Category Archives: High Fantasy

Tricks, Traps, and Puzzles in RPG’s and Stories.

I used to Gamemaster a lot for … well, not necessarily AD&D, but my own system based on that game. It was lots of fun. I especially enjoyed designing clever tricks, traps, and puzzles. This has carried over into my writing, as well. Many of my books and stories have some kind of puzzle in them. In RPG games (like AD&D) puzzles are an integral part of the game. I mean, after a while, even the most bloodthirsty person will tire from the endless hack and slash of your basic dungeon crawl. Tricks and traps add a special degree of unexpected flair to your basic gaming session. They force the players to think—and usually require them to put the thief in the party to work; though the best ones require input from the whole group. There are loads of pretty standard tricks and traps to choose from: poisoned needles, trap doors, poison gas, etc…. The best, though, are the ones you design yourself to really challenge the players. Probably the most difficult to pull off in a gaming session are riddles. This is because it’s all too easy to write a poor riddle (I know … I’ve done it). Basically, you write something that seems crystal clear to you at the time of writing, but when it comes time to spring it on the players, either they come up with two or more equally valid answers which you didn’t think of, or the riddle is too opaque and vague, and they just can’t solve it. In the case of riddles and RPG games, it’s usually best to go with actually published riddles, something some company somewhere wrote down, researched, and developed, supposedly with the help of experts, or something. The above is true of other puzzles you might feel inclined to include in your game. Some puzzles, like riddles, may just be too difficult for the players to figure out. That happened to me once, with one of my favorite puzzles of all time: an invisible maze. I won’t go into the details of the puzzle—I believe I have elsewhere—but I will just hold it up for the lesson it taught me. A puzzle/riddle in an RPG is useless if it is unsolvable.

This is NOT true in writing. No, when you are writing a story, you, the author, are the one who determines what the purpose of the puzzle is in the context of the story. You can use your basic tricks and traps from the RPG setting—the poisoned needle or the trap door, or what-have-you—or you can design your own. In such a case, almost anything goes because, generally speaking, the puzzle will be solved by the characters in the story because you are the writer and you are in complete control. There is no risk of, say, a riddle being unsolved because it’s too opaque, because you know what the answer is and you can just write it in—unless, of course, you want the riddle to remain unsolved, but that I would probably counsel against lest you irritate your readers. Regardless, you should still make the effort to design good riddles (and avoid the published ones for copyright reasons) but that is because they are a reflection of your skill as an author and not because you may inadvertently stump the characters. Puzzles in writing serve a similar purpose to what they serve in an RPG—they provide a break from action and just give the reader something to wrestle with. There is one more point to make about puzzles in writing: distance. Generally speaking, the puzzle shouldn’t be solved the sentence after it is presented to the reader; otherwise, they won’t have a chance to think about it and be impressed with its cleverness. The presentation of the riddle must be separated by a certain amount of distance from its solution in the story. The characters must struggle with it for a certain length of time, otherwise, the reader will not struggle with it—and what’s the fun of that? Give it a few pages, at least, so that the reader has a chance to ruminate about it for a while.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on tricks, traps, and puzzles in both RPG settings and writing. Enjoy!

The Book Blast for Prism by Matthew D. Ryan

mbb_tourbanner_prism_releaseday

Prism is here. Welcome to the Book Blast. Prism is a short, stand-alone novella totally unrelated to my series From the Ashes of RuinI took a break from that series to keep my creative juices flowing.

 

This Book Blast is being hosted by GoddessFish. Throughout the day today, we will be visiting a large number of blogs on the web, each of which will share some information about the book such as excerpts and blurbs. We will respond to comments and inquiries on each of the sites and engage in discussions about various aspects of the book.

 

As of today, Prism is available for free download at Smashwords. I must make a note and apologize to both my commenters and hosts: I intended to have it up and available for free at both Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon. Unfortunately, due to the holiday season, I didn’t get it uploaded on Smashwords and Amazon until yesterday. As a result, as of this moment, it is not listed on Barnes and Noble and it costs $0.99 on Amazon. Smashwords distributes to B&N, so it should be listed for free there some time during the next few days. As for Amazon … I sent them an email last night, not sure I used the correct page, though. I will continue trying. Eventually, the price match feature at Amazon should kick in and list it as free there, as well. It is my intention to keep it free for at least several months. Eventually, I will start charging a buck or two. So, if you want it free, get it sooner, rather than later. And remember—at least for now—it is only available for free at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/693400.

 

 

The blogs participating in this Book Blast are listed below. Just click on a link to visit any one of the sites; you’ll see the cover and be able to comment. I’ll be awarding a $15 Amazon Gift Card to one randomly selected commenter on the tour (that is, a commenter on one of the participating host sites, NOT atoasttodragons). I’ll also be awarding a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one randomly selected blog host.

 

 

 

  1. Book Giveaways: http://bookgiveaways. jessicaandgracie.com/prism-15- amazon-gc/
  2. Books, Dreams, Life: https://staceyschneller06. wordpress.com/2017/01/02/ prism-release-day-book-blast/
  3. 3: BooksChatter: http://bookschatter.blogspot. co.uk/2017/01/tour-prism.html
  4. 4: Edgar’s Books: http://edgarbooks.blogspot. com/2017/01/prism-by-matthew- d-ryan-book-blast-and.html
  5. It’s Raining Books: http://its-raining-books. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism-by- matthew-d-ryan-spotlight-and. html

 

  1. Long and Short Reviews: http://www. longandshortreviews.com/guest- blogs/prism-by-matthew-d-ryan- spotlight-and-giveaway/
  2. Stormy Nights Reviewing and Bloggin’: http:// stormynightbloginandreviwing. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism- giveaway.html
  3. Straight From The Library: http://straightfromlibrary. blogspot.com/2017/01/straight- browsing-from-library-prism- by.html
  4. The Avid Reader: http://the-avidreader. blogspot.com/2017/01/02-book- blast-giveaway-prism-by- matthew-d-ryan-GF.html
  5. The Silver Dagger Scriptorium: http://silver-dagger-scriptorium.weebly.com/

 

  1. Welcome to My World of Dreams: http://jhthomas.blogspot.com/ 2017/01/win-15-gc-prism-by- matthew-d-ryan.html
  2. Wake Up Your Wild Side: http://galestanley.blogspot. com/2017/01/release-day-book- blast-prism-by-matthew.html
  3. Deal Sharing Aunt: http://dealsharingaunt. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism-by- matthew-d-ryan-free-book.html
  4. CBY Book Club: http://cbybookclub.blogspot. com/2017/01/book-blast- giveaway-prism-by-matthew-d. html
  5. T’s Stuff: http://teresanoel.blogspot. com/2017/01/book-blast-for- prism-by-matthew-d-ryan.html

 

  1. Mixed Book Bag: https://mixedbookbag.blogspot. com/2017/01/prism-by-matthew- d-ryan-book-blast-and.html
  2. Fabulous and Brunette: http://fabulousandbrunette. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism-by- matthew-d-ryan-book-blast.html
  3. Hope. Dreams. Life … Love: http://elainepcantrell. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism. html
  4. Author Deborah A Bailey: http://dbaileycoach.com/ brightbooks/2017/01/release- day-book-blast-prism-matthew- d-ryan/
  5. Am Kinda Busy Reading: http://www.amkindabusy.com/ 2017/01/02/prism-by-matthew-d- ryan-release-day/

 

  1. Readeropolis: http://readeropolis.blogspot. com/2017/01/read-excerpt-of- prism-by-matthewdryan1.html
  2. Writer Wonderland: http://writerwonderland. weebly.com/goddess-fish-tour/ prism-release
  3. Room With Books: http://roomwithbooks.com/ prism-release-day-book-blast/
  4. Queen of All She Reads: http://queenofallshereads. blogspot.com/2017/01/release- day-book-blast-giveaway-for. html
  5. Books Are Love: https://hello-booklover. tumblr.com/post/155281243531/ prism-by-matthew-ryan

 

  1. Reviews By Crystal: http://reviewsbycacb.blogspot. com/2017/01/giveaway-prism-by- matthew-d-ryan.html
  2. This and That Book Blog: http://thisandthatbookblog. blogspot.com/2017/01/prism-by- matthew-d-ryan-goddessfish. html
  3. Fundimental: http://www.fundinmental.com/ giveaway-prism-matthew-d-ryan- matthewdryan1-goddessfish/#. WGo_3VMrLIU

Holiday Deals for my series “From the Ashes of Ruin.”

Hi All,

Just a note to let everyone know: from now until January 7th, 2017, in celebration of the holidays–all of them, but especially Christmas–I’m offering special holidays deals on the ebook novels in my fantasy series, “From the Ashes of Ruin,” at Smashwords. “Drasmyr,” of course, will remain free. “The Children of Lubrochius” will be available for $0.99 if you provide the code: ZH97C. “The Sceptre of Morgulan” will be available for $0.99 if you provide the code: PT26G. That’s a savings of $6.00. Six dollars! That’s a price of about $2 for nearly 300, 000 words of pure fantasy fun, plus a 120k word prequel. Can’t beat that! Anyway, here’s the fancy graphic:

smashesblnk_1

 

On Writers’ Groups

A few months back (in March, I think), I joined a Writers’ Group. A few weeks ago, it basically disbanded. It counts as the fourth such group I’ve ever joined. Anyhoo, I figured I would comment on what I’ve learned from such endeavors. Or, at least, give my opinions.

In my view, smaller is better. I say a maximum of five people is preferred. This latest one usually included about eight or so, at the meetings, and perhaps as many as fifteen in the group in total. And, of course, everyone wanted to expand and get more people. Not me. I didn’t mention it to anybody, but I wanted fewer.

There are several benefits of working with only a few people instead of a lot. First off, it is much easier to digest the comments of four other people instead of fourteen. Secondly, you will also have a better chance of getting your work looked at in a reasonable amount of time. In this last group, two people would submit their work on any given week, and the next week we would discuss it. That worked pretty well for a while, like when it was eight people, because then you would only have to wait a month to get more feedback as you cycled through again. Unfortunately, though, as the group got bigger, the time between your submissions grew. And I, for one, join writers’ groups primarily to get feedback, not give. I give in exchange for that, but my primary interest is still getting. Call me selfish, if you like, but I think that is the primary goal. Thirdly, the feedback you do get is usually much more in depth. With a large number of people, it just seems likely to degenerate into little more than proofreading. You simply don’t have time to get fourteen different commentaries on a ten page short story, unless you spend like five hours at each meeting… but who wants to do that?

I also think it is a good idea to focus on a single genre like speculative fiction, or fantasy, or what-have-you. Just keep it in one genre if you can. For myself, it would be fantasy. In this last group, we had poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, memoir, romance, and I’m sure a few more. It’s all very interesting, but I don’t really know how to comment on any of those except fantasy, and maybe sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong. You do learn things reading different genres, but I think you get the most bang for your buck from a genre-focused group.

So, to sum up, my ideal group would consist of five people, all involved in fantasy. We would meet every other week and we would focus on two people out of the group at a time.

Don’t know what else to say on that topic, so I’ll close it here.

Again, An Author Update

Well, it’s late September, 2016. Time for another author update, because I’ve got nothing better to do. I’m still editing my novel, The Citadel, and making progress. I’ve also finally decided to go ahead with my plans for my novella, Prism. I’ve read it over several times and I finally think it is ready to go. I have a Cover Reveal for Prism coming up on November 16th for which I will give more information later on. I still haven’t heard anything about my short story, but that’s okay; it takes time to get these things reviewed. When you’re a writer, any project will require quite a bit of time spent waiting for a reply after submission. Well, at least, most of the time. There have been places that have gotten back to me within a week, but those are usually rejections anyway.

My writers’ club is now defunct, which, I suppose, is bad news, but in my opinion, it was getting a little too large and unwieldy anyway. Everyone else wanted to increase the size of the group, and I think I would have preferred a smaller group. But it served its purpose; it boosted my confidence in my writing: all the people there—each one a writer—liked my stuff and none of them was a relative or friend who could be biased.

Anyhoo, that’s all I wanted to say.

Just Another Author Update

Well, it’s August, 2016 and once again I find that I have little to write about for this blog. In fact, I haven’t made a substantial post on this blog for quite some time. So, with nothing better to do, I’m going to give another author update. The last few days have been difficult; I’ve been dealing with mental illness/antichrist issues. Which means I’ve done very little in terms of writing and editing this week. But that’s okay. I’ll get to it eventually.

As of now, The Citadel (Book III) is currently entering its third draft. I suspect it will take at least another year to get it in its final form. I also have a novella, Prism, which was all set to go, but then I submitted parts of it for critiquing to my writers’ group. It consists of basically four chapters. After rereading it, I’ve decided that Chapters I and II are kind of slow. Although the characters and world are unique, I’m feeling I have to do something to those Chapters, especially chapter two. So, I haven’t released it yet.

I’ve also got a really cool short story that is doing the rounds, hoping to be accepted by an ezine. Plus, a second short story—also cool, in my opinion—that has completed several edits and is almost ready for submission.

Anyway, that’s where I stand at the moment.

Interview and Promotion on Megan Cashman’s Site

I have a guest spot on a fellow writer’s blog today. The writer’s name is Megan Cashman. We met (on-line, that is—we’ve never met in person) a couple years back on one of my previous blog tours. Anyway, she offered to do a promotion for me when I released my latest book, The Sceptre of Morgulan, back in November 2015. Unfortunately, at the time I lost the email amidst the chaos of events and never replied. When I finally discovered my mistake—about a month ago—I dropped her a line to apologize and she offered again. Which is way cool of her. Anyway, she’s agreed to promote my books on her site. The promotion should last one week or so. The books in question include my series From the Ashes of Ruin. The series starts with the prequel, Drasmyr, continues with The Children of Lubrochius and then The Sceptre of Morgulan. My series is primarily a fantasy story, 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 Megan Cashman’s site here: http://wp.me/p2q6dm-lM

Please go check it out and lend her your support. You’ll also be able to find the coupon codes on the bottom of the page for a promotion running simultaneously on Smashwords. If you use both codes, you’ll save six dollars. SIX DOLLARS! WOO HOO! (And spend only $2) Anyway, check it out and leave a comment.

Author Update

Well, it’s May, 2016. I have nothing else to write about tonight, so I figured I would do an author update to fill people in regarding my current writerly adventures. I’ve joined a Writer’s Group, which is cool. I’ve been itching to do so for several years, now; I just was having difficulty finding one. But no worries, I found one that meets at the local library. Actually, I wasn’t the one to find them: One of my associates at the Food Shelf found the ad in the newspaper and cut it out for me. Woo hoo! Thank you, Dorothy!

Anyway, I was in a big slump for almost three months, maybe even longer. But the Writer’s Club rescued me from the doldrums. They brought a successful published author in to give a talk and that talk got me psyched for writing again. I’ve churned out, oh, I don’t know, seven chapters in about five weeks or so. Very productive. I think I have maybe one or two chapters left in total and then I will have finished the rough draft of Book III of From the Ashes of Ruin. Also, I’m still trying to publish a few short stories. Oh, and I have a novella in the works which I shall shortly release and give away for free. It has nothing to do with my current series, but it’s a cool tale nonetheless. It was kind of an escape from the series; it let me relax my brain and chew on something different for a while. (At the time of posting, I have officially completed the rough draft of From the Ashes of Ruin.)

Anyway, that’s the news!

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.