27 July 2015

Roleplaying-A New Adventure

I am not a roleplaying game girl. I think I've been roped into playing Dungeons and Dragons twice. The first time there were some very cute kittens in my friends basement that I really wanted to go play with, so I asked the dungeon master to kill me. Don't judge, I was like 9 years old. The second time was slightly better with a group of four on a long weekend in a cabin. I died then too, but not exactly on purpose.

Obviously I'm not an expert, but my husband is a huge fan of roleplaying games, and I've been through it a few times. What happens is this, you spent copious amounts of time assembling a character including what they look like, their chosen attire, their skills, their weaknesses, their favorite band, their least favorite beer...I feel like with some games this could take a good two to three hours. And that's if you're quick. I spend less time on my novel characters. Anyway, once your character is assembled, you plop them down into a campaign that the Dungeon Master has thought up where they join with the other player's characters in a mighty quest to defeat evil and win the day.

The fighting bits are fun. Even though my eternal shunning from the dice gods always gets me more wounded than I would like. It's the bits in between that are, for me, annoying.

Pretty much, the players (that's me) pretend they are their characters, and have conversations as if everyone playing were there characters. This isn't the annoying part. This part can be totally fun. No, the part that makes me want to punch something is when the characters aren't sure what to do, and someone always jumps ahead and starts doing something stupid that is likely to get all of us killed, or they argue back and forth until someone gives (which hardly every happens) or the assertive person in the group forces them to stop and focus on what part of the quest we have to do next.

I'm a fan of cooperative board games, but not this.

I think it's because I'm used to being the author. My characters really don't talk back to me, nor do they generally question my orders. In this world I have no control, which then makes me grouchy and reaffirms to me why I never played team sports. Sometimes I'm not a team player. Plus, I can't run to save my life.

So the other night my brother-in-law put together a campaign for a game called Feng Shui. It's not as complicated as D&D (my character only took about 15 minutes to assemble) and since it's based off of action movie tropes and characters, it doesn't really take itself too seriously.

The only reason I agreed to play is because my hubby said I could play as Agent Bunnynose.

For those of you not familiar, I wrote 5 seasons of a spy satire called Babes in Spyland.  It's hilarious, and is hardly ever serious. Agent Bunnynose is one of the main characters. So I caved and said I would join the campaign.

...And it was kind of fun. Playing her. Trying to get into her head and figure out what she would do if she actually had to work with the Techno guy who regularly uses his laptop as a shield and drives random cars off of docks as a distraction, the Killer who literally fell on her face when she was trying to pull a Chuck Norris and round house kick three guys in the head at once, and some crazy mystic from the future that sucks souls to power her flying boots. And she couldn't just shoot them.

I know a handful of authors that actually do this sort of thing all of the time. I almost see the appeal. I also see why so many people who play Dungeon Masters a lot feel like their campaigns could be books. I also see what most of the time, that's a really, really bad idea.

20 July 2015

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

There is a story in the Book of Mormon about an iron rod. A man, Lehi, has a dream that he needs to get from the darkness to the tree of life. He spots an iron rod that leads him along the narrow path that he must follow in order to reach his destination. Along the way there is fog and a cliff and a river and a building that people are hanging out of, making fun of those using the rod. Lehi holds onto the rod and gets to his destination. In the parable, he reaches eternal life and the love of god. If you want to check out the scriptural account, go here.

I had the opportunity to go with some girls in my church congregation to camp for a week. One of the evenings, we participated in an iron rod walk. It was a few hundred yards long, over rough ground, up and down dirt hills, over boulders and under trees. Throughout there was a literal iron rod that the girls could hold on to. They were blindfolded before they started.

As a leader (whoever thought that was a good idea was delusional) I got the assignment to watch a section of the rod and make sure the girls didn't have too much trouble. But I wasn't allowed to help unless they signaled, and I wasn't supposed to move any of the many logs and rocks that were on the path.

Most of the time I still consider myself young. I often act much younger than my almost 40 years, and I'm good with that. But standing there, watching these girls struggle along this rod, trying to get over logs and not twist their ankles on rocks, I was suddenly  thrust into a very different perspective on the exercise.

For the girls, they held onto the rod and got to the end. They might have struggled, but there was help when they needed it.

For me, I learned how hard it is to watch people you care about struggle with something you could simply take away.

I'm not a parent, so this revelation probably comes to most people much earlier than it did me. Standing there watching, not being able to tell them to just step a little farther or to hold on tight in a certain section almost killed me. I felt like those kids in school who raise their hand so high that their butts come out of the chair. I wanted to help that bad.

But I couldn't. If I had, the girls would have been cheated of their experience.

It must be hard as a parent to watch as your children start to spread their wings and fly off into the world. It must be even more difficult to bite your tongue as they share their woes and sorrows-things you could solve for them, but know that you shouldn't.

Another part of the exercise that I found interesting was how each girl approached the course.  Some almost floated over the obstacles, while others very deliberately put each foot down before moving the other one.

At the end we asked the girls to share their thoughts. One girl said that she had a hard time not clearing the obstacles as she got around them, because she knew there were people behind her that might trip.

It's amazing how a little exercise can get you thinking out of your own perspective. 

15 July 2015


Perhaps you've heard this story. There was a dad on a crowded bus with his children-maybe three of them, I don't remember exactly-and they were misbehaving. Enough so that a woman turned to him and asked him to control them. His glazed eyes focused on the woman, and he apologized for their behavior, saying that his wife, their mother, had just passed away that morning.

If that isn't enough to make anyone feel like a heel, I'm not sure what is. Any situation can be turned upside down by simply coming at it from a different perspective. Maybe another woman on the bus was silently crying because her child has cancer and can't play, or a grandmother who was inwardly cheering the kids on because she knows those years don't last forever, and to squelch them at such a young age could make them grouchy adults.

You just never know.

And that's one thing that makes writing both exhilarating and challenging. In order to write a great story, each character needs their own goal and motivations. Sometimes they may align, but things get infinitely more interesting when characters have a different perspective on a matter.

One of my favorite examples of this is Magneto and Professor X of the X-Men comics. They live in a world where mutants are popping up everywhere, and each of them has a very different perspective on how the people of the world will treat them.

I stole this off of wikia in their villains section.

Despite once being close friends with Professor Xavier, the two became enemies when Xavier championed the co-existence of mutant and human kind working together. To Magento, a Holocaust survivor who had seen and felt first-hand the worst ways human beings could treat those they deemed different, such a system was impossible and he instead championed a violent pro-mutant stance, one which saw humans as the enemy in a genetic war and promoted the idea that mutants should become the dominant species on Earth.

Later in the entry, it states that Magneto's goal is protect mutantkind.

The character lived through the Holocaust. Of course he's not going to easily believe that humankind will simply accept mutants. They're different, which means they will be hated.

Professor Xavier didn't have a traumatic childhood. He went to college at Oxford, for crying out loud. Naturally, his perspective is going to be different than Magneto's. This is what wikia hero says.

Professor Xavier's ultimate goal is a world were all people are equal regardless of their origin...

Each character fights for their cause. Sometimes they align in their goals, other times they are directly fighting with one another. Is either character tragically wrong? The comics show us again and again that no, they're both right. And they're both wrong. That's what makes the conflict so interesting.

Can you think of any other good examples of this?

06 July 2015

Independence Day

There are a lot of things that symbolize freedom, especially here in the United States: the flag, bald eagles, the statue of liberty, soldiers, fireworks, a BBQ, family, flowers at cemeteries...the list goes on and on.

I only have a few ties to the military on my side of the family. My husband has three brothers and one brother-in-law who have served or are still serving.

I honestly have no idea what it feels like to pick up a weapon in defense of my freedom. Someone has already done that for me. And I am deeply grateful for those men and women. I am indebted to them in a way that I cannot fully understand. Maybe in the next life I will have the chance to comprehend it, and thank them.

One 4th of July tradition I have is to watch the movie Independence Day.

Don't make fun, I love that movie. It's funny, there's some disaster porn in there, the characters are awesome and the action is great. The part that gets me teary every, single time I watch it is when the President of the United States gives his speech just before the final battle against the aliens.

Over 200 years ago, a tyrannical government pushed hard enough to unite people who were willing to sacrifice everything they had to come to this land. Then they had to fight to keep it free from restrictions on what they described as their inalienable rights.

Our world is tilting dangerously, and parts of it may crumble soon. My hope has always been that we can find a cause bigger than ourselves-find something that can help us rise above our petty disputes and work together toward a better tomorrow.

That's what our forefather's did. It wasn't easy. Many lost their lives or the lives of those they loved most, but they didn't give up, because they knew what kind of a world they wanted their children to live in.

In Independence Day, the characters simply wanted a world where their children could be born. Today we need to take a step back and think about the world we will leave to our children, and I'm not just talking about "green", but also society. Are we kind? Are we tolerant? Are we willing to allow someone a difference of opinion from our own without criticizing them or lashing out? Can we rise above our past mistakes and move forward? Can we put away our pride and focus on compassion?

I don't know the answer, but those were my thoughts as I was watching the movie and pondering those that came before me. What are your thoughts?