Tag Archives: rpg

Justifying The Existence of Aeroquest

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The question may arise if anyone who wasn’t forced to read the novel Aeroquest because they have the misfortune of being my relative ever actually reads the book, “Why did you ever write such a gawd-awful thing?”

The truth is, I didn’t write it, not by myself at any rate.  The essential plot of the novel is such a jumbled mess because the story is lifted directly from a game of Traveller, an RPG from Game Designer’s Workshop.  The basic characters in the novel were all player characters.  Their design and personalities are created by adolescent boys in the 80’s and the paths they chose in the story strongly reflect the chaos of youth.

The Aero Brothers, Ged and Ham were both created by one of my favorite students of all time.  I will refer to him here as Armando Carrizales, though that was not his real name.  I am trying to explain the novel here, not mortify an adult former student living somewhere in Texas, or even elsewhere.  Armando’s idea was to use Star Wars characters.  Hamfast Aero was actually Han Solo in the game.  And when Armando wanted to create an all-powerful psionic character, he created brother Ged Solo, using the first name of Larry Winslow’s character Ged Stryker (And Larry did not know how to spell “Jed”).  Because I really liked Armando, and he was bright, creative, and a good problem solver, I eventually chose his characters as the main characters of the novel.  He was good at organizing expeditions, collecting gear and matching it to the purpose in the adventure before him.  But you do need more than heroes for an adventure game, or for a novel.

Emilio Jalapeno was a very different kind of kid, but also Armando’s real-life best friend.  He was a skinny kid with a goofy grin, and was always ready with a joke or prank that would either make you laugh, or make you palm your forehead and consider murder.  His first Traveller character lasted all of fifteen minutes because he decided he wanted to take his shiny new pistol and kill everyone on the entire planet they were on.  That character, whose name I have forgotten, was actually gunned down by his own adventuring party.  So Emilio had to start again.

He created the character Trav Dalgoda.  He got the name from the first syllable of the Traveller game and a name he spotted on the cover of a magazine laying on the table.  Trav was simply Emilio in an RPG form.  He wanted to have an eye patch like a pirate, but he wanted to have two eyes.  He wanted to wear wide ties with messages on them, like a cartoon screw next to a baseball.  And he dearly loved to blow things up.  A time would come in the adventure where he had access to really big weapons, and we had to let him experiment with killing everybody on an entire planet.  This, then, was the needed comedy relief that kept us laughing through shared adventures.  And Trav’s ability to get into really big trouble would eventually drive the plot forward.

Sinbadh the Lupin, a dog-headed humanoid alien, was also Emilio’s character.  The fact that he based his entire character on talking like a pirate from Treasure Island was a source of endless hilarity.


Tron Blastarr, the scar-faced villain, was created by Armando again.  There was a time when Larry Winslow wanted to create a villain character in the most desperate way possible.  But the evil villain Mantis, who was really just a living head on a robotic body, and the enigmatic psionic Xavier Trkiashav never really got their chance to be truly villainous.  One became a laughable boob while the other became a hero and the leader of the Psionics Institute.  Tron, however, was a perfect pirate.  He led the band of adventurers on merry chase after looping, curling space chase, eventually becoming the first player character to get married and have children.  He retired as a villain with a fleet of stolen space ships, and a planet (the airless world Outpost1) as his pirate treasure.

So, to claim I wrote the novel Aeroquest on my own is to completely overlook my collaborators.  It is a mess of a comedy sci-fi novel that I am still trying to iron out and rewrite, but it is also a story I shared with some who were very near to my writer’s heart.

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Filed under aliens, Dungeons and Dragons, heroes, humor, kids, novel, NOVEL WRITING, science fiction, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Setting the Scene

As a rabid Dungeons and Dragons player, I have labored for years to build up my collection of miniature figures.  Now, like the action figures and the dolls, the collection is growing so fast it may eat the house.  So, in order to play with them and get some use out of them, I built a cardboard castle, complete with grid for playing D & D.  It is a scene that can be used to play the game, but it is also a place to display my collection.


Toy companies have recently started putting out collectible miniatures in an almost D & D scale.  They only cost about a dollar apiece.  That makes them cheaper than candy bars.  And I am diabetic, so I can’t buy candy bars.


I like to position them in my D & D background and take pictures of them, even though DC Superheroes are not D & D figures.  I can work them into the story of the next RPG sessions.  Batman is a paladin.  Aquaman is a sea-based druid.  Wonder Woman is an Amazon.


Adam West Batman is really, really cool.  Wham!  Pow!  Sock!


Killing a dragon is a big event in a D & D campaign.  And I can do that now with miniatures.



The Flash can rescue Jessica Rabbit from a mad goblin in the Skull Plaza.

So, I reached a point in setting the scene for the game that it has become almost cinematic.  And I like taking pictures of it as I continue to play with all  of it.  Forgive me.  I will forever be twelve years old in my head.



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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, heroes, illustrations, making cardboard castles, photo paffoonies

Return of the Star Wars Figures

On a previous Saturday I admitted to the crime of using 12-inch action figures to play the Star Wars role-playing game.  The Dungeons and Dragons RPG world was horrified.  You are supposed to use scale-appropriate metal miniatures.  How can you simulate combat without small figures on a grid?  I have to confess.  It was via x’s and dots on graph paper.  But we didn’t use the action figures to represent ranges and lines of site in combat.  And one of my players was my niece, an actual girl.  So, I guess, to be honest, we were actually playing with dolls.

But it helps to have a lot of dolls.


Emperor Palpatine, Snow Trooper, Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, Quigon, Droid Soldier, and home-made Mace Windu

We started play after the first two movies in the Prequel Trilogy.


Wicket, Imperial Walker, Astroboy (What’s he doing there?) Darth Vader, Little Anakin, and Boba Fett.

We got creative with stories.


Jango Fett, General Grievous, and Admiral Akbar


Anakin Skywalker


Robot from Lost in Space, R2D2, Slave Girl Leia, and a Green Orion Slave Girl Dancer from Star Trek

So there is evidence available to my offspring to help them have me committed to an institution.  The truth is, these are not even all of my Star Wars Dolls.  So this morning’s confession session is now at an end, though all of the horrible truth is not yet revealed.


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Filed under action figures, autobiography, doll collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, goofiness, humor, photo paffoonies

World Building


As a novelist I am very aware of the importance of setting.  It is an essential part of of telling a story, to be able to set the stage upon which the characters will act out the plot.  The setting pictured here is one created for my family’s on-going D&D Role-playing set in the campaign world of Eberron, here on the continent of Xendrick which was long ago ruled by magical giants.  It is built around details.  There are in this picture three elements that are actually aquarium decorations (the two jewel-eyed skulls and the Egyptian ruin construct in the background).  The silver skull and the Princess Jasmine figure come from gumball vending machines (Jasmine comes from a vending machine in the hotel lobby in Anaheim when we took the kids to Disneyland).  The thatch-roofed house in the background is from my manic urge to create cardboard castles.  The skeleton-faced statue came out of a box of cheap plastic toys from Dollar Tree that Grandpa bought for my eldest son back in 1998.  If there is any kind of point to this paragraph, it is that this detail-rich setting photo is created with unusual parts, parts that lots of people would not think to include in the world-building process.


If I have any claim at all to a talent for creating a good setting, it comes from my creative juxtaposition of widely disparate objects.  (In English, it means I like to stick weird stuff together in the same place.)  That, of course, is the very definition of surrealism.  Making the bizarre seem natural and right.  It is how you create a science fiction setting, a fantasy novel setting, and even a setting for a hometown novel set in the little Iowa town I grew up in during the 60’s and 70’s.  (You might not fully believe me yet, as I have not published more than one of my hometown novels, but I do have a hometown setting made of a hidden fairy kingdom, a haunted house, a mad scientist’s laboratory, a witch’s hovel, a mysterious sea captain’s house, a house haunted by rumors of werewolves, and a connection to the dream lands that often lets other-worldly clowns wander our streets.)  (That last now holds the record as the second-longest parenthetic expression I have ever used in my writing.)


Of course, setting by itself is meaningless.  It must be interactive with the characters that inhabit it.  As the dragon crashes through the castle wall behind them, Princess Aurora and her little mechanical body guard, Clockwerky, are not even facing it.  Are they ignoring it because they are actually quite stupid?  Or since it seems to be heading out of the scene to stage left, are they simply assuming it has to be somebody else’s problem?  Either way the setting and the characters don’t mesh in a way that furthers the actual story… at least, not without a lot of additional explanation.

So, can I explain in any sort of a simple fashion how this 500 word treatise on setting is to be understood?  Yes.  Very simply, settings are built of details… lots of details.  And settings and characters have to work together.  Here endeth the lesson.


Mervin the Minotaur and Barrabas the Half-Ogre each roll a natural 20 to double-slay the dire elephant that was threatening princess Jasmine, while in the background, Oneorb the Cyclops rolls a 1 and bashes himself in the head.

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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, playing with toys, setting, surrealism

Dungeons and Dragons

Back in 1982 I first started dungeon mastering for my younger brother and two sisters.  We bought a family set with both the red book and blue book.  It was the beginning of a lifelong love of storytelling games.  You can’t give fanboy dynamite to an Ubernerd and not expect some kind of big old explosion.

The thing that caught me so completely was the way that you could share the development of the characters and story, everybody at the table adding their two cents until you had a whole lot more than six cents… More like priceless.  And you never knew for sure how it would turn out, no matter how much you planned the plot and plotted the plan.  Events could turn out entirely opposite to what they should have, and inspiration on the spot could alter the essential course of a campaign.

In the beginning it was all about wizards.  The original game featured power that left wizards weak and vulnerable in the beginner levels, but fearsome with fire-balling ferocity after only a few levels of experience.  My brother’s wizard, LeRoy became powerful enough to make himself the king of all of Balindale.  When the dungeon master raised up armies of undead and ogres and undead ogres to bedevil old LeRoy, the bearded Lord of Balindale could simply summon meteors from the sky and burn them to the ground.  If I presented him with rival wizards who had armies and kingdoms of their own, he pulled a fast one and used his diplomatic dipsy-doo to make them into allies… even the evil ones.  He convinced them to sign treaties with him and eventually to accept him as their sovereign lord.  Thus the Wizard Ganser from mighty Gansdorf was tamed and turned.  When the evil Morgo refused to cooperate, Ganser and his army helped to invade and destroy the Kobold Kingdom.


So stories came to be dominated by wizards and wizard personalities.  And then I began recruiting former students to play the game.  The personalities changed.  Goofy Gomez chose to be the wizard, the typical classroom clown who could never do anything straight.  Armando Coronado, a particularly destructive personality, also took up the way of magic with Asduel the Sorcerer.   So in some games, Asdok the Bumbling made jokes and got his fellow adventurers into situations where only the last minute appearance of a kindly, all-powerful Titan could keep them from being roasted in a pot with carrots and potatoes.  In other games, Asduel the Merciless burned cities and castles, made orphans into servants and slaves, and generally frowned quite a lot when the dungeon master  suggested that some Non-player characters needed to be spared or the over-all adventure would be lost for all players.


So, because of the power of wizards, we all learned that stories could be easily unbalanced and abused by the personalities in them.  We learned how important it was to learn to work together.  When Hogan, the Knight of Tol Arriseah, and Sin Gard, the fighter of the many magic swords got sick of old Asduel, they let the bullywugs and locathah of Eary Marsh first take him prisoner, and then roast and eat him with carrots and potatoes.   And when Asdok the Bumbling set fire to the base of the tower in which he was trying to wring the treasure from the top, trapping his little thief friend, Artran the Halfling up there with him in the body of the ugly girl he had turned him into with a polymorph spell, they allowed him to take a ride in the tower-turned-skyrocket into another dimension entirely.


Dungeons and Dragons taught us that the difference between good and evil can be learned.   We learned that hitting your problems with a sword or dropping a fireball on top of them did not always solve them.   We learned to negotiate, to feel what others feel, and how to become a different person than the one you are.  I truly believe that the most important lessons you can learn about life can be learned playing D&D.  Morality, camaraderie, and cooperation are not really taught in school, but they can be taught in D&D.

And now I play Dungeons and Dragons with my own children.  How better to get to know them and mold their characters?  How else can you let them learn why you shouldn’t blow up your neighbors or slay your uncle with an axe except in an imaginary world where the ultimate oops can be fixed with a lawful-good cleric who knows a convenient raise the dead or resurrection spell?

So now I can officially post my Paffooney where Samosett the girl archer and little Prince Robin have murdered Unkel the Magical Ogre to get his chest full of treasure.  Oh, I shouldn’t forget Boffin and Bimbur the dwarves.  They are the ones that brought the group through the Wilderness of Zekk to find Old Unkel’s tower.


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