Haiku very much

The ‘Here, Now, Broken’ Trilogy

Untouchable

So close, one could touch
The dreams inside of being
Untouchable, here.

Apocalypse

So close, burning heart
The fires of hell ignited
Apocalypse, now.

Retreat

So close, far away
Now, the instant of regret
Retreating, broken.

 

The Japanese Haiku’s 5/7/5 syllable structure is a source of great enjoyment and wonder for me.

I don’t know why I write Haiku’s in groups of three. I just do.

Healthy Huff ‘n Stuff

As you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I work out regularly, get plenty of cardio, try to eat right, read fitness magazines, and so forth.

Over time I’ve picked up a few things here and there to keep healthy.  Here’s some:

  • Tabatas – if you don’t know about tabatas as a way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness, check out my rave about them here.
  • Sprinting – the equivalent of a Tabata. University studies have shown that 3 x 20 second sprints at maximum effort provides the same stamina/cardio improvements as 50 minutes of low intensity exercise. Three sessions a week is all you need to make a huge difference.
  • Multivitamins – ensure your dietary bases are covered. Just make sure they are balanced, and don’t take too many – overdosing on vitamins is not good for your body. Check the instructions on the label and the daily allowance indicator next to the ingredients. Don’t forget you also get vitamins and minerals from food as well.
  • Exercise – at least 3 times per week, for at least 30 minutes. If it’s just walking, walk fast to get your heart rate up, otherwise it’s a bit pointless.
  • Stretch – make sure you stretch well before attempting strenuous exercise. I stretch for at least 20 minutes before my workouts. The stretching warmup is a workout in itself, involving traditional stretches for all body parts and yoga stretches. Some people in training also stretch after their workout.
  • Eat well – but don’t overeat. You don’t need to consciously avoid eating fat either – fats, in moderation, are needed by your body. If you need to lose weight, reduce you serving size and drink more water. Your body will utilise the calories it has, and the water will help fill your stomach to overcome hunger pains. Do NOT cut out food altogether – your body thinks you are going into starvation mode and conserves fat by consuming muscle tissue first. In starvation mode your body takes a few days to start burning fat. Eat slowly – your brain uses hormones to know when you’re full – if you eat too fast your brain won’t have received the signal from your stomach and you will still feel hungry.
  • Measure rather than weigh – use your pants or dress size as an indicator. As you lose weight your clothes will fit you better or loosen. If you do have to weight yourself, try not to do it every day, especially if you are working out regularly – muscle is heavier than fat, so the scales could be misleading. And have a regular weigh time (8:00 in the morning, for instance), after you’ve gone to the loo!
  • Drink Tea – one cup a day supplies your body with antioxidants – the chemicals that help you live longer. Green Tea is even better.
  • Laugh – sometimes it’s hard, especially if you suffer from depression, but laughing is one of the best things you can do for your health. It generates endorphins, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), increases blood flow, helps reduce damage to your brain from stress, improves medical recovery time and decreases anxiety. If you can’t laugh, find a comedy show you like, find a friend who makes you laugh. Force yourself to laugh if you have to.

Okay, some of these are obvious, and it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list.

But sometimes the little things in life can make the biggest difference.

 

I am not a doctor (although a lady once mistook me for a gynaecologist). If you have an existing medical condition or are obese, speak to your doctor first before attempting new exercise or diet routines.

13th Age – Storytelling and innovation set this Fantasy RPG apart from other D&D-derivatives

13th Age is a fun and interesting fantasy role playing game (RPG). It’s meat and potatoes RPG elements are very much in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons, but it differentiates with a number of innovative mechanics, some of which are transferrable to other D20 systems. 13th Age is a game created on the back of the Open Game License, or OGL* for short.

The designers of 13th Age, Rob Heinsoo and Jonathon Tweet, are veterans of the RPG industry, having worked on previous incarnations of the D&D game. In 13th Age they have taken the best elements of their D&D design experiences, and added a focus on role playing and storytelling, with individual character backgrounds and relationships helping to drive the plot.

13th Age is set in the Dragon Empire, during that world’s tumultuous 13th Age. Players take on traditional D&D-style character roles (e.g. Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, etc.), create a ‘unique thing’ (which can be any type of story element the player wishes), and chooses one of thirteen ‘Icons’ to have a positive or negative relationship with.

The icons are extremely powerful entities which can influence the characters and their adventures. They include such figures as the Archmage, Dwarf King, Emperor, Lich King, Great Gold Wyrm and Prince of Shadows. At the start of each adventure the players roll their icon relationship dice to see what part (if any) their icon will play in the game.

There is an emphasis on character backstories shaping character skills. Adventures tend to be more character-centric than traditional D20 games, and are more flexible as a result – Game Masters (GMs) will need to do more thinking on their feet. It suits ‘sand box’-style play (where players make the choices as to where they go and what they do). For this reason, the system is oriented to more experienced referees.

Characters are customised via class and background feats. I like that starting characters have three times as many hit points as in regular D20 games. I’m not a fan of dying in my first adventure, and having more hit points allows players to focus on the epic nature of combat.

There are 10 levels for characters to advance, and within those levels are three tiers – Adventurer, Champion and Epic. The tiers aid GMs in balancing encounters – a lot of balancing has gone into this game to ensure fairness and to enable GMs to generate adventures and monsters quickly.

Hit Points and damage modifiers accrue exponentially as each character levels up – they get powerful quickly. This helps to further establish the player-centric nature of the game.

Spells are handled well – instead of hundreds of spells as in most D20 systems, there are a core of spells for each spell-using class, with effects that vary/accrue based on level or tier. I don’t like massive spell lists, they tend to be unnecessarily repetitious and slow down the game as players look up their effects. It’s one of my major criticisms of D&D’s spell system. The system in 13th Age is manageable and has enough variation to keep things interesting.

Combat is similar to other D20 games, with initiative, D20 to hit, Hit Points, Armour Class, specific combat actions, etc. A standout innovation is the Escalation Die, a 1D6 that increases players chances to hit from the second round onwards. The die reflects the characters building up momentum and strategy as the battle progresses, thus making it easier for them to hit their opponents. The bonus goes from +1 in the second round to +6 by the seventh round, but can reduce if the players actively avoid combat. The physical die is a handy reminder of the bonus.

Characters recover hit points via quick rests or Full Heal Ups. Combat is fast and furious, but with enough crunch to keep grognards happy.

Rather than keeping track of multiple monster abilities during combat, certain attacks are activated based on the monster’s D20 to hit roll. Another great innovation that saves the GM time and keeps battles moving, and possibly my favourite aspect of the game (being a long-term GM who dislikes having to remember cumbersome monster abilities).

I like that Heinsoo and Tweet provide intimate little asides about how they play and referee the game. I also like the fact that the rule book is printed on heavy stock paper and is perfect bound (no chance of this rule book falling apart with use, unlike some other games. Yes, Wizards of the Coast, I’m referring to your D&D books).

The artwork in 13th Age is stylish, and the artists Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell received cover credit along with the authors. It’s not the breathtakingly evocative work found in Symbaroum, my current yardstick for fantasy RPG art, but it’s still good.

13th Age is a fun game for both GMs and players. It focuses on player stories and spectacular, fast-moving battles. If you like D20 systems but want something that emphasises player stories and fast, innovative gameplay, this could be the game for you.

 

13th Age is published by Pelgrane Press, and is available via their website.

 

* The OGL was introduced by Wizards of the Coast, owners of the D&D game, to promote usage and enable creators and contributors to create content (and other versions of the game) without the need to worry about copyright infringement. The official OGL statement must be included in every derivative product.

Alone. A poem.

An ocean world of islands
Tarred in starless night
Crowded on the waves
Like vessels passing by

Around each lonely island
Dark waters, deep and cold
Vast, forbidding depths
And dangerous undertow

Closely float the islands
And each one has a goal
To reach out, touch another
Two to make one whole

On this ocean world of islands
I have made my island home
Just one more lonely island
In a sea of lonely island homes

 

One of those days. Unfortunately, the internet is not a cure for loneliness.

The Lie. A poem.

(They lived the lie)
Squeezing through gaps in walls grown around themselves
Too high to climb, so much easier in between, in stealth

(Shifting patterns of discourse)
Clockwork fundamentals and wanton thought distractions
A world built upon duplicitous arguments and actions

(The audience and the empty tale)
Franchised so eagerly, outrageously, multifaceted and bold
Some level of acceptance won, for untruths bought and sold

(The error of their ways)
The wolf cried boy cried wolf, in judgements purveyed
Friends thought won now bled, long-term crisis of faith

They lived the lie that left them broken
And, as with all broken things, tossed aside and rotten
They became, in time
Lost
Forgotten

This has been a big week for me. I’ve written a number of poems (some I like, some I don’t) that have been well received. Thank you to everyone who has read, liked and commented.

Next week I start two new uni subjects. I hope to write more poetry in the future. Time will tell.

Today. A poem.

Today, you fell down
You didn’t mean to, didn’t want to
Into an abyss profound

Pulled down in pain
All hope sucked away, a whirlpool
Clockwise down the drain

Reality Check, 1, 2:

Flames lick the ceiling of the car
This is not how it read on the net, CO poisoning
Is the most peaceful way to go, by far

You parked your vehicle
In a ditch behind the freeway, coals and firelighters
And a hasty charcoal grill

A raging chemical pyre
Belching smoke, you hack and cough
Choice: choke or door (kill the lie)

Door it is, decision made
You have to laugh, despite the tears
What a pointless, shitty break

Consequences so profound
For your son, family, friends
But them, you didn’t think about

‘Life sentences for all
If you succeeded,’ said the psych
How could you have the gall?

No matter how low you fall
No matter how deep the chasm
No matter how big the wall
No matter how lonely you get
No matter how many you hurt
No matter how much you can’t forget

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

 

This poem is a true story.

If you’re feeling, or thinking, this way – choose life.

Every time.

Symbaroum – a tabletop fantasy RPG that reeks of deep darkness, blighted evil and drawn out death. Fun!

(“You and your crazy role playing games,” says Alpha Girl surveying the books, sheets and dice on the kitchen table. “You’ve even got Beta Max involved.”

“It’s all good fun,” says Beta Max, rolling a handful of dice and cheering at the result. “Another dead goblin, thank you very much.” He sits back, hands behind his head, looking smug. “Any time soon, those magical math powers will kick in.* ”

“You know, you could play if you want,” I say.

“Would I be able to kill you?” says Alpha Girl.

“I guess so-”

“I’m in. Tell me what I have to do.”)

 

I like role playing games (RPGs). I can’t help it. There’s something about giving up mundane reality to become a fearless knight fighting evil monsters in fantastic and mysterious lands. Yeah, it’s nerdy, but that’s okay. It helps to relax my overwrought brain. It also enables me to exercise my imagination – ideal for any would-be writer. (What’s an RPG? You can find out more here.)

A while back I bought a tabletop RPG called Symbaroum. It’s a dark-edged fantasy set in a kingdom on the edge of Davokar, a massive forest consumed with corruption, wherein lies ruins of the ancient kingdom of Symbaroum. Adventurers based in border towns like Thistle Hold, venture warily into the dark forest to loot the ancient ruins, battle elves, trolls and blight beasts. This often ends in madness and hideous death. Yeah! Sounds like good times all round.

Symbaroum is the brainchild of Mattias Johnson and Mattias Lilja, of the Swedish games company Jarnringen. Symbaroum is big in Sweden, and is slowly breaking ground around the rest of the world. Modiphius Games distribute the English-translation of the game.

The game uses some interesting RPG mechanics, a few of which I’ve listed below:

  • Whilst there are archetypes to create base characters (Warrior, Mystic, Rogue, each with multiple occupations), and five races, players can elect to build their characters from scratch, selecting abilities (skills) they believe relevant, up to the limit of the build.
  • The eight attribute values that underscore each character range between 5 and 15. To succeed at an action, the player rolls a D20, with success below the tested attribute value. Traits, abilities, weapons and conditions provide positive or negative modifiers. Tests compare one of your character’s attributes against another character’s/monster’s attributes.
  • Players roll all the dice in the game. This includes defending against attacks. The Games Master (GM) never rolls at all.
  • Magic and artifacts can cause corruption in characters, turning them into blight-stricken abominations, if they’re not careful.
  • Battles are hard. More often than not, players may run from conflict. That doesn’t mean they don’t fight at all, but battles can be deadly.

An adventure, The Promised Land, is included in the rule book to introduce players to the systems used.

The campaign background is very detailed, focussing on the country of Ambria and the nearby Forest of Davokar – a small section of the overall game world. The location and background establishes the flavour of the setting – it’s very dark, dank and mysterious, full of horror, manipulative factions, layered history and deep secrets.

The art in this game is by Martin Bergstrom, and it is phenomenal (see the image above for a teaser). Never before have I seen such evocative, haunting and awe-inspiring artwork in an RPG. It really helps to set the scene and emphasise the dark nature of the game.

There are a number of supplements that have been released, with the latest being Thistle Hold: Wrath of the Warden, the first in a grand campaign called Throne of Thorns.

Symbaroum is a great role playing game. It’s well worth your attention. Even if you’ve never played a role playing game before.

 

(“Hah!” cries Alpha Girl. “I killed you! You’re dead! DEAD!” She’s dancing in her seat.

Beta Max and I look at each other bemusedly. Beta Max whispers in my ear: “I think she’s getting into this game a little too much.”)

 

* Disclaimer: I never said playing RPGs would give you ‘magical math powers’. For more on that, click here.

 

You can order Symbaroum online from the Modiphius Games website at http://www.modiphius.com

Thistle Hold: Wrath of the Warden is available in print/PDF from Modiphius, or PDF from DriveThruRPG at  http://www.drivethrurpg.com

To find out more about Jarnringen, visit their site at http://www.jarnringen.com (in Swedish, Google will translate the page for you)

Womb. A poem.

I sit and watch
(I watch and stand)
Here in my
Womb (away from womb)

Where I am safe
(And sound)
Away from the anxiety
Of a thousand eyes (empty)

Black dog (by my side)
Guards me (warily)
‘You won’t get away’
He growls (with a smile)

My bed (wood and cotton, both lounge and bunk, sit and sleep, sleep and sit)
My weights (heavy metal bars and plates, engaging muscle, stamina and pain)
Guitars (mahogany, maple, rosewood, steel, tremolo and vibrato, liquid notes)
My books (precious sanity, shelves of glorious imagination untamed, unleashed)
Bible (faith, hope, love, commitment, wonder, toil, sanctification)
Laptop (lifeblood, link to the world wide network of lost, hungry, lonely souls,
fed on a steady voltage diet of creation, allusion, and self deprecation)

Here I sleep soundly
(Yet fitfully)
Waking up far too early
(And yet far too late)

Writing
And building dreams
(Within dreams)
Of immaterial reality

Here I live and breathe
(Dying inside)
Here in my
Womb (away from womb)

 

Another poem. So much for me saying I don’t write poetry. It’s almost all I’ve done this week. I think I’ve got a bit of a knack for it.

 

Like poetry? I’m starting to more and more. Here’s a link to some more samples of mine – https://stevestillstanding.com/category/poetry/.

Online Dating Fail – Strike 3!

(I walk in the door, despondent after my latest online date.

“So, what was she like?” says Beta Max, reclining on the lounge with Xbox controller in one hand and beer can in the other.

“She looked like my ex-wife,” I say. “And was just as opinionated.”

He purses his lips. “Ooh, not good.”

“No. I’m a bit over it, actually.” I plonk on the lounge next to him, watch Beta Max despatch a few enemy soldiers in the latest Call of Duty game. Engrossed in the on-screen carnage, fingers and thumbs tapping away on the controller buttons, he doesn’t take his eyes off the TV screen. “What is it I always say?”

We speak simultaneously: “Plenty more fish in the sea.”

Alpha Girl enters at that moment. “Blew it again, did you?” she says.

I look back, resignedly, at her. “No, not this time.”

“Well, you know what Beta Max says…”

“Don’t say it-”

Beta Max and Alpha Girl in tandem this time, a huge and devious smile on Beta Max’s face: “Plenty more fish in the sea.”)

 

My second face-to-face date (and third woman I’ve spoken to*). Not so bad. Had a nice meal. Company was okay. Looking like my ex-wife was not a positive point.

Why is it that people don’t look like the photos they put online? Is it because they use old photos, when they were better looking, thinner, had different hair, before they got old and before they got the skin grafts? Yes, my photos are a few years old, but I still look basically the same (except for a few more grey hairs in my goatee and my hairline receding slightly…okay, maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about anyone else).

It is a bit unfair though. I know we shouldn’t judge people based on their looks alone, but isn’t that what first impressions are all about? If the datee puts a misleading photo (or photos) on their online dating profile, aren’t they enticing the unwary would-be dater into a trap, of sorts? The meeting is going to be a surprise, if the dater recognises them at all. Maybe they’re hoping their sterling conversational skills will save the day. After all, looks aren’t everything, right?

Maybe I’m complaining for the sake of complaining. I’m disillusioned and I’ve only met three women so far. I’m sure there will be more. Hopefully not as misleading as the first few.

Back to the coal face. Once more unto the breach. Plenty more fish in the sea (Ugh!).

 

(“Maybe you should hang out at the supermarket,” says Alpha Girl.

“You think I’ll be more successful at meeting women there?” I say.

“No, but I’d see a lot less of you.”)

 

*To find out how that one went, click here. To find out how the second one went, click here. To avoid my whinging altogether, click here for some poetry.      

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