Derik Badman's Journal

2021-09-12 11:54

We arrived at the beach yesterday for our week of vacation. Like last year it seems a little busier than in previous years, I guess more people are maybe not going to farther places and instead sticking close to home (and in country). Thankfully I planned early enough to get a place on the beach so I can sit here on the deck and see the ocean (and hear it) without having to go sit on the beach itself. So far I've started a few books and I think already abandoned a few. I brought more than I could really finish in a week, so I have that luxury as long as I don't take it too far.

I read a good review of Garielle Lutz's Worsted somewhere, but I just could not get into this collection of short stories. I tried a few of them, they were all first person narrated disconnected vignettes about people that seemed sad and messed up being slightly weird and abstract. I was very excited for Evan Dara's new novel Permanent Earthquake but 50 pages in I am just annoyed with it. It seems to take place on an island that is always having earthquakes and thus has become a kind of dystopia as it is a struggle to do really anything. Everyone seems to walk around with all kinds of guards and pads to help with the inevitable falling over when the earthquakes get worse... and... the narration of the protagonist's struggles were just... a struggle to read, form aptly fitting the content, but I am just not finding it engaging. I am perhaps reading it too much like sci-fi but I can't help but think "Why are all these people still here?" I'm about halfway through an old Cometbus issue from 1994 and enjoying it (I brought a couple of those along as I feel like I never go back and reread those).

I was also cleaning out the saved article list in my Feedly of all the things I had marked to read later or share later or save as a reference for later. Found this article from Alex Schroeder How to be a Better Player about RPGs that I quite like. Towards the end he talks about character backstory:

Conversely, I don’t like backstory too much. Write a backstory for yourself, if you must. When I’m a referee, I’ll read your backstory and I’ll probably forget about it once the game starts. You must make plans based on that backstory and put them forward at the table, and then it works. If you just write a backstory, you’re writing about the past. It’s irrelevant to the here and now. It generates no adventure. On the contrary, it generates memory load: we have to remember it.

I like the idea of getting player's to focus on character plans rather than character backstories. I've felt sometimes as DM that I'm expected to work the backstory into the campaign, which can be hard depending on where things go, but having a player with plans gives a nice hook for the DM to work from.

Thinking about it, I did that with my character for the last D&D campaign I played in. He didn't have a backstory to speak of (he grew up in the city... that's about it), but I thought up this silly thing where he wanted to make money so he could impress this lady equestrian he was secretly in love with and that gave me some motivation for the character but also gave Ian, the DM, a later adventure hook. As I recall in the very first campaign I ran all those years ago, we had a few characters with backstories that included a forward looking goal, and I managed to get at least two of them worked into the campaign before it ended.

I've got some writing to do while I'm here, a couple comics reviews, maybe I'll work on the short stories I abandoned... last year when I was here, I think. I've also brought along a handful of movies to (re)watch.

On the way here, just after leaving home we drove past where the tornado hit during Hurricane Ida last week and it was pretty shocking. Lots of trees with bare tops, lots of houses with damaged roofs and siding. It was very close to us, closer I think than I realized (especially at the moment when we were getting warnings and I was cooking dinner). We were really lucky.

We watched An Affair To Remember last night, certainly for the fourth or fifth or more time for me. It's a pretty sappy movie but I always enjoy it (except the two times when all the annoying children show up and sing), in particular this time we were noticing how great the colors are often a cohesion between the costume and sets such as an orange repeated across the shot.