Beyond the Black Gate…

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 | Entertainment

…in which I talk about writing, gaming, and the new-found service that brings those two together.

I am not one to choose favorites, whims and moods are far too fickle to pick one thing above all others for all time. But, were I to be forced to pick a favorite pass time, gaming would be in the top three choices. I game often and avidly, I dedicate more time and effort to it that nearly anything else (and probably more than I really should). A part of this obsession may be my deep seated desire to be a writer, but without the dedication to the craft, I’ve never really gotten anywhere with it. You see, writing is something I would much like to do, if not as a profession, than as an artist. The problem is, I don’t have the dedication to myself, or writing in general to maintain it – though this blog is an attempt to make that change.

But, as I was saying, gaming is my primary creative outlet and it has often filled the void of writing, as it shares a lot with creative writing. And to that effect, I didn’t realize what I had stepped into when I discovered the Obsidian Portal.

I first became aware of Obsidian Portal about two years ago, when Penny Arcade mentioned it in one of their news posts. I really didn’t think much about it at the time. It was described as “custom built Wiki” designed to keep track of game information. For some reason, at that time, I didn’t really put any thought into the potential behind that. There just wasn’t a spark of inspiration.

POTD #160
Not only do I love gaming, I love dice!

More recently, though, I started gaming with a new group out at Reaper Miniatures. They have a really fun way of gaming, in that every few months, or so, when a storyline ends, they switch to a new Storyteller and a new game system. This time around, we’re doing Pathfinder, and playing the Kingmaker story series. With this, our current DM decided to make use of Obsidian Portal to chronicle our game and keep track of story details. I’d nearly forgotten about the first mention of it years ago, but this time around, the spark ignited. With just one afternoon of playing with the player tools, I was seeing potential for this new resource. The next day, I had already started work on an Obsidian Portal site for my D&D game that will be restarting in the near future.

I think what sold me on it is not so much the tools, or the ease of use, but that it gave me a place to – in a way – self publish writing that I know at least a couple people will read and enjoy. Bryan, or DM, upon announcing the Obsidian Portal site, encouraged us to post player notes and stories and I took to it in a big way. The thing is, I love to take character notes – in character. I used to make insanely complex character backgrounds, with odd themes and prop-like detail for nearly every game I played in (regretfully, I’ve somehow lost ALL of those creations over the years). An example of such would be the magazine interview of my AEon pilot and his crew, in which he misquoted movies and had handfuls of expletives edited out. Another time, I created and filled out a college application for a character who was supposed to be very intelligent, but not very worldly wise. These were constructions of passion, I was learning about my characters as much as sharing them with the storyteller and other players. And when I first started writing my account of the first session in the Kingmaker game, I found myself stepping back into those days.

Bryan had already written a stellar account of what had really happened in the game, so to simply write my version would be redundant. I felt like I needed to do something a little different, something more like a character background, but pertaining to the current story. I ended up starting a journal for my character, a diary that he would seemingly write in every night as he lays down his sword and retires for the day. Some of the inspiration to write this way, also came from some bad character decisions on my part. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a character with strict morals, and as such, my righteous paladin fell a little short. I know that Bryan was surprised by my portrayal, as were some of the other players, so after the game, we sat down and kind of talked about the direction I was heading. We felt like my character needed an epiphany, but it was something that I figured would be internal. I wanted to share it with the group, though, so I found a way to include it in my character journal. It gave me the excuse I needed to really break back into my old ways and start writing entirely in theme.

That’s not something I can really do when I try my hand at writing. I have, on occasion, attempted to write first person fiction. It never really works out for me, though. I can’t keep it up. After just a few paragraphs, I begin to find myself hurting to put in information that is outside of the narrator’s perception or understanding. I feel like when I lock the point of view to a single eye, I’m already making sacrifices to the story. I know for a fact that there are people who can pull this style of writing off, but I’m simply not one of them, so I find my solace in character documents.  Rather than write the story entirely within the theme, I simply find ways to build upon the story with sample documents from the world we are creating. A snipped of this journal, a bit of throwaway notes, a letter from one stranger to another. Our world is filled with text that mean so little to most, and so much to few, and I like to think that by creating these little pieces for the game world, I’m helping to flesh it out, if just a little.

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