Monday, April 20, 2420

Welcome 1st Edition Play-Testers!

Welcome to The Borderlands, misfits.
If you’re reading this, you’ve been invited you to take part in some "play-testing" of a novel I've been working on.  It’s also likely I have mentioned this novel to you during the last few months and/or you might have caught me make a reference or two to it on Facebook.  At the moment, the only part of the novel I've finished so far is the Prologue but at about 20,000 words, the Prologue is a fairly big opening chapter which, in hindsight is intriguing because the events that take place in the Prologue last for perhaps only 5 or 10 minutes.
At the outset, I should probably offer a little backstory on this story (some of you know some of this already): 
I played a lot of D&D as a kid primarily with my childhood friend Bill Curtis (who has of course been invited to play-test the novel).  As it says in the brief introduction here online, the D&D characters I created back then and the adventures they went on had an impact on me akin to that of some of my favorite characters from fiction and film.  Oddly, despite an abandoned college run as a creative writing major and the possession no less than a couple dozen short stories and novels in various states of unfinished, the idea to retell those D&D adventures as fiction, as stories, never occurred to me until this past summer.
While travelling to Burning Man with my friends Nelly and Symon (also invited 1st Edition play-testers!) the D&D bug bit me again and I began re-reading the old rulebooks and even joined a role-playing game group here in Paris when I got home.  Unsurprisingly, I began to think about all my old friends: Rocco the Rotten, the fearless fighter who lead a band of rag tag heroes into one ridiculous adventure after another; the rogues, halfling Sammy the Short, and the least trustworthy of the two, Billy the Bad; there was also Aragel the Elf, Dudley the Dwarf, Smertha the healing cleric and Valandil the Green, master of fireballs (Why “the Green”?  Why the hell not - we were kids addicted to Tolkien). 
I remembered their battles with Dragon Turtles, Frost Dragons, and some sort of almost psychedelic adventure to find a black jewel.  But at some point in high school, the gaming bug left me and, well…
Whatever happened to those guys?

This book attempts to answer that question. 

See, as probably every gamer and fan of fantasy has attempted, I have, over the years, done a fair bit of “world building.”  The world or universe that this novel takes place in has been under construction for over 10 years. Only I didn't create it for this novel.  I did it for another novel, a series of novels actually, that I have been sketching out and writing off and on for a decade or so.  That series of novels is a much more complicated story than the adventure that my old D&D characters embark upon in this novel (the first book in the other ever-unfinished series is tentatively titled, "Daddy Issues").  Continuity, coherence, plausibility, as well as the creation and definition of multiple religious, philosophical and political systems and communities along with millennia of historical events have all been pieced together here and there in between master theses, dissertation chapters, conference presentations.  As I’ve studied the “real” world as a student of anthropology, I constructed another semi-rule based world for my daydreams because daydreams without direction can become nightmares.
In part, world-building was a way for me to play with many of the topics we were constructing and deconstructing in my anthropology courses.  Or maybe that’s just a justification for the time I spent on this novel while colleagues were further refining their understanding of Derrida (“Writing is the dead part of language.”).
But I digress…
As this past summer came to an end I found myself reminiscing about my original D&D characters far too often.  In particular I kept recalling the very first adventure I played and the first time I experienced the death of a character I created.  Bill and I eventually created some backstories, for the characters we played with – a regular part of role playing games.  But for that character that died in my first adventure, no backstory had been created. 
That wasn’t fair. 
The fallen hero must have had family, people who cared, wondered if they had died well, alone, afraid?
I slowly came to consider that all that world-building I’d been doing wasn’t perhaps just for the troubled eternal love story I had been banging away at off and on for years (we write about what we know, yes?), but was perhaps being unconsciously influenced by all my old D&D friends desperately yearning for an opportunity to adventure again, to acclaim and avenge their fallen comrade.
And so, after a decade of gestation, Gaearth was born. The name homage to both the multiple alternative spellings of “Earth” that so many D&D home planets have possessed in publications over the years (including: Oerth, Aerth, Uerth, Yarth and, well, Earth) and to Gaea/Gaia, another go-to name in the name-game of world-building. 
I’ve heard tell that some people pronounce Gaearth, “Gay-Earth” or others “Guy-Earth” and that the planet has rings like Jupiter, but more rainbow colored.  Maybe.  You’ll have to read the whole novel to find out … if Gaearth really has two moons and if the smaller one is pink, turns blood red on the solstices and is called Rosé.
For those who have played D&D (most of you reading this) then the powers and limitations of the characters in the novel will seem familiar and hopefully logical (in a D&D sort of way).  I think the best way to describe the relationship between the world of this novel and the rules of D&D is that this book is (or is at least meant to be) an homage to the game not a faithful representation of the game as laid out in any edition of the rules.  It is more precisely a retelling and re-imagining of adventures played.  While the rules of this universe will seem familiar to gamers, if I seem to stray into uncharted territory the let’s just call it Dungeon Master's license. 
This is not a D&D novel – I have never read any of the official D&D novels
This is a novel based loosely on unforgettable D&D adventures and characters played a long time ago and the stoned daydreams they inspired for many years. 
For those non-gamers among us, ideally the world will unfold in a logical manner. While I borrow heavily from the logics of roleplaying games and this is a "meta" novel for sure, the world presented here is ultimately mine.  And if after a decade of tweaking it isn't convincing to non-gaming readers, then indeed, I should probably stick to seeking out real tombs and dungeons and writing about them.

So what is a 1st Edition Play-Tester?
My Chapters have Parts rather than my Parts having Chapters and I didn’t even have the courtesy to start with Chapter 1. (I suck at following rules. Ask my Dad, who has also been invited among you as a 1st Edition Play-Tester!  Hi Pop!)  However, as mentioned earlier, I feel that the Prologue is finally ready for a semi-public outing and that this Blog is capable of facilitating the things I’d like to share for the time being.  So what we have here is the novel in its “1st Edition”.  That is, after I post a Chapter or image or some fool thing related to the story here, I have no plans to further edit said posted chapters and associated files further until I have finished the entire novel (a longshot I admit).  However, if I should finish and I’m lucky enough to receive useful critique then a day might come to pass that some sort of edited, professionally proofed and more public “2nd Edition” might be released upon the world.  (But don’t worry, if that ever happens there will still be demons and devils in my 2nd Edition ;)
For those of you who owned the Core rulebooks for 1st Edition D&D, I hope you share with me a fondness for the earnest and at times delightfully amateurish efforts that the good folks at Tactical Studies Rules released in the late 1970s (I still own all of these).
Similarly with my “1st Edition” I’m aiming about as high: earnest and amateurish. 
What I hope to accomplish by inviting a couple of dozen people to take a peek here is to of course get feedback.  Is this simply a ridiculous idea?  Should I just hang my head in shame, embarrassed, and go back to my jargon laden musings on the role of ritual within marginalized communities?  Or is there some sort of entertainment value in all these words I've been scribbling?
One thing I should make clear at the outset: I'm not looking to have this novel published in any sort of traditional sense. 
There are of course odd copyright considerations in that I am using details from various role playing games, fantasy and sci-fi works and some other pop and counter culture media too (D&D itself is such an amalgam so stories born from the game are necessarily so as well but it should be mentioned that Sergio Aragonés’ Groo the Wanderer comic book has influenced these tales perhaps as much as Tolkien and his disciples).  But more than that, I'm not interested in either the established or the burgeoning modes of production and distribution of the written word.  To be honest, I am far more impressed by the way many online comic artists have made their work available - for free, with regular updates and with a variety of creative revenue streams - than I have been with the often bizarre efforts of the publishing (and music) industry to protect outmoded business and production models that generally leave artists with a fraction of the revenue their work generates and often only fractured ownership of their own art.
But let's not put the cart before the horse.  I should be so lucky as to have the time to commit to regular artistic output (or have anyone actually want me to do so).  However, since I am soliciting your feedback, I just thought it important for you to know that I am not looking to send out outlines and chapters to publishers, nor am I in any sort of rush to get some sort of finished product uploaded to any of the independent e-pub sites.
I simply want to share some stories with people who might enjoy them, and if fate should smile upon this idea, let it extend in any direction that seems a good fit. This project is a marathon, not a sprint (“Like a dissertation,” he tells himself looking at the pile of books under the desk he should be re-reading).  And my first step, before committing much more time to it, is to invite people to “play-test” it who might enjoy a silly, stoner take on the fantasy genre lightly spiced with anthropology and garnished with a few rock and roll sprinkles.
So, I offer up the Prologue for now, (A Player’s Handbook of sorts for the rest of the novel) and, if anyone is interested, I will put up new Parts to each of the next two Chapters as they are finished.  Both chapters are well-outlined and several Parts of Chapter 1 were drafted over the summer and are being shaped into more or less coherent prose as time permits and the muse insists.
If after a couple of Chapters I have neither been tossed out of my Ph.D. program nor lost all of you, well then, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
However, I do have to focus almost exclusively on my dissertation for the rest of this academic year because I took way more time off to work on this novel and accompanying appendices, illustrations, etc., than I anticipated. What started out as a pleasant distraction in September and October (while simultaneously working on a paper for an academic journal) became a minor obsession as I joined the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge this past November.  I failed at producing 50,000 words in one month as is the goal with NaNoWriMo, but the experiment did produce much of what you’ll find here.
I hope you enjoy cuz honestly, I've had a good time adventuring with these old characters again.

 J.P. Goodyear
January 24, 2015

P.S.  If after reading this you think you know someone who might get a kick out of it – even if it’s not your thing – let me know.  This 1st Edition Play-Testing is on an invite only Blog, but I’m def open to being more open.

perpetual rainbow ... what does it mean?!?!?!


  1. Testing as anonymous?

  2. So it looks like the comment section is working! Thanks for your help guys!

  3. Nice motivation Joe... it shows you've sharpen the skill of motivation perhaps because so many articles published? At least in CS they gotta have motivation, don't know if in the field of anthropology you also have to convince people to read the stuff you produce.


e-mail the author: