Non-Violent RPGs: Introduction

Conan, what is best in life?

A History of Violence

I wanted to talk about how roleplaying has changed in the years since D&D conquered the tabletop. There’s no getting around the hobby’s roots in wargaming. For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons and Dragons began its life as a fantasy supplement for a tabletop wargame called Chainmail. But we’ve come a long way since then. We’ve learned that there are other stories to tell than tales of bloody battle. There are stories of mystery, suspense, horror, and even love and friendship. You may not believe it, but there are stories which do not include violence at all, or which dramatically de-emphasize it.

Continue reading “Non-Violent RPGs: Introduction”


Flash Fiction: Changes


If you live long enough to become an old rocker like me, you start to see a different view from a hotel window than you used to.

Gone are the mountains of beer bottles, and not a single needle in sight. Only a half empty pizza box on the table. And, instead of a bleary eyed groupie in my bed, a picture of a woman and a child next to it.

Neil knocks at the door, grey, grizzled, and leather clad, saying it’s time for soundcheck.

How does the song go? Time may change me, but I can’t trace time…

~100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday #68


Flash Fiction: To Charlie


“I wish you’d taken my advice sooner.”

My shadow sipped her cocktail, and looked out at the ocean.

I felt the cool, salt breeze against my cheek, and in the breaking of the waves upon the shore, I heard the beating of Charlie’s heart, the last ragged gasps for air as he sank beneath the waves.

“But you feel better now, don’t you?”

I looked up at the sparkling arch of the night sky.

“I think the boat trip was a marvelous idea. I wish my husband had tried to kill me years ago.”

Shadow raised her glass. “To Charlie.”

~100 words

Photo by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #67

Flash Fiction: Jungle

The brown furred, wide eyed, scurrying creature starts at every noise. Every shape and every shadow in the undergrowth is a terror, a monster lurking. There is no mercy in the jungle.

The little animal lifts the seed to its mouth with tiny, pink paws like hands, and stuffs it in its swollen jowls. All the while, its ears twitch like radar dishes. It cannot be caught unawares.

A shadow descends from the potted plant. A tiger-striped paw falls upon the mouse, flattening it prone under its weight. One by one, the daggers unsheathe. Nature, red in tooth and claw.

~100 words

Photo by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #66

Flash Fiction: Voyeur


We’d never met face to face, but there was a hole in the fence between my yard and hers. Everything she did was so candid, the way she hung up her laundry to dry. She wasn’t wearing her mask, the one we all wear to protect ourselves from the inquiring gazes of others.

I wish I had stopped before the day I saw the blood. It covered the white linens, waving in the breeze like flags. I wish she had never spotted me, never really taken off her mask, and shown me the other face, slick with gore, hiding beneath.

~100 words

Photo by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #65

Flash Fiction: Ruin

“I never wanted to see this place again,” said Gwen.

I shone my torch all around the ruined chamber, once part of an ancient tower, now crumbled.

“If the gods were kind,” I said, “you never would’ve had to.”

I handed her the torch and began tracing the outline of the pentagram in the dirt with my knife.

“Must we?” said Gwen.

“If you want to see Jacob again.”

I plunged the dagger into the ground, marking the final point. As though from an interminable distance, the baying of hounds came ripping through the barrier between dimensions.

“Shall we begin?”

~100 words

Photo by Linus Sandvide

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #64

Flash Fiction: Garden


Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha

Welcome to my garden, friend. There are many familiar faces here. Look around. I think you will find someone you know.

There is your Aunt Esther. She was eighty. 

Here is your friend Dana, from college. She did like to drink, did she not?

There is your cousin, Timothy. He was only five; not strong enough to fight.

And now you…

Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t hurt to be under the ground. It’s cold under there, and quiet. And all your friends and family are there. You’ll always have company. Always. Even if none of you have much to say.

~100 words

via Bikurgurl — 100 Word Wednesday Week 63

Thursday Quotable: Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon


Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.

— Callahan’s Law from The Callahan Chronicals by Spider Robinson

It’s a difficult line to walk between gloriously corny, and heart-wrenchingly tragic, but Spider Robinson can walk it. In his Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon series, Spider spins the tale of a group of misfit barflies, who have come together across time, space, and alternate dimensions to share their stories of woe, and find solace in each other’s company. They also perpetrate the sort of puns that are rotten enough to get you banned from any reputable establishment. It’s a game, a sort of one-upmanship to see who can elicit the longest, deepest groan.

Among the patrons are Jake Stonebender, a folk singer whose wife and child died because he decided to save some money fixing his own brakes, Pyotr, a vampire designated driver who feeds on the bar patrons so that he gets drunk, and the patrons wake up with no hangovers, and Mickey Finn, a humanoid alien who was supposed to destroy the Earth, but then, with help from his newfound friends, didn’t. The owner of the bar himself, Mike Callahan, has his own secrets, but I won’t spoil those for you. Just don’t cause any trouble, or Mike will tell Fast Eddie to knock you out with his black jack. There’s a reason they call him Fast Eddie, and it ain’t just the way he tickles the ivories on the piano.


If I’ve conflated any of the book’s plot with the plot of the 1997 point n’ click adventure game, my apologies, but the game is so well written and acted (not to mention beautifully illustrated) that I consider it to be canonical in the series. It exists in that category of video games that I wish I could play again for the first time. In my opinion, this may be the best jumping on point for the series, and if you play it, you’ll be nothing less than transported. The environments are fully immersive, providing a panoramic tableau of rich, detailed animation, as you see in the screenshot above. And yes, you can interact with all of those characters, and they all have something snarky, witty, punny, or heartfelt to say.

And that’s the core of the Callahan Chronicals. Life is a tragic comedy in the Callahan verse, just as it is in ours. But in Callahan’s Saloon, they recognize the beauty and fragility of life in ways that only an alien’s perspective could imagine. So what does Spider mean when he writes “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy”?

I think he means the same sort of thing that comedian Patton Oswalt does when he says, quoting his late wife, Michelle McNamara: “It’s chaos; be kind.” The world is full of hostile forces that, ultimately, will kill everyone you ever loved, and destroy everything you’ve ever known. Our only antidote is kindness, humor, and listening to each other.