Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1984 and Drow; Perfect for the Holidays

I noticed that this year in particular, there seems to be an influx of the pro-Happy-Holidays memes such as this one:
 As well as this one:
And I have to admit, I'm inclined to agree. In fact, my Roman Catholic mother believed so adamantly that we should respect and know other people's religions, that she taught them to us. Granted, the majority of the holidays outside of Christmas that we observed and learned about were still Christian based, such as Santa Lucia and Saint Nicolas Day - where I learned about Krampus as well, mind you. Still, we also learned about and observed Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa, as well as a broad overview of the Muslim observances. I'm sure she would have actually fit more religions in if she could, but she was a single mother, and adding ANYTHING outside your own religion during an already crazy holiday month is impressive in my book.

My point being, if you have had or will have a religious holiday this month, I wish it to be a happy, spiritual, safe, and loving one. If you are an atheist, I wish you a safe, loving, and happy month with family and friends, especially for holidays like Christmas that has become just as much a secular holiday about family and giving as it is the religious observance of Jesus' birth.

OK, well, now that I got that out of the way, on to the reason for my blog: writing.

Of which I still haven't really done any.

Me and Bear didn't really manage to connect last week in order for me to do the solo session with Jolene that I've needed to do for about two weeks now. So, once again, the girl is in limbo. Which meant I didn't really have anything to do for this Saturday's game. Not that it mattered, because a) I forgot it was Saturday until about 10:30; stupid last-minute Christmas shopping and the like, and b) I apparently wasn't the only one who couldn't/didn't make it to game, so Bear had everyone make their new characters instead. Or so it seemed when I looked at the chat log.

As Jolene's group of Northerners slowly implodes, Bear decided to create a secondary campaign that we'd bounce back and forth between: one week Northerners, one week Southerners. Otherwise known as the dark elves: Drow.

To help me catch up after my oopsie of missing the building session, Bear and I have been building me a drow character in an almost painfully slow pace. Just like Jolene, I started off with just a class in mind, and then the faintest idea of physical looks, but not much else personality, drive, or backstory wise.

So, that was the main thing I worked on yesterday.

I started off with the idea that I wanted to play a male this time; see how I do with the opposite sex. I then decided that most of my characters are social, and they don't really fair well, so why not a more physical character this time? Thus, I landed on Fighter as the character class. I know that the Dice Gods hate me or something, because I routinely roll too low to actually manage anything. Thus, I knew I needed a character who could take a hit; otherwise known as a tank. The character that willingly takes the brunt of the attacks because he can handle getting hit. While the enemy is fixated on him, the other party members go in for the kill. The main way to be a fighter tank is to go "sword and board" - one-handed weapon coupled with a shield.

Alright, so all of those basics were figured out. I was then going to go very anti-Jolene. Someone who was a good fighter, but not very charismatic. Someone who isn't a moron, but not very crafty or witty. Someone who may be shy instead of flirty. Someone who maybe didn't talk much at all - strong silent type - but when he did talk, it was something of note.

Then I realized that what I was doing was merging Rensin and Corlmitz together to make myself a character, so I scrapped that idea. This new guy is back to being a bit more Jolene-like. He's more lithe than bulk for a fighter. He's the kind of guy who would spin on his knees while still participating in swordplay before gracefully getting back onto his feet, so, a more dexterous fighter than strength-based one. He's got a casual coolness to him. He doesn't openly flirt, but he knows he's attractive and will purposely lean a specific way, angle his head in a certain direction, toss his hair, or casually strike a pose in order for girls to swoon. He's not very silver-tongued, but he's still a bit on the suave side of things. He also LOVES swordplay, and is usually grinning ear to ear whenever he can participate in it; especially against someone else who knows what they're doing. He'll joke and banter while fighting, but can get intensely serious if the need arises.

I told Bear to think of my new character as someone along the lines of Westley and Inigo atop the Cliffs of Insanity in "The Princess Bride", or Legolas and Gimli in "The Lord of the Rings", or, well, most renditions of Robin Hood. Upon further thought in the matter, and the addition of my realization that he knows he's handsome and would accept a lady's company whenever it's offered, I also added in Bronn the Sellsword from "Game of Thrones"; specifically the TV series, since I have yet to crack open the book series.

I also sifted through a few dozen pictures on drow in Google Images, and landed upon this one to be my character, a dark elf from the game Lineage II:
My favorite feature is the short hair. Most drow are depicted with long, flowing locks. It made this guy stand out for me.

I sent all I knew to Bear, but I still didn't have much by way of backstory or real drive. Sure, I'll make him a sellsword - if Bear decides that knights-for-hire exist in that society - but WHY is he a swordsman for hire? Is there a fight he won't participate in, regardless of coin earned? Why doesn't he take on some other profession? Is there a reason money seems to be his key drive? Is it the money that put him in the profession, or was there another bit of the job that he finds enjoyment out of? What would his convictions be once grouped with the party? Would he have convictions, or would he just follow whatever the rest of the party says? Is there a line he won't cross? Does he have his own code of ethics? There's a lot that needs to be fleshed out based on these small details.

Plus, I've never played a race outside the D&D core rulebook: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf, or Half-Orc. So I wasn't sure how to play a drow. I don't really know their racial culture and attitude. On top of that, Bear's drow are slightly altered from the "traditional" ones in D&D, so there's that. All-in-all, I felt a bit lost. Especially when I told Bear my concept for Kizar, my desert nomad who was basically exiled into the mainland of Vahamdras:
See, the problem is, I only had the most basic, loose cultural information for the desert people of Bear's world. I used that to come up with a really neat character concept, but according to Bear, there are a lot of factors in his world - that I didn't know about - that would have prevented a majority of Kizar's backstory to have taken place. Essentially killing the character. I'll just have to rework the rival clans of his backstory so that they aren't Bear's any longer, and find a way of building him into Gyateara.

Point being, I was afraid of the same thing happening to my drow. I created Jolene, only for her to not really mesh with either the world or the party she was grouped with. It's been a fun read to see the drama that now swirls around her because of that, but it's exhausting as her player, and it's probably equally exhausting for those playing alongside her, let alone Bear trying to run a campaign when she unintentially derails it all the time with personal drama. I then created Elymoxa the gnome, only for her to also be shot down due to not really fitting with the world/party. Next up was Kizar, whose backstory was so amazingly unorthodox for Bear's world and the culture he came up with for his desert tribes that Kizar wouldn't have worked either.

I was nervous of it happening again, as, it seemed, was Bear. So, we are in an agreement: he's building a few different drow fighters for me to pick from and build from there. That way I know the skeleton works with his world. It's fairly easy for me to flesh out a character from that point.

I mean, Willow was a skeleton NPC that became one of my favorite characters. Crystal technically still is an NPC, but I feel I've fleshed her out more than simply "She's an Irishman who is in the US for protection and training, here is her power set, she doesn't really have a filter, and she's obsessed with Tyler." Colette was celestialTyrant's character, but he didn't have much time to flesh her out before work overwhelmed him. For her, I basically had "She's the Canadian daughter of Wolverine, here is what she looks like, here is her power - which makes her nervous around people - and she's a complete Otaku."

The bits of my drow that I know - fun-loving, sword-wielding tank who can be a bit of a lady's man even though he doesn't outwardly flirt - I sent to Bear as a base, along with the picture I chose. So, now I'm waiting for him to finish setting up the character options, and then pick from there. We'll see what comes out of that, as well as if we can manage to get Jolene's solo session finally out of the way before the end of the year.

In the meantime, I'm back to minor world-building of Gyateara. Mostly to see if I can find a way of shifting Jolene over to my world instead of Bear's. For the most part, I only really need to change the name of the country she's in, a few of the towns she frequented, and the deities she evokes when angered: instead of "Oh god" or "Christ!" she'd say - in Bear's setting - "Oh gods" or "Vestulaan save me..."

I haven't actually gotten anywhere with my continuing build of Gyateara. I've mostly been playing around on FantasyNameGenerators.com, and rereading what I already have established. It may amount to SOMETHING someday. I'm just no good at solidifying anything. I'm much more reactionary than take-charge.

If you were to give me a playground and told me to have fun, I could do wonders. Give me an open field and tell me to build the playground of my dreams, and I'm overwhelmed with the logistics of everything.

I'll figure it out at some point, though. I know I will. Until that point, I'll just slowly chip away at it.

The week wasn't a complete wash, though, I did manage to pick up a copy of "Nineteen Eighty-four" by George Orwell from the public library. A few days behind where I wanted to be. I wanted to finish "Hammer of Thor" by the 10th, so that I could read my next book between the 11th and 20th - today - and then finish the year reading one last book. Well, I did finish "Hammer of Thor" after publishing my blog last week - I mean, RIGHT after publishing it - but I still couldn't get my hands on "1984" until late Thursday.

Still, I am already over 170 pages into the book, and a couple pages ahead of schedule to be done by my Christmas deadline. I'll just have to figure out a book I can blast through in about 6 days for my "Book I should have read in school." However, apparently "1984" is one of the books a lot of kids have on their required reading in school. There is a trio of dystopian novels that most kids have to read: "1984", "Brave New World", and "Fahrenheit 451". I read "Fahrenheit 451" in middle school. I read "Brave New World" in high school. By natural progression, one would assume I'd read "1984" in college, but it was never even on a recommended read list.

A lot of the "previously banned" books have become "required school reading" books over the years, so it's only natural that the two would overlap. Still gives me wiggle room for my last book: another banned book I could claim should have been on my school's required reading list?

Either way, I'm happy that I'm making such good progress with "1984", and I'm really enjoying the book. I was kind of hit-or-miss with Orwell's other dystopian story "Animal Farm." It was an intriguing plot, and an interesting way of showcasing the cultural commentary. There were parts, though, that I was kind of "whatever" about. Or, perhaps I only recall being "whatever" about them because we weren't able to actually ENJOY the story. We had to analyze every bit of it for English class.

Either way, with regards to "1984," even though there's parts of the main character Winston, and his love interest Julia, that I find a bit extreme and vaguely sociopathic, all-in-all, I'm rooting for them. If no other reason than the fact that Orwell did an excellent job at showing that Big Brother and the Oceanic government are a totalitarian society that needs to be overthrown.

All-in-all, thus far I must say that the book is indeed a reread must. If nothing else, because Orwell doesn't spell anything out for the reader. Winston knows his environment, and he's not going to directly explain any of it to the reader. Instead, small bits of information - such as the meaning of certain Newspeak words - comes to light slowly throughout the book. Which then makes earlier, semi-confusing passages make a world of sense. Already, once I've received a definition or explanation that was a mystery before, I have flipped back to reread about five different passages; now better knowing their full meaning. It's amazing how something as simple as knowing the throw-away word "Proles" is Newspeak shorthand for Proletariat can make a confusing passage within the first ten pages a key explanation of the two different classes within the Oceanic society.

Anyway, it's nearly time for me to publish, and this blog - which is discussing yet another week I didn't write anything - is already quite lengthy.

So, even though I started off this blog with a merry "Happy Holidays" to all, I AM Christian, so I'll finish off with this thought for Sunday:

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