How Settlers of Catan Improved My Promotion Skills Part II

Ok, this is a continuation of an earlier post, where I tried to convince people that gaming is the key to building promotional skills. Interested? Intrigued? In Sheboygan for the weekend (what?)? Check out part 1 before or after you read this (or you laugh at the memes).

What? You thought a cat riding a peanut butter and jelly sammich wouldn’t end up here?

4) Have a strategy and stick with it (unless it obviously isn’t working)

I’ve seen a lot of people play Catan, and they’re just all over the place with it. A little construction here, a little development points there, etc. It doesn’t work. You have to pick one strategy (based on your situation) and go with it. Personally, I like to build settlements and go for the longest road, but do whatever works for you.

When it comes to promotion, people sometimes get overwhelmed by the options. Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Pintrest, Reddit, Personal Pleas, Free Giveaways, Paying for promotion…so many options. When there’s a buffet in front of you, it’s hard to resist trying a little of everything (believe me, I know my buffets). The problem is that doing a little of everything is like doing nothing. Find one strategy and stick with it until it’s obvious that it doesn’t work. Give it at least 6 months, maybe even a year. Building recognition takes a long time. Be patient.

Don’t beg, engage instead.

5) Don’t Try to Tear Down Others, Just Build Better

Nobody likes the dick that plays The Robber. In Catan, you can use the robber to mess other people up, but it will almost always backfire on you (the only exception is when you use it to keep the leader from pulling too far ahead).

Remember rule #1, if you act like a dick, people remember. They will be wary of you every time you play from now on. People don’t always remember the good things that you do, but they always remember the bad ones (remember the John Pigfucker joke).

It’s hard to be nice all the time. When you put yourself out in public like writers do, people will insult you, shoot you down, and just troll for no better reason than to troll. You have to stay above all of this. There are tons of stories about people or businesses that got into flame wars and it dragged them down. Just don’t get sucked in.

Instead of rolling around in the mud, just build better. Stay your course, be positive and surround yourself with a network of positive people. Maybe it’ll work, maybe not, but it’s better than sinking into the quicksand of dickitude (it’s a word now!)

And get off my lawn…dick!

In Closing

I think that the suggestions I make in this blog and the previous one boils down to this: Don’t be an asshole. This is a pretty good mantra for life. Say it with me now…”Don’t. Be. An. Asshole.”

*drops mic*

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

Geekin it Up

It’s time for my bi-weekly DnD game. Last time we had a major battle, this time we deal with all the fall out. It’s gonna be bad.

The thing that I like best about this campaign is that the players have to face responsibility for our actions. We’ve already become wanted in our home country. it doesn’t matter if the people we fight are bad, they’re still people and the law protects them too.

Too many games are hack and slash with no worries or complexity. Our game is the opposite.

Time to bust out my dice. TTYL

Better Writing Through D&D

Dungeons & Dragons turned 40 this year. Since its beginnings, over 20 million people have rolled a 20-sided die and failed their damn Saving Throw. I’m not sure if D&D was the first RPG, but it’s certainly the best known and most popular. It survived horrible mismanagement and many different editions (let’s never mention 4th Edition i.e. tabletop WoW), but it still remains my favorite hobby and the primary influence on my writing skills.

Do you find it weird that I credit D&D for helping me write well? Then you’ve never played.

Still Life With RPGs

It’s hard to remember exactly where I was first exposed to D&D. I suspect that it was the old cartoon, which holds up surprisingly well today. It might have been the board game Dungeon, which was so much fun. I wish I still had it.

I do remember the first time I played. It was 4th grade. I recently moved from the Bronx to Rockland County, a suburb of New York City. I was without friends and completely out of my element. I broke my collarbone just before school started, so while everyone else was at recess, I had to sit with the teachers. It was not a good way to make friends.

A kid named Marc was just as unpopular as me, but he has this really cool game. You got to make up a character and go on adventures and stuff. It was all in your imagination, and it was fun. I was instantly hooked.

And we need more Mountain Dew!!!

In high school, I found more gamers, and people got worried. I went to a special school for the “bad kids” and there were already rumors about how D&D made you worship the devil (assholes like Jack Chick didn’t help). I met a crazy bastard named Kevin there, and he got me back into the game. We used to play at lunch until the school banned the game. Fucking bullshit!

btw: Kevin is still a crazy bastard, but I love him like a brother. You better read this fucking article, man!

In college, I found the group that I still play with today. The game became less about smashing shit and more about character development. The world we play in, Aquerra, a creation of my (often referenced) friend Osvaldo, was rich in detail and complexity and like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even better, every character we created and adventure we went on added layers of detail to the already laden world. Aquerra is also where the term Watchmage comes from, though my version and Osvaldo’s have little in common.

Not only have these gamers become my closest friends, they are also very talented roleplayers and world builders. I consider them my mentors as I developed my own writing skills.

D&D: Writing Class With Mountain Dew

Every writer should play roleplaying games.  I don’t mean video games like WoW or Skyrim, I mean the good, uncut stuff: Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, Champions…but mostly D&D.

I’m not the only writer that feels that way. Jon Favreau also credits D&D for honing his skills, and several creative types like George RR Martin, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen Colbert and Robin Williams were also players.

Role playing games teach you how to build a character the only true way: by becoming him. If you want to write a convincing character, you have to climb into his skin. Learn to think like him, act like him. Have him interact with other characters, before you actually start your story. You have to treat him like a real person. Only then will you know his heart.

DMing will make you a master world builder. For RPGs, you have to build a world for your PCs and NPCs to live in. If you can building a massive campaign setting for a game, you can build one for a story.

Running adventures teaches you about plot, pacing, and when to increase or decrease tension (an article from me about pacing is coming next week). With experience you learn when to ratchet up the drama, and when to ease up. You learn plot points, and if you really analyze it, you learn the Hero’s Journey.

Embrace Your Inner (and Outer) Geek

When I was young, playing D&D made you an outcast. I already had serious issues with bullies (ironic since I was so much bigger than everyone), so I hid my hobby. I played in basements with other outcasts like me. We were united in our game, and united in our persecution. But god forbid someone found out.

We’re in a geek renaissance right now, and it’s a beautiful thing. People love comics and scifi/fantasy. You don’t have to be embarrassed of your Star Wars toy collection anymore. Yet for some reason, D&D still gets mocked.

The horror…the horror…

Enough of this! OUT OF THE BASEMENTS AND INTO THE STREETS!

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t equate this to the gay rights movement, but until D&D is as accepted as other geek hobbies, no geek is free.

I think we need a sponsor…maybe Mountain Dew.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

5 Myths About The Writing Business

Here is a great article by Chuck Sambuchino titled “5 Mistakes Writers Make (and How To Avoid Them).” The title is a bit of a “bait and switch,” as it’s about the business instead of the craft. Still, it’s something that all writers–indie or traditional–should read.

Its main thrust: YOU GOTTA HUSTLE

It took me a while before I realized this. With the help of my publisher, Damnation Books, we were able to craft an extraordinary novel in Song of Simon. The support I received from them has been excellent. I foolishly believed that the book would sell by itself. That’s far from the truth.

The problem is that there are millions of books out there, and unless you do something to stand out, you’ll disappear. I’ve tried a bunch of promo techniques in the past. What I’ve realized is that if you write about stuff you love, people that love the same will join you (that’s you guys). I love writing about geeky stuff. I assume that you love reading about geeky stuff. I hope that some of you read my fiction, but I don’t get shameless about it.

If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have fun doing this. I’ll even get out my 20-sided dice.

Ooooh a dual Star Wars/D&D meme. Critical Hit!!!

Anyway, I’ll leave you to read the article (if you’d like). If you’d rather geek out with me, you can always contact me.

That reminds me: I have a blog about Dungeons and Dragons coming up sometime this week. D & D is my truest, sexiest love. Ok, not that sexy (it’s more anti-sexy), but I still love it.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist).

10 Things I Learned About Life From War Games

For the last few months, I’ve been playing this xbox game called Happy Wars. I like pvp team combat, and this a great game for it. You get less of the “in it for themselves” snipers that you get in Battlefield, Gears of War, etc. That’s because it’s a fantasy setting, you have to be in close to kill, and the combination team skills are what will win you the match. It’s the same thing that I liked about WoW pvp settings (Arathi Basin, Warsong Gulch, etc)

I noticed that a lot of winning tactics are the same as what you see in team sports like football and basketball. They’re also similar to truisms I’ve heard about life. So in an attempt to be a douche, I’m taking what I learned from war gaming and apply it to life.

1) Speed Kills: The best team skill in Happy Wars is Group Rush. With this mass speed attack, you force the other team back on its heels. Once they start retreating, it’s hard for them to regain momentum.

Historically, you can look at the classic cavalry charge, or Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg attack. In everyday life, it means that we are all going to die, so do the shit you want to do now. If you want it, stop dicking around and do it.

2) Fight Past Your Goal: This is a common mistake in both Happy Wars and World of Warcraft. If you want to capture a tower (or whatnot) you have to set up your front in front of it, preferably at a defensible position. If you set up at the tower, you’ll be constantly fighting for it.

In everyday life, interpret it as: try harder than what you want to achieve. Turn disappointment into motivation. Even if you fail to reach it, you’re exactly where you wanted to be. I wanted to be a novelist, so I decided that I’d try to be a famous novelist. I’m not famous, but good goddamn, I’m finishing up my second novel.

3) Work As a Team: I’ve seen it so many times in video wargames, and in live combat games like Dagorhir. A small group that works together will beat the hell out of a larger group with no cohesion. The mage does the damage, the fighter protects the mage, the cleric heals both. In Happy Wars, all it takes is an engineer and someone to protect him, and they can win in a few minutes. The losers feel stupid afterwards, and blame the rest of the team. But it’s their own fault for not working together.

From a fictional point of view, think about how comic book teams like The Avengers and The Xmen work together. If you can get your friends to work like that, you’ll win every time.

In real life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Humans are at their best when they compliment each others’ skills.

4) Find a Buddy and Stay With Him: One of the biggest mistakes you can make in these kind of games is go off on your own. There are times when it’s inevitable, but you should do everything you can to stay with at least one partner. It allows you to outmaneuver the enemy. Historically, you see this in the early dogfights of WWI & II.

In real life, love your friends and never let them down. Some day you’ll be old and lonely. Push that back as long as you can.

5) Technology Rules but Soldiers Win the Day: I’ve seen cannons and rocket launchers completely change a match in Happy Wars, not to mention the Ultimate Weapon team skill. They can lock down a game and force a stalemate easily. The attackers throw themselves at the artillery, and they die in heaps. Engineers are freakin amazing.

In real life, social media is awesome, but hang out with people every now and then. Play some D & D, Settlers of Catan, or Cards Against Humanity instead of a video game. It’s fun, I swear. Remember, you can’t get laid over the computer.

6) Don’t Be a Douche: Don’t be the guy that curses and screams into his headphones and mic. Don’t be the guy that trolls his own team. You’re ruining it for everyone else.

I don’t think I have to explain how this applies to real life. Douchebags soon find themselves alone. See numbers 3, 4, & 5 for why that sucks.

7) Have a Plan: This goes back to #3. If a team comes out with a game plan, they will almost always win. In Happy Wars, a planned rush attack throws a less-prepared team into chaos. In sports, it does the same thing. Football (my favorite sport) is a complicated game where each play required a complicated plan. If you choose the right plan, bully. If not, you get bullied. (See what I did there?)

I plan out my days by keeping a list of what I want to do. I plan out my stories with an outline, plot point study, heroic journey analysis, and chapter by chapter walk through. This is all before I write. I don’t go anywhere without a map.

8) Protect Your Long Range Attackers: Your long range guys like mages and engineers are very important in Happy Wars, but they can’t suck up the damage. They should always have a buddy or two (see #4) to protect them, preferably a Warrior with a good Smash Attack. Let them do the damage. They might get the glory, but it’s winning that matters.

Ok, I don’t really have a real world example for this. Just protect those that need help. Give to charity. Volunteer. Try to be a good person. There’s no glory in it, but we’re all better off.

9) Use the Terrain: My favorite things to do in Happy Wars is to beat a player with terrain. Too close to the edge? I use Smash to knock you off the board. Too close to a wall? I’ll pin you with Spinning Blade or Double Spin. Rocketman from a ledge. Guard/Smash to protect a choke point. It’s very satisfying to win with proper tactics instead of awesome gear.

In the military, they use this all the time. When I did Dagorhir, I would purposely fight so that the sun was in my opponent’s eyes. In everyday life, it means “use what you have instead of wishing for better circumstances.” No excuses. We all have to play the hand we’re dealt. It took me a long time to learn this, and it’s something I still have trouble with, but it feels good to overcome something that fucking sucks.

10)Protect Your Supply Line: I see this in Happy Wars. I saw this in WoW. People get too aggressive and push forward without protecting what’s behind them. The enemy sneaks around and takes down your towers, and now you’re screwed front and back. Don’t let them get behind you.

Yeah, I don’t have a good real world example for this.

This was one of the stupidest, most pretentious posts I’ve ever done. I apologize for wasting your time. Unless you liked it, then you’re welcome.

Real Life Alignment: A Pointless Voyage Into Good and Evil

I decided to take some time off of my shameless plugging in order to discuss something that is often, if not always, on my mind.

I am a nice person. I am always polite to people. I hold doors open. I compliment people for no other reason than to make them feel good. But am I a good person? There’s a difference, and being nice does not necessarily equate to being good.

I’m not saying that I am a bad person. I don’t think that there are many truly bad people in the world. There’s a current book out whose name I can’t remember. It says that one out of twenty people, 5% of the population, are sociopathic. They have no ability to feel empathy, or to act in any way other than for their own benefit. We all know at least one sociopath (I happen to know several). Not all of them are criminals or even noticeable in their sociopathy, but all of them are incurably selfish.

We are all selfish at one time or another, but that doesn’t make the person “bad.” Being selfish all of the time–being unable to be anything but selfish–that’s bad. Of course, there are other kinds of evil too. There are many normal people out there that have explosive tempers, or purposefully hurt someone to fill a need inside of them. I think these are learned traits, though, and different from sociopathic behavior. They’re just assholes.

I play a lot of roleplaying games. In D & D, they have something called “Alignment.” This is where you decide your character’s world view on an ethical (law vs chaos) and moral (good vs evil) scale. When I was younger, I used to argue with my DM that people were inherently good, and it was ethics that were variable. He countered that most people are neutral: they care about family and friends, maybe even the greater world around them, but they do little to help anyone outside their immediate circle.

I was an idealist. I am not anymore. I think that my DM is right. You can be a nice person, but unless you are taking an active stance towards improving the world, you are neutral. “Good” is reserved for heroism in RPGs, and in a lesser sense, in real life.

Because I’m a writer, and especially because I write speculative fiction, I am constantly grappling with the nature of good and evil. Song of Simon, for example. Simon begins as a “nice guy,” but an ordinary guy. He has fears, he has moments of selfishness. He makes bad decisions that come back to haunt him. Yet the novel is about him growing from a “nice person” into a “good person,” a person that will take a stand to defend what is right.

There are other characters in Song of Simon that are not quite so heroic. And there are those that appear heroic, but have done (and do) horrible things. I tried to show the variability of what is good and what is evil. Good and evil isn’t black and white. It isn’t even shades of gray. Good and evil is every color in the rainbow and every shade therein. It’s alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. It’s midnight blue and aquamarine. There are no simple answers to be found.

As for me, I’m going to make a change. I’m tired of just being a nice person. I want to be a good person. I want to help, and I’m gonna find some way to do it.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I just got back from GameStop (Stop Game! Stop!) and picked up Injustice. I’m a sucker for comic games, and fighting games are always fun when you have people over (which I never do, but want to. It’s a lonely life). I haven’t opened it yet, but from what I can gather, the story line is this:

The Joker blows up Metropolis and tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane (an obvious trope, and kinda infuriating). Superman goes full on fascist (as we all know that he was capable of…that any of us are capable of) and basically creates The Justice Lords. Batman leads a rebellion against it, which is kinda ironic since he is one of the biggest fascists in the DC Universe (more on this when some comic geek flames me for besmirching Batman).

It’s an interesting premise (though again, the “Women in Refrigerators” trope bothers me). It made me think about something: Has there ever been a crossover where Superman had to stop the Joker, and Batman had to stop Lex Luthor? I don’t think that Supes can stand up to the sheer madness of the Joker (and this video game agrees with me). I also don’t think that Batman can compete with Lex. Lex can very easily discern Batman’s identity with his money and tech (there must be a paper trail a mile long). From there, it would be easy to crush Wayne Tech and take away all of Batman’s toys. Batman without money is still potent, but not against Luthor and his inventions and connections.

I’m sure that this has been done before, but probably with the two heroes switching out. If anything, it shows how the hero and the villian in a comic are a matched pair, an opposite number.

On a side note, I bought the game with the gift card that Valerie gave me for my birthday. Fitting that the last gift that she gave me was something called “Injustice.”

Copyright Infringement: The sincerest form of flattery

I was having a conversation with a writer friend the other day.  The topic switched to fan fiction, and I said “I can hardly wait until there’s some fan fiction for Song of Simon out there.”  He agreed and said that he was looking forward to fan fic for his novel too.

The reason that I find this funny, is because of the crazy paradigm shift in the past 10 years.  Fan fiction used to be something to laugh at, and for writers to condemn for infringing on their intellectual property.  Now it is something that writers embrace. I would love it if people wrote fan fic.  I would be honored.

Yes, it is still copyright infringement (although a case can be made for parody), but there’s no harm in it.  Yes, most fan fic is pretty bad, but there is a lot of really good fan fic out there too.  Valerie wrote tons and tons of fan fiction, ranging from everything from Buffy to Downton Abbey.  Like everything else that she wrote, it was brilliant.  I would love to send some of her Buffy stuff to Joss Whedon, but I don’t know how he would respond.

Fan fiction is also a great “starter project” for people who want to write, but are not confident enough in their own characters.  I never had this problem.  I had D & D, which gave me a very strong background in characterization.  Others are not so lucky.

Note: aspiring writers should join at least one roleplaying campaign.

The downside?  Every now and then, a stinker like 50 Shades of Grey gets out there.  Meh, can’t be worse than its source material (Twilight)

Also, why do I hate Twilight?  Because the protagonist is a bland nobody who lacks the ability to do anything for herself.  Instead she must be saved by equally bland men.  When her man leaves her, she tries to kill herself repeatedly.  There isn’t a heroic bone in her body.  She is the epitomy of the weak, subservient female stereotype that people have been fighting for over 100 years.  She has single handedly taught an entire generation of women to look pretty, bend over and let your man take care of everything.