Codex Alera: A Lame Answer To A Dumb Bet

So there’s this story that goes around about the origins of Codex Alera, a fantasy series by Jim Butcher. The story goes that someone was arguing that some ideas were just bad, and couldn’t have good novels wrung out of them. Jim Butcher said he could write a good novel out of any idea, because what mattered was storytelling and craft, not big ideas. So the other guy challenged him to write a book about the lost Roman legion and Pokemon, the two worst ideas he could come up with, and Jim Butcher did, and it was Codex Alera.

I hate how popular this story is, because even though I agree with the ultimate point, this is a really weak way of defending it, and being so weak implies that it’s the best defense the idea has. The fact is, Jim Butcher half-assed the inclusion of both the lost Roman legion and Pokemon in the actual end result of Codex Alera, and neither of those two things were particularly lame ideas in the first place.

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Yule Update: SMART vs VAPID goals

Setting and achieving good goals has been a general theme for me in 2017, and now that we’re just about done with it, I thought I’d talk about one of the ways in which I’ve done so. Firstly, most of the advice I have to give is ultimately distilled from listening to Cortex for approximately 90 hours over the course of two years. Provided you don’t have ninety hours available this evening but still want to learn about good goal-setting, let’s talk about seasonal reviews and SMART goals.

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Forums Are The Best

I’ll admit the title is not-fully-accurate clickbait, but in my defense it was out of laziness rather than malice. I’m not sure how to cram the thesis statement, which is that webforums have a significant but oft-overlooked advantage over modern social media (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, etc.) in that aspiring creators of any kind of media can discreetly advertise their work in such a way that it will still actually reach board members. Specifically, a creator can put a one-line pitch for their work in their signature, turn that one line into a hyperlink, and an unobtrusive ad for their stuff will appear in every post they ever make. At that point, they can advertise their work by being an active and constructive member of the community. Every post they make is advertising for their work, and every good post they make is advertising that other forum-goers might actually like or care about. People who don’t want to be advertised to barely even have to notice.

This is about the only thing that worries me about how gaming communities are beginning to congregate more and more around Discord. Discord is generally speaking a very good communication platform that doesn’t suffer the serious problems that sites like, for my most loathed example, Reddit are plagued by, but there is no means of unobtrusive advertising like this. Your only two options are 1) maintain a small enough community that someone can be all “hey guys, I wrote a book” and people will check it out purely on basis of knowing that guy and being curious what he’s up to – although that’s still way less effective than the way a forum user reminds people of their work every time they post, because someone who doesn’t care enough to check it out the first time might get curious eventually, or else 2) you can have a dedicated advertising channel and let people post their stuff there on a weekly basis or however often they update, but generally speaking these channels are used exclusively by other creators, which is a tiny market compared to the community as a whole. Very few people intentionally go to advertising channels to see what the community members are up to.

Unlike Reddit’s flaws, which I consider debilitating (and most other social media have similar if not worse “features” that hold attention but produce terrible communities), I don’t think Discord is particularly negatively impacted by this, but it does make me worry about the future of indie creation, real bottom rung “slapped together in my garage for $50 or less” style indie creation, when its creators can’t rely on being sincere and productive members of a community to advertise their stuff, and instead have to resort to either spending lots of money for proper ad campaigns or annoying sales tactics like finding any excuse to reference their work while dropping a shameless plug.

What Is The Chargen Process For?

So every now and again you get an indie-type game whose character creation process is basically just writing down three traits completely freeform and then maybe you have a number. These have not taken off to dominate the market and mindshare of roleplaying games. Seeing as how a good character creation system is often a selling point for video games, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that abdicating the chargen system to the players didn’t really go too well. People like shopping for bits and bobs to customize their character with using a limited pool of resources.

That “shopping spree” sort of rush isn’t the only reason character creation is good for RPGs, though. It also helps to avoid Mary Sue and her overcompensating counterpart Anti Sue. The heart of the Mary Sue issue is that one character is loaded down with so many more special traits than other characters in the principle cast that it becomes jarring and usually comes off as the author showering their favorite character with power and attention like an old couple spoiling their grandkids. By having each special trait tied to some kind of cost based on how special it makes the character and how often that specialness comes up, you strongly curb the ability to make Mary Sue characters.

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Seawave Ruins

The first adventure in what will probably be a five-adventure series is now up on the DM’s Guild. This is the more scaled back version of the original Thar hexcrawl I’ve mentioned earlier. It plucks out the handful of hex ideas that seem most interesting and converts them into adventures that can be run by themselves or as a series. I’m hoping to upload them one every Sunday and be done with the whole project before Imbolc on February 2nd. There’s four left to go and six Sundays left before Imbolc, not to mention a seventh right after Imbolc, and I’d consider myself on deadline if I finish the actual work before Imbolc but then my schedule demands that the content technically go live slightly after – I’m wrapping up the Thar project mainly for personal reasons, not because I anticipate anyone actually cares that much and wants a firm deadline for release. In any case, the point of this to say that I can lose a couple of Sundays and still be on schedule, and one of those Sundays will probably be next Sunday, because it’s Christmas Eve, yo, I got celebrating to do.

The Tzeentch Ring

Summary: A cultist in town plans to take over using a ring he’s crafted that will give him the power to summon and command Tzeentchian horrors. Once there’s enough of them around, a herald of Tzeentch turns up to swipe them and walk away. Because obviously. Upon seizing control of the town, the Tzeentch herald will offer an alliance against Nurgle.

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The Fire Bats

If I can write two Vestitas encounters per week, I’ll have enough encounters to stock the hex map right around the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ll still need to finish up the urbancrawls, write all the stats, and then format everything into a .pdf, so this won’t mean that the hexcrawl is just about done, but it will be a significant milestone.

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