Throwback Thursday: Sacred Springs (1964), by Akira Ifukube, Sung by Emi and Yumi Itō

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Undoubtedly one of the best of the Shōwa period of Godzilla films, Mothra vs. Godzilla features the return of the Shobijin along with Mothra herself. Akira Ifukube’s scoring is tremendous and vivid, and Emi and Yumi Itō sing this melancholic, gentle tune he composed for the film.

Although far eclipsed by the popularity of the iconic Mothra’s Song, the haunting melody of this piece has stuck with me since childhood.

WIP-it Wednesday: June 7th, 2017

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

As I mentioned in my last update, the month of June in general will find me shifting my focus away from Vivian’s Last Cigarette for the next few weeks. Instead, I’m working on and finishing the RPG sessions I’ll be running for PortCon, which takes place from June 22nd to the 25th.

It is creative work, not unlike assembling ideas for a story outlines. But thereafter, crafting role-playing sessions and scenarios is different than settling down and writing fiction. Role-play is collaborative storytelling. Unlike a you-and-your-story situation, you need to leave a lot open in the scenario to allow the other people playing to craft the unfolding tale with you.

You’ve got to make your players active participants, because if they are instead passive observers the game isn’t going to be very fun. If folks want a passive entertainment experience, a good book, movie or something similar will whip the pants off of me standing around and acting out a story from start to finish for several hours.

Most RPG players are looking for that active experience. The key thing about RPG game mastering is to give it to them, but that can be harder than you think.

As a writer, I personally LOVE telling stories. I start thinking about characters and have a blast working out their backgrounds and personalities. Then I start envisioning story scenarios –Who’s going to do this and when, and how antagonist X will react and how events are impacted from there– This is a great strength for me to have as a writer, but as Game Master it’s a serious flaw: It makes it easy for me to have tons of preconceived assumptions and desires about how a game will play out, and how its players will act using the characters I have worked hard to craft and embellish for them.

As you can imagine, having a mindset like that doesn’t set-up an experience that is likely to be a satisfying role-playing for the players. With everything pre-plotted in my brain, they feel railroaded and like their choices and input doesn’t matter to the ultimate outcome of the game’s story.

Three out of the four games I ran at last year’s PortCon featured characters I’d spent many tens of hours envisioning and writing. I wrote over 40,000 words of material for the con, most of that for player handouts with detailed character rundowns. However, that work was a wasted effort because it was vastly ignored.

The games were still fun all the same, because I designed them as open-ended and without preconceived conclusions. I did that as a safeguard, being conscious of my plotting tendencies, and I’m so glad that I did. Doing that salvaged those situations quite well combined with a positive mindset.

The one game where I let the players generate their own characters with a quick system turned out to be the best. All I did for my part was run the rest off a few pages of essential notes and lots of improvisation. I’d done it that way only because I was running low on time and couldn’t finish what I had planned initially… but it taught me a valuable lesson.

Players generating their own characters is defiantly the best way to get them invested in in a game. It also prevents me from making assumptions about how the characters will act or react to events… because I have no idea who the characters will be. ;-)

The downside is that this can eat-up valuable time when you only have four hours to play. Depending on the game, character creation can be lengthy and complicated. Fortunately, I’m using the Five by Five rules system for all my games this year. It’s a simple, versatile and understandable system that can be taught with 5 – 10 minutes. In it, characters only consist of five “traits” and one “trouble trait” that’s used as a roleplay aid. I have found 5×5 perfectly suited to the “pick-up” style of play found at PortCon, where players of all skill levels might be found at my table.

However, even simple and quick systems can get bogged down if the players don’t know what they want to play. In addition, players often don’t have a good grasp before the game starts of what character traits will be fun and useful in the scenario. This can result in characters that don’t get to do much, like a scuba expert in a desert based adventure. It can also create unbalanced parties with a massive excess of ability in one area (making some challenges too easy), and a great or total deficit in another (making other challenges nigh-impossible).

So this year what I’ve done in all my games is to let the players select their characters from a pool of partially completed ones:

Each character has an illustration to give a player an at-a-glance impression of what they could be like. In addition, in most of the games I have 1 to 3 of the five character traits pre-selected as well. These pre-selected traits are useful to the scenario I’m going to run, thus ensuring that some basics needed for the game will be in the group of players.

Unchosen trait slots get to be selected by the player as electives, off a chart of options that is unique to each game. This allows some player customization, enforces setting flavor, and ensures trait usefulness. Each individual trait is also removed from the available selection pool as they are chosen, ensuring each character has a unique set of abilities.

The one exception to this is my Godzilla: Invasion of Monsters game. In that scenario, ALL of the character’s traits are electives chosen by the players, allowing total customization… from a variety of useful traits.

No specific background or roleplaying guidelines are presented for any characters in the games. I leave those for the players to dream up in play, and they get a head start on that by selecting a role-play related “trouble trait” from a list much as their other elective traits were chosen.

As a game master, my job is to keep the story moving, judge rules, describe events, and portray every character that isn’t controlled by a player. And I’ve found that as my players are given more freedom to tell and influence the story, I am freed as well. Instead of making the game “just so”, I instead can focus on my antagonists acting appropriately for their goals and knowledge. I improvise and let them react to the world the players are influencing. I can focus on making every member of my supporting cast of non-player characters being memorable, and simply having as much fun as the players are.

I’m a reformed, formerly bad, game master now. It just took me realizing that if I wanted to make a game “just so”… I needed to write it as a story instead. ;-)

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! RPGs! Take care!

Mid-Week Muses: “A lonely footstep brought Paul Bunyan to California…”

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

mwm_pngA weekly compilation of collected microfictions composed by yours truly. If your time is short, these are shorter!

He ran, reveling in
freedom so long denied
him. Sirens grew
distant in the night,
and its cold rain
was a baptism.

 
A lonely footstep
brought Paul Bunyan
to California. But
there he met the
giantess Sequoia, and
romance strode over
the land.

He laughed inside the
coffin. "I'm immortal,
you idiots! I won't
suffocate!"

Silence.

"Hello?"

Explosives collapsed
the mine shaft.

"You wished on the
mystery box, to meet
your future husband?"

"Yes."

He pointed to himself.
"And I appeared?"

"Yes," she smiled.

Snow White's first
night at dwarven
fight club was a
rough one.
Fortunately, Doc was
a fantastic cut-man.

Viv touched her tusked
lips, then gently raised
a finger to his. “I hope
these don’t tangle like
braces sucking face.”

 
"Of course Kurt brings
you on your first full
moon. How's it on all
fours, dear?"

The younger wolf wagged
her tail. "I like it!"

Hate put a bullet 
in him, love kept 
him fighting. 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

Art-Tastic Tuesday: Gomorrah Traversing the Mountains, by Simon Fetscher

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Gomorrah Traversing the Mountains, by Simon Fetscher. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Epic Music Monday: Marcus Warner – A Tale Of Sea Dragons

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

I love epic music! For me it is a perfect combination of the classic orchestral scoring, chorales and electronica music that I have enjoyed for decades. This stuff inspires me, and is a great companion as I write away on an exiting piece of fiction. Therefore, on Mondays I share a new piece by various artists on the blog… Epic Music Mondays!

Photo Finish Friday: ‘Canyons Under the Milky Way’, by Will Christiansen

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click the picture below for full-size. On Photo Finish Fridays, I feature a selected piece of landscape photography that I have come across. I find that real-world photography can be just as inspirational to my imagination for crafting story settings as any piece of fantastic artwork that I might share on a Tuesday. I present these without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

‘Canyons Under the Milky Way’, by Will Christiansen. Click here for more of the photographer’s work!

Throwback Thursday: Mothra’s Song (1961), by Yūji Koseki, Sung by Emi and Yumi Itō

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Although Godzilla will always be my favorite giant Japanese monster, Mothra is a close second and a very different sort of character. Whereas Godzilla has alternatively played the roles of villain, antihero, hero, and “a force of nature”, Mothra has been pretty consistently depicted as a benign and protective heroine.

She’s worshiped as a goddess, and that divine air is evoked beautifully with her iconic song. A song that is, in fact, a prayer sung to her in Malay in the original movie. There’s something mythically powerful about that, as it is a plea to a higher power:

Mosura ya Mosura

Mothra oh Mothra

Dongan kasakuyan indo muu

With the Power of your Ancestor

Rusuto uiraandoa, hanba hanbamuyan, randa banunradan

Grant the prayer of your followers, Arise and

Tounjukanraa

Show

Kasaku yaanmu

Your power

First performed by Yumi and Emi Ito —a singing duo known as “The Peanuts” who play the roles of the Shobijin or “little beauties” in the 1961 film— The twin, doll-sized Shobijin fairies are another layer of Mothra’s mystique. She rarely makes an appearance without them, and the fairy (or at least, fairy-like) nature of the twins adds a feeling of both the unknown and the fantastic.

The tune has become inseparable from the character of Mothra ever since. To me, it taught a lesson at a young age that took until adulthood to put into words. What it taught me was that when times are dire and we need to beseech the divine, we must do so from an emotive place, not a logical one.

To that end, I’ve figuratively sung out to Mothra on some pretty dark days.

She listens.

WIP-it Wednesday: May 31st, 2017

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

I didn’t write as much on Vivian’s Last Cigarette as I wanted to over the three-day weekend, but I still got the new chapter six from zero to almost 2,700 words. I’m really happy with how it is shaping-up.

The chapter opens in medias res, with a horde of skinheads hot on Viv and Gronk’s heels. I’ve wanted to write crazy foot-chase for a long time, and it was great to finally get to do one! As a kid that was bullied and chased more than once by large groups seeking to do me harm, I was able to channel some of that experience into the scenes. It was cathartic in a way. One of those moments of true magic in writing, when you can take something sad or painful from your past and make it end the way it should have.

In this case, that meant writing a great escape.

I wrote those orcs getting chased halfway across town. Through the woods, over backroads, into a middle-class neighborhood, across someone’s backyard, and finally into an apple orchard. Finally, Viv and Gronk reached a sanctuary… well, a kinda-sorta sanctuary, anyways.

They also got to bump heads with a couple of new minor antagonists: Oliver and his kid brother, Oi-Boy. Both are introduced in a few lines and paragraphs and without a lot of fanfare in chapter five, but in chapter six they come into their own.

Oliver is a thuggish sergeant in the local Hammerfist gang that’s caused so much trouble for our orcy protagonists from the start of the book. He’s the houndsman leading this pursuit, and is effective enough in that regard, but he’s not particularly colorful. In comparison, his thirteen-year old brother Oi-Boy is garishly colorful like a graffiti covered wall…  and was ridiculously fun to write! ;-)

Oi-Boy is more of a hanger-on with the gang and its scrappy mascot than a full member. I invented him as a simple filler mook with some catchy flair when I polished chapter five into a second draft. The image of him in my mind was very strong right off the bat though, and after I wrote his appearance it was clear I had a good character that shouldn’t be wasted.

I was fortunate enough to need his talents in chapter six to reignite the chase just when Viv and Gronk felt they were home free. He gave that part theme and direction, and I wrote the scene on the fly riffing on Oi-Boy’s strong characteristics as a guide. Because of that, I created a nice bridge to the later half of the chase. It also became a really funny bit that had me laughing out loud. There’s just something about a nigh-psychopathic skater brat in a Rat Bones t-shirt giving orcs a seriously hard time that’s comedy gold. ;-)

And no sooner have Viv and Gronk dealt with Oi-Boy, then none other than Brian Kane returns to block their escape with his 1982 Subaru BRAT…

Faced with such an intimidating vehicle, the action picks up and things get even more interesting from there. ;-)

All-in-all, chapter six seems to be off to a good start! The weekend found me doing other things too: I edited chapter five into a second draft, then sent it along with chapter four to my second reader, Lauren. And projects related to my blog-social media and the upcoming PortCon also needed and received attention.

Another thing that detracted from my available time to write was that the cover creation process for Viv’s started last Thursday. Seeing the cover art come together is super-exciting! I shared the rough sketches the artist sent me of the possible directions the cover could go in with my betas, and took stock of their opinions.

This was really helpful. As the author, what I find appealing in art based off my book is tainted by the intimate knowledge I have of the story. What a cover needs to do is grab the attention of someone that has no knowledge of the story altogether, and I can’t judge that fully with my own eyes. So my betas, most of whom haven’t read the story yet, really helped me make a choice that I’m confident in. Their opinions were quite lopsidedly in favor of one piece in particular, and I chose to go with that one. It was one that I liked as well, and I think it will be a fantastic cover!

The month of June in general will find me shifting my focus away from the novel for at least a few weeks. The reason for this will be to finish creating the RPG sessions I’ll be running for PortCon, which takes place from June 22nd to the 25th. That task could take several or all of my upcoming weekends leading up to the event. And as I have a guest visiting on the weekend before the convention, in truth I only have two full weekends to get that work done.

So expect my next few WIP-it Wednesdays to focus on my games for the con, like what I did last year. :-) As much as I want to finish the book additions, revisions, and editing… a break will likely do me some good, too. If things wrap-up faster than expected, you can bet that I’ll be squeezing in what work I can on Viv’s before the convention itself. But then there’ll be another break for four solid days of fun! :-D

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!

Art-Tastic Tuesday: Glorfindel, by Alberto Dal Lago

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Glorfindel, by Alberto Dal Lago. Click here for more of the artist’s work!