Tag: fantasy

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

When I was writing about fantasy last, see the Not Your Normal Fantasy article, I touched on a concept that I really didn’t have time to flesh out. That what the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings are. Let’s jump into the top […]

Have All Stories Been Told? – Article on a Concept

Have All Stories Been Told? – Article on a Concept

There’s an adage that all stories have been told. That everything written, every new story, is derived from something that has come before it. Your story is the heroes journey, it’s about death, love, taxes, or some other constant in the world, and all the […]

D&D Classing it Up: Barbarian

D&D Classing it Up: Barbarian

The Barbarian

When it comes to this class, think Conan the Barbarian. The loner or nomadic fighter who comes in and crushes everyone and everything when they fight. It’s also a bit like the Hulk. A Barbarian is the type of character who is going to end up acting before speaking and doing before thinking most of the time; often, people are going to shy away from them.

In Dungeons and Dragons, the stereotype for this class is the Half-Orc Barbarian who is taller and stronger than everyone else and really stands out. People give them a wide berth when they’re walking around town, and the adventuring party they’re part of would probably have a little bit of infamy because of having a half-orc in their party. We’ve had a Half-Orc Barbarian in one of our games before, in a session prior to Dungeons and Flagons. They were a chaotic evil character, which was interesting to work into the party. I think they bordered on not being completely evil — they would sometimes kill indiscriminately, but never went against their own party.

Image Source: Wizards

From a mechanical standpoint, the thing that stands out about Barbarians is their rage feature. They are obviously going to be strength-based fighters, and oftentimes aren’t the face of the group, but they become even more powerful in combat when they go into a frenzy and rage. That allows them to do extra damage and makes them a major wrecking machine in combat. It does present an interesting role-playing aspect to lean into as well. For example, how blind is the rage that they are going into? Does it have negative effects on the party if they get too out of control?

So, Why would a Barbarian join an adventuring group?

If you’re going chaotic neutral, it’s very possible that they would do it for money. They are in it for themselves, and they want to get money and loot out of the deal, which is why they stick around. It is also possible that they have been kicked out of their own clan for some reason. Maybe they weren’t violent enough; maybe they were too violent; maybe they learned to read? It would give them a reason not to go back somewhere, and since the adventuring group took them in, they wanted to stay with them. That provides more connection in some ways than the greedy character who wants enough money to retire nicely or to get solid gold armor so they can show it off to people.

Image Source: Youtube

What are some backstories that could be used?

Maybe your Barbarian was part of a raiding party that got captured when they tried to pillage a village. While the rest were killed in the party, she turned on her clan and started teaching the villages how to defend themselves from the rest of her clan. They in turn taught her to read, and she is a more mild-mannered Barbarian than most. However, one day something happens in the village and she gets blamed for it, whether it was her fault or not. Now she has to find somewhere to go, since she can’t stay in the village or go back to her tribe.

Or you could be a Barbarian who was a mercenary in a war, but now it’s peacetime. They didn’t know how to do much else, and started drifting from place to place, getting into bar fight after bar fight, and getting further and further into debt. Finally, an adventuring party came along with dreams of gold, but with a squishy Wizard and Rogue in the party, they needed someone to do their heavy lifting and someone who knew the Dwarven mines that they were going into, so to get out of town and get fighting again, the Barbarian signed on with the party.

Or maybe, growing up, your Barbarian lived in a peaceful society; however, he wasn’t as smart as the other people in his town. He was the one who was always getting into trouble. Not feeling at home in his own town, he decided to branch out on his own. It didn’t take long for him to come across a traveling troupe. Their strongman was getting older, and so he took the Barbarian under his wing and started teaching him how to be an entertainer. Eventually, the Barbarian took over as the strongman for the group and found out everything the group was actually up to.

Or possibly, you were party of a raiding party in a large-scale conflict between two kingdoms. You got separated from your party and spent a long time looking for them, but weren’t able to find them or learn what had happened to them. In fact, many things about where you are seem unfamiliar to you. Now you’ve latched onto a group that seems like they know what they are doing and might possibly be able to help you sort out where you are and where you came from.

One last scenario–perhaps your parents always knew you weren’t quite right in the head. As a kid you’d be the sweetest thing and then fly off the handle for no reason. As you grew up, you learned how to channel your anger more constructively, but one day, you flew into a rage and hurt one of your parents. They would have forgiven you, you know that, but you couldn’t let it happen again. Leaving home was the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it was necessary. Now you try to control yourself, try not to lose yourself to rage in case you hurt someone else you care about. You were doing fairly well on your own, but now there are goblins coming together in the woods, and you had to tell someone, so you’ve signed on with a group that can hopefully help stop the oncoming war.

Would you play any of those Barbarian backstories? Have you played a Barbarian in a game before, and if so, how did you like it? What are some good things about being a Barbarian, and what are some bad things?

Know Your Nerds: Kristen’s Top 5 Anime

Know Your Nerds: Kristen’s Top 5 Anime

As many of you know by now, my status as an anime fan is kind of complicated. While I really love anime, I’ve seen relatively few series compared to your average fan (or at least compared to the anime fans I’m friends with), so I […]

Know Your Nerds: Kristen’s Top 5 Books

Know Your Nerds: Kristen’s Top 5 Books

As Peder talked about in his post last week, we thought it would be fun to do a few highlight lists to help you guys get to know us better, hear what we think about our favorite things, and trade recommendations with y’all. Peder shared […]

TableTopTakes: Legends of Andor

TableTopTakes: Legends of Andor

Another new board game review is coming up, this time I played recently with some friends (aka last night), and took on the world of Andor as we tried to become legends. We only played through the into scenario, but we had a lot of fun with it, and it’s on the list to play some more as we do more small board game nights. By small board game nights, I mean with fewer people, so we don’t end up  just playing party style games. Legends of Andor is a big fantasy adventure game where you play through a deck of cards that tells a story as you go along.

Image Source: Thames and Kosmos

The first story has us facing off against monsters that are invading your lands, and you have to get a message to the elves that live in the woods to let them know. It’s not very epic, but the first scenario does an awesome job of teaching you how to play the game. It teaches you combat, it teaches you how fog works and how you can find things, and it teaches you have the action system works and how the story progresses. The action system and the story system are two of the really cool features of the game. The action system is set-up in a day, but they recognize that you can’t work 24 hours a day, so you can work hard for 7 hours a day without any issue, and you can push yourself, spending your willpower (a resource basically to determine your effectiveness in combat and HP), to work longer. The other fun thing is that story track. You are using these cards to tell a story, and there are letters that basically are parts of the story. So in the first story, only some letters had story bits on them, but whenever you move forward a day, the story track progresses, but not only that, whenever you kill a monster, the story track progresses, this means that you are deciding which monsters can be left alive so that you can complete the main objective, at the same time trying to figure out which monsters need to be killed so that they don’t make it into the castle and you lose the game that way. It is a fun countdown to try and figure out what is going on.

One thing that I don’t love about the game, though, is that you can play the same characters over and over again, maybe I really like to be the wizard (or the archer or the fighter or the dwarf???), and I want to play them again, the scenarios are built that your character doesn’t keep anything from what they’ve had in the previous legend. So every time I start out, my hero is my plain old vanilla hero. It would be way more awesome if we got to build up our hero over time. I realize why they don’t do that, the scenarios are balanced so that you start at 0, and leveling up your character in the strength of their attack or in their willpower goes pretty fast, so you’d have super powered characters by the end that wouldn’t need to do those strength or willpower actions anymore, and it would happen pretty early on in your third story out of the base five. But that would have been something cool that they could have done.

Image Source: Thames and Kosmos

But going back to some fun things, one thing that I do like about this game is that the game isn’t too heady. Yes, it will be tough, and yes, you’ll lose, but it’s fast to reset the board and it’s a game that you can play with a middle school age kid and they’ll be a part of the game. Plus it’s cooperative, so that means that if they need help, they can get help, at the same time, anyone can point out something that you would have missed as well. And another cool thing to add onto the cool things stack is that you can buy more scenarios. Once you’ve figured out how to beat one you’ll have to forget before you can play it again (or come up with a scoring system to see if you can beat it), but you can buy more scenarios, which is cool, so it might be a bit of a money pit that way, but the base game comes with five legends, so five evenings of playing a game, that’s not too bad, plus it’ll probably be more because you’ll lose multiple times.

Overall this is a really fun game that does something awesome for a game that has a number of rules, it teaches you how to play in the first game. This game and Krosmaster are two games that do that, and Seafall is a game that  pretends to hint that it might do that, and then completely lies about it. Legends of Andor is a game that I’d recommend, especially to people who enjoy fantasy based games. It feels like a light fantasy world that you get to play, or like YA fantasy would be a good way to put it, but that’s all it needs to be. And I’ve played it with three people twice and it’s fun to play at that level, and they do things to balance it out for fewer or more players.

Overall Grade: B

Gamer Grade: B-

Casual Grade: B+


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Writing The Right Story

Writing The Right Story

We’re going to continue our NaNoWriMo theme. But just so you don’t think that this is only for NaNoWriMo, this advice is going to be, hopefully, solid for anyone who is writing. What do I mean by the title, Writing the Right Story? Does it […]

Writing Fantasy 101: Characters — Antagonists

Writing Fantasy 101: Characters — Antagonists

I’m going to wrap up this series by talking about writing the Antagonist of your story. The starting point for writing an antagonist, that I’d recommend, is going through many of the same details we did with the protagonist. There is often a temptation to […]

Writing Fantasy 101

Writing Fantasy 101

Image Credit: impawards
Image Credit: impawards

So, let me start out by saying that I’m no expert when it comes to writing fantasy. I haven’t been published, and there are some good writers out there, like Patrick Rothfuss, who writes the Kingkiller Chronicles, and Tony Lee, who writes comic books, who sometimes tweet out advice and answer questions about the process of writing. However, I’m going to try to help give people motivation to work on that project they haven’t worked on in a while, and to share ideas and tips that have been helpful to me when I write.

Fantasy is an interesting genre to work in, since there are so many different subgenres within it. You could be writing a story about steampunk robots who just want to learn to love, or about a scrappy band of goblins who are trying to stop the world from ending. Your story could be set in ancient China, or it could be an urban fantasy set in the New York City underground. It could be about a world-ending disaster that has to be stopped, dragons that are terrorizing the land and creating the need for a hero, or a love story between two people/beings that should never work. Narrowing down what you want to do seems like it would be about the hardest part of starting a fantasy story.

But you can make this aspect a bit easier — start with what you already know you like to read. From there, you can figure out what you’d want to write about. For example, I’m currently working on an epic adventure involving dragons, witches, and a kingdom that needs saving from its inevitable fall to those dragons and witches. So clearly, I have a thing for epic fantasy. Looking at what I’ve read, I can see that quite quickly — for example, I’ve enjoyed reading high-concept fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Archive, the aforementioned Kingkiller Chronicles, and my least favorite of this bunch, A Song of Ice and Fire. Just from knowing what I like to read, and by thinking about the books and series that I’ve enjoyed, I can start to shape my world. Also, playing Dungeons & Dragons helps keep that itch for creating epic fantasy going.

Image Source: idigitaltimes
Image Source: idigitaltimes

The next thing that I think most people, including myself, run into, is getting bogged down in the fact that your first draft isn’t amazing. It’s hard to keep writing when you suddenly remember where you put something in 2,000 words ago that now you are regretting, and there is temptation to go back over those first two or three chapters until they are perfect. Don’t fall into that trap. Keep writing; keep pushing through. You know how you get better at writing? You got it — writing. Get the words down on the paper, and if you are having trouble getting through your epic story that is going to span a trilogy and spawn great offshoot series, write something shorter. Get completed works down on paper or up on Google Docs.

There are a couple of reasons for not self-editing as you go along. The first is that it takes you out of your story and your flow. It takes a little bit of time to get into the mindset of the characters in your world, and when you keep on getting distracted by a missing comma or a line of dialogue that doesn’t sound quite perfect, you take your mind out of the world you are trying to build. The other reason is that it simply helps you finish your story. The second, third, fourth, and seventh drafts are for cleaning up mistakes if you still think you have a solid story (or even if you don’t think you do).

Image Source: NaNoWriMo
Image Source: NaNoWriMo

Now, getting and keeping proper motivation, even for a short story, can be tricky at times. So how do you do that, even when you aren’t self-editing and you aren’t trying to write the next Song of Ice and Fire? One way that I would recommend, and which I did in 2013 and 2014, is to do National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The object of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word story in the month of November. It’s tricky to do, but you’ll be doing it along with thousands of other people across the country. Or if November is always a busy month for you, find someone else who wants to write, and have them as an accountability partner to keep both of you making progress.

Basically, the important thing is to always move forward. Seems simple enough, but too often, we go in with the grand plan of writing 1,500 or 5,000 or some other large number of words per day. And ideally, you set aside a time every day to write, but more importantly, you’re always moving forward, even if it’s just by a little. Every week, you should see that your word count has gone up — and don’t worry so much about the number of words it has increased by; just make sure that it has simply increased.

Now that you know what genres of fantasy (or really any type of book) you like to read, what story can you tell that is set in that genre? Are you going to tell the story of a pulpy detective who is as dishonest as he seems, the romance of two aliens from a far-off land, a starlet who has gotten to where she is by using magic, or what? It’s time to start putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and writing.

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