A Visit From Inspiration

I’ve been struggling with the poor weather and a certain degree of exhaustion, bou compounded by poor health. Instead of my descriptive piece, have a poem I wrote in college, about inspiration. It is a parody of the Christmas poem, “A Visit from Old Saint Nick.”

~~~

Twas the night before Writer’s Day and all through the dorm,
Critters were stirring: spiders, ants, and flies, keeping warm.
The laundry was thrown about the floor without a care
Because no one brought guests anywhere near there.

The students lay sleeping off booze in their beds
While visions of parties danced through their heads.
I lay in bed, my game of Pokémon in hand,
Chasing that elusive place known as dream land.

When in my imagination there arose such an idea,
The racket could have been heard in South Korea!
I flew to my desk and threw on the light,
In the process blinding myself, ruining my sight.

The light on my laptop, notebook, and all the clutter and debris,
Made my whole desk simply too bright to see.
So I turned off the light, saving my poor eyes,
And instead used my laptop’s light to improvise.

I entered my password with a clickety-clack,
Brushing away the remnants of my midnight snack.
As slowly as turtles, my desktop booted up,
Right then and there, I almost gave up.

“Monkey Nuggets! Stupid Crap! Worthless Lunk!
Load faster! Come on! Stupid piece of Junk!
Close Skype, close Adobe, Close AIM too!
I need a fresh install! I need to start over new!”

As raspy as gravel on glass, my computer started,
Making as much noise as a dear soul departed.
Up came my icons, my widgets, and background,
And I began Microsoft Word with nary a sound.

Without hesitation I made such a racket,
I began typing, using every key but the bracket!
I drew out my plans, turning them all around,
I took the last of my AMP and chugged it down.

I dressed my characters in armor, giving them swords
I made them fight, giving the winners awards.
Countries rose and fell, millennia passed,
I had never known myself to write so fast!

My mind, how it sped through stories untold:
The strength of the young! The wisdom of the old!
The daring of knights! The defense of the weak!
Those who never find, doomed always to seek!

The stump of a pencil I clutched in my hand,
As I beat out a rhythm while drawing the land.
Broad sweeps of mountain, small little rivers,
Imagination coursed through me, giving me shivers!

Writing like I had never done before,
I felt like I’d washed up on creativity’s shore.
But something was wrong, something seemed off,
“No night could last this long” I realized with a scoff.

I’d said not a word, but my voice boomed ‘round the room,
Sealing my fate, bringing about my terrible doom.
I awoke, feverish and panicked, in my bed,
I lay there and groaned, wishing I was dead.

My inspired writing was naught but a dream!
I wanted to stay in my bed, do nothing but scream,
But here I am, writing a poem for you,
Because that’s how inspiration works: what can you do?

Saturday Morning Musing

One of the biggest problems I face from day-to-day is where to draw the line when it comes to investing my time. I like to keep myself busy or entertained, so I’ve constantly got a large number of projects I can work on, games I can play, and books I can read. I could also put in the effort to get my friends together for a movie or some kind of activity, there’s always the option of staying at work longer to get some more overtime, home improvement or cleaning projects, and almost my entire family lives three hours away, so visiting them is always a bigger investment as well. I also occasionally need time just for myself, I want to spend time with my girlfriend, and I am constantly on the verge of forgetting stuff like birthdays and Christmas present shopping. Lastly, (the fact that it is the last thing I’m listing definitely says something about my priorities), I need to make sure I get enough sleep and take care of myself.

Ideally, I’d find a way to do everything, perhaps by combining things like time for myself and my projects, games, and books, or those same things but as time with my girlfriend instead of just by myself. As long as I’m talking in terms of ideal situations, I would also clean in my sleep, take care of all birthday and Christmas stuff during drives to visit my family (along with audio books, of course), and my friends would take on the burden of planning stuff that fits my schedule. Also, I’d be a millionaire and never need to work another day in my life so I can do nothing but write or spend my time studying literature and language. Might as well dream big if I’m going to dream, right?

I want to do everything, but I’ve only got so much time an energy. Additionally, because feeling tired or over-committed for long periods of time can cause my depression and anxiety to spike, I need to make sure that I’m not constantly using all of my energy. I need to balance recharging with video games, books, or spending time by myself against things that drain my energy like large social gatherings (including family), tracking and doing chores, and working more. Too much recharging can leave me feeling like I’m wasting my days, but not enough leaves me tired and barely capable of doing anything that’s going to be draining. If that drained feeling persists, then it causes a flare in my depression and the feeling of tiredness to advance to full exhaustion. This quickly snowballs unless I can catch it, which is always tricky because managing myself in order to catch it can be tiring and discouraging at well.

As a result, I tend toward habits and repeatable planning in order to take some of the burden off of myself. Monday night is a free night to play video games online with people or read, whatever I want. Tuesday is often date night. Wednesday is my weekly gaming night. Thursday is either a social activity or reading. Friday is usually chores and a social activity or chores and time with my roommates. Saturday is all of my obligations, like grocery shopping, non-weekly chores, pre-writing for my blog, and home improvement projects. It can sometimes be a date-day. Sundays are for laundry, reading, preparation for the week, time to myself, and usually D&D. Scattered throughout is work, writing when I’m not too tired, and family on major holidays. It’s a loose system that can change as needed, but my habits from weeks past usually give me enough of a nudge so that I’m never sitting around, bored and trying to figure out what I want to do. That feeling, being bored and entirely uninterested in everything I have to do, is responsible for more depression spikes than anything else I’ve ever felt. I avoid it at all costs.

My problems always come in when someone wants to change my habits. I have some degree of flexibility and usually enough energy to add it into my week, but not always. I’m not always good at saying no, either. Not in a “people make me do things I don’t want to” sort of way, but a “I’m not very good at advocating for my own needs” sort of way. I’ll almost always go along with what someone suggested and then spend a couple of days feeling extra tired. It isn’t always bad. If I’ve done an alright job of managing myself earlier in the week, I’ll be able to bounce back just fine. If I’ve been extra stressed or away from my habits for a longer period of time, it can take a while to get back to feeling well.

I’ve struggled for years with this feeling of constantly using my energy reserves to get through the day thanks to my depression, and I’ve only ever really gotten it to go away when I get invested in some big project like National Novel Writing Month. The problem is that, when it ends, I’m super exhausted and usually spend a week or so fighting against my depression. Feelings of low-energy and minor emotional exhaustion can persist for almost an entire month afterward. I can usually deal with it by taking extra time for myself and cutting out some of my social engagements, but that often presents problems of its own. Most of my friends get it, they know I might be a bit of a hermit for a while but I’m fine as long as they can actually communicate with me via the internet.

Most of the time, I alternate between wishing I could just become a hermit and never need to worry about it again or wishing I was never alone and was constantly surrounded by people who energize me. It isn’t a good feeling, since it is a part of the “I wish I wasn’t like this” feeling that makes it hard for me to accept myself and my mental illnesses. I try not to think about it too much, but every so often I need to take the time to look at how I spend my time and double-check that I’m spending it not only in a way that balances my energy but in a way that I feel is consistent with my long-term goals and values. If I’m lucky, I need to do that only at major life events, holidays, and every few months. If I’m not lucky, it is a lot more frequent. A high frequency is usually indicative that something else is wrong, so I get to spend a few days putting it off and then my weekend trying to figure out what’s causing me to constantly reconsider how I spend my time. I’ve got a lot of driving to do this weekend, thanks to the holidays, so hopefully I’ll have something figured out by the time I’m home.

It’s like an itch you can’t scratch or the quiet, nagging certainty that you left something important behind that you won’t miss until you absolutely need it. This is going to be all I can think about today. Hopefully your holidays are going better than mine are, so far.

Sinking

Whispered words
         like will-o-wisps
Light my foggy mind
p           with little lights
That draw me in
         toward unsafe lands
As I stir and stare
         through too-long nights.

Might-have-beens and
         I-should-have-dones
Swamp my listless heart
p           with fetid doubts
As I feel and grope
         my way through
My heavy soul’s
         deep and bitter bouts.

One breath
         as I break the surface
And then I slip,
p           soundlessly sinking
Without a fight
         into the deeps,
Tired eyes
p           all blank and unblinking.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Sweet Scent of Rain on a Damp Morning

In a game that keeps on giving some nine months after I started playing it, one of my favorite random occurrences is the occasional rain storm. As I play through Hero Mode (enemies are stronger and regenerate health, plus there are more of them), I’ve changed my settings to get rid of as much of the Heads Up Display as possible, using the “Pro” layout. Gone is my clock, my sonograph, my thermometer, and every other indicator that I’m playing a video game aside from my health bar and occasionally my stamina wheel. If I could hide those, I’d do that as well. Not to make the game harder, but to bring me closer to the game. That way, when it begins to rain, my only indication is the growing cloud cover or the first tell-tale drops as I ride through an area occupied by a storm.

I feel a certain amount of anxiety at times, not knowing what the weather will be before I decide to climb a mountain (you will slide down the cliff you’re climbing if you move at all during rain storms), but it quickly fades once I actually get absorbed into the game. I climb and either hurry if it gets cloudy or resign myself to being rained off the cliff. I also don’t know if it is a rainstorm or a thunderstorm until the first lightning strike, so that means I have to avoid using any metal weapons or armor. If I can climb or fight most enemies, there’s not a whole lot left to do if I don’t want to teleport away and do something else until the rain ends.

I’m quite patient. I’d rather set the controller down for a few minutes while the rain storms itself out than warp away and lose track of what I was doing as I get distracted by some new quest. When I first started doing this, I’d grab my phone and browse Twitter or Imgur for the storm’s duration. As time went on, I paid more attention to the storms in the game. There are things that only show up in the rain, certain bugs and flowers, and AI characters, both enemies and NPCs, behave differently when it is raining. There are parts of the map that flood when it rains. Rain and thunderstorms aren’t just a detriment to your ability to climb or a barrier to work around when you’re fighting, they’re actual players in the world that cause everything in it to respond. There is so much to do during a storm that I’ve stopped setting my controller aside and spend the four or more in-game hours exploring my local environment to see what changes.

The more I played, the more I noticed that I felt similarly during a game rain storm compared to how I feel when I sit in a real rain storm. Now, I split my rain storms between exploring and finding a nice sheltered place, out of the rain, to have Link stand while I look out at the rain-soaked world around him. My inner pluviophile has taken control and now I love nothing more than a surprise rain storm so I can watch the water drip off of link’s clothes and the weapons he’s holding in his hands. I love to watch the world go soft and grey as it rains during the day and then dim as the sun sets and night begins.

There are particular places in the game that are always raining. I like to go to them sometimes, usually when I need to relax, so I can have Link light a fire and stand next to it under whatever shelter I could find while it rains. The world falls silent except for the sound of rain on the ground, the moan of the wind as it whips the rain around, and the crackle of the fire. When I close my eyes and listen, I can almost smell the sweet scent of dirt churned into mud by rain and the fresh tinge to the air wafting in my window.

Eventually I open my eyes, pick up my controller, and go back to playing. I chase Koroks to expand my inventory, find new shrines, collect everything I can so I’ll be able to upgrade my armor, and find new ways to tackle multiple enemies at once when freezing them is no longer an option (the gold ones can’t be frozen, I guess? That’s super annoying). It may be a few days between play sessions or it may just be a couple hours, but I know I’ll eventually go looking for the rain again, just so I can spend a little more time bathing in the silence and peace the rain brings.

 

This Game Has A Destiny Too Complex To See

One of the games I’ve been playing a lot recently is Destiny 2 on the PC. It isn’t Borderlands, but it is still a shooter with super interesting guns and special powers you can swap around. That’s close enough for me to enjoy, especially since I can easily get all of my friends to show up on an evening to play some Destiny 2 with me and I’ve yet to actually finish the story of a Borderlands game with anyone but my librarian friend. It may not have the same sense of humor, cell-shaded glory, intriguing characters, smooth control scheme, super supportive community, excellent campaign mode…. Okay, maybe the comparison isn’t as great as I’d originally thought.

That isn’t to say Destiny 2 is bad or that I’m not enjoying it. I actually really enjoy Destiny 2, even the online PvP (Player versus Player) modes. I play it all the time by my own choice, even if I never really play it by myself. The campaign doesn’t have as much replayability, but it is also super easy to just power through if you’re interesting in earning the XP for your clan (a loose association of players that can bring you some minor benefits and is basically just a list of people who’ll do the three-player missions with you) or trying to increase your chances of getting a rare gun. It was a lot of fun to play through the first time, even if it wasn’t super compelling. You can definitely tell that the main focus of the game is supposed to be on what happens AFTER you complete the campaign.

There’s already a lot to do after the campaign ends, and there will only ever be more as new content is created and released. There are Strikes, which are three-player missions that have a good chance of dropping good gear, which come in a couple different flavors. Vanilla (normal) strikes are relatively easy and vary widely, but don’t drop very good gear that often. Heroic strikes are more difficult and drop better gear along with having a chance to drop the best gear. Nightfall strikes are even more difficult and have special rules, but also drop better gear in addition to having the best chance of dropping the rarest gear. There’s the Crucible, which is the main PvP mode, and the Trials of the Nine, which is a special format of the PvP mode that gives you really great gear if you manage to win 7 out of 9 matches. There’s also the Leviathan Raid, which is the highest-tier of end-game content, requires six people, and is the best way to get gear. There’s also a number of things that happen on each world, such as public events that anyone can join, small adventures for alright look, and the constant grind of earning tokens you can trade in to each world’s representative for random loot around (but usually below) your level.

All of this content is geared toward players who enjoy making multiple character, doing weekly or daily grind sessions to get the best possible weapons, gear, cosmetic items, and emotes. There’s some room for more casual players since the best way to get gear to do the weekly milestones, which basically just requires that you just play a little of every game mode every week. You can do it in a couple of hours one night a week if you’ve got a decent group of people to play with, though doing the Raid can easily double that. You can just keep playing with the same character the entire time or switch between a few characters to get the weekly rewards all over again as you help the more casual members of your clan earn their weeklies. Personally, I like to play it whenever there’s someone online to play with but I usually stick to one character because I’m not super motivated by the rare weapons. I just like to “Captain America” things as a Titan (you get a shield you can bash people with, block attacks with, or throw at distance enemies to damage and blind them. It’s so much fun to just run around punching the crap out of enemies in a shooter. And, if you get the right gear, it’s a totally viable strategy.

The sheer variety of play style available to the players is where Destiny 2 shines. There are three very different classes with different styles of play and each of those classes can be played in a number of very different ways based on the special properties of your armor. I have arm armor for my Titan that includes the lunge distance of my melee attacks and the damage the attacks do, which stacks with a class ability that does the same thing. If you set it up right and time everything well, you can fly around a battlefield like superman, punch everything to death. Warlocks do incredible amounts of damage in general but are probably also the biggest utility class since you can modify them to increase damage, heal, use more grenades, be super mobile, and so on. Hunters are the high-damage, very mobile sort of class that have the best mobility and the most options when it comes to attacking (In terms of strategy rather than in terms of abilities). Each of these has sub-classes that change their abilities and grenades, and writing about them all would be at least a full post per class.

The biggest problems the game has come in the form of the continued support from the studio, Bungie. There have been a number of uproars in the player community already in regards to some the questionable decisions Bungie has been making, all of which is compounded by the fact that Bungie isn’t very good at communicating with its fan base. There was the XP debacle (XP was being weighed so that super grind-y players didn’t get too many of the loot boxes you get by leveling up or by purchasing from Bungie), the only recently resolved issue involve the DLC (players without the DLC got locked out of almost every post-game activity that was a part of the weekly reward system), and the tumultuous Prometheus Lens arrival and subsequent nerf (PvP used nothing but this gun because it could nearly insta-kill other players and a large segment of people wanted to keep it around. Personally, I hated it since it made every PvP match the same boring grind of who pulls the trigger first). In the last couple weeks, Bungie has really started communicating more clearly and openly about what’s going on, but a lot of players are still left wondering just how all of this stuff made it through testing or why Bungie made some of their clearly dumb decisions they’ve subsequently backtracked on.

I can’t really hold the game accountable for the mistakes of the company that made it, though, so I would definitely recommend getting Destiny 2 (and its DLC because the extra missions they’ve added in Curse of Osiris were a lot of fun).  I’d recommend playing casually or settling yourself in for the cycle of frustration and excitement my roommate seems to go through every week or two, but that’s really up to you. If you’ve got an open evening every week that you’d like to fill and a group of friends you like to game with, I strongly suggest filling it with Destiny 2. You’ll have a lot of fun, if nothing else.

Serial Fiction: Coldheart and Iron – Introduction

Every night, once I’ve settled into my shelter for the night, cleaned up from dinner, and banked the fires that are the only things standing between us and never waking up again, the idle conversation around the fire inevitably turns to the past. I’m well into my thirties, older than most people traveling through the tundra, and there are often a lot of children in the groups I guide. The children, curious about an older stranger, all want to know the same thing.

“Where were you when it ended?” Tired, wind-chapped faces peek out of heavy coats and the insulated sleeping bags every traveler keeps if they want to survive once the fire burns low. Even the adults gather around, always eager to hear a new story. “What were you doing when you knew it was over?”

They ask not because they want to know what the world was like before the end, there’s still enough civilization left that even the children of the permanent nomads have seen towns and the comforts afforded by intact generators with gasoline to power them, but because they are bored. All of us who knew life before the collapse will wax rhapsodic and go off on tangents, telling stories about all the things we loved and people we knew. All things now lost to us are fair game and most of us would go on until the weight of our words and the low light of the fire brought us to a mumbling halt.

Then, in order to break the silence and regain some of the strength we felt before remembering what we lost, we would share the story of when we knew that everything had gone to shit. It was a different moment for most people, and not just because everyone was doing different things when it happened.

For some of us, myself included, the moment predates what is commonly considered the collapse by the few scholars and scientists we have left. Most of them admit it was a gradual thing but they insist that one event can be pinpointed as the time when we have irrevocably passed the tipping point. According to the data dumps that are passed around the few working computers still attached to the net, few of them actually agree on what it was, though.

We maintain that it happened much earlier and everything after that was merely a consequence. The fate of the world was sealed and all subsequent potential moments merely hurried it along. Unlike both other groups, the scholars with their tipping points and every other person with their single moment of no return, all of us are very nearly in agreement. Within a week of each other, so far as I’ve found.

Ultimately, though, I don’t know how much it matters. I haven’t spent a lot of time examining what it would mean if humanity ever agreed on what exactly triggered the collapse. I prefer to avoid spending too much of my time thinking about it since survival and my work are more important. In other circumstances, I’d have been a writer. Here and now, I just do what I can to keep my groups alive as I guide them from community to community, and part of that includes keeping their spirits up. So I tell them my stories of what I miss, the people I’ve lost, and then of the moment I knew it was over. It was a moment that was heard around the world, as it would have to be to effectively end the world as we knew it, but few saw exactly what it meant at the time.

Most people only realized it in retrospect, but it was significant enough that they still remember when it happened with crystal clarity. I was preparing for the end since the moment I read the first news reports and saw all the things he said. I was prepared for the fallout and ensuing winter, even if I didn’t anticipate exactly how those would be delivered. I was one of the few who listened to the ranting of a person everyone dismissed as a lunatic and I felt no satisfaction when it turned out I was right.

Unlike most people of a like mind, I think we could have still avoided the collapse at that point, if we’d done all the right things. But we’re humans. Doing the right thing isn’t exactly what we’re known for, nor can we ever really get enough people to agree on what the right thing is. I don’t tell the younger people in my group this, though. Post-apocalyptic society is easier for humans to handle if we can blame something outside ourselves for everything. Instead, I just focus on my memories of sitting at my desk, reading the news reports, and solemnly outlining the plans I’d made to my friends as we ate lunch and they ridiculed me.

None of them made it.

I don’t tell the young ones that either. They see enough death in any given week, let alone the past ten or so years. They don’t need me telling them how almost everyone I knew from back then was gone. Given the overall decrease in population, the average human has lost about 80% of the people they know. As is usual for statistics, they fail to paint a complete picture. People in first-world countries that were used to harsh winters had relatively low death rates while countries not used to them were almost entirely wiped out. I was the exception to the rule, though.

I’d lost all but three people I knew from before the collapse. Three friends from college who had actually listened when I raised the alarm. Everyone else is dead or missing. Most people who are missing end up being dead since the communication networks lasted a while after the collapse. People aren’t really missing if you can call them on your cell phone. It is only when their phones go unanswered and the obits fail to post their passing for two years that they’re declared missing, presumed dead, and you’re told to get on with your life as best as you can. We still occasionally find communities that have been entirely cut off, but most of them are long dead.

That’s how I became a Wayfinder, I tell the adults who were too young to remember when this winter began. I went looking for the people I was missing and became one of the models they used to create the Order of Wayfinders. Now I have brothers and sisters everywhere in the continental US, even if I’ve never met more than a handful of the ones outside my group.

I still keep an eye on the obits whenever I get to a town still connected to the net, but I’m certain they’re all gone by this point. Over ten years of solo or small-group survival is impossible, given the patrols we Wayfinders run. They’d have to be very lucky to have survived this long or found some odd community that isn’t connected to the net but still strong enough to survive bandit attacks.

Now that I’m no longer looking for people, I lead the largest group of Wayfinders and guide entire families and small communities from one place to another. Mine is the only group in the midwest that actually has the firepower to stand up to the bandit tribes that prey on any wayfinder group they track down.

Wayfinding for large groups doesn’t come cheap, but most families are willing to pay my prices in exchange for a chance at surviving travel through the wilder zones of the tundra. The history lessons and storytelling are free, though. They keep my mind sharp and they’re an important part of humanity’s past if we want to ever have a future. So I keep walking, picking up groups and dropping groups off, telling stories in the silence of my shelter, and trying to survive the frozen wastes of what was once the US.

Tabletop Highlight: The Dresden Files RPG

I’ve mentioned my love of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher before. I’ve yet to go into it at any real length–I’m saving it for a longer Wednesday review–but I wanted to write about something a little tangential as it has gotten popular enough to have related games and comics. There’s a card game now, a few board games, and a RPG that uses the Fate system. I haven’t played any of the board games yet, or the card game, but I’ve run the RPG and I have to say it was a lot of fun.

For those of you who haven’t played a game using the Fate system, you build a character using a point-allocation system for attributes and skills. You can use points to buy skill modifiers that give you extra ability in specific applications of that skill, but the result is ultimately decided by how many positive modifiers you have after rolling a set of what are called “Fate Dice.” Fate Dice have 6 sides, two of which have a “+” mark, two are blank, and two have a “-” mark on them. “+” adds to your end result, “-” takes away from your end result, and the blank sides are do nothing to your end result. The whole system is fairly low on numbers, compared to most RPGs I’ve played.

Most of the character sheet is actually taken up by what we call “flavor text” in D&D, except the Fate System relies on all of this color and characterization to focus your character. You have to pick strengths and weaknesses, which have the potential to affect your skills and dice pools (how many dice you can roll for a particular check), and almost all of the skill checks amount to a Pass/Fail system with the only real modifications on that being how well you’ve succeeded. The whole system focuses very heavily on storytelling rather than number-crunching, which means it can be either super forgiving or very harsh depending on how your Game Master prefers to run it.

The whole system feels super different from everything else I’ve played since almost all of those other systems are heavier on the numbers side of thing. All of the numbers feel super reassuring to me as both a player and a GM, since math comes easily to me and I’m comfortable enough with the rules as a whole to know when to fudge things, so the Fate System was almost like having to learn an entirely new language rather than just playing a different game. That being said, I don’t think a number-heavy system would work very well for a Dresden Files RPG.

While the book series has a lot of elements that would fit into a more hard-math rule system and shares a lot in common with many of those same systems, it ultimately fits best into the story-driven Fate System. There are many times in the Dresden Files were a character digs deep within themselves to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but it is hard to have something like that play out in a rules system that has clear results because of numerical dice and hard math. In the Fate System, there is literally a mechanic for saying “actually, I succeeded that because I’m a determined son of a bitch/really good at this one thing that helps out unexpectedly/got extremely lucky that the one thing I needed just happened to be in this little cabinet here.” Those are aptly called “Fate Points” and they allow a player or GM to insert an element of story into one of the times when numbers would otherwise rule outcomes.

Fate Points are allotted to a character based on how many points they have left after their character is made. This means that a higher-powered character has fewer opportunities to fudge the numbers and just succeed than a lower-powered character. In the Dresden Files RPG, this means characters who have no magical abilities or affinities can wind up steering the plot or showing up just in the nick of time to save the bacon of a powerful shape-shifter or wizard. Just like Butters has done for Harry.

The game does a very good job of balancing power levels by placing additional restrictions on higher-powered characters and giving a wide-variety of cheaper powers to non-wizards so that they have the opportunity to contribute and compete with the wizards for the spotlight. If you want to make a wizard and are starting as low-level characters, chances are good that your character won’t be able to do much at the start, whereas a shape-shifter can already transform and use specialized aspects of their powers outside of their transformation.

That being said, the lack of hard-numbers means the GM needs to be rather proficient at making things up as they go along without a precedent to go off. It can be difficult to resolve combat if no one is spending Fate Points to swing it one way or another. I recommend reading the book thoroughly rather than just skimming like you can with some of the hard-math systems. All of the information you need is in there and talking it through with other people who’ve read it or run the game before should be all you need to clear up any confusion.

If you really enjoy the Dresden Files and want to play a game in as close to the book-world as you can get, I definitely recommend picking up PDFs of the books. Some of them even include character information for the people from the books and all of the books will tell you from what point in the series the information was obtained. You don’t need to have read all of the Dresden Files in order to join it, but having read some of it is definitely helpful.

Wrapped in Silence

As you sit in your bedroom, legs extended toward the foot of the bed and your back leaning against the wall, you can feel the heavy weight in your heart beat against your chest. It beats arrhythmically, out of tune with your heart and the pumping blood that courses through your body.

The weight is silence. The silence of the quiet thump of your heart and the rushing of blood in your ears. The silence of thousands of synapses firing as wild, uncontrolled thoughts tumble through your mind without leaving more than a faint trail that is wiped away by the same winds that give them agency. The silence of love unspoken and bitter last words that can never be reclaimed. A silence so complete that you can feel your voice, the voice with which you narrate your existence and that gives you a sense of self, fade and crumble in its face.

Outside, there is a similar weight pressing inward. It works its way through the blanket that wraps your legs and the sweatshirt you wear until it nestles against your skin like an itch you can never quite find, no matter how long you scratch.

This weight is also silence, but a separate silence. The silence of a fan blowing in the background, a constant whir that never ceases or varies in any perceptible way. The silence of an apartment full of people who are all busy with quiet things. The silence of a nearby highway humming with the steady stream of cars full of people who make their way from one place to another without ever conceiving of you as a being with your own hopes, dreams, and thoughts.

Some people, somewhere in your building, make a small noise that you know exists, but it is not strong enough to make its way through the walls and plaster that guard your apartment against their intrusion. The few people who, passing in their cars, look in your direction cannot see you for the brick and aluminum that guard the outside of your building against intrusion.

The two weights press against each other, pulled to each and yet repulsed by each other, constantly trying to escape from the other in one direction while being pulled toward it in the opposite direction. As the ebb and flow of their tugging begins to tear you apart, you quiet your mind and lay aside all of the rambling, rumbling thoughts that tumble through your mind.

This new silence, the silence of the mind after a long day; the silence of the mind when all thought has come to naught; the silence that reigns over the darkest moments of humanity; the silence that lifts up and glorifies the brightest moments of our lives and the lives of those we love; this silence settles into your mind.

As you sit and feel the power of this new, third silence, you let it flow out of you. It sweeps down to your heart and pulls the first silence with it. It glides outward then, capturing the second silence in its grasp and slowly wraps Silence around you, embracing you with a blanket devoid of warmth but resplendent with comfort. It pulls and tugs until not a scrap of you is left uncovered and slowly settles until you can feel it seep into your very bones. It takes such a hold of you that you are left wondering if there ever was something other than silence in your life; you wonder if have ever had a voice or heard a sound or if it was all a dream from which you have woken.

You feel the muscles in your chest expand and contract as you breath. You feel the muscles in your throat prepare the way for the word that will shatter the silence. You feel your tongue curl and move so that, as the vibrating air passes, it will make the correct sequence of sounds that will forever destroy this heavy, peaceful silence. As it builds, you can feel it coming, you can feel an end to everything you’ve ever know coming on the crest of this wave.

And then your muscles relax and the moment is passed. As your breath keeps its place in the first silence, your throat keeps its place in the second silence, and your tongue keeps its place in the third silence, you feel a fourth silence settle over them all. With this silence, the silence of the word unspoken, you feel the warmth that was lacking settle into you, the comfort is no longer cold and strange but familiar in a way that you cannot comprehend but wish to never be without again.

 

Saturday Morning Musing

For a long time this year, I wasn’t writing or updating this blog very much. I’ll admit part of that was by choice (at least for the blog since I felt like I didn’t have anything to say) and part of that was because I just couldn’t make myself string the words together unless I was super moved by an idea. I was pretty busy most days and that meant I didn’t have much energy for working on my books, much less my blog. A lot of my time was filled with trying to manage my depression and a related self project: trying to avoid making myself depressed or anxious for no reason at all.

Honestly, that was probably the most successful “project” I worked on up until National Novel Writing Month and this daily update thing. It worked pretty well for the most part and only didn’t work when I had fairly legitimate reasons to feel depressed or anxious about something. During those times, my pinpoint focus on not making things worse for myself helped me avoid spiraling into a fugue or going back to my bad habits of closing off and hiding away from everything but my minimum work requirements and meals.

It was exhausting, though, because I needed to be constantly aware of what I’m thinking and focused on jerking my mind away from depressing thought spirals and needless anxieties. My OCD neither helped nor hindered, thankfully. My tendency to obsess over depressing subjects was effectively cancelled by my tendency to sort of automate small mental activities, like emptying my mind or tracking patterns in the world around me–which are only “small” activities because I’ve been working at doing those things for over a decade now. Making a habit of forcibly jerking your mind away from its habit of obsessing over negative thoughts and ideas is basically a wash.

I’ve been doing it for long enough at this point that its become a solid habit, even outside of my OCD. I catch myself more frequently than I used to, even though the spirals are a bit stronger than before. There’s nothing like a new relationship to lend strength of some negative thought spirals. At the same time, one of my major sources of stress is gone and I’ve got a significant source of positive emotion. No longer living with my frustrating roommate and having a girlfriend have definitely had a positive overall impact on my life even if I still occasionally have moments of intense anxiety. I don’t know if I’ll ever be entirely rid of those thought spirals or, as I refer to them in my head, thought tornadoes (because only the incredibly powerful ones are a problem and there’s no reasoning with them because they just carry you along with them), but I can definitely appreciate the fact that they’re the only major problem I’ve got right now.

I really wanted to write a post about how awful my roommate was, as a form of catharsis for myself and in order to start a conversation about how painful it can be to try to live with someone who doesn’t respect you despite the fact that you get along great as friends. I wound up sitting on the idea for a couple of months, which was probably wise, because I feel like I’m in a better place to actually think about it and respond rather than simply vent about it. Which is to say that I think the thing that stressed me out wasn’t so much his behavior, but his refusal to actually take steps to work on it despite constantly acknowledging it. So many times, I would sit down to discuss something with him and he’d cut me off by proving he already knew what I was going to bring up. It felt awful to be living with someone who knew what they were doing was wrong but continued to do it anyway because they didn’t care enough to change.

I worry that he’s going to see this, or that one of our mutual friends is going to see this and then share it with him, but that might be for the best. He obviously didn’t hear what I was saying to him during the 21 months we lived together, but maybe reading it will help it click. It’s worked before, with my original blog. Maybe it’ll work here as well.

I’m not going to hold my breath, though. After successfully reducing the amount of self-inflicted pain and stress I encounter on a weekly basis and spending an entire month writing up a storm, I think I’m ready to return my attention to what is most important to me. That, and the most common issue I face when I’m working on my creative projects. I will take breaks to rest up and recharge, but I never seem to be able to get the recharging part working properly. I can rest, feel ready to push again, but I haven’t managed to recharged myself past the low-levels I’ve been feeling for three years at this point. I don’t need to get out of low-power mode in order to write, but I feel like it’d be a lot easier if I could.

Of course, its been so long that I’m not sure if I can actually get recharged or if I’m making the entire thing up as an excuse to stop when things get difficult. Time will tell, I suppose. It usually does.

Late-Night Writing

When midnight approaches
And exhaustion encroaches
I make a silent wish:
Just one more late-night hour
To write and feel the power
I have when I create.

A mind full of thick fog
Permeates my daily slog
When I choose to stay up.
Better fog than the loss
I feel as I turn and toss
When I instead choose sleep.

Second shift and spare time
Is never enough to climb
The mountain before me.
I just want to explore
Writing in a time before
I’m bidding friends good night

So for now I contend
With foggy days that descend
From my late-night writing,
All while hoping someday
I will be able to say
I spend my days writing.