Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Her Glass Slipper was by Converse

Its been a long day and there's still work to do
She's pulling at me saying, "Dad, I need you
There's a ball at the castle and I've been invited
And I need you to practice my dancing, oh please, daddy, please"

This song, Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman, punctuated the Princess Ball my daughter and I attended last month. Coincidentally, these lyrics of the song almost perfectly describe the theme of the evening…

The Whatever Girls is an organization begun by a friend of mine and designed to provide intentional guidelines for parents and daughters about making good choices. The world has become so overloaded with options for expression and desire, that the question becomes one of discernment.

I think it is most important to talk to children, even--and especially--about the uncomfortable stuff. If you can talk, without judging, and give them your opinion without dismissing theirs, it can go a long way toward creating a situation where they will make the right choice. Often, they listen, and if they feel their thoughts are important (i.e. you didn't just tell them they were wrong, or bad,) they may make the decision you wanted them to; because you valued them, they will value you.

How do we know what is the right choice, or even the best choice? The Whatever Girls provides a forum for helping guide the decision making process. And helping parents and their children--a companion forum for boys is being discussed--talk about what might be important to both.

I hope you check it out, whether you’re a parent or not (you might be the cool aunt or uncle one day.)

The Princess Ball was a dance designed to allow dads and their daughters to share a night out together. For me and my daughter, it provided for bonding as well as time to share some proper date etiquette (she was rather annoyed with me because I didn't open her door quickly enough. Later, she waited very primly for me to pull out her seat; I hope she doesn't settle for any less when she truly starts to date.)

We talked, we laughed, we took goofy pictures, and even danced (I think my wife was a little jealous.) At the end of the evening, they played the song above and we slow danced, both of us bawling our eyes out. It was incredible, and I don’t think she will forget it.

I know I will never forget it; it was practice for that day when I will have to let her go. I know it won’t ever be easy to let her grow up, but I hope that we’ll never grow apart. And no matter how grown up she gets, I will never grow tired of hearing: “Dad, I need you…”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Kind of World Do You Want?

By David

Once upon a time, when Dragon Magazine was still a print entity found in magazine racks, a feature series captured my attention called Dungeoncraft, penned by Ray Winninger, the series gave step by step advice to dungeon masters for creating memorable environments for their Dungeons and Dragons games. The article entries were fun to read even if you never used them in a practical sense and they occupied my bookcase--never gathering dust--for many years. I've been reading them recently to give myself a focus, or at least a starting point, in the creation of Archaborea, my new fantasy world.

The first step is to decide on a hook, the points which would define and characterize my world. I had many ideas to begin with: themes and concepts I wanted to explore and exploit, but what were the headlines? What made my world unique?

Archaborea; the essentials.

Primitive Savagery and High Adventure.
I wanted something non-standard: less Tolkien and more Burroughs (although, G.R.R Martin "politics" aren't out of the mix.)
Most of the world is undeveloped or even unspoiled by mortal hands. In the heavens, elemental powers wage an eternal war with elder beings; think Mother Nature versus Cthulhu. The collision of natural and unnatural forces result in jagged mountains, breathless jungles, sucking swamps and infernal deserts. Fell beasts and even predatory plant life abound outside civilized areas. Those who rise above daily survival to seek their fortune are truly exceptional, the stuff of myths and legends.

The Bad Guys Rule.
This one has become a standard, but it provides a good backdrop for other ideas. Also, the Evil Empire trope is near and dear to me...
A decades-old war established the domination of the Ogre Lords (somewhat of a misnomer which stuck; no one knows if the lords are actually of ogreish descent...) Conquerors rumored to have their own fearful rulers, the Ogre Lords have erected fortresses of stone to protect their slaves and subjects from the wilderness and each other. Cities and villages are few and far between existing in places where people have put down roots, determined to hold their freedom and their ground.

Metal is a rare commodity.
This played into the primitive savagery angle, and gives an extra challenge to the potential heroes. The will need to be creative and resourceful in order to arm themselves.
The Ogre Lords and their warlords, enforcers/sympathizers, attempt to control potential uprisings by controlling superior weaponry, keeping the best for their personal armies. Metal weapons and armor are seized at fortress gates and most metal mines are controlled by the Ogre Lords. Metalworking skill has been forbidden to the general populace, punishable by death. Common arms and armor are more often made of leather, wood, bone, stone, and other such materials. Because iron and steel are hard to come by legally, many have become very creative in their materials and designs for personal protection.

Religion is not about faith.
In a world where the very forces of nature are at war, fate and destiny can seem very fickle.
Faith and belief in Archaborea relies on what can be seen or felt. The majority worship primal forces and the natural elements-even if the primal spirits are often wild and vengeful. Elder beings grant power in return for subservience and sacrifice.

Arcane magic is feared, Elemental magic is revered.
I wanted to enforce the notion that magic is mysterious and powerful; I don't like magic being commonplace or expected. Again, back to pulp stories like Robert E. Howard.
Sorcerers and Magicians are viewed with awe and fear by the superstitious populace. True magic power comes from forces often grotesque or beyond comprehension. Shamans and Priests harness the power of nature or elemental forces. Devoted worship can grant the ability to create what some view as miracles.

Adaptation for survival means the term “race” is often only about physical appearance.
I don't like racial stereotypes as a rule. And I had some ideas for mixing up the traditional stereotypes of fantasy races. Why did dwarves need to be stoneworkers? What if dwarves could be "cowboys" or mountaineers?
The wars of conquest by the Ogre Lords displaced many from their traditional areas and the races of Archaborea have adapted to “non-standard” geographical locales. The race referred to as “Dwarves” are not all subterranean miners, some may be plains nomads surviving by herding, trading, or raiding; low and stout in appearance, but wayward and surprisingly quick. “Elves,” lithe and sharp in their features, are as likely to be found on a mountaintop, or lurking in the catacombs below cities, tradespeople who keep the city structures intact. Outside of the fortress walls, tribal structures are much more loose and varied racially; the masters of the Jade Forest might be composed of gnomes, fairie folk, and humans, living side by side as one.

Mr. Winninger had two basic rules he used for this process.
1. "Never create more than you must."
2. "Whenever you design a major piece of the campaign world, always devise at least one secret related to that piece." I have hinted at some potential secrets in my hooks, but I will not reveal them yet. Next comes a little basic geography and sociology to give my heroes a starting point.

 What Kind of World Do You Want? Part 1

In my head, the "ogre lords" look more akin to minotaurs, hence the note in The Bad Guys Rule hook...

What Kind of World Do You Want? Part 2