Pitch? Alien of the North Galaxy

This really isn’t so much of a complete story idea as a mishmash of ideas I’ve been inspired by lately that has enough visual stability to stay in my mind and has enough differentiation to not be totally fanfiction, so pie-in-the-sky hope is I could make something publishable out of it. Not sure yet though, and I’ve got plenty to work on as it is.

So let’s get this all down on digital paper.

Inspirations: Playing through Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PS4 lately and going a little deeper into the franchise. Ideas for a game I once had about psychic alien diplomacy. The current national discourse on climate change. Thoughts on digital assistants. Discussions with family and friends about writing and its intersections with psychology.

Setting: Earth, at least 70 years into the future. Semi-apocalyptic because climate chaos has turned the equator into unfarmable desert, raised the sea level around the world, and battered the remaining land with storms. Lots of refugees, diminishing farmland, mass civilization breaks down and creates a gap between remaining civilized centers and vast swaths of swampy ruins inhabited by refugees, nomads, and bandits. Technology advances have survived but are severely reduced outside of the northern city centers due to lost manufacturing centers. Tech found mostly in the form of cybernetic implants that people can quickly and easily embed into their craniums or limbs, also carrying limited AI (by sci-fi standards) that they give pet names (“Alexa”, “Jeeves”, etc.) that can enhance human abilities through exosuits or any number of weird augmentations.

Protagonist: A telepathic alien that has been exiled to a life sentence on this ruined planet that has all but lost its chance at becoming space-faring. Species is variation on classic “Gray” alien style (big eyes, bald head, no visible lips, three-fingered hands) but not emaciated and in a variety of pleasing skin tones, protagonist perhaps a nice green. (Think “Chaos” from Sonic Adventure 1 but as a physical being with green skin and big blue eyes.) Wears heavy rain-resistant gear to cover up and hide his identity from humans. Arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime of learning martial arts and domination techniques when the species is supposed to be a group of diplomatic pacifists with galactic responsibility. Honorable and accepted his sentence without protest. Speaks telepathically but can project his thoughts like a voice to hide his identity.

Plot: At the moment, little more than a series of encounters where our protagonist comes across groups of irredeemable bandits and raiders and uses his skills to pacify them in one strike, dominating them to become better, nicer people. (Perhaps with silly technique names as well, describing the way he alters their psychology.) This is treated as a severe mind/personality-death, and the protagonist only uses it if he would have no other option than a killing blow in any other situation. Basically only using mind-control like one would use a gun. Perhaps the main plot kicks off because he senses the presence of another telepathic being like himself, and that leads him to a big city that a bunch of refugees are trying to get into. Encountering bad guys along the way with implants and exosuits that make it more difficult for him to pacify. (Hey, I said a lot of these ideas came from video games, right?)

That’s about it. A PG-13-rated Fist of the North Star but with psychology instead of gore. It’s a mishmash of ideas that have been floating around for a while and might later end up used in other things, but I thought I might indulge myself just this once and actually show it to other people.

Probably not gonna make a habit of this.

State of the Spud June 2018: Picking Myself Up

There’s a lot I don’t like to share about my private non-internet life, both for some attempt at security and because there’s usually not a whole lot going on. But this month has seen some developments in the direction of my life that will affect how I spend my time.

I’m gonna try to be as succinct as possible.

  • I’ve been working as a thrift store sales floor associate since January. It’s been pretty hard on my legs.
  • Back in late March, I got a jury summons. I managed to land on a grand jury through the month of April. Grand juries don’t see just one trial, they see many per day and decide whether the state will indict and move forward towards a criminal trial. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It’s awakened an interest in working in the public sector, in a place where I get to see so many people’s stories.
  • After 10-odd years, I’m finally seeing doctors. I developed plantar fasciitis from all the new physical activity, and I’ve probably been dealing with moderate sleep apnea for most of my adult life, but I still need to undergo a sleep study to make sure. This ultimately means that medical bills are a new reason to beg for money.
  • Because of my newfound interest in the legal system, I’ve applied to take on an online paralegal studies certificate course. Being a paralegal or legal assistant is a potential way I can support my creative projects without so much of the crunch or dread of pursuing a volatile creative career, considering what I’ve heard and read of the game industry and whatnot.
  • Patreon-wise, I’m letting the players of the Dusk City Outlaws campaign openly plan their last ultra-long mega-heist across multiple sessions. Once that’s done, I’m probably gonna run another round of SpudShots to try out some more RPG systems before I start the next big project. I’m also floating an idea of making mini-campaigns a regular thing.

Those are the major points. This is all stuff that had been brewing for a few months now. Those of you who have been supporting me and rooting for me so far deserve to know what’s going on.

I still need a lot of help, to be honest, but I’m climbing out of the hole I’ve been wallowing in for more than three years. Slowly.

Changing My Approach to Podcast Editing

Every episode of Fallout is Dragons, my first tabletop roleplaying podcast, was about 2-3 hours long. Same for the SpudShots and other random stuff I run like Stars Without Number. The reason for that is because, well, I wanted to keep the whole session intact. Why wouldn’t we want to keep the whole game archived, so we can relive the whole session whenever we want?

But starting up Dusk City Outlaws has put that philosophy into question.

I’m considering making far more aggressive cuts in my podcast editing process. Removing not only background noise and dead air, but lots of the crosstalk and dice rolls (except for anything that makes us laugh). Just focusing on the story told in the session by our characters. I’m confident I could tighten up each episode by at least an hour with this goal in mind.

Why now? Because I’ve started a new series and I want more people to see it, which… as weird as it sounds, wasn’t really the case with Fallout is Dragons. I was just putting those sessions up and if people liked to listen to it, great. But Dusk City Outlaws is new and, frankly, doesn’t have the benefit of ponies, which had the power to overcome the intimidation factor of a 3-hour audio file.

What would that mean for players and listeners?

  • It’d mean that the whole session would no longer be preserved in podcast and video format. I’d just be presenting the story that we told.
  • The RAW file (at the $5 Patreon level) and Twitch.tv livestream archive would be the only ways to hear the whole session.
  • It would take longer to get the episodes out. I’d probably want an extra week so I can balance the time with my other projects.

But the sessions would be a much easier listen, I think.

Honestly, to me this seems like a pretty obvious and noncontroversial change: Putting more effort into editing down the recordings instead of throwing basically the whole thing up onto the web. It’d make file sizes smaller, it’d be less intimidating for new people…

I just want to get some feedback on the idea. I’m not planning on implementing it right away (I’m rendering for the new episode of DCO as I write this, edited the same as usual), but maybe a couple of episodes down the line I might make the change.

What do you think?

J’accuse Dreemurr Reborn

Yeah, just gonna update the blog outta nowhere like it ain’t no thing.

Go on this journey with me, will you? UNDERTALE. UNDERTALE spoilers (beware). UNDERTALE fan-comics and fanfiction. Tumblr character-driven ask-blogs. UNDERTALE Tumblr fan-ask-comic-blogs exploring a version of events after the ending. Congratulations, we have arrived at the headspace necessary to comprehend Dreemurr Reborn.

Dreemurr Reborn is a consistently high quality and high effort production, save for one thing that’s been nagging at me for a while now: There’s this weird undercurrent of author exceptionalism throughout the whole thing.

Again, UNDERTALE spoilers abound. Maybe at this point there’s been so much internet exposure it doesn’t matter anymore, but this random, aggressive blog post really ain’t worth reading if it’s gonna spoil you on the crucial details of an impactful RPG you might play someday. Continue reading J’accuse Dreemurr Reborn

Friendship is Dragons 596 – Extended Note

Yeah, just gonna update the long-dead blog like it ain’t no thing. Who knows? It might be happening more often…

This is the Author’s Note I had originally written for FiD #596 before I thought it might be too much, but here goes:

Jokes based on continuity are a weird thing. It’s different from jokes based on character, because the mental leap of a joke and the mental leap of character development tend to go hand in hand. With a continuity joke, I’m basically asking, “Hey, does anyone remember the joke from two and a half weeks ago, even though it was two and a half weeks ago? I hope so, because this critical line might be confusing otherwise!”

I’ve been burned before. In the last arc, even. Against all odds, #543 was the latest one to get passed around a bunch of forum threads (How do I know? Ego-surfing, son.), and everyone’s reaction was, “‘Welcome to the joke’? What the heck does that mean?” when the ghost of Nightmare Night past joke was something that had been brought up in passing and only Rarity and the DM had really understood… 43 pages and almost two months ago.

Alright, a few people in the comments section were confused too. I had really underestimated the time difference.

But then again, when you write a joke, you write it for the specific person who will get the joke and laugh at it. And today, that joke is for the person who loves to pay extra attention to the details and theorize their hearts out.

And also for the people who easily remember a joke from two and a half weeks ago.

Patreon in July: Milestone Updates

I can hardly believe that the Patreon experiment has been going as well as it has.

That said, I’ve been pretty slow to get around to those two milestone promises I made back when we got started. But there are reasons for that, as well as bonus complications to talk about, so I will elaborate upon them now.

Milestone #2: No Webcomic Ads

There are still ads on the Friendship is Dragons website! Why? Well, because I’m waiting for one last payout, so what little money I’ve earned doesn’t go to waste.

Yeah, simple as that.

Basically, Google Adsense doesn’t pay out until you earn over $100, and the banner ad on FiD generally earns me about $45 a month. So it takes three months for me to get a payout. A welcome payout for sure, but if I’m only getting one measly payout every three months, it starts to get annoying.

Thus, around the 22nd of this month, I’ll collect my payout and then remove the ads from Friendship is Dragons.

Milestone #1: Proper Podcast Hosting

This one’s a bit more complex, and is part of the reason I’m putting the word out today.

When we started Fallout is Dragons, well, I didn’t know much about podcasting. Since we passed this milestone, I’ve spent just about all month researching everything about podcasting – file sizes, formats, hosting services, best practices, sites to avoid, RSS feeds, iTunes policies, the whole nine yards.

To summarize what I’ve learned: One, just putting links on Dropbox is not RSS feed friendly and that means we have to rehost everything, and two, we have a very large podcast on our hands here.

Because we’re recording a tabletop game, our episodes tend to last 2.5-3 hours. Even at really low bitrates, each file averages about 80 MB an episode. Publishing three or four episodes a month means we’re asking for a lot in monthly storage space.

Fortunately, I think we’ve found a nice new home on libsyn. I’ve just started it up and you can even grab the first few episodes on there now. But I’ve already reached my sizeable monthly limit with just those first five files.

We don’t have to wait for it to play catch-up over the next several months, though. Libsyn does provide a migration service where they’ll approve and archive whatever you need for a one-time fee of $0.05 per MB. To get everything up to Session 16, that comes to about $61.

Sadly, this month’s Patreon funding (thanks for that, by the way) has already either been spent or preemptively allocated towards many other things. I’d rather not wait a whole month to get Fallout is Dragons up to speed in its new host, so the remaining option is to crowdfund it.

Sumarry/TL;DR: If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, consider donating to my Paypal (not my Patreon). If I can crowdfund at least $70 (adjusted for fees), I can get all of Fallout is Dragons up on libsyn as a legitimate podcast.

Otherwise, thanks for supporting me, either financially or just by looking at the stuff I make. Continuing to be creative is what keeps me sane these days, and your encouragement reassures me that I’m not wasting your time.

P.S. I’m open to suggestions when it comes to extra stuff to offer on the Patreon page (new Milestones or Rewards, or rather the Milestones-as-Rewards scheme I’ve been using so far). I’m still very new to this whole shebang.

State of the Spud May 2014: Not Good

As a general rule, I lurk and don’t keep contact with anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. Part of that’s introversion and social anxiety, part of that’s a voyeuristic desire to see what people are saying when I’m not there, and part of that’s not trusting myself not to say something stupid or say too much when I make comments.

Makes keeping a blog up kind of a conflict of interests, but that’s a question for another day.

What little contact I’ve made has probably seemed especially distant and depressed of late, so I realize I owe people an explanation. Here’s what’s going on in my life right now:

After months of stress and stress and stress, I’ve been informed that I am not welcome to live in my current situation starting next month. I have to move out. I have to move back home.

This is the culmination of many, many months – in fact, basically a whole year – of a chaotic, uncertain life, barely scraping by on goodwill and lucky breaks. Luck and goodwill that has finally run out. Months of stressing over money has exploded into this climactic downer.

So right now, to summarize: I’m broke, being forced to move, soon to be between jobs, and generally feeling like I’ve failed at life.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten my food budget down to $20-$30 a week. I used to be terrible about that, you don’t even know.


Fallout is Dragons – Session 0 – Flametongue

It’s been a great while since I’ve been in the DM’s seat. This foray into the world of tabletop RPGs, using the Skype rules of the Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony system and set in the Fallout: Equestria universe, will be the first campaign I’ve actually started and run by myself, which is a scary thought. Still, it’s a special occasion, and this adventure promises to be so much fun that I just want to share it with the world.

So, living up to my namesake of trying new things, here’s the first (or zeroth) episode of Fallout is Dragons, a pony-themed tabletop campaign podcast.

MediaFire link
YouTube link

With any luck, this should become a weekly thing. This is where you’ll find the podcast links for now. The project now has its own tumblr, and the updates will go there now.


Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony

Friendship is Dragons comfortably fills a niche for bronies who love tabletop RPGs. Yet there are those who can’t seem to get enough of their pony RPG fix, and they remedy this by making their own homebrew pony-themed roleplaying game system. And thanks to the comic, it’s easier than ever for said systems to get exposure and attract potential players.

This now makes the second time this has happened, and this time it comes from a good friend of mine. He goes by the handle Stairc, and he made his own system called Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony. (Not to be confused with another Pony Tales, an Open D6 pony system. From this point on, when I say “Pony Tales,” I mean Stairc’s game. I haven’t played the other one.)

Stairc organized a game with a few of my regular readers, who’ve been great about sharing recaps of their adventures with the rest of the… Friendship is Dragons community- boy that’s weird to say. Earlier this week, I got invited to create a character and play a game with the established group to try out the system. And now I hope to be a regular player each week.

Suffice to say, I really like Pony Tales, but I feel I should really elaborate on how I feel about the game, if only to satisfy the game designer in my brain.

Continue reading Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony

Father’s Day 2012: Ducks and Ponies

I’ve been writing long enough and frequently enough to recognize my own style – but only just. In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about how I write comedy by doing the screencap comic Friendship is Dragons. It’s given me pause to think about what I find funny, and how I try to deliver that humor to others.

On reflection, there’s no escaping the fact that I owe a lot of my sense of humor to my dad. He’s the one I watched MST3K with, played games with, and shared jokes with. That’s not the only influence he’s had on me, of course – he shared his love of computers with me, as well as his taste in literature and music. We shared a home and a life together, in which I grew up to be very much like him in many respects. (Not ALL respects, naturally – I’m sure he’s glad I’m not a carbon copy of him.) I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am today without his influence.

So this year, instead of just calling him up to say “Happy Father’s Day” like every other year, I’ve decided to make this Father’s Day special. Continue reading Father’s Day 2012: Ducks and Ponies