I very much enjoy bringing new things into the world. Or at least trying to do so. It’s hard enough to pour your passion into something, to pick up the new skills it needs along the way and to put the time in. The time is a real tough one – because life and family and bills to pay. Right? But the hardest and most soul-breaking part is when you’re done, it sits in your hands in all its wonder, and nobody in the whole world knows it exists. I’ll come back to that. I need you. If you’re anything at all like me, or if you at least understand me, I need you.
Stick with me till the end here.
When I was a kid, my parents had a hardback set of books called Childcraft. They were encyclopedias for kids, and I was especially enamored with holidays and customs and tales from other countries. My parents worked a lot, and there weren’t any kids on my street. I was also a bit of a loner, and it was a way to travel and see the world. I moved on to the regular encyclopedia set, flipping its pages and dreaming. The mythology and great paintings articles were favorite stops of mine. But being such an easy target, science fiction hit me early on like a freight train – here are a few flashes I recall just to make my point:
- Smacking my dad’s arm when Darth Vader was deciding to save Luke in Episode IV of Star Wars, almost crying when he threw the Emperor down that pit
- Straining extra hard wrestling with my brother when he held me down because Cassiopeia from Battlestar Galactica was watching in the form of a cutout from a coloring book hanging from my ceiling
- Riding my bike downhill with a purpose, escaping mutated apocalyptic screamers from A Boy And His Dog
- Bashing my pillows as hard as I could with one of those plastic lightsabers that made a humming noise when you swung them quickly
- Staring dumbfounded at the television after the Borg kidnapped Captain Jean Luc Picard in Best Of Both Worlds episode one, from Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Finding Sri Lanka on a globe and asking how much it would cost to travel there so I could meet Arthur Clarke and ask him all my science questions
I’ve had a kaleidoscope of a life since then, earning degrees in Physics and Business, helping build nuclear reactors in the Navy and running parts of businesses, coordinating mergers and acquisitions, and consulting. Seriously, I’ve done all kinds of stuff. But in all that, in anything I’ve ever tackled, the core drive is always to somehow recapture the way those things felt. Just pure wonder. Inspiration.
New things. New worlds.
“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
And thanks, Louis, because this quote is the whole point of me. I believe if you look to be inspired, you will probably find inspiration. I believe if you learn the nuances of a thing, whether it’s art or haiku or telling stories in film…or whether it’s searching for patterns in nature and the universe…you pick up the rhythms of what makes those pieces and parts fit together. And you come alive. A pen & ink artist studying music will find patterns and growth that makes them sharper and more imaginative.
In 1997, I was serving on a destroyer in the Persian Gulf. I had brought along the first three Dune books, a stack of VHS tapes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and a pretty bad case of homesickness to sit and watch westerns with my dad and brother. Something about that mix, and the exotic surroundings of Oman and Dubai, the wandering in the souq marketplaces and especially a night sleeping in the desert in Muscat fired my imagination. It was all just a simmering gumbo of scenes and marvelous machines and larger-than-life characters though, until the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
I know. Anybody younger than me could be rolling their eyes at this one. They’ve maybe heard about it and never felt something like that. It was awful. Let’s just say a very thunderous realization hit me in the days that followed, as I watched the footage of firefighters running up the stairs into those burning buildings and those on the streets rushing to aid…as I heard the voices of those on flight 93 about to charge the hijackers.
It struck me that this was a nightmare, true, but how much more terrifying would it have been were it not for those brave souls who stepped up when it mattered! Running up the stairs into a burning building…who on earth could have more character than such a person?
“Because the life’s blood of a nation is the character of its people, and because the neglect of souls is the needle that poisons it, I have left you wonders in the Record. The fault and the regret are yours if they must arise.”
-The Salt Mystic
I don’t know why it took me till 2015 to publish the novel that came of those feelings and concepts. It did though. I had to live more, and to learn more. Writing a novel is a life-changing thing. And it meant a lot to me. I needed to get it right.
Here in the last two years, especially with pandemic quarantines and all the change that’s come about in our hostile interactions with one another, I’m haunted by the question I was asking back then. And I’m anxiously going back to the original fire behind all of it – what binds us together and lasts over the long term? What can bring us back to where we’re listening to each other, and being people again?
It’s mythic storytelling and inspiration. I’m convinced of it.
Not social justice engineering or reams of fan fiction, not propaganda or unimaginative clones and faded tropes. Pure adrenalin myths for the modern day. Just like Frank Baum wanted. Just like George Lucas wanted. I’m just arriving at the same conclusion. And I believe something wonderful is happening in tabletop gaming, not only in the last few years but especially fueled by the COVID restrictions. Tabletop gaming is coming into its own, fresh with depth and rich lore, with incredibly innovative ways for people to interact with the stories.
I see tabletop gaming, including but not limited to roleplaying as a new frontier for mythic storytelling. Much like science fiction stories in the old pulps and animated films once drew scorn as fit for juveniles and now are taught in universities, I see the tales & captured magic of tabletop games of the 21st century fertile for what comes next for us in how we express ourselves. Cinematic experiences in a box like Tainted Grail: Fall Of Avalon from Awaken Realms or Grimslingers by Stephen Gibson or Cthulhu: Death May Die by Rob Daviau and Eric Lang, among countless others are raising the bar for the rest of us.
So I need your help.
I’ve spent the last few years breathing as much life as I am able into a tabletop gaming experience. It’s called Salt Mystic, designed to be an Immersive Storytelling Engine fit for practically anyone with an imagination. Read about it here. Download the rules for free, and dip into the art if you like. The point is to provide an exciting game, easy to learn, no baggage or continuity required, no extensive hobbytime or painting abilities needed…but one that takes place in a rich, immersive, fascinating world with fully realized history and intrigue, adventure and exotic places to visit, peopled with living, breathing souls. Playing the game itself feels like playing a streamlined Warhammer 40k with Magic: The Gathering cards, or so I’m told.
The Salt Mystic Sourcebook & Core Rules is available on DrivethruRPG here. I would very much appreciate your help getting the word out about this. Anyone you know who’s interested in wargaming, or in lore-based tabletop gaming, just shoot them a quick note about what we’re up to. If you’re into what I’m saying, give me a try!
I’d appreciate it. And thanks for letting me go long on this one. You’re awesome.
Till next time.