10 Things I Miss Most About Role-Playing

It’s no secret.

I can pretend to be a sports-loving, cave-dwelling, meat-eater.

But it wasn’t always so.

Once, long ago, I dwelled in the lands of swords & sorcery. At the tender age of eleven, my uncle passed along a set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, and I was hooked.

Every dorky image you’ve seen of role-players on the internet…they were me. Every nerd stereotype, I conquered.

And no, I don’t care. I loved every second of my dice-rolling origin story.

Here’s the ten things I miss most about role-playing back in the day:

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The Clatter of Dice on the Table

As a little kid, I thought dice were six-sided and used only by gamblers in the seediest corners of Vegas. Who knew they came in such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors? My favorite set was sparkly green. And damn, that twenty-sided die rolled more 20’s than should’ve been legal. As a game master, I crushed many players’ dreams with my dice. Just ask Egg Embry, king of role-playing wanna-lancers.

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Role-Playing for Days Without Stopping

When we played, we played. No tiny two-hour sessions for us. My little group of four would sometimes convene on a Saturday afternoon, head down to the basement, and emerge late Sunday night. No, we didn’t have girlfriends. Yes, we had more fun than everyone else on the planet. Sometimes, if my entire crew wasn’t available, I’d run a session with two guys, then head over to the third player’s house and game until the wee hours.

Pure. RPG. Heaven.

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Creating Art for the Game

Some D&D players show up with the simple goal of advancing their character and hoarding treasure. Not our group. We created worlds, and we lived inside them. To aid the process, some of us created art to support our fantastical visions. Hell, I bought a giant art book and populated it entirely with drawings, sketches, and hand-painted maps. Did we take it too far? Nah. Instead of watching movies, we directed our own stories inside our minds.

The Underhollows – A painted scene from our campaign.

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Eating Pizza & Drinking Mountain Dew

If I ate today like I ate back then, I’d be 300 lbs. Fortunately, the body of a fourteen-year old is resilient. We chugged gallons of carbonated sugar water and ate boxes upon boxes of Little Caesar’s pizza.

…and we didn’t gain a damn pound.

More importantly, the caffeine we imbibed fueled our bodies better than a thousand Haste potions. If we’d have had an IV, we could’ve stayed awake for weeks at a time, rolling dice and avoiding life beyond our basement.

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Painting Miniatures

Nowadays, my young son plays with the remnants of what was once a mighty lead-pewter army. He doesn’t know about the hundreds of hours involved in painting and perfecting thousands of his tiny miniature monsters. He doesn’t really care.

Honestly, we didn’t really need the miniatures to play our style of game. Most of the fun lived in the actual painting. It’s not like video games, in which everything is programmed for you. When you take the time to add color and life to your very own miniature character, it becomes something sacred.

And ‘effing badass.

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Creating New Worlds

The guys (and gals) who participated in my campaign won’t ever know the work I put in behind the scenes. I didn’t just design simple treasure hauls. I invented a universe, and I loved every minute of it.

I probably should’ve been studying for school.

Nah.

In folders ancient and dusty, I have hundreds of maps, sketches, character drawings, stories, and massive overarching plot outlines. I planned our game sessions well in advance, carefully constructing multiple scenarios to accommodate whatever crazy choices the players might make.

Some of those sketches and outlines, I turned into fantasy novels later in life. Others remain in hiding, likely never to see daylight again.

Sniffle…

*

Drawing Dungeon Maps

Along with world-creation came the fun (though often tedious) job of mapping out dungeons.

Take a left turn, fall into a pit of spikes.

Go straight, fight a pack of bloodthirsty Necrophages.

Head down the stairs, prepare to meet your doom.

Armed with reams of graph paper and a knack for being cruel to my players, I designed dozens of dungeons. Some were simple. Others were bottomless. Several were never traversed, and still lie hidden, chock full of gold (and death.)

Think this is complex? You ain’t seen nuthin’, rookie.

*

Seeing the Joy on Players’ Faces

For as insidious as I tried to be, I genuinely wanted my fellow gamers to succeed. After all, I’d laid the trappings of an epic world, and if the players’ characters died, they’d never have the chance to explore it.

They’ll never know it, but I loved it when they outsmarted me.

And when they reached the end of a plotline, it felt like we finished one movie in a thrilling series.

Only…instead of having to wait a year for the next installment to arrive, we simply kept playing.

It’s like leveling up in a video game, only a million times more euphoric.

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Creating New Characters

In our deep, dark basement (or my dad’s musty living room) I sometimes wonder how many new characters we made. For us, making a new character wasn’t just writing statistics down on a sheet of paper; it was more about inventing a new persona. If the idea behind role-playing is to escape our mundane reality for a while, then there’s no greater method than to step into the mind of someone else.

Elves. Dwarves. Cantankerous old wizards. Midget lizard-folk clerics. Whatever floats your boat.

We played ’em all. Some died. Some lived. Some went down in infamy.

But all will be remembered.

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Storytelling

Ultimately, gaming (at least the way we did it) isn’t about rolling dice, collecting treasure, or slaughtering goblins. It’s about creating a living world, not unlike a book, into which one can wander for days on end.

For the players, it’s all about exploration. Discovery. Advancement.

For me, it’s about telling a story. And not just a lonely, beginning-to-end tale, but a flexible, ever-changing universe.

Like the butterfly effect, one motion by one player can change everything.

Sigh…

I only wish we could’ve finished the story. We stopped well before arriving at the end. It’s probably my fault for being long-winded.

Oh well.

If reincarnation exists, I’m coming back as a fourteen-year old dungeon master.

With a shitload of Mountain Dew.

*

If you like role-playing inspired stories, go here.

If you like cheesy RPG art, try this.

J Edward Neill

10 Questions for When You’re Tipsy

jd-girl

It’s late. You’ve had a few adult beverages. You’re with a few friends. Or maybe you’re alone.

It’s time to break out ten questions you might not ask if you were sober.

* * *

Let’s Get Physical

 Assuming one-on-one combat, what percentage of the world’s population could you handle in a fight?

*

Unshackle the Chains 

Consider the laws in whichever country you call home.

Choose three things you want to no longer be illegal.

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Buying Love

 You have $10 with which to build your ideal romantic companion.

Spend wisely:

$5 – Fantastic in Bed                       $5 – A Great Parent

$3 -An Amazing Body           $3 – A Great Sense of Humor

$3 – Highly Intelligent         $2 – A Specific Skill ($2 per Skill)

$1 – Has ________ in Common With You ($1 Each)

$3 – Morally Solid             $5- Wealthy

$7 – Will Always Love You

*

Silver Tongues

 What is the worst lie you’ve ever told? 

If you’re reluctant to answer, then…

…what is the worst lie someone has ever told you?

And why?

*

The Heist 

If you could steal any one thing in the world and make it yours forever, what would it be?

It can be an object, a person, a life situation, a place.

You won’t get in any trouble for taking it.

No one will ever know.

Well?

*

On a Scale of 0-10…

…in which 0 is ‘not at all’, 5 is average, and 10 means ‘highly’:

How intelligent are you?

How physically attractive are you?

How charming?

How artistic?

How generous?

 And how narcissistic?

*

Three Drinks Too Many

 People in relationships can answer this one, too. (just make sure their significant other is cool…or not present.)

 So…

It’s Friday night.

You’re out with your friends, no date.

You’ve had a few drinks too many.

If you were to text or call any one person from your past, who would it be.

And why?

*

Let’s Just Hope They Shave  

 Think about romance during previous generations.

The Roaring 20’s

The Sexual Revolution

The Renaissance

Suppose you got a chance to sample a bit of romantic life in one of these time periods.

Which one would you pick?

And why?

*

Fight Club Time Machine

 Suppose you’re given the chance to travel back in time to fight any one historical figure to the death.

If you defeat them, the course of history will be changed in accordance with their absence.

The fight will be hand-to-hand. Your foe will be in their prime.

Whom will you fight?

*

The Ultimate ‘What if?’

 If you could be a member of the opposite sex for one single day, would you?

Assume no one but you will ever know.

If yes, what would you like to experience?

What age would you want to be?

What situation would you want to be in?

If you’re not interested, why not?

* * *

These ten questions were pried from the pages of my Coffee Table Philosophy series.

In these books, I pose more than 1,000 questions to people.

Some of which are here.

And sexier ones are here.

J Edward Neill

9 Literary Quotes you’ve never heard of

AncientBook

 

Every morning, I pop open the world’s social media coffers. I shouldn’t, but I do. Marketing is everything, so I’m told, more important than one’s actual ability to write, apparently.

And so…every day I visit Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and every day dozens of slick literary quotes reach out and slap me. Seriously…quotes are everywhere. Some are famous. Some not. To be fair, many are crap. I mean really bad. Like when an author is trying to impress a fan base only to post something woefully vague or grammatically poop-tastic. Other quotes are taken out of context or weakened by Twitter’s character limit. And still others are laughably inappropriate when considering who posted them. You know the ones I mean.

Even so, I typically stumble upon a few gems.

Look, I’m gonna level with you. I’m not one for posting or Tweeting or paying much mind to other people’s quotes. I figure the true measure of a writer is his ability to write his own quotes, and that true inspiration should come mostly by accident. While it’s not exactly a cop out to share other folks’ inspiring words, nor is it satisfying for me to put their words in my mouth. So many modern quotes tend to be ‘cat-poster’ material, neither eloquent in design nor powerful in effect. They’re supposed to inspire, but all they do is make me queasy.

That said…

Let’s make a little contest of this. Here are a few quotes you’ve probably never read or heard before. They’re not indie (because I hate that term) but they’re probably off the usual grid. I’ll offer a few hints, but I’m not going to give up the authors’ names. I’m not even going to list the source material. If you happen to know who wrote ’em, go ahead and boast in the comments below. To anyone who can guess even five of these, I’ll send something free.

Nine quotes – off the grid

***

A warning for a soldier:

 “Facile est ultio. Easy vengeance. Never harm a living thing whose children you’ve never seen.” 

***

As felt by the next-to-last man standing:

 The air was crisp, but not chilling, and fresher than any he’d ever breathed. Standing on the slope beneath the trees, he felt small, yet strangely at peace, for as he looked to the sky he found comfort in his defeat. 

***

Making fun of pretentious people:

 “Do people think that staying in a room where an extraordinary person once slept will transfer their greatness to them? Relevance by osmosis?”

***

As read on an arrogant man’s tombstone:

 “History may deem my killer a hero, but I went willingly.”

***

The worst kind of regret:

 “It is hard to write their names. If the ink should run, it is because my hand shakes when I think of what I have done. I agonize over whether I should describe these things, for I so often want to forget them.”

***

Image is everything:

No one wanted their fortunes read by some guy in a t-shirt and jeans. People wanted theatrics…

***

 As experienced by a man who thought he’d won, but really lost:

“I ran howling from the house, from the city, from the world. Where I went and how I survived all those nights in the bitter rain, I’ll never be able to piece together. He never came for me, but he’d killed me all the same.”

***

From a mother to her son:

“But those are just dreams, my sweet. This is the world we live in, and we’ve no choice but to make it our own. Maybe one day the shadows will lift and we’ll be free and happy. We only need to survive until then.”

“I want to.”

“What’s that, love?”

“To survive.”

***

And from a different mother to a different son, on the subject of why everyone should read books:

“Not all people are the same, dearie.  Some treasure the earth and the rain, and live for growing food that others might eat. Some favor the sword, and try to claim dominion wherever their boots fall. Others, like us, are undecided. To understand what you wish to do in life, you must first understand what life is.”  

***

So there you go. I’ll post more quotes in the year 2050, by which time no one will read anything deeper than Spacebook posts and Twiddler feeds.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of this.

Co-author of this.