Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Nameless Way

The novel I'm working on is based on a game I played in the late 1990’s. Like, not just inspired by, but actually based on it. Yeah, I know, bad idea.

Some time in 1998 or early 1999, my brother and I got together at the comic book store we were running and started talking about how much we missed gaming. We set up a plan that we hoped would help our ridiculously busy group keep going, with multiple dungeon masters, a world that we built as we went along, and no fussing about continuity if one or two people couldn’t make it to a session. We went with Dungeons & Dragons, partly because everybody was already familiar with it.

I provided the first adventure (or you can ride the Wayback Machine), establishing the village of Timber, Kasmordo’s tower, and the forested mountains around them as the initial setting. This session also established Ezren’s supernatural bargain, Shao Tsang’s frequent Tao-quoting, and a number of other recurring themes. Before long, there was a forum, a web page, and even a yearly awards poll for things like best quote, best adventure, and so on.

We eventually wrapped up the campaign because we wanted to try 3rd Edition. For a variety of reasons, the group fell apart after only a few sessions of that second campaign. I could blather on for a while about what those reasons were, but it’s beside the point. The only reason I bring up the second campaign at all is that it showed me something about the first one that I hadn’t realized.

Our characters in the second campaign were fairly iconic: the grim fighter, the brash half-orc barbarian, the rogue with the shady past, and the bossy but loyal cleric/sorcerer. In the first campaign, that hadn’t been the case at all. Those characters were flawed, damaged, and often kind of weird. They eventually stumbled their way into heroism, but most of them started out as misfits with something to prove. They learned to be a team, but they didn’t just snap together like pre-fabricated shelves or video game archetypes; they had to work at it, and sometimes they failed.

Around that time, I published a piece of flash fiction that would eventually evolve into this book’s prologue. You can probably find it online if you really want to. I made a few starts on a follow-up story, then got distracted by other things and forgot about it for years,  although Ezren, Mogdar, Seisha, Shao Tsang, and Tellar did lend their names to spells in both the 2006 and 2009 editions of the Peryton Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

Recently, having decided to focus more on novels, I came back to these characters and their adventures, and I found something new. I suppose it could still turn out to be a bad idea, but I don’t care.

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