Friday, 13 March 2015

Writing Laozi Style

Laozi was a Chinese philosopher. Consequently his choicest thoughts are largely mis-attributed to Confucius; the only Chinese philosopher most people (including myself before this article) have heard of. I guess it's a compliment in a way but in another it would probably not have helped him get the girls. Nobody likes a whiner.

He's not a one trick pony by any means but the only trick which I care about is his thought nugget...


which can be translated as "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". I've also heard it in the form of a question "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Like most people, I happen to know the Han character for elephant is  and it's not in there. 
So I'm thinking maybe the elephant thing was just a little joke Laozi told one day. 

I imagine Laozi is out wandering around trying to get his head right because, back at home, Confucius is impressing all the Han's with "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." which is a total rip-off of Laozi's "single step" proverb but nobody's seeing that. They're just all like, "Confucius, you spit the illest proverbs", drop some more truth on us!".

Anyway, back to Laozi who's strolling here and there, looking at trees and butterflies, trying to get some fresh proverbs together when he happens upon a village in the grip of a terrible famine. Coincidentally, at the same time as he arrives in the village, an elephant also shows up. Unlike Laozi though, it almost immediately keels over dead. 

Now, everyone's just sort of staring at the thing because they're pretty sure dinner just showed up. There's a problem though: nobody's seen an elephant before, let alone cooked and eaten one. 

It's at about this point that one of the villagers notices Laozi standing there. Laozi's looking all morose, kicking at imaginary pebbles and muttering under his breath because, once again, he's the second most interesting thing going on. In fairness to the villagers though, despite being fairly recognizable, by any measure he's less interesting than a newly dead elephant

Still, Laozi's supposed to be wicked smart, so maybe he knows a thing or two about cooking exotic animals. So the villager yells out to him  "how do you eat an elephant?" and Laozi who's still sulking yells back "one bite at a time".

And this is just one of the reasons why Laozi was not as popular as Confucius.

So writing.. I don't generally have trouble starting and I've heard a lot of folks say they start strong and then sort of lose impetus. This is generally followed by the lamentation that they have a closet full of partially completed things they should "dust off".

I'm hardly prolific but I do get around this by looking at each piece not as a thing I'm starting but a piece of something I'm working on. Or, to use one of the things the hip kids are doing as an analogy, I look at my work as a torrent file. I trust that everything's going to arrive eventually it just may not be in the order I would expect. 

To be fair I feel like I'm downloading a lot of different pieces at the same time but I'm also surprised that sometimes quite disparate pieces seem to suddenly fit together. In the interests of full disclosure I also reread unfinished things in some kind of a schedule to maximize the chances of some synergy being recognized.

I guess this is also useful for avoiding writers block too. I write what I want when the mood takes me and just trust that it'll will be useful eventually. It's not always going to be the case but if you're fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to write for a living it might at least make things a little more enjoyable, at least, it does for me.

Saturday, 7 March 2015 Some thoughts about social media as they relate to designing games.

from Twitter

Social Media is more challenging than I thought...

Without even trying I've created the content for a post about posts. I could probably try and squeeze an Inception joke in here somewhere but hey, it's not 1983!

Anyway, it has occurred to me that a particularly important part of being an independent RPG developer is generating and maintaining a social media presence. This post is about what that means for me.

I personally find maintaining a social media presence to be the most challenging aspect of game design (aside from getting playtesters). I've always enjoyed my own company and nowadays the "lonely fun" I used to have drawing dungeons no one would ever walk through and making characters I'd never play has given way to writing games people will never play. The problem is that if I want people to play them and talk about them I need to engage. To be clear, I'm not comparing my situation with the struggles of people with genuine social anxieties that make even answering the phone a challenge.

So for prospective designers, if you're like me this may be a large part of the job you'd not banked on. I also don't want to create the impression that I don't want to get to know people, quite the contrary. It's just that I struggle with the initial getting to know you bits, the social supermarket shopping ritual of reading the ingredients on a food label and from that making a decision about whether you'll like the taste of the whole thing. To put it another way, I hate cilantro by itself but in curries and other dishes it's part of a flavour I really enjoy. I can't make a decisions based exclusively on its presence or absence in the same way I shouldn't write off a person that is opposed to vaccinations or who likes Creed.


What am I going to do? Well, this is part of it. I'm going to try to maintain a social media presence for a month, engaging, writing, musing, and sharing and see what happens. Maybe it'll be easy or maybe it'll be a banal stream of liking people's vegan quinoa selfies. Either way I'm going to give it a shot.

How am I going to do it? I've invested some time in setting up If This Then That "recipes" that can post things about the place without needing to type the same thing everywhere. An early lesson I've learned is that it is possible to set up infinite feedback loops by creating a circle of post and repost. Consequently you'll want to sort out your primary input point and set up some kind of chain that doesn't feed back.

I'll update you as I go along.

You can find me at






Friday, 6 March 2015

As part of my effort to be more engaged in social media I've connected some accounts. Join me as we find out how b…

from Twitter

@stlhood If we're taking suggestions, how about Pikachu?

from Twitter

As part of my effort to be more engaged in social media I've connected some accounts. Join me as we find out how bad this idea was. #hashtag

from Twitter

Hazard Gaming

Hi there. You've found the new blog for Hazard Gaming.

If you're aching for some of that old time blogger action from the last few years you can go back and see what was up at the Victoria Roleplaying blog.

Why another blog? Well it's a long story but the good news is this isn't twitter so that means I've got more than enough characters to spell it out. Thing is, you'll have to wait for post two to read all about it.

Make sure your socks are on tight!