John-Michael Gariepy

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

80,000 Words Party

A little while ago, I hit 80,000 words on the first draft for my first novel “The Singing Lamp of Bombay”.

80,000 Words!  For those of you who haven’t read my article, Who’s to blame for the state of the Fantasy Genre?, that would be the minimum length for a fantasy novel submitted to Penguin Publishing.  The focus on Penguin’s Daw series is a bit of an accident, but also a quick  sideways glance into book lengths, publishers and the internet.  If you did a Google search for how long your first novel should be, you will not get a straight answer.  Well, sure, you’ll get a ton of opinions from writers, many whom haven’t written a first novel in years.  But few publishing companies want to put a number out there for you to ballpark with.  Even publishers with blogs on the internet have a tendency to get all metaphysical on the subject.  This, despite the fact that, if your novel has a reason to be rejected by a publisher, then it will be rejected.  Publishers have too many manuscripts to go through, and one less manuscript means hours of saved work.  So, while they say “A novel is complete when you feel it is done,” what they really mean is, “If that sucker is the next ‘Atlas Shrugged’, I’m using it as packing material for my holiday shipping.”

This makes some internal logic.  Publishers want authors to produce the best books that they can write; Getting involved in the creative process and telling authors what they can and can’t do can stifle a master work.  Publishers also want to reduce the amount of reading they have to a reasonable number by tossing large chunks of ‘Master Works’ into the recycle bin.  You’d think that a few guidelines parsed out by major publishers would help the community at large and, therefore, themselves.  But no dice.  Come to the marketplace with a price, and we’ll see if we’re willing to negotiate with you.

What I do know is that 80,000 appears to be a sort of magic number in Fantasy / Sci-Fi circles.  Many websites point to that number as a ‘minimum’ for the genre.  Worldbuilding, they say.  Good science fiction and good fantasy takes place in a whole new world established by the mind of the author.  It’s expected.  Well, except for books that take place in other people’s intellectual properties, such as Star Trek or World of Warcraft novels.  But those books are handled by contract by established authors.  No, no, world building takes a good 20,000 words or so, and you’re going to have to do it.

Which is odd, because a lot of people I know aren’t particularly interested in reading about some non-scientist’s, non-anthropologist’s idea of what makes a good world.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, they want to hear a crazy idea as much as you or I.  The author just shouldn’t be elaborating on it.  If I started talking too much about quantum mechanics, let’s say, I’d be out of my league and would sound like a quantum idiot.  No amount of quick research would remedy my need to push buzzwords on you to sound vibrant.   And, let’s face it, one other form of media doesn’t bother with world building.  Every now and then, Firefly or Battlestar Gallactica might explain why the universe operates the way it does.  But more often, these shows are telling you a good story, and, if you’re going to enjoy it, you need to have faith that the writers have an internal logic system that the show spirals on.  If you stick around, you’ll pick up the pieces of that world.  The warp drive uses dilithium crystals.  Get over it.

But, here I am complaining when I mean to be celebrating.  I’m at the top of the hill, and now it’s time for a quick run down the other side.  Then, there’s the first edit and up another hill.  I got a chain of small mountains to work through over here, but it’s nice to know that one of them is down.

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Dungeons and Dragons Random Encounters: Level 12

For an explanation and introduction to Random Encounters, go to Why would anyone make a giant chart of Random Encounters?

Roll once for each adventurer in your party.  Whenever you roll a Brute, or a Solider, add two of that creature and roll one less time total.  If the last creature you roll is a brute, or a soldier, your players will have to suck it up.  There will be more experience for them anyway.  Whenever Minions are rolled, add the number of minions shown to the encounter and count them as one creature for the purposes of generating an encounter.  Whenever an Elite creature is rolled, count it as two separate creatures for the purpose of generating an encounter.  When a Solo creature is a, stop rolling, since a solo monster by itself is a good challenge for characters of that level.  If you’ve already rolled up three creatures before the solo joined the party, you may want to indicate to your players that now would be a good time to run…

01- 05 Roll again in the Level 11 Random Encounter Chart.

06 – 10 Roll on the Random Hindrances Chart.

11 – 13 (Elite Artillery) Guardian Naga

14 – 16 (Artillery) Redspawn Firebelcher (Dragonspawn)

Read more…

Jamaica: 28 Games Later

On the Myriad Games podcast, we have a category called ’28 Games Later’.  It’s a podcast series for games we’ve played in the past, and are picking up to see if our opinions have changed about them.  Some games, we reviewed, and the 28 games later series is a bonus back up review to see if the game still has legs.  Others, like the pirate-themed game, Jamaica, we played, liked, but never got around to doing a podcast about it.  In Jamaica’s case, it was because it wasn’t a new game at the time, just something we ‘discovered’.  We had more pressing games to talk about that were coming up, and we missed a window to make a podcast.

It’s a good sign that after all the chances we had to make a podcast about Jamaica, we still dragged the game out when things were a slow and podcast about the game.  I could say a few more words, but why don’t you check it out the podcast using this link.  We had a fun time recording it.  Probably because sailing pirate ships around the island of Jamaica is a fun time.

Dungeons and Dragons Random Encounters: Level 11

For an explanation and introduction to Random Encounters, go to Why would anyone make a giant chart of Random Encounters?

Roll once for each adventurer in your party.  Whenever you roll a Brute, or a Solider, add two of that creature and roll one less time total.  If the last creature you roll is a brute, or a soldier, your players will have to suck it up.  There will be more experience for them anyway.  Whenever Minions are rolled, add the number of minions shown to the encounter and count them as one creature for the purposes of generating an encounter.  Whenever an Elite creature is rolled, count it as two separate creatures for the purpose of generating an encounter.  When a Solo creature is a, stop rolling, since a solo monster by itself is a good challenge for characters of that level.  If you’ve already rolled up three creatures before the solo joined the party, you may want to indicate to your players that now would be a good time to run…

01- 05 Roll again in the Level 10 Random Encounter Chart.

06 – 10 Roll on the Random Hindrances Chart.

11-13 (Artillery) Banshrae Dartswarmer

14 – 16 (Artillery Leader) Foulspawn Seer

Read more…

DC Adventures Character Sheet: Livewire

When starting up my DC Adventures game, I wanted to include a few usual Metropolis villains that players might recognize in the first game.  Livewire hasn’t been in too many comics, but has popped up a number of times in the Superman cartoons, and, since she never came off as being a ‘boss’ character, she seemed like an appropriate choice to fill in the ranks.

I could have winged what Livewire was and what she did, but I wanted to see how difficult it would be to make a character from scratch, so I would know how tough it would be for my players to do the same.  While DC Adventures plays with relative ease, making my first character took me a number of hours… enough time for me to recognize that it wasn’t smart to foist this on my players on day one.  Still, I got a better understanding of how the game worked in the process, and had a character I could use and return, so I consider it a win.

Livewire is a bit of a ‘puzzle’ villain.  Wonder Woman, for example, can’t just fly up to her and punch her on the chin.  Not only can she turn into a living ball of electricity,  but she has the ability to shoot off lethal blasts of electricity while insubstantial.  Still, Read more…

Random Augments for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

For an explanation of Random Encounters, see Why would anyone make a chart for random encounters? or feel free to jump to Level 1.

Roll 1d100, then consult the chart.  The “Common Augments”, “Uncommon Augments” and “Rare Augments”, sections all belong to the same chart, and are only there to show disparity between the most minor things on this chart, to the most condemning.  The “Elite and Solo upgrades”, “Weird Stuff” and “Resistant/Immune” sections are also part of the same chart, but require a second roll when you get one of these results.  The next creature rolled will have the following augment.  If your next roll in your random encounter happens to be multiple creatures, feel free to give the augments to only one creature, or to all of them, depending on your tastes.  Rolling on the Random Augments Chart does not count toward the number of creatures in an encounter.

A note on granting experience points after combat:  In the Random Hindrances Chart, I cautioned against stealing back experience points for randomly less challenging encounters.  For the same reasons, I suggested giving your players extra experience for defeating enemies with a random augment.  Is this fair to the Dungeon Master?  Pal, if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re playing the wrong game.

That being said, you shouldn’t need to hand out experience points for very mild benefits.  A creature that is better at sneaking doesn’t mean anything unless it actively attempts to hide from the players.  Use your best discretion.

A note on what the players see: Many of the things on the chart would be difficult for the average adventurer to notice.  So the lizardfolk we’re fighting is feeling good and has 6 bonus hit points?  So what?  How would the players be able to tell that from his fellow soldier, who happens to be a bit more clever than your average soldier.
You could tell your players.  Some Dungeon Masters do, preferring to tell players out of game stuff that their characters don’t know.  Sure, it might break the action, but it lets players see what’s happening behind the curtain, and that can be fun, too.  If you prefer a more engrossing play experience, however, you can let your players make a skill check to notice something odd about the particular creature.  For many of these bonuses, a heal check is appropriate, and for others, a monster knowledge check may apply.  Use your best judgement. It is a difficult challenge to notice something on the common augment chart, a medium challenge to notice something from the uncommon augment chart, and an easy challenge to notice something from the rare augment chart.

Common Augments

01 – 03 Peak Fitness – The creature in question is having a really good day.  The creature begins the encounter with temporary hit points equal to 10% of it’s health, rounded up.

04 – 06 Well-Equipped – The creature has a potion equivalent to its level, it doesn’t know what it is, but has faith in, and uses it in the first round of combat.  If you don’t have access to an appropriate list of potions (Yeah.  Way to go 4th edition Player’s Handbook.) roll again on this chart when the creature drinks the potion.

Read more…

Dungeons and Dragons Random Encounters: Level 10

For an explanation and introduction to Random Encounters, go to Why would anyone make a giant chart of Random Encounters?

Roll once for each adventurer in your party.  Whenever you roll a Brute, or a Solider, add two of that creature and roll one less time total.  If the last creature you roll is a brute, or a soldier, your players will have to suck it up.  There will be more experience for them anyway.  Whenever Minions are rolled, add the number of minions shown to the encounter and count them as one creature for the purposes of generating an encounter.  Whenever an Elite creature is rolled, count it as two separate creatures for the purpose of generating an encounter.  When a Solo creature is a, stop rolling, since a solo monster by itself is a good challenge for characters of that level.  If you’ve already rolled up three creatures before the solo joined the party, you may want to indicate to your players that now would be a good time to run…

01- 05 Roll again in the Level 9 Random Encounter Chart.

06 – 10 Roll on the Random Hindrances Chart.

11-13 (Artillery Leader) Skull Lord

14 – 17 (Artillery) Venom-eye Basilisk

Read more…

Kittens in a Blender: I’m mixed-up. Does this game gel?

Today I was at Myriad Games and a demo of Kittens in a Blender dropped on the table.

This kitten's name is Pancake. Pancake is not a food, he's a kitten. Please, please, do not think about whipping up some pancake batter.

Yes.  Yes.  I know.

It is likely that the Myriad Games Podcast will never do a review of Kittens in a Blender.  The reason why is because it is a game about putting kittens in blenders.  Cute, adorable kittens.  Kittens that you want to bring home and feed wet cat food to, and flip out when the wet cat food comes out the other end on your carpet, but definately do not want anywhere near various household appliances.  Specifically, the blender.

But the real reason why we may never make a podcast out of this game is because of
something you can’t witness while we talk about the game: the spectacular artwork.  The kittens look so lovable, that no one wants to see them anywhere near a blender.   It would be a terrible tragedy; The kind that keeps people a little panicky and invested in a game.  Had these cats been a bit more cartoony, or crass, this wouldn’t work.  Had the cats looked like rejects from the Ren & Stimpy show, the decision to obliterate them wouldn’t be so harrowing.  We’d want those cats to die horrible deaths, then feel bad about ourselves as human being for wanting such a horrible thing.  But no one wants to destroy the life of such cute kittens.  Not your kittens.  Other people’s kittens, sure…

Read more…

Dungeons and Dragons Random Encounters: Level 9

For an explanation and introduction to Random Encounters, go to Why would anyone make a giant chart of Random Encounters?

Roll once for each adventurer in your party.  Whenever you roll a Brute, or a Solider, add two of that creature and roll one less time total.  If the last creature you roll is a brute, or a soldier, your players will have to suck it up.  There will be more experience for them anyway.  Whenever Minions are rolled, add the number of minions shown to the encounter and count them as one creature for the purposes of generating an encounter.  Whenever an Elite creature is rolled, count it as two separate creatures for the purpose of generating an encounter.  When a Solo creature is a, stop rolling, since a solo monster by itself is a good challenge for characters of that level.  If you’ve already rolled up three creatures before the solo joined the party, you may want to indicate to your players that now would be a good time to run…

01- 05 Roll again on the Level 8 Random Encounter Chart.

06 – 10 Roll on the Random Hindrances Chart.

11-13 (Artillery) Destrachan

14 – 16 (Artillery) Flame Snake Read more…

DC Adventures, Log 1: Meet Team Lex

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off a DC Adventures Role-Playing Game campaign.  On the Myriad Games Podcast we already did a review of it, so I don’t feel the need to go into game specifics.  Feel free to click on this link to listen to that show.  While the book has some major formatting issues, the game itself is a solid piece of work that left my players interested in learning more about it.

That’s a great sign.  Too many role-playing games appeal to the Game Master and the occasional Power Gamer, but when dropped in front of a troop of five players, it loses the players who came to play, not to learn a new system.  DC Adventures, however, is based upon Mutants and Masterminds, which in turn is based on the better aspects of Dungeons and Dragons d20 system.  The basics of the game are straightforward, with all the complication piled up into a challenging to wrap your mind around point-based powers system.  But, since the source material for DC Adventures is DC Comics, the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and a bevy of recognizable faces, the intricate power system is more boon than burden.  I mean, most people geeky enough to role-play are geeky enough to have an understanding of who Green Lantern is and what his powers are capable of doing.  Therefore, all a new Read more…

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