Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!
I finally received the feedback from my second alpha-reader on The Unicorn Hunters and Tears of the Joyous Mare. She’s been going through a rough patch the past few weeks, so it’s entirely forgivable and things are looking up for my good friend now. We even got to get together and had a great chat about the pieces and writing in general over the weekend.
With the help of my recovering cat, I combed through red-marked manuscripts and edits and was done by Sunday night. Both pieces have now been placed in the hands of their first beta readers and according to both Lauren and Amy, I should have their feedback by early next week. A lot of people are interested in helping me with beta reads of The Unicorn Hunters, but Lauren raised her hand first and got dibs. ;-)
I’d be willing to take on a couple more beta readers if folks speak-up with interest. I only send out one version of a draft at a time, however. That’s to avoid confusion and duplicated efforts. It can get really confusing working in edits based off of two reads of the same draft. Readers point out and comment on the same things, and changes suggested by one reader then pulls the threads out of suggestions made by another. So I’ve found that for myself the method that works for me is as follows:
…And so on until I’m happy with the degree of polish on a piece. Generally, I always get my two alpha reads and I like to get at least one beta read before I’m done with revision and edits. As you can probably guess, the alpha reads are far more error prone than the ones I send out to betas. That’s because the feedback I want on a beta read is more about if the story is working or not and if it’s enjoyable to a reader representing a good example of my target audience. Proofreading is a secondary concern.
I’m hopeful that either Tears of the Joyous Mare or The Unicorn Hunters will be ready to post on Aethereal Engines in a week or two. Joyous Mare will be a straight one-shot short story, but The Unicorn Hunters will be a four-part serial novelette. Hang in there guys, new fiction is coming! ;-)
I’m packing Ork Quest with lots of humorous D&D and fantasy trope inversions, and it should make for a funny, straightforward session. Although I could try running this with a classic D&D ruleset or a descendent like Pathfinder, those systems are complicated and quirky. I love classic RPGs, but crafting proper adventures for those systems would take more time than I have. And they are also rulesets that aren’t very forgiving to the errors and mistakes the humor of Ork Quest hinges on.
Instead, I’m using the simple Five by Five rules system created by Jeff Moore. If you’re an RPG gamer, check out the link because he offers a free PDF of the rulebook. It’s a cool system! The rules can be taught and learned in minutes, and it has a strong storytelling focus and mechanic that favors my style of game mastering. Five by Five has just enough detail in outlining combat to resolve it without a lot of brouhaha, and move on with the story.
I’ve learned that in a convention setting, when you have a four hour block to run a game for five to eight strangers with at least a few lacking experience with the game… Simplicity is key. An hour spent explaining rules is not only boring, but also an hour that nobody is playing the game. And playing the game is what everyone really wants to do.
Because it’s simple, but with just enough rules to have some structure, Five by Five is a strong system in a convention and “pick-up game” environment.
The trick is to have simplicity without being so basic that it’s dull and pointless. With a role-playing plot, it’s a lot like writing a short story versus writing a novel. You don’t have time to illustrate a bunch of wonderful twists and sub-plots like you could if one was running multiple sessions or a regular game campaign. So instead I focus one or two twists and maybe an equal number of sub-plots.
Likewise, I provide pre-generated characters so as not to waste valuable time at the table crafting characters and waiting for players to make choices about what they want to play. In going the pre-generated route, however, I try really hard to offer a wide variety of fleshed-out characters. Usually twice the amount I expect as a maximum number of players for the session. That’s because, as with any RPG, it’s critical that players have lots of options in what and how they play… and not be railroaded into choices for the sake of your plot. Player engagement and freedom to craft the story is a top priority, always… ignore that and your game is in peril.
In Ork Quest, the players assume the roles of “bad guy” monstrous types of the Festering Swamp Tribe. These are characters like Shahnana the She-Ork Shieldmaiden, her grandfather Oldtooth, Phlink the Goblin Sniper, Krotch the Orkan Hunter and Ignatta the Wererat.
Having been exiled from the tribe, they must sneak into the human town of Fanbor in a quest to wrest a magical drinking horn of never-ending ork beer from its “dangerous” denizens in order to be forgiven and return home. Hilarity and misadventures should ensue. ;-)
The whole adventure is an inversion of the fantasy RPG cliché of a party of adventures equipping themselves in town before going off to slay monsters and recover a McGuffin from the local dungeon. In Ork Quest, a party of monsters leave the dungeon to recover a McGuffin from the local town while facing off against the challenges provided by its townsfolk.
To give credit where it is due, the idea for Ork Quest is inspired by a ten page, first edition AD&D adventure called Monsterquest that was written by Vince Garcia. It was published in TSRs DUNGEON Magazine in 1988 and I played the adventure at about the same time with friends when I was a kid in junior high. The slapstick shenanigans and good times it evoked are fond memories of mine… ones I haven’t forgotten yet!
So thank you, Vince… Your adventure gave me a cherished memory! And when I was brainstorming RPG session ideas, the concepts you presented in Monsterquest instantly came to mind as great game for the Con! I hope the adventure you inspired me to create will be as fun yours was for me. :-)
Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!