Sunday, April 13, 2014

The StoryMaker (Part 2: Result)

All noise in the tavern stilled as the stranger walked in. They know she meant trouble just by looking at her. The way she walked, her every step a cautious one. The swords she intentionally failed to hide beneath her cloak. But most importantly, the scares that marred her otherwise adorable raccoon face. People just don't get scars. At least, they didn't.

“Gimme something strong,” she muttered to the barkeep, a jittery, anthropomorphic ale keg the locals called Tappy.

Tappy rolled back and forth nervously. “Ma'am, it might be best if you just moved on. This is a quiet town, and we don't want any trouble.”

“Nobody wants trouble,” the raccoon replied. “Or if they do, they go looking for it. That's not why I'm here. I'm here because trouble is looking for you.”

“Ridges?” a mantis in the corner asked. His mother (they recently had another child, so the father is back home regrowing his head,) tried to shush him. They didn't talk about Ridges here. But of course, by then, it was too late.

Somehow, the bar managed to get even quieter. Only the sound of a chirping cricket could be heard, at least until slapped Christopher Cricket and told him to knock it off. “That's right,” the raccoon said. “A pack of 'em was spotted a few miles yonder. So the way I figure it, you folks have three options. Run, get rubbed out, or fight back.”

She sighed at the shudder that ran through the crowd. A mouse fainted. In the land of Toontasia, people knew about conflict. They knew about rampaging goblins, vile wizard conquerors, and the occasional dragon. But they didn't know about death. They didn't even have a word for it, not until the “Ridges” arrived. Supposedly invaders from another dimension, even the sight of one could drive a Toontasian mad. They didn't look that unusual; just monkeys without tails and fur. But that familiar made them even stranger. Their bodies bulged in odd directions, and Toontasian scholars believed that they existed in a dimension beyond their comprehension, a mysterious “third” one they dubbed Dimension Z. Even more horrifying were their bodies. They were covered in bumps, marred with random hairs, wrinkles, and unnatural textures, earning them their name.

Even worse, they brought death. Ever since their arrival at Uncanny Valley, they expanded without hesitation, forming strange cities and bringing devastating weapons upon anything that tried to stop them. And they cared nothing about the suffering of those in their way. In fact, they found it amusing. Every time their weapons caused a Toontasian to shatter into a thousand pieces or reduced one to a pile of ash with two sad eyes, the Ridges only laughed. Especially their children.

Rubellia the Raccoon Ranger knew how this would go. The crowd had been numbed into shock for now, but she had only seconds before it would turn to panic. Steam would shoot out of people's ears, eyes would bug out of their sockets, a few people would just run around in circles shouting “Woo woo woo woo woo!”

“I know what you're thinking,” she started. “But this doesn't have to be another Ratburg or Animate Furniture Junction. We all heard the tales about Happy Bunny Lane. We all learned a harsh lesson at Happy Bunny Lane. But we are ready now. The Ridges are powerful, but they are not invincible.”

“But what can we do?” Tappy asked as he poured Rubellia another drink from his head.

“We have abilities the Ridges can't fathom, can't prepare for. They barely understand what an anvil is, let alone are prepared to be bombarded with them using catapults. To a Ridge, armed is armed. Wait for them to let their guard down, and you can just pull a mallet out of the nowherespace and give them a good whack. And their knowledge of explosives is sorely lacking. One enormous pile of TNT or a few black bombs with sizzling wicks will throw them into a panic.”

“But can't they destroy us with their weapons before we even get in range?” the mantis mother asked.

“Not anymore,” Rubellia assured them. “Because I learned a technique to sneak up on any Ridge, at any time. Best of all, anyone can do it, from the smallest ant to elephant wearing pot and pan armor.” To demonstrate, Rubellia just turned to her side.

“I don't get it,” Tappy commented.

“Neither did I, at first,” Rubellia said. “It's a flaw in their eyes. Just by walking at them sideways, we become practically invisible. Not completely, mind you, but more than enough for our purposes. To them, we look like nothing but thin black lines, and nobody's going to see that coming.”

Testing the StoryMaker (Part 1)

Let me give an example of how I use the StoryMaker from my last post. I will run through a standard set of results, and then create a short story out of the results. I'll use the answers I generate exactly – unless they end up being completely generic (like, say, a fantasy-setting adventure story,) in which case I'll add another setting or theme to get an interesting twist.

The first roll is for the setting. I roll a 20 sided dice and get 13, so standard setting. A second roll of 3 gets me Fantasy/Medieval, and the modifier roll is 19, so I get to add a modifier. That roll is a 4, making the setting Cartoon-based. So this will be a fantasy setting, but cartoon rules will apply. That means a gleeful rejection of the laws of physics whenever humor demands otherwise, literally anything being a potential character, and in most cases, the nonexistence of the concept of death itself.

Next, I get the theme. I roll a 9, resulting in the – horror theme. Could be interesting with cartoon elements. The specific theme that I get is “us as monster.” This refers to any story where humanity is beseiged not by any otherworldly or alien threat, but by the nature of humanity itself. The heroes have to battle humanity's prejudices, paranoia, or greed to survive.

That's a pretty unusual result, so I'll go with that. Now to make a story based on it. I should have the followup post about half an hour or so after this one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kickstarter :: How it is being used by writers

On my other blog I posted 7 questions to 3 writers on their crowd funded projects.

They are:
Susan Price, (writer/editor/wrangler of ferrets and fellow member of Missing Dwarven Phaser writers group)
Susan's writing was in game development for her son's strategy card game, which achieved 126% of their goal ($5000).
Greg Stolze, (writer, game designer and fellow en-wiggee)
Greg holds a prestigious record with Kickstarter, 29 campaigns with only 3 did not make their goal!
Alan Bollinger, (writer, game designer and fellow g+'er)
Designed the card game Cavern Crawl that funded to 80%.

1: What are you selling on Kickstarter? Is it in campaign, or has it finished? Was it successful?
Susan:  We were selling a strategy card game [tabletop game]. Campaign ran Aug 12-Sept 11, 2013 and we got 126% of goal [goal $5000, raised $6251].
Greg:  I've run a total of 29 Kickstarter projects. 26 have succeeded, 3 failed. Of those, the three failures were for one short story, a drive to raise funds and print a novel, and for the continuance of an online novel. Of the successes, I've released 18 short stories (or really, stories and bundles, as many of the projects have more than one story involved), one novel, five games or supplements for games, one audiobook and one print collection of short stories.
Alan: I did a card game last year, Cavern Crawl.  Did not fund - 80% only.

2:  Do you grow your network in Kickstarter, or monetize your existing network?
Susan:  A little of both, but mostly, we were building a new network. Of our 84 supporters, only a dozen or so were existing friends/contacts.
Greg:  It was definitely a matter of monetizing the existing contacts, especially in the beginning. I may have picked up a few new fans on KS, but mostly it's been word of mouth from people who were exposed to my work in traditional avenues. On the other hand, the practice of releasing stuff free and hosting it online forever has some definite upsides. I don't have to tell people, "I've written this story and I'm very, very good, trust me!" Instead, I can say, "I've written all these stories you can read for free right now. If you like those, you'll probably like the next one."
Alan:  Both.  The only way to even get it to work at all is to really work the forums and social networks. Don't expect to post it and just get funded.

3: Do you find donors to be more engaged in your network once there is a KS campaign? Before or after donating?
Susan: We located most of our donors by play testing/demo-ing our game at scifi and anime conventions, and GenCon. The online networking serves as a way of staying in touch with donors and others, most of whom got on board because of playing our game and meeting us in person. A handful, maybe 6 of the 84, donated to the KS solely on the basis of what they saw online.
Greg: Once the campaign is up, definitely, and after donating. Then they're with you in that breathless, "Will it or won't it work?" phase. Then, of course, when it completes, they're with you for the "Where's the stuff you promised me?" phase. Because I've relied heavily on intangibles, "Yeah, you only get a story on the internet, but you don't have to pay much for it," I've avoided many of the fulfillment issues that plague successes.
Alan: No. Maybe because it was a smaller project, but I only had a few backers even reach out to me at all.

You can see the rest of the questions at