The Ring Makers: Chapter 8

One Ring stood alone, unwatched.

 

Like the others, it grew slowly. It began as a crater and ejection zone. Over years its base formed by the nearly imperceptible movements of nearly invisible machines. Then the arc of the Ring itself emerged. The arms extended to make a circle that would reach a half mile in diameter.

 

Like the others, it was close to completion and ready to achieve its purpose. But it was patient. It spoke to the others by means unknown to what remained of human civilization and they coordinated. Their growth would end and something new would begin.

The Ring Makers: Chapter 7

Doctor Bae finished his presentation and then stood with his hands folded behind his back. Miss Ryu hurriedly took the tablet and the projector, bowed low to the Supreme Leader and scurried out of the room. When the door shut the Supreme Leader let out a sigh that Bae did not interpret as positive.

 

“Your Most Honorable–” Bae started.

 

The Supreme Leader waved dismissively. “You said seven months. Then what? What will happen?”

 

Bae, Minister of Special Sciences, had no answer.

 

The Supreme Leader sneered. “I thought so.” He waved again, this time a command.

 

Bae bowed stiffly and left.

The Ring Makers: Chapter 6

Ephrim considered the wall of Genet’s sketches. They were displayed in chronological order, one each month over two decades. Genet had been just a boy for those first drawings but even then his talent was obvious. “God has gifted you in this way,” Ephrim always said to Genet, who always responded, “God has gifted me with you.”

 

“What will we do?” asked Genet.

 

Ephrim smiled. “We will pray, of course.”

 

Yes, thought Genet, pray that when the Ring is complete it will herald the hosts of Heaven to finish what God started with the rain of stone from the sky.

The Ring Makers: Chapter 5

Ellie heaved the black stone into the trailer. Shadows stretched across the ejection zone. The sun dropped behind the Ring. She cranked the half track to life and made for home.

 

It was dark when she reached the cluster of trailers and RVs. Jamal and Paula were cooking and Hutch was working on an engine by lamplight. She pumped water to drink and wash, then found Luiz in his Airstream.

 

“Good batch today?” he asked from behind his paperback.

 

“Yup,” she said. Then, “It’s getting closer.”

 

“I know.”

 

“What happens when–”

 

“Don’t know,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

 

Ellie frowned. “Yeah.”

The Ring Makers: Chapter 4

Monitors depicted the Ring from different perspectives: far enough away that waves could be seen lapping at its base; close enough to reveal the individual ridges in the structure; from orbit. Other monitors displayed only data: numbers, graphs, charts.

 

Bae Hyong stood, eyes flicking from one monitor to another as he tapped his tablet. One stream of code caught his attention and his fingers danced. It was replaced by a multicolored chart, jagged but its steady rise unmistakable.

 

“Miss Ryu,” he said into the air.

 

“Yes Doctor,” the intercom answered.

 

“Tell the Supreme Leader I must speak with him. Immediately.”

The Ring Makers: Chapter 3

Genet sat on the boulder and studied the Ring before beginning to sketch. While his hands conveyed the structure of the Ring in charcoal, his mind drifted. He wondered if the boulder had been hurled up onto the surface by the impact. Perhaps it had flown so fast and high that it nearly escaped Earth altogether, only to tumble back down to where it began.

 

Genet sighed.

 

Finished, he compared this sketch to his earlier ones. The Ring was definitely closing. There was no doubt. Anticipation stirred in him.

 

Soon.

 

Genet left to tell Ephrim that the time was near.

The Ring Makers: Chapter 2

Ellie peered across the ejection zone. After thirty years, new life had begun to take hold in that wasteland. It was gnarled and mean and stubborn life, just like Ellie. And just like her, it lived in the shadow of the Ring.

 

The Ring stood as tall as the skyscrapers from Ellie’s childhood. It was a jagged circle against the sky, nearly complete. The gap was only a few degrees across now. Twenty years ago, the first time Ellie had seen the Ring, it had almost been a semicircle. At that rate, in another year it would complete.

 

Ellie shivered.

The Ring Makers: Chapter 1

Up until the moment that fragments hit London, Addis Abada, Beijing, Delhi and New York everyone still believed it was a meteor. Even after the rock fragmented, even after the pieces drifted differently than the models said they would, even after the first piece set off the Yellowstone caldera, we thought it was an accident or an act of God. But then the biggest cities on Earth were targeted, vaporized. Then we knew. We knew we had been attacked.

We didn’t really know. Not yet. We would not know for another thirty years, not until after the Ring was complete.

HereAfter

From Sigil Entertainment!

Heroes Die.

What is an adventure if not a game of chicken with the grim reaper? From a pit full of jagged spikes to giant spiders to traitorous blades in the night to angry would-be gods from the deepest levels of the Abyss, Death stalks the novice and veteran hero alike. And sometimes, Death wins the game.

But in the vast tapestry of fantasy adventure, death need not be the end. HereAfter is a meta-setting designed to take that death, especially the dreaded Total Party Kill, and embrace it. Characters awake on the shores of a mystical island in an endless sea where they have the opportunity to win their way back to the land of the living and complete their quests and find justice and vengeance. Or they can find their way to their final reward in the planes beyond.

But they aren’t alone in the HereAfter: many others before them have crossed the veil to the Endless Isle. Some have made it their home, wishing neither to return to the living or go on to the true end. Some are trapped and driven to madness, haunting the land of the dead itself. Powers and forces beyond mortal ken also watch the HereAfter, unable to enter themselves but using their influence and minions on the Endless Isle.

HereAfter is designed for use with the 5th Edition of the first fantasy adventure RPG. It can be used with characters of any level, from any setting. Characters might adventure here for a session or two before returning home, alive and well, or have a full campaign on the Endless Isle.

Hereafter will soon be found on Kickstarter!

The Ephemeral Joy of RPGs

I meant to write a long post-TotalCon blog entry. It would have talked about how the Rebel Scum came to a satisfying conclusion with Vader allowing them to assassinate Tarkin in order to get them in the open and then eviscerating them one by one. It would have mentioned the absolute insane joy of The Battle of the Colliseum, in which 3 teams competed with one another to please the Gods and managed to raise $1000 for Children’s Miracle Network in the process. It would have even admitted the absolute exhausted, hung over session of PSINAUT Sunday morning turned out better than expected thanks to some patient players and the fast, furious fun of the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition rules.

But, I forgot. or I put it off.

Or, more likely than any of those things, the immediate bliss of those events had faded and I went on to experience other, different forms of the same with my weekly DargonHeist and Hell on Earth games.

One thing I have begun to understand about the tabletop role-playing experience is how ephemeral it is — and how that is a good thing. For me, even, it is the main draw. One can watch a movie or listen to an album or read a book over and over again. For the very good examples of those forms, those repeat engagements provide new experiences, but for most it is simply good enough to return to the shadow of the experience of watching, hearing or reading it for the first time. Tabletop RPGs are not like that. There are no repeat viewings, even if you play the same adventure over again. The people are different, or the time is different or you are different. because it is improvisational, it would be impossible to recreate the adventure even if played literally moments after finishing it the first time, with the same people in the same place.

I can’t quite articulate why, but I feel this is important. This ephemeral joy that RPGs bring is, to me, a fundamental draw. It may be the only part of the experience that truly differentiates it from all other forms of entertainment. There are lots of interactive forms of entertainment, and many ways to engage in fantasy play. But tabletop RPGs, relying as they do on a combination of player improv and randomizers, can do something not even really good MMORPGs online can do: they create a completely unique experience that cannot be repeated or effectively captured.

Some may balk at that last assertion. Yes, Critical Roll and other streaming, YouTube and podcast series are very popular. But even though people have found entertainment in observing others play, they are not themselves playing and therefore are not experiencing that ephemeral, interactive joy. Watching Critical Roll might be more meaningful for a gamer because they can imagine how they might feel were they playing, but ultimately they aren’t playing. Nor is the experience ephemeral — one can always cue it up on YouTube and watch a favorite episode or scene over again. As such, I think shows like Critical Roll kind of swing wide of the point of the RPG hobby. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge them their success or the fans their enjoyment, but it’s essentially TV, as “real” and “unscripted” as an episode of Survivor.

So what? Well, first and foremost this: if you are hungry for an experience like you cannot get from any other form of entertainment, I implore you to give tabletop role-playing a try. Whatever else the experience will provide, it is guaranteed to give you something completely unique every time you sit down at the table (virtual or otherwise). Second, if you are an active player or DM watching streamers and wondering why your game isn’t that good — stop. That experience happening on screen is a form of entertainment built for an audience. What you are doing at your table is far superior, even if it doesn’t come with the best voice actors in the business. And finally, if you are a lapsed player or DM — come back. We want you back and your love of the medium will flare back to life like a campfire in a windstorm. It has never been easier for far flung friends to play online, and D&D has never been more in the public eye in a positive way. Seek out a game store, a club at the local library or start a game night at the local watering hole.

Just because the experience is ephemeral and hard to articulate to those that weren’t there does not mean it is a lesser experience. Play.