Thursday, November 3, 2016

NAGADEMON, SGAM, and NaNoWriMo Update

Report for Day Three:
About a week ago I had the masochistic idea of participating in National Novel Writing Month (why November? Why not June? where here in New Orleans nothing is gone on!), writing it as a grand solo adventure to commemorate solo gaming appreciation month and trying to design an oracle based solo engine called the Oracular for Nagademon (national game design month). Oh so much room for abuse!

It has been three days, and all I can say is I feel like a philanthropist gone completely mad! Without being judgmental and squashing the creativity, here is what I have.

Eight thousand pages where my mind has wandered to places that my fingers dread to go. I have hundreds of words of a first person Victorian letter-writing with a little steampunk helping, all thanks to the circles of perdition rpg called De Profundis. I have an oracle based RPG taken from the burned ashes of Oculus. Upon which I follow absolutely no rules and just grab the nearest tarot card, rpg, cubes, dice or random pet I could find and write about the nearest world I can think of. All in all, I’m not even sure if I am playing or writing, doing it for Nanowrimo, or solo gaming or thinking about dice mechanics (well, not that, because there aren’t any).

No matter what I try or what I do, I keep coming back to that mythical world I created in my head, sent in a (rejected) short story; cranked out a draft, and have played in my head ever since- The Barony of Rivermoon. For like its inspiration, New Orleans, I will always return to that place. It is my literary/RPG home.

I have garbage, I have a mess, I have a ball of yarn made out of words and phrases, tangled mess of ejaculate that can hardly be called creativity.

And I have never been happier.

 Plus I got three hundred more words for that Nano, don’t I- don’t I?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Oculus Review- Ah yes here it is!

Oculus, to me, is barely a game. I do not think it deserves the shackle of ‘game’. Oculus is a writing exercise placed into RPG terms. In the exercise you play an unnamed character using a vague instrument- the oculus, to look up an infinity of worlds through the eyes of what the game calls a familiar, with a character sheet to fill out as you see the person’s attributes.

One looks through these eyes until your interest wains (the seeing and the interest are the parameters of the oculus instrument). The ‘player’/writer is to write down everything they see into their notes. The seeing is generated by the lens of the oculus which is a set of two tables of random descriptions. Roll a d20, look on the table (entitled ‘Focus), get a word, and start writing. If one needs clarification you can roll again and look at the second table (called Lens). The words are preferably vague like ‘Conspire’ or ‘Ancient’ giving the playing writer (or is it writing player?) the freedom to go where they wish without being tied down to only one genre.

So where is the RPG part, so far it sounds like writing. The familiar has a character sheet with abilities ranging from +4 to +1 (much like Risus). In a resolution action (pick a lock, defeat an enemy, climb a wall) a d20 is rolled against a favorable to alarming table (much like FUDGE) and the result is placed into the unfolding story.

But what takes oculus from the world of simple writing exercise to a surreal experience is the transcendence points- where the oculus viewing follows the writing player into their reality. When the oculus closes and the game is over, the player walks away. But if the player thinks of the experience, of the viewing, if something reminds them of the game-play, you add a point to the transcendence bank. These can then be used to ‘fudge’ the familiar’s dice rolls in a critical situation when the viewer returns to the Oculus. This made me carry around the oculus as a journal and be in constant communication with my familiar. And at times, he needed it.
It is a remarkably simple system that works wonderfully. The Oculus pulls the writing player into a universe. The rules themselves suspend reality completely (well at least for me, my brain is always looking for ways of suspending reality). Best of all, the writing never suffers, never is cut by the need of rolling dice or referring to a rule. The writing player could go pages and pages with one word, or just two, the dice forgotten until a resolution wall is hit- which is rare.

 All in all, I go to my Oculus when I feel blocked or when I can’t think of what to play, or get bogged down in a system’s rules.


There is a fine line for me between writing and role-playing. Somewhere along the line, a line that stretched to the 1980’s, the two got strangely confused. I use the process of dice, dice-writing, to recreate, well, mimic, the act of throwing dice and seeing what the hell happens.

I have spent some time trying to find a game that recreates a company of (fantasy) characters as they progress through a dungeon. The major problem is the wish for writing gets in the way of rolling, or the rolling gets in the way of the writing. There is little or no breaks that allow you to write, or figure out where to roll, or oddly what to write. I want to play or I want to roll and the things get confused in the mix.

Writer as role-player is nothing easy. A psychotic break between the game master and player must occur for the rolling dice to turn into ink. I think the key is a system that does not allow the entire picture to be revealed all at once, the curtain of mystery must hold up until the last possible moment. That where the thrill of the dice come in, waiting anxiously with a pen in one hand and a die in the other.

There are two games that allow the player to breath, to freeze and let the ink flow while still holding that curtain of mystery. They are:

Oculus and Four Against Darkness

Scrawling for Thirty Days

I think this year I am once again scrawling for thirty days over at Nanowrimo. I am thinking of entering a thirty day dungeon of the mind. A dungeon crawl into my own brain using a curious tool- The Oculus, a solo rpg engine which creates prompts for observations by an operator.

I have no idea where these adventures will lead, who I look at or anything of the sort. Me, just thinking. I hit National Novel-Writing Month three times and hit the mark twice. Somehow having a child appeared to have killed my thoughts for a whole month.

What I am wondering is if I should post the entries in here. But the moment I write that it is one of those ideas that seem stupid half way out of your mouth. Though, still, would anyone read that nonsense Kerouac crap?

Here is the instrument I plan on using to guide me. I think I have a review of it somewhere or the other.

Oculus Trifold

Saturday, October 8, 2016

DF: Where my week went.

I had planned to write amazing award-winning reviews of two (yes two!) games that struck my solo-rpg fancy, both Four Against Darkness (an amazing solo game and dungeon generator- where one thinks why had no one thought of this before) and the stunning tarot solo game ‘Dungeon Solitaire’ were on the list.

Then I discovered Dwarf Fortress, and all hope was lost into the embers of time. In my life now, time has literally burned before my eyes. It is an Oblivion level game (appropriately entitled because when you start playing an Oblivion level game that is exactly what your life becomes-an oblivion. When the actual Oblivion came out, I came home from teaching at 3:30, started playing, realized I had to pee- and the clock informed me it was 10:30 at night). DF as the fanatical fandom abreviates it, is a game that will not only eat your life, stump your mind, but tear your heart out. The game is a kamikaze rogue-like, like Fallout Shelter you play until everything goes to crap. To that end, the game’s theme is “Losing is Fun!”- No kidding! It has a learning curve of a small nuclear-powered space-capable warhead. The graphics are mid-1990’s at best, with various tile sets, that, like a drop of sugar in skim-milk, or a flower on the prison cell’s window sill, make it a bit more bearable.

But when you turn on that game and press the create a world command, you are opening the book of Genesis, hitting the key to bang the big bang, seeding a universe in your computer (and the cooling fans in my cpu can attest to the aforementioned). In that stroke, a world is born filled with myth, color and emotion. Topography rises and kingdoms engrave their history onto your hard disk. With that in mind I understand fully why it does not have ‘hard’ graphics like, say, Skyrim. Quite frankly, it can’t. It would be like giving graphics to a spiral of a galaxy. Any machine would explode.

My twelve dwarves live in a universe with a full complexity of society, art, fashion, emotion, hopes, dreams, furniture, armor, refuse, and beds- where blades of grass are brewed in a still. It is a monster of a game that hides laughing behind Nethack graphics- where only a select few look behind the facade and discover that it is full of stars. You can check just about any rogue/sandbox game out there, from Gnomoria to Minecraft, they have all been inspired or (dare I say) started by it. And according to all those decimal numbers after the name, it is still in beta. If it ever goes to full release, a 1, I think the thing will become self-aware. Sky-net will be an omniscient, RPG gamer, with a thirst for universe-accounting that kills you not with robots but an entire fantasy universe. Yes, Sky-net the dungeon master!

So I invite any procrastinator, any person with a deadline, anyone that is behind a secure cubicle and has a spreadsheet cover behind it, by all means burn this thing into your computer.

Thus abandon hope all ye who expected me to post in any play-by-post games or game reviews. If you are reading this and you are character in my fiction, enjoy the limbo, it may be a while.

Or at least until I figure out how to make a column of stairs!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Mysterious Janitor

I cannot be sure, but I believe someone is breaking into my hotel room and writing on my gaming books. I think it began with my reading of De Profundis. As if my sympathies have matched with some crazy janitor at this hotel in the catskills, somsone is leaving me these notes, anyone have this experience after reading the correspondence RPG De Profundis ?

If anyone wishes to form a society to get to the bottom of this, or if this happened to you- contact me via a comment below or G+

Friday, August 12, 2016


I think since the thrilling days of yesteryear, those years that I had manuals and tables running through my head, that I have in fact evolved (or is it devolved) into a solo- player.

I am still not even sure if solo-play is tabletop (ah yes let the debate ensue) but rather simply dice-writing. Can it be simply writing with the sound of dice. There is nothing wrong with that since Gygax envisioned role-playing as telling a story with the sound of rolling dice.

No, I think I have ‘devolved’ into a solo-player because I am just so blasted unreliable playing with others. I cannot do a tabletop because I am a full-time Dad or stay at home Dad, or a House-Husband, or Mr. Mom, go ahead do the multiple choice and pick one. Online play-by-post play becomes something that is more a chore than anything, must catch up must catch up!

Oh yeah, the playing will be for me, the playing will be me alone, almost exclusively. I found something really really good with oculus, though the system does not appear to lend itself well to adapt other systems. That is a thing I need to figure out, how to take an emulator and combine it with my favorite rpg, something that changes every day.

But from now on, I will be diving alone. When I get that dungeon crawl craving, I think it will be a party of one, though the idea of players making a party really really attracts me. I just can’t commit, sorry warriors.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ocular Viewing #6 A micro viewing or so I thought

[For those not familiar with these chronicles, via the oculus and its machination within my iFruit, I am following the adventures of a dungeoneer named Murkstav through what professionals would call an extraction mission, though many times the man just seems to be CRAWLING through a subterranean world, a DUNGEON for the senses]


The hero, the man with the sword, a dungeoneer, needed to be reassured of his reward, needed to make a break and cut bate, make a profit. He noticed the alchemist’s room about him, with an iron furnace and pipes and loads of ingredients around. There was a pumper, a giant iron engine that coughed, Murkstav looked around, bitter with the oil dropping like butter from the ceiling.
Disgusting as the ooze flowed, the subterranean warrior sick with sweat and oil, like heated butter about him, turned and observed his surrounding for anything of value. Everything in his core could not let him return to his TENSION ALLIES with an empty hand. Strange how his guild needed proof for these strange adventures, these dives into the deepest of realms.
Murkstav got his bearings, checked the dressing on his wound, which seemed (7) no better or worse than before. He looked about and wondered if anything, anything at all in that place would somehow salvage this situation.


The man looked up to an archway, wide with a stone trim, complete darkness beyond. He looked at a few carrion tables filled with strange liquors, when smelled scented of simple spirits and liqueurs. He never met an alchemist that was not a drunk, as if the human body itself was a catalyst for simple metals turning valuable. He looked under the tables, seemingly scientific and found a wealth of loot. (MONOLITH) Bars of silver, gold and platinum, perhaps too large to carry but sometimes in extractions, you don’t have to know or make your way back. He clasped two platinum and a gold and snuck them into his backpack. He noticed upon the treasured monolith strange symbols, strange images of a FANATICAL cult, the bars were so inlayed the dungeoneer wondered if there would be more money in trading them to the dwarves. Placing the bars in balanced pockets, he hoisted his backpack over his shoulder, and did not mind the extra weight.
Extra weight for extra pay, not a problem.
Looking to the portal Murkstav looked up into the shaft, knowing full well that he really had no where else to go. The fire above did not look like it had any intention of letting him pass any time at all in the near future. With that he strode into the portal...


(The thing that troubles me about this method of ocular observation, using a mechanical device rather than a scroll, is the fact that one uses more than one lens. In the referral of dungeonwords I notice I use all three words, but it is the way it is happening, and who am I to question the ocular oracle?
In the room just beyond Murkstav (odd that the oculus has shifted to other people) the men waited, dressed in robes of purple and silver trim, nets in their hands to capture this intruder. There were four of them, bald with hawk noses and expressions of intense hate. They watched Murkstav stealing the bars inlaid with sacred imagery, cursing his form and planning his demise.

Murkstav took one look back, but his instincts suddenly did not push his foot forward. Something was amiss, something indeed and one would ask the oracle if the dungeoneer’s skills would tell him of an impending doom.

(yes and)

Barnstorming, Mythic Oculus and Dungeonwords

I went a bit nuts today. I found a rather miraculous app buried in my apps archive called Brainstormer. It is a story prompt generator in an excellent, nearly steam-punk style. Not only does it offer various wheel subjects like world-builder or creature-generator, it also allows you to create your own.

With a recent oculus/mythic obsession, I thought I would enter the lenses of oculus and the subjects of mythic and throw them in the gear wheels. The result? Spinning imaginative perfection.

 I also took the liberty of doing the same with dungeonwords d30, a collection of nearly 340 dungeon description words and quickly threw them in the barnstormer’s wheels. This resulted in a mechanized random idea dungeon to run a crawl in. I will be publishing various play trials in the future.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tabletop Desktop

Desktop becomes Tabletop
I am stunned by the amount of writing I have been doing with the Oculus (though I do combine the orignal oculus with oculus12 which has a more FU resolution) in my hand. It is not a game, it is not a system, not even a tool. For me the oculus is a different, liberating way of looking at one’s own mind. While I have been hung up in the mechanics (more obsessing over them than anything else) or dismissing any writing as not good enough, the oculus has said just look, just observe and note what you are watching, adding ‘why is it important’? So my thanks to Geoff Osterberg for this creation.

It’s freed me and I appear to be burning the keys with it. Though I must say I do feel slightly guilty that it is not going into a proper journal, but rather into a computer. But then again, it is the bane of not only myself, but the modern man.

 Here is an example, a small one of what the Oculus can do...

Oculus Viewing #3

Experiment with the device continues as I journal the limits of its parameters. Today I focus once again on Murkstav, an adventurer in some alternate earth. I believe he hails from a place called Rivermoon though the locals seem to refer to it as Rilun.

Though let me intercede with a few words about the Oculus itself. It haunts you. I am not sure if it is the way the narrative is made but the Oculus is easy to obsess, almost like picking a good yarn on Netflix. Throughout my travels I have been continuously of returning to the Oculus, of opening the lens once again. No matter the scenario. I am not so much reminded of the Oculus as much as I see more and more opportunities to use it out in the wild. 

20,13 Escape, Nature

The oculus has been thrown. I believe that it is continuing the story of Murkstav, he has escaped the nature, escaped the forest which threatened him. Some fighting is being revealed to me, with swamp-like things (pun intended). He was not winning, with dripping mucous coming from the trees, a nauseous white light surrounding the scene. The kind of white that happened during a hangover in the eighties. There is a will out there, something that I cannot see in the lens but is out there in the forest, a strange feeling indeed that Murk is no doubt feeling. It is waiting out there, haunting him. and for this reason he goes to escape, wildly flying out in the realms.

Motherlode, Gibbous

This lead him to a cave, an open one that while seemingly a cave appears to be an entrance with stairs and old torches around. The Oculus has heralded a Gibbous Motherlode, running into a cave our hero walks in, perhaps too desperately and falls into a cavern, and there is the motherlode, a vast chamber of treasure, with a light far off in front. Surely in this mess, of piles and piles of treasure there is somethign that catches the eye.


Ye gods, our hero, intrepid has fallen right into the middle of a summonarium, the treasures abound an offering for the thing coming through the vortex of blue and black. Cursing in his breath, Murkstav pulls his sword and clerics around him go to seize him, he is perturbed if not annoyed and is... 

we got ourselves a yes but.

Murkstav fights off the clerics, three in all and is wounded, let us see if dungeonwords can resolve conflict. What happens when the clerics are slain, to the summonarium, the portal?


The thing is chained to the entrance, fighting with its head but it seems a collar and it fights to get out, Murkstav circles, a thought in his head, he does not want to touch the treasure for fear of releasing the demon. He moves about toward the light that appears to the left. Though remember, Murkstav is bleeding. Let us pull the oculus out and ask it but one thing, how bad is the wound?


Oh yes this is something Murkstav will just have to figure out.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


I just got to bring this up. CLUNK. When I was in my teens, most of my brain was filled to the brim with D&D and CLUNK. Tables CLUNK, THACO CLUNK, monster stats CLUNK, class stats CLUNK, weapon stats CLUNK, how many feet a warrior can move in a round CLUNK, saving throws CLUNK, kinds of traps CLUNK, regents CLUNK, you name it CLUNK. I stopped playing for a while, a long while, and when I got back to it I was quite quite older. I had no time, no patience, no space or no will for CLUNK (please refer to my “Too old for this SH**? post, which is CLUNK in video games).

Is that the reason why I went to such games as Risus, Fudge, Donjon, The Pool and The Window (all highly recommended)? You bet your +2 tush it is! I am over 45 years old, I got no time (or space in my brain) for CLUNK, not at all.

Yesterday I had the honor of finally trying out both Tabletop Simulator (oh yeah that thing is BETTER than Tabletop because you don’t have to see the weirdos you are playing with- like looking in a funhouse mirror) and Fifth Edition. I had fun, I had a ball, and played the spell out of an elven wizard. But damn there it was, even after five editions- THE CLUNK! CLUNK to move five spaces, CLUNK to change a weapon, CLUNKY back and forth combat, where a fight with Kobolds took 2 hours. Dammit, I want a system that decides it all EVERYTHING in one roll, like God! The closest that has come to that is Fudge. They even CLUNKED that and called it FATE.

 Did I just rant? I feel better so I think I just had a rant. Yep, definitely a rant.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Clan of the IF

I write this on the night that I forego a visit to my gaming room (in that I mean a video gaming room) and simply sit and wait for posts to come into my play by post games. 

Fascinating how I forego a lush, nearly real world, for the world of the word- simply the word. In many ways play by post gaming is like dating- waiting for your life to be saved by the announcement of a text.

(Now I am not sure how many of you have dated in those times outside text, or the times that you had to hit a button four a five times before reaching your letter, but I can tell you it was a chore, and a chore not meant for the arthritic or the easily confused.)
But yes, I am drawn to my PbP (play by post) games a bit (far more) than the craving I feel for the first person Fallout or a bit of the Sword Coast Legends.

Why is that? Are we not built for the more civilized stimulus of a reality utterly steeped in completion- where all is provided for our senses? Or is it rude to theorize that a RP gamer’s mind (so contrary to neo-social darwinism) may well be attuned more to the artistic imagination of the cave painters of Chauvet.

Is that it? Is that what we are trying to recreate at the tabletop, at the online message board- waiting for the next word, the next description, the next horse-head?

Maybe we are not gamers, maybe we are storytellers in desperate need of a far stranger and (contemporarily) defined medium. Are gamers the lost story-tellers in the cave? The Norse-man of the mead hall? The post-ers in need of a non-existing medium.

For we, as role-players, are nothing but the teller of stories that we WISHED had happened. That is the key.

As a serious gamer and a veteran role-player, I can say that modern ‘video’ gaming (I place the quotes there because I believe that modern ‘video’ gaming has far exceeded the bounds of that title) is the genie that gives us all our wishes, while role-playing, collaborative story-telling, in all its mediums; are what we would do IF we had a lamp.

No judgements aside, in summary, I say when you play how much IF is given to you.

I can say this, there must have been a tremendous amount of IF in those paintings, in those mead-hall stories. Must have been a lot when you stare into that flame, into those dice.

Go ahead try me, the next time you play, the next time you shut off this damned reality and turn on a world that is not yours nor should be, how much IF is yours?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Writer's GM

The following is an expansion of G+ comment I made to Nick Carter, a fellow writer/soloist.

In this blog I am looking to fuse writing with RPG mechanics. The dice, the rules, the mechanics are a rocket booster to the writing. They extend the thrill of RPG (what is behind that corner?, is that door a trap?, what is in the inviting chest?, how does our hero defeat that monstrosity?) to the sometimes empty chamber of writing. 

The empty page, both like and unlike tabletop's graph paper, can be a very inviting

Sometimes in the written word, we are prisoners of our freedom. Our universe of thoughts just needs a game master. I would dare to say there is comfort in having a Game master in my writing. After all, don't we always need someone to blame?

Like teaching, when I started out I wanted to use everything. Cover every rule, roll every die, set up an entire party of characters that went carousing into an ever-expanding dungeon (homage to +John Yorio and his solo-ing). But the writing got bogged down in the mechanics. The rules and systems felt like sludge where I wanted it to be near-frictionless fiction. Now I use simple fudge ranks and link them to Mythic's Likely rankings. Being that my journey is called 'Rogue of Changes' I allow any and all sudden divination or divination-like practices to flow into the soup. This includes I Ching, tarot, runes, playing cards, story dice, a scene out the window, something on the tele, or poop on my car. It all gets thrown in, very much like the strange casserole one makes from a randomly stocked pantry. 

Fortunately I very much enjoy eating mistakes! is just it, frankly

I have to mention this, I must say it though I have tried to either deny it or find other ways of playing. I say with complete certainty that is the easiest, most fluid, and least in your face approach to solo roleplaying/ dungeon storytelling that I could find. I have tried Virtual table tops in a solo setting, but they just wind up getting in the way. RPtools, iTabletop, Rolz- they all wind up bogging the solo-player down in rolling and mechanics and just not allow me to WRITE. That is what I there for. just takes of it and lets me write. That could very well be the bottom line.