Tag Archives: Dungeons and Dragons

Our Cockamamie Quest

Yesterday I worked for several hours on the first leg of a journey my friends will soon embark on. I’m going to be the DM for my friends while my brother’s at school. I think I have some fun ideas to work with. It’s actually kind of terrifying being in charge of a little universe, and working on this kind of story is very different than working on my novel. I can only plan for so much because they might do something I didn’t see coming at all. I’m starting them off with a fairly obvious premise, but they do have to figure a lot of stuff out.

I’ve been having kind of a hilarious email exchange with my cousin. It started several weeks ago and our initial question was whether or not Jesus likes little kids. It was just a silly, hypothetical debate, but it’s since moved into some actually serious questions. It’s awesome because my cousin lives in Canada, and since texting country-to-country is expensive, we don’t talk much except for at camp and at Christmas. The whole thing is funny because we’ve been simultaneously having a Star Wars debate about whether or not the Dark Side of the Force is inherently evil. My position is that it is not.

I also started playing Skyrim yesterday. Anything involving dragons is automatically epic in my book. I’ve thought dragons were awesome since I was five. I’ve also started reading the Wheel of Time series, which is a humongous monster, but a huge story is no longer intimidating to me. I read the Bible cover to cover. It took me ten months, but if I can stick to that, I can most certainly stick to a long fantasy series.

I’ve also been more seriously working on my book again. It would be simply unfair of me not to dedicate this thing to God because my strategy for dealing with writer’s block or simply for coming up with ideas has been to say, “God, I’ll type, you write.” Quite frankly, he’s written a lot of my book, whether literally or not.

The point of all this is that I am completely immersed in stories lately and I love it. The other night, my friend and I watched the first eight episodes of Stranger Things, which was so great because the main characters are a group of four middle school boys who play Dungeons and Dragons and get wrapped up in a very real extra-dimensional, good-versus-evil battle. It reminded us so much of when we were kids. When other kids were doing whatever it is normal kids do on Friday nights, we would ditch the “real world” and head for Mythic Island where we plotted and fought against the wolf demon Agorauth.

It’s funny. When I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with the “real world.” I made up stories and tried so hard to escape into those stories. I guess I like stories so much because I can predict what’s going to happen a lot of the time. The real world is much more unpredictable. I love stories for what they are. I love stories about different realities where dragons are real, but I love them as stories in the real world. They make the real world better.

For a long time I didn’t like my own story because I didn’t understand my own story. Maybe it’s cliche to call a life a story, but that’s how I think of it. I like my own story. It’s unpredictable, and the world it takes place in is scary, but the worlds of all the best stories are scary. Some of the best stories take place after the end of the world, or some catastrophic meltdown. Realistically, most of the stories I like–most of those worlds–are a lot scarier than this one. This one’s just the scariest to us because we’re living in it. What also tends to be true of my favorite kinds of stories is that humans (or other humanoid creatures, elves, etc) are more powerful than they are in the “real world.” Characters are a lot more capable of taking care of themselves.

In this world God says “surrender.” It’s the most counter-intuitive thing a person could do. Our instinct is to armor up, grab a sword and fight against whatever evil confronts us. We want to fight because we think it’s our job. We think we’re the main character. In Mythic Island, my friends and I were the main characters. In this world we’re only seeing our little pocket of reality in a finite blip of time and space. At the same time, we’re not insignificant. In church on Saturday we sang a song, the chorus of which was: “Long have I waited for you coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” We’re not the main characters in the epic story that is reality, but we all have an important part to play. We matter and what we do matters to the story. God made us because he loves us.

God says “surrender.” We have to surrender to something. We may not be the main characters in The Story, but we’re the main characters of each of our own individual stories that are significant to The Story. Ultimately, everyone has a destination and their own mission to complete. I like thinking of it that way.

Surrender means listening. Surrender means trusting. Surrender means embarking on the cockamamie quest that is your life. In the best stories; the ones that matter; the one’s that really influence you, the characters are asked to do seemingly ridiculous, impossible things, but these things are asked of them by someone they respect and maybe even love, and they wouldn’t be asked if it wasn’t of utmost importance. You’ll also notice that they aren’t told all the details at the start. They are presented with a problem, they are told what to do, and the details become clear as they move along. This is true in the Gospels. It’s true in real life. Jesus says “Follow me.” His first followers didn’t ask why. They didn’t ask where they were going. They didn’t ask what they were supposed to do. They trusted him. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or a game like Skyrim, your character is presented with the same kind of scenario. You’re given something to start with, and as you move along, things become clear. Our first “quest” as Jesus’ followers is to learn to surrender; learn to trust.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Characters

On New Year’s Eve I gave one of my friends a general synopsis of the first half or so of my novel. Then something occurred to me. I have a lot of female characters. It’s not so much the number that might end up being a problem when it comes to reaching certain audiences. It’s their personalities. I have more dudes in my story than ladies, but the ladies are beasts. With the exception of a minor character who I’ve already killed off, there is no “damsel in distress.” My girls all have their issues, but they don’t need a guy to sort them out. In fact, three out of my four main female characters have psychic powers where only two of my seven male characters have these abilities. None of this was intentional. My main characters almost completely invented themselves.

The real problem will most likely be my Super Soldiers or Clone Army, if you like. They’re all female. They’re barely human at this point, but they are female nonetheless. Admittedly, it was intentional. The evil army is always male. Why not make them female? The person they cloned just happened to be a woman. While it was intentional, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, especially since the person who is in charge of the cloning process, and the highest in command, is a dude. I am quite positive that someone will hate this. Someone is going to whine and tell all his friends to boycott my book. It’s just kind of a bummer because I think it’s a fun story. Furthermore, the gender of my Super Soldiers really doesn’t matter. They’re basically mindless, and aren’t even going to appear until late in the story.

I’m more of a feminist than I used to be, and honestly, I think it’s because I see a lack of strong female characters in fantasy and science fiction. In fact, many of my favorite stories have very little female presence. It’s hard to explain because I don’t really mind, but at the same time I do. I have no problem rooting for male heroes. I will forever have a weird sci-fi crush on (young) Luke Skywalker. At the same time, rooting for only male heroes gets tiresome. Honestly, the only real reason I have is that I’m a girl, and I want to be able to empathize with a female hero. Sometimes it just makes it easier to get into her head space, if nothing else. Furthermore, I think it makes it easier to insert myself into a particular universe and make my own story if I have an easy starting point, even if it’s just that the hero happens to also be a lady from a boring town, or what have you.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons, and a game we adapted from Dark Heresy with my friends. I’m the only lady in the group. Most of the time I don’t care except that I eventually notice that, a lot of the time, there aren’t even that many female NPC’s (Non-Player Characters). Sometimes, depending on the DM, there aren’t any. It’s like I’m the only alien to escape from a desolate planet and land on Earth. I guess it must just be natural to make certain characters in certain roles be a certain gender because of factors like your own gender, your upbringing, tradition, etc. There must be a million different factors that contribute to this. I don’t blame my friends. More than anything else, I’m looking for an interesting story. If I’m the only girl, then so be it. I happen to be our group’s designated Jedi, so clearly I’m the best.

To be honest, it kind of annoys me when people get all up in arms about gender issues or race relations or what have you. I know there are still bigots of every kind out there. I just don’t entirely understand why. What I mean is that, I don’t think that stuff should matter. It just seems to me that sometimes people put far too much emphasis on their gender or their sexuality or their skin color. Sure, I’m a woman in a still somewhat patriarchal society, but that’s not the most important thing about me. In fact, I really don’t feel like my gender matters that much at all. I’d say, more than anything else, I’m a Christian and a nerd. I think those are the most defining parts of my personality. Literally anyone can be those things. It’s not particularly special.

I guess my sentiments about all this come partly from cultural automatics, but also from the fact that I’m a pacifist and an optimist. I live in an extremely tolerant part of the country, in an affluent, boring suburban town. Furthermore, it takes a lot to actually get me angry. Most of the time, my initial reaction to problems is “that can be fixed,” or even, “I can fix that.” As I’ve mentioned before, my story is partly a thought experiment in a few different ways, but it started as a fun idea I had while on a wander last spring. I don’t have an agenda. I have some strong female characters, and some disabled characters because I want to. Those kinds of characters represent who I am in some ways, and part of the point of fiction is to be able to make a new world for yourself. If people have a problem with it, it’s on them.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Just Some Holiday Banter

Every year my parents ask my brother and me what we want for Christmas. My brother is still in school and I’m working on my novel, so we both still live at home. I feel like it would be weird if we had our own places, but as it is, it’s nice. Every year, my Christmas list gets a little more eccentric, and generally, a little shorter. This year, there are three things on my list.

1: A day of sleep. I want a day in which no one comes into my room, tells me what time it is, or asks me if I want to get up. I want to stay in bed all day, or at least until I’m starving or really have to pee.

2: 1 month of violin lessons. I bought a violin in July, expecting to be able to teach myself. That didn’t happen. Admittedly it’s because I was feeling musically lazy for a while, but it’s also partly because it’s a freaking hard instrument to learn. I really do love my violin. It’s pretty, its’ sound is unique, and I want to learn to play it. I just need some help.

3: A wireless plug-in thing (whatever it’s called) for my guitar. I run over guitar cables, and thus, wreck them. It’s just one of the little annoyances of being a musician who uses a wheelchair.

I don’t know why I felt like sharing this. It’s actually been a pretty laid back Christmas season for my family and friends and me this year, and it’s been nice. I like it that way. Even our decorations are much simpler than usual. I usually only exchange gifts with one of my friends, and sometimes I’m at a loss for what to get her, but it wasn’t a problem this year, so that’s done. I’ve really liked how simple it’s been. It’s allowed me to focus more on the spiritual aspect of it, which is obviously the most important. Of course I’ve also been freaking out about Star Wars. I’m going to see it with my friends tomorrow night, and with my brother and cousin the following night because I’m a dork. I absolutely love movies, and I love my peeps. I love the crap out of my peeps. Maybe it’s just sentimentality, but I really do feel like part of the spiritual aspect is related to the time I spend with my family (chums included). I don’t see some of them for months at a time, but it changes nothing. In fact, it makes the time we do spend that much more memorable and that much more important. It doesn’t really matter what we do, whether we’re watching movies or playing D&D ’till sunrise (which I’m sure will inevitably happen as it always does). I guess that’s all I really have to say at the moment. I’ll probably write again next week or even earlier, but if I don’t I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!