Where Exactly is Escapism Escaping From?

Any serious reader of fantasy fiction has, at some point, come across those who call into question our sweet, beautiful little hobby.  “Why is your head in the clouds?” is often the opening volley, followed by “There’s enough problems in the real world to worry about!” or “How do stories of elves and vampires and wizards help you in any way?”

Usually, our response will be no more than an eyeroll, or a shrug, or some other gesture that shows our utter annoyance at having been ripped out of the worlds of Tolkien, or Rice, or Rowling even for the briefest of moments.  We’re not just reading those books.  We’re in them.  If it’s a good writer we are conversing with, we feel every scratch, every blast of cold or hot, every moment of tension as a potential killer stalks our protagonist.  We seemingly leave behind the “real world” and enter these new and exciting realms in search of adventure.

It may seem that way to others who don’t understand what is going on.  But the truth is fantasy fiction is more closely related to reality than most people realize.  The stories contained within the pages of fantasy novels are a kind of mythology, and mythology itself is rooted in the real-life experiences of us all.  When Harry Potter struggles to become a wizard, he is facing the challenges that all adolescents come against, that of acceptance and coming into one’s own.  Just because he happens to utilize flying broomsticks and face off against dragons doesn’t mean he isn’t dealing with relatable real-world problems.  In Star Wars (which, by the way, I vehemently categorize as fantasy before I call it Sci-Fi), the problems that saga tackles, issues of oppression, greed, abuse of power, and redemption, are all in the daily newspaper. 

When we read these fantastic stories, if we read them in a certain light, we are learning lessons about how to go about our daily lives.  The Dragons we slay may be our inner doubts.   The magical worlds we may encounter could our own natural surroundings when seen through a different lens.  And the victories we celebrate may be the small, yet tremendously important moments we spend in the comfort of our family and friends.

So, let’s cut our friends who have their heads buried in the latest Brandon Sanderson novel some slack.  They may be being far more practical than we know.

A New Day for Old Games

Well, it’s about time I cleaned up around here.

When I first started this blog, it had a single purpose. It was to detail the every day process of being a writer who was working on his first novel. That novel being published, it seems like as good a time as any to expand the scope here.

Since finishing the first book in “The Roleplayers” trilogy, I’ve become fascinated with a related topic, and that is the resurrection of the Old School Role Playing Game. We’re talking about those early pioneer games, the ones that earned the ire of the Satanic Panic Mothers, the nitty-gritty, down and dirty games that were going on in dimly lit basements with heavily stained carpets and where cassette tapes were playing Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. We’re talking about the late 70’s and the early 80’s. No Internet. Just magazines and mail order.

And throughout the years, while the games never really went away, they became . . . mainstream. Suddenly us geeks had our own show in “The Big Bang Theory.” People could make casual references to “leveling up.” Rick and Morty was so full of D&D references that would would think it had in some kind of partnership with Wizards of the Coast (which in fact, did happen.) And it was all so . . . weird.

There was something missing. The game wasn’t the same. We wanted obscure rules like THACO and bizzare tables for hirelings and above all, the almost certain surety of death in the game. Where’s the fun without it? The original D&D was dangerous! Everyone who played the old game always had a new character sheet at the ready in case their beloved character was impaled with a role of a “1” on the 20-sided die.

That’s why I believe a system like O.S.R.I.C. sprouted up. The Old School Reference and Index Compilation was designed with one purpose: To allow fans of the original Old School games to create and publish new material under the Open Gaming Licence, a magical legal loophole bigger than Bigby’s Hand that allows people to use an incredible array of terms and concepts from the granddaddy of all RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons.

And so we’ve taken up the challenge and formed a group called Crit Hit Games, a group of RPG enthusiasts dedicated to bringing back some of the magic of those old games. It’s an exciting time, and I’ll use this blog to highlight all the fun to come.

Oh, and yeah, that other thing. The Roleplayers II. Those characters have seen stuck in the prologue of the second book for months now. Soon it will be time to move them along to their fates, though they may not like find when they get there.

I hope you enjoy what is to come.