storyteller

Costumes, Role Playing, and Unity

One of my absolute favorite aspects of fandom is the costuming and roleplaying, and I would have to say they are the two most maligned and stigmatized things that we do.  Let's start with the most accepted by the popular culture and proceed to the least understood.

Computer Roleplaying Games

Mass appeal of video games have normalized RPGs on the computer, and why not.  Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and Knights of the Old Republic were all such brilliant games, it is hard to see how they couldn't have had a mass market appeal, but in the one place where Roleplaying should flourish, it is all but extinct.

There was once a type of game known as the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG).  The problem is that these too entered the popular culture, and they spawned a new bane: badge collectors.  A sizable number of the MMORPG players became obsessed with their statistics, what badges they earned, and what loot they could get.  The software companies saw these players as their core audience and in some cases, there only audience.

The games were increasingly designed for these players and not for the fans of story.  Coinidentally, the acronym was shortened from MMORPG to simply MMO.  Players have done what they can to keep roleplaying alive, but they are generally isolated to a specific server or guild, and they are not aided by the software designers who more and more are crafting games that challenge your prowess with a keyboard and mouse and don't require any thought whatsoever.

This is one of the reasons I am so excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds.  They are trying to bring story into the games and make it front and center.  I wish them the best of luck.

Table Top Role Playing Games

Earthdawn Gamemaster's Compendium (RedBrick Li...
Image via Wikipedia

Table top RPG fans are the geeks that geeks love to hate.  Don't believe me?  Listen carefully to a lot of the podcasts out there.  It won't take you too long to find people having a geeky conversation about their favorite tech and occationally mocking TTRPG players.

Table Top games are not  as easy to play as their computerized bretheren, but they are a lot more fun.  There are more requirements to play:

  • The Rule Books
  • Friends who have free time to come over
  • Dice
  • Creativity
  • Imagination

I didn't stutter at the end, and no, I am not padding the list.  Creativity is the ability to think originally, and imagination is the ability to see with the minds eye events as they are described to you.

I think those last two more than anything else makes people not like tabel top games.  Personally, I love them.  I run an Earthdawn game at the house every Sunday.  Nothing brings friends together for a good time like a shared adventure built from the collective imaginations of everyone there.

Live Action Role Playing

Vampire: The Masquerade
Image via Wikipedia

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is penultimate expression of role playing.  There are numerous systems for LARPing and they all generally involve renting a location, playing in a park, or the storyteller's home.  Most LARPers dress up in elaborate costumes and carry props to aid in game play.

I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade both as a table top game and as a LARP, and I have to say, the LARPs were always more fun.  We played at local conventions and I ran a chronicle that spanned various players homes, parks, and a few businesses who allowed us to use their establishment.

Who doesn't enjoy getting dressed up and spending a night as someone else?

One aspect of the LARPs I've played that made them so fun was that they were locked to the locations they took place.  The story was handled through notes given to the players to explain what happened between sessions, and a couple players who agreed to play according to the scripted motives I provided for them.  To this day, some of my favorite memories took place at LARPs.

We were a part of a LARP network where storytellers coordinated large scale events between cities, and at conventions our players would play through pivitol stories.  The largest LARP event we threw had 500 players in attendence.  3,00o players made up the network.  We coordinated through a email list.

LARPs are emense fun, and I miss them terribly.  I had hoped that MMOs would provide a platform for virtual LARPs, but so far, they haven't.

Costuming

Death EaterSome people just love dressing up.  They don't roleplay at all, they just wear the costume for enjoyment.  For some, it is an uniform.  For others, it is an expression of their identification with the character or race they are recreating.  And others do it for the challenge of recreating the costume.

Steampunk is an entire movement built around costuming for the sheer fun of it.

Fans who Play together Stay together

Most of the deep, personal relationships I have developed with fans over the years has been between fans I have roleplayed with.  We share an experience that is truly unique to the players who were there.  Memories of events that are not replecatable in real life.

All these years later, I still run into people at the conventions who remeber the night my Taleison should have seen his reflection in the mirror and went mad.  We talk about it like a moment from a movie or series that we loved, but our connection to the event is so much more personal because we were there when it happened.

So if you haven't before.  I hightly recommend to gather up your friends and play a game with them.  Feel free to choose the type, but make sure it is one that will build those memories that will last a lifetime.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Life as a Story

I went out to write at the San Francisco Bread Company today. The longer I write, the more I realize how important it is to get out of the house, even if it is only to sequester myself at a small table in a cafe with my headphones on listening to music, surfing the web, struggling with new concepts and editing a book I wrote that I actual enjoy reading. It is odd how something as simple as a change of venue from my office to a cafe can change my mood and energy level, but I have read enough from other writers to know that I am not alone.

I have a theory about why something as simple as a change of venue can so profoundly effect a writer's mood.

I started writing as a defense mechanism. As a child, I grew up on a farm miles from the closet kid my age. I spent most of my time either on the phone, outside with my dog Red, or in my room inventing new stories with my Voltron and He-man action figures. When this wasn't enough, I started drawing crude comics and playing out a sort of paper theater with playing cards and my imagination. Through all this, my imagination was fueled by He-man, She-ra, Transformers, the books of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain, and the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't have anyone to play with, so I spent my time making up stories about these fantastical creatures, demigods, and demons. The music of Kiss and Dolly Pardon filled my nights in my room watching "Too Close for Comfort" dreaming of the day I would write my own "Cosmic Cow" strip.

When we moved to Maryland, things got worse. I had a strong accent, which got me beaten up in school a lot, and I had not people skills so the few friends I did make really had to work hard to get past my clumsy social interactions. I didn't know how to relate with these "people." They were so different from me, and they expected me to know how to act with them. I just didn't.

My salvation came through The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. I played these games with them as a means of interacting. They gave a structure to our together time and gave me a common language to speak. In time, we added Marvel Superheroes, Robotech, Earthdawn, and the many classic White Wolf storyteller games- Vampire: The Masquerade, Were-wolf, Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: The Dreaming. In fact, I became friends with Brian through a Vampire Chronicle.

Through this role as the storyteller, Star Trek Fandom, and my near obsessive interest in music, I found my medium to talk to others.

Storytelling is who I am. It is how I comprehend the world and explains why I am so deeply involved with the works of Joseph Campbell. This is who I am for better or worse. From the many biographies about other writers I have read, I think we have all taken up the life of a storyteller as some sort of defense mechanism or way to make sense of the world. It is easier to lock yourself away from the world than to jump in and struggle within it.

When I force myself out of my cave, even if only to isolate myself from the settings I find myself in through headphones and work, it reminds me that the outside world is still there. It lets me see how people actually interact with each other, for better or worse, and on those rarest of occasions, allows me to have incredible conversations with people face to face.

It is hard to explain how isolating is can be at times to be a storyteller. The hours, days and weeks spent locked away from the world crafting a reality that I hope others will experience and enjoy with the same fervor that I do. The simple act of seeing other people and hearing other voices enlivens me.

Like other writers, I am an observer of life much more than I am a participant in it. These little glimpses of the world outside my friends and family and the characters I write about (feels more like with sometimes), grounds me and helps connect me with the bigger world that is so easy to let slip away.

I wish more people shared this experience. Looking out at this world of strangers that I may or may not ever see again, and watching the plots they have entwined themselves in. We all tell our own stories. That is the art of conversation, to weave an entertaining tale about ourselves and others. As these plot lines co-mingle and intertwine, the story of our family, friends, city, state and nation are told. These stories often matter more than the facts. (whether or not that should be true or not is a whole other discussion).

I recommend that you give this a try. Next time you are out with friends, watch the stories that you are telling each other closely and follow them out as if they are plot lines in a novel, movie, or television show. It is startling how often you can predict other peoples actions by listening to their backstory, current plot, and projecting that out as it would play out in the genre appropriate to the person. I am not saying that this is always the case, but more often than not you will be able to see what will happen before it does. This is also the best way to choose your course of action. How will your action effect the other all story. Try it out, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Shadows and Light (the animated journey begins)

My brain aches... and it will for a while longer.  I am a storyteller at heart.  All i want to do it tell my stories in the most compelling ways that i can... so I have set out down the road to learn how do make animation. By looking at the site and the book, you can see the quality of the images I can and do produce, but the nature of animation is a beast that I have yet to get a hold on.  The hardest part for me has been creating the characters in a way that is compelling and stylized with out loosing any of the life I bring to them through written words.

I am getting better, but I am having to learn a whole new skill set to do this, but I am seeing promise at every step.

So to the future.  Thanks for all your encouragement,