Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 6 – Susan J. Morris

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Susan J. Morris

My guest for Episode 6 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Susan J. Morris, a fantasy author and editor that is best known for her work editing Forgotten Realms novels for Wizards of the Coast and novels for Monte Cook Games. She has published multiple books herself and designed Dungeons & Dragons for Kids. She also wrote a writing advice column for Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog. In the interview, she spoke about how she started running roleplaying games and transferred that experience into her professional life. She speaks about growing up as a homebrewer of campaign worlds rather than relying on published content. She speaks about her experiences working with Wizards of the Coast and Monte Cook Games, and the unique challenges of working with new content in the Forgotten Realms. She details her work as an editor, and offers advice for those interested in publishing their work.

Near the end of our talk, Susan shared some words that I want to highlight below. She spoke about the challenge of being a writer because it is a task that does not often result in positive feedback. I think her words are vital for all of us involved in producing creative content:

If you’re not writing for yourself, you’re going to be very disappointed long-term. I think you need to write things you love and that you enjoy — and then you can share them with other people, but the enjoyment should come from the writing and from doing it for yourself. Everything else should be kind of secondary or you’re very dependent on other people’s opinions for your happiness and fulfillment, which I think is never a good way to go. Writing as it is has very few moments in which you get reinforcement.

Create the content you want to consume! Personally, some of the most fun I’ve had as a writer have been spending time on articles that do not get much attention. I mean, who else is going to write over 4,000 words to determine the best track list for a hypothetical 12-track Use Your Illusion album by Guns N’ Roses?

Well, this guy too!

Enjoy the sixth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

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A Celebration of Predator

I saw Predator in a delightful micro-theater this week, and it has triggered a flood of warm thoughts and nostalgia.

Predator Movie PosterBefore DVDs, Blu-rays, videos-on-demand, and streaming services, the easiest way to watch a movie over and over again was to get it on a VHS tape. For this, there were two options; the first was to buy the movie from a place in the local mall (like Suncoast Video because Best Buy Amazon did not exist yet) or record it onto a blank VHS tape when it played on HBO or another cable channel. The VHS tapes could hold up to 6 hours of content, which allowed for a triple feature of action movies or comedies since those tend to clock in under two hours each. As I was starting high school in the early 1990s, a weekend pastime was watching my cobbled-together collection of VHS movies while falling asleep on the floor of our den. My adult self laments the terrible sleep-hygiene behaviors that I had during this time in my life!

(And really, I slept on the floor falling asleep to DVDs some nights well into graduate school years. The last gasp of this behavior was watching and listening to commentaries for A Knight’s Tale and Fellowship of the Ring. Good times!)

The triple feature VHS that got the most rotation during those years was the lineup of Predator, Action Jackson, and Blind Fury. I would throw this tape into the VCR and doze off as it played. As a result, it is safe to claim that I have seen the first 20-30 minutes of Predator at least 100 times in my life. The other movies on the tape were also favorites. Action Jackson was an effort by Carl Weathers to become an action star after his run as Apollo Creed in the Rocky films; it features Sharon Stone in one of her first performances, has Craig T. Nelson doing some heinously evil things, and climaxes with the hero driving a sports car through a house during a cocktail party and up a flight of stairs. It was fast and furious before that franchise existed! I also enjoyed that it featured “bad guy” actors that appeared in films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, not to mention Mac and Billy from Predator. Meanwhile, Blind Fury was a Rutger Hauer vehicle with the featured him as a wounded soldier that is blinded in Vietnam during combat, trained by a small village to acquire fighting skills with a sword (even though he’s blind), and then returns home years later to help the son of John Locke from Lost. He’s basically Daredevil!

Movies like Action Jackson and Blind Fury are now cranked out by the likes of Jason Statham and other action stars. But I feel like action movies these days are missing what they had back then, and it’s why Deadpool was so successful. Deadpool – now that I think of it – reminds me of those late 80s/early 90s action flicks that had a simple premise,  relied on humor, and did not take themselves seriously. If you have never seen Action Jackson or Blind Fury, find them and give them a view. They’re bad in all the good ways.

Getting back to Predator, watching it this week gave me the same thought as watching Jaws last year in the theater. This movie is outrageously flawless and well-executed. There isn’t a wasted moment. Every shot and line of dialogue accomplishes multiple things in terms of moving the plot and developing characters. And it does not rely on huge, 15-minute set-piece battles like the endless stream of superhero flicks (which I also enjoy); the majority of Predator is sneaking around in the jungle and planning ambushes.

It’s so good!

Below, I highlight three aspects of Predator that can apply to running roleplaying games in terms of character development, pacing, and conflict resolution.

Continue reading “A Celebration of Predator”

The Hearthstone Sessions #1

Several months ago, I wrote two articles as an introduction to the online competitive card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The first addressed the potential benefits and consequences for new players attempting to learn the game while the second offered some advice on how to approach the various game modes that are currently available. It was announced recently that Hearthstone will be undergoing numerous changes to the format of these game modes. The moves align it close to the structure of Magic: The Gathering as some cards will cycle out of play since they will no longer be allowed in certain game formats. The coming months will once again be a good time to jump into Hearthstone because the changes will mean a new player will not have to catch up on collecting as many older cards.

One of my thoughts in playing more Hearthstone was to stream the game from time to time. In trying this, it became clear that my Internet connection and computing equipment has nowhere near the capacity I need to stream efficiently. It has been extremely helpful to watch professional players compete at Hearthstone and learn lessons alone the way. While far from being an expert player, I thought it would be fun to bring my “style” and “personality” to the Hearthstone world.

But how to stand out in the crowded streaming world?

Dr. Drew, Frasier Crane, & Hearthstone

While pitching ideas to close friends, one idea that has stuck with me is combining Hearthstone game sessions with some mental health tips or observations that may even be related to Hearthstone and its gameplay and culture. Since 2011, I have been writing my blog on roleplaying games like Dungeon & Dragons through the lens of my training and experiences as a psychologist.

In my mind, I could be the Dr. Drew or Frasier Crane of Hearthstone streaming!

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“Should I remove the minion with this Fireball – or go to the Face?”

For example, I think it would be fascinating and fun to have a call-in show while streaming where people can either ask questions about Hearthstone or any self-help topic of their choice. To be clear, I would NOT be providing mental health therapy to people, but could certainly offer behavioral advice and talk about common misconceptions about psychological theory and practice. All while trying to be entertaining and becoming a halfway decent player at Hearthstone.

I am interested in making this happen, but as mentioned earlier – I don’ have the capability to deliver. I may launch a Patreon in the future to see if there is enough interest in helping to make this a reality. In addition, I hope to write more for the site and perhaps transition the Ego Check interview series to a podcast format.

My mentality with the blog has always been, “If you want something to make an impact, really dedicate the effort and do it RIGHT the first time.” I have dabbled with trying to make a podcast or stream work in the past, but I don’t have the technical skills and equipment to form a polished product that I’m happy to launch. So I’m going to break that “Do it right the first time” rule and start with posting my first attempt at providing some mental health advice while playing Hearthstone.

The audio gets a little wonky toward the end of the video, and I certainly make some misplays with my Mage deck, but perhaps you’ll find the content intriguing. One way or the other, let me know!

And if you’d like to see more of this, then please leave a comment below. I think there is useful and entertaining content I can create. Let me know if you agree.

500th Mage Win & Short-term Goals

In the video, I am sitting at 499 wins with my Mage. I have been practicing a Tempo Mage deck and add better cards to it as I build up enough Dust to make it more competitive. This month, I’ve climbed as high as Rank 4 and decided to record my 500th win. I figured it was an apt time to discuss the importance of setting short-term, attainable goals for yourself in ALL areas of life.

If you have a Hearthstone or mental health question you’d like me to answer in a future video, then please send me an email or contact me on Twitter.