Thus Says the Tao

One of the challenges of adapting a role-playing game campaign to a novel is getting the characters, settings, and events as close to the original as possible without bringing in details that are meaningless, contradictory, or just plain ridiculous. A lot of this is stuff I worked out before I even started the first draft, but since I had some dead time at the day job that won’t work for art writing, I thought it would be fun to talk about the process. I’m going to start with Shao Tsang instead of the story as a whole, because there were some additional labyrinths to thread surrounding his history. 

Shao Tsang was my brother’s character in the game. His original thought was to create a monk but, after some unusually good attribute rolls, he decided to go with a psionicist. Monks in Second Edition AD&D were watered-down fighter or cleric characters, while psionicists had high requirements and much more interesting abilities.  

Originally, he had telepathic powers similar to the ones we see in The Nameless Way. Not much later on, though, he wanted to switch to psychoportation and psychometabolism, which would, among other things, allow him to do more kung fu-ish stuff. This may have been driven partly by a new supplement purchase. I can’t remember. In any case, I indulged him with a quick diversion to work the change into the story and it was all settled.  

Mike would later sell a couple of stories featuring this time-manipulating martial arts version of Shao Tsang. He also wrote a longer one which I don’t think has ever been published. This set of abilities presented some problems for my Shao Tsang, though. For one thing, I was bringing in Seisha, who also has martial arts skills and psionic abilities, earlier. I’ve downplayed the psychic abilities in my version, but that makes her talents more like martial arts Shao Tsang, not less. Sure, she’s sneaky too, but the stuff she does in a fight wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if Shao Tsang did it too. 

Another problem is Mogdar. As a wizard specializing in time manipulation, a lot of the stuff that would be fun to develop for Mogdar would already be in Shao Tsang’s playbook. Mogdar won’t be doing silly Hong Kong movie stunts with it, but that barely helps. We would, again, have a character learning and showing off tricks that Shao Tsang was already doing. 

Finally, the whole kung fu aesthetic is boring to me, especially as an element of sword and sorcery stories. The fact that “monks” weren’t too impressive in the version of D&D we were playing didn’t bother me at all. I even scrubbed a few of the far eastern trappings from Seisha. You won’t see the word “ninja” in this book, for example. That’s a minor obstacle, though. I probably would have left it in and found ways to make it fun if not for the issues with Seisha and Mogdar. 

So my Shao Tsang isn’t much of a fighter, and he doesn’t distort time. Instead of being a “monk” he’s just a monk. He’ll keep the telepathic tricks, Seisha will keep the martial arts tricks (plus a few other surprises), and Mogdar will keep the temporal tricks. None of this affects their personalities, though. I kept almost all of that.  

There’s another issue connected to one of Mike’s stories and one of mine, but it’s more about a particular set of events than about the character. I’ll talk about that in another post. 


Work’s been a bit sluggish lately. I’m still putting in my time every day, but I seem to spend a lot of it staring at the screen. Maybe I’m stressed about Gen Con, which promises to be a zoo this year. Maybe I’m stressed about other stuff. Maybe stress has nothing to do with it. I’ll keep plugging away. I am still creeping forward, after all, and I need this book.

Secret Doors

The writing is going well. I’ve got the heroes crammed into an underground labyrinth loosely based on a real cave, and further developments are revealing more about why Ezren acts the way he does and what he’s up to.

There’s a lot I need to do with this web page. The intro still sounds pretentious to me, the character descriptions are terrible, and there’s hardly anything about the setting. Until I get a lot closer to finishing (at least through the draft version, anyway), though, the web page has to take a distant second place in priority. It’s something I can peck at during dead time at the day job or when I get an idea I particularly like. And of course it’s a place for updates like this.

Okay, back at it.

New Title!

I’ve decided to drop “Throne of Gorgudai” and call it The Nameless Way, a title that’s been rattling around in the back of my head for quite a while, instead. Besides being easier on the ears, it says a lot more about where the book is going.

And where is the book going? Meh, I’m still not ready to spill much more than I’ve already said about that, but the writing is clacking along at a much better pace since I started committing to a schedule, so it’ll all be out there one way or another.

Where Is It?

This year, I decided that progress on the novel, while steady, was much slower than it should be. If I had been hired to write this book by someone else, she probably would have fired me by now. To accelerate, I committed to writing for at least an hour every day (with exceptions for some weekends and stuff like conventions). At least five days a week, in any case. I’m only two weeks in, but I’m happy to say that it’s working so far. I even kept up while I was smashed flat by the flu last week. The great thing is, if I worked on it even a little bit the day before, I’m already tuned in when I start working on it again. I don’t have to take a lot of “where was I?” time to get started.

And where am I? The main characters, mostly allies of convenience so far, have started to come together more in this chapter. With sections from Seisha’s perspective and the current one from Shao Tsang’s, I’ve finally given everybody at least one chance to “talk.” They’ve explored a new town, developed some new tricks, and detected an impostor. They even got to fight a giant shapeshifting eel. And, if you’re paying attention, you might find out who killed Kasmordo. Of course, you’re not paying attention because you can’t, since I haven’t let you read it, but anyway.

Now I just have to stick with it.

Bright Strange Things

Facebook dredged this up for me from an old post and it seemed appropriate here.

“It is not over unknown seas but back over well-known years that your quest must go; back  to the bright strange things of infancy and the quick sun-drenched glimpses of magic that old scenes brought to wide young eyes.”
H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath