Weekly Report: Unqualified Success!

It’s that time again!

1-Write 500 words on Book the Second.

Success! I have cleared the very low bar this time. I just have to do that maybe 160 more times and I’ll have a manuscript!

2-Tech Bible: Found my solution, it works like I want it to, and I’ve begun transferring the data in. Let’s call this one a success too.

3-E-publishing Research: Fail. Didn’t get anything done there at all.

4-Paid Writing Project: Success. Not done yet, but the finish line is very close.

5-Secret Project: nothing done.

Overall: I got my 500 words, and completed 3 out of 5 tasks. So by my rules it’s a success. Also, it’s really over six days, not a full week, and I didn’t touch the easiest (by my reckoning) task, and it was another legitimately busy week. So I think calling it a success is fair, but I think I ought to raise the bar a bit for next week.

Goals for next week:

1-The AMAZING 600 WORDS CHALLENGE. Yeah. I’m raising the bar by a whole hundred words. As before, this is a must-do.

2-Tech Bible: get the totality of my word file transferred over in the New Tech Bible. For this task to be a success, I must officially have deleted the word file.

3-Notes on e-publishing: same goal as last week: I need to set down the structure of the blog post on this subject.

4-Finish the paid writing project. I need to have sent in the work by next Monday.

5-Secret Project Blog: I need the post to be written. Not posted (that will come later, but it should be ready to go.

6-What’s that? ANOTHER DIFFICULTY INCREASE? such insanity. The goal is to post the next A Dad and a Writer post.

Passing grade for this assignment is 4/6, including the 600 words. Crazy, I know!


Weekly Report: Almost Successful

How productive was I this week? Well, let’s look at last week’s goal list:

1-Write 500 words on Book the Second.

Status: I did get some writing done, but didn’t get to 500 words. Pathetic (but I had an extremely busy week, so I don’t feel as bad as I should about that.)

2-Book the Second tech bible: I didn’t do what I wanted to do there, but I put in quite a few hours to figure out a better way to organize my creative stuff going forward. So it’s a “Did way better than what I had planned” – enough that I can call this a success.

3-Another Bonus Creativity post: Done.

4-Review my agent list: Done.

5-Notes on e-publishing: some work, but nowhere enough not to call this one a fail.

So… 3/5 successful tasks, plus enough work put in on the others to call that a 4/5. But the 500 words were mandatory, so it’s still a Fail overall. Close call, though (and given the week I’ve had, I feel okay about it.)

Goals for next week:

1-500 Words Redux. Same deal as last week.

2-Get the Tech Bible structured properly (and with some of the content put in) – there’s a lot of work to be done there, but I need to be satisfied with what I’ve done to call that a success.

3-Notes on e-publishing: at this point, I need to get at least the structure of the blog post completed. Which means finishing up the research.

4-Put it some work on the paid writing project. Not sure if I can finish it this week, but I want to be within sight of the finish line at least by next Monday.

5-Hammer out another blog post for my Secret Project – this represents at least 4-5 hours of work, but it’s very enjoyable work.

Well… let’s get to work!

Bonus Creativity: This is Supposed to Be a Game

Right. So, last time, on Bonus Creativity, we made a map… and I forgot to actually put in some adventures for the players.

My bad. Let’s rectify that, by first reviewing our design guidelines.

1-This is a sandbox, so I don’t want to force my players along a predetermined path. But I still need to give them a few hooks to get started.

2-The gameworld conceit is that there are a few known civilized areas along the edge of this huge, unexplored continent. The area around Port Roven has probably already been mostly explored (and lightly settled), so there aren’t any major undiscovered structures to be found. By the same token, the area isn’t developped enough for brigands to have appeared.

3-I don’t want the area to be a backwater the players must necessary leave behind at some point. If it turns out that Port Roven strikes a chord with them, I need to make this place relevant for higher-level adventures as well.

Now, where does that leave us?

1-Site-based adventures (a.k.a. ruincrawls) must, by necessity, be relatively small: there isn’t room for a big treasure-laden temple that hasn’t been explored by previous adventurers. But there’s room for a small dungeon or two.

(Just for kicks: Fort Elsinor is built on the ruins of a large fortress, but it’s been explored and permanently secured in the past.)

2-I need a couple urban adventure hooks in Port Roven.

3-I want a “let’s come back to this later” challenge. It doesn’t need to be enormously complicated, but I want it to be on the backburner from the start.

4-I want to start introducing some of the campaign’s major themes, even if it’s only lightly.

5-I might want to introduce a politically charged adventure hook as well.

So let’s see if we can improve our map first.

So… our new locales are the Old Watchtower and the Lair of the Moose Lake Monster.

The Old Watchtower is a ruined tower located on a hill, close to where an unfinished road reaches the river which flows downhill from the mining town of Three Hills. As the game begins, there are confirmed reports that a band of goblin marauders (coming from a goblin polity the next hex over) have taken it over as a base. If the players don’t handle that problem, eventually the Port Roven authorities will send troops to deal with it.

The Moose Lake Monster is a rumor. Maybe it’s a dragon. Maybe it’s something else. But it’s big, it’s not a problem at the moment, it’s out of the way… it’s better left for later.

So that’s Point 3 and half of Point 1 figured out.

Fort Elsinor and its ruins aren’t a dungeon, but I see a way to handle Point 4. I’ve decided to limit teleporting spells significantly since the game is supposed to be a hexcrawl. So non-tactical teleports will be limited to teleport gates: permanent, fixed structures built by the previous civilizations of the continent. To use a teleport gate, someone must have visited it first. And the Port Roven area teleport gate is in Fort Elsinor. Getting it activated for the party is just a matter of visiting Fort Elsinor, but it needs to be the party’s decision (or I’ll have one of my urban adventures take the party there at some point.)

Point 5 will have to wait. Technically, there’s a conflict brewing with the goblins from the Next Hex Over, but that’s hardly what I had in mind for a political adventure.

Point 2 will need to wait as well: I need to detail Port Roven first.

That leaves me with the second half of Point 1. I’m sorely tempted to have it take place in Fort Elsinor’s ruins, but that’s the easy way out. Instead… there’s going to be a few barrows near the Selman Logging Camp (in the same Hex). One of them was opened and now the camp has a undead problem.

Well, that’s enough for now. Next time: Port Roven. Unless I do something else.

Goals for the Week

Well, returning to work has been tough on my energy level and general motivation. As in, I didn’t get anything done this week.

In part this is due to general disorganization (and a stupidly large amount of stuff on my non-writing to-do list that I just don’t feel like handling… leading to copious amount of time wasted on the Internet.)

There’s one cure for that: an OFFICIAL TO-DO LIST!

So, by next Monday, I must:

1-Write 500 words on Book the Second. That’s a ridiculously low bar. But it’s a reasonable target given the rest.

2-Finish the last details I wanted to do on the Book the Second tech bible. That’s just copying manuscript notes into the Word document, so it’s a “whenever I have time” task.

3-Another Bonus Creativity post. I already know what it will be about, so it should be a couple of hours top.

4-Review my agent list – just basic maintenance work, again a matter of minutes.

5-Formalize my notes on e-publishing, and plan my blog post(s) on the matter.

Five goals. The passing grade is 3/5, but completing task 1 is mandatory. Let’s see how well I’ll do.

Back to Work

All good things come to an end. My paternity leave ends today, and so I must head back to work.

(Full disclosure, I have an easy first week, so don’t pay too much attention to my whining.)

So – did I do everything I wanted on my vacation?


Almost made it. In fact, I have another post already written up so technically I did everything I wanted there.


Total, abject failure. I was more tired than I thought, but the real kicker was how exhausting being at home with the baby for entire days could be. Once I got past the initial sleep-twelve-hours-a-day period of my vacation, I had some time off in the evening, but my brain just wasn’t there.

And when I finally found energy again, well, we instead decided to put that energy to socialize a bit.

The good news is we now have a start date for daycare. So starting in June I should have prime quality time at home without the baby.

Now that the excuses are over… I did manage to work on the support documentation for Book the Second. Solved my main plot issue for the series, drew the world map, and even got started on the synopsis. But actual word count only went up by a few hundred (although I did get through a tough scene, so there’s that.)


On track with what I wanted to do, but no movement on that front. Still, it’s not because I didn’t do my part, so I call this a win!


I did some research. Surprisingly easier than I thought, but I still need to do more and write that post.

5-Other projects:

Started on some of the projects I had in mind (that’s the “in reserve” post), also stumbled into surprise projects that could generate me some money. So another net positive here.

So that’s what I did on my vacation.

Bonus Creativity: Drilling Down

Let’s get some more work done on our hex maps, before I return to work.

Last time, we created the broad outline of the game world. Now, I want to skip down to the fine details of the starting area for our eventual game.

So… let’s work on this hex there:

ENHANCE! (and do some landscaping work, I guess)

ENHANCE! (with extra work just to make a nice coastline)

There we go. 14km hexes are small enough to allow for some worldmap-level detail (in general, I’ll only go smaller for hexes of interest.) As a rule of thumb, I figure players will cross one hex of practicable terrain in a half-day, or of rough terrain in a day.

So what do we want in our starting area?

First, some basic amount of civilization. I figure I want a small city on the coast, perhaps a pair of additionnal settlement inlands. And why not a fortress on that island?

Beyond that, I add some basic geography. Some hills, some mountains, some waterways, and the beginning of a road. We end up with this beautiful landscape:

A fine start for a campaign. The players will start in Port Roven, with a few quest hooks available in town. I imagine I’ll go with some classics (like “goblins in the mines” or “protect the caravan” but I’ll also offer exploration opportunities (maybe go map the Roven River tributaries?) and perhaps some political chicanery (like dealing with a rival nation down in the southeast hex?)

Either way, it’s a start on the mapping front. I think I’ll work on detailing Port Roven next.

Just my Opinion: The Belisarius Series

I’ve re-read the first four volumes, and read the last two, of the Belisarius series, by Eric Flint and David Drake.

Overall, it’s an entertaining series. It covers a period of history and geographic locations that we don’t often get to see in movies or in book or TV series, and it manages to convey that feeling of authenticity you want from an historical novel without falling into the trap of endless descriptions or pontificating.

As alternate history, of course, we get a sci-fi veneer, but thankfully the authors manage to keep it fairly low-key. The focus is entirely on the in-period conflict; the bigger sci-fi framing story gets a few lines (if even that) in the first five books, and gets resolved almost as an afterthought in the epilogue of the sixth book.

Also… the series is blessedly short. Six short-to-medium novels, no dangling plot hooks, no unreasonable plot twists, and no long stretches of “well, here’s mildly interesting filler.” Sure, by the end of Book 4 you’re wondering how can the bad guys ever come back from the latest defeat… but unlike some other series I could name, by then we’re almost to the finish line.

And… this is the big one for me as a writer: the series ends well. Sure, it’s a happy ending, but what I mean is that the ending is well-paced, doesn’t invalidate the series conflict, but also doesn’t pretend that everything will be perfect forever afterward. It’s exactly the right amount of closure.

The series isn’t perfect. It overuses the same jokes over and over again. It doesn’t pretend the good guys are perfect, but the bad guys often fall into comic-book clichés or Chaotic Stupid behaviour. And there’s a distinct glint of plot armour on many of the main characters which got on my nerves at the end. Those are all small issues, however – the kind of thing I try to pay attention to, so that I don’t make the same mistakes in my writing.

But overall, it’s worth a read. Maybe not three or four re-reads, however.

And… that’s it for the Just my Opinion posts for a while. I’ve started on Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, which is fantastic so far… but oh god it’s seven volumes long!