From the Gamer’s File: The Invisible Maze Trap

Imagine, if you would, your brave party of adventurers enters a one hundred foot by one hundred foot square room. It appears to be empty. As your party looks across the empty space, a door on the far side opens and a minotaur in plate mail (because if you’re going to use a minotaur to intimidate a party, you might as well put him in plate mail :) ) walks through. While you watch in fear, the minotaur takes a step forward and taps his axe on the floor in front of him. Immediately, a ten foot by ten foot square on the floor swings down like a trap door and then swings back up. The minotaur turns to his right, taps the floor with his axe and nothing happens. He moves to the right. The warrior in your group draws his sword and charges. He only goes ten feet before a ten foot by ten foot section of the floor swings down like a trap door, dumping him in a pit of acid below. You can hear his screams through the floor. Do you understand what’s going on? Can you outwit the trap?

 

I used this trap on one of my gaming groups many years ago. It was actually inspired by an encounter in another DM’s game where I misinterpreted the use of a cube of force in AD&D. In any event, my gaming group never did figure out what was going on. They managed to cross the room and I think they may have dumped the minotaur in the acid himself (which is a weakness of the trap), but they never fully grasped the concept. It was an invisible maze.

 

Basically, as a DM I had a map of the room. On that map, the one hundred foot by one hundred foot room was represented by a drawing of a ten square by ten square room where each square represented a ten foot by ten foot square. That’s a little confusing, but it’s basically how most DM maps work. Anyway, on the map I had drawn a maze where every wall in the maze was drawn on a line separating two squares on the map. They were never drawn across the square, only on one or more of its borders. So the maze was there, but it was invisible. Whenever the plane of a “wall” in the maze was broken, that activated the trap door that dropped whatever had entered the square into the pit of acid below. I was kind with the acid. There was an exit down below so that the characters could crawl out of the acid and return back up to the maze atop. So, basically, if you crossed a wall, you fell into the acid. If you moved diagonally between two squares, you fell into the acid. The only way through the maze was to “find” the correct pathway through the walls. Like I said above, there is a flaw in this trap. Basically, when the minotaur got too close to the party, if I recall correctly, they just tapped his square and dumped the minotaur into the acid. I’m not sure if I permitted that to work or not. I don’t remember.

 

Anyway, the party never did figure out what the trap was or quite how it worked. They got through it, but it was largely from dumb luck, if I recall. This trap remains one of my favorite self-designed D&D traps of all time. I’m quite proud of this one.

 

Fantasy Literature: The Role of the Assassin

They slip through shadows, hidden from view. Walking softly, to sneak up on you (Hey, that rhymes!). The silent killers of the fantasy world: Assassins, paid in gold to cut someone’s throat. They are a formidable foe both in rumor and in action. But do they have a proper place and function in a fantasy world?

 

The difficulty with assassins is the lack of moral clarity they engender. I read a book once (I think it was The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb) about the life of an apprentice assassin. It was interesting enough, as far as it went; the assassins described were in the direct employ of a king, and that, I guess, gave them some legitimacy—or, at least, that was how the author intended to give them legitimacy. For myself, I would probably avoid making an assassin a protagonist in a novel. There is just something too cold in taking money for killing that prevents me from using them as such. Still, although Robin Hobb did a good job and everything, it was always in the back of my mind … yeah, this guy really isn’t a good guy (of course, maybe that’s the pot calling the kettle black considering how my novels are progressing … wink, nod), even though this is a fun read.

 

Anyway, I like using assassins as weapons of the antagonist. They’re great for developing political intrigue. The nobles are plotting against each, jockeying for power and position, one hires an assassin, the others respond in kind, and all hell breaks loose. People dropping dead left and right. Great stuff. My favorite type of assassin is, of course, the legendary ninja of Japan. Trained since birth as the ultimate killing machine. Woo hoo! I based my own super-assassins known as bloodseekers on the Japanese ninja. I intend to introduce one in the next book. It’ll be great. More chaos. More blood.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on assassins in fantasy literature for today.

Guest Post on Farish’s Freehold

SceptreMorgulan_ebookcoverI have a guest spot on a fellow writer’s blog that will last for the next few days. The owner of the blog is a man by the name of Lincoln S. Farish. We met through Twitter and arranged this promotion for my book The Sceptre of Morgulan on his blog—a site dedicated to horror and dark fantasy entitled Farish’s Freehold. Technically my book is more fantasy than horror, but it does have strong horror elements running through it. Specifically, it features a gothic-style vampire much more in the line of Bram Stoker’s Dracula than Stephanie Meyers Twilight. My vampire is evil and diabolical. You wouldn’t want to date him. There are also a number of demons scattered throughout the series, so there is that dark element as well.

Anyway, you can find my promotion on Mr. Farish’s blog here: http://farishsfreehold.blogspot.com/2016/03/matt-ryans-got-witches-bounty-hunters.html

It’s pretty intense. Make sure you check it out.

The general link for the site is: http://farishsfreehold.blogspot.com

Pressure Points in Fantasy Literature

One of the topics I’ve been interested in lately is pressure points. I purchased a couple books on the subject from Barnes and Noble and read up on it. What I wanted to find was a complete map listing all the pressure points in the body and how best to use them, so I could experiment on myself with this or that technique and see what happens. I’m still looking. I found a book on Shiatsu Massage and Acupressure and that listed a great many of them, but not all. A number of those listed were on the back of the body and, therefore, more difficult to access, particularly in a fight. I have a black belt in the martial arts, so I know a couple from that endeavor, but I would like to know more. As it happens, I stopped studying martial arts right when we were beginning to learn about such topics as chi and pressure points. I know enough to know both are real, but I lack all but the most rudimentary skill in either.

 

What is a pressure point? I’m not sure I know how to define it properly. It is a point on the human body where, when pressure is applied, the flow of chi can be interrupted. This can result in pain or relief from pain depending on the amount of pressure applied and the condition of the body prior to the application of pressure. Chi (or a person’s physical life force) is said to flow through meridians that exist throughout the body. Some have equated meridians to nerve pathways in the body. Again, I’m not sure if that is actually the case, or if meridians are something else entirely. I do know that chi can do a number of things that our current understanding of nerve energy does not allow.

 

Anyway, as far as fantasy literature is concerned, my interest in pressure points stems from my use of martial arts in my novels. I haven’t used martial arts in my novels a lot yet—other than as a general understanding as to how combat works—but I have a character on the horizon, who is essentially a ninja, although I don’t call him that. He has a thorough understanding of pressure points and how to use them; he has even mastered the dreaded “touch of death.” In any event, I wouldn’t expect the “touch of death” to be thoroughly discussed in a book I purchased at Barnes and Noble (if it, in fact, exists … which is a big if) but I did want to find a map of all the points known. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

 

The best way to learn about pressure points remains through a qualified teacher and instructor in martial arts, acupressure, or acupuncture. There’s only so much a book can tell you. But I lack the money for formal training. Besides, I’m not trying to become a master of the arts; I’m just curious. Anyway, they have a unique place in a fantasy world—and the advantage of using them in a fantasy world is that they can be altered and changed to the writer’s preference. The “touch of death” may not exist in the real world, but there is no reason why you can’t use it in a fantasy world. Likewise, other effects can be thrown in; and it will remain believable, because it is, in the end, a fantasy world.

Odin Speaks: The Legend versus the Myth

Arf. I am Odin. When I speak, you listen, for I am all-knowing and wise.

OdinOnce again, I stumbled across a curious fact while reading some of my more unconventional fare (more specifically, while I was reading a couple books on Atlantis). Apparently, there is a distinction between a legend and a myth. Both are stories, of a sort. A Legend is based on some historical fact; it contains some kernel of truth; however, whatever truth it contains has been buried by an avalanche of distortion and historical debris that has been produced by the many intervening years between the telling of its story and the events that inspired it. A decent example of a Legend is the Legend of Atlantis, told by Plato. A number of the details of the story have been confirmed (specifically a handful of Athenian details), so it seems that some of the story is based on a truth that has been obscured by time.

In contrast to the Legend is the Myth. A myth is also a story concerning events from the deepest mists of time. However, a myth usually involves the activities of some supernatural force: like a hero, demigod, or god. They are heavily filled with symbols and interpretative meaning, but they were never intended to be taken as factual. For example, the Greek Myth of Phaethon’s disastrous attempt to drive the sun god Apollo’s chariot is an excellent example of a myth.

The skeptical lune lurking inside me, however, is not so sure that that distinction can be easily verified. Are we sure Phaethon’s chariot ride is just symbolic? It could (if we stretch the bounds of credulity) involve some half-alien hybrid who got a turn riding his father’s spaceship. That’s not likely, but it’s possible (that’s the problem with having a training in philosophy: just about anything goes—except contradictions—or, alternatively, nothing goes; it’s usually one or the other: Will the sun rise tomorrow? The scientist says, “Of course it will.” The philosopher says, “I don’t know.” It’s the difference between deductive logic, and inductive reasoning. Certainty and probability.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Woof.

“From the Ashes of Ruin” Blurb Blitz Blog Tour

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

 

Goddess Fish Promotions is sponsoring a blog tour for my series, From the Ashes of Ruin. The tour began on February 1st, and will last until February 19th. We are currently in the 3rd and final week of the tour. It is primarily a Blurb Blitz Tour, meaning that every stop will have a blurb and excerpt from one of the books. The Blog Schedule is listed below. The books in the series so far include: Drasmyr (The Prequel), The Children of Lubrochius (Bk.I), and The Sceptre of Morgulan (Bk.II). As of this moment, Drasmyr is free and the other two books are reasonably priced at $2.99. Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Finally, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—NOT atoasttodragons and NOT my web-site) a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

 

February 1: Room With Books
February 1: Linda Nightingale…Wordsmith
February 2: Edgar’s Books
February 3: Kit ‘N Kabookle
February 3: Writer Wonderland
February 4: fuonlyknew
February 5: Blog of Jacey Holbrand
February 5: Beyond Romance

February 8: LizaOConnor
February 9: The Snarkology
February 10: Cover2Cover
February 11: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 12: Two Ends of the Pen

February 15: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 16: Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
February 17: Natural Bri – review
February 18: With Love for Books – review
February 18: Who She Reads
February 19: Where the Story Comes First
February 19: Around the World in Books

“From the Ashes of Ruin” Blurb Blitz Blog Tour

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

Goddess Fish Promotions is sponsoring a blog tour for my series, From the Ashes of Ruin. The tour began on February 1st, and will last until February 19th. We are currently in the 2nd week of the tour. It is primarily a Blurb Blitz Tour, meaning that every stop will have a blurb and excerpt from one of the books. The Blog Schedule is listed below. The books in the series so far include: Drasmyr (The Prequel), The Children of Lubrochius (Bk.I), and The Sceptre of Morgulan (Bk.II). Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—NOT atoasttodragons and NOT my web-site) a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

    Blog Schedule

February 1: Room With Books
February 1: Linda Nightingale…Wordsmith
February 2: Edgar’s Books
February 3: Kit ‘N Kabookle
February 3: Writer Wonderland
February 4: fuonlyknew
February 5: Blog of Jacey Holbrand
February 5: Beyond Romance

February 8: LizaOConnor
February 9: The Snarkology
February 10: Cover2Cover
February 11: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 12: Two Ends of the Pen

February 15: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 16: Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
February 17: Natural Bri – review
February 18: With Love for Books – review
February 18: Who She Reads
February 19: Where the Story Comes First
February 19: Around the World in Books

“From the Ashes of Ruin” Blog Tour

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

Goddess Fish Promotions is sponsoring a blog tour for my series, From the Ashes of Ruin. The tour begins today, February 1st, and will last until February 19th. It will be primarily a Blurb Blitz Tour, meaning that every stop will have a blurb and excerpt from one of the books. The Blog Schedule is listed below. The books in the series so far include: Drasmyr (The Prequel), The Children of Lubrochius (Bk.I), and The Sceptre of Morgulan (Bk.II). Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—NOT atoasttodragons and NOT my web-site) a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

February 1: Room With Books
February 1: Linda Nightingale…Wordsmith
February 2: Edgar’s Books
February 3: Kit ‘N Kabookle
February 3: Writer Wonderland
February 4: fuonlyknew
February 5: Blog of Jacey Holbrand
February 5: Beyond Romance
February 8: LizaOConnor
February 9: The Snarkology
February 10: Cover2Cover
February 11: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
February 12: Two Ends of the Pen
February 15: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
February 16: Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
February 17: Natural Bri – review
February 18: With Love for Books – review
February 18: Who She Reads
February 19: Where the Story Comes First
February 19: Around the World in Books

Fantasy and Demons

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

A ways back, I wrote an article for my newsletter (sign up here, if you are interested in receiving future mailings of my newsletter) dealing with demons. It was a light-hearted foray into a potentially serious subject. I say ‘serious’ because I’m not entirely certain if real-life demons are fiction or reality. Those familiar with my life story might know that I suffer from a psychological disorder and a delusion that revolves around demons. So, forgive me if I take them more seriously than you might be inclined to.

 

Anyway, most of the different religious sects across the globe believe (or at least through much of their history did believe) in demons. They developed various rites to exorcise demons from possessed people (that is drive them out). I’ve never studied demon lore and I have no idea how to perform such an exorcism. I just want to point out that there may be a ‘demon phenomenon’ whose underlying reality is markedly different from what the religious believe it to be.

 

According to the religious a demon is a spirit or entity that can harass or even possess (that is, take over) a regular human being. When this happens, a priest or even witch doctor is needed to drive the demon out. However, in this modern age the whole concept of a demon seems kind of archaic, a throwback to primitive times. Nowadays, most psychiatrists and medical doctors would attribute demonic activity to psychological disorders. Even things like uncontrolled telekinesis and other such phenomena could be explained if we allow that the brain is hideously complex; it might be responsible for such activity at an unconscious level.

 

Anyway, back to my original point. I am a fantasy author. And I write about demons. However, I will be the first to admit that I did not do massive amounts of research on the subject of ‘real’ demons existing here on Earth. What I “know” of demons I’ve gathered from a miscellany of sources throughout my younger reading years: I’ve been influenced by AD&D, my Catholic upbringing, and other sources, but I never seriously studied the subject under the auspices of the aforementioned Catholic Church. So, basically, I may have made mistakes in my so-called demonic lore.

 

And I have no intention of trying to fix those.

 

If there is any truth to demon lore, I don’t want to inadvertently give a recipe for someone to try to summon a demon in real life. Hence, the lore in my novels is basically misinformation. I’ve heard this or that where wizards would use salt (I incorporated that bit a little in my latest book) or some other detail, but all the details and information are summoned mostly from my imagination. If you try a ritual detailed in my book, be assured: it won’t work—even if demons are real and not figments of the imaginations of disturbed people; you need more than a circle cut in stone to summon them. Also, in my book, all the demonologists are evil, and the rituals described are likewise evil. After all, in my mythical fantasy universe summoning demons requires a blood sacrifice. Don’t do that in real life. If it’s an animal, it’s unnecessary, cruel and very uncool. If it’s a human, it’s murder, no ifs, ands, or buts. Not that I’d really expect someone to re-enact something they read in a fantasy book. But I had to write about something today; so, I chose this.

 

That’s all I wanted to say today.

 

From the Ashes of Ruin” Blurb Blitz Blog Tour

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

Goddess Fish Promotions will be sponsoring a blog tour for my series, From the Ashes of Ruin, during the first half of February. The tour will begin on February 1st and will last until February 19th. It will be primarily a Blurb Blitz Tour, meaning that every stop will have a blurb and excerpt from one of the books. The Blog Schedule will be listed shortly. There’s still a lot of open slots, so if you are interested, please contact Goddess Fish Promotions. The books in the series so far include: Drasmyr (The Prequel), The Children of Lubrochius (Bk.I), and The Sceptre of Morgulan (Bk.II). Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—NOT atoasttodragons and NOT my web-site) a $15 Amazon Gift Card.