I’m not really a fan of the Walking Dead, but my children certainly are. So for all your Dead Heads out there, in the case you haven’t seen this already…
ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN
Essay Fifteen: The Interactive Essay
The Interactive Essay
I intend one day to write a full paper on the Interactive Essay. It is a new form (or perhaps it is better described as a new composite form) of communications that I have invented and will later describe in full detail. However for the moment it is enough to say that the internet permits for the possibility of new forms of communications not previously allowed for by other, older, and more traditional means of writing and communications.
As I have already said I intend to return to this subject later, in far greater detail, and in the figure of a formal paper. So for the moment let me simply describe an interactive essay in this manner:
An Interactive Essay is an essay presented through some internet (or similar communications structure) vehicle that allows for instant interaction between the ideas presented and the consuming (reading, in this case) audience. This is similar to what happens on any message board, or forum, or interactive blog, in the fact that the audience can read and then comment upon the ideas presented. Similar in presentation but with a very different objective and outcome in mind.
In the case of the interactive essay the ideas are presented in the form of a formal essay which can then be interacted with, directly, through a number of different means. These methods of interaction include, but are not limited to, comments, criticisms, and critiques (as is usually the case with messages posted to the internet in some way), but it can also include more varied and wide-ranging types of responses. For instance the original post can trigger a counter-essay, a continuation essay, or even a parallel essay.
As a case in point the original essay can trigger a reader to write his own essay refuting the original essay. Or the original essay can trigger a reader to expound upon or expand upon the original essay in different or even numerous ways, further elucidating the original points and even making new points based upon implications not fully addressed in the original essay. Or it can trigger a reader to write a parallel essay that covers subject matter that the original essay activated within the mind of the reader but which the original essayist never himself considered or never addressed, either directly or indirectly. In the case of the essay on Where Has All of the History Gone it is possible, for instance, that some reader would take up the matter I mentioned in passing but intentionally failed to address,
“I have a personal theory as to why most games approach character background development as they do, as if it is an activity quite divorced from what would actually be entirely natural among most peoples, not to mention what is divorced from historical precedent, and natural to myth, legend, and fiction. And others can discuss this somewhat separate issue among themselves in this post if they choose to do so. However, at this point let me merely say that whatever the reason or reasons, and I suspect more than one, the important point in this post is that with game and character creation it is not so vital a matter as to why so many RPGs tend to so often lack real substance regarding background, as it simply is that they do.”
Or, perhaps, the essay made the reader think of some seemingly unrelated point that nevertheless within the mind of the reader is tangentially connected to the matter at hand. He or she therefore sets out to write a new essay of their own to compare and contrast their thoughts against the body of the original work.
Whatever the circumstances or methods of response however, some of the more important aspects of the interactive essay include the facts that the internet allows for more or less immediate response and interactivity with the original essay and essayist, that it allows for “branching off” in addressing the ideas originally presented, and that it allows for numerous and varied types of responses and counter-responses.
In this case however (with the interactive essay) I am looking to establish and build up a more formal and useful type of response pattern than is typically the case with the message post and brief response pattern or system, so that the ideas presented in the original essay, and the ideas that develop from that initial basis can be more fully, completely, and formally expanded, expounded upon, and explored. In this way a complex system of group communications can be created that is very likely to have a better chance at fully developing any given set of ideas than would be possible through the efforts of a single individual.
Though I suspect if history is any example and judge then it will always be single individuals who are likely to show the most acute genius on any given subject matter, but they are also unlikely, precisely because they are single individuals and thus limited to individual shortcomings of insight and capability, to be able to express the largest or greatest range of fully developed ideas. That is to say it is the individual who creates, and it is others (sometimes many others) who most fully later develop what was thus created.
My first attempt at an interactive essay was this one, What is Modern Fantasy Anyway? However it failed to work as intended for the obvious reasons that I was still not sure of exactly what it was I was attempting to develop, and had not at that point fully or even really described or defined my true intentions and objectives.
An excellent article recommended me by an old friend. It is well worth your read and it has superb gaming applications for female characters in Medieval and fantasy games. As well as for fiction writings. You can read the entire article by following the link.
Alana Merritt Mahaffey, M.L.A. Candidate
Mentors: Drs. Marck L. Beggs, Bill Gentry, and Gary Simmons
Until the women‟s movements of the 1800s and 1900s, the limitations set by society for women
in the West hardly evolved since the Middle Ages. It is well known that most women in the
Middle Ages were restricted in their roles as citizens, limited by social status, by economic
constraints, and by a well established and unquestioned sexism prevalent in church, politics, and
family. A woman was defined, especially during the Middle Ages, by how the men with whom
she associated defined her. These men were most often her husband or her father. As Christaine
Klapisch Zuber points out in Medieval Callings, “Men of the middle ages long conceived of „the
woman‟ as a category, but only late in the period did they distinguish variations in the behavior
expected of women by applying criteria such as professional activities to their model. Before she
was seen as a peasant, the lady of a castle, or a saint, ‘the woman’ was defined by her body, her
gender, and her relations with family groups. Wife, widow, or maid, her juridical persona and
the ethic by which she lived in her daily life were portrayed in relation to a man or group of man” (285).
By this standard, the average Medieval woman had as much chance of acquiring independent
wealth, receiving a well rounded education, or making significant contributions to society as her
husband‟s cattle. Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that history yields to us several
outstanding women of the Middle Ages and 1600s whose accomplishments in the fields of
science and writing are still recognized today as valid and significant.
The status of the woman living in the Middle Ages broadened only by necessity. Many men
needed the help of their wives to sustain the family, and so men began bringing their wives into
the same trade guilds of which the men were already members. Women in these guilds were
expected to learn their husbands‟ trades and, in many cases, were given “masters status” in these
trades. (Gies 180). In the event of her husband‟s death, the widow was able to take an apprentice
herself. The natural evolution of allowing wives into guilds was the emergence of all female
guilds, which usually catered to women in the tapestry and candle trades…
TALISFAR THE BARD – for background on how Talisfar was developed see this post
Talisfar – Talisfar is a Half-Elven Bard. He grew up as an orphan in a monastery but upon reaching the age of 16 he chafed at the strictly regimented life among the monks and decided to strike out on his own. So one night, not long after his 16th birthday, he ran away from the monastery and travelled for a while doing odd jobs. As a result of this aimless meandering he got the nickname of Wendle (the Wandering One).
Eventually he met up with an old Skald named Verestön who travelled from place to place performing for minor nobility. Talisfar became Verestön’s assistant until the age of almost twenty at which time he had been trained as an apprentice Bard. Talisfar then went off on his own and for a short period of time also earned his living as a Skald performing for minor nobility but he eventually began composing his own poems and lays and writing them down as he had learned to read and write at the monastery.
At the age of 21 Talisfar become nostalgic and went back to the monastery where he was raised but by that time the old monk who had previously been Abbot was dead. Nonetheless several of the other monks recognized him and he stayed two more years with the monks learning religious and choir songs, chant, composing poetry, and learning the healing arts from the monks.
One night the monks rescued a wounded, lordless knight who had been nearly killed in a nearby skirmish. Talisfar helped doctor him back to health and as result they became good friends. So at the age of almost 24 Talisfar left the monastery again to squire for this lordless knight, named Oscaré, and became a wandering adventurer in the knight’s employ. They travelled and adventured together for approximately two years until Oscaré was killed while on guard one night by a poisoned arrow in the neck, possibly murdered by an old enemy named Sebelien.
Talisfar has now become a solo adventurer (though he is not averse to joining a group of like-minded companions) who wanders the land seeking wealth and fame as both an explorer of dangerous ruins and a well-respected poet and songmaster. He is older for a beginning solo adventurer (though he often wandered alone as a boy), being by now 27 years of age, but he is well versed in many forms of music, song, and verse (from romantic and personal works to religious and choral works), he is a very adept healer and physician, and he is very good at single combat having squired for and fought alongside Oscaré for nearly two years. He is also fluent in several different languages, having learned them to master the songs, poetry, and music of various peoples.
Talisfar does not dress as a typical Bard but wears very plain, non-descript workman’s clothing that is all very dark green in color. While wandering on his own as a Bard Talisfar often introduced himself to the nobles he performed for as the Greene Wendler (the Green Wanderer) and this has become shortened to another nickname, Greenwend. So, depending upon who Talisfar is speaking with and how much he trusts them he will often introduce himself as Talisfar, Wendle, or Greenwend. In addition, when needed, Talisfar has adopted several other names as aliases, usually ones taken from his dead companions, such as Verestön, Oscaré, Folles (his former Abbot), or Yarmuse (his dead father’s name).
In personality Talisfar is very loyal to those he befriends. He is also of keen mind and very observant. He has a superb memory, being able to mesmerize and then recite new songs and poems and musical scores almost overnight or by a single hearing. He can speak, read, and write in several different languages. He gets along very well with most people, being by nature relaxed and easy-going. When angered, however, he can hold long grudges and can be quite dangerous.
He lives simply, almost aesthetically. He will feast and dine and drink in company or while performing, if this is expected of him, but otherwise he is very spartan in both dress and behavior. He is athletic and charming and women often admire him and seek his favors but he has of yet formed no permanent attachments and never been in love or sought to be in love, though he is an excellent troubadour and minstrel on the subject of love. Though he forms deep attachments with the few friends he has ever had he is at heart a wandering and restless loner.
He is very generous and although he seeks to be famous as a Bard and wants to be a wealthy and powerful person he is neither attached to nor in love with money. He sees money merely as a tool and a path towards his aims.
Being an orphan from a young age (he lost both his parents to plague at the age of 6) he has always felt alone and unattached even when well cared for by others, such as the monks who raised and educated him. Nevertheless Talisfar still feels (maybe because he was an orphan he especially feels) great loyalty towards and gratitude for those who helped raise, educate, and train him, such as the monks, the skald Verestön, and the knight Oscaré.
Talisfar is very idealistic and takes it very personally if someone he knows or has befriended is harmed or killed. He feels it is his personal responsibility to defend and save those he has befriended and those who have befriended him. He is of an independent and self-reliant nature but he would never abandon a friend in need.
His most obvious flaws are that he will often overlook or excuse bad behavior in his friends and companions because they are his friends and companions, and his long obsessive quest to seek vengeance against the murderer of Oscaré. Even though there is little actual proof that Oscaré was murdered by his old enemy Sebelien, Talisfar is certainly convinced this is the case and has spent much time and treasure in an attempt to track down and enact vengeance against Sebelien as the suspected killer of his friend.
As a result of this obsessive vendetta Talisfar will often place both himself and innocent others in great danger in an attempt to achieve such vengeance, and eliminate the killer of his friend Oscaré.
This week I will be introducing the first three Characters I have decided to create for the new Dungeons and Dragons game. (And hopefully the last characters for a good long while as I intend to build these three individuals up carefully and fully.) If these characters are successful I may also conscript them as minor or secondary characters that will appear in some of my novels.
I developed these characters using the new Character Development Rules, and the Personality and Background suggestions in chapter four of the new Basic Game (Rules). Once I receive my new books I will further modify their development based on the new information available, but these are my initial attempts at character development for the game.
I will also be adding to these characters using rules I have developed such as those regarding Legacies and Heirlooms, but I will discuss those in future posts.
By the way I should add a note at this point that I am very, very pleased with the new Personality and Background guidelines and think that these guidelines have broad applications and implications well beyond D&D. They are simple but very well developed, logical, efficient, and functional guidelines and with just a modicum of effort could easily be adapted towards character development in fiction and literature or any number of other fields (screenwriting, for instance). I will later write an article of my review of how the new D&D approaches character development which is to me the most significant advance this edition makes to the overall game.
The very first two characters are very similar to me (in many ways) in both nature and in background. I haven’t rolled up any statistics for them as of yet but shall after I receive my first copy of the new Player’s Handbook.
As I said using these rules I have developed three new D&D characters – Talisfar the Bard, Okæn the Ranger/Rogue, and Endrêdge the Fighter/Warlock/Cleric.