Group Up

This entry is going to be an absolutely blatant attempt to see if I can get some interest in games I would like to run, or at least try out. These ideas have been running through my head for days, or weeks, and I’m hoping that if I can’t at least get some interest, at least I can get them written down so I don’t lose them.

So, I’d like to run a game. Hell, I’d like to run several. Gaming is not a new hobby for me; I’ve been doing it since I was 12 or 13, and for much of that time I’ve been the guy running the games. I haven’t had a chance to get much gaming in lately, both with personal issues and work issues and occasionally school issues getting in the way. But I’d like to get back into gaming, and so with that in mind, I’ve got at least 4 solid ideas for one-shot games at the least, all of which have the option to expand into longer-running games.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: it’s no surprise that Star Wars is high on the list. A couple years ago, a new company, FFG, picked up the RPG license for Star Wars (they also do the miniature games for Star Wars, X-Wing and Armada, as well as the Imperial Assault board game), and split up the universe into three games: Edge of the Empire, where you play  people living on the edge of society – from bounty hunters to colonists, smugglers to explorers – in the Star Wars universe; Age of Rebellion, where you play Rebels in various roles fighting a hit-and-run war against the vast Empire; and Force & Destiny, where you play Force-sensitive characters, like potential Jedi, trying to survive in a galaxy under Imperial rule. I have all three, but I’m fondest of Edge of the Empire. What I’d like to do, ideally, is run through the beginner’s boxed set adventure, with 4-6 pre-generated characters, to get a feel for how the system plays and how Star Warsy it is, and then if people enjoy it, continue on with either the same characters or new ones as they enter the larger Star Wars galaxy. More info on the basic Edge of the Empire game can be found here, and the beginner’s game info is here.

Masks: Masks is a game about playing a teenage superhero in a city that already has two living generations of previous heroes, all of whom have their own ideas about how you should conduct yourself in the superpowered world. It’s meant to tell stories like those in Teen Titans, Young Avengers, Runaways, and Young Justice – how does your character, as a teen, handle his or her powers, and how do the adults in your character’s life affect that? It’s a game using the rules system pioneered by Apocalypse World, so it can be absorbed pretty readily in a few pages, and it’s a very rules-light, narrative game. For a bit more background, read this, and check out the link to the (now finished) Kickstarter:

Masks is a tabletop roleplaying game in which you play young superheroes who are growing up in a city several generations into its superheroic age. Halcyon City has had more than its fair share of superheroes, superteams, supervillains, and everything in between. Over the course of three different generations of super-people, Halcyon City has seen it all.

You play members of the fourth generation, young adults trying to figure out who they are and what kind of heroes they want to be. The rest of the world is telling them what to do, but they’ll find their own path amidst the noise. And kick some butt along the way. After all, what’s the point of being a hero if you can’t fight for the things you believe in? ‘

Shadows of the Demon Lord: This one is pretty new to me, but after reading through it, I felt like it would be a great system to at least try out. It’s set on a fantasy world that may very well be in its last days, and it is a dark place, but there is still room for heroes, even if they might not be the heroes you’d naturally expect. Dwarves and humans team up with orcas and goblins – who don’t seem to share typical fantasy backgrounds -to team up and try to keep the titular Demon Lord from breaking through the dimensional walls and consuming the world. To me, it’s a setting very reminiscent of Diablo, or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, in it’s dark and kind of grim and gritty nature, and the system sems like it’s pretty easy to pick up and explain. If you’re interested in saving a world that might be close to death, this is one to check out; I’ll link to the DriveThruR{G page here, because it has some good information and several good reviews.

Gamma World: Post apocalyptic wackiness using the 4th edition D&D system. Seriously, that’s the best tagline I can come up with. Randomly throw two character origins together (with options like Seismic, Octopoid, Cryokinetic, or the stunningly boring Engineered Human), assign some ability scores and toss in some equipment, and go out into the radioactive world to see what tries to mess with you. Personally, I’m quit fond of the intro:

‘n the fall of 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, embarked on a new series of high-energy experiments. No-one knows exactly what they were attempting to do, but a little after 3 P.N. on a Thursday afternoon came the Big Mistake. Something unexpected happened, and in the blink of an eye, many possible universes all condensed into a single reality.

In some of these universes, little had changed; it didn’t make a big difference which team won the 2011 World Series, for example. In other universes, there were more important divergences. The Gray Emissary, who was carrying gifts of advanced technology, wasn’t shot down at Roswell in 1947, the Black Death didn’t devastate the known world in the 14th century, the dinosaurs didn’t die out, Nikola Tesla did conquer the world with a robot army, and so on. The Cold War went nuclear in 83 percent of the possible universes, and in 3 percent of the possible universes, the French unloaded their entire nuclear arsenal on the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, because it had to be done. When reality stabilized again, an instant after the Big Mistake, the familiar Earth of the 21st century was replaced by one formed from many different realities.

The year is now 2162 (or 151, or 32,173, or Six Monkey Slap-Slap, depending on your point of view). It;s been a hundred and fifty years since the Big Mistake, and the Earth is a very different place. The ruins of the Ancients (that’s you and me) litter the landscape of radioactive deserts, mutated jungles, and vast, unexplored wildernesses. Strange new creatures, such as beetles the size of cars and super-evolved badgers with Napoleonic complexes, roam the world. The survivors of humanity gather in primitive tribes or huddle in trade towns that rarely rise above the technology of the Dark Ages. Even the nature of humanity is now different, because generations of exposure to radiation, mutagens, and the debris of other realities have transformed humans into a race of mutants who have major physical alterations and potent mental abilities.

This is the world of the D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game. It’s a world of dangerous mutant monsters, jungle-grown ruins of the cities of the Ancients, and mysterious artifacts of awesome technology. It’s your world to survive, to explore, and to conquer – if you’re up for the challenge.’

Doesn’t that sound fun? Or at least funny? The game itself is out of print, but it, too, can be found at DriveThruRPG here.

 

So, those are the ideas that are currently running through my mind. They aren’t necessarily all of the, but they’re the four I think would be the most fun to try out. So if you’re interested (and int he Houston area, sadly, I’ve never had very good luck running games online), let me know, and if you just want to chat about RPGs, drop me a line here, or on Facebook, or via e-mail at jacobgreyfang@gmail.com. I now return you to your regularly scheduled Saturday madness.

 

‘Normal’

Do you ever wonder what normal really is, or if this mythical things really exists? I do, all the time.

There’s a lot about my life I can’t really complain about. I grew up with a good family, parents who were always there, a sister who was, while occasionally bratty (as younger siblings can be) when we were younger, was pretty good (and has become more awesome with age), and a family lifestyle that trended towards upper middle class. I wasn’t deprived of things, I wasn’t beaten or abused. We moved around a fair amount, sure, which made it hard to make a lot of friends, but it also meant that my sister and I got to see a lot of stuff that many people will never have the chance to see. I’ve always tended towards the quiet, mild-mannered, intellectual side of things; I’ve liked to read, voraciously, since I could figure out how, and while I did do some physical activities – I was in Little League, played soccer, was on a swim team for a while – my sister was usually the one who was more inclined to the more physically active side of things.

I think things started to diverge from what my mind assumes is normal in high school. I was bullied a fair bit in 8th grade – not bad enough to ever fear for my life, or contemplate suicide, but enough that my parents thought moving me out of public school was a good idea. So I went to an all-boys Jesuit high school. I actually enjoyed it, for the most part – a lot of the stuff you see in high school movies and TV shows never happened at my school, because there were no girls to show off for. But, given my normal level of introverted behavior, I never really got to socialize with girls in my high school years – I never dated, only had one female friend (who was the girlfriend of another friend of mine), and never really had that ‘normal’ high school experience. Not that my high school experience was all that normal, anyway – in high school, I was diagnosed with something called Graves’ Disease, which sounds rather dire but is really just an overactive thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland, from what I’ve been given to understand, is in charge of metabolism for the body, so an overactive thyroid basically kicks your metabolism into overdrive. This had some unpleasant side effects, to be sure – I was irritable (more than an average rebellious teenager), the overactive metabolism meant I burned through my energy levels by mid-day, which was problematic because it meant I often fell asleep in class (for me, it was English class), resulting in detention, my hands tended to shake (and since I was into playing wargames where you were supposed to pain the miniatures, this was kind of annoying, and yes, I was a huge nerd even then), and it also made my eyes kinda wonky. But, because it kicked my metabolism into overdrive, that was basically all I heard when I saw the doctor – because it meant that I could basically eat anything, in any amount, and lose weight. To a teenage guy, that sounded awesome! To current me, if I had a time machine I would go back and punch my younger self until I agreed to take my medication regularly.

See, eventually, if left untreated (which, since I was either bad at remembering to take my medication, intentionally not taking it, or both, mine basically was), Graves’ Disease can result in heart disorders, brittle bones, and in rare cases thyroid storms (which have a lot of unpleasant symptoms, comas among them). So while I muddled through my high school years, totally unaware of how I was setting myself up for unpleasantness later – through both my almost total lack of social interaction with women, as well as my own medical condition – when I went to college, things went poorly. I basically stopped taking my medication altogether, which meant I would run at high energy for several hours, then crash at often inopportune times (like when I needed to go to class). I also had no idea how to really interact with the fairer half of my college’s population, so withdrew socially. Again, if I had a time machine, I would go back and shove my younger self into social situations, because it would have helped prevent what was coming, or at least kept it from getting so bad.

Eventually, my Graves’ Disease progressed to the point where doctors recommended that my thyroid be ablated – or, essentially, destroyed with radioactive iodine. I would then need to take a thyroid replacement supplement for the rest of my life, because I would have nothing producing the necessary chemicals to keep my metabolism working properly. Sadly, I got no superpowers from being irradiated, and I strongly suspect that that, or something related to it, was the event that essentially kicked off my clinical depression. Which, let me tell you, is not fun to have at all. Though I imagine the two suicide attempts probably illustrate that pretty well. Not getting effective treatment for that for so long would be number three on my list of things to use a time machine to punch my younger self for.

Also, sometime around the beginning of 2013, I developed Restless Leg Syndrome – essentially, my leg starts to twitch when I get drowsy, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep, and even after I fall asleep, it can continue to twitch in my sleep – either waking me up, or just using up some of the energy I would normally be recharging with a good night’s sleep. I have medication for it, but it takes a good half an hour to an hour to kick in, and sometimes it doesn’t work, meaning that some nights I get next to no sleep, or I wake up tired because my twitching legs kept me from really resting.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except that my dose of thyroid replacement hormone typically rests me at about the lowest possible point I can have my metabolism be at and count as ‘normal’, meaning my metabolism runs pretty slowly – so it doesn’t take a lot to tire me out. As well, one of the symptoms of depression that never seems to go away for me, even when my medication helps to clear up the more concerning mental symptoms, is fatigue. So on any given day, I’ve generally got maybe 8-10 hours of activity in me before I’m basically done; most days after work I just head home and crash, because I’ve got no energy left. It also means that I gain weight easily, and it’s a huge pain to lose – exercise, when not actively, physically painful – which it often tends to be – burns through my daily energy so fast that I spend several hours recovering after 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, which isn’t a very good deal. This is annoying, as there are things I would like to learn to do, like swordfighting, that while mentally appealing, I find painfully difficult to do regularly, because I just lack the energy to keep up a good training regimen.

But I can’t fix any of these things – the best I can really do is manage them, try to get my doctors to help me out as best they can, and hope for the best. I don’t know what normal is for other people, but that’s normal for me. There are a lot of areas where I am not lacking, but I would probably give up most of what I own for the ability to get through a day and not feel totally drained, or to ask a girl out and not feel absolutely crushed when I get turned down. If teenage me had had any idea about how screwed up he would be making future me by doing what he did, he probably would have punched him/me out. Repeatedly.

Questions From Hell

I’ve been thinking about a blog topic recently; I was planning on being a huge geek and talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Tony Stark (Iron Man), or maybe the Star Wars showdown between Anakin Skywalker vs. Kylo Ren. But then earlier today, something really unpleasant (and I only use unpleasant because right now I can’t think of a word to truly describe how it felt) happened.

I had a friend text me and ask me, ‘What is the easiest way to kill myself?’

Given my own history involving suicide, asking this question was like being stabbed in the most painful place you can imagine, by someone who I thought would never do something like that. I’ve spent hours trying to come to something I can say about it without resorting to a mixture of crying, screaming, hitting things, and four-letter words, and… I’ve come up with nothing.

Seriously, given my history, what the fuck do I say to something like that? I haven’t had a drink in almost three years, but I’m tempted to do so now.

I’m Not (Always) Wrong

One of my longest-standing problems related to mental illness has been my rather high degree of personal insecurity. When I’m around friends, or really people in general, and things start to feel weird, I automatically assume something is wrong. Now, often our gut feelings on things like this are correct; odds are that the more people you are around, the more likely there is to be someone who has something going wrong in their life.  And the closer you are to someone – as in, the better you know them – the more likely you are to pick up on the little signs that they are sending to reflect how they actually feel, not how they are trying to show everyone else they feel.

Where I go wrong in this situation is, because of my own tendency to feel insecure, I assume that whatever is wrong, the fault is mine. And so I apologize. And I apologize. And I keep assuming blame that is not mine. Which both takes the opportunity for whoever is having something going wrong in their life to try and talk about what is going on, and it makes me feel worse. It can also mean that in assuming blame that is not mine, I let the person who is to blame for something get away with whatever it was they did wrong, and give them a convenient scapegoat to blame in the future, because I’ve proven willing to take the blame for things that were not my fault.

I’m not quite sure of the reasoning behind all this, and I’m sure there are reasons that I do these things somewhere in my past. While I think those things are important – determining why something went wrong is often a good way to make sure it does not go wrong the same way again – I think that, more immediately, I need to try to make sure that the feelings of wrongness I am picking up on are, in fact, accurate. And then I need to determine whether or not I actually did something wrong. Because my willingness to assume blame that is not mine hurts me, and does not help the person whose spotlight I am taking by assuming the blame. They lose their outlet for trying to talk about their shame, guilt, or pain, and I simply gain a new source.

This seems pretty vague, and it is largely because I haven’t really had a chance to talk it through with anyone, but it’s something that went through my head for a while last night before I was able to get to sleep, and so on this new year, I thought it was a worthy goal to try to take on. I’m not going to eliminate my insecurity overnight, and assuming I will would be laughable; I think it’s been there for about as long as I can remember, so it’s a habit that will take a long time to unlearn.But I think it is certainly something to work on, because I know what a problem it has been for me in the past; I think it played a part in ruining at least one potential relationship, and it’s probably been frustrating for other people in my life.

I think it can also be linked to gratitude, in a way, which is also something I have had a hard time expressing; I’ve worked through some of that in earlier blog entries, with gratitude challenges and the like. And I think I’ve improved there – maybe not by leaps and bounds, but one step at a time. So, in the spirit of that, I’ve noticed a comic – or rather, a series of comics – pop up on how to try and take the urge to apologize for things (often it can feel like the crime of even existing, if depression rears its ugly head high enough) and turn it around into thanking someone for their understanding, patience, and willingness to listen. That comic can be found here, at Just Say ‘Thank You’ And Stop Saying ‘Sorry’.

I hope that, for all my readers, 2016 promises to be a good year. If 2015 was lousy, I hope 2016 is an improvement, and if 2015 was good, I hope 2016 continues the streak and makes it even better. Thank you all for reading, and may you all have a Happy New Year!