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Posts Tagged ‘Dragon Age’

I frequently mention that I enjoy playing video games like Dragon Age, Skyrim, and Fallout. For a lot of people, video games seem like an idle entertainment, but you could say the same thing about the stories we write. Right? And we surely hope that readers will find something of value in the idle entertainments we create.

For me, these role-playing video games fill some of the same space that reading books does. It’s a form of story-telling where you participate in the action. Rather than reading about a desperate mission behind enemy lines, you/your character carries out that desperate mission. You meet interesting people, some of whom are human and some who aren’t (depending on which game it is). You can help “write” the dialogues that get them to be friendly or make enemies. You can even fall in love!

In a good role-player, the player is making choices that shape the outcome of the game. Or so it appears. As a writer myself, I understand that it is all scripted and the player is not really changing them. Especially not the ultimate outcome of the game’s story. The game writers have a right to make the point they want to make. So I’m pretty tolerant of scripted outcomes.

When I regret a choice in a video game, it’s usually because I joined a faction or romanced a character that is too divergent from my own beliefs. A good example is the Brotherhood of Steel, one of the factions in Fallout 4. In my first playthrough, they struck me as too militaristic, so I passed on my chance to join them. For my current playthrough, I decided to try the Brotherhood. I built my character so their philosophy would appeal to him. It wasn’t enough.

First they say they’re here to save humanity from the monsters of the wasteland. Okay, cool. But then they encourage you to threaten settlers in order to establish supply lines with dialogue like “You know what to do.” Even if you purchase the supplies, your faction then “controls” the settlement rather than being “allies.” I started calling them the Brotherhood of Steal. When they wanted me to attack other factions to gain more control, my character stopped doing their missions. He definitely regretted his choice. Now I’ve joined a different faction that seems like they might fight against the Brotherhood. If so, that is something I/he will not regret.

This is not, specifically, a complaint about that faction. As I writer, I learn a lot from these games. One thing is how to engage readers/players without dragging them. “Let’s save humanity from monsters” is a great hook. But I also enjoyed how the game writers slowly upended the Brotherhood of Steel. While my character was furious, I admired the writers’ skill.

Also, it reminded me not to put my reader in a place where they regret cheering my characters on. Unless that is my point, of course. For instance, in The Tower in the Mist, some of my characters slowly realized that they were on the wrong side. If I showed this well enough, the readers will have come along for the rest of the series.


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What’s Happening? Well, there’s COVID-19. Obviously. At the start of this, experts were saying it would go on for two years. I thought, “No way.” Now, I’m not so sure. Too many of my fellow Americans lack the maturity to take a simple measure like wearing masks. The school where I work has the highest number of positive tests in our city. One whole classroom is just back from being quarantined, and another will return next week. The specter draws closer.

What I’m Working On. In the month of November, I finished up a couple of short story submissions for two small press anthologies. Those are submitted and I hope the editors like them. With that handled, I’ve started in on the third draft revisions of Prisoners of the Wailing Tower.

What’s Next? If I feel good about Prisoners after this draft, then my next project will be the fifth Minstrels of Skaythe novella. Then, come January, it will be time to start thinking whether we can have our science fiction convention, SpoCon, in person for 2021. Dare I hope?

Fun and Games. Animal Crossing had some fun special activities around Thanksgiving. That’s a game you can play forever, in a very low-key way. I also got to a good place with Fallout 4 and ended the playthrough with my character and her lover sitting by the fire in the cabin she built. I’ll be finishing out the year with my old favorite, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Normally I am not superstitious, but it really does feel like the year 2020 has been carrying a curse. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this one to be over!


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I hoped by now to have a link for my appearance on Kittywumpus. No such luck. Instead, I’ll continue riffing on how I created Skaythe as an opposite-of-perfect world.


It’s part of the background that most mages are evil. It sounds too easy to just classify a whole group that way. It was important to me that I explain how that is accomplished. And, make no mistake, the mages’ evil is not something they are born with. It is purposely done to them.

First and most important, they are separated from their parents. Some of you may already know, or have figured out, that Skaythe was partly sparked by the Dragon Age video games. There, the Chantry (church) system takes all mage born children from their families and imprisons them in the towers of the Circle. I don’t know if the game writers themselves realized the extraordinary cruelty of this, and how devastating it would be to mage children.

As humans, our relationship with our parents is at the core of who we are. A loving family teaches children to trust — first their parents, but ultimately themselves. They learn to control their emotions and make sound decisions. Although the relationship becomes more complex as kids get older, they still retain those traits from early years. The best way to create stable citizens of any society is to keep them in their birth families.

I’m not going to go into the contemporary parallel of U.S. immigration officials separating parents from children at the border. Just do some reading on their experiences. My point will come through.

In Skaythe, mage born children are taken from their families and placed in Temple Schools, which double as orphanages and combat academies. Young mages arrive at Temple Schools traumatized and grieving. These children learn that they can never trust adults, or anyone else. They are filled with rage that they can’t control. Their decisions are rash and dangerous.

Then, they are taught to fight for everything from a new blanket to advanced training that will lead to political appointments. They are instructed in the most volatile magical energy, lethentros, which further increases their instability. More than anything else, it is the Temple Schools that turn Skaythe’s mages into the terror and the tragedy that they are.


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