What Does That Even Mean?

25 days after my last post and a solemn promise (even if it was made mostly to myself) that I’d write twice a week, I’m back again. In my defense, I’ve been pretty busy changing jobs, missing my old coworkers more than I anticipated, and working myself to the brink of exhaustion at my new job because they pay overtime. I’m a former student with a ton of debt just hanging out. Overtime is the only thing that’s gonna make it go away before my 30’s.

To be honest, the only reason I’m writing this post at all is because of my growing desperation to do something in response to President Trump’s actions. There’s so much wrong with what he’s doing and how he behaves on a day-to-day basis that I often feel that addressing it is hopeless. His supporters are almost impossible to engage because I can’t help but feel that they’re deliberately misinterpreting what I’m saying or that they’re purposefully ignoring everything but the specific interpretation of events that they’ve arrived at.

The worst part of it all is that everyone on both sides of the current issues seems to be leaping to the extremes. I’ve been fairly closely observing the world around me for my entire life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so polarizing as President Trump’s campaign and first week of presidency. I’m a Liberal at heart, but I tend to behave fairly moderately. I’m willing to compromise and take smaller steps to achieve lofty goals. I try to avoid being angry with people and believe that everyone, regardless of their words and actions, deserves to be treated like a human. With every passing day of President Trump’s governance, I feel more and more alone in the middle.

The thing is, despite being in the middle, I’m definitely not on the fence. I have very strong beliefs about the way the world should work and I’m quick to point out where there  can be some improvement, but I generally prefer to encourage people to be good to each other than prescribe ways of living. My whole outlook on life and value set can basically be summarizes as “don’t judge people, be kind to one another, and everyone’s rights extend right up to the point where they start to restrict or invade other people’s rights.” Simple enough, right? Hell, you can probably summarize it even better the same way most ancient religions can be summarized: “don’t be a dick.”

Unfortunately, the current president of the USA can’t seem to embrace that idea and seems hellbent on not only undoing all the accomplishments of the past 8 years, but also on establishing himself and his political cohorts as the constant major ruling force of the USA. He seems more interested in pushing the limits of his power than using it to the benefit of the people who put him in office. His pursuit of adulation and wealth borders on the insane, as does his pathological ability to find an insult or slight in everything people say about him. He seems to hate the same way he breathes: automatically and without cessation. He places absolutely no stock in his words, flinging them out without consideration and abandoning the ones he’s dropped in the past in favor of whatever he thinks will best suit his unknown and unfathomable agenda.

He’s pretty much the complete opposite of me, in every way I can find to make a measurable comparison.

To me, words are some of the most important things we have to offer to the world, though song or speech, book or movie, or even the more abstract expressions in the visual arts. Communication. Nothing is more important to me than how we communicate with each other and the ways we choose to do it. That’s the reason I’ve stuck with this admittedly rather dramatic name for my blog. I inwardly cringe ever so slightly every time I read it because it feels so “emo poetry” when I read it to myself. That’s not what the title means to me, though, even if I can’t help avoiding that meaning when I consider it (I mean, I’ve written some of that cringy emo poetry, so I know how it can appeal to a person).

The tagline under the title, “The words of power that make, the words of point that take: no matter what one may say, if you use these words they break.” is the last stanza of a poem I wrote from a collection I’ve never really shown to many people that I call “Speechless.” I struggle with finding the right words a lot. I’ve always liked to take the time I feel I need to be sure of what I’m saying and there are a lot of times I’ve stayed silent because I wasn’t able feel that level of surety. Sometimes I found them too late to be of any good to me and sometimes I never found them at all.

Poetry has always been an emotional outlet for me, a way to take something I’m experiencing and put it outside of myself in a way that I can start to deal with it. For all of the “Speechless” poems, they’re all about times that words failed me. From the simple one-stanza “Words” to the much longer “Broken Words” that goes on for about three pages, they’re all about times I felt myself inadequate to the task of properly expressing myself.

This blog, for those who don’t care to look back to the first post, was supposed to be an attempt by me to push back against my tendency toward silence and my feelings of being inadequate when it comes to self-expression, which is why it was given the same name as the poem that is probably not only the core poem in the “Speechless” collection but may also be the best poem I’ve ever written. “Broken Words” is all about the power that words have and the fact that they will never mean entirely the same thing twice.

Sure, every word has a dictionary definition, but each word we use is affected by the words around it, by who says and when they say it, by the reason they are perceived to have said it and the reason they actually said it, by the way the listener heard it and by the way it might have been overheard by someone else. Words, like people, don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re constantly evolving and their meanings are always open to some interpretation. They’re little crystalline pieces of ourselves that we send out into the world to never get back, even if no one else heard them. Whether they’re the good parts of ourselves or the bad parts is up to the speaker, but they’re always a part of us and they always shatter as soon as they tumble from our mouths or occupy pixels on a screen, never to be seen in entirely the same way again.

I can promise this blog won’t become a platform solely for speaking out against the bullshit I see in the world, but I can’t promise that it won’t more often be my soap box than my creative outlet. As I’ve always wanted to say and never had the chance to, you can’t make a change in the world without breaking a few thousand words.

 

 

 

 

What Does “D&D” Mean?

I’ve been playing D&D for going on 7 years now. That’s not a long time by any means, since I only started playing in college, but it has been a pretty significant part of my life ever since then. I had a really good DM the first time I really played (a campaign) and a really bad DM the second time I played. The third time I played, I was the DM.

As any DM will tell you, the first time you run a campaign is always rough. I’ll definitely admit that a lot of the issues weren’t a result of an inability on my part, but more a result of the social dynamics that grew up over the year and a half that I ran my first campaign. Things started well enough, everyone had a good time, and I had a pleasant world for the characters to explore. By the end, I was making dumb stuff up just to fill the next session, my players resented what I had built for them, and some of the players tried to stage an intervention.

While all that was going on in our sessions, the group of players (who had become my only friend group over the past year due to most of my other friends either leaving the college or picking sides in an argument in our fraternity that I refused to get involved in) stopped spending time with me, my best friend tried to get my girlfriend to break up with me and date him instead, and all of my friends (how they all found out, I’ll never know) decided that it would be best to keep all of this from me. I suppose you could see why I might not be super motivated to make their D&D experience an enjoyable one.

After that, I didn’t do much large-scale DMing for almost a year. I ran a few sessions here and there, did a couple one shots, had small-scale campaigns to test worlds I had built, and was unable to find D&D to play anywhere else. After a year and a bit had passed, and I had gotten some closure on what had happened with the players in my last major campaign, I started a new one. I built this elaborate, ridiculous world that broke most of the rules players take for granted and was entirely geared around the idea of just having fun.

After that, I generally tried to keep my campaigns on the sillier side. I’m really good at keeping people laughing, at fostering a relaxed, fun atmosphere, and coming up with the best jokes and situations for the people currently playing in my campaign (there was no set cast since each session was its own full adventure) was fairly simple. I will admit that I stayed away from the more serious and story-oriented campaigns because of how horribly things went the last time I’d done one. I didn’t think I could stand being rejected and hurt like that again.

I really like to make people laugh. I enjoy story-telling more than almost anything. I enjoy creating these worlds for people to explore and helping them to reach their utmost potential. I love being a dungeon master. Even with all that, there was always something missing for me when I ran one of my silly campaigns. I never enjoyed it as much as I knew I could. In early 2016, I realized it was because I was telling stories without nuance, stories without a life of their own that took place in a two-dimensional world. Yes, they could be fun, but I knew there’s so much more that I could be doing.

Early last spring, I started a new campaign with my roommate and three of our closest friends. A small party with a tight focus on what was going on in the world. I painted broad swathes of the world in simple colors and then filled in the narrow sections they occupied with extraordinary detail, giving them the feeling of really living in the world. I provided them with an array of tools and sub-plots that they could pick and choose from, figuring out how to use each tool to fit their situation and finding their way down what seemed the random disparate paths of their plots only to find them all tied together neatly at the end of the first story arc. We brought in a fifth player to fill some of the gaps, another close friend, and I was able to add even more to the world with what he brought to our sessions.

As we approach the one-year mark, I can happily say that we’ve avoided all the problems I ran into with my first major campaign five years ago. The whole group is getting along excellently, they’re all enjoying themselves, and they’re all clamoring for our next session. My social life has only improved since we started playing and I’ve now got an even larger group of people who want me to run for them. I’ve started exploring new ideas of what it means to run a D&D campaign and how players can experience a D&D campaign. I’ve got so many new ideas for how I could accommodate a group of over a dozen potential players that I am super excited to try out. I can’t wait to see what this year brings for me as a DM.

I don’t play D&D as much as I used to and I kind of regret that. I really enjoy being a player and I can never seem to get enough playing that I’m ready for a break, but being a DM is where my heart truly resides. DMing is my favorite way to experience D&D and to truly live out what I believe it means to play Dungeons and Dragons.

To me, D&D is a way to connect with people I would otherwise have a hard time connecting with. D&D is a way to practice my skills as a story-teller and get instant feedback. D&D is a way to create a space in which my friends can relax and enjoy themselves. D&D is fulfilling in a way that the job I’m leaving has never been. D&D helps me scratch the itch I feel, that drives me to write, in a way that recharges my writing energy. I may end each session feeling tired and worn out from putting all my energy into making my campaign fun and engaging, but I’m never more inspired to write or create as I am when I put away my dice and stick my books back on their shelf.