Role Playing Games Part 1

Yeah I’m crazy. My life experience has changed the chemistry of my brain like no drug ever could have.

I’ve always been like I am now: crazy. Despite it I’ve been successful. Not nearly as “successful” as some, and certainly not as “successful” as I want to be, but good enough.

I fake it in public life as much as I can, at different times, and remain fully committed to doing amazing stuff during my life.

But the best stuff I’ve done is that I love. and have a beautiful wife, a person I would not live without, and who seems to love me. I have two lovely daughters and a son-in-law who seems okay. I have a best friend named Adam, whom I adore. I have a cat named Smokey who is the best friend. I own some land, some cars, a house, an interesting side business– every good thing a man could ask for, expect sanity.

But it wasn’t sanity that got me any of the things that I consider “best”. Nope, I’ve gotten these best things by always sticking to the plan, and doing the things I needed to do: i.e. college, clinical supervision (and therapy) (lots of therapy), teaching, professional development, high-quality direct services… and activism (“Public Sociology“).

It’s not hard work but I work hard at it.

And also I fake it. I faked it, and sorta “made it”, and after 10 years as a public intellectual, I made it to my dream job.

It was in beautiful Tacoma, Washington State, at Tacoma Community College (TCC) as their new Director of Advising Services– I had beat the competition by leveraging my extensive higher education resume, developing C-Suite references, and hiring a head hunter. I was well on my way to becoming a community college president, which was my next life goal.

Then BAM!! Out of nowhere, while I am selling my house in Texas…

…After three weeks on the job! the Vice President decided to non-renew the Dean who hired me.

I.E. the Dean who knew my departments and had the strong relationships was fired; the Dean who was good at the details and and “taking care of staff” was fired; the Dean who knew what the fuck she was doing when she hired me was fired. WTF! was I going to do now??

Like any manager, I knew what I had to do. I had to do an Army “about face!” and start meeting my new boss’s expectations if I ever wanted a job as a Community College President.

(to be continued)

Where will I go when I have no home?

In March of 2004 I was on my way home from Iraq.

My unit and I were in Kuwait to be precise, and we were there to clean up our vehicles after a long year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Our vehicles were hungry for a wash by the time we got to the what I imagine was a Nestle’s Industrial Truck Wash since it was a truck wash and there was a big Nestle’s sign hanging over the left side of it.

While the washing was going on our unit was bunked in a nearby warehouse with all the other spare parts. We slept on army cots as per normal for service in Iraq at the time.  I spent my days either at the wash racks talking to soldiers or intensively studying a textbook entitled Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment, I still have the book in my library.

The long year in Iraq had taught me all I ever wanted to know about infidelity, but I still needed to know more.  I needed to know more because it was my job to help some of my fellow soldiers deal with the fact that their relationships at home had come to an end.

One day I was walking across the rock yard in our camp, called “Fire Base Steel” after the fact that we were the 3-18 Field Artillery “Steel Professionals”, when suddenly my best friend Mike (Big Mike), who was also commander of Alpha “Gator” battery, came running up to me and said, “Chaplain, I need you to come over here right away, my driver is in trouble”.

So I ran over to Mike’s HUMVEE and I spotted his driver sitting behind his seat in the back.  He had his SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249) in his hands and the barrel was pointing at his face.

One novelty of the SAW that makes it a better combat light machinegun than it’s predecessor the M60 is that it can be belt fed or it can be magazine fed.  Mike’s driver had a magazine in the reciever and had charged the bolt.

For a moment I only saw the private and the SAW, as if I was in a dream.  I knew the man I was looking at well, and I knew his young wife.  The couple was around a decade younger than my 36 years, and they had an infant.

Big Mike, my best friend at the time, escaped the scene quickly and jogged back over to the TOC (Tactical Operations Center): I imagine to update his supervisor, the Battalion Commander, with a SITREP.

So I got in on the passenger’s side, in the back, and spent the next 4 hours talking to my new “battle buddy” until he was ready to go to the hospital.

We got him to the hospital, we kept him safe, and I then I started meeting with him weekly for around 6 months, until we finally left Iraq.

But back to Kuwait, the wash racks, the dirty vehicles, the warehouses, that is where I started after all…

I remember reading that textbook while lying on my cot, crying at times, and feeling about the soldiers affected by the patterns identified in the textbook.

I felt deeply then as I feel deeply now,  I cannot help myself.

I wondered where the soldiers whose spouses had let them down would go once they got settled again at “home”.  I wondered if they could even feel a sense of returning “home” under the conditions that they found themselves in. And I wondered if my marriage could survive Iraq; I wondered where I would go if she wasn’t there when I got “home”.

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Zod learned his lesson, finally

Tonight I learned a lesson that I could have, and should have, learned months ago.

As it turns out, the great and terrible “Tyrant” of The Crocodile Clans desires real connection and refuses to let the digital “community” stay transient and disorienting for him.

Zod takes what he wants!  He is Zod, kneel before him!

The trouble is that not everyone longs for deeper connection on the Discord… it’s just a game after all…

“So once upon a time Zod felt angry, disoriented, and befuddled in his mind about the circumstances he found himself in. He allowed his mind to play tricks on him; and soon after his mind betrayed and murdered him.”

It happened just the way I predicted it would, and it was all my fault.

Just a week earlier Zod had finally gotten the attention of the Great King of the North, (and friendly neighborhood Admin) Chullain.  It was a crowning achievement and something that all “bad guys” want: attention— Zod’s ego was finally to be satisfied!!!  Huzzah!!

And then the greatest triumph of all: Chullain spared Zod his life, choosing instead to chop off his left hand. Victory!  Zod, refined by the fire of persecution, would become more terrible!, more hideous!, and would summon Yog! :ebil:

That was Zod’s story.  It was a Ruins of the Storm story that I had helped to co-create.

I stole it from Zod until tonight, and I have regrets.

I also stole it from the community that I now call “home”.  For that, I apologize.

Zod Sails Away

Some Sociological Observations, 4 Months Later

As a Sociologist, I see a social group on Discord; I see one big social group that is the entirety of Discord, but the extent of my involvement is around 1200 members.

I happily came to this understanding of how big my particular group is, in its full extension, by way of meeting a young lady who is the head of the Engagement Team of the Vornair gaming community–  so for the price of some data entry tasks, I was enlighted, thank you @hinata1711!

To put it into perspective, our Discord server (social group) is relatively small and it is somewhat racially and economically homogeneous (although there is some racial diversity that is worth noting and I will spend a significant of time on the subject of race in the future).

Although I had theorized that this group was homogeneous in this way, I am happy to have had the assistance of the server owners at Ruins of the Storm and Song of Sword and Sorcery to post and advertise a 10 question demographic survey that I put together in order to verify my hypothesis.  At this point, February 24, 2019, I have 18  responses from the survey and the result represent and verify my initial thoughts.

Fortunately, I’ll be able to get some more data soon because the server owner of the new Ruins Unchained server, which is a reboot of the Ruins of the Storm server, has agreed to post the link to my survey in his Discord channel.  If all goes well, I should have between 36 and 40 survey entries by the end of March.   40 entries will give me a better picture of what the community of 1200 looks like, although I will continue to add survey data as it comes in.

And I continue to look at the demographics of the entire group because I think it says something about who we are in our leisure time and what we’re doing on the frontier of an immersive digital, digitized community that is in the adolescent stage of life.

Adolescence is a tricky time of life, but I think that the analogy fits.

One of the many people that I’ve had discourse with pointed out that it is this adolescent age that contributes to a lot of the interpersonal problems that we face as we go about doing community inside the net of digitized imagination play, on Discord and in the games we play.

In other words, digital community is sometimes intolerable.

But not always, and not even often, and that’s why we can return to the gaming over and over again, even as we are dealing with the natural confusion and anxiety associated with experiencing a new way of being in community.

And then there’s what’s happening in the games vs. what’s happening in the Discord.  Those things are intertwined and inextricable no matter how many rules we write to keep them separated from each other.

The content of the role-playing in the game and the content that is appearing in Discord are bound to each other.  In fact the whole operation is structured in such a way that is almost impossible to separate oneself from the taboo, and forbidden “ooc drama”.   “OOC Drama” naturally spills over from the game into rl interactions that are far from real. I point this out not as a critic, but as a biased observer of what is happening in our community.

Emoji are not real expressions of emotions and text is not enough to convey word meaning. So we compensate when we really need to communicate, and we get on voice chat.

But when I voice chat I have a sort of transient, disconnected feeling that I can’t imagine as being unique to only me since we are all trained, from birth, to communicate face-to-face– or least those of us who are 50 and older were. 😉

So another sociological observation is perhaps generational. I can feel the difference between a digital native and a digital immigrant when interacting on Discord.  But until now I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the literature around digital natives versus digital immigrants.  I will be diving into that literature very soon…

Another sociological observation that I make over and over again is how the power structures drive the narrative in our fiction. I was introduced to this concept in a sociological work entitled Shared Fantasy, Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds.  In this volume, Cary Allan Fine describes a consistent phenomenon: player-characters who sit close to the DM enjoy the game more than those who sit further away,  and that is to be expected. Unless of course the Dungeon Master is sophisticated and goes out of their way to look at their own unconscious biases.

And my final observation from for this post is more situated in the media than some my more general observations.  What I observed, over and over again, is that inasmuch as the Discord group has some solidarity and functions as a social group in a supportive way, it does so through the repetition of derivative media imagery.

In other words, support in our community most often comes in the form of conversations about superheroes, movies, videogame and the characters we create– characters who are all kinds of wondrous beautiful people who have wondrous, beautiful powers.  This content sharing ritual is cerebral, optimistic, fun… and we support each other through the use of it.

Thank you for reading this far.  And if you dare, I am available for RP on Song of Sword and Sorcery Conan Exiles, Ruins of the Storm Unchained Conan Exiles and Ruins of the Storm Atlas. 

Best regards,

-Zod

 

 

The Hour of My Discontent

Here it is 3:30 AM and I can’t sleep.

I woke up and the first thing on my mind is Discord.

But it’s not Discord, it’s the people, the community of people, behind screens who are using a communication application to play with one another, that’s what is really on mind: the people.

I am a part of a Discord community and on some days I feel connected to it.  But I just cannot help but feel a nagging, dissatisfaction.

I don’t know why I feel dissatisfied. Maybe I long for real connection, or maybe it’s just that I want more attention and praise for my fiction, or maybe it’s because I have abandonment issues. Whatever the reason, I am not satisfied.

My grown daughter and her partner came over last night for dinner and I described some of my experience with “friendshiping” on Discord. My son-in-law seemed to understand, from personal experience, exactly what I was talking about when I pointed out that relationships on Discord come and go fast and that I already miss people I just met.

I wish I understood more about what I am experiencing, perhaps advanced knowledge of all the implications and nuance of “digitalized community” would help me feel more connected, safe, and in control.

Maybe– but I just do not know.

Nevertheless, I continue to assume that what I am feeling is not completely unique to only myself.  Instead, I assume that what I am feeling is in some ways what we all feel.

-Zod the Magnificent

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Raynor the Feral, The White Tiger and the Shrine

Raynor the Nordhiemer is uncomfortable in the desert. He feels more at home in the snowy mountains of the north.

Nevertheless, there Raynor was abroad in the desert waste, standing at the bottom of a sandstone mountain bluff that must be climbed. “Baahhhh! By Ymir’s orange beard! I must climb up to light this fire ring as well!” said Raynor out loud as he started to remove his heavy armor for the climb.

“The climb to the top will be tricky,” thought Raynor, “but Alfhda requires that our shrines to Ymir stay lit.”

Once naked, Raynor removed a large sack from his pack and then placed his armor, his pack, his pipe, and a few other personal effects into the sack.  When everything was in the sack, and the bundle was secure, Raynor tied one end of a rope around the bundle and then tied the other end of the rope around his waist.

“If my memory serves me well, I know just how to grapple and climb these rocks”, thought Raynor as he looked for the right spot wherein to begin his climb upward, towards the dimming shrine.

It was just at that moment, when the sturdy old Nordhiemer was looking for grapple spots in the sandstone, when he saw the white tiger causally walking toward him.  Startled by the sight of the mighty tiger, Raynor ran toward the sack and took out his cudgel and throwing axe, which he had also placed inside it.

Now being naked and facing a white tiger in the middle of the desert was alarming to Raynor but there no time to worry or be thoughtful about it.

The tiger pounced on Raynor with a devastating growl and lunge.  Afterwards Raynor and the white tiger rolled around– fighting, clawing and biting for their lives, i.e. until Raynor got the upper hand and brought down his cudgel into the skull of the tiger with a an explosive crack.

For a moment the tiger stood stiff. Then it backed away, gave Raynor a curious look, and then fell to the ground dead. “By Ymir’s orange beard, what a mighty beast that was!” said Raynor as he placed his weapons back inside the sack and took out an aloe potion for his wounds. “It is a shame that he died here in the desert on this off chance,” he thought as he applied the aloe.

“Now for this filthy climb,” said Raynor as he went back to the business of climbing to the top of the sandstone bluff.

Raynor put his hands on the side of the great bluff and with inhuman strength pulled and climbed his way up. He didn’t seem to be bothered much by the 200 or so extra pounds of dangling armor, weapons, his pipe, and other things, which were securely bound, and dangling from the rope he had tied around his waist.

Once at the top, Raynor sat down and took out his pipe.   He then stood up and lit both the fire rings of the shrine and his pipe.

Thus, finished of his work, Raynor again sat down to rest, and as the smoke billowed around his head, he thought to himself, “Perhaps I will stay here, alone for a while, on this mountain, where I have a lovely view of things”.

“I cannot pretend that when I am on the ground the view satisfies me like it does when I am high and lifted as I am now,” continued Raynor, deep in thought.

Raynor then stood up and paced back and forth, smoking, thinking and smoking. Finally, he grunted and started climbing down.

And as he began climbing down off the mountain to the ground, he said to himself, “There is no sense in my hiding away for long, Queen Alfhda will require my assistance soon enough.”

When Raynor got the ground, he began the long jog back to Virding Hall, without a word or thought. 20190311210755_1

Raynor Climbs Down

Raynor sat down on top of a sandstone mountain and took out his pipe.

As the smoke billowed around his head, he thought to himself, “Perhaps I will stay here, alone for a while, on this mountain, where I have a lovely view of things”.

“When I am on the ground the view does not satisfy me as much,” continued Raynor, deep in thought.

Raynor then stood up and walked back and back and forth, on the top of the bluff, smoking, thinking and smoking.  Finally, he sighed and started climbing down.

And as he began climbing down off the mountain to the ground he said to himself,  “There is no sense in my hiding away for long, Queen Adlfhda will require my assistance soon enough.”

When Raynor got the ground he began the long jog back to Virding Hall, without a word or thought.

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Theodora House –> East of Drifter’s Rest

Now Theodora has had enough talk about “special privileges”.

And she has had enough of watching a truly “privileged” tiny minority of people get whatever they want and be protected by the Emperor with godlike efficiency.   And she has had enough of the insolence of the city officials who mockingly treat her with contempt.  And she has had enough of the long walks and the tedious cocktail parties in Omar’s tavern.  And she has had enough of the pedantic, preachy Stygians who lay around all day and then point their randy fingers at the one woman in the town who has to work for a living.

“I will move away and start a new adventure, I am strong enough now,” thinks Theodora after pondering these complaints of hers for a while.  And realizing that she is unhappy in Drifter’s Rest, she begins to prepare to move away for good.

“Business is business, and if I can’t grow my business and live as a unique and valued member of the community, then why should I live here? It isn’t fun and I don’t have to”, thought Theodora.

Later that day the “polite” citizens of Drifter’s Rest could observe that the caravans Theodora had previously purchased for use on her trade route where now being used to pack up Theodora’s whole estate.

And after a few days, her belongings will be taken East to the distant shore, where Theodora plans on starting a new life, on her own terms.  (To Be Continued)20190220194728_1