Friday, December 13, 2013

Take it Personally, Just Don’t Keep it.

Take it Personally, Just Don’t Keep it.

I think it is an almost undeniably safe conclusion to admit, that by this point, everyone has heard the age old cliché; “Don’t take it personally.” It is typically the first advice cited to anyone who might even remotely ever have to bear the brunt of some rather blunt criticism, and even more so may be one of the most reiterated lines used for comfort(even if it mostly fails in that regard).

Now, I’ve been finding myself of late with a wandering mind as I’m left with little else to occupy me besides idle contemplation. In case you’re unfamiliar, I’ll give you the condensed version; I’ve been dealing with Carpal Tunnel in my right wrist and after only just recently having had surgery I’m still what you might classify as ‘on the mend.’ As such I find myself with ample time to consider many things, primarily in an effort to preoccupy myself.

Honestly, there is only so much Solitaire you can mindlessly play before it’s starts to remind you that you’re only doing it because there is little else available to you. And while you could read endlessly there is always that nagging whisper in the back of your mind to remind you that if you do you’ll eventually exhaust what supply you have of enjoyable material. Then there is television… if you’re fortunate to find anything enticing enough to interest you on.

No, for me the habitual ritual of daily writing was an enjoyable part of my day. It was one that helped to provide me with structure and a sense of accomplishment. I won’t lie, I do miss it. But as you reflect on things, ironically enough, some issues blaze with a light of their own and just refuse to be cast aside.

To be fair; I’ve been scribbling little tales and the like for a good long while. In all that time, you can rest assured that I’ve seen more than my share of scathing reviews; I’ve been the receiver of both praise and ridicule – even silent indifference. And that is to be expected, honestly. In fact, I’ve always welcomed any form of feedback, as it helps you refine your work.

However, I have learned one little pearl of wisdom from my experiences, and even if it lacks any value to most it might resonate with some so I’ll share it here:

It is always personal.

Take it personally.

Just don’t hold onto it, try to remember to let it go.

What I mean by that is quite simply, anyone who makes something does so by placing part of them into their craft. Everything they make is personal to them. It reflects on them. Want to insult a cook? Speak ill of their food. Want to see a child cry? Tear apart the first book report or essay they attempt by pointing out every grammatical error, misspelling or improperly cited reference. It may just be a trivial thing to you, but, try as they might nobody can completely separate their selves from something they worked on.

For example; I recently stumbled on a review of the first serial-styled bedtime story I wrote for my kids. It was apparently very poorly received by the reader. In fact, the summary of the entire critic apparently only merited 2-3 very very concise sentences. The tale was little more than a novice approach to a bedtime story for small children. I believed I had clearly established it as such and even had gone on to clarify that it was, quite simply, something designed to be read to kids as young as 5-6 even. It wasn’t high brow literature meant for debate or deep meaningful contemplation. The wording, the characters, even the plot was shaped to be easy for a child to grasp, to enjoy.

A child could readily notice that at the beginning the young hero is terrified of the dark but that by the end he has grown to overcome his fear. That, while basic, is character development. The central character changed because of the events of the story. But, apparently, one issue with the story was that there was no character development.

Now realistically, I could by all accounts just ignore this person’s opinion and relegate it to something that didn’t exist to me. I could just as equally allow it to fester up inside me until it ate away and tried to turn me into some angry net-troll strolling about to lay siege to any negative comments. Neither avenue seems altogether healthy to me personally.

But what I will do is take such criticism personally – allow it to both motivate and enlighten me. I can’t please everyone, nor do I care to try. However, I can decide that next time around I’ll make it a point to approach my work with a better eye for what I’m trying to do and how well it manages to meet that goal. I can use it; help it to keep me passionate and the try to remind myself that it was just one opinion of a single soul that I have never known.

They didn’t know me either. Perhaps in the future though another will stumble on to one of my little yarns and find something enjoyable because of this. Then I can take that new smile just as personal before setting it aside and moving on. Because, it’s always personal; just don’t let it stay personal.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Think; Thank.

Think; Thank.

Yeah, it’s that time of year again – the inevitable annual time to reflect on so much of our lives. Now, to be fair we really shouldn’t wait around to contemplate such matters only once or twice a year. But it seems like there is something about the Holidays that manage to remind us, if we take a breath to slow our pace. Perhaps it is a byproduct of the seasonal weather, the almost mandatory requirement to gather and spend time indoors. Whatever the reasons are, they are irrelevant. The point is what matters; it is time everyone paused to think about gratitude.

Whatever that means to you; embrace it.

Whatever you’re thankful for; celebrate it.

And whatever blessings are in you’re life; acknowledge them.

The simple truth is an undeniable fact: we aren’t here forever and in that brief time we can’t afford to waste a single moment taking anything for granted. For example, I’ve been granted a unique perspective of late. For the last few months I’ve had to deal with the limitation of the denied use of my right hand or wrist. In short, I have spent a third of this year trying to adapt as best I can.

And, as odd as it may sound, I am deeply grateful for the experience. It has been trying, frustrating even, but it has been humbling. From this time I’ve learned a lot about solving problems creatively and how to put pride aside and trust in the aid of others. This can be difficult when you’re used to being the one who is relied on.

Which leads me to something more of us take for granted, friendship. Family is a precious and powerful bond in our lives, but it is the fire of friendship that lights our darker days. Where our family is there to anchor us, to support us, we need friends as we walk our own road. It is our friends who help us shoulder so many burdens; it is they who help us as we grow to understand who we are.

I have had the fortune to have had many treasured friends throughout the course of my life. Each and every one I cherish deeply, and my only regret is that so few of them remain in my daily life. Time, distance and life have a way of drifting people apart – but they can never truly separate them or the memories they will forever share. I am forever indebted to my friends and the times we shared. It’s something I am truly thankful for.

We should all be so fortunate to have so much to be grateful for. Take a moment for yourself and really consider that. Ask yourself; what are you truly thankful for? Whatever answer you find, embrace it, cherish it, and celebrate it. Show others you recognize and/or appreciate them or what they do. Don’t waste anymore time and do not wait around for another Holiday to remind you.

You’re mission, whether you choose to accept it or not is to think thank.

Saturday, November 16, 2013



November has always been a special month for me; it holds a unique place in my heart for so many reasons. For starters it’s perhaps the highlight of my favorite season: Autumn. Then there is the fact that it is also the annual celebrated National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. Not to mention that it is also home to my yearly “Date of Manufacture.”

But sadly, I must confess I’ve never ever taken part in NaNoWriMo. Nor did I have any desire to do so this year. This as a writer, even a humble hobbyist one, does leave me with a fair measure of shame. But it is a reasonable argument, easily understood that any writer suffering through some rather unpleasant Carpal Tunnel might shy away from attempting any such feat.

Now, I am going to be honest here – I am not writing this as an excuse or even an explanation to make me feel better. The simple point I may be stumbling my way towards is that the first two letters in November form a very basic word; no. That being said I believe that anyone who found themselves suddenly limited in all that they could do for themselves might find the word ‘no’ a blaring, nay, a blinding focus for their thoughts.

How easy it is to loose sight of so much by simply narrowing your gaze to look upon all that is beyond you. Our van’s power steering pump died on us; I was powerless to repair it one handed. The washing machine’s clutch finally failed us – no roaring to the repair on that one either. Open a brand new pickle jar for my 4 year old daughter before bed? Nope. It was yet another task demanding a pair of working hands.

Yet, as humorous and frankly overly punny as it might sound – there is light at the end of the Carpal Tunnel. And the irony is nothing short of poetic. Monday morning, on my very “Date of Manufacture” no less I’ll be going in for surgery to release the pressure imposed by my Carpal Tunnel on my Median Nerve. This means that in a matter of time I could very well be on the mend.

Furthermore, there have been far too many blessings bestowed upon me and my family to dwell on any limitations of limbs. While trying to place what limited funds available to me onto a prepaid debit card a regrettable error occurred leaving me with just under what I needed to order a part for our washer. When I tried to recover I discovered myself painfully short – possessing the “minimum amount” but a dollar or two shy of the $3 loading fee. A kind hearted stranger provided the missing amount warmly, and while I fumbled to thank her she was gone before I could reinforce my gratitude.

And that is but one testament to the aid I have received. My devoted Wife herself has helped tie my shoes daily and open pill bottles. My loving Mother has brought me drain cleaner when our kitchen sink defied us and helped me find solutions for problems just out of my own reach. I’ve been blessed with so many supportive figures and generous souls that it is truly difficult to not smile and be grateful.

I guess you might say that for me at least, there just is no no in November. May we all be so fortunate.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Delight of a Dozen.

Twelve years ago, in a sleepy little church and with but a handful of treasured loved ones near two idealistic romantic youths said those fateful words that bound them with a sacred oath.

For twelve long years we have weathered winters together, and strolled hand in hand through summer suns. Over a dozen passing sets of seasons we have watched fall drape the land about us in a kaleidoscope of color, only to look on as spring sewed greenery anew. It has been a long road and one not without its own difficulties. However, I must confess it seems at times to have passed us by in a mere blink of the eye.

I'd not dare trade a single day of my time being married to my maiden fare for anything under the sun or moon. Nor have I ever truly regretted saying those cherished words. In deepest and solemn truth I do unequivocally exclaim that I look forward to the next dozen years and more with excited glee.

Twelve years ago on October 27th I vowed that 'with this ring, I thee wed.'

It is only fitting that on the anniversary of that day I can still proudly proclaim; that with this ring I remain, and forever shall.

Eternally and faithfully devoted to my loving wife Teal Rae Johnson Gill. May I be blessed to have you at my side for a few dozen more.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

When The Repair Man Needs Repair.

It's 10:54 p.m., and I'm sitting burdened by a series of puzzling thoughts. For one; what do you do when it is the repair man who is in fact the very thing in need of repair?

Two days ago I managed to see an orthopedic specialist regarding my right hand/wrist. Long story short there was an ever so pleasant injection into said wrist to try to determine if any relief could be had and the potential necessity of surgery. Now, here I sat two days later with marked improvement from the constant numbness and tingling but still struggling with some pain, not to mention reduced function.

The problem is that I find myself looking up at a spinning coin, on one face is the expected fear and worry ever present, and on the other a shinning glimmer of hope. I can even hear the familiar Twing of it on the air as it has been cast aloft. But my problem is the uncomfortable uncertainty.

I stepped outside today to take a look at our van, its our only vehicle and recently it decided that its power steering pump just didn't want to work. Now, granted this could be a irritating nuisance in itself, but it also serves as a key component of the braking system. No steering, no braking. I've managed to get it to straighten back out before, but back then I had two working hands. I say that because today I had to shamefully admit that something I have done a million times, a woefully basic task was beyond me. I couldn't remove a fuse with my right hand to check it. The hand just wouldn't work right, it shook violently, refused to grip or hold - I just couldn't do it. I found myself awash in a mixture of fury and torrential tormenting terror. My left arm couldn't manage the needed angle to reach well enough either.

Which brought me back to thinking. I look to my right hand and I see a technician with tools to hand and the knowledge to make use of them, but lacking the ability to combine those two aspects. A scribe unable to scribble. And then I look upon my left and I see possibility.

So whether surgery restores me or simply allows me a lesser degree of function than before I have to keep my eye on the coin of chance. Even if surgery isn't an option and something else is, I have to keep faith that I'll adapt - I'll survive. I've weathered many a storm from birth, and something tells me there will be many more to come. It isn't the events that determine the course of our lives, it is where we decide to tread from those events that define us. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Can You Spell, DM.

Can You Spell, DM

As a final stop on my little jaunt through the final D&D Next playtest packet I thought I might focus my gaze upon two main areas as yet untouched; the Spells and DM Guidelines to be exact. Along the way I’ll try to sprinkle in a dash or three of any commentary regarding anything overlooked thus far. So, without wasting anymore time; let’s begin, shall we.

First, we’ll start this survey by diving directly into something fun; spells. Dungeons & Dragons wouldn’t be complete without its essential element of magical marvels. And even with enchanted items or ancient artifacts, no party is quite the same without a spell slinger among them. No matter if you’re a player who prefers to play a casting capable character or not, everyone recognizes a familiar spell or two. And it doesn’t take a mage to appreciate a well placed spell blast when the party’s back is to the wall.

  • Pete and Repeat are Looking at a Spellbook – In the past there has been a longstanding pattern of some spells existing in a series of staggered variants. A small, medium and large version, if you will. Instead, such spells are now just a single base spell; one that if cast using a higher slot scales in proportion with adjusted effect. No more juggling how many cure light wounds, moderate etc you have prepared. Now you just cast a cure wounds spell, and if cast in a higher slot it simply cures with increased potency.
  • A Tool for Every Toolbox – Often overlooked, cantrips are a caster’s most basic and useful spells. After years of repeated castings through training or daily use they are now etched upon the magic user’s mind making them almost effortless to cast. This ‘minor magic’ isn’t just some arbitrary handful of options you start the game with and collect dust. Classes like mages and clerics have access to ranged attack cantrips, providing them with magical attacks available each turn. Useful utility spells allow for spellcasters to keep handy tools at their disposal at any time.
  • Sometimes it Takes Some Time – Not every spell, cantrip or otherwise, is designed strictly for use in the spur of the moment. Rituals exist as version of a spell that takes longer to perform, but doesn’t expend a spell slot. For example a mage might choose the ritual for Find Familiar if they wanted to summon and bind a spirit that takes the form of some animal to their service. While the ritual itself takes resources and time its results are permanent. So, while spells can be slung in the heat of combat there are also others well worth the time to take to do them.
  • Don’t Panic, Your Magic Isn’t MIA – I have yet to meet a seasoned veteran player yet who doesn’t have a roster of must have spells they always start the  game looking for. And, should they find them absent, they might just react like a kid missing their favorite toy. Granted, that last bit was just a joke – but in truth some spells have a heritage all their own and a sacred place on a spell list. If magic missile was no more, I think there might be a crying chorus calling foul. So rest assured; legends like magic missile, feather fall, goodberry, prestidigitation, melf’s acid arrow and so much more are all still around. Not only that, but I can attest that I don’t think I have found any classic spell so far that isn’t true to its roots.
  • Shiny and New – The spell section isn’t just a collection of old and moldy greatest hits dusted off with a fresh paint job. Included among the familiar faces are some nice new ones. In fact, I have long been a less than enthusiastic fan of rangers getting access to spells; just never felt right to me. However, I can honestly concede that the spells available to a ranger now not only fit, but they feel right without making a ranger seem like something else. Spells like swift quiver, hail of thorns, and hunter’s veil all seamlessly interweave into the classes image. While other new spells like fire seeds, thunderous smite and sacred flame shine as additions to other classes. (I fully understand that not all of these may be new or never before seen spells, just trying to highlight a handful of standouts.)

Moving along from fun towards more function, allow me to tread into the realm of the DM Guidelines. Fear not however, I have no intention of laying bare all those mischievous machinations players are certain must be grinding away against them in such sections. (Another joke in case you missed it, DM humor can be somewhat like that of the British; dry and an acquired taste.)

  • When to, When Not to – A bit of sage-like advice that I wouldn’t be surprised to have been cited as its source of origin being the venerable Gygax himself starts the DM Guidelines section off. One might have alternatively titled the segment; “When to stroke your beard like an evil mastermind with a grin, and when not to.” All puns aside, it is an essential skill that is valuable to any DM; knowing when to roll the dice and when not to. Not every action taken by players should require a check; the dice are just a tool.
  • The Broad Basics – When you talk about covering all your bases, it’s easy for some areas to manage to be overlooked by the time you get to something like the DM Guidelines. Little things like; how do you deal with a pc falling, are kobolds nocturnal, and what dc you should set for a check based on its presumed difficulty. Impressively enough, everything looks to be covered and laid out in the Guidelines making it a more than capable framework ready to be put to use. Things like setting dc’s, hazards, dealing with ability checks, creature sizes, lighting, dungeon features, exploration tasks, travel pace, weather, encounter and reward building, all the way to an example of play are all covered and then some.
  • Can I See Your Cartographer, Please – Maybe it’s a sign of my age but I can remember every game session we played there was always one player assigned the task of map-maker. As we made our way cautiously down into the depths, they studiously scribed our journey down onto paper to illustrate the descriptions from our DM. Now there are grid sheets with terrain tiles, apps and a variety of other software to use instead. But, no matter how you track it, visualize it or handle it; having a map is handy both in character and out. For us, our map-maker’s character often also took to the task of making a map in character as well. As such in the new rules players can employ a number of useful tasks while exploring; including making a map. So, trust me; if there are rules mentioned in the DM Guide alongside the likes of keeping watch to avoid an ambush – be they map making or navigating etc – then odds are they’re the kinds of things a party would be wise to pay heed of.
  • The Might of Math – Say it with me now; elegance is effective and easy. One part of a DM’s job is to fairly form which monsters will be encountered on the adventure. There have been a variety of ways this has been handled in the different editions and some have been a little less than a lightening to the workload, so to speak. Well, now everyone behind the screen can sigh with relief; because things just got simpler. Have a party of 4 1st level pc’s looking for an average difficulty fight? You reference a simple chart with 3 columns; easy, medium and hard with a row along the side for level. A quick glance on the line for 1st level reveals a value for an average fight that you then just multiply by the number of people in the party. The final result is your xp budget for the encounter. With that figure you can go shopping for bad guys to battle.
  • What’s It Got in It’s Pockets – The flip side to a DM’s duties is one that actually goes hand in hand with what monsters the heroes face. It’s the details regarding how to reward them. Now, when you were shopping for monsters you already established part of what to reward them with by your xp budget itself. That is to say, your xp budget is also the xp your heroes will be rewarded with by defeating the monsters. To determine what more tangible rewards might be available a series of tables are provided based on the kind of treasure complete with how to use them to generate random loot. A DM doesn’t have to use them, but it is a handy reference if you need to throw a quick horde or modest stash together.

Some miscellaneous things to mention:

  • Step by Step – Want to make a character of your very own? Included is a step by stem walkthrough to guide you through the process. It details what choices you have to make and points out some things to consider in fleshing out your adventuring hero to be. Including some explanation of key basic terms and aspects of how to describe your character or what to do beyond 1st level.
  • But How Do You… - Another prized gem is the How To Play section, which, ironically enough explains precisely what its name implies. Gathered here are the rules on how you make an attack roll, what an ability check is and how advantage/disadvantage works. In short; everything from saving throws and skills to movement and attitudes/reactions are explained. Combat, taking damage and healing are described. Even the various conditions with which a character might be afflicted are defined. Everything short of what a DM might need to know is provided in surprisingly easy to understand terms.
  • We Don’t Need Your Sheet – Also included is a pdf character sheet for you to use with your own characters. It’s fairly basic all things told but kind of amusing too. The digital record allows you a layout with all the standard info arranged in little areas to fill in. Including some little bubbles you can fill in and label with a name to track ammunition, potions or torches complete with a simple icon to designate them. Everything is very straight forward and serviceable, albeit lacking in style. But then again, this is a sample intended for use during the playtest; it could just as easily been a collection of empty lines you could fill out like a sheet of notebook paper. Wouldn’t that have been a grand and humorous bit of fun?
  • Hello My Name Is… - If your pals are short on time, a little shy about diving in or just prefer pre-made personas there are already created characters included. There are around 10-ish total, and while they run the gamut of available classes to represent, don’t expect every race represented or anything that might stand out as an unusual combo. No dwarf rangers or warforged paladins I’m afraid, but there are some tried and true examples of some staple heroes. Each one is a complete write up listing their stats, racial traits, class features and background. Any gear is described, including what attacks they can make and if they can cast spells they are listed in detail. No assembly required, batteries included, ready to play right out of the box! The only thing left for you to do is give them a name and/or describe them if you chose. I suppose if a lack of creativity restrained you; you could simply be bob the dwarf…
  • Step Right Up – It wouldn’t be a playtest without some material for you to play through, right? To that end a collection of previous released adventures complete with their bestiaries and a new one are also included. So a DM can get a feel for things before trying to devise his own dark dungeon, if he preferred.

So, I believe that finally brings us full circle and to a close on my commentary regarding the final Next packet. An additional update is promised to be on its way in the immediate future, but until it arrives all that remains is to put these rules to the test. Do they hold up? Will they feel like you expect them too while playing? Who knows, but for now this is my thoughts on the subject. I’d welcome to hear what anyone else thinks or their own experiences. And rest assured; I’ll test things out as well before long. Whether those results make their way into a post or the update manages to warrant one, I’m always willing to discuss my impressions should anyone find themselves’ curious. Hopefully you’ll enjoy your time playing with the new Next material, I know I will.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beasts and Backgrounds.

Beasts and Backgrounds

When a player makes a character, that persona is more than just a class and race combination. It’s a sum of all its various components, and one aspect I for one am celebrating is that of backgrounds. One of my favorite things to do when making a character is to try and somehow work something into them to represent their background. A wizard might have some training as a bookmaker or record keeper because he grew up working as a clerk or craftsman before beginning their arcane studies. A young swordsman might have an acceptable knowledge of nature, geography or perhaps even be a capable farm hand. Doesn’t make either more powerful in combat or anything but it speaks to where they came from, makes the character have just that; more character. Its fun opens up interesting options for stories and allows you to really think about where they came from – not to mention why they do what they do.

The addition of backgrounds as a component of character creation, at least to me, was a welcome and delightful feature. So, in continuing my look at the final playtest packet released for D&D Next, let’s start with Backgrounds.  

  • There was a Yesterday for everyone – Every background presented grants the character proficiency with three skills, (up to) three tools, and a trait. The traits are basically an extra special ability the character can use that relates to their background. Some backgrounds also provide additional languages as well. A list of recommended gear is also present for those who take the class quick start gear packages complete with cost.
  • Tied Traits – Generally speaking, the traits granted to a character also serve to provide a tie to the world as well. They allow for them to have a potential connection to various groups they can interact with. In this way they don’t just provide a static bonus or ability, but instead a means to establish them as part of the world around them. A member of the thieves’ guild might recognize someone speaking in code, but it also means they might know others or be called on to settle guild business. It opens potential plot hooks for stories and serves to ground the character.
  • Enough to go Around – Not every imaginable background is listed among the samples. However, there is more than enough variety to cover most of the basics. And, should some specific background desired not be among those listed there are guidelines to come up with your own. More than sufficient enough to be of use to play with.

Let’s turn our attention as we take a moment to consider the monsters themselves now, since no adventure could be complete without bad guys to beat.

  • Monster, Monster, Goose – I haven’t counted them, but there are almost 90 pages of bestiary entries describing quite the range of monsters. But not every entry is just another beast to battle. There are also stated descriptions for animals like horses, and various humanoids as well.
  • Familiar Foes – Go ahead and grin, I know we all will; some of our favorite enemies are back once more. Like those vicious little lizard-looking kobolds for example. There is quite a collection of classic and iconic creatures to do combat with.
  • Don’t Expect The Same Fights – Even though some of the same monsters are back, there are also new ones as well. Monsters like kobolds now come in different types. Others have chieftains/leaders to be faced as well, and a new random recharge means you can never be certain that beholder is empty of energy blasts. So prepare for some familiar fun but don’t forget to keep an eye out for some surprises too.
  • Encounter Building Blocks – Gone are the challenge ratings, encounter levels and other such figures used to calculate which monsters made a threat and which were too much. Included in each entry is a single section at the end listing what level is appropriate for the party to be and how much xp is rewarded.
  • And… Action – The monsters presented aren’t just bland sets of stat blocks, they also list key traits, attacks and any customizable options for the dm. This includes any tactical strengths, average damage on a hit (damage dice are listed as usual), etc. Customizable features for some monsters can be things like if the creature can change shape, cast spells, curse its foes etc. Not every creature of a set kind will all be cookie cutter clones. All the better to have provide you with some variety in your opponents, no?

Even with some classic monsters and the inclusion of rules regarding backgrounds Next still proves to me to be fresh, innovative and a clear return to the game’s core. It shows us some of the games defining elements in new ways or with refreshing simplicity. Things may be changing but the past is not being forgotten nor is it replacing the future.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Race Class.

Race Class.

Continuing with my ongoing look at the final D&D Next playtest packet I thought we might take a gander at two important decisions any player ever makes; race and class. Now, as much as I might be thrilled to do so, I’ll have to refrain from citing every little detail or feature. So, forgive me if you were hoping for a summary account of every single aspect regarding the races and/or classes. I apologize for the restriction, but you are more than welcome to sign up with WotC to get access to the complete packet.

Let’s begin, as most players do, by taking a look at the races presented as available for play.

  • The Fantasy Four – Listed as the common races capable of fitting in to virtually any setting are the dwarves, elves, Halflings and humans.
  • The Uncommon Denominators – As far less predominant peoples we are also presented with dragonborn, drow, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, kinder, tieflings, and warforged.
  • Culture, Anyone? – With the exception of a handful of the races (who realistically don’t require one) every race has a detailed primer providing a good briefing on its culture, customs, and racial identity. Every race offers you ideas for names, commonly spoken languages, info on religion, beliefs etc. You really get a sense of the race as a whole to help shape the character you’re trying to create.
  • Fun Flavors – Not every race is just a singular group; many are made up of different tribes, clans and offshoots. This is nothing new to any experienced player; many could even rattle off names of various sub-races like hill dwarves and wood elves without blinking. So it should come as no surprise that when selecting a race you are also presented with some sub-races as well to chose from. They are all well done, with their own signature traits that add to all other racial features without replacing anything. Overall everything looks fun and worth trying out.
  • More With Less – The key established premise I keep seeing emphasized is the overall flavor and rich depth. Key aspects of each race is still present, but gone is so much of the math. Racial features are no less important or effective; they just don’t rely on +2 to this or that to justify them. 
  • Not Exactly What Some Expect - One caveat I must provide, and while I enjoyed it some will no doubt decry it; don't expect every race presented to be precisely as you imagine/remember them. Dragonborn aren't described as having to look like walking/talking dragon-men, nor are Tieflings forced to look like fiendishly evil folks. Without such mandatory aesthetics I think it breathes some old life into the concepts and allows for great storytelling opportunities. 

And as for the classes…

  • Party Plenty – Don’t expect your party of players to be restricted to a handful of choices because presented are the rules for; barbarian, bard, cleric, druid fighter, mage, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue.
  • But Are They Real? – One of the first questions I asked myself when approaching every class was a simple albeit important one; does it feel right. Every class has a certain feel to it, so if the mage doesn’t feel like a mage to me or the ranger like a ranger then it’s an issue. Fortunately, every single class screams its own name. Each one shines in its own way and is exactly how you would expect them to be.
  • Options Abound – Just because feats are optional doesn’t mean every class is just a straight line of generic traits. Players can chose from different types of representations regarding their class as they level up. Mages might take up the traditions of specific schools of magic, while a cleric might focus on a particular domain of his deity. No two characters will be alike even if they are the same class.
  • Efficient, Effective – Every class description starts off with a brief explanation followed by its features and includes a quick reference box highlighting some things to help if you’re trying to throw one together in a hurry. You have your trusty table of features per level laid out and then the starting traits to take note of. Chiefly your hit die, hit points at 1st level, hit points at higher levels, armor/weapon/tool proficiencies, two attributes you are proficient in for saving throws and finally a few skills to pick one from to add to those granted via your background. Don’t worry though, should they overlap the skills you already have you can pick a different skill of your choice. After this the rest of the classes’ features are explained and any options available are described.
  • A Different Approach to Ability Score Improvement – Depending on your class, you will get opportunities to raise your attributes at various levels. However, instead of a consistent 1 point increase you’ll find yourself with 2 points you can boost one stat or 2 separate ones. The only catch being you can’t use this feature to raise any score above 20. Every class provides this feature, just at different intervals and in total about 4-5 times by 20th level. Which could easily allow a player to exchange his stat boost for a feat should he find his stats sufficiently satisfying.

I think that about covers it, like I already said, without endlessly repeating everything in gory detail. So, until next time where I’ll try to fill you in on even more, feel free to have a look for yourself and/or share your thoughts. I know I’m looking forward to seeing Next continuing towards becoming complete, or at the very least farther down the line towards release.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gear, Goods and Greatness.

Gear, Goods and Greatness

In my last post I took a moment to highlight and talk about some things that stood out to me after reviewing the final D&D Next Playtest packet. And, just as I mentioned in my post there was far too much material to cover completely. This became doubly clear by the following morning, where it occurred to me that there were still some areas I had yet to look through very well. So, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’d like to continue my examination of the material. Specifically, this post will try to focus upon magic items, mundane gear and feats.

  • Magic Items – The element of magically enchanted objects is nothing new to a fantasy setting, nor is it a sudden addition to the game. The infamous animated children’s TV show even capitalized on the concept as a core device; portraying the young heroes each with a magical item. Most people to ever have played the game can still fondly recall the thrill of finding their first magical item, no matter how simple it might have been.
  • No Guarantee, Entitlement or Requirement – Part of the underlying new culture being interwoven into Next is the concept that things like magic items should be exactly as their name implies; magical. With that idea in mind they are presented in a way that highlights them as rare treasures, not commonly encountered easily acquired badges of adventurers. The central theme is that players shouldn’t be guaranteed potent prizes every time the ride out, nor are they mandatory for them to be effective. The material is quite clear on how flexible this all can be depending on the setting, DM, or group – it isn’t established in stone. But the basic foundation is one of returning back to the wonder of discovering even the tiniest treasure.
  • Smaller Numbers, But Don’t Judge a Book by its Bonus – Initially I don’t doubt many will look on the items presented and scoff at the fact that for being so rare most only provide a +1 bonus. But this goes back to my last point; focus is shifting away from the large empty bonuses and back to the flavor. Every item shown as an example is dripping with descriptive detail. Items are given subtle elements that play to who/where they were made, hidden aspects, even quirks. Nowhere did I see a single object mentioned that was nothing more than a +x to stick in slot y.
  • Familiar Friends – Thumbing my way through each entry, I discovered some very well-known names. Some famous magic items have a history all their own, and it was very welcoming to see some classic staples presented.
  • Charge It – Some items, like wands and staffs for example make use of charges to power various effects. An interesting new element is a smaller number of total charges that recharge a random number at dawn or on expending the final charge have the risk of being exhausted permanently(a roll of 1 on a d20).
  • Common Sense Rules – As funny as the claim is, it is also apt. Magic item wearable limits have been simplified; if you could see someone wearing it within reason, then it’s acceptable. People wear multiple rings, necklaces etc all the time, so perhaps this will help cut back on some of hose late night debate sessions for some of us. Even though nothing will ever end them all together!
  • Here’s Your Stat – Instead of providing a bonus to a specific attribute, as has been the custom in the past, there are some magic items that alternatively grant a new score. For instance instead of boosting your strength by a set amount that may or may not grant you ‘the strength of a giant’ the object instead actually adjusts your strength to literally become that of a giant.
  • Tune In – Not surprisingly people have been protecting the secret methods they use to manufacture the very tools they use to safeguard themselves. Be they weapons proven effective, the most protective armors, all the way to miscellaneous utility equipment. Likewise it comes as no surprise that dwarves guard their rare relics by making them only to fit themselves, and elven smiths weaving intricate spells into their own to only respond to their own kind. As such some items have requirements, they will only function for race x or class y. Others function fine for anybody, but in the hands of a preferred person they respond with superior effect. A new aspect now allows a player to attune themselves to an item, to bond with it and unlock features only available by such a connection.
  • There is Always Something – Even without a mathematical benefit, magic items still manage to effect game play. Many might not even require activation; they simply provide some effect. For instance by making all movement made while wearing them soundless, even when passing over broken glass, dry leaves or loose gravel. Others grant access to special use powers or automated responses to conditions, like say; falling, for example. And then there is the element that opposed creature types, alignments etc might meet with revulsion when coming into contact with an item. It can even lead to actual harm from touching the object. Magic items are a much richer, vibrantly flavorful aspect to the game as their presented. And what is included is merely a working sample to give us an idea. I think we can expect some great things to come.

  • Mundane Gear – Things are simplified and very satisfying here in my opinion. Enough variety to fill plenty of needs and feels perfectly well rounded. Weapons are grouped into simple and martial types breaking down into ranged or melee each.

  • Whips are a Weapon – One thing stood out to me right away, as odd as it may be (or trivial depending on your viewpoint). And that was the inclusion of the whip as a weapon that actually does slashing damage. For quite some time whips have been regarded as a non-lethal or 1 point damage weapon that could be used to try and trip or disarm. Welcome back whips.

  • Armor and AC – With the adjusted math mechanics first glances are deceptive when you approach the armor section. Light armor allows you to take advantage of your dex mod but on average only provides about an 11 +dex on average without getting into the more expensive light armors. Medium armor limits your dex mod to a max of +2 while offering a range of around 12-14 (again barring the fancy stuff). And heavy armor allows no dex mod at all with an ac of 14-17. Now, I’m not typically one to crunch numbers just for the sake of maxing things out but as an example a player with a dex mod of at least +2 could manage to afford some medium armor (ac 14) with a shield (+2 ac) for a total armor class of 18 at first level and still have only spent maybe a third of their starting funds. If you want to be precise by spending 60 gold out of a starting 175. All things considered I’d say that isn’t bad at all. Don’t let the lower ac values fool you at first look, this feels balanced to me, but we’ll see how it holds up in action.

  • You Don’t Have to Have Two Feat to walk – Feats are entirely optional now, being a substitution available anytime your class might offer you an attribute improvement. They aren’t mandatory nor are they handed out like candy. However these are not your old feats, they are noticeably more potent.

  • The Power of Potential – Feats now can provide a +1 increase to a stat; allow additional skills or languages, even bonuses to certain actions. They can remove limits on some actions like suffering disadvantage when firing from long range, or even grant new actions. Feats are formidable enough now to warrant some consideration of their use but still without being a requirement to be effective.

Well, I believe that is about it for now. There are still things left un-mentioned but perhaps I’ll go over them another time.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sally Forth; It’s a Hero’s Horizon.

Sally Forth; It’s a Hero’s Horizon

I’ve talked about Dungeon & Dragon’s 4th edition before, about how I tried to give it a fair shake but at the end of the day it just wasn’t as enjoyable to me. And there is no shame in that, it was a different kind of game, one some still enjoy while others did not. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But without getting into the whole can of worms I’d like to take a step forward past 4th to talk a little about the final D&D Next Playtest Packet. I know there are still those who decry and ridicule it for the very point that it isn’t 4th edition, calling it a failure, lacking innovation and little more than a bland throw back to bygone editions. And they are entitled to their opinion. It’s as simple as that.

The underlying truth though is that Next has been shaped from the ground up to fill a hole among fans, to reach down and find the pulsing primal core of the game and breathe new life into it. Things were seen from the vantage point of those behind the scenes that needed addressing, so they are; to ensure years of enjoyable entertainment to come.

And I for one am excited by everything I can see. Time will tell for sure though, so we’ll all have to wait and see where this course will take us. But in the mean time let me highlight a few of the things that stood out to me;

  • Simplicity as a strength – Everything presented speaks to the very heart of the game. From the brilliant advantage/disadvantage mechanic all the way to the base math itself things are fun and functional.
  • Flexibility without losing focus – Classes have been reduced to their core premise while showing that there are still options to stand them out from themselves. Rangers are done right; Druids are not just a player and his obligatory pet, while Clerics have access to ranged attack magic as well as healing.
  • Flavor and fun – Most importantly everything looks fun. You have Rangers who can shoot arrows with nature spells like Hail of Thorns to rain down a shower of sharp spikes from your projectile. Bards who can inspire everyone to victory. Paladins who champion good and can summon up that power to smite, sending radiant power right into their blows. Thematically everything feels right, nothing feels like a repeat. No matter what edition you started with or prefer what you find here will be familiar.
  • Versatile and Proficient – New elements shine a pleasant twist on some old characteristics. Take some of the most classic weapons in the game like long swords, quarterstaffs and the like. They have always been staple gear for various iconic heroes and always been useable with one or both hands. Now you can take advantage of some weapons with the versatile trait to wield two handed for a die step up in damage! A long sword’s d8 becomes a d10, meaning the weapons truly become more versatile. And a stunningly simple approach in the form of proficiency handles so much so well. A scaling proficiency bonus provides a key component to replace base attack, saving throw, etc. Proficient with that weapon? Great, add your bonus to the proper stat on your attack roll. Not good with that great axe you snatched up to protect yourself? Sorry, no bonus for you, it’s just you and your strength to deal with your own disadvantage. Easy to figure, easy to implement and feels balanced so far.
  • Modular Mages – The Wizard has long since been the default spell caster within the game. However other magic users have come along the way like warlocks, necromancers, etc. The way Mages are presented it would be easy to implement such other themed traditions under the Mage heading without having to recreate the wheel each time. Which also opens the way for a primer to pave the way for player/DM’s to create custom subtypes to fit their own games.
  • Multi-class, multiple alignments – A welcome sight was the inclusion of rules for cross classing into other classes. Want to play noble knight of the realm who secretly studies the arcane arts? As long as he has the appropriate attributes (i.e. – he’s smart enough for his lessons) he can do just that. To further add options the 9 alignments are back, meaning that depending on the theme of your story the heroes can run the gamut of saints to villains. Dark anti-heroes, self-centered alcoholics, anything you could consider playing.
  • So much room for growth – As a foundation this material looks to me to be a great basis for growth, adaption, and expansion. There isn’t a lot of clutter, everything is condensed to its core elements and so much room exists for building onto.

There is still far more to take in and digest, too much to get into here. And some aspects I can’t really comment on without testing out further. But I can easily say nothing in the materials prompt a single moment of rageface, an ounce of disdain or any disappointment. Only excitement and hope for what is to come.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Latch Perspective.

A Latch Perspective

Sometimes it is the simplest of things that can really make us take the time to stop and smile. Take a common ordinary door latch, for example. Without a way to latch a door closed you might have a bathroom without privacy. Now even a little hook and eye latch – perhaps one of the least mechanically complicated devices known to man can remedy such a problem. And it isn’t hard to install or operate. It is the very example of a basic fix.

See about a year or so back we ran into a problem, the door to one of our bathrooms (the only one with a door as a matter of fact) busted on us. To be precise the door knob’s internal mechanism failed and left the bolt stuck in place preventing the door from being opened. At which point I had two macho options available; bust down the door or systematically dismantle the door knob and remove the mechanism. I went with the latter.

Later I managed to rig up a workaround for a time before eventually settling on adding a simple latch to the door. To replace the entire door knob would have required not only new parts but work to the wall and door as well to accommodate it. Trailers aren’t designed for easy repairs or standard replacement parts.

In short I fixed the problem using my hands, some stuff that was handy and basic hand tools. I check it every time I use it to ensure it hasn’t backed out or anything else. Some folks might put it out of mind until there is a problem but maybe I’m just wired weird. Anyhow, with my recent wrist trouble I had been concerned about potentially not being as able to fix things in the future. But looking at that latch made me realize how stupid that train of thought could be. Instead of worrying over what might be a problem, my perspective needed to be shifted. I had fixed that door, it wasn’t masterful – but it worked.

Therein lies the secret; sometimes you latch your perspective closed, you blind yourself. And a latch isn’t a complicated thing; you can fix it if there is a problem. It’s all in how you look at it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

All Ahead One-Third.

So yesterday I broke down and agreed to go for a visit to the emergency room about my wrist. For those of you not married allow me to translate; I wisely chose the option of being taken by my lovely wife instead of some less favorable alternatives. In short - my wrist has been killing me and it has only been getting worse. Even trying to care for it at home.

What my little visit did grant me was some understanding, a couple prescriptions and a rather effective brace. To be clear I am confined to ONLY using my left hand. So for now much of my daily routine is shifting, and may continue to do so. In about a week I have to try and get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon to consider the next step in treatment - namely injections to try and directly reduce swelling/inflammation. Barring that it's surgery for carpal tunnel then.

So for the time being I am going to carry on ahead, even at reduced speed to finish refining Gauntlet for release as an ebook and see where things go from there. I apologize to anyone who might have visited recently looking for new stories and the like, given time I hope to return to full speed. In the last few weeks I have come to accept that it is far better to rein things in now than to risk a future without the ability to continue doing so much of what I love.

Wish me luck, and all the patience I can manage, something tells me I am going to need all I can get. I hope Gauntlet will prove just as enjoyable as some of my other works so far. And in the meantime let me know what you think about any of my stories so far, I would love to hear any feedback on them.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Word On Wrists.

A Word on Wrists

My whole life I can honestly say has been spent devoid of any merit of muscle. To be frank, despite any efforts to the contrary I quite simply have never been known for my physical prowess. In fact, it can easily be attested by any number of those who have ever known me that even when I was engaged in sports or other activities of my youth did I ever distinguish myself. Basically the best I can ever claim is a tireless tenacity, appreciative attempt and perhaps a passable skill.

Now, it can also be said that I didn’t shirk from sports either. Growing up I spent my summers playing baseball, while switching to basketball and football during the school year. Over time I slowly began to step back and did take up bowling instead. I was even enrolled in gymnastics and karate for a time. But alas, as I grew older I found less and less pleasure in such things.

Perhaps it could be argued that my lack of innate ability colored my view about such activities, or it could possibly be said that my shifting focus towards my academic pursuits pulled me away. Either explanation is equally within reason I suppose. However neither is really the point of the matter currently.

What is at issue is something else entirely, a matter some people might not even think about much. Actually, I can regretfully admit it is something I recall in passing having heard about briefly but was rather ignorant of.  You might laugh but it is your wrists oddly enough.

Now, it is one of the first things some people say when they hear that you are suffering with a problem affecting your wrists that you simply work at your computer too much. Things like Carpal Tunnel and the like get mentioned and typically it is generally assumed you must have caused your current condition somehow.

But, you see, here is my problem with that whole train of thought. It isn’t simply a concern for those of the computer-oriented persuasion. Nor is Carpal Tunnel and other such medical misfortunes something that is only suffered by those crafting code or skilled secretaries. As an example I can offer my own father; a man who until recently virtually never even used a computer or the like. However he has worked for years in the labor industry; using his hands and body if you care to be blunt, on a daily basis. And he has had somewhere around 3-4 or more surgeries on his wrist alone.

Why is this even something worth talking about you might be wondering, and I don’t blame you if you’ve asked yourself that very question. For me it has become a rather recent topic for contemplation. You see, in the last week or so I have found myself dealing with some trouble with my right wrist and it has become something that has worried me. And with such consideration it has inevitably lead to me reviewing a series of events that I had always shrugged off.

I write on a daily basis, or at least try to anyways. Currently it has been centered on me trying to edit and refine my latest little story; Gauntlet. Now, most of my tinkering with the tale has just been some rewording here and there to be fair. But I have done some rewriting where needed too. However, I have also been wearing an old wrist support and trying to limit how much I make use of my right hand to be cautious.

Writing though isn’t the only thing I do. I also do the dishes, work on the laundry, and occasionally try to fix something electronic, electrical or any number of other things around the house when I am able to. In short, I don’t just set and type away for long hours on end. And even though I don’t make use of a traditional computer desk ( my pc setup consists of a monitor on a end table beside my recliner with the tower tucked neatly beside it in my living room) I do consciously make it a point to watch how I hold my wrists when typing etc.

But I cannot disregard the fact that for a long time when I was working and putting myself through college that I did in fact a lot of work with my hands. And before that I had hobbies that also included a lot of use of my hands as well. I have never been the hulking handyman who strains his back heaving about loads. But in contrast I have always been the little guy who crawls into, around or under something and spends long stretches working on things with tool in hand.

I think what I may be rambling my way towards is the point that all this type of work over time may have had a strain on my body that I never really noticed before. When a sharp pain might spring up my forearm like a sudden shock I merely ruled it our as a result of working with my arms above me for too long. Or when I had to shake my hand and wrist out to remove a tingling tidal wave it was just from my hand getting tired from gripping my tools.

Whatever the reason or self-sold explanation I never stopped to consider the long term effects. Now some may argue that a family predisposition might be involved that has my own anatomy at fault, and that very well could be. I can’t rule that out at all, but one thing I think anyone can take from this is not to ignore your body in any way. It doesn’t matter how big or how buff you may be, or aren’t; pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. If you’re picking something up without lifting with you legs because you’re stubborn enough to think you can just power through it you may be hurting yourself. And if you’re just doing something as seemingly innocent as playing a video game each day for a bit while your wrist lazily hangs askew from its grip on your mouse you might be dooming yourself to discomfort.

I’m no expert on the matter, far from it. I used to do the little stretches and things before my shift at work or when warming up before a practice. I recall vaguely hearing some bits and pieces mentioned here and there about the dangers of Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis and other things but was basically ignorant. I mean I knew what not to do and that it was a problem but as far as symptoms to watch out for or what it really was – not so much.

And right now I haven’t seen my doc yet so I can’t even say that it or anything of the sort is even my problem. I could have strained/pulled something putting a stack of dishes up or any number of things. But now I am trying to educate myself better and take a serious look at such health concerns even if they seem trivial. Because later down the road they could become worse, and if treated early perhaps prevented.

So, take care of your hands and wrists folks. You use them to interact with your surroundings far more than you realize. Try not to take them for granted.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 32.

Episode 32 – Red Bull Rage

Sitting alone along a crudely crafted bench, Adrian Taurus’s bulky body radiated grave peril to anyone who dared to interrupt him. To the casual observer one might have found humor in the notion that such a notorious crime-boss could be caught in his spare time idly enjoying any manner of civilized entertainment. Nevertheless, there he sat; knee deep in thought playing a tactical game of tiles with only his self to provide both player and opponent.

The sound of rhythmic clattering footsteps approaching didn’t even merit a single flinch from his focus as he contemplated the next move to be made. But once the sound stopped and a female voice spoke a tensing of tendons flexed instantly in response. “We have some things to discuss, you and me,” Demure Devadonna began boldly.

Several steps ahead, Adrian already anticipated where this conversation was bound to lead and he didn’t like it at all. If it was good news, well, that would have been delivered with some manner of celebratory grace and expectations of reward. Even if there had been a slight stumbling; word would have been refrained from reaching him for a short time yet before he was informed through alternative channels. No, without a doubt if this dramatic damsel was the messenger then this information was sure to leave a terrible taste on his tongue.

“Spill it,” Taurus ordered impatiently. “Just get on with it and skip this play at skirting the subject before you no longer have the fortune of my attention.” Adrian’s eyes never left the board before him as he continued to systematically move and remove the various tiled pieces along either side. With each passing beat of her pulse, Demure found herself starting to tremble as she watched the plastic parts beginning to move slightly faster from the hex shaped game.

“I have just been informed that Arbiter and Dyzon are both dead, sir,” she shakily submitted. “Eris has been taken into custody and just prior to these events the wanted outlaw known as Gauntlet gunned down both Wynt and Briscole in the street.” A violent force detonated the table in front of Taurus, shock seizing Demure as she tried to rationalize what was happening before her. As she watched on, her mind recoiled from the savage display while Taurus tore everything about him to kindling.

The Red Bull’s rage was a legendary thing among the underworld; it was spoken of with nothing but complete terror by those who feared they might earn his wrath. And now here she sat as Adrian Taurus demolished anything within sight. Even the very bench he had been sitting on was flung through the air to explode in a shower of shrapnel against a stone wall.

“Incompetent, worthless sacks of wasted flesh,” Taurus growled between snorts and snarls. “One single man, one blind fool and not any of you could manage to deal with this disruptive drifter? Clearly I have over estimated the talents of the lot of you! I should have strangled you all myself instead of giving you a chance to be of use.”

Growling, Taurus turned his eye burning bright red as his frenzy overflowed. “I’ll have your hide for this, and then I’ll get this Gauntlet in my grip. His skull will shatter ever so sweetly for trying to topple me.” A scream swept straight from Demure’s mouth before a steady stream of frantic pleading followed.

“Please, I beg you, grant me the opportunity to regroup; I am sure I can repay this rogue for the both of us! He will hurt for all that he has done. I promise you, this Gauntlet will pay dearly – I owe him for Ashes, and as Mayor who else is left to keep control of your public interests? He can’t dare touch me! I can deliver him to you, I swear it, and he’ll be handed down here to you in a heartbeat.”

The fury faded, if only slightly from Taurus as he still shook from the avalanche of adrenaline. “Rook has taken up the mantle left by Arbiter, I am sure that he will blindly try to enforce the letter of the law. He’s probably already taking the vigilante into custody to send him down to The Graveyard.” Demure desperately continued to convince the undisputed overlord of the underworld of her remaining worth. She wasn’t sure that her argument was being altogether successful.  

Taurus allowed his anger to abate a little more as he enjoyed the elevated racing rate his pulse still thundered through him. His mind was already calculating various elements to the petite politician’s claims. The sidekick turned Sheriff just might make his first act one of arresting the only real outlaw left. And with the other known criminals dead or behind bars what need would there be for a gun slinging guardian? It definitely held merit, he had to admit.

“Alright,” Adrian breathed out the word with a harsh huff to punctuate his point. “But we will not again have such a conversation. Fail me once more and you will find yourself earning a deserved and deadly reward.” Crimson still colored his eyes as he grinned with a grim glee. “Go now, bring me this Gauntlet so that I might provide him with a likewise punishment he seems so fond of.”

Demure didn’t need to be told twice; on hearing the order to take her leave she did so in a shameless sprint. There was work to be done, and she still couldn’t believe how she had just avoided the Red Bull’s rage. Even if it was narrowly – second chances were almost unheard of from Taurus. The fear that she only had been given the illusion of mercy didn’t help alleviate her worries either. She could only hope that shortly this drifter would be safely deposited beneath the dirt, and this whole bleak business would be behind them. Surely placing this Gauntlet down into The Graveyard would put an end to everything, right?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 31.

Episode 31 – New Sheriff, New Plan

Without a single whispered word, Marshall set himself into recovering his beloved bullet-slingers. One by one he reloaded each empty cylinder slot with a quiet click as it turned. When finally he spoke, it was the somber voice of seriousness, his head still cast down at the gun in his hand.

“Where are the rest of them,” Marshall asked suddenly. “Tell me, right now – if you truly do wish for any manner of sympathy; where are the rest of your friends.” A twinge of concern shook Rook’s conscience awake as he began to worry where Marshall might be going with this. Even a criminal, once caught was subject to the right to face the law not be executed on the spot.

“Whoa, easy there ‘slinger,” Rook pleaded, his hands held before him. “Let’s simmer it down a notch a tick, alright?” Marshall made no move, his hat’s brim still cloaking his face in shadow. “If you’re asking about the other two; the Ursian and the Uraor – they split out the back as I was making my way inside. I think it is safe to say we don’t have to worry ourselves over them; we have the leaders of both gangs. One dead, the other in custody and we have removed a corrupt official from power. Isn’t that enough bloodshed for one night?”

Some distracting thought seemed to distance the grim drifter as he reached down to examine the crimson stained corpse of what only moments ago had been the Sheriff of Redemption. With his left hand he casually plucked up the blood slick badge that dangled from a scrap of cloth and held it up just enough to let the light catch it. The small shield had once been a symbol of authority, of the promise to protect. Now it was little more than a sullied trinket in his eyes.

“The town will be needing a new man for the job I should imagine,” Marshall mused, his tone still hollow and out of place. “I can’t think of anyone better for the job,” Rook admitted, a sincere smile joining the remark. But when Marshall looked up his eyes met the prismatic purple of Rook’s own and the Deputy knew full well that Marshall had never meant himself.

“Neither can I,” the deadly drifter declared and tossed the badge towards him. Rook easily caught it in his hand and regarded it, wiping clear some of the gore with his thumb. “I don’t know what to say,” he stammered shortly, working to find the words he wanted to say. “Not sure I even know how to do the job,” he confessed finally.

“You’ll do fine, trust me; I am great judge of character.” Rising once more, Marshall holstered his gun and looked from the stunned new Sheriff to the wounded warrior woman. “It is easier than you think; all you have to do is what you know is the right thing. Enforce the laws, keep your head and do your best. Just try not to forget two very simple things; justice may not always come from a judge and if you stray from the straight and narrow – you can find yourself facing a Gauntlet.”

The last comment, Rook couldn’t ignore, it made him curious and caused questions to come to mind. “What will you do now, where will you go?” Now with both of the rival bands of bandits no longer a threat to the town, there wasn’t really anything to keep Gauntlet here in Redemption. Could such a man as Marshall Lawson settle down though?

“There are others who are responsible for the problems here, those who think they are beyond punishment for the pain they cause. I think its time they discover how mistaken they truly are,” Marshall explained. “If you mean Adrian Taurus, I am sorry, but even you cannot reach him. Where he is, nobody ever comes back from; we’re talking as far down as you can go – the end of the line and just beyond. Taurus is a permanent resident of The Graveyard, he is practically already buried.”

“Well then,” Marshall announced with a chuckle. “Perhaps it is high time that I managed to get myself back into prison.” Rook had been certain that nothing else Marshall said could have surprised him by this point. After everything else they had been through, surly he was accustomed by now to the man’s madness. And then there was this; which he couldn’t honestly say which was more unbelievable – the fact he wanted to be sent down to The Graveyard or the fact that at some point he had already been on the opposite side of barred walls.

“You know, you really are a few shots shy of a full load,” Rook exclaimed. “If you get sent down there then there is no coming back, nobody to protect you. Do you understand that?” Marshall raised one eyebrow and a glowing gleam in his eye made the new Sheriff stop his speech suddenly.

“That is what makes it perfect,” Marshall countered. “There will be no one to get in my way, no one to protect him, and no where else for him to run. The man thinks himself safe in his castle, in the one place everybody believes has him kept from causing any more harm. He is hiding there, and enjoying complete absence from any manner of suspicion whatsoever. Its time for that to end I think.”

“If you ask me, you are only signing your death warrant,” Rook replied, echoing his reservations with the idea. “No worries in that regards, I know the perfect professional for the task should the need arise.” Marshall laughed once more at the mention of the macabre maiden, and Rook couldn’t refrain from enjoying the joke as well. “There is just no talking sense into you is there,” he had to ask. Still laughing Marshall easily answered with another whip of whit. “Nope and there is no beating sense into me either. Others have tried, and failed – thick hide and thicker skull I’m afraid.”