The idea came to me while trying to get Star Trek Online to download and install over my not-so-great internet connection. I am, as you may have guessed by looking at my profile picture or reading the title of this blog, obsessed with dragons. I like the idea of scaly lizards that breath fire and fly. I also love science fiction. I’m particularly fond of Godzilla movies, but I’ve also had a fondness for Star Trek nearly all my life. I’m not sure if I would categorize myself as a hardcore Trekkie, but I’m definitely a fan. So when it occurred to me that a lot of star trek episodes are essentially science fiction mystery stories, and that the gamebook I’m working on is a mystery story revolving around dragons, I ended up putting the two together. The result is a concept that I’m calling Star Dragons.

In a distant part of the galaxy live the Draconids, also known as Star Dragons. They were one of the first species to develop interstellar travel, and have spent the years since them exploring the galaxy and setting up research outposts with the hope of contacting new lifeforms around the galaxy and learning about the universe. Star Dragons resemble anthropomorphic lizards with diaphanous insectoid wings, colorful scales, and sometimes even hair. Gas sacks in their chest cavities enable them to fly with the help of their wings, and they have the unique ability to absorb cosmic radiation and project it in a blast of plasma from their mouths. They collect personal trinkets and mementos to form “hoards,” with which they have a psychic connection that helps them to recover from injuries.

Star Dragon society runs on a roughly anarcho-syndicalist model and is heavily decentralized. With the exception of an individual’s hoard, resources are shared between the worker’s syndicates, which¬† resolve matters in direct democratic councils within each outpost. Outposts communicate with each other via ansible transmissions, negotiating for research as needed.

I’m still working out what the exact plot will be, but the main protagonist will be a new researcher arriving at their first posting and becoming embroiled in a mystery of some sort. Anyway, I love the setting idea and I am completely stoked to begin writing!

I’ve been so preoccupied with indieweb stuff that I forgot I was gonna post more about my adventure gamebook. For those who are unaware, I signed up for a game jam on itch.io that focuses on making gamebooks (the technical term for Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style books, as CYOA is trademarked). By using the WritingFantasy format for Twine, I’m slowly but surely putting together a gamebook that I hope to release as a hyperlinked ebook bundles with a pdf character sheet so that all you need is dice and a writing instrument to play the game. So far I’ve mostly written out some rules and some worldbuilding, but I’m getting about ready to dive into the main plot of the book. So here’s an overview of what this is all about!

The Fluff

The story centers around a young anthropomorphic dragon who has come to a city full of dragons after getting kicked of its nest by its parents. Looking for a place to sleep, the dragon eventually comes to a book exchange and is given a room in the basement and food in exchange for helping the proprietor out around the shop. When a rare and powerful tome is taken from the shop, it falls on the newcomer to help locate the missing item.

Dragon society in this world is anarchist-leaning, with a few twists. First of all, dragons do have personal property but don’t have currency. Instead, they operate on a system of trading goods and services directly, sometimes even simply in exchange for favors. The Book Exchange, for example, gives books out to dragons in exchange for books the dragons have already read, almost like a library, but with a constantly shifting catalog, as travelers often bring in books from outside the city to exchange fore newer books. Dragons do have hoards, but rather than just being piles of treasure, they are a reflection of that dragon’s personality and memories. A magical reflection, in fact – dragons can magically recover when they sleep with their hoards, a feature that is reflected in the rules.

Dragon society has no official hierarchy or leaders, but there are spiritual counselors known as The Voices Who reside at the Temple of the Roaring Mother and essentially act as priests. Every dragon is considered equal to each other in the eyes of the Roaring Mother, and the Voices are no exception. They exist simply to help dragons find spiritual fulfillment and not to direct or lead the city, which is run as a sort of direct democracy.

The Crunch

The rules of the book feature a d20 roll under system with four base stats and two derived stats. The base stats are Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Focus (FOC) and Influence (INF). Strength represents physical might, dexterity represents finesse and the ability to maneuver, focus represents the ability to memorize and recall information as well as to observe and concentrate, and influence is the ability to persuade, bluff, beguile and intimidate. These are the stats that are tested using the roll under system. The derived stats are Endurance (END) and Power (POW), which act more as pools of points that can increase or decrease, although they never increase above the starting value. Endurance is the character’s resistance to damage, roughly equivalent to HP, and Power is the character’s reserve of magical energy, roughly equivalent to MP

The base stats are derived by rolling 2d6+3 for each stat, with the player allowed to switch any two stat values after rolling. END is calculated as the sum of STR and DEX, and POW is the sum of FOC and INF. This means that the player’s base stats should each be between 5 and 15 and the derived stats should be between 10 and 30 at the start of the game. my hope is that this keeps things relatively balanced, but I won’t know until I’ve completed the book and tested it myself.

And that’s what I’ve been working on writing wise! I’ll keep posting updates as I work on the gamebook. I’m having a lot of fun doing this so far, and I’m really hoping that I can finish this and turn it into something cool.

I seem to have set the unfortunate precedent with my indieweb posts that I’m some kind of developer/power user who goes to conferences and stuff. In truth I just like to fart around with wordpress and things. I’m at best a hobbyist.

The good news is that I think I found a theme that works well with indieweb stuff! The bad news is I kind of hate how it looks. Took some work to get it to a place I really liked.

Obviously I like having my own website quite a bit. And I like indieweb and micropub, and the idea that I can use my own website as a hub for my social activity. And I’ve just gotten started with this stuff, so I’m still learning all the ins and outs. But there are a few problems with indieweb culture that I’m starting to notice.

The biggest is the fact that you need your own personal website for most of this stuff, and free hosting will not do. That’s not a problem for me, but it is a barrier to entry for a lot of folks. Heck, even micro.blog lacks a free version. Maybe as time goes on we will find a way around this obstacle and more people will be able to take advantage of this cool way of interacting with the web.

Another problem is that indieweb seems to be very individualist focused. The idea is to “own” your data and content and keep it out of corporate hands. With noted exceptions, however, I haven’t found much in the way of community building resources outside of a few forums dedicated to indieweb stuff. I personally find that a bit unnerving. Community is very important to me. I’m mainly on the web to make friends. Of course integrating my blog and social media profiles seems to be helping that, but the idea of “owning” my data doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather no one own my info.

That being said, there’s a lot with indieweb to like. The fact that I can choose what sites to syndicate to makes me feel like I consent to how my data flows. There is a lot of stuff here that an anarchist can get behind. The startup cost is still an issue, but I don’t think its an insurmountable one. And I’d like to see more indieweb people focus on accessibility.

Overall I like this suite of features and will continue to use it, but I hope that these issues get addressed eventually. I would like to be able to recommend indieweb functionality to my friends, but at the moment it is still something that requires an investment of both time and money.

Nothing that I’m about to say is a new idea, and that is beautiful.

We all know that art influences art. We are taught this in schools. We are taught to look for the influences one piece of art had on a particular movement, or for the effects that movement had on a piece of art that came later, and how it all fits into the political or historical context of the time. Art is interconnected, just as the human social experience is. But have we really grappled with this idea as a society? Not really.

The entire notion of “intellectual property” is an affront to the idea of art as interconnected. Ostensibly, it is there to protect artists from plagiarism, and allow them to make a profit off their work in a capitalist society. In actuality, it lets corporations control the flow of art and ideas. You cannot write a story about Spider-Man legally, because Spider-Man is owned by Disney. Doesn’t matter if your fan-fiction is better written and truer to the character than any Marvel movie or limited series, or if you take Spider-Man in a bold new direction that challenges our collective perception of the character. The writing, no matter if you make a profit off of it or not, is illegal. The actual writing and publishing of the story is against the law. Oh, to be sure, many companies have graciously allowed fan-fiction authors to continue writing their stories. Fandom drives profit, after all. But I can easily imagine a world in which that is not the case, and companies guard their collective intellectual property with even more jealously than they currently do.

There are people trying to change this, of course. The Creative Commons is such a movement, and has provided people with a host of different licensing options that allow others to build off each other’s work while still giving each other credit. As a legal loophole, its pretty useful. But its focus still clings to the individualist notion of intellectual property, of ideas as things that can be bought and sold for profit. It doesn’t reflect the reality: that the ideas and art we create are as much a part of our society as the actual people. Art is a living thing, and it changes as we do. Ideas are living things, and they evolve as we do.

Art and community are one and the same, and we should be working on ways to free our art from the capitalist class.

Anyway, that’s just some midnight thoughts I had.