Lost and Found

Throughout my time in high school, I was constantly faced with the challenge of figuring out what exactly it is that I “wanted to do,” whatever that really means. I tinkered with several ideas. Maybe I wanted to get into art, perhaps I would go into film, my options seemed dauntingly endless.

One of my art pieces from high school

Even as I discovered my love of writing, which I largely credit to my AP Language teacher during my sophomore year of high school, I was still unsure of what I could do with that. During my senior year, I wrote for my high school newspaper, taking what was actually a combination journalism and creative writing class. At the same time, I was randomly placed in a sociology class, which introduced me to this fascinating field of social science. All of this still left me a little confused as to where I was going with it all.

Into College

As I entered Kennesaw State, I elected to pursue my newfound fascination with sociology and leave my writing as a hobby. Sure, I hoped to be able to write about my own social research someday, but the vast majority of my writing took the form of class assignments, writing for tabletop role-playing games, or just writing short stories. On the side, I’ve also been brainstorming and developing ideas for a fantasy novel, but that is far from being fully developed.

So when I decided to take Careers in Writing, I wasn’t really sure what I expected to get out of it. On one side, I was hoping to improve my writing by learning how to better take criticism and practice. At the same time, I also hoped to acquire the skills to maneuver within the field of professional writing, to get a feel for it to see if it was actually a career path I wanted to follow. And overall, I feel as though I have learned a lot.

How I’ve Grown

Valerie and her day-old puppies. From Lifeline Animal Project’s Instagram

By developing my About page and my Elevator Pitch, I’ve learned skills that have helped me start to develop my professional identity. And this process is going swimmingly thanks to my amazing content design team. Thanks to the incredible advice of Danny, Hannah, Jordan, and Tiffany, I’ve both improved both my communication skills as well as my ability to take criticism constructively. In addition to their help, my work on writing about Lifeline Animal Project for the Rescue Dog Olympics taught me a lot about conducting and writing an interview and about how to work with a client.

This course has provided many opportunities for me to write various forms of content that I hadn’t ever really had the chance to try before. One such article is my experiential review, The Not-So-Happytime Murders. “Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure why I had such high hopes for this movie.” And although the movie failed to meet my expectations, this was my first time writing a review and I really enjoyed the experience. In trying to capture an experience in a review, it forced me to really pay attention to all aspects of the experience. I did not like the movie itself, but because I was so much more aware and focused during the entirety of the experience, I enjoyed myself in spite of the mediocre movie.

My infographic about Cyberpunk

Furthermore, much of the content I created for this course allowed me to approach my own hobbies and interests from a new perspective. For my infographic, A Brief History of Cyberpunk, I delved into the history surrounding one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction and learned a lot about its history. And in my blog post, It’s Not Just D&D, I got a chance to explore my tabletop role-playing game hobby. I never really sat down before to analyze what I liked and didn’t like about these various tabletop games I’ve played, plus I got the chance to share a few that I really like.

Moving Forward

“Time moves in one direction, memory another. We are that strange species that constructs artifacts intended to counter the natural flow of forgetting.”

William Gibson, Distrust that Particular Flavor

Overall, this course has been a big help to me. It has opened my eyes up to how much I actually enjoy writing in general. I still love Sociology a lot, but I really intend to focus so much more on my writing, and I’m going to give freelance writing a shot to see how that turns out. This course has been fantastic for me as a writer (and has given me tools I can apply elsewhere).

The Isolation of Gregor Samsa

“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed” a transformation which sets him down a path of isolation, decay, and hopelessness (Kafka 1204). Throughout The Metamorphosis, Kafka explores the alienating and isolating effects of modern society through the Samsa family as they deal with Gregor’s grotesque transformation. To Kafka, there are three aspects of modern society that are at the root of this isolation and alienation, they are modern capitalism, the modern family, and the servile attitude of the modern individual.

The Modern Worker

Gregor Samsa is a salesman, or rather, was a salesman prior to his transformation into a cockroach. Before, his work was the most important thing to him, yet he despises it, “If only I didn’t have to follow such an exhausting profession” or more bluntly put, “no continuity, no affection” (Kafka 1205). Gregor is unfulfilled and dissatisfied with his work and only remains there due to his obligation to help his family repay their debts. Through this discontentment, Kafka illustrates the plight of the modern work, whose work is not wholly their own.

He views the workers as almost slaves to the modern capitalist system, consistently lying to themselves in order to muster the energy in order to do their work. He represents this self-delusion through Gregor’s own self-delusion, his lies to himself about his own transformation, “he looked forward to his present fanciful state gradually falling from him.” (Kafka 1206). His predicament of becoming a cockroach mirrors how he was stuck in his salesman job.

The Modern Family

Beyond just his work, Gregor’s family, who ought to have been his greatest comfort in his predicament, act as an even greater insulator by trapping him within his room. Prior to his transformation, Gregor is the sole breadwinner for the family, a position which Gregor feels has earned him little respect with his family. When he had first begun working, his earnings had been met with surprise and delight, a time which Gregor reflects were “good times, and they had never returned” (Kafka 1218).

But what little appreciation his family retained for Gregor vanished as he transformed. From the beginning, Gregor’s father antagonizes him, acting alone in battering him back into his room on the first day. Then as Gregor’s transformation takes root, his relationship with his family degrades further. It is through this deterioration that Kafka criticizes the modern, patriarchal family. This representation is heightened by Kafka’s own isolated relationship with his family, Gregor’s family demonstrates the failures of family to alleviate the alienation of modern society, and works to highlight the ways that family can actually worsen that alienation.

Kafka emphasizes this by never giving Gregor’s father a name, leaving him among the other nameless characters, such as the office manager, the charwoman, the boarders, who all acts as antagonizing forces to Gregor in some way. On the other hand, both Gregor’s sister and mother are both named, Grete and Anna respectively. Both of them remain close or optimistic towards Gregor’s situation for much of The Metamorphosis, although even they eventually lose faith in Gregor’s humanity.

The Modern Attitude

The most important and harmful aspect of society according to Kafka is the servility of modern indivuiduals. For the characters within The Metamorphosis, it is their submissive attitude towards their issues which always leaves them worse off. An example of this is that Gregor works hard for his family’s benefit with little praise or reward for himself and ultimately transfomrs into a cockroach.

Even more notable, is the submission of his family to the three gentlemen who rented a room in the flat, towards whom they are overly polite, not “even [daring] to sit in their own chairs” (Kafka 1229). His family continues this servility, only to eventually lose out on their rent money after the tenants discover Gregor. Furthermore, Gregor’s own submission to his family after his transformation leads to him starving himself to death. Through their failings, Kafka questions why it is that people allow themselves to be exploited within modern society.

The Modern Death

Gregor’s grotesque transformation is but one aspect of the alienation and isolation faced in The Metamorphosis. The true cause of both his and his family’s despair is not merely that Gregor has transformed into a horrifying roach, but that the quality of life within modern society has decayed to such an extent that those living within it have begun to lose their humanity.

Kafka emphasizes this loss through Gregor’s own physical decay as he is injured, starved, becomes covered in dust, all while his mind decays. He eventually loses his humanity, descending into an animalistic mindset. Beyond just his individual decay, his surroundings decay. His walls become covered in grime, his room fills with discarded belongings, and his family loses their love towards him. This is what Kafka sees as the eventuality of the modern society. Ultimately, it is not Gregor’s transformation into an insect that kills him, but that he and his family have abandoned hishumanity.

It’s Not Just D&D

You’ve played Dungeons and Dragons since you can remember, you’ve rolled enough dice to fill a landfill with plastic polyhedrons and you have a library of character sheets at your disposal. Hundreds of dragons slain, hundreds of dungeons plundered, so what now? Sure, you could always start fresh, return to Dungeons and Dragons anew, but what if you want something different?

Credit: Pixabay.com

It’s 2018. there are innumerable role playing games outside of Dungeons and Dragons, an amount that I could never even dream of capturing even a fraction of the possibilities in a single blog post. Instead, I will share just three, that I really like.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

For those who want something different, but not too different, Paizo Publishing offers the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is the perfect choice. Based on the 3.5 edition of Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder could be seen as a more “advanced” version of Dungeons and Dragons. While not perfectly analogous, especially considering the major simplifications made to Fifth Edition, Pathfinder offers a rather similar experience in both tone and concepts.

Credit: Paizo.com

The major difference to consider is that Pathfinder has options, so many options. It overs a veritable smorgasbord of options for characters, from cackling witches to dueling gunslingers to mad alchemists. There is no end to what you can create

Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. It gets complicated very quickly as you start adding more and more of the supplemental books. Pages and pages of different options quickly becomes overwhelming. Add to that the amount of math involved in creating characters, it can become a chore to develop characters. This is alleviated with experience, veteran players can move through this process with ease. That said, it can be exhausting to teach new players the ins-and-outs of the system.

Hopefully, with the upcoming release of the second edition, much of this will be alleviated, but only I am only cautiously optimistic.

Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, is my current game of choice. I love this game. Inspired by the pulp adventures of the likes of Indiana Jones and Flash Gordon, Savage Worlds truly lives up to its motto of “Fast, Furious, and Fun!”

Credit: Peginc.com

Savage Worlds is quite different from Dungeons and Dragons. Firstly, the system is not developed with any specific setting in mind, and there are tons of options available for truly unique settings outside of the fantasy adventures of Dungeons and Dragons. Some choice examples of setting include Necessary Evil (a super-powered world in which supervillians must work together to save the world), Deadlands Reloaded (a world of horror and cowboys set in an alternate history of the Old West), and The Day After Ragnarok (an insane setting involving the Nazis summoning the Midgard Serpent and the apocalyptic aftermath).

In addition to its variety of unique and inspired settings, Savage Worlds is just fun. Instead of focusing on intensely tracking the minute details, Savage Worlds emphasizes its quick action, hand-waving the minor, unimportant details. Coming from mechanic intense systems like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, Savage Worlds offers a sweet relief.

Savage Worlds is not without faults, the combat is quick but swingy, with fights ending prematurely and anticlimactically. This can be alleviated by avoiding fights with a single enemy and instead creating creative boss battles with minions to absorb attacks (although nothing is stopping one of those minions instantly wiping out a player unfortunately). Furthermore, characters can feel very similar at higher levels, but this can be avoided with some creative game-master intervention, creating unique options for the players.

Later this month, Pinnacle Entertainment Group will be launching the Kickstarter campaign for their Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition adding and refining many features of the game. I cannot wait to see what’s to come and definitely plan on backing it.

Forbidden Lands

Admittedly, I have not had a chance to play Forbidden Lands yet. Developed by the Swedish publisher Free League Publishing, Forbidden Lands completed its successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign October 2017. It beat its goal of raising SEK 100,000 ($11,250) by over SEK 2,000,000 (Over $225,000). I backed this game because I really liked their previous titles including Mutant Year Zero and Mutant Genlab Alpha. On August 16th I received my digital copy of the game with the physical box set forthcoming in a few weeks and I have been hooked.

Set in a brutal fantasy world where adventurers must fight tooth and nail to survive, Forbidden Lands stands separate from the fantasy offered in Dungeons and Dragons. Whether you’re hunting for food, exploring ruins, or fending off horrid demons, Forbidden Lands presents a dangerous world where success is far from guaranteed.

Credit: frialigan.se

I am excited to get to play this soon, and am disappointed I’m not playing it currently. The writing is excellent in both of the core rule books and inthe supplemental books Raven’s Purge and The Spire of Quetzal. The world of Forbidden Lands is as visceral as it is brutal, and I cannot wait to throw my players into the wilderness to fend for themselves.

The complete set offers an easy to run system with plenty of tools to make the game master’s job as easy as possible. This is good, because I worry that there is a lot of nit-picky mechanics such as food, water, and other resources to track that could bog down the game. That said, I am very optimistic about this game and look forward to giving it a whirl.

And so much more

These games represent a minuscule fraction of the available games out there, but these offer a decent variety of the choices out there to help you get out of only ever playing Dungeons and Dragons. Because while Dungeons and Dragons is an awesome game with unlimited potential for fun, there are so many amazing games out there worth playing.

Leave a comment sharing your favorite role-playing games!

Some other RPGs I really like:

Credit: chaosium.com