My Collage Experience

Man I totally remember making collages. I remember making a bunch for various projects. Same as you, however, I threw them all away promptly because I half-assed them anyway.

As I’m getting older I’m learning that my memory isn’t supremely effective anymore. I now carry a notebook around everywhere I go specifically because I can no longer trust myself to remember things.  I started doing this about a year ago and its far more effective.

If you had asked about collages, pinterest, and vision boards a year ago I might have scoffed at you. Hell, even to this day my response to Pinterest is something like, “I don’t get it.”

Last month it occurred to me that I need to start being on Pinterest more. No because I believe in using it as a memory bank, but most of my good ideas come from viewing someone else’s cool ideas.

Most of my ideas aren’t even full thoughts as much as they are cool puzzle pieces I write down that need to be linked together later. I’ll have a cool idea for a Rogue Trader encounter, or a strange monster, or a weird side quest and I’ll jot down the idea.

The funny part is: when it comes time to write shit I always forget to look at my notebook. My written collage of ideas is gone mostly untapped because I’m a space cadet.

Anyway: collages. I wish I made more of them. I would love to have enough time to freakin’ collage and storyboard each and every quest I write. I would love to spend time really look-developing each planet, town, enemy, and NPC I create. I can’t really do my formal collage because my more cleverer players might figure out what’s going on inside my brain.

But here, in no particular order, is my vision board— not including RPG specific ideas.

  • Finish the Rogue Trader campaign
  • Finish the Nemoria campaign
  • Run a Numenera campaign
  • Run a Coriolis campaign
  • Anime
  • Christmas monsters
  • Not having college loans
  • Long weekends of playing video games
  • Dark Souls + Bloodborne
  • Music that gives me goosebumps
  • Not having college loans
  • The strange voices I talk to myself in
  • Learning various accents from around the world
  • Not having college loans
  • Writing a book
  • Working at a tabletop gaming company
  • Doing freelance writing
  • Not having college loans
  • Wishing I could draw
  • Wishing I could matte paint in photoshop
  • Robots
  • Cigars
  • Tül Pens

Now my faithful reader, do me the favor of imagining what that might look like.

-DTM

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The Art of the Collage

Do you remember making collages in elementary school? I remember making collages for everything. I cut up so many magazines to make collages for my favorite books, my favorite movies, things that made me smile, and so on. I honestly remember making collages for fun outside of school because I was a huge nerd, chopping up old catalogs and newspapers we had hanging around our house.

Now I did not keep a single collage I made when I was younger because I never really had any reason to. I may have hung a couple up in my room if I liked the pictures, but any time I cleaned up my room the collages were usually the first thing thrown into the recycling bin. Collages were fun to make, but useless to hang onto.

I would guess it’s been about fifteen years since I made a collage and suddenly, in the last few weeks, I’ve had a very strong urge to make a collage. What I want to make is a vision board, which is basically a collage, but with a purpose.

And I’m super excited about it.

vision board 1

Example! Mine’s probably going to be a little spookier, cuz I’m a spooky lady.

A vision board is a tool to help you visualize and focus on your life goals. You can use any type of surface you want, like a cork board, the front of your fridge, or even a Pinterest board. The only thing you have to do is put it somewhere where you can see it every day. A vision board is meant to remind you that you’re working toward something and to never give up.

Now, if I make my vision board, I want it to be on a poster board. Something that I can easily hang near my bed and see everyday.

I know what you’re thinking, Daniel. Why do I even want to make a vision board?

Well, because I recently found some of my personal ‘to-do’ lists and I have had the same life goals for the past few years and have made zero progress on them. Zero, zilch, bagel. Nothing to show for these goals I’ve had since I was in high school.

It made me realize that something needed to change. After looking back over the last decade of my life, I realize my issue isn’t lack of skill or time. It’s lack of motivation. It’s because, after a long day of work, I come home, sit on the couch, and zone out watching Netflix. Yes, in the morning, when I first get up, I might think to myself, “Today’s the day! When I get home from work I’m going to do those amazing things I’ve wanted to do for years and it will be amazing!” But after eight hours in the office, all I can think about it relaxing. About grabbing a beer and chilling on the couch.

Well, hopefully, a vision board will change that.

Now I realize a vision board is a bit of a cheesy idea. It’s definitely something young white women on Pinterest do and they fill their board with cliche sayings like, “Go on more adventures” or “Love my husband more.” But you know what, I might be a white woman, but that doesn’t mean my vision board has to be useless. I am going to put concrete, tangible things on my vision board so that every day I wake up and the first thing I see is my to do list.

Wait…this is the most type-A thing I’ve ever done….Oh well, if the anxiety shoe fits.

Anyway, some things I’m going to include on my vision board/life to do list are:

  • Write a novel. I’ve literally had this as a personal goal since I was six and, in the past twenty-one years, I have written zero novels.
  • Become a certified cicerone. This is something I’ve been toying with since I started getting into craft beer. Not only would it basically certify me as a beer snob, it would also open doors to freelancing for craft beer magazines and marketing for small breweries. How cool would that be?
  • Run a half marathon. Literally been talking about this for a year now and all of my attempts to stay on a training schedule have fallen apart.
  • Go back to school. My current job offers an employee discount on college credits and, when I started, I told myself I would take advantage of that. Well, in total I’ve taken two classes. Been here almost five years.

That’s just the beginning, Daniel. I have so many things I want to put on my vision board and I’m excited to get started.

What would you put on your vision board, Daniel?

-EMS

 

Fantasy v. Sci-Fi: My GM Preference

I’ve mentioned before on this very blog that I have loaded myself up with stuff to do.  But one thing I don’t think I’ve spoken too much about is that I am a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Game Master for my coworkers.  I figured a lot of them might find it fun, and at the very least we can broaden some horizons and introduce my coworkers to another side of myself.

Recruiting players at work was fun.  I had to try and find people who would be in it for the long run, but I also wanted to find people who had never played a tabletop role-playing game.  I wanted to make sure we had both enough boys and girls.  To my surprise I actually encountered a lot of eager candidates.  With players selected, it was time to make a world.

I drafted up a map and a couple cities and dove in hard on development.  As of now we are on holiday break, but we have played approximately fourteen sessions— all about two hours each.

This post isn’t about that game, but I just want to establish that I’ve been running two campaigns for several months now.  The contrast between doing sci-fi versus fantasy has been illuminating for me.  When I have more knowledge and experience I may do a more speculative post on the pluses and minuses for running sci-fi versus fantasy, but this one I just want to talk about what it personally represents to me.

It comes down to choices and consequences.  My style— as I see it— is that I love having a greater theme at play that will require my players to make a choice and deal with a consequence.  I love seeing how my players are going to respond in an imaginary situation.  I do not like clear cut choices.  I am not a huge fan of Good v. Evil.  I love throwing my players into a grey zone and seeing how they decide what to make of it.

What I love about sci-fi is that for me a lot more of the game is about consequences or outcomes, while fantasy seems a lot more about making choices.  And it’s all because in one setting magic exists.

Now obviously you can write either setting to encompass any theme, but in general I feel as though there is a pretty clear divide.  Fantasy is a realm where magic and alignment are massive forces in play and the players must deal with things as they rear their heads.

The peoples are hungry because their crops all wilted.  What do you all do?

We cast “Plant Growth” at a lowly level 3.  It rejuvenates the land and instantly grows much of those lost crops back!  Or we find (or create) a supply of food and extort the starving populace for all of their hard earned gold.

You can essentially orchestrate anything you want since there is powerful magic out there.  You spend more time thinking about the solution because anything is achievable, and the quest is more about whether you want to be good or evil or neither.  Whether or not you get them food is moot since magic will solve the problem, but what you choose the outcome to be is where the game becomes fun.  It’s not a choice of whether or not its possible, but where you stand in the greater scheme.

Sci-Fi is much more difficult because you must solve problems without a wand to wave.  You cannot create from nothing.  The choice that you make to solve the problem often comes with its own consequences that will also need to be dealt with.

There is plenty of food and fuel in most futuristic settings, but now the problems become how they are allocated and utilized.  Great power exists because such power is needed to keep humanity strong in the vast, inky ocean that is space— but people are behind that power.  There is no clear good and evil when there isn’t a great, neutral power like magic to draw upon.  Whether or not the outcome will work out in the end, the players will have to choose— often the lesser of two evils.

The people are hungry because the crops all wilted.  What do you do?

We can help the city recoup their losses by helping re-sow their farms.  But that will take time and we will lose out on other opportunities while we toil on this planet.  Or we could spend a lot of money and bring them food to survive the season.  But that will cost us all of our resources.  Or we can steal food from another planet and bring it all here.  This population will eat while the one we stole from will starve instead.

I’ll reiterate: you absolutely can spin either setting to be about good and evil, or choices and consequences.

Fantasy seems so much less concerned when it comes with choices because you choose the outcome before you begin.  We need to help the people, or we need to slaughter the enemy.  Both are possible, but which is better for us?  Are we good or evil?

Sci-Fi is about the hard choices.  A pirate fleet is coming to raid the frontier cities, but we can only defend one planet since space travel will take too long.  Which colony do we save and which colonies do we doom?

-DTM

For a Professional Writer, I’m Super Bad at Keeping a Writing Schedule

How long has this blog been going for? More than two years at this point? And in that time only one of us has earned a punishment, and that was me. Last time I felt like I had a pretty decent excuse. I got a sudden migraine the evening I was supposed to write and ended up in bed, waiting patiently for my eyes to stop throbbing.

Well, I have officially earned the second punishment in the history of Seven Degrees of Smudde and guess what my excuse is this time? Well, surprise, surprise. I have none.

Want to know what I did today? Well, I woke up at 11 a.m., hung out with the ferrets while I watched reruns of Gilmore Girls, read the novella “Cannibals in Candyland,” and then binged the first season of Netflix’s “Frontier” in preparation to binge the second season tomorrow. It was about two beers and four episodes into this Netflix binge that I remembered what day it was. At that point it was a quarter after 10 p.m. and, honestly, I didn’t really feel like pausing my show to write. I just texted you and said to start preparing a punishment because I didn’t feel like writing.

God, listen to me. I didn’t feel like writing. I’m a professional writer. I get paid lots of money to go to work, sit behind a desk, and write things for eight hours. I’m also a pretty responsible and organized writer at work. I rarely miss deadlines and when I do, I let my team know that I’ve been delayed. And while I might not have a good excuse for being delayed, at least I know my schedule well enough to know that I’m fucked.

And yet, when I get home, I become a terrible writer. A terrible writer who sometimes forgets when things are due, like I did today.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m like this. When I was younger, I was always writing. I never stopped writing. You probably remember, Daniel, the way I always carried notebooks with me and would sit for hours writing in them. I always had a story I was working on. Granted, back then, I didn’t have any deadlines to meet, but I’m 100% positive I would have met my deadlines if they had existed. I would have met them because I always felt like writing.

Now that I’m older and I kind of have the writing job I always wanted, I don’t feel like writing. I feel like sitting and watching Netflix and reading trashy horror novels.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t have as much of an imagination as I did when I was a kid. Sometimes I think it’s because I spend all of my time writing at work that when I come home it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes I think it’s because unless there is an immediately tangible reward or consequence to a task, I have no motivation to complete it, which is a common theme in my life. For example, unless I have an early meeting at work or I’m going somewhere fun, I cannot get up with my alarm in the morning.

Anyway, I hope you have fun thinking up my punishment, Daniel. Sorry for getting this up so late! I need to keep better track of myself. In other news, “Cannibals In Candyland” was just as ridiculous as it sounds.

-EMS  

 

I’m Finally a Game Master

I did it, Emily.  It’s been a long, arduous, frustrating road.  But I did it!  I’m a Game Master!

My first overarching quest is coming to a head!  Not by itself impressive, but what is is that my players are slowly realizing that the scenario is bigger than them— and how important the decisions they have (and will) make will echo in the halls of eternity!

Whoo!  I successfully communicated the ideas and themes behind this plot-line in a way where I didn’t need to ham-fist exposition.

My players thus far have made very straightforward decisions based on where they think they are supposed to go.  The problem with that is they do what they think I want them to do; as if the game is scripted and they are just parts in a play.

But in the last session, when faced with a political decision, it forced them to take a step back and realize that there is more to this than simply showing up and rolling dice.

To be frank, I don’t think some of my players enjoy this part.  But this is what I want the campaign to be: choices.  I want my players to find themselves in situations where their actions and choices are going to shape the world around them.

But my worry up until recently is that they wouldn’t care about making an informed choice.  They do care about the game and having fun, but it would be easy for them to be like, “Uh, that one- I don’t care, where is my laserfist.”

<exposition.exe>

The quick version: the players had made it through the Maw into the Koronus Expanse and they moored up at Port Footfall.  They met the rich merchant Zulfikar Raheem.  He has worked with them on a few jobs, but then it starts to become apparent someone is messing with Zulfikar’s affairs.

Zulfikar suspects (and with provided evidence from the players, ascertains) the Kasballica Mission is trying to screw him.  He implores the players to go distract the Kasballica in a gambit to buy him some time.

The Kasballica Mission hires them to do a job; that job was to fuck with Zulfikar’s affairs.

The mission is to go to a mining colony and setup a facility that will break the compact Zulfikar has with a Rogue Trader.  They go to the mining facility and realize that the planet itself is embroiled in its own conundrum.  So the players need to wade through the planets politics while also furthering their own ends.

Then for the first time the players asked themselves what they are doing.  Thus far they have been making whichever decision is presented to them.  But once they started to understand the stakes involved with the planet, and with their various political relationships, they finally started asking questions of themselves.  Not questions like, “Where are we?” but more like, “Why are we doing this?”

They slowly started to question the ins and outs, the benefits and consequences, and that’s when I ascended to a new level of Game Master.  That is when one of my players asked himself, “What is Zulfikar doing?”

I had done it.

It’s the moment I was never sure that would come because it was heavily dependent on my ability to playact a story for them.  Playact it in such a way that the pieces fit together, but might not be presented in order.  And in that session my players began inspecting the pieces and realizing that the picture is far bigger than they thought.

Now to be utterly fair, maybe my players had greater faith in me than myself.  Maybe they had been piecing it together and just making notes until the end.  Usually after sessions I get a lot of, “It’s fun!” and “Campaign is awesome.”

But this was the first session where I began to see them deliberate.  To engage with the story and talk about their investment.  Listening to them make theories and compare evidence.

I will never be able to fully describe the feeling.  I think I have a long way to go to become a GM of legend, but its good to have affirmation that the setting I’ve built is doing its job.

This post comes out on Friday.  The following Saturday I have to run the game again.  I cannot wait to see what happens next.

-DTM

My Go To Reaction Gifs

 

Dude, I wish you had written this post years ago! Your reasoning behind using gifs instead of writing out a reaction is perfect and I’m totally stealing it for the next time one of my colleagues asks me why we use gifs on social media rather than good, old-fashioned words. Our generation and our new-fangled internets is just so complicated and we need to explain ourselves!

Do I sound bitter about this? Because I am.

Anyway, reading your post got me thinking about how I use gifs in my day-to-day life. I use them like words, pulling out specific ones in situations to help convey how I’m feeling. It’s almost like our generation is building a whole new language out of gifs, a gif “vocabulary” if you will.

It’s like our own version of hieroglyphics in a way, which future historians are going to have a bitch of a time translating. Good luck parsing out our gibberish, future generations!

Anyway, over the years I’ve compiled my own gif dictionary in my head. I have a set of gifs that I use over and over to convey specific, hard-to-define emotions.

For example, when I desperately want something, I always end up using the same gif from the cartoon, Invader Zim.

giphy

Of course, I could just use words. I could say I really, really want something, but I prefer to use this gif because it conveys something I can’t easily put into words. It says, “I am incredibly excited about this thing, so much so not getting this thing would be a tragedy of epic proportions!” It also lets the person who told me about said thing know that I very much appreciate them sharing.

I recently used this in response to Oskar Blues announcing the release of a coconut version of my favorite imperial stout. I have a limited amount of characters to work with on Twitter so I couldn’t exactly type out all of my feelings about this delicious creation. That’s where this gif comes in.

Boom! Look how much time and how many characters I just saved by sending a gif rather than typing that all out! I am the master of Twitter.

Another gif I routinely use is this:

tenor

This one I always use in response to something cute and I like it because it’s aggressive. It’s basically saying, “that thing is so cute that I am going to be aggressive about it because I am very serious about my love for it.” I recently used this in response to a picture of a bulldog dressed up as an ewok. That picture was SO CUTE that I was angry about it, thus “hearteyes, motherfucker!”

And I can’t talk about my favorite reaction gifs without including this one:

tenor1

I use this one ALL THE TIME, especially when someone is playfully teasing me about something I love. Now, I want to let them know that they’re pissing me off, but I also want to keep it light-hearted so they know I’m not REALLY pissed off.

Recently BigCatDerek playfully teased his viewers about how “immature it is to participate in Halloween” and, being the spooky bitch I am, I was OFFENDED. How dare he say anything bad about my favorite holiday! I have lots of feelings about Halloween, none of which I’m really going to share with him because he’s teasing me, so I sent him this gif. It basically says, “I am about to go into full rant mode” without actually going into rant mode. A very simple gif for a very complex emotion.

Speaking of being a spooky bitch, there’s a gif out there that very accurately depicts what it’s like when new people enter my life:

tumblr_inline_nviqyctnic1qchs84_500

People get to know me and basically get ambushed with spooky. There’s no easing you into my spooky habits, I go from zero to “talking about my favorite serial killers” real quick when it comes to meeting new people. Of course, this is very hard to describe in words. Thank god for reaction gifs! Now I can give people a fair warning before they come anywhere near me.

Anyway, I want to keep writing, but I’m currently on a plane heading down to Texas for vacation so I’m going to wrap it up. Maybe I’ll keep building my gif dictionary in my next post.

-EMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication: Rise of the Emoji

I remember when I was thirteen and dad showed me AOL instant messenger (AIM).  We had moved away from Wisconsin the previous year and I was feeling pretty isolated.  But then dad swooped in on the wings of a mustache and was like, “Son, let there be chat.”

Immediately I was able to talk to people like Pat and Izzy in Wisconsin.  AOL led to MSN and all sorts of other chat programs.  Everyone at school was using it.  It was the precursor birth of social media and the social internet.

I remember— and this will likely sound quaint to those who have grown up with it— the first time I saw someone use an emoticon.

“:D”

Colon symbol + Capital Letter D.  It makes a smiley face!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Even WordPress turns the emoticons into emojis so they all have to be in fucking quotation marks.

It was such a feeling of concise nardledanger that my life was altered forever.  I was delighted about making smileys.  And after a time they eventually started taking on specific meaning.  So the “:D” smiley became one of sarcasm, not just being overjoyed.

“Have fun at work! :D”

The smiley was me joking at my friends who didn’t want to go to work, or something else marginally sarcastic.  Most emoticons had this happen to them.  The only one that really stayed true to its original was “:P.”

Eventually MSN and AOL introduced emojis.  It pissed me off because now they changed the expression I had come to know and use in my lexicon.  I had assigned emoticons meaning beyond the literal.  You know, how language develops.  But then these companies took the faces and gave them more distinguishable expression.

emoticons

On the left here you can see what they did.  Just giving little graphical faces to the emoticons.  Now— much like a fickle pokemon, they have evolved into something I didn’t expect nor liked.

Directly to the left of this sentence (a happy accident) you can see what happened to my “:D” emoticon.  Those three different faces communicate different things.  Less sarcasm, more smug.  For the MSN emoji it seems more like Fry from Futurama finding out how socks work.  When I use the “:D” emoji it has nothing to do with looking like Totoro figuring out that he can make fucking umbrellas.

The rest of them as well.  The language of the emoticon was seized on by larger forces.  And they turned them into a new staple of language: emoji.  Some of them were better, some were far worse.  Winky face “;)” had vaguely flirty, mischievous connotation.  Now depending on the company you have the knowing wink, the creeper wink, and the “I have something in my cheek pouch” wink.

This is not the first nor last time the emojis change.  Each time they change we adapt and use the emojis in a more exacting manner.  We re-adapt the meanings we had applied so that our language could stay the same.

The entire point of this post is that I realized how fascinating it is for language to change as the “words” change.  I almost rarely use emoticons or emojis unless the emoji displays the surgically precise feeling I want to convey.

But now we are inundated in emojis.  I think I read a fact once that if you combined the weight of all the emojis in the world— they weigh more than the rest of the creatures on earth.

People sling emojis into messages and across social media in ways I am far too outside of to understand.  For instance: my coworkers with children when trick-or-treating.  Inevitably there were images of their children getting candy.  And on those posts there was every single candy or chocolate emoji that they could find.

To me it was like, “Well duh.  You get candy on trick-or-treating why did you have to go locate all 14 different candy emojis?”

Well to them I’m sure it was just the same as me back in the day slapping a “;D” on the end of my sentences.  They are just a part of language.  They convey meaning in a more specific way than words might given several sentences.

The whole reason I thought to write this is because the other day I was responding to my friends sarcastic comment and I went in search of the perfect GIF to express my response.  As I was searching I took pause to wonder why I was searching for a GIF when I had the nearly infinite human language to express my response.

The images and pop culture that we now use in place of emojis (in place of emoticons (in place of words)) are far easier and more specific to understand.  We are a massively social world and common experiences are more useful in communication than words themselves now.  Using a GIF from Parks and Recreation are easier to get my point across because someone will see the GIF and remember the context and situation of the TV show and apply it to my current response.

“The rules for assaulting in Warhammer 40k have been fixed.”

Even reading my above caption for that image you immediately understand why I’d use that specific GIF.  You don’t even need to play Warhammer 40k— from the context of the GIF you can tell that it’s fucking great for me and terrible for anyone else and I’m experiencing schadenfreude.

Language is weird.  To this day I wish that certain chat programs wouldn’t change my emoticons into emojis.  Its simply not what I want to express.  But the more I have to communicate digitally the more I realize that this is simply how its going to be.  It’ll probably evolve into a different thing as more interesting technology becomes available.

I can only hope that at some point 3D printers become ubiquitous and I can start sending my friends emojis that automatically print.  I would love to send a text message accompanied by a 3D file and my friends have to sit there and watch their 3D printer slowly create a giant middle finger.

-DTM