To start us off, how long have you played said roleplaying games as a player or as a DM or have you had experience in both? Maybe, we can roll for initiative to answer, just because we can. We have no set modifiers though.

Melissa: I have 17.

Angelica: I have 17 too.

E: I have 18. I have been playing since August of this year.

M: Going in as fresh meat.

A: So have you played as a DM or a player?

E: Like I have said earlier, I have played largely as a DM. Occasionally, my group got a little more into it. The people in my party if they want to host their own campaigns, it’s just a lot of fun.

Angelica: For me, I started about 2013 or 2014. Unfortunately on and off for one and a half years. Right now, off. I have played both as a player and a slightly a DM. And DMing is very difficult especially cause my first time DMing, my friends were like, “oh, so you’re going to DM.” And I’m like yes, “5 people only please.” Then it became like 8, and I thought to myself this is going to be hard. And yourself?

Melissa: I want to say it’s been since 2011. Mostly on and off. Never actually finished a campaign. But I do watch a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons. I have played quite a bit of Pathfinder. I haven’t played as a DM, don’t have anyone to play with yet, but one day. We’ll get there one day.

Angelica: So in regards to playing said role playing games, what editions of these games have you played? What edition have you enjoyed most?

Erin: I have only played Dungeon World, so…

Melissa: I really prefer 5e among all of them. It is a lot more streamlined than Pathfinder, which is I hear is a lot similar to 3.5, it just makes a lot of the processes a lot simpler. It leads a lot more room for interpretation as far as when players need to get into your character’s head more easily even if you are not so accustomed to the environment, which is why I speak so highly about this edition.

Angelica: I agree since when I played 4th edition, they super dumbed it down. More like a smash-em up sort of game, but it made it easier for people to pick up, but story wise, it was story wise.

Erin: I play Dungeon World mostly because it is easier for people to get into. Like partial fail and partial success.

Angelica: Yeah, I know when I played 3.5 edition, there were so many skill checks; I was like what do I do with these?

Melissa: When am I actually going to use a performance check? I’m a Paladin.

Erin: Dungeon World made it really easy for players. Okay roll, 2 D6s and tell me what number you got as opposed to roll and then check that against your skill.

Angelica: Have you guys played any story or DMed story outside of the fantasy genre?

Erin: I have. Have you ever heard of Dread?

Melissa: For those who are listening who don’t know, Dread is a tabletop roleplaying game. I think it was only published with 4 stories in it. Instead of playing with dice, you play with a Jenga tower. If you pull a Jenga block without knocking over the tower, your action is a success. If the tower falls over, you die. End of story. You are removed from the game one way or another and that is why I highly recommend that one, specifically for the horror atmosphere even if it doesn’t have as many games. The tension and the mood that it sets is absolutely astounding.

Angelica: Yeah, I haven’t played it, but I remember watching Geek & Sundry and Wil Wheaton. And I really want to play it.

Erin: We just played that at my Halloween party last week. I really hope people enjoyed it. We played a sort of teen slasher in the woods.

Melissa: I did play that one. I also played “Thirteen.” That one I’m not going to tell, but it has a really good twist. But that was a very interesting story and I would recommend that system and if you are trying to get into, specifically for mood in tabletop, Dread is where to start off. It teaches you all about tension and to hold the feelings of your players. I was trained to DM in Dread but haven’t gotten around to it but I have also played it. It very much trains you to get you into a mindset and how put your players in a specific way of thinking and how to get them to feel certain things and act certain ways. It is interesting psychologically, and it helps you set up the mood so easily and teaches you how to do that in a multitude of ways.

podcast2Angelica: What has your experience been playing as your character roleplaying? Not just roleplaying but also collaborating with others? Like very tense moments? Was there just a “cream of the crop” moment that you remember very vividly in your mind? Like, I don’t know how I survived that but I did.

Melissa: I have these moments. I have quite a lot of nasty situations that have happened. When I sit there and get into my character’s head the most that is when all the bad things happen. There is one particular situation that I always remember, because it was one of my first games. I was a rogue, trying to intimidate one of the leaders of the cultist group that we trying to get eliminate from our town. This is back when I played Pathfinder. We were trying to get rid of these cultists that we followed underground. We captured one. We were trying to intimidate her; I intimidated her because I was the prettiest but also the scariest. I intimidated her, and she led us into a hallway. All I was worried about was just being intimidating and scaring her and getting her to do what we want, because everything that I had tried to do thus far has failed and I didn’t realize that in the process of trying to scare her that she lead us into a hallway nearly butchered us. All of us. All five players almost went down in one swoop and that was the one experience that stood out the most but it was also the one time I got into one particular character, but she lived.

Melissa: And that’s all you can ever ask for.

Angelica: As long it is not a TPK.

[TPK means total party kill in which all the player characters are killed.]

Erin: Recently, the campaign I DM for, one of the people in my group wanted to do a one-off.

[Geeky term #2

One-off/One-shot: is when a game group decide to do not a long campaign story, but just a very short story that is usually compressed into a single session.]

There some kind of problem, but no one could get any information. Three people in my party who got into town had joined a militia in a town full of refugees and were given logic. And since my person is a goliath, the very first thing he thought of is that “I needed to fix the dead,” so two of us were fixing the dead. A third character, a ranger, decided to go and fuck the people in town and immediately ran back screaming so that was kind of like a very our first big thing we did during that game and very much set the tone that there are very dangerous things happening. I didn’t almost die, but someone almost did.

Angelica: I think for me; it was a custom 3.5 build with four different races. There were humans. There were goblins. There was this race which were essentially cyborgs and thought they were supreme and thought they needed [technological] parts. But there was an extreme faction of this group where they were sort of Nazi, where they believed everyone should become machines. And then there was the race that I was which was attuned to magic, but due to some sort of special event, they mutated to have animal ears. But between the two techno people and the magic people, they hated each other except for my character who loved technology, and it got her into trouble when we went to the techno part of capital. Obviously out of character, I knew this was probably going to be a trap, but she’s still going to walk in and be super amused. So the entire party got kidnapped and when we woke up, they put us into a colosseum.

Angelica: To connect this back to writing, if any of you write, how has this impacted how you create things or write things? And in what way have you seen it?

Melissa: D&D relates to my writing in a direct sense. I have always been a fantasy writer. I have always been someone who consumes a lot of fantasy. Not so much recently being in university and my last year of it. And I kind of took a break of writing while playing Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder, I started to realize that D&D helped me make characters human and very relatable. D&D teaches you how to get into someone else’s skin and how to easily get into that way of thinking where you are no longer yourself; you are this other person with ulterior motives and your own way of thinking, your thought processes and as a writer, that is completely invaluable, since nobody is going to whole heartedly believe and think and feel what is happening if you can’t make these characters believable. Having this experience, it makes your work so much well responded too in my experience.

Erin: For me as a writer, I have always started with characters. I get a sense of who they are and the world they live in. And I think that feeds a lot to my interest in roleplaying games. As a GM, creating characters and seeing how my players related them. I invented this Halfling thief, who was snarky and morally gray, thinking that people would like him, but they hated him. I found it really interesting that when you are writing you are controlling all your character, how they relate and interact with one another. But being a GM showed me all these options, all the ways things can go when playing with all these other characters.

angelica_dimsonAngelica: I agree with both you. I start with characters too. Within D&D and being a DM, it expands into creating a setting as its own character. Cause each town, each place has little, minute qualities that make it unique. Like the first town I DMed, it was a primarily a Dragonborn farming community town. One of my players got to arm wrestle with a character from this town and rolled a natural 20 and broke the table, and so that Dragonborn farmer felt sad since he got beat by a half-Dragonborn woman, and challenging people in this small community and winning made him happy. And even in delving into character building, you become aware of their flaws.

Melissa: I will very much attest to using the setting as a character…

To hear more insight on writing and D&D experiences, consider listening to our podcast, and remember in the words of Wil Wheaton to “Play More Games!”

– Angelica Dimson

When a reader observes a text, she should take in as much information as possible.  This means that the reader must set up a reading space.  What works for some people may not be what works best for others.  One person may adequately read in the bed while another person may do so at a desk, outside, or on the couch.  Where one reads is not the only criteria one must take into account when setting up a healthy reading space.  Noise level should also be taken into consideration as well as environment.

brooks_chartNoise level could interfere with the reader’s concentration level.  When there is background noise, the reader is multitasking when she reads because she is now hearing the noise while reading the words.  Multitasking could divide one’s focus so that the more noises one hears, the less concentration she has on one thing.  Think of it as a pie chart.  If the reader hears sound, it divides her attention so that all of her focus is not on reading.  This does not do the writer any justice because the book’s potential to be understood is lessened.  One-hundred percent of the reader’s attention must be on reading if she is to be an effective reader.  Whenever I read and hear television, I happen to not absorb all the information I could if I solely focused on the material; this is why I turn off the television when I read.

Sound could actually alter the mood of the text. For example, hearing sad songs could make one read the text with the mood of this song in mind, but the writer may have meant to make the mood a happy or tranquil one.  There are times when I have read a book that I have a particular song in mind as I read.  Sometimes, this could have a positive impact on the reader’s experience because she associates the book with her favorite songs, causing her to feel comfortable while she reads the book.  This depends on the reader, but it is better to keep noise separate from reading than hearing noise that alters the mood of the text, even if it is a positive impact.

When somebody reads, she should take into account the overall feel of the environment.  Is the environment one that makes the reader feel uncomfortable, anxious, or sick?  Is the space too small?  Some people may benefit more from reading in the library than their rooms or vice versa.  A reader should not put convenience before a healthy reading environment, i.e., staying in one’s room may take less energy than walking or driving to the library, and lying in bed may be more easy to do than sitting in a chair, but the room or the bed may not allow the reader to do as much reading as she may do when she is at the library.

All in all, it is very important to set up a healthy reading space.  This is a sure way to intake as much knowledge from the book as you can.  Next time you read a book, keep in mind the place, noise level, and overall feel of the environment.

Here’s a link to How to Read Effectively Part One!

– Sasha Brooks

Star Trek is the everest of successful television. While mostly known in the mainstream for its low-budget-yet-lovable Original series (Ft. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) and massively successful reboot movie franchise (Ft. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto), Trek is far more massive than that.  As an entertainment franchise it has spanned: six television series at 725 episodes, 13 feature rank films, 407 official comic books issues, a bare minimum 100 official games, 39 technical manuals, two magazines, two theme parks, and two exhibits.

And, perhaps surprising to many, hundreds of novels.

800+ novels, in fact.

The books (roughly) fall into the categories of the main series: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Kelvin timeline. There are also novels about Starfleet Academy and Star Trek Corps of Engineers.

There is also plenty of nonfiction, though far less that are officially syndicated. If you’re more interested in the show, titles such as The Making of Star Trek or Star Trek Compendium would be worth checking out. Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years or Star Trek: The Starfleet Survival Guide are two books out of a collection that focus on books that would be non-fiction within the Star Trek universe.

KatherineThe novels sell surprisingly well: as a compendium, they comprise the most popular paperback series in publishing in history. Thirty-five titles have been best-sellers.

Not sure where to start for fiction? Never fear! Here are my recommendations, with the caveat that these of course are just personal opinions.

Star Trek novelization recommendations are difficult for the sheer expansiveness of the universe. The storylines interweave and affect each other, and there are hundreds of books that, while in universe, don’t have an influence on the overarching plotlines of each ‘series.’ Many don’t have to be read in order, while others do. For the beginner to get you started, I will suggest the first two novelizations of each series that follow the basic linear plotline.

The Original Series: Mere Anarchy: Things Fall Apart by Barr and The Captain’s Table: Where Sea Meets Sky by Oltion.

The Next Generation: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die by Vornholt.

Deep Space Nine: The Left Hand of Destiny pt. 1 and 2 by Lang and Hertzier.

Voyager: Homecoming and Farther Shore by Golden.

Enterprise: The Good that Men Do and Kobayashi Maru by Mangels and Martin.

Happy Reading!

– Katherine Eckenwiler

When did you realize you wanted to major in English? That is a question that has perplexed me since I enrolled at Oakland University. When I applied to college English was the obvious choice for me, I felt like it was the only option for me. This was not just a question about my major but also a question of where did that part of me—the English part—come from. Three years later and I am almost done with my BA in English and I finally realized what defining moment—or person—pushed me on this path.

I was 12 when I became a book worm and it all started with a teacher. My fifth grade teacher had a deep love for books. He made a point of reading to the class for at least an hour a day, entertaining us with different voices for each character and choosing books that everyone could fall in love like Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He also had a club for students who read a million words and the prize was a treat from Dairy Queen. Promising to buy ice cream is the best motivation for 12 year olds and it sparked my determination to join that club.

deeA quick peruse of the library led me to a series of large books known as Harry Potter which changed my life—it may seem corny but it is true. (If you don’t believe me please enjoy my fifth grade photo where I posed with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) With Rowling in my hands I quickly racked up a million words (tallied by Reading Counts quizzes) and I felt both a sense of pride and urgency to return to the library as soon as possible for more books. Little did I know that although my teacher thought he was encouraging me to read he had cursed me to the life of a bibliophile. Not only did I continue to read every book I could get my hands on but I ended up creating another club: the two million word club. This reading club morphed from a silly contest to win ice cream to a hobby that I fell in love with. After that year I was no longer “Dee” I was “Dee, the book worm.”

It is hard as an English major to explain why you are studying literature, writing, etc. while other students are pursuing degrees in medicine with the dream of saving lives or becoming engineers to develop alternative energy sources. But me, I am just a person who fell in love with reading at a young age. The ability to break down a story and find a deeper meaning in the writer’s craft is what I love about studying literature. That is why having that moment where I realized that I wanted to be an English major is so important. That moment is a constant reminder of why I am doing what I am doing and it continues to inspire me. So when people ask me about my major I always go back to that year and the teacher who lead me in the right direction.

– Dee Donakowski