D&D Challenge Day 4: Favorite Game World

Dark Sun. First box set. Dark Sun is a magic blasted wasteland. Harsh desert environments. Wizards drawing power from plants, and destroying if they pull too much too fast. Immortal sorcerer kings ruling the seven city-states. One dragon, great and powerful. Secretly, all the sorcerer kings are trying to become dragons themselves. Psionics for everyone... um, I guess that kinda works.

I fell in love from the start. Loved the setting. Loved Brom's art. Loved the changes to the races, and the addition of half-dwarves, half-giants, and thri-kreen (mantis people). My first long running campaign was Dark Sun, and my second, and some of my greatest memories. I'm not running a game there right now because I was introducing a bunch of new players to D&D, so I thought a more traditional setting would be easier to take in.

I have a fondness for a lot of other settings. I like Birthright for the ruling aspect and bloodlines having powers. Spelljammer for D&D in spaaaaaaaaace. Eberron for pulpy settings and adventures. But Dark Sun has my heart.

D&D Challenge Day 3: Favorite PC Class

Again, a toss-up on favorite class. I'm very fond of rangers, although that's dating back to the AD&D version, with each edition liked a little less (although a rebound with 4E, where I made one who took all powers as minor actions and interupts, because the standard action was dedicated to twin strike).

However, I think rangers lose out to fighters and paladins. I like the image of heavy armor and a big sword. Most CRPGs, my first character is in the heavy armor/heavy weapon variety. In D&D, I try for high damage, but also durability. I loved that 4E took these classes and made them very useful, and actually gave them tools to protect the rest of the party. My first 4E character was a fighter. My one trip to GenCon, Paizo was showing off the first Pathfinder iconics, and I went right to Valeros,the fighter (dual wield, which is also one of my things, although I typically like it more in theory than execution. In the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Valeros was again my first pick for a character. So, I guess fighters actually wins out, though I do like to go the paladin/cavalier route for a knight in not-so-shiny armor character (my current D&D character fits here.)

D&D Challenge Day 2: Favorite PC race

This is a tough one for me. Sure, I've always liked elves (and I thought drow were cool before Drizzt was a thing). With 4th edition, I took a shine to dragonborn and tieflings, for different reasons (and my first two characters under that system were of those races). I also dig warforged, once my initial feelings on Eberron (robots in D&D? wtf?) were replaced with a deeper understanding of the world (robots in D&D!)

But, I've got to settle on humans. Maybe my vision of heroic figures works better with a human in that role. Maybe I like that extra feat that lets me fill out a character concept sooner. Maybe I have a fear that this campaign will reach name level and if I'm a demi-human I'll stop advancing. Maybe it's just they get some really great art and minis. Whatever the case, I'm usually there in the party representing the humans.

Day 1: D&D Challenge

Day 1: How I got started

I'm a second generation gamer. My dad was playing AD&D in the Air Force. Around the age of 6 or 7, I started reading the rule books and Dragon magazine. This was one of the greatest things ever and I wanted to play. My first purchase was the module Against the Cult of the Reptile God at a flea market. I recall trying to run it for my younger brother, using Lego figures as miniatures.

A lot of my early experience was with SSI's Gold Box Games- Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds. Many games that died very early deaths with my brothers and friends, some gathered from our Boy Scout troop. I did manage to run some long running games with small groups. Finally, I found a solid group- one of the guys I'm still gaming with over 20 years later.

Jane Monologues 20

Jane 20
I’m recording this for you. You’re out and I need to talk. You can delete it later. Or listen.

I was listening- the radio. Our song came on. I don’t think I’d heard it on the radio before, we just stumbled on it. And it was right. That chorus… “I wanna save you… I need you save me too.” And that was us. And it worked. More or less, depending.

I’m lying again. I didn’t hear it on the radio. I found it. I needed to hear it. I needed those four minutes to feel like us again. And then I listened to our other Our Song. And then our other other Our Song. “I know that I’m not the first one…”

Wait. You might not recognize that one. That was Our Song before we were an us. Um. I use music to track my relationships. To define. To remember. And it was right.

It’s not silly to think there’s a song for every person I’ve known. There are only seven stories in the world, just told in different ways. So why can’t there be a song that explains how I relate to someone else? Our Songs, there’s truth there, they explain us. Mostly. The lines were right until we made them untrue. And by “we”, I think you.

I hate you sometimes. Promises were made. In those songs, promises were made. Promises were… I made promises. Promises I expected you to keep. Promises I expected you to know. Is that unfair? I warned you at the start. You should have known. You should have-

No. No. Promises were made. But the promises were ones I made, to myself. Promises I’m afraid to keep. It’s easier to blame you, or him, or my mother, or anyone. But that doesn’t get me anywhere, does it? I wanted you to love me, to fix me. But that’s because I want to love again. I want to be better… most of the time.

I don’t want to be me. This. This way. I don’t want… I want to get away from myself. But I can’t. I tried and one of the promises is that I won’t again. I’ve been keeping that one for… twenty years? Has it been that long?

But I haven’t been keeping the others. The ones to future Jane that she wouldn’t have to keep living with past Jane’s everything.  Tomorrow, I tell myself. Or the next boy. The one that will be right. But it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t you. It’s me. That’s where I have to start and go.

You would not believe how much I want to delete this. But I promised I’d see it through, even if these aren’t the words I chose. I need you to see this, hear this. Because I can’t pretend it’s in my head when someone else knows.

Please call me. I won’t answer though. Because I’m not your problem.

I need to save me too.

Jane Monologues 19

Hey, it's me. Not too late, right? I'm sorry, I should think before I call. Well, I do think and then I call, I'm just not thinking about the time.

It's selfish, but let's face it- you're one of my oldest friends. I mean that literally. I shed connections like a snake and its skin. We grow apart, physically or emotionally. They change, or I change, or maybe we just stop pretending. Why should we be bound just because our parents bought houses near each other, or because we went to the same school? The ones that I chose to keep, and the ones that kept me, those are the ones that matter.

So I count on you to be there when I need you. You can sleep when I'm dead.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about my boyfriend. Ex. We were dating... oh, just a week. And now that it's over- don't laugh! Yes, it was short, but it mattered. Every relationship, no matter how short, has left its own mark. Physically, a few times. Not this one, he's not that type. But there was something there. He laughed at my jokes, laughed harder when I protested that they weren't. He made me smile. I could see being with him. Being happy. Growing old.

There was something else. I'm trying to put my finger on it. I wasn't scared, not this time. I didn't need to be scared, I didn't need to wear a mask, I didn't need to hide. It was different. Starting to understand, right? This wasn't usual Jane-behavior. But not an act. It was me the whole time.

Then he was gone. Did he see the hunger? The desperation? Did he think I needed to devour him so that I could be whole? I didn't, by the way. Need to, or think I needed to. He and I, that would be enough.

Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's him. No, I'm serious. I fall in love with damaged people. Sometimes I think I can fix them. Sometimes it's like calling to like. Sometimes, I just don't see it, think that it's in the past, and then it shows up. Maybe a week was all that he could keep it down, then it erupted and he was gone.

What do I do about that? Kick him while he's down? Write “Fuck you for being broken” in flaming letters on his lawn? That's ridiculous- have you seen gas prices lately?

It's not like I'm looking for much. Someone to go out with, and come home to. Someone to laugh at my jokes, and to stop laughing when I say I wasn't joking. Someone to cuddle with. Maybe flowers once in a while. Dinner out, or dinner in. Someone who will give me the only fortune cookie, even if I'm just going to toss the shell and hide the fortune. Someone who is there when I wake from a nightmare, and can reassure me I'm not still dreaming. Someone who will lift me up, who will support me without carrying me. A good heart. A good face. A smile that warms me, eyes that don't deceive me. Strong, and fast, able to leap tall buildings...

Maybe I do want a lot. But I'll accept less. Not settle for, but just know, he's the one, even if he doesn't fit in all the boxes. I'll know. Right?

Jane Monologues 18

Jane 18

Needless to say, Valentine's Day always gave me fits as a kid. Give out 25 cards stating “Be Mine”, and you knew that maybe only one counted and the rest open for interpretation. And of course 25 cards were given back and you could spend the day deciphering the meaning. Did Bobby really think I was sweet? Did Sarah really want to kiss me? Did Meghan... well, the skull & crossbones drawn over the heart was pretty clear. When everyone loves you for a day, you realize how alone you are.

I thought it would be less awkward as I got older. Fewer cards, but they meant more. Or might mean more. No teacher was insisting you bring enough for everyone, so who gave and who got mattered. But you had to be careful. You had to be sure. Few things stand out worse in my teenage mind than that fear of giving a card and getting nothing in return. One mistake and you could look forward to weeks of heckling.

Noticing a theme here? Maybe I'm just not very good with holidays. Or people. Which is the one with emotions? The one without is me.

I practiced a lot as a kid. That smile might be sass. A frown leads to “I'll give you something to cry about.” Either was probably going to lead to a smack. Not that a perfectly straight face was proof against a beating. But it did mean I cared less. I kept it up at school, shut them out, shut down. Each name, each hit, each shove, each barb, stung a little less. Each touch. I built up my armor, deadened my nerves.

Not invulnerable. There were people who could get through, and I lashed out with anger. Who the fuck did they think they were, making me feel?

The smiles, I saved for him. And when he didn't deserve those smiles, I had no one else, and I couldn't remember how to cry. Dead. Numb. I stopped feeling. I patched up the holes, and hid myself. I wasn't going to let anyone else in.

Is that what happened to you, to us? Did I seem too distant? Too cold? I tried. I did. More than I had with anyone else. I wanted to open up, I wanted you to see the real me. You made me want to feel! You gave your reasons for leaving, they made sense. But I wouldn't be Jane without my fears. Without that nagging voice wondering, was it too slow? You can't expect winter to bring summer, you've got to give it time for a thaw. Why couldn't you wait? Or did it happen, did you see me and see in me, and want to run away? I've looked, but I can't see it, what's wrong with me?

I drive myself here. Can't seem to make myself happy, so I push myself, doubt myself, try to get to the hurt.

I'm managing my misery, deciding just how low I want to go. I want to feel something.

Jane Monologues 17

Halloween. What a shitty holiday. Masks and costumes. Put on a face and pretend you're something you're not. I call that Monday. It seemed so easy for everyone else. Put on a crown and you were a princess, grab some pom-poms and you became a cheerleader. But I was doing it every day. Putting on a face as I walked out the door, trying to find the right one that would fit. The one that would let me blend. Sometimes Halloween made that easier, but most of the time, something I said, something I did, and everyone knew I didn't belong. Away I go before I ruin the fun.

I'm bad company. I mean, that's a given. Do you see who wants to hang around me? Of course not, because you're not here either. I don't blame you for that. I don't blame them, either. Ruin enough parties and you have to expect the invitations to end. The truth is, I don't want me around. I'm always the one to kill the mood or tell the joke that hangs and dies. If I don't want to live with myself, how can I expect anyone else to?

I'm running full tilt these days. I go through these periods where I fear sleep. I stay awake, late into the night and even into the morning if I can. If I keep myself busy, keep pushing myself, I don't have time to think. It's like not spending time with myself. When I hit the wall, when I collapse, that's it, I'm out. No having to spend time with myself, no having to listen. But I still dream. I let my guard down and they move in.

The dreams, the ones I remember, are always the same. Not identical, but the same parts, the same plot. I'm in a big, empty house. I know it's empty because I'm there, so everyone else must have left. And there's this mirror... my dreams always have mirrors. I try to go anywhere but toward that mirror. But doors slam shut and hallways disappear, until the only way is approach the mirror. That's how I know it's a dream. I get up close and I'm wearing a mask. It's a full face mask, which always were so uncomfortable. I take off the mask and I see nothing. There's no one looking back. There's nothing under the mask. I reach up for a head that's not there. I strip off my clothes trying to find something in there, someONE. But I don't exist, I'm not there.

I wake up with the cat and the blankets on the floor, and I've usually shrugged off whatever I fell asleep in. Usually I'm paralyzed when I wake up, but the movement returns, and I touch myself, arms, legs, face, making sure I am there. So far, so good, but I never go to a mirror after I have the dream.

What's it mean? Maybe my Id wants to sleep in the buff? Or that I don't exist, that I shouldn't exist. Maybe the world would be better off it I didn't exist...

I think it's identity. I have one. But it's a shitty identity. It's what I have for now. Maybe I don't have to like it- I mean, I don't have to settle with it. I can keep looking.

I'm Jane. And I'm trying.

Jane Monologues 16

Greetings from Loss-of-Identity Land.

Population, one. Maybe.

The flag looks like a faded memory, seen out of the corner of your eye.

National past times. Moping. Fretting. Deleting voicemails before they're sent.

Currency... Fortune cookies.

National anthem. Something depressing. But I'm straining the metaphor.

I have a hard time letting things go. I spent a long time a long time defining myself, being defined, by some very negative traits. Shy. Scared. Fearful. Lonely. Weak. Depressed. Angry. But they were my negative traits! They were what I had, what I am. And no one was going to take them away from me.

I got better. I made me get better. Because you deserved more. Because you helped me realize that I deserved more. I shed those labels and replaced them with love. Being in love. And being loved. Or liked, I guess is as far as it went.

And then you went away and those labels didn't work any more. I couldn't keep loving you, even if I do, because there was no where for it to go. And if your feelings are the same... “Jane the liked”? Yeah, I think I'll go back to the negatives. “Jane the depressed” has character. Jane the liked is a footnote.

It'd be so much easier if you were here. Yeah, still stuck on not letting things go. You could love me. You could fix me, and tell me who I am. It would be easy. It's how it was supposed to be, you were supposed to fix, make me better, and then we get to happily ever after. But, that's what he was supposed to do too. Why does it take me so fucking many times to learn my lessons? Why can't I get it right?

I don't need you. I want you, but that's not the same thing. You've got your life to live and I've got... what? That's why I defined myself in those terms. Jane the girlfriend could be taken away, was taken away. But Jane, the shy, scared, fearful, lonely, angry, depressed girl, those were mine. I knew who I was and no one could make me lose those labels.

They don't fit anymore. What you did to me... what I did to me... I can't make them fit. And I've got nothing else. I'm not who I was, but I'm not who I'll be, not yet, not whoever that is. Jane the blank. Fill in the...

And I'd tell you this, and you'd listen, and I'd start to realize my truth. About who I'm supposed to be. And I'd tell you this... if I could ever answer the phone.

Jane the scared. I'll hold on to that one a little longer.

Jane Monologues 15

Sometimes, I think I'm happy.

It happens. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it. It feels like a trap, setting me up for a fall. Falling for two feet is nothing. Falling from two stories up... flying. Well, that's a rougher landing.

I'm writing again. Not poetry. Just the present. The past... I've re-written my past as I've shared it with others, but I know my tricks, my tells. I know the lies and remember the truth. My truths, at least, which may not be the same as facts, but they are what matters to me. I lived them and that's how I remember them. Truths measured in smiles and tears. And pain. The pain is how I know it's real.

The future, writing about it is like taunting a bull. You might get away with it for a while, but when you're not looking, that's when the bull gets you and not the cape. I wrote about the future with him, a dozen futures, where we'd be in five years, ten, twenty. We didn't make it a year before he left.

I told him I was happy for him and for me. He didn't know he was tearing out my heart, but what could he have changed by staying? I grew so much with him, breaking down walls, backsliding, scars marking my progress. In the end, I couldn't keep him and he couldn't take me any further. Maybe he knew that, and maybe that's why he left. It still sucks.

So I write about the present. I write each night and put it away. And each day, I read what Jane has written. I read it with a discerning eye; Jane is a liar and cannot be trusted. Every sentence is examined, annotated or crossed out. Somewhere in there, I find the truths. I recognize them because they hurt. But the hurt had to come from somewhere, had to start someplace. By tracking back, I can find places where Jane must have been happy. It's the only thing that fits. I still don't trust her. Me. But the pain doesn't lie. Not these days.

Sometimes I'm not so clinical. I take things as they come. Sometimes, I find myself with a book in one hand, and a fluffy cat belly in the other, and I think I'm happy. And for that moment, I don't have to read what Jane wrote to figure that out.