Tag Archives: Fiction

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!

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #16–(5* Review)

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today

we have: Dalene’s Book Reviews (http://dalenesbookreviews.blogspot.com/) Please check them out and show them your support. (I got a five star review today!)

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #11

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today we have: You Gotta Read Reviews (http://yougottaread.com/) Please check them out and show them your support.

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #9

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today we have: My Odd Little World (http://nancyg1950.blogspot.com/) Please check them out and show them your support.

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for quite some time, but I kept putting it off. I’m sorry I did. It was a great movie. It continues the reboot of the “Star Trek” series of movies. We have the original cast of characters being played by different actors. These include: Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Science Officer Spock), Zoe Saldana (Communications Officer Uhura), Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy a.k.a. “Bones”), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan). It’s basically a reboot (in a very loose roundabout way) of either “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” or the original series episode “Space Seed.” Only because it involves Khan and the 72 other superhumans of the Botany Bay crew.

 

The story begins on a distant planet where Kirk steels a valuable artifact from a primitive culture in a ploy to get them away from an erupting volcano so Spock can set off a device to neutralize the volcano. Things get hairy, Kirk is forced to violate the Prime Directive a couple of times, and Spock files his own report detailing that. That sets up the tension between Kirk and Spock (and also Spock and Uhura) throughout the movie. From there, they return to Earth, whereupon they learn of a terrorist whose name escapes me (It is really Khan, but he’s going by another name). They determine that Khan has fled to the Klingon home world of Kronos. So, the Enterprise is sent in pursuit armed with special photon torpedoes. Their orders are to kill Khan from a distance. But Kirk leads a landing party to capture him. After single-handedly wiping out most of a Klingon patrol, Khan surrenders. And from there, things get really dicey.

 

Strengths: There were a lot. The acting was good. The special effects were good. The story was good. And the character conflicts and crises were believable. There was only one logical flaw that I can think of in the movie, and that was a pretty minor one. Weaknesses: well, I think the sexualization of Kirk was a little overdone—he was always kind of like that, but they were more discreet in earlier films and the series (of course, that’s some forty years ago or so—oh well). Also, there was that logical flaw where transporters worked while the shields were up in one scene, and then not in another (Or did they lower the shields? I don’t remember, now).

 

Anyway, I’ll give “Star Trek: Into Darkness” four and a half stars out of five).

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #5

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today we have: The Dan O’Brien Project (http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/)Please check them out and show them your support.

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #4

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, continues today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today we have: Fae Books (http://www.faebooks.co.uk/)Please check them out and show them your support. Oh, and Fae Books had the courtesy of reviewing the book: so, check it out.

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

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Blurb Blitz Blog Tour: Stop #1

My blurb blitz blog tour for my vampire fantasy novel, Drasmyr, starts today. Every day until July 19th, I’ll be visiting a variety of blogs across the Internet where promotional material for my book will be posted consisting of a blurb and an excerpt, or so. At the end of the tour, one of the commenters on the tour (the tour sites, NOT AToastToDragons) will win a prize. Today we have: fuonlyknew (http://fuonlyknew.com/) Please check them out and show them your support.

 

And check out the sponsor of the tour: http://www.goddessfish.com/.

Reminder: Drasmyr Available In Print on Lulu.com

My dark fantasy novel, Drasmyr, is now available as a hardcover book on Lulu.com for $24.99. It makes a great gift for yourself or others, particularly for those who want a physical copy of what previously was only available as an ebook. Get your copy today!

Why I Write Fantasy

Perhaps, since I started writing this blog over a year ago, this entry is long overdue. In any event, I have just gotten around to writing it. Hopefully, my words will entertain you for a bit, and inspire you to look at fantasy in a new light.
First, why write? Writing is an enjoyable process of both exploration and self-expression. Exploration because there are times when you don’t know what’s going to come out next, and self-expression because it allows for the dissemination of personal ideas both simple and complex. I’ve been writing pretty much my entire adult life, off and on, for a variety of purposes. Usually, I’m chasing that ever elusive carrot of publication and entering the big-time, but sometimes I do it just for fun.

Now, why fantasy? Well, this is actually a multi-part answer. First, there is an adage (well, if there isn’t, there should be) that says “write what you know.” I’ve always been enchanted by fantasy, whether it be books, or role-playing games, or videos games, or movies. There is something profoundly alluring about exploring magical realms where dragons and sorcerers are real. It’s a form of escapism. Perhaps, that means my regular life is too mundane—that I’m indeed escaping from something unpleasant. I don’t know if I would go that far, but even if that is the case, then so be it. I enjoy the fantasy world because it re-ignites a sense of wonder and awe. Something we all felt as children, but which has a tendency to grow stale and die as we age. There is something about fairy dust and fireballs that stirs the imagination. Second, there is a certain degree of freedom in fantasy writing that may not be present in other forms of writing. The whole premise of the genre is that you are writing about a world, a situation, or a character that does not follow the same rules that apply here on Earth, or even in our universe for that matter. Whatever you can imagine can take form in your stories. Winged men, burning plants, freezing fire … whatever you want: it can happen. That doesn’t mean you can write completely willy-nilly ignoring all sense of logic. At a certain point, such would degenerate into unintelligible nonsense. But I digress. The third reason for writing fantasy is a bit more subtle, and, to be honest, is not always pertinent. Fantasy can provide a powerful means of providing metaphors about society and criticism of culture. I don’t always write like that, to be honest; most of the time, I just write a story because I like a good story. But I have on occasion written a bit of social commentary using fantasy as its vehicle. This is not uncommon. Some of the most famous names in the genre told stories that were meant to be so much more: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, just to name two. At any rate, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for literary criticism.

In the end, perhaps the most important reason for me to write fantasy is that I enjoy doing so. I have several interests and hobbies, but by far, the one with the most powerful draw is fantasy writing. Now, if only I could make some money at it. Then, I’d be all set. 