On writing, WoD, and the Dream Chest
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
So among other things, I’m a writer. And for some reason, I write in the Fantasy genre.
Why is that?
A mentor of mine said thast we write the books we loved when we were teenagers. I loved Dungeons and Dragons. I loved fantasy novels. Science Fiction is sometimes okay, but I always preferred Fantasy. Fantasy is more – primal. It slips into a kind of fairytale magic where you’re playing with stories that tap into our childhood fears and dreams. It makes thematic sense rather than scientific sense.
And I didn’t want some nerdy Physics major sending me a letter telling me that my warp drive engine is unrealistic for a list of reasons.
My work is pretty good – or so I think. It has not been terribly successful. Perhaps it’s because of my previous, small-press publishers. Perhaps it’s because I’m not terribly good at marketing. Or perhaps it’s not that good after all.
Still, it’s a passion of mine, and if any of you would like to support it, I’d be grateful.
I decided to go the self-publishing route, a path that was foolhardy a couple decades ago, and is now much easier thanks to the leap in technology. Dream Chest is not my first book, but it is the first one I self-published. And though my other books might fit nicely into a D&D setting, Dream Chest is the exception.
Yet – it may not be so much of an exception.
I’ll admit it here for the first time: my first inspiration for Dream Chest was indeed a role-playing game, though not one I ever played before. Here is that story.
In the 1990s, most of the gaming friends I knew were giving up on Dungeons and Dragons. The new “hip” game was World of Darkness from White Wolf. A very pretentious game where the players take the role of Vampires, Werewolves, and other supernatural creatures of the dark to prey and oppress the helpless muggles of the real world. All right, Harry Potter was in his infancy in those days, so “muggles” wasn’t the word used. But the creatures of the night avoided showing off their power for much the same reason; Hogwarts might not do so well against atomic bombs, after all.
At some point I’ll write some essays on what I liked about Worlds of Darkness then, and how I came to the conclusion today that it was mostly a bunch of pseudo-rebellion from directionless young people to give themselves somewhat more real-world power tripping fantasies than D&D has to offer.
Still, along with the history lesson.
Worlds of Darkness had a reboot in the 00’s. (What do we call that decade? The oughts?). And apparently now this second version… second edition, you might call it… is known as Chronicles of Darkness. I know very little about it, and never played it. But one of the games caught my eye.
The original WoD had Vampires, Werewolves, Mages, Wraiths, and Changelings. Other supernatural baddies were published, but these five were the main core, especially the first two. I found Changelings to be a particularly irritating publication, a story of a bunch of half-human / half-fairy crossbreeds who are stuck in the real world unable to get back home to Arcadia and are afraid of losing their magic by growing up. I was never impressed with it.
But out of curiosity, I glanced at the re-release in the “New” World of Darkness system, and they put a completely new spin on it. In this one, the Fae leave Arcadia, grab an unsuspecting human to take back to fairy land as a “toy.” If lucky, the “toy” escapes, returns to the real world, and is not only traumatized and changed by the ordeal, but might find his (or her) faerie master has left behind a double to take his place, and is living his life better than he ever did.
This did fire my imagination. This was a far more frightening game system than the earlier one. And it also touches on a very common thread of fantasy and fairy tales – the captured human in a wondrous land, unable to go home. Because even though Dorothy loved Oz with all her heart, we still know that her quest was to get out of there.
Now I’m not saying my book has anything to do with the game itself, more than that. There aren’t cruel Fae who are stealing humans, kicking and screaming, dragging them to Faeryland. That wasn’t the book I wanted.
I wanted more subtly with it.
Bridgette is an unhappy High School sophomore. After her friends publicly ridicule her about her weight, she takes a break by playing an online computer game – which transports her to a magical land, in the body of the avatar she designed herself – a design to compensate for her bodily insecurities.
As for the rest…. Buy a copy and find out.
If there’s one thing RPGs can do for you, they do have the potential to fire up your imagination. Until then, speaking from the belly of the whale - Jonah.