Category Archives: randomisms

Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

Clah came into being during a writing exercise a while back, and I had a ton of fun writing about her. A few folks I know enjoyed Clah’s brief flash fiction introduction. They wanted to see more of her adventures. Who am I to argue? When I started writing 15 minutes a day, a new Clah story was one of the first things on my list.

Personally, I think it would be best to read Clah and the Ship before this new installment, but it isn’t necessary. Both stories stand alone.

Clah Versus the Volcano tries to keep the same dark whimsy feel as the original. Same content warning as last time: maybe read the story first before sharing it with smaller children.

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Clah Versus the Volcano: a Marshmallow Roast

by William Munn

Slow and rhythmic, the swaying midnight black tail lulled Clah as she slurped blood from the dead snake’s neck. At the edge of her vision, she could see the tail’s circular stripes encircling the viper’s body in a pale red that matched the lifeless reptilian head lying on the nearby loam. Reptiles were far from Clah’s favorite breakfast, not warm enough for her tastes, and yet one ate what one could catch and kill. Since the recent eruption of her island’s central mountain, and the feast of fleeing animals driven before it, she was having a harder time finding anything furry to eat. Creatures with some fuzz on them were her favorite, you see. Not because they tasted the best, but because it always amused her the way they tickled around the edges of her mouth while she ate.

Clah finished draining the remainder of the snake’s life, and she spat its neck out onto the floor of the forest with some distaste. It landed near the severed head, a sharp contrast to the mossy ground, in a loose pile of noodly limpness. Once, Clah had hidden behind a moss-grown mound as she watched similar viper strike. Its prey was a small fuzzy beast with cute little pink ears and large brown eyes. Those brown eyes stopped darting about as the snake’s venom took hold, paralyzing the fear in them. The struggle ended with the reptile opening its mouth wide and swallowing the creature whole. It was an unpleasant sight indeed, and one Clah never wished to see again. What kind of monster eats their meal whole? she thought.

Where do the bones go?

A shudder started in Clah’s shoulders and extended down to her toes. She bounded away from the deceased serpent to a nearby spot where rare sunlight gleamed through to the forest floor. The beams of shining light reprimanded the mist that still clung nervously to the bases of trees and undergrowth. Delicate and deadly, Clah curled up in a neat ball in the midst of those beams and fell quickly to sleep. Her dreams were soon filled with thoughts of sailors and other delicious morsels.

Visions so delightful weren’t meant to last, and soon Clah awakened to an uncouth and near-deafening rumble. A sound of this nature could mean only one thing, and as she came fully awake, she noticed the ground shaking. Clah uncurled from her comfortable position and looked up in the direction of the single blackened peak at the center of her homeland. Gigantic billows of smoke and ash rushed forth from the open maw at the mountain’s summit, and dully glowing rocks were arching through the sky away from the opening in a firestorm of sizzling death. Wave upon wave of glowing red fire rock poured out of the top of the mountain and down its side toward the forest below. Clah wondered somewhat idly what would make the land behave in this way. She watched in awe for a moment, until the molten wave of devastation crashed over and through the first row of trees and began coursing through the woods in a fiery wave. Another explosion rocked the island, and the ground quaked anew as one side of the mountain simply gave way. A full quarter of the mountain avalanched down to the now burning trees below, followed by another gush of glowing lava. The ground bucked so hard she could barely retain her footing.

It was at this point, Clah considered the fact she may be in real danger. If even the very earth would not maintain its shape in the face of such destruction, perhaps her home in the craggy cliff by the sea was at risk. She turned and leaped away toward the crag. There was one item in her home she must rescue which might also rescue her. She scrambled— jumping over fallen trees, mossy hillocks, and the rushing stream that ran through this part of the forest. The ground shook with another explosion, and Clah dared not look back for fear of risking her footing while dashing through the woods at top speed. A bird took flight from a tree in front of her, fleeing the same general direction as Clah. It was one of the white plumed flyers with a hooked beak. She had always wanted to taste one, but never could because they were too crafty to be caught. No time for such thought, she kept to her route as the flyer veered away, and Clah bounded to the edge of her cliff and scrabbled down it.

Clah stole one glance back at the burning catastrophe and noted that more than half the forest was now buried or in flames. She darted inside the cliff-face gap with the agility of one hyper-familiar with their surroundings. Touch was the only sense she needed, and it was well because the sky was darkening as the growing cloud of ash moved to cover the sun. The crag was in shadow on a sunny day, and now its interior was near complete darkness. Clah made her way to the back of her home and found the thing she was looking for. The small log raft onetime shipwrecked sailor had built at the edge of the forest on a beach near the mountain tree line was right where she left it.

Clah had been fascinated in the sailor’s progress as he worked to craft the vessel, and kindly waited to eat him until he finished his creation and was pushing it into the waves. She played on the boat in the surf of the beach that day, but only after enjoying her meal atop it, and giving the sailor an impromptu burial at sea by nudging him overboard. Being the curious creature she was, Clah wondered at how the raft could stay afloat with her riding its ridged back in the shallow waves of the incoming tide. Perhaps it was sinking, but very slowly, she thought. In the end, she had dragged the log construct to the crag, and now occasionally brought the raft out to play with it in the safer cove just north of her rocky one.

Today she pulled the vessel back to the cove quickly. Only as needed did she stop to hoist it over her head so not to damage it on the jagged lava rock jutting up from the black sand of her beach. She peered nervously at the mountain, and it shuddered and rumbled deeply again as if admonishing her, and another gout of fiery liquid rock flowed over its edge and sped across the already darkening layer beneath. Some already reached the edge of the forest at the north cliff of the cove. It was spilling over the brink and pushing out across the sand.

Clah rushed to the spot she intended to launch from, she pushed the raft into the surf and climbed atop it, paddling at the water with two legs to gain more distance. Moments later, ocean water hissed and steamed as lava pushed out into it, blackening on contact and releasing a stench like eggs left too long without a mother to tend them. As the tide took her out to sea, Clah watched her only home shrink in the distance and wondered where the ocean would guide her tiny craft.

What I’m Excited About: Coal Belly

Hey folks, time to take a break from writing and discussing RPG games (and how I like them as creative tools for writers).

Now I’m going to talk about reading.

I try to broaden my reading horizons from time to time. Try is the operative word. When I had an opportunity to read some books indie-published by an author in my writing group that was firmly outside my usual reading coterie, I welcomed the opportunity with perhaps some minor trepidation.

K.M. Alexander’s weird fiction series, The Bell Forging Cycle, has three books so far. I didn’t relish telling a growing friend who gave great writing advice his style of writing wasn’t for me. What if I couldn’t bring myself to read book two (Old Broken Road)? Also, I’ll admit I wasn’t very excited about reading something “self-published”.  All I knew about self-pubs at the time was the worst FUD distributed by two types of sources. Traditional publishers and reviewers with obvious skin in the game continue to rail against self-pubs even today. Also, multiple people I know have read and reacted poorly to something written and published by a person (often their neighbor or family member) who clearly had no understanding of what is actually involved in the publishing process or frequently even the writing process.

It turns out, there was absolutely no cause for concern. I finished The Stars Were Right rarely putting it down over a single weekend. I’ve since read the rest of The Bell Forging Cycle, and I can’t imagine a sci-fi/fantasy fan who wouldn’t enjoy following along with Waldo Bell’s trials and triumphs in the strange yet familiar multi-tiered city of Lovat. It’s such a rich and intriguing world. I could imagine myself visiting Lovat, and I sure wish I could.

The Point–

K.M. has just finished a zero-draft version of Coal Belly, and I’ll be gnashing my teeth and wailing until I can get my hands on it. Coal Belly isn’t a new installment in The Bell Forging Cycle, it’s a new novel with a whole world of fascinating characters, stories, and ideas behind it.

Mr. Alexander can surely explain it better than I:

–REBLOGGED–

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow. Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written […]

via So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta — I Make Stories

A New TinyD6 Game… Sort-Of

Updated 9/15/2017

In a way, this is even better than a new TinyD6 game.

I’ve written about TinyD6 tabletop RPG games on several occasions. Now the grandparent of them all, Tiny Dungeon, gets an update. The new 2nd edition includes tons of expanded rules for characters and GM tools. Also, MICROSETTINGS! Have I raved enough about MICROSETTINGS? I can never tell. A microsetting is a six-page primer with all the setup of a world complete with adventure hooks. They give GMs a great place to start without having to be too prescriptive or taking forever to grok.

Alan Bahr and team have done a fantastic job updating the original Tiny Dungeon (by Smoking Salamander Games) to the standard of Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters.

If you held off trying the original, or you loved it like so many of us, do yourself a favor and check out Tiny Dungeon 2e! The stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers fun out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

The Kickstarter funded in no time and the stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers find out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

Tiny Dungeon 2e Kickstarter

You can see Alan’s original blog post about the kickoff below.

Our newest TinyD6 game is live on Kickstarter! Tiny Dungeon 2e! Please, go check it out! I can only do this job I love because of support of others and their generosity in purchasing my products!

via Tiny Dungeon 2e Live on Kickstarter! — The Last Paladin

Tiny Dungeon 2e - Minimalist fantasy roleplaying is back! -- Kicktraq Mini

RPG Review – Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s the deal folks. I’m not an RPG reviewer. I can’t pretend I’ve read all the books currently on the market, or even all the books I actually own. I love Tiny D6 games (Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Frontiers) as some of the best minimalist RPGs I’ve personally played, so I’m going to write an RPG review… even if it isn’t completely unbiased.

If you’re looking for my previous write-ups on Tiny D6 games, I can oblige. Just click the image below

tinyFrontiers print-and-play-rules-300x300

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters on a fairly regular basis. I’ll do my best to remain unbiased, but keep this in mind.

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters by Alan Bahr .

9738a6384414f24513e3ec26f24dbd7d_original

It’s a minimalist STAND ALONE (that’s right, you don’t need the original Tiny Frontiers to play) sci-fi RPG about giant robots and hyper-destructive kaiju, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 164 pages in with gorgeous full-color illustrations and layout. There are sidebar callout, sensible tables, and has an overall clean look. It’s well organized and easy to read. The paper quality and binding are great. In short, the producers learned lessons from their previous projects. This book it top notch quality.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $10 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain. It’s also available in hardcover print on demand for $30.

10/10


2.) Art

The art in Mecha & Monsters is far above average for an RPG. I’ve seen Ennie winners with worse art. There’s plenty of it, and it’s very evocative of the setting. I guess there could have been a little more? This is picking some serious nits.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

For me, there are two areas where Tiny games really excel. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The Tiny D6 ruleset has been adapted for Mecha and Monsters with great effect. The game is still minimal and simple, getting out of your way so you can tell great stories together. Win.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

In Mecha & Monsters, the GM section is a bit expanded over previous Tiny games. It has some nice guidelines for devastation, plenty of tables for random generation, and some guidelines for how to keep games about this particular brand of game fun.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, RPG luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Robert Denton, Marie Brennan, and Elizabeth Chaipradikul to name a few.

I can’t say enough about how easy and fun it is to read a 3-5 page micro setting, take one of its adventure hooks, and run with a fun session. All this in mere minutes.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

The highest score I’ve ever given. Not that I’ve given many.

I’d purchase this game again.

POSTSCRIPT: Alan Bahr runs a tight KS ship, and he is running an amazing Kickstarter right now for Nocturnal Media. It isn’t sci-fi or minimalist but is it one of my all-time-favorite rulesets (King Arthur Pendragon– it’s possible KAP 5.2 will be my next RPG review), and the game is absolutely gorgeous. Also, a huge chunk of the proceeds goes to the widow and family of Stewart Wieck. Paladin was a labor of love for Stewart. Check out the Kickstarter. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nocturnalmedia/paladin-warriors-of-charlemagne
b15bb54accdf9b70a6f532efcf3a1fd4_original

I’ll keep this short.

15MinuteClock120511300x300

K. M. Alexander posted a quote that struck a chord. For over a month now, my entire writing existence has centered around the idea he recently espoused here.

It works. I sit at the computer, and I say, “For the next 15 minutes there is nothing but writing.” Then I set a timer, and I go. Sometimes I get 350 words of total crap. Other times I can barely force 190 words, and none of them seem great. Other times, I feel like it’s all coming together. I feel like I’m writing something I would enjoy reading.

The other times are starting to outnumber the rest. It’s a good feeling.

Now back to work.

Kurt Vonnegut on Sci-fi

“I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal”

Kurt Vonnegut 

I believe fascinating concepts can be more thoroughly explored through the lens of the  possible future. Some circles are catching on. Some are not. 

Does it mean I’d never consider writing literary fic? No. It does mean I think limiting all stories to “our world” present or past would be ridiculous and boring. 

Genre labels are a bit silly. I’m with Kurt on this one. Don’t put any writing in a box/drawer/container by genre in order to better piss on it. Verify each recommended work on its own merits.

RPG Review: Tiny Frontiers

WILL RAMBLES

I’m not really in the business of reviewing role-playing games. Granted, I’ve been playing them off and on for 28 or so years. My generation lived in the time when this sort of make believe was frowned on. A time when the most parentally appropriate handling of RPGs was to sell them, throw them out, or burn them.

At any rate, now I play RPGs with my kids. Take that, irony! It’s a nice way to bond, have a good time, and do something intellectually stimulating. I also find it helps exercise the creative muscle in my brain that I use for writing. Playing sci-fi RPGs helps me think through scenarios in The Galaxy and All Her Charms.

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers on a fairly regular basis. I might not me the most unbiased person to write a review of Tiny Frontiers, but I’m going to do my best.

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers by Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.

tinyFrontiers

It’s a minimalist sci-fi RPG system, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 136 pages in with black-and-white illustrations and layout. The sidebars contain call-outs. It’s well organized and easy to read. My only complaint is the binding on the standard Kickstarter edition. It’s not the best and I think eventually it will fail. However, if you can get your hands on a Deluxe hardbound edition (good luck) it’s binding is perfection and has a handy bookmark ribbon to boot.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $5 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain.

8/10


2.) Art

The art is quite decent for a first Kickstarter. It evokes the sci-fi setting effectively and there is quite a bit of it spread throughout the book. It feels very thematic to the game and true to the original fantasy setting, Tiny Dungeon.

6/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

For me, there are two areas where Tiny Frontiers really shines. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The statistical curves are good and the simplicity lends itself to easy understanding for new players and kids. Take those original rules and add brilliant adaptations for alien species, cybernetics, space ships, and mecha. Now you have yourself a sci-fi bonanza!

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

For a minimalist RPG, the GM section is pretty short and sweet. Some decent guidance and nifty tables for random generation of everything from planets to enemies.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There isn’t exactly a pre-made adventure in Tiny Frontiers. Instead, Gallant Knight Games gives us something I really love: MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, rpg luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Ryan Schoon, Marie Brennan, and Dan Wells to name a few.

Micro settings are an amazing way to wrap your head around a quick idea for a universe of gameplay and include several adventure hooks to get the story jumpstarted.

I love them.

10/10


Total Score: 40/50

So, I’ve never done this, but I think 40 is a pretty dang good score.

I’d purchase this game again. In fact, I’m backing a follow-up Kickstarter right now: Tiny Frontiers – Mecha & Monsters! The new game stands alone, but can be used in conjunction with the original. It also has full-color art! This is a great chance to get one of those deluxe copies, and Alan has told me he’s going with a better binding on the standard version as well.

You can read my review of the completed Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters here.

I’ll tease you with the cover art:

tf_mecha