Theros: Part 2, A Mount Of Friendship

Beorn brushes a snoring Theros, adding clumps to the fluffy gray pile of fur between his hard leather boots. As he works to smooth the gruff’s coat, the children of Badgertown creep closer.

None of the dozen boys and girls have the height to reach Beorn’s elbow, and only the boy that interrupted yesterday’s story time has the ambition to stretch fingertips enough to pet Theros who stands tall while sleeping.

The gruff bugles like a drowning donkey. The brave boy stumbles backward, and his abnormally large ears turn beet red as several of his peers snicker.

Beorn chuckles and sets his brush on a bench connected to Theros’s stable stall. “Do you kids want another story about Theros?” He points at the boy. “I know you do, Abbot.”

Abbot rubs his big ears and nods, and the other children filter in behind him. Their eyes are wide, and their lips are thin lines.

“So well behaved.” He pats Theros’s neck, quieting a fresh snore. “I must thank your parents for raising you all to be patient and respectful. It is refreshing to have an audience so unlike my bandmates.”

Continue reading Theros: Part 2, A Mount Of Friendship

Paizo: Playing It Safe Is Not Fun

What’s This Safe Play About?

Be prepared and safeSafe spaces have invaded tabletop role-playing. I reject Paizo‘s “social contract” which pushes for a sensitivity that detracts from immersion.

Players beware, characters are not safe in my game. With the filter of fiction as my perpetual disclaimer, I will offend with glee and great satisfaction.

Prepare with spells, gear, and wit. Just don’t forget, political correctness doesn’t exist within my fantasy.

I game master a virtual tabletop role-playing campaign on Roll20. It takes place in the same setting as my novels, a symbiotic relationship necessary given the constraints of my day-to-day life with work, family, and writing.

Paizo, keep your politics out of my game

Socialism is not safe
My son asking the difference between socialism and democratic socialism.

I understand that the culture war is pervasive, but this doesn’t excuse the politicizing of Paizo’s Pathfinder 2.0 rule book playtest.

The following is copied from pages five and six of the text, with what triggers me highlighted in a bold purple:

Gaming is for all:
Whether you’re a player or a Game Master, participating in a tabletop roleplaying game involves an inherent social contract: everyone has gathered to have fun together, and the table is a safe space for everyone. Everyone has a right to play and enjoy Pathfinder regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other identities and life experiences. Pathfinder is for everyone, and Pathfinder games should be as safe, inclusive, and fun as possible for all.

This declaration of a “safe space” implies a right to not be offended. I respect efforts to cater to the sensitivities of players, but there is a difference between striving towards equality of acceptance and enforcing an equality of experience.

Continue reading Paizo: Playing It Safe Is Not Fun

Theros: Part 1, The Gruff Scapegoat

Beorn cups his hand under a fountain spout and splashes his face with water mystically pumped and filtered from the nearby river. Rolling his broad shoulders, he waves Theros over.

The horse-sized goat snorts and stands, scattering a gaggle of human children who had been brushing his coat. With a clatter of hooves on cobbled stone, he joins Beorn and dips his muzzle into the evening-cooled water.

Beorn reaches under the goat’s horns to scratch his thick neck. “These Badgertown kids are enamored with you. Do mind if I tell them your story?”

Theros slurps and lifts his head. His golden eyes sparkle with a soft glow, and a deep sound rumbles up from his belly that makes Beorn’s hair stand on end.

“Okay, so you’re grumpy,” says Beorn. “You’re always grumpy, but I don’t have magic active to interpret your exact meaning. Stomp once for yes. Twice for no.” He holds up a finger. “But consider how disappointed your little groomers will be if they don’t get a proper bedtime story.”

Continue reading Theros: Part 1, The Gruff Scapegoat

Lighthouse Girl: Part 2, Blackship Zombie

A three-legged dog hobbles across the street, chased by a pumpkin-orange rooster with something metallic strapped to his beak. Telisa turns into the alley they ran out of, bumping into a human boy half her height.

“Oh, shit logs!” He falls on his butt and scrambles back like a crab. “Your eyes are lights.”

Telisa sighs and crouches. “I heard there were rebelling zombies in these slums. Help me find one, and I’ll give you a… treat.”

“You a demigoddess? What you a lady of?”

She holds out her hand, curling fingers thin and long to help him up. “I host nothing divine. My eyes shine because my race stores sunlight. Have you never met an olympian before?”

Continue reading Lighthouse Girl: Part 2, Blackship Zombie

Censorship Is Married To Our Victimhood Culture

Censorship For Safety Or Liability?

Censorship: Cover of Tales from a Forager's Kitchen, by Johnna HolmgrenJohnna Holmgren‘s book Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen got published at the end of last season and is now being erased from existence.

An attack on freedom of speech, emboldened by victim culture?

In this post, I pick up Holmgren’s trail of bread crumbs and toss in other samples of censorship I forage along the way. At the end, it becomes a noxious recipe for the culture war and a far bigger problem than the loss of one book.

It starts with some Amazon reviews raising safety concerns with her pseudo-cookbook. In the brush-heavy landscape of social media, they spark a critical mass of outrage, causing the publisher and libraries to literally trash it.

Acorns and morels and elderberries, oh my!
Continue reading Censorship Is Married To Our Victimhood Culture

Lighthouse Girl: Part 1, Djinn

A lighthouse in the middle of a misty city street, Telisa stands a head taller than the traffic that parts around her. Eyes glowing like lanterns and a black cloak snug about her shoulders, she is a mystery the locals whisper about but do not molest.

Dawn has arrived, and Telisa is lost. Reaching with fingers too long to be human, she traces grooves in a large oval sign. It was supposed to detail Titantale City, every street and block. Perhaps it did once, but generations of vandals have marred the oak, almost cutting through it with their graffiti.

Djinn: By Sarah Gavagan https://www.sarahgavagan.com/ used with permission
The djinn: By Sarah Gavagan, used with permission

“Hey there, pretty lady.” A shirtless blue man flies up to her and hovers on a swirl of smoke instead of legs. “I can direct you to interesting things.”

“I have been tricked and abandoned by rivals.” She brushes midnight hair away from pale cheeks and shining eyes. “Because I am an interesting thing.”

“Oh, then I’ll direct people to you.” He cackles and slaps his bare belly.

Continue reading Lighthouse Girl: Part 1, Djinn

The Undersea Party: Part 6, Titan’s Flute

The granite wall sparkles next to Jacob’s torch. Smooth and flat as glass, it is carved with a titan’s eye towards perfection. Jacob crouches, butt hovering over sea water that fills the room up to his calf, and the flame flickers where a knee-high tunnel bores through into another shadowed room.

Jacob places his torch in the hole, pulls out his black coral flute, and plays crisp notes. Discovered in a treasure chest full of titan gold, the instrument summons piquant water that he gulps like a flask between blows. He sighs. It’s refreshing, as if from a cool mountain spring, despite an off-putting taste.

Kriv hops over. “Can I try some magic flute juice?”

Wiping his mouth, Jacob tucks the flute into his ragged tunic and splashes the little beebo with sea water. “Since this room isn’t draining on its own, do your part. Drink your fill of this ocean slop that your awesome friend summoned.”

Kriv licks the cloudy water and spits. Belazar growls, handing the little man a flask as big as the beebo’s bald blue head. Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 6, Titan’s Flute

The Undersea Party: Part 5, Devil

The Undersea hall is wide and tall, made by a giant race of scaled men. The floor is smooth and wet, and Jacob is slow with his steps. An iron and oak box strains his callused fingers. Sealed shut by centuries of neglect, it is red with rust and soft with rot.

Metal clinks inside as Jacob shuffles forward. “This one’s heavy enough to be filled with gold.” He huffs, struggling to maintain his posture. “Not more devil-damned dwarven copper.”

Kriv, short as Jacob’s hip, scoots his bald blue head under the chest. “Need more light.”

“Get out from under there,” says Jacob.

Belazar, a head taller and a barrel wider, shuffles over with a torch and grips the side of the chest with his free hand. “May I have a turn, Sir?”

Jacob nods, and the burly orcelf tucks the box under his arm, easy as a load of laundry.

“Thanks.” Jacob cracks his back. “It’s not the weight; it’s the awkward shape.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 5, Devil

Ranger Of Path Updated With Prologue

With Caution And Care, A Prologue

Now with a prologueAdding a prologue to Ranger of Path was a tough decision. I worried it would distract readers and add complexity that would hinder immersion. I also didn’t want anything told through the prologue that would be better done with later chapters.

Like adverbs, filtering language, and bracketing scenes with sleep, I’ve heard prologues should be avoided if possible.

Ranger of Path is a story that needed this prologue.

It’s a short prologue, starting from the point of view of a squirrel and then a tiny creature called a brownie. It offers readers vital context to an event that orients the main characters of Ranger of Path and it’s sequel, Valkyrie of Desire.

Here it is, as added to Ranger of Path:

0. Prologue

A boy is caught pulling the legs off a cricket.

“Don’t do that. How do you think it feels?”

The boy chews on his lip and says, “Unhoppy?”

—Ishkur Inshushinak Ishtaran

A squirrel pokes its head out of a hole in an old fir tree. On a moss covered rock below, a man little bigger than it trills and waves an acorn with a right arm that’s shorter than his other by a third.

With greenish skin and limbs thin as twigs, he is a brownie, a fae friend of the forest and no danger. The squirrel scurries down and snatches the nut.

The brownie smiles and trills a bird’s song as he lies on the moss.

A hint of smoke stings the squirrel’s nose, and it rears up with whiskers twitching. The acorn falls, and the tiny animal bounds away, chittering a warning.

Fire.

Continue reading Ranger Of Path Updated With Prologue

Straw Boy Argument: It’s Not 500 Million A Day

What Lie Will Be The Last Straw?

Straw TruthThis boy with the “Great” shirt is my son, Yuri. He’s enjoying a blueberry milkshake complete with a bright red straw. It was a few years ago when we were going around Hood River’s Fruit Loop, back when I still obeyed the food pyramid and consumed sugar for energy.

Yuri tends to tell the truth, but he just turned nine. No matter how heartfelt, his truth may not be mine.

Given how my understanding of diet has evolved over the past few years and shifted successfully from sugar burning to fat burning, I appreciate how tricky lies accepted in mass can be.

Almost nine years ago another nine year old boy talked to some straw manufacturers to estimate that the US uses 500 million straws a day. Updates declare that the number is much higher, but not specifically how much more so.

Well over 500 million? I call bullshit. Continue reading Straw Boy Argument: It’s Not 500 Million A Day