to have a forum where you can practice AND get some attention in the process.

Of course, practice is what you practice. And what I've been practicing is mostly episodic, action-filled, plot-driven pulp tales.

Which is what I love, so that much is good.

Even more interesting is that people are selling BOOKS of a Story Hour. Lulu.com puts book publishing in anyone's hands and look! From D&D game to honest-to-god book you could actually put on your shelf.

B mentioned that he was in Toronto a while back and half-a-dozen publishers approached him with hiring ideas in their heads. I think he was wise to stay out of publishing -- what I see right there is "Crazy". "Headaches". "So Wrong". I can see a lot of "Walking After Midnight" in any publisher's future.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Making a Fool of Myself

Enough talking about other people (or not talking at all) -- it's time to talk about ME.

I'm in full panic mode now trying to get ready for GenCon. Which of course means I have to watch all of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Two. Cause that's what "full panic mode" means -- you aren't really panicking if you're sensibly getting things done. No, sir. True panickistas know that panic must be allowed to steep. And one-hour episodic increments of Girls Kicking Butt is perfectly designed for that purpose. You know, when you sit down to dinner, well, it'll probably take you an hour to eat, right? So you might as well just put one on while you eat.

And once that one's over, well, you're all full, and anyway, that one wasn't really such a great one, but the NEXT one is probably killer.

And then suddenly it's two o'clock in the morning. And that little mild panic has managed to crank itself up to something substantial. Something worthwhile.

What? I like Xena, too. What about it?

Even when I do work, I spend most of my time tweaking text treatments in my favourite graphics program, Create. Cause what really matters to my players is that the font I use on the map looks really cool.

Although truth be told I'm kind of thrilled about the idea of running a game at GenCon with nothing but a few ideas and a couple of maps (with REALLY COOL text on them).

Season Two Over Here, Too



So that's thrilling.

And I've finally found the nerve to jump in and start trying to write something based on Season Two of my old d20 campaign, Barsoom. This one was hard, mainly because the story we made up over the course of that season really became a passionate act of creation for me (I think for all of us, to some degree, but definitely for me). It was hard to carry on with the campaign once that season was over, actually. I'm glad I did, because there were so many ideas I hadn't had time to flesh out and carry through on, but Season Two was something unlike anything I've run before or since. I and the five folks who played through it with me (Athena, Chris, Paul, Blaine and Steph) all collaborated to produce something very strange and, for me anyway, very important. It was a real honour (not to mention a challenge) working with them episode after episode.

Story Hour writing is a unique art form -- very short episodes and quick action with long meandering story lines. I'm pretty proud of some of the work I've done in this form -- I think the Kung-Fu Angels stories are among the best writing I've done. So I wanted to take what I've learned writing this form and try and push myself to create a really polished, solid Story Hour that was worthy of the creative process we all went through to create Season Two.

But I'm lazy.

And I'm basically terrified of actually admitting anything is important to me. Especially the art I create -- I'm the king of "Oh, I just tossed that off. It's no big deal. Just goofing around." Steph kind of called me on that recently and when I look at the passion she put into her film and the high standards she sets for herself for the novel she's working on, I have to say that I feel like I'm not really pushing myself. I'm not challenging myself.

Not that I HAVE to. I could easily go on, just goofing around. After all, I HAVE a full-time gig already that's fun and challenging and immensely stressful. Maybe writing and stuff should just be relaxing-type fun for me. A chance to goof around.

But honestly, I think I burn off more stress if my passion is engaged in something. Because when it's not, there's always that little voice at the back of my head saying, "You could be doing more than this. You'll never know how good you really could be because you're afraid to find out how much you suck."

So no holds barred. No more excuses. Because if I'm going to be honest with myself, that's what a lackadaisacal, casual attitude is all about -- providing myself with a bulletproof excuse that I can always trot out to explain away any failure, any limitations, any lack of brilliance.

Why would I want to do that? Much more fun to make a fool of myself trying to write a Story Hour based on a role-playing game as though it were honest-to-god literature that might actually connect with people and make them feel something.