End of an Era, The Start of a New One

I’ve been a member of sff.net since 2001. At the time, it was the place to go if you were a professional or aspiring professional in the field of science fiction or fantasy. They offered special rates for SFWA members, hosted SFWA forums, and generally tailored themselves to the SF&F community. Their websites were stable, and they offered a lot of support in setting up author pages. This was the time of the “auld web” before Facebook, blogs, and other web 2.0 things. It was before everyone had their own domain so you could have an e-mail address ending in “sff.net” and not some amatuerish hotmail one.

For myself, I had a website that featured links to someof my writing, pages dedicated to personal interests, articles I had written, and photos from conventions I had attended up to 2004.

Good times.

I spent a bit of time on the forums. Then I stopped because I hate forums. Eventually I managed my own domain name and got it set up at sff.net. I started a WordPress blog which has been rebooted a couple of times. I maintain it somewhat regularly although I have been distracted lately writing more for DearJackrabbit.com, ForcesofGeek.com, and start up pieces for a new gaming site.

My e-mail address there, jdteehan@sff.net, is my second-longest surviving e-mail address. That goes away at the end of the month. On one hand, I will miss it. It’s been the default address for a lot of on-line accounts and now I’ll have to change them as they come up.

Two of my best freelance clients first contacted me at that address. On the other hand, that address has picked up a lot of spam over the years, and it’s a true trial to weed through it all. Maybe it’s time to let that one die. Not that I’ve much choice.

Sff.net is closing its doors for good at the end of the month. I’ve had about three months of warning, but little in the way of time or funds to figure out how to transfer the site to another host computer. There was a strong temptation to let the site slip away. I’m glad other people had other ideas. Steve Ratzlaff of sff.net kept pushing to have the site preserved and moved. I explained the lack of time and money to deal with it. I was then contacted by Anne Yates who offered to move the site over and work out an affordable payment plan (which, in all honesty, wasn’t all that much but still something I have to budget for).

Many thanks to them!

So end of an era. We’re off sff.net as the host. We are on a new host,and the site has been preserved.

So what?

Well, it’s where I end up putting a lot of my writing that doesn’t fit elsewhere. Fiction, poetry, political stuff, humor stuff, etc. And it’s another waypoint to my publishing and art sites, and I’ll add the DearJackrabbit links and all that.

I remain… plugged in. The site still gets a decent number of visitors for various pieces I’ve written. Maybe I’ll get more.

So… stay tuned!

Cheers!

–John

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Dear Dan Harmon re: Season 2

Dear Dan,

How’s that second season for Harmonquest coming along? Just checking. It’s hard to tell from my vantage point in your office parking lot.

Lotsa love,

–John

p.s. Thanks for the expanded universe clips. They’re fun. More. MOre. MORe. MORE!

p.p.s. No diplomacy.

 

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Playing With Secrets in Gaming

There’s a guy in my current D&D gaming group–we’ll call him Chris. That’s his name… or so he says. A nice guy. He plays a farmer.

A farmer?

Just a simple farmer. Nothing to see here.

That’s what he says, and the DM backs him up on this.

He joins our little adventure with no real explanation for why he’s there. Just one day he’s part of the party. A farmer. The rest of us are fighters, rogues, clerics, rangers, monks, and so forth. And now we have a farmer.

He’s not useless in a fight. He has a crossbow that he’s had some good rolls with. And a dagger that’s contributed to a fight once or twice. And…

And…

Well… rumor has it that he can do magic. My character hasn’t witnessed him doing this, mind you. In fact, only one party member–the monk–has witnessed the farmer performing magic, and he’s not really talking about it. Most of what we think we know about the farmer’s real profession is rumor and hearsay. And we dare not press too hard. If he is a magic user of some sort, they can be a handful. So far, it’s not really hurting anyone to let him keep his secrets. We’ve seen the notes passed secretly to the DM during combat.

And we sometimes notice that while the farmer takes a “guarding” stance during his turn at combat that sometimes something unexplained and, well, magical happens to our benefit in combat.

So we’re good, for now. Our farmer is an enigma, but he’s our enigma.

Oh, and that monk? He sprouted dark wings recently. No one, not even he, knows exactly why. It may have something to do with mysterious tattoos on his back that he’s had since childhood (you know monks… always orphans with murky pasts and raised in monasteries) and repeated exposure to demonic forces (such as those we’ve been encountering recently) seem to have triggered this sudden wing growth.

There doesn’t seem to be anything diabolical about them. Or the monk. The monk and the “farmer” have been going off in secret during time between missions to examine the wings and their usefulness.

In game, very few of us know about this. And none of us have any idea what to think about the wings.

Characters with secrets.

Such a tragic backstory… if you only knew…

They really round out things and make role-playing more interesting. It can be as simple as a dark or traumatic past–such as with my cleric whose noble family was murdered by the same dark forces responsible for the destruction of a port city and tens of thousands of innocent lives. That same cleric who hides his past from others while he quietly searches for answers. Or a young dwarf whose whole clan is destroyed by hill giants at the order of some mysterious agent of chaos.

But it’s not just having player characters with secrets. None of that really works in game unless the DM agrees to be in on it. The DM has to be good with the magic user masquerading as a farmer and letting that character cast spells in secret. The DM has to know what triggers those mysterious tattoos and what happens when they get triggered. If that cleric is ever going to confront his tragic past, the DM is going to have to trot out some character from his past. Or maybe give that dwarf a a clue as to who was behind the destruction of her home and why?

Storytelling on steroids? Well, that may be a little much, but it certainly adds dimension to the adventure. Granted… if there are too many players juggling too many secrets, it gets a little unwieldy, but a little can go a long way if everyone is on board.

Give it a try if you haven’t already. Throw a little bit of mystery, some hidden pasts, some secrets.

Enjoy!

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On Playing the Role and Not Just the Stats

This thief looks lost.

This thief looks lost.

I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into tabletop RPGs again after some time away from the hobby. As I’m also writing bit more, it’s natural that I’m going to tackle it as a topic more from time to time. Lately I’ve been thinking about role-playing styles, and one thing I sometimes see that drives me a little nuts about other players.

They don’t role-play enough.

Okay, before I get deeper into this, you should know that I’m probably not talking about you. That is, no one I currently play with. This is more something I’ve witnessed in watching other groups play online, or in reading about various game session stories shared here and there. In online discussions with some other folk, missed opportunities for role-playing is not an uncommon issue.

What do I mean by not role-play enough?

Well, it’s this approach some players take where they choose a race or class more for the perceived benefits in playing those races or classes than for any intention of role-playing in that character. I’m talking about elven rangers who want the benefits of speed or dexterity, some spell casting, and an animal friend when–but if you were to meet them in game and didn’t see their character sheet–you’d think they were just another human fighter with some added skills they conned the DM into letting them have.

Figure… an elven ranger belongs in the forest, not in the city. They are traditionally uneasy in dungeons, but more at home in wilderness adventures. Yet we often see these guys running a blacksmith shop or tavern in a city. What up with that? Or how about the thief character with stats put into pick-pocketing and burglary spending all of his or her time in the forest? Squirrels don’t have pockets to pick.

Don’t even get me started on Drow walking around like they don’t stick out in a crowd.

[Scenario suggestion: An elven druid goes to a big city for the first time to recruit a city-born-and-bred rogue with burglary skills in order to help her break into a seemingly impenetrable tower deep in the forest.]

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An Open Letter to Hollywood, and an Offer of Cookies

Dear Hollywood,

Now’s your chance.

ameicancookieNow’s your chance to become the arm of the progressive liberal movement that the right wing has always shrilly accused you of being (clutching pearls optional). And there will be cookies involved.

Let’s go back a bit.

Remember when you made movies or TV shows in which nearly every person of Middle Eastern descent was a terrorist? Remember when ever black person was a thug and every Hispanic was a drug lord? How about when every Asian was a martial arts expert? If they were female, then they were also femme fatale spies because, y’know, “exotic”. Remember when gays were played just for laughs and served no other function except perhaps as some kind of magical friend to the female lead? And women in general… they were prizes for the male protagonists. Or maybe all that hard-working single girl needed was a good man?

Yeah, well, thanks for that. You contributed nothing to the growth of American society.
Now I will admit that things have been a bit better of late. They are far from perfect, but they are a damn sight better than they were 25 years ago. You don’t get a cookie for that, though.

You just realized that–hey, women and homosexuals and minorities watch TV as well, and they also need to buy dish soap or snuggies or cars or whatever.

Whenever you show a cereal commercial with an interracial couple or a fake cheese ad featuring a same sex couple, a bigot somewhere loses what little mind they have and call for a spectacularly-failed boycott as you end up getting more good press and customers from viewers who have long felt disenfranchised from that most American of traditions–consumerism.

The point being… you’re not going to lose money offending bigots. Sure, they’re loud and they’re obnoxious, and sometimes their poorly-spelled protest signs make you feel sad… but you’re in no danger of losing money because of these idjits.

So with that in mind…

Now is the time for you to help make up for all that nonsense you perpetuated before. You want a nice, clear, morally unambiguous villain for your next feature or TV show? I have a suggestion:

Continue reading

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An Open Letter to Dan Harmon of HarmonQuest

Time to get the band back together.

Time to get the band back together.

Dear Dan Harmon of HarmonQuest,

I have enjoyed the entire run of HarmonQuest too many times now to count. Even our two month-old baby has seen it a few times–mostly because it’s 3 a.m. and I have control of the remote controls. After so many repeated viewings, I am sorely tempted to commit myself to a certain course of action, to whit:

Raiding our meager savings to book a flight to Hollywood after which I will disembark, rent a vehicle, and cruise around until I find out where your office is located. From there, I will spend several days camped out in the parking lot while marking your comings and goings in order to establish a daily routine. There will be photos taken so I can determine your jacket size. Once this is completed successfully, I will return to cruising about Hollywood for a second-hand clothing store at which I will purchase a sports jacket of suitable size. You never seem to wear one, and a sports jacket is pivotal to my plan.

Once the jacket is acquired, I will return to your office parking lot and wait for you to come back from lunch when you’re likely to be more easily subdued. At that point, I will approach you from behind, tackle you to the ground, and wrestle the sports jacket on you. At that point, I will turn you over, grasp you by the lapels of the sports jacket (see what I mean by pivotal? You can’t do that to a t-shirt) and lift you up. I will get in your face and yell–

“ANOTHER SEASON OF HARMONQUEST…NOW!”

I will keep yelling this until I pass out.

You don't have time to point. Get to work!

You don’t have time to point. Get to work!

When Security wakes me up and escorts me from the parking lot, I will consider my mission complete. And, because this will be my first time visiting Hollywood, I will make a side trip to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to pay my respects at Peter Lorre’s grave before returning to the airport, cleaning out the rental car of fast food containers and coffee cups, arguing about the security deposit, and angrily boarding a plane home.

Upon arriving home, I will be in deep trouble with my wife, child, clients, and that clerk at the local convenience store who’s kind of an asshat and totally unrelated to this story.

Please don’t test me. I’m no stranger to bad decisions and this would ruin me both financially and professionally, destroy my family, and I’d miss a couple of game nights. None of us want that. HarmonQuest is distributed digitally, so you’re not beholden to typical season scheduling. You can make a second season happen more quickly than the executives with their fancy, no-grip lapels would have you think.

All my love,

–John Teehan
West Warwick, RI

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How we can help…

white-rose-11We ask ourselves how can we help? How can we be part of the solution and not be part of the problem.

This is a question I’ve been working on for the past few days.

It’s been easy to express support and solidarity with people online, but that kind of support is helpful only to a certain point. So what can I do more locally?

Well, for one, I offer to be your friend and, when needed, escort. If you are someplace, or going someplace, where you worry for your safety. Contact me and I will be your buffer. If things get overwhelming, contact me and I will be someone who will listen. If you just need a break, we’ll go get a coffee or something. Or play a game. Or you can hold the baby.

If you need to get out of where you are, we can be, to the best of our ability, your haven. A place to come to. Don’t mind the mess. We’re new parents and we have a large dog, but we’ll make room on the couch and I make a pretty damn good chowder.

DYJ90B Closed safety pins on a blue jeans denim fabric

DYJ90B Closed safety pins on a blue jeans denim fabric

After the rise of violence in the UK following the Brexit vote, many have taken to wearing a safety pin as a symbol of solidarity. That they’re someone that is willing to help those who feel threatened. I see no reason why we can’t adopt that practice here.

Hatred didn’t win here. It only revealed itself. Now we’re in a better position to make some real change, and to make this world a better place.

Yes, Rhode Island is a solidly blue state, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of dicks. Hell, there are dicks here that take a weird pride in being dicks.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

We can make changes politically. We can make changes socially. It’s the duty of all good Americans. Of all good people.

We’re here, and we are open.

–John

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On Recent Events

jackrabbitcircleThere have been a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling about my head in regards to the recent election. Certainly did not see it coming, and I acknowledge that I may have been a victim of my own bubble.

Just the same, that’s no excuse for some many people supporting a candidate who campaigned on a platform of racism and fear.

Most of my thoughts can be found in a recent Dear Jackrabbit letter to my son. You can read it here.

 

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Treating myself

img_20161107_1011481_rewindWith money as tight as it is around here right now, it’s hard to get me to treat myself sometimes. But I’m not made of stone, and gift cards can be wonderful things. My current highlight is an “ugly sweater” Peanuts coffee mug in reluctant acknowledgement of the holiday season that is about to move me from broke to “huh… remember when I was just broke? Good times.”

Joining it is a copy of Nick Mamatas’ latest novel I Am Providence which is a murder mystery set at a Lovecraft convention in Providence. Shades of Sharyn McCrumb going on here. I’m not much of a Lovecraft fan, but you can’t have lived in Providence for a quarter of a century and know fandom in general and not be at least curious to see how it’s all portrayed. I’ll likely write a review no one is asking for because… well, because.

Cheers!

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