Go away and never come back!

Sometimes i just want to scream at the top of my lungs. My brain can go from happy to sad in less than 2 secs and next thing i know i am questioning all of my friendships, all of my successes and feeling like I am all alone and a fake shell of a human being.

This is how I woke up today. I want to reach out to my friends I want to talk but i cant bring myself to do it. So I am compelled to write this down and toss it on the internet? It makes no sense. Why cant I just talk to my friends about this, why does tossing it out in public work but i cant go to the ones i trust?  Maybe cause i know no one will see it here. Here it is safe and obscure.  Maybe I dont want to burden my friends. They say they are there for me but a human can only take so much before they realize that its too much trouble and the last thing i want is to make my friends hate me or feel burdened by me.

In reality this is all my fault. This is me forgetting to take my meds, this is me going so long off of them and then getting back on them and now I am a chemical mess. This is me wishing i could have lives like my friends. Feeling like I am missing out on life and experiences that others have that I cant seem to recreate.  This is me wondering why I cant find anyone here in LA to have fun with and by not finding anyone turning it onto myself and convincing myself that its because I am gross and broken and dont deserve that kind of fun.

I am so fucking alone and my friends live so fucking far away

 

I am trapped inside myself and see no escape…..ever…..

Recognizing the Lie

But its a lie that we are taught is real, and it to some of us it can do more damage than good.

Today is almost a week since I had a bit of an emotional tumble, and I wanted to reflect on that a bit.  Tomorrow will be a week since I fell down a small hole of depression, it caught up with me and luckily i was able to pull myself out with the help of some very kind very wonderful people in my life.  What happened?  Why did this happen?  I let that little gremlin in my head win, it’s the easiest way to describe it.

I live alone, all the people I consider friends exist on the internet.  I don’t get to hang with them, I don’t get to hug them, I can’t just invite them over and sit next to them sharing our thoughts, jokes and innuendos.  Even though I am mostly okay with living alone, i think i am really the kind of person who likes just having someone around near me.  I am bad at small talk but I just like to have people close.

To make matters worse Skype reminded me of my mortality with the birthday notice for a friend who died 4 years ago. He was my age and we worked together at PetsMart when i was younger. We developed a very strong friendship but lost touch when i moved to Hawaii for college. however in 2012 we had found each other again through Xbox live and started to talk nightly and made plans to play Mass Effect 3 together and much more.  Then one morning after having talked late the night before I got a call saying that he had been found in his bathroom dead.  I spent the next few weeks having panic attacks and heart attack symptoms as my mortality was questioned and I lost a friend.  Naturally this reminder had me look back on my life and compare it to others.  That devious gremlin then spent the entire time reminding my how i haven’t lived up to any goals i set for myself and told me everyone was better off than I was.  And I had lost the will to fight back.

It was also the anniversary of breaking up with my last girlfriend, nearly 10 years ago.  I have not dated since that time.  And once again i compared myself to those around me. My coworkers, my college friends are all paired off, they live these happy lives and share their days with someone else.  I let my gremlin tell me that I was nothing because I wasn’t like them.  I let myself feel guilty for my insecurities, i told myself that no one would want me because I am not like those people on TV.  I am a chubby balding man in his late 30’s and who wants a George Costanza when the can have a Tom Hiddleston or something like that?

As expected listening to these voices, letting the lies win, its much easier to just give in.  Sometimes constantly fighting them makes you tired, you are not perfect, no one can expect you to hold up against an onslaught forever right?  Well my friends last week I lost for just a little while.  I got to work on Tuesday and felt like a ball of black matter was inside me, slowly draining any energy I had. I couldn’t stand up.  There were times where the waves of hopelessness and despair consumed every once of myself, so much so I had to lean against walls for fear of falling and screaming in the frustration of it all.  Somehow I made it through work, i don’t know how i did, and i dont know how no one noticed that all i wanted to do was cease to exist.

That night I closed all my windows, turned off all the lights got in bed and stayed there for hours, wide awake and bawling my guts out. Trying, in vain, to expel the blackness, to make it go away so I could be myself again.  To be honest guys I hadn’t had an episode like this in a long time and I was scaring myself.  Somewhere in the night I had decided that all of you would be better off without my weak emotional stupid ugly face around and I decided I would delete all the social media apps.  I spent Wednesday in basically the same state and well into Thursday.

I will not lie when I said part of me reveled in the pain, the part of me that wanted to win, and it was trying to take hold.  Then something happened that could have gone a lot worse.  At work someone responded not very nicely to something I did and in my state I took it very, very personally.  When i got back to my office I found myself wanting to hurt myself, the pain, the shame and the dark thoughts were so much that i had to make them quiet, and the only logical reaction was to make all this emotional pain physical.  That was the first step to reminding myself of how far I have actually come.

There was a time in my life where I would self harm, its long ago and I haven’t done it since my teens, but to have those feelings again were not as welcome as they once used to be. I immediately went across the hall and told my coworker. She helped me call my doctor and set up an appointment, one that I will be going to this week.  You guys i cant tell you how happy i was that i recognized something even in the pit of despair i was in and made a decision to stop it.

It was that little victory that slowly turned me around, later that night naturally I tried to ignore CR and everyone, but part of me couldn’t and by the end of the night I had started to engage with people again.

Now I know people deal with all of this stuff differently, some don’t get just a couple of days, but I just wanted to share my little hiccup to remind the gremlin that it doesn’t have power over me, that I will continue to fight, because even as I write this I can feel that I am still not entirely better, and I probably wont ever be better because this is just how my brain is wired, but i can recognize that I am not perfect, and no one else is either.  But if i stay engaged and keep pressing on I can feel better with you guys beside me.

Welcome to the Dungeon, Master

Well I did it, I ran my first game.  It was scary, and fun, and I recall almost none of it, but that is the nature of my brain, thank goodness its on YouTube forever!

It is here that I would like to chronicle the rise to DM and what I thought about my first time running a game.

I had been toying with the idea of running a game since the start of my D&D fandom, which was over a year ago with Critical Role. However I shied away from it almost constantly.  Even once i realized that my own initials were DM i was still cautious  about attempting something i felt that i had no creativity for, or skill in.  However despite my brains own intentions many of my friends expressed thoughts of support in the idea that i turn to the DM side of the game.  They constantly commented on my RP ability and my creative story telling in my characters backstories.  Yet i was still unconvinced that i could pull off something as complex as running rules and playing as NPCs.  I did however enjoy the idea of the story telling aspect, that is what kind of always appealed to me, like a tiny piece of metal in a river on a sunny day. There in the peripheral glinting wildly, always tempting, always teasing. So I would occasionally pour over the DM guide and ponder philosophically about the idea of running a game at some point.

Enter October of 2015.  Some spark finally took root in the dry recesses of my mind and the flame of inspiration burned bright.  I had decided i would run my current group, the marvelous Half Assed Crew in a spooky Halloween one shot inspired in a world i was creating on the side.  Pretty much all at once they were dancing with excitement and encouragement at the process, and i would tease them with little bits of the things i was working on.  I will admit that this made me very happy, and their enthusiasm helped me continue and actually think that I could do this thing that i secretly wanted to do, but let my brain constantly talk me out of.  However the wonderful “A Sinister Invitation” was not to be.  My work was rapidly approaching its busy season and my prep was slowing to a turtles pace.  Then as the game was pushed to November and we were about to finally play, my job suffered a ransom virus attack the day of the game, i had to stay and work an almost 16 hour shift to fix it and my first DM game was postponed indefinitely.

DM’ing was put on a back burner as our own campaigned slowed down and life events kept D&D squarely on the back burner for a bit.  Then Matt Mercer’s DM tips videos hit Geek & Sundry and his simple straightforward tips seemed to help reignite the flame in my belly and I longed for at least a chance to prove my mettle in the forge of a game.  At the time I had started working on a world of my own, and Sunday nights would stream map drawing on twitch, it was crude but relaxing and people showed an interest in playing in the world I was slowly building. Right on the heels of my new-found excitement and Mercer’s tips came Matt Colville and his tips.  After listening to Colville i was 100% convinced that I could do this and that with some work I might actually be good at it.  I had decided that not doing it and pining away would get me nowhere and i immediately set out to create my first adventure and grab some people to play.  Obviously life always has other plans but i did find some groups of people and set to working on the world, its settings and the first adventure in between work and my other campaigns.

As time went on and the campaign building slowed because of work I decided that i need to cut a few things to accommodate more time for my own creative endeavors and so making the hard decision to drop out of a game i had been in for 6 months i set myself to a more firm direction. DM or die.  An opportunity arose last month when, as the Half Assed Crew were planning our future games I blurted out that maybe id run a one shot based on the Acquisitions Inc training ground for some of the members if the could make it.  It caught me by surprise but I can only assume it’s because my brain had enough of putting it off and knew that if there was a fire under my ass i might actually get it done.  So i set out to tailor the module to my tastes and added a bit of flair as it would be my wonderfully ridiculous Dwarf bard who would be running the show.

Planning was a blast and I thank a few special critters for allowing me to bounce ideas off of them and fine tune my weaknesses.  i will admit it was hard work and maybe by the time of the game i wasnt as prepared as i would have liked but it might not have been played if i had waited until i thought i was ready.  Eventually i had no more time and the game was afoot, er on rather.

The game was fun, and it looked like my players were having fun as well.  I remember feeling very intimidated at the start and worried that what I had prepared would not work but once I started and fell into the groove I think i did okay.  It was probably not the best module to start with as it was mostly a skill run, with little combat and some out-of-place things that i either forgot to add, tweak or remove but it worked for the most part.  I remember being frustrated when i forgot to do something, or lost track of my notes, but i don’t think my players ever really noticed. The stress of trying to keep everything moving and remembering rules did make it so that i don’t really recall most of what happened in the game and when i critiqued myself later the ending was a little sloppy, but we had played, no one quit and everyone had fun so honestly all that means it was probably a success.

I know where my weaknesses lie, and I know where to bolster the walls so to speak.  All in all I had a blast and imagine that if I ran something that i wrote myself and built from scratch i would have a better handle on the minutiae.  I do know that i should have plenty of water, because talking for 3 hours is rough, and that trying to keep all those rules in your head and adjust on the fly is something i will need a lot more practice at.  Overall it did not discourage me from continuing and in fact gave me the confidence to at least keep going for now.  It will be nice to see how a steady campaign feels.

To DM’ing…..and BEYOND!

 

and if your are curious you can watch my first DM attempt here https://youtu.be/EzwNOm-cXq0

 

 

How Role Play Saved My Character

If you haven’t seen #OffTheRailsCrew I suggest you watch it here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlq_AULlkvENVZVtKp6SP7wooz915N_4v.

It is pretty solid storytelling and a group of great players to boot. This game was a rocky start for me, but I have found redemption in solid Role Play. With that being said I would like to share with you why I am excited to play Augthar now.

A few months ago I joined a one shot in order to give @Tempuslibris her first chance to be in a D&D game.  Since I knew it was a one-shot and I was naïve about it becoming anything else I decided to make a character I wouldn’t normally play.  This was right around the time that Matt had created the Witch Hunter class so I said what that heck and rolled up a Goliath Witch Hunter, because why not?

Our first game was fun.  I however absolutely hated my character.  I couldn’t find his voice, I didn’t like melee, and I literally almost died, Charles had to drop in a deus ex Machina to save us.  The entire time we played in the back of my mind I was thinking, it’s just a one shot, it will be over soon. Fast forward to today and we have 13 episodes under our belt and 3 more players added and it is totally a full blown campaign.

I will not lie to you that the episodes leading up to our last one were tough for me.  I admit that over time, I grew to find Augthars voice. What joy and entertainment I could not find in his class, I found in role playing him and engaging with the other players.  It was the only saving grace of this Tuesday game in the beginning.

In all RPG’s I have played casters, or a form of caster.  Melee just has never done it for me, and as we continued into our never ending one-shot I felt the frustration and hatred grow.  You probably can’t tell if you watch the episodes, but the only time I was having fun was when I got to role play.  I remember it was around the mages tower episode that I had just decided to RP Auggie to death in order to keep the game going for my friends. From that point I had fun.  He wasn’t my favorite character but he would do.

Things started to change a little after the Broken Isles.  Charles introduced my nemesis into the story line and I fed off of the feels that that produced, giving me an outlet to enjoy our campaign.  As we progressed in the story I knew that we would eventually face this demon, and I devised a plan. It seemed only natural that Augthar would sacrifice his life for his friends and to end the demon that destroyed his clan.  So with Auggie on the top of a mountain I made a decision, Augthar would die for good at the first chance for a heroic death.

I was confident in my decision as we progressed further, and came closer to meeting our Demon Boss. However something started to happen that I didn’t expect.  I do not know why I never saw it coming but Auggie was growing on me.  With level 5 and my new hammer I found the combat to be a little more interesting, I found Augthar had another side to his personality and I also found that maybe with the right combination of RP and items, even I could be coaxed into liking a melee character.  The time also happened to coincide with Mercer renaming the class and updating it even more.  I was feeling stronger and had more options.

Then came the day I knew was coming. Two weeks ago we fought the thing that had possessed my character for 3 years, the beast that made me kill my entire clan.  The RP was strong with me.  I landed blow after blow, I saved team mates and I felt that I was doing Auggie justice.  All the while I was waiting for that moment when I could give him his heroic death.  Auggie was at 1 HP when he charged in to attack the demon.  I had a superior health potion but was so determined to kill him I didn’t use it.  I took a hit and went unconscious, and then Rhia fell and died.  During this time something woke in me, after all this time of disliking a character I had tricked myself into caring about him.  I know to most reading this it probably seems silly that I didn’t already care about him, but it honestly took me by surprise.  With Rhia down and myself newly healed I went in for what I would hope would be the final kill.  I had no idea what the Boss’ HPs were but I hoped.  I succeeded. I killed my demon and Charles gave me an honest heroic out, at least I think he did, and I didn’t want to take it knowing Rhia was dead.

So here I was knowing that I was going to die but instead of going out with the boss I knew I needed to save my sister, so I RP’d and hoped that Charles would be okay with it.  I then felt that since Rhia was saved with my death that it wouldn’t be fair if they could just bring me back to life so I gave myself rules to return.  I would roll 4 times 0-40 I would return to the living 40-75 I would stay in limbo and 76-100 I would die never to return.  Granted that doesn’t seem even, but it was the heat of the moment and I wasn’t thinking.  In the end the story played out as it did and I lived.  I was happy that Auggie was alive and I felt a renewed interest in him.

I am not sure exactly what the lesson is in this.  Sometimes the things we think we will not like still have something redeemable in them, that perhaps is a solid lesson.  We put up barriers and surround ourselves with what is comfortable.  I took a chance on something I normally wouldn’t play and I grew to love it just as much as my other characters.  That is why I love D&D, and that is why I will never stop playing.

Lost and Found

“This is not going to work dwarf.” Aldric stared at the large warehouse window, a serious scowl on his face.

“O’course it will ya daft lad.  Do ya nay trust me? Ah’ll be in ‘n’ out in no time. Dinnae worry we’ll rescue her.”

“Trust doesn’t enter into it, this is a dumb and dangerous idea.” Crossing his arms across his body the pale Witcher turned toward the colorful dwarf.

“Bah! I’ve got a great plan, lets just get on wi’ it.” Thordrens smile beamed across his face as his long beard jiggled with laughter.

“I’m going to regret this….” With a heavy sigh he ran toward the small Bard and with all his strength and grabbing him with his full strength, spun twice and tossed him in through the widow.

 

With a loud crash Thordren smashed through the glass and rolled along the floor surprisingly graceful for a dwarf and popped up with a little flourish, glass particles spraying about the floor.  Quickly checking himself for damage and finding none he reached into his pocket and took a long drought from a jeweled flask.

“Heh would ya look ah’ that.  I made it Betty” giving a small kiss to the flask he deftly returned it to the pocket hidden in his vest.

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!!” a booming voice rang out.

Quickly Thordren turned and found 5 large men dressed in dark leathers standing in shock at the dwarf who just came in through a window. With a quick glance behind them Thordren saw his quarry.

“Helllooooo  gentleman!” the stout dwarf waved violently, “Thendor Stoutstone Portsmouth Building inspector, Pleasure to meet you.”

The men looked around confusion quickly turning to anger as they reached to their belts for weapons and began closing the distance towards Thordren.

“Now, now, now men,” Thordren put his hands out in front of him and smiled a sly smile.  This is always his favorite part the thought to himself.  As he put his hands up he made a small tapping with his foot and hummed a quiet tune.  That was all he needed as his arcane knowledge of music kicked in, he weaved the innate magic of the beat and spread it out in front of himself, then ignited it with his words.

“it’s a good thing I showed up when I did.  This whole building isna safe, just look at tha window.  I went through it way to easily.  Obviously it some sort of dire termite or somethin’. A’hm afraid we’ll have ta evacuate immediately.” Any normal person would have seen through this obvious and blatant lie but Thordren was no ordinary person.  He oozed his charm as hard as he could and prayed that it would be enough.

Then men closed in anger growing on their faces and Thordren swallowed nervously. Then as if stopped by an unseen force the men stopped blinked a couple of times as the anger on their faces turned to worry.

“Dire Termites!” the largest man said glancing around frantically, as the other men lowered their weapons a little.

“Och aye, nasti creatures.  Whole place could come down on our heads at any moment. Best follow me ta safety” Thordren waved his arms as he ushered the men towards the door.  Reluctantly they all followed against their better judgement and began filing out the door.  Thordren followed behind as each one exited the building, laughing he pulled out his lute and began playing

“A dwarf through a window, caught you all by surprise

And like sweet little sheep you fell for my lies

Now follow me out of the dangerous place

So my best friend Aldric can smash in your face”

As Thordren strummed the last note and stepped out into the warm afternoon sun he laughed even harder when he saw Aldric looming over a pile of unconscious men, and with a floursh of his hat he bowed deeply.  “See Ah told you it would work….totally like I planned.  Now quick we hav’ ta see if shes safe.” And he ran back into the building.  With a heavy sigh and a roll of his eyes Aldric ran after, his swords clattering loudly.

Inside Aldric saw Thordren frantically searching bags and boxes and crates. The warehouse contents and been stacked neatly next to a wagon and it looked like it had been prepared to be loaded and shipped out by the now unconscious men. Aldric made no move to help the dwarf as he yelled loudly and threw about foodstuff, fragile contents about the place.

“AHH Aldric I found her, shes safe!! Oh bless the maker shes safe!!” with a huge smile Thordren popped his head out of a large trunk and waved a small wooden cask back and forth.  “Ach, I cannae believe I almost lost it….it’s the last one I had.”  He held the small wooden container close to his heart and rocked back and forth.

Slapping a huge palm to his face Aldric turned and headed for the door “Come on dwarf we have a boat waiting…I don’t want to stay in this town for much longer…war is coming and I have a contract to fulfill and don’t lose the whiskey again”

Flumphs, Foes, and Friendship Part 1

He had the crowd now and he knew it, he heard it with every cheer, he saw it with every smile, he felt it with every foot. They were his to control, their joy his creation.  He helped them forget who they were for a short time, and in that act helped him remember who he was.  He eased pain, sparked love and grew happiness. Every song he played helped to remind him to never be “that” again, and if he could, keep anyone else from giving in to the darker voices.

Thordren’s bagpipes hummed through the crowd as his nimble fingers piped a melodic tune.  A majority of the crowd was now on their feet, unable to resist the urge to dance.  He laughed to himself as he picked up the pace, this song was his fathers, clan legend said it drew his mother, renowned for never leaving the brewery for any length of time, out dancing.  This was his finisher and it never failed to disappoint.  The pace quickened yet again and he reached out with his gift, it was time to close and bring the roof down.

There is an energy in all living things, a power to the world.  Mages and wizards understand it to immense degrees bending it and shaping it to their will, bringing destruction or creation with astounding ability.  Bards see that power, they understand it and can tap into it. However there is a nuance that even the most learned Wizard fails to notice.  The spirit of the living.  Thordren sees that now, he can feel it in the room as if he were swimming in a lake.  THe air is thick with it.  With each note he reaches out and weaves it, pulls it into him in strands.  With each inhale he alters that energy and ties it into his song.  In the end he has transformed that energy into a tapestry of ribbons that shine in the room.  He sees them as dancing ropes of color braided with his art, infused with his spirit.  What was once a lake of energy is now more akin to a maypole with THordrens stout dwarven body as the source.  Ribbons of bardic energy now  tied to everyone in the room and as he plays he pulses that energy out and watches as its light dances along the lines flashing colors like northern lights in and out of the crowd.

The crowd is on their feet now, drinks spill as men and women, halflings and humans dance and clap, laugh and cry out with joy.  Thordren feels the peak, the point at which is magic is strongest, any more and the spell would fail too far and the people will falter.  With a flick of his wrist on the pipes he conjures sparks, the crescendo reaches and impossible beat, the constant chime of the bagpipes underneath the tune seems to vibrate the very walls as colors of all kinds spark from his instrument into the air in a rainbow of lights. The pace and show from the stage lights a fire in the crowd and the still night outside the tavern is shattered with the roar from the crowd.  And what seemed like an unstoppable force ends as Thordren swings the pipes to his side, the music ending abruptly, as he then flourishes his hat from his head bows and sends a final shot of sparks prestidigitating out amidst the crowd.

“Thank ye, Ah’ve been Thordren Silverheart and Goodnight!” he rough dwarish voice booming out into the dancefloor.

Cheers erupt as gold, silver and copper is thrown on the stage, Thordren takes a few more bows, scoops up his earnings and hops off the creaking stage making a bee line straight for the bar.

“Good lord Thordren, I think thats the best show yet, Ive never seen this place so full, truly a unique talent from a dwarf.” Hank said as he saunters his rotund body up to the counter.

“Haha, thanks laddie, though not really unique at all, just a wee song meh father taught meh as a bairn.” Thordren plopped himself on a stool and arranged his coins neatly in front of him. “Now let’s get down to the real business. Two SilverStouts, a shot of tha Halfling whiskey from tha east, and four shots of tha clear stuff those northern Monks left here yesterday.”

Hank quickly went to work filling Thordrens order, placing two pints of a dark thick beer before him before heading to the back and returning with a tray of the requested spirits.

“Now careful dwarf, you put on a great show but id prefer not to have another incident like your first night here.  Beatte is still trying to get the smell out of your old room.” His eyes darted up to the second floor where one of the rooms had been cordoned off with thick rope and a wooden sign.

“AHHAHAHA” Thordren threw back his head, his auburn beard shaking as he laughed.”Sorry ’bout that Hank I swore that lad had called for a Stinking Cloud”

Hank stared at him as he cocked his head to the side “He was yelling for you to stop Singing so loud.”

“Really?  Heh that’s nae what I heard…anyway who tells a Bard to stop singing so loud Ah mean c’mon!”

“It was 4am Thordren, you were down here alone helping yourself to the bar.” Hank motioned for a waitress across the room

“Hmm, i dinae remember that part too clearly, first night in a new towns always a bit rough” Thordren arranged his drinks in order of height, taking special care to place one pint of SilverStout in front of the empty stool to his left.

“Yes, it sure was.  Beth would you be as so kind as to stay here and watch over our guest for the rest of the evening” Hank ushered the barmaid behind the bar, making a blatant show as he took his keys locked the bottom liquor cabinets and putting the metal ring into her hands. “Now Thordren Beth heres gonna watch over you for the rest of the night, be nice and try not to drink too much.” He passed a quick look to Beth and disappeared into the Kitchen.

“Why Hello Beth!” The barmaid stared blankly as Thordren proceeded to empty shot after shot in quick succession. “Babysittin’s no fun. Come on and join meh lass?”

“Oh not a chance in the Nine Hells dwarf! I’ve seen your tolerance and your after show first hand. Im here to keep the damage to a minimum.” Crossing her arms across her chest she glared down at the colorful bard and braced herself for the battle yet to come.

As if ignoring most of her words Thordren set himself back into his work finishing his drinks, pushing more coins toward Beth and ordering more.  He purposefully left the pint to his left untouched and every once and awhile would click his current drink on the rim and mutter silently in his native dwarvish.

“Thordren?” Beth finally asked an hour in to her watch.

“Aye lass? Come to your senses about joinin’ meh?” His common slurred a bit as he looked up from his drink.

“Still a no Bard.  I am curious however?  You’ve ordered a pint of that for a week now and never touch it. Why?”

“Oh that…well lass…that’s ah…trad…tradition…yeah ancient Dwarven tradition in my clan, something bout remembrance and the like. Dwarves don’t like to waste alcohol for no reason ya ken?” His expression saddened a little as he flourished he hands about hoping to distract her.

He did not like when people asked about this particular habit of his, and he reminded himself again to keep it to a minimum as he traveled.  Sometimes however 10 years of a habit creeped in without him noticing.  As he tried to find a way to change the subject the doors flew open and a man, disheveled and panting came stumbling in.

“The UNDERDARK!” he yelled falling to his knees, “The Underdark is here for us all!”

Thordren lept off his stool and ran towards the man, thankful for a distraction. Instinctually he began humming a small tune weaving restful energies into the alarmed stranger. “whats all this about tha Underdark now lad?”

“My farm” the man wheezed, “Out near Greely’s Fall, the old mine.  I saw them white abominations from the Underdark! they nearly took my life.” he still looked visibly shaken but had managed to gather his breath as Thordren continued to hum his song of rest.

“Abominations? What are ya gettin’ at boy?  How could anything from tha Underdark be up here?  I’m sure your mistaken.” Thordren helped the man to his feet and ushered him to a nearby table waving for Beth and miming to bring some sort of drink for the man.  “There now, have a seat, rest and calm yourself.” He handed the man the glass of water Beth had retrieved and sat down next to him.

“No, no i saw them i swear. Ghostly white things, eye stalks howling wind sounds…they are gonna destroy us all.” the man looked Thordren in the eyes obvioulsy still shaken.

“Flumphs! Are ye talking ’bout Flumphs laddie?” Realization hit Thordren as the man described what he saw. A tiny bubble of excitement grew in his gut.

“I…I think so… I was ju..”

“AHAHAHAHA!” Thordren’s laughter cut the man off mid sentence, “Flumphs! AHAHA!  Laddie Flumphs may be from tha Underdark yes, but they’ll neh harm a hair on your head, AHHAHAHA! Flumphs” Thordren continued to laugh as he mindlessly slogged down some leftover Ale from the table.

“Flumphs are fascinatin’ creatures! Ran into a few back in my days in the west among the elves.  HAHA fantastic time that was…did ya know that Flumphs hold themselves up by breathin’ in and expelling tha air right out o’ their tentacles? Most ridiculous thing ah’ve ever seen. Makes them super easy to flip, trust me on that, just gotta be mindful of tha stink spray.” The Dwarf Bard prattled on as inebriation caught up with him.  The man seemed unsure of Thordrens knowledge and kept trying to intervene but could not get a word in amidst the Dwarfs apparently vast knowledge of this Underdark species.

“Thordren the mans obviously scared, lets find the constable and at least tell them..” Beth put her hand on Thordrens shoulder and he quickly shrugged it off.

“Bah! No need to get the law involved lass, I can handle a few Flumphs, besides should make for a great story to tell in my performance tomorrow night! Thordren Silverheart Flumph Fighter!” He moved his hands out in front of himself imagining the title in the air with a huge grin.

The alcohol induced excitement inside his gut was at full force now, and his need for adventure was about to burst.

“I’ll take care of this scourge lass, find Hank and tell him Ah’ll need a big breakfast after this!” He ran up to his room grabbed his travel pack and crashed back down the stairs, pulling a small flask from his pocket and downing its contents he burst out into the chill dark of night.

Half-Assed Crew: Thordren Lost in Love and Longing for home

i’ve never been normal in my musical likings and preferences, and i remember in high school during the 90’s being the only kid listening to 50’s and 60’s and Jimmy Buffett music.  My father also had a huge influence on what i listened to and he used to craft these epic CD tales on our road trips in the summers.

Thordren is a dwarf away from his home, he feels lost and some of that is his own fault.  He is also heartbroken, and that may be mostly his fault. Without getting too spoilery here are the songs i think reflect Thordren’s past, his present, and where he hopes to be.  I use a lot of myself in Thordrens character and in his journey so far i think these best represent his and my journey.

spotify:user:1295216629:playlist:0sqJYGXl1XZ2aVWG3ujsPt

“The Samurai Set” – Gaelic Storm

We start and end this list with my favorite music.  From a young kid the sound of bagpipes has always spurred my imagination and left me inspired, this is one of my favorite sets from an awesome band.

“Girls Chase Boys” – Ingrid Michaelson

Thordren is a bard, by divine right of classes he is meant to be a ladies man.  I wish it were the same for me, but I love Ingrid and this song feels very Thordren.

“You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” – Meat Loaf

The first time my dad played me this album I fell in love with this song in particular. For Thordren its the first time he lays eyes on Maewin in Bardic College. Taking the words out of Throdrens mouth is definitely a feat in itself.

“Magic” – The Cars

Another band I adored in High School thanks to my dad.  This one hit me as something very Bard magic related and as Thordren continued through school the magic hold was something he would come to regret.

“A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard” – Jeremy Messersmith

Dani introduced me to this song and it struck a deep chord.  For Thordren it begins a darker lonelier time in his life.  Mistakes were made, relationships torn asunder and consequences delivered.

“Gone” – The Show Ponies

Saw the show ponies my first week in LA.  If you play a fiddle, violin or bagpipe im yours for life.  Seeing them live was an experience that touched my soul and for Thordren the loss of his love hit hard in his.

“Last Kiss” – Pearl Jam

I used to call into the Portland Radio station to hear the original song when i was a kid. The pearl jam remake hit me where it counts in longing for love and the same pretty much goes for my dwarf bard.  He is lost.

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd

Wandering, lost, swimming in a fish bowl year after year.  His actions brought him to this point and even though he was in the wrong he cant help but feel alone.  Besides its Floyd people.

“Don’t Run” – Bad Veins

This song caught my attention on Spotify.  It hits home for Thordren because now his actions have caught up with his family, and he runs.

“Exile Vilify (From the Game Portal 2)” – The National

Literally cried the first time i found the wall from Ratman painted with Chele’s image. It hits Thordren that he may never see home or family again, and this song gives me those feelings.  I love feeling bad 😉

“Hide and Seek” – Imogean Heap

On the run, no real goals. Thordren goes from town to town filling the hole in his heart with song, false merryment and beer. Another song that just feels right to me.

“I’m Movin’ On” – Rascal Flats

A song I play on every move I make in life.  Something about picking up and starting again…im just in love with feeling emotions, Thordren knows he cant go back now, and perhaps its time to move on.

“Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

Because its Floyd. Hes done worrying, he is numb to his pain time to just live.

“Midnight City” – M83

more feels, the opening of this song i just like, always have always will. Thordren moves along with life, waiting for that next thing that might fill his lonliness.

“You’ve Got A Friend” – James Taylor

harried by goblins and a Bugbear, found hanging upside down from a tree Aldric and Thordren meet for the first time.  The Bromance is real.  Also I love James Taylor.

“Be OK” – Ingrid Michaelson

Things might be okay.  With a companion in tow Thordren has found someone who needs more help than him.  Putting up with the giant pain in the ass makes the dwarf feel good, plus maybe he can help Aldric find his own way even if Thordren cant find his.

“Back in the High Life Again” – Steve Winwood

This is my families penultimate road trip song, my sister and I always have to hear it and it brings back memories of traveling all across the US.  For Thor its basically what plays in his head every time him and Aldric enter a new town and he sets up shop on a stage. Even now that Thor and Aldric have found others to travel with

“Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba

In this list for reasons.  Half Assed Crew Reasons.

“One Particular Harbor” – Jimmy Buffett

Heard this song on a jukebox in High School, it was one of those test ones filled with random music to be later placed in our senior lounge.  The music was all replaced but this song stuck with me, i would play it after school when everyone had left.  It reminds me that one day i will find my home, that one place destined for me, its just out there waiting for me.  To Thordren its the hope of one day returning to his.

“Floating The Flambeau” – Gaelic Storm

More bagpipes, because bagpipes.

Taking out the Trash

I have always felt things strongly.  It has been consistent throughout my entire life and it has been a blessing and a curse.  It has been uplifting more times than I can count, but the times I remember in vivid detail are the ones where it has literally left me a heaping pile of discarded human emotions.  It fights my happiness, it eats away at the things I take joy from. I hate it so much and I want it to go away.  There are month’s weeks and even years I teach myself to let it go, to beat it back, to send it reeling back into whatever dark depths it spawns from.  It always comes back.  Is it something I do?  Is it my fault for letting it back in my life?  I have no clue. Should I even blame myself?  I have felt its presence coming back for months now, as if it sensed my growing joy, as if it saw the relationships I was building and the togetherness I was once again feeling.  This weekend it struck hard and fast and left me wounded from the attack.  I spent the majority of this weekend locked in my house unable to get up, unable to do anything but lie on a couch and stare at the ceiling.  I wanted to claw my brain out with anger, I felt like a prisoner in my own body, unable to enact any meaningful change of state or will myself back into existence.  I sobbed uncontrollably I wanted to call out to my friends to my family for help, I tired but then I was afraid no one would understand, or that I would lose them forever when they saw who I really was.

It’s infuriating.  I know this isn’t me, I know who I really am, I know that my friends and family would support me, but it whispers lies into my ear and I swallow it up as truth like it was candy coated pills of pure wisdom.  So I either give into it, let the thoughts course through me and hold on for dear life or I fight it and drive myself mad from the anger and exhaustion I feel from beating on what seems like a stone wall.

I thought I had this beat I thought I was winning, but I let myself fall into a false sense of security, I let the loneliness get to me again, and it’s in the loneliness that this stupid thing thrives.  So now I do the only thing I can.  I throw the words it speaks onto a page and let my logic take over.  I let my mind see the weightless words, the vacuous thoughts, the nonexistent fears.  It is a process.  The feelings that I experience leave their scars, the recovery is long, but the will to resist returns, the happiness grows and the people in my life shine once again.

I am better than I was.  15 years ago I would make the threats and the damage real.  I let it control more than my emotions, I hurt myself and those around me.  Even remembering those times makes me feel sick that I let if have all that control.  Today its control is small, and its duration short.  I must remember that I have gotten better.  I can see it right now, what I couldn’t see 10 hours ago, I am strong, I am good, and I feel silly for the torment I let myself endure these past few days.

Creating takes power, it take emotion, and it takes soul.  That is what I forgot again.  Why do I always forget that?  I have always had the need to create and maybe those two voices are related.  The whisper to create and the whisper to hate.  It tells you the things you create are bad and worthless. In fact they aren’t, they are unique and beautiful and that is what it hates because those things show the darkness what it really is.  Intangible, unimportant, meaningless and inconsequential. I let that fear stop me and in doing so I gave the wheel over and became a passenger. The need was still there but i let the whispers drive, i let them tell me it wouldn’t make a difference, that my talent isnt  great that everyone else is better.  It built up like a river against a dam and i was surprised when it eventually gave under the force.  Once again it is a process, i will remember, and next time will be better.  I will be better.

I remember what I told myself that day so long ago when I decided to fight back.

I Love You

Of Dice and Friends

If you had told me a year ago that I would eventually be on the internet speaking in a bad Scottish accent pretending to be a dwarf bard, I would probably have looked at you a little weird and then screamed “HOLY CRAP I WILL!!???  I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO THAT” I would then grab you ferociously by the collar and scream further “TELL ME OH MAGICAL TIME WIZARD HOW TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN SOONER, TELL ME, TELL ME NOW!”.  You would have suffered whiplash, I probably would have been sued, legal proceedings and financial ruin sending me to the wasteland to live out a sad lonely existence.  Instead none of that happened, but what did happen was magical and my life is forever changed.

In my last post I described my life and my discovery of Critical Role.  I wont waste time rehashing that.  Suffice to say that being engaged in this community has really changed my life.  Shortly after having found this wonderful show and making an active attempt to engage with the community I was really trying to figure out how I could start my own game of D&D.

My problem became immediately apparent as I was still sort of new to So Cal and my social circle was pretty small.  I basically ditched my real life Bar Trivia team because it was on Thursdays.  I had no time to fret over not being able to find a game as it was around this time that the Critters were born in full force.

Just What the Google Doc ordered

With the fandom growing and the need for D&D gameplay the Critters formed a Skype group and prepared a google doc where we all could provide input on what who we where and what we wanted to play.  This was a turning point in my search for games.  Here i ended up being paired into Group 4 with @elleine35 @tukroll @xdragon_riderx @charlesramsey13 @ruzgofdi and @MDfilmblog.  Once paired it was time to create characters.  I had decided to create a Dwarf Bard and was so excited to flesh him out and prepare him for a game. We nicknamed ourselves the Half-Assed crew, which i think came from a couple of characters being half races, but in the Skype chat it stuck.  It took us awhile to work out a schedule for playing but eventually it all came together and we started our first game .  I can tell you that the minute we got into our session and I started belting out a horrible Scottish accent I felt like I was at home.  In the few campaigns since,   we have come to learn so much about our characters, and we are still learning things today.  Becca is really coming into her own as a new DM and with each episode she comes up with more and more amazing things and ways to mess with each one of us.  I both fear and look forward to the day when Thordrens back story comes to the forefront.

We have been playing since June and i can tell you with a full and happy heart that I am a better person with these people in my life. having these adventures and sharing our ridiculous moments really does make you feel like you are a part of something bigger. I have grown very fond of my Half-Assed Crew.  Not only are we the best of D&D friends but I have met a couple of them in person and they are just as amazing.  We are always in contact and we are there for each other nearly 24/7.  I never could have expected this if I was wanted to. And even today when my life feels like it’s heading toward a dark and scary place and I feel like I can’t cope, they were there for me, and I know that they are just a Skype chat away and that makes all the difference in the world.  i never have to feel alone, my D&D friends will always be right there.

This is what Critical Role has spawned and these are what #Critters and #Hoomans are.  Just real people who understand that everyone else is a person and treats them with the respect that people deserve.  We are there when you are down, and we will help you back up.  I love my Half-Assed Crew.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

This domain has sat alone and unused for two years.  I have always had the best intentions for it, but like I have started to notice in my life, those intentions never make it very far.  

I am 35 years old and I have come to realize that I, much like this blog, have sat unused and gathering dust for quite some time.

There was a time in my life where I was passionate about everything, and that time was my pre and early teens.  I was an avid writer, comic book collector, reader and video game player.  I spent hours outside in the woods around my house pretending to be wizards, adventurers, comic book characters.  I made up fantasy worlds, wrote short stories, drew maps and created character sheets. I read books and collected D&D manuals and begged my dad to take me into distant towns to find the nearest comic books stores.  I was fierce in my love of imagination because I had no outlet other than myself.

I was a shy kid.  I don’t remember when it happened but somewhere around 3rd grade I had stopped making friends and closed myself off. My mom moved us a lot around the Bay area, I remember having 3 different schools by second grade, and maybe I decided that making friends just wouldn’t be worth it. In the middle of 3rd grade we moved and remained stable for the rest of my time in California. From 3rd to 6th grade I think I can only count 1 person as my best friend and then I promptly moved again, this time by my own choice.

 I had grown dark and brooding in a time before Goth was a thing, I had turned on myself and did things that today would have set off all sorts of alarms, things I am not proud of but have moved past. I had decided that I would live with my father and once I had moved to Washington almost everything changed. My personality was better, I felt happy(ish) and my creativity blossomed, I did however remain horribly shy.  I made a few friends from 13 to 18, but none ever shared the exact same passions.  When I wanted to share my love of roleplaying or comics I was looked at as weird, so I kept them close to my chest.  

In High School I did my best to be as invisible as I could. A lifetime of 80’s movies had filled me with fear and dread of being labeled and tossed in a garbage can or locked in a locker, regretfully none of which I ever saw happen. I secretly harbored a love of the drama department and imagined myself up there acting and pretending, but my fear kept me grounded, and embarrassment kept me chained.  I attempted to put the feelings that I had inside down on paper as short stories and creative fiction.  I remember feeling like I would burst if I did not get all of the thoughts out on the page.  Secretly I was optimistic but I was also made of glass.  The only negative criticism came from my father, at the time the opinion that really mattered, and it broke me so completely that I remember destroying tons of work.  I had learned my mistake once again, never let anyone know your passion, never share, keep it secret, keep it safe.

As I look back now 1998 to 2004 is a blur.  I attempted College, but instead met a girl and quickly lost priorities.  I trudged through a life of retail at big box stores and slowly wasted away.  The only saviors at the time being video games.  I would drown myself in the worlds of Final Fantasy, Legend of Dragoon, and Zelda.  I found Everquest and made anonymous friends that I had more in common with the real people in my life and I felt more alive wandering Norrath as a wizard than I did in my own life.  My head was bursting with creative ideas and wants and dreams but I kept them to myself.

It was around 2004 that the epiphany I am having today first took root.  I had reached 25 years on this planet and had put myself through and emotional wringer for most of it.  The dam had finally had enough.  I moved to Hawaii went back to school for a Geology degree.

Hawaii changed my life.  I knew no one, I was 2500 miles away from the nearest contiguous land and I had a chance to start over.  I am not sure if I consciously made the choice, or it just happened but something inside of me changed.  I was confident, I was charming and my humor had returned.  The next four years gave me some of the best friends I would ever make, I was around nerdy people and I shared my nerdy philosophies. I ended up spending almost 8 years on that island. When I returned to the continent I was a different person.

I came home with a degree in Geology and a love of science and everything nerdy, and it felt like I was on the edge of something.  I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with me.  I made my attempts to enter the adult world, granted a little behind the curve.  I was already in my 30’s but for once in my life I thought I knew what exactly I wanted, or at least I was close to understanding.  Geology would end up not panning out, I had a few close calls and almost a job here or there but I knew one thing for certain, I did not want to spend more money on education, and to get anywhere I would need more. Then the best friend I ever made in Hawaii and life decided to get married.

I came down to Pasadena 2 years ago this week to attend the wedding of my dearest friend.  I ended up filling in for him at his IT job while he was on Honeymoon.  Fast forward to August and he quits his job, I apply and end up getting it and boom I am packing up and moving from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, a place I said I would never ever live.  I instantly found myself in an adult job, making adult money. I was no longer constantly broke, I could afford extra things each paycheck.  I had an apartment to myself, no more roommates (except for my dog) great neighbors and I was happy. My job is good I enjoy it but I don’t see myself here forever besides something was still nagging at me. 

This month I decided to start to do things that scare me.  It’s easy now because I literally live in a city that scares me.  L.A and its surrounding area is quite possibly the epicenter of everything I hold dear. There are conventions, comedy shows, famous people, acting and video games and comics being made or developed or presented all around me.  So I have started to engage.

 I first chose social media, I would engage strangers, comment on things and people I didn’t know.  I knew that it wouldn’t mean anything and most people wouldn’t see but it made me uncomfortable.  I am a guy who tries to go unnoticed to not bother anyone, to remain status quo.  So far it hasn’t been that bad.  Then enter Twitch.  I found twitch a year ago and started watching people never interacting.  Then I started interacting.  People can be so awesome.  I came to know some really nice people who shared things I was interested in.  I remember thinking that I wish this had been around years ago, I felt at home. These interactions did something to me, my short time in a job I liked and surrounded by more friends than I ever had sparked something. Being around like-minded individuals filled an empty spot in my soul. Something inside me was stirring. Then I stumbled quite literally into a little show called Critical Role.

Everything came together like a flash of lightning. The wave had crested and my 35 years on this planet came into crystal like clarity.  What was it about these people, these random strangers playing pretend on the internet that stirred me so? I cannot say for certain what it was exactly, but what I took away from it was this.  They were not afraid.  I am fighting back a lot of emotions after typing that sentence.  To me it’s a powerful revelation.

 Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

 I have lived my entire life afraid of creating afraid of putting myself out there afraid of never being anything meaningful.  It seems stupid now, it all seems like a waste.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  I have a finite amount of time here on this planet and I should be able to enjoy it.  The act of creating is all there needs to be, do not be afraid of it.  Live your live create the things you love, share it with people, put yourself out there and learn who you are through the act.  Discover through the process and live a life.

 With that revelation, one gained from watching people who love each other play a pretend game online, I have decided to live my life the way I want and to not let fear stand in my way.  It probably won’t be easy, but I guess that’s the point.

The internet is a weird thing, you find people who move you to the core, stir some emotion inside of you so thoroughly that you don’t know what to do with those emotions.  They are strangers to you most of the time, but you feel these things and can’t stop feeling them, you are filled with the overwhelming need to share with these people, these strangers.  You want to show them how they helped you figure out something about yourself or at the very least how they made you happy, because of what they did. That is what I am doing here.  Telling a group of strangers who do not know me, that they have taught me, or at least opened up something inside myself that has helped me discover who I am and who I really want to be.  

For that I am eternally grateful.

#CriticalRole