Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Read for fun: D&D Dungeon Master's Manual

I finished reading the Dungeon's Master Manual for D&D e3.5 recently. In addition for its stated purpose, the game itself, I find it is also tremendously helpful in for novel writing as well. For me, at least, it does double duty as one of those how-to-write books. It is particularly useful because D&D is the root of my favored genre.

It has extended lessons and quick tips for writing plots and handling multiple characters. It has numerous plot prompts and story hooks, as well as means for investing both characters and players (or in my case, readers) into the adventure. It covers both long-term arc plotting as well as improvisation. There's lots of help for quickly creating NPCs. It even has rules for things like daily weather, which I tend to forget to include. These rules inspired me to create my own system so that I remember to include these little, background, things. This alone does wonders for setting and scene.

Just the initial distinction of adventure is a big help. There is the "kick in the door" style of starting at the dungeon and fighting everything inside, or the more ease-into-adventure that has more role-playing and narrative. That is the primary distinction between Journey To Chaos and my next flagship series, currently untitled.

Journey To Chaos starts with Eric and establishes his character, his conflict, etc. before there is any action. My next protagonist will be introduced beating the shit out of enemies. Currently, (first draft material) she will quickly find a story hook and go straight into the unknown world for adventure and plunder.

If I ever started DMing, I feel like this book will give me all the necessary tools.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master's Manual E3.5" an A+


Click here for my next book review The Medieval Siege

Click here for my previous book review (also for fun): Sword Art Online Volume 10

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Mini Excerpt - The Highest Power - Battle the Tront

Hello all,

This excerpt is from the chapter I am currently working on. It is chapter five of the third draft. Here we have a motely crew fighting a tree giant, which is called a "tront" in my 'verse. The wider context is full of spoilers.

Incidentally, I corrected one spelling error and one grammatical error while composing this excerpt. Please keep in mind that it hasn't seen a proof-reader yet.

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The ground shook. It shook again, and then a third time. It was foot falls. From within a ravine, a tront appeared. It walked on two sequioa legs whose branches intertwined to form a torso and chest before further branching out to form arms and fingers. Its head was a pair of glowing eyes within a leafy canopy on top of its chest. Even Nayr had to crane his neck back to see them.

            "These things are slow! We can outrun it."

            "Big Brother's Love: Mode Change: Better Safe Than Sorry."

            The bow in Annala's hands shimered. A secondary set of runes appeared next to the ruined primary set.  At its creator's command, it transformed into a different style. Then it displayed a holographic list of options. The ability to fire lethal arrows was gone; all of them debilitated enemies from a distance. Annala looked them over, choose one and said, "You are not older than me." Then she fired.

            As she expected, the arrow did not damage the tree giant. Instead, it released a cloud of darkness big enough to smother its leafy head. While it stumbled, the party ran in the other direction. A wall of thorns stopped them dead. Looking back, Annala saw a trio of slyphs hovering above the tront, blowing away the last of the darkness around it.

            "Hey Lawful Pirate! I'll hit him high if you hit him low."

            Hasina angled her staff and cast a simple earth spell. Amplified by her great spirit, a super barrage of pepples assaulted the slyph trio.  It stunned long enough for Tolv to banished them with fairy dust. This cleared a path for Nayr and Tiza to charge the tront. Annala fired another arrow over their heads.
            It exploded into more darkness. The tront staggered as Tiza dashed to its right leg. Her elven sword ignited as she swung it.
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The last excerpt I posted was from chapter 20 and it was the second draft. You can find it here.

To learn more about the Journey to Chaos series, you can visit Tvtropes at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/JourneyToChaos.

The Journey to Chaos series is available for purchase at Amazon: http://amzn.to/10NsG2i

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Using game rules to ease writing. (Journey to Chaos homebrewing)

Recently, I started homebrewing rules for a tapletop game set in my Journey to Chaos series. It came about when I was brainstorming the next flagship series for this....I guess it is (or is going to be) more of a franchise than a series.

I've been experimenting with dice to ease the creation of battles. I didn't use any classes, or stats, or skills, etc.  I thought creating all that would be too much trouble at this late stage in the series (book 5 out of 5). So battles were basically "two rolls, higher number wins" with situational modifiers if there were any. That worked out well. So I planned to expand the system.

I wanted to roll stats for my next main cast and I immediately hit snags. When you get down into the numbers, and balancing them all, it is overwhelming. I tip my hat to anyone who has crunched all the numbers for all the characters, and all the monsters and how they all progress in power etc. to create a tapletop dice game. For instance....

My book series, Journey to Chaos, has the power of the soul as a central element. The strength of it, the skill with using it, the intensity of it, etc. governs the entire setting: non-magical combat, both military and domestic magic, the threat of monsters, and the structure of society. If I were to add this stat to any given system, it would change everything about that system. Even if I were to create my own system from the ground up, it would dominate the other stats. In this particular setting that I plan to write, only a handful of people even know about spiritual power and fewer know how to use it effectively.  This would make battles a foregone conclusion; there would be no need to roll the dice, and if the stronger spirit lost the roll, how would I narrate that?

By now, I should say that this was never intended to be a homebrew that anyone could play. It was just for me to guide my writing, and as such, it was going to involve a LOT of Game Master/Author discretion. For instance, there would be no hit points.  Balancing hit points with the monsters I create and the characters I create and the level progression of all of them would be too much work.

As I write this post, I've been thinking about this homebrewing thing for a couple weeks now. The rules I made have come to sound....limiting. Even with my homebrewing, I don't want to be shackled to dice rolls. I don't want to be bound by stats or skill levels. It was fun thinking through all this stuff but I'll probably chuck it all and go back to writing without it.


Simplicity is the key. One die, perhaps a d6 such as ones that are used in board games, to determine everything with one or two rolls. I like that. No complicated rules. No percentages. No progression of stats or skill levels. This will be something quick and easy to add to the immediate setting and smoothly progress through battles and other events.

That would make all of this, and this blog post, a shaggy dog story. Huh...

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Read for Fun: Sword Art Online volume 10

Sword Art Online volume 10 is the second part of the Alicization arc,  Alicization Running. Aside from Reki Kawahara's skill in general, I'm continuing to enjoy this arc because of how distinct it is from previous ones.

First of all, it is split in two segments, one for Asuna and one for Kazuto.

I like the first one because it has a genre shift to Mystery. Asuna has to put her head together with Silica, Suguha and Yui to find Kazuto so that they can rescue him. It can be seen as a flip of the alpha couple's situation at the start of volume 2, and, in fact, Yui points this out. She has a MUCH harder time of it than Kazuto.


He was forwarded a picture taken in a publicly available server. She has to search for clues, piece them together, and make logical deductions that drift rather far into conspiratorial speculation. Then she has to devise a way to enter a private, highly secured, area. It is not action-y but it is awesome. Really, that scene was my favorite part of the book.

The continuing development of the mechanics of Underworld fascinate me. It is a shame that SAO's haters don't read the light novels. Then they would see that Reki Kawahara's is not some hack terminally dependent on harem fanservice. There is a ton of thought and foresight and literary skill going into the science fiction here, and more goes into how it is set up and delivered through the narrative.

There is this one scene in particular where a human talks with his fluctlight clone, and the clone has a critical case of Cloning Blues. It is genuinely unsettling. It is an existential terror.

As for Kazuto's section, he is still inside Underworld where he goes by Kirito. This book is about the VR nerd part of him. He spends basically the whole of his section trying to figure out how the Underworld works, and he does it through experimentation. The OP Mary-Sue that haters insist that he is cannot be found here; he has three fights and two of them are against practioners with more experience than him. The later two are struggles and neither of them is a victory. Neither is the harem seeker his detractors deride him as present in this volume. On the contrary, he resolves to be a Celibate Hero out of faithfulness to Asuna.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sword Art Online Volume 11: Alicization Running" an A+


Click here for my next book review (also  for fun): Dungeons and Dragons - Dungeon Master's Manual
Click here for my previous book review (also for fun): Don't Know Much About History


Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Monday, August 6, 2018

Playing D&D in person

I've read Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, I started using dice to aid my novel writing, and I've started watching Critical Role. I've also looked for a place that I could play the game myself. Today, I stopped by a place.

It's a café/game shop that hosts a lot of games other than Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, there was a Magic: The Gathering tournament starting while I was there. It's about fifteen minutes from where I work, and about the same from my home if I use the highway. I was happy about that; convenience, you know?

I spoke with the guy behind the counter and he explained how it worked. D&D day is later in this week. There is a beginner period before the main event so I'll arrive early to catch that. Most of the time I spent there was actually spent among the merchandise.

I'm building a collection of miniatures to use in staging battles and other events in my novel. It's helpful to have something solid like to see distance and such. I found some great figures for a series that I plan to write after The Highest Power is published and the Journey to Chaos series is complete.  Three of them are for MCs (which is starting to blend with PCs in my mind...), one is a more minor character, and the others are likely going to be Red Shirts. There were others, but I didn't see an immediate so I restrained myself.

I think this is going to be fun.

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).