rondeau

Writer, musician, and host

Tech Problems

Well, I’m coming back onto the blogging bandwagon, but then my computer had an assortment of problems…

Going to try to keep up with a pace of two blogs a week on Tuesday and Friday. With Patreon stuff releasing on Mondays for Wyvern’s Aria. Come see reviews, D&D ideas, and other things!

Also looking to purchase this computer, looking to do a review in a couple of weeks for it. Check it out on amazon!


Introduction to an Art Creation Series

I was reflecting a bit on what I like about writing, storytelling, and music and I came to the conclusion that a lot of these fields have a great deal of introspective preparation involved. Then you take this preparation and implement a deal of collaboration. Think of Lowrollers Live, I spend a decent amount of time prior to the session planning the game and then I sit down at the table and reveal the content I have created for my player to react. For writing, I take some time to fully create a story and then send it to the editor to receive some notes on how perfect it. Music works much the same way, a great deal of individual practice to prepare to take it to your ensemble.

I’ve been moving away from music since I graduated college and I think that is because I wasn’t playing much with a classical ensemble for the past six months. The work I have been getting has been more contemporary and not in musical genres I've studied. I think back to when I played regularly in some of my chamber groups. We strive for perfection and collaborated to truly make some magical musical moments. 

And beyond that collaboration aspect, there is the audience who looks at the art you made. Over the next couple of weeks, I think I am going to elaborate on each of these steps. Starting with the isolation preparation, moving into the collaboration aspect, and then the feeding the content to the audience.

Here are a couple of pictures with people I truly enjoy collaborating with.

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Musings on a New Mission Statement

So recently, I’ve been moving away from being a musiciateacher and soloist and have been finding myself doing more writing and storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, I love music and will continue to pursue a classical chamber and soloist career. But I think it is time to update my mission statement to reflect the dungeons and dragons and writing aspects of my career.

I, Christopher Rondeau, will strive to create an emotional connection to my audience. Through music, I can stir a crowd to feel something that is indescribable by words. Through my writing, I can absorb the reader into a new world as a break from reality. Through collaborative storytelling, I can offer a place for community, laughter, and excitement. My goal is to provide sustenance for the imagination, stir the heart for lost feelings, and provide quality content in any art form.

Work in progress for sure. Thoughts?

Dungeons & Dragons Combat Roles

I was looking back at dungeons and dragons 4e and noticed its emphasis on particular combat roles. These roles made 4th edition feel like a video game sometimes and the MMO “Holy Trinity” of tank, dps, and healers seemed to have influenced this particular edition. In 4e, everyone was a damage dealer plus something else. A defender was a damage dealer that had a threat mechanic, a leader was a damage dealer that had a healing mechanic, a controller was a damage dealer with field control, and a striker was a slightly better damage dealer. Therefore, in 4e the “rule of cool” was heavily used because even the tankiest tank could do heaps of damage and received a “daily power” to do something extraordinary.

In 5e, we returned to the classic dungeons and dragons sort of mindset. A class isn’t stuck in definitive roles and many people believe (at least based on my initial google search) that party roles no longer apply and we should allow the characters to create five fighters if that is what they want to do. While I agree that 5e allows itself to have five fighters and still work out alright with smart play, it has a fairly very boring approach as we don’t want five characters doing the same thing. Though subclasses give some variation, it is still basically the same thing. Plus with a balanced party, the party will go through combat a bit easier and allow the players to focus on the roleplay and story. In my games, the story usually takes precedence over the mechanics. I normally ask my players to not have the same class as everyone else; if two people play the same class they must vastly different from each other and have different subclasses.

Today, I am petitioning for five combat roles to maybe help balance out the group and then present a system to help achieve the five combat roles. Note this article is designed for combat and not social activities which is another conversation for another time.

  1. Damage-Sponge - This is someone who has a high AC or a high health pool. He is your frontline character who can punish people who ignore him. He is hopefully the character who can get into the thick of things and allow freedom of movement for the rest of the party to do their thing. This is not to say that can’t be a formidable force of their own, doing more than enough damage to defeat the enemies. I think the best example of this actually comes from the feat "sentinel" that allows a player to attack a target that isn't focusing on him as a reaction.

  2. Frontline damage - Every damage sponge needs someone out there to support them and to achieve that amazing flank. Even the damage sponge sometimes needs someone to take the pressure off of them and to deal with the one or two enemies that slips past the front line when possible. I think the classic example here is a melee rogue, the disengage as a bonus action allows the character to get into a convenient spot.

  3. Utility - This is the person who can control the enemies to make them less threatening. Think of a cleric who can “turn undead”, for undead creatures it puts some of them out of the fight for a significant amount of time. We want a character who can do that consistently to many targets and give other characters an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. This may take the form of a monk using “stunning strike” consistently - forcing a potential for four enemies to lose their turns in a single round. Or even something like a spell caster knocking an opponent prone so the melee characters can obtain that glorious advantage. Also, consider a spell like “bless” would also count as utility since it helps allies hit the target to do damage.

  4. Ranged Damage - Ranged damage dealers have the ability to use more of the map to their advantage. A ranged dps can deal with a pesky mage that is out of range from the melee or throw an AOE attack that can potentially obliterate some of the creatures who don’t have a lot of hit points. Frontliners don’t always get the ability to attack the target that needs to be focused but a ranged damage dealer can be the hero we need them to be.

  5. Damage Mitigation - healing in 5e isn’t that great and is mostly left to an out of combat mechanic. Think of it this way, is it better to heal a target 3d8+3 (thinking a level 3 cure wounds spell) or throw a 6d8 fireball to stop the enemies from actually doing the damage. But there is a place for damage mitigation in combat. Think of a level 1 spell slot. Cure wounds will potentially do 1d8+3 or 8 hp on average. Or you can cast a reaction spell like Shield and gain a plus 5 to AC hypothetically preventing at least 1 attack or more. Enemies that hit hard will do more than 8 damage on a hit, and therefore mitigating the damage is a much better use of that first level slot. Not saying clutch healing isn’t important, but it is better not to get hit in the first place. I instead petition a damage mitigation role. Where someone uses “shield of faith” or uses a feat like “Inspiring Leader” to help prevent actual hp lost. Things like this don’t kill your standard action, which the party can use to get much-needed damage, and actually, help prevent hp loss from the party. Think of the bard mechanic cutting words, as a reaction you can decrease the enemies d20 role or damage role by your bardic dice. This is immensely powerful as a mechanic.

As an aside, I used to play a lore bard who was a healer by damage mitigation and utility. With a combination of the sentinel feat and polearm master feat, some targets wouldn’t even touch him. Cutting words prevent damage, and he stole the spell “aid” and would have eventually taken an inspiring leader feat as a before combat healing ability. Rarely did he cast a healing spell, but he kept the party alive in his own way. These are the best ways to “heal” in my opinion based on the mechanics 5e has laid out.

But back on topic, characters will generally hit 2-3 of these categories by level 3 and I normally strive to have people pick their level 3 subclasses during character creation. Sometimes I'll consider just starting at level 3 if I have experienced players. A cleric at level 3 for example, could be part damage sponge via high AC, a utility with a spell-like bless, both a range and melee damage dealer with spells and/or a melee weapon, and mitigate damage through shield of faith and aid. So I created a system for a five-man party to hopefully create a balanced party while still having some flexibility. Here goes.

Every player character has 3 points leading to a total of 15 points for five people. In turn, I am asking for two points in each role. This allows players to have 15 points at their exposal in a system that requires only 10 points. If no one wants to actually play a damage mitigation primary, we may still be able to get that 2 point requirement if people put points into it as a secondary. For example, a utility lore bard can swing a point into damage mitigation because of cutting words and a fighter who has a protection fighting style can invoke disadvantage on an enemy attack as a reaction. Thus the damage mitigation category is fulfilled but still there to keep the team alive. In this system, I would ask players to justify why their characters are in this role and I will ask the players to keep to the role they suggested most of the time.

Luckily in 5th edition, there are many ways to play a role. If you as a person really want to play a mage type. You can play a mage who specializes in utility, range damage dealing, melee damage dealing, damage mitigation, and a tank. This flexibility comes from subclasses, spell choices, and playstyles. With Xanathar out, we actually see a Warlock subclass that allows you to do secondary healing without losing to much damage per round and a monk subclass that allows you to have great AC potential. With this, I always ask my players to focus on character story first with flexibility on mechanics. I would rather have you pitch me a ferocious fighter who is on a quest for revenge than a “Battle master who wields a greatsword”. The revenge story emphasizes the plot and with some willingness, you can fit a tank role, damage role, or range role (archer) as needed and isn't locked into the Fighter class.

To emphasize, a balanced party means we aren't stressing out about combat as much, and that can lead to a better story between combats instead of freaking out about why we didn't have a range damage dealer to deal with that pesky mage. Balanced parties, in my opinion, make the game better. I strongly encourage players to come in with a character concept and not a character class. 

And here is a picture of Erathis that my wife drew because it is great and I need a thumbnail. 

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House Collins Retrospective

This past Monday, we finished the House Collins Chapter of the Road to Redemption Arc. House Collins features a story involving a hedonistic culture that praises the very base desires of society. Underlying the clean streets, fresh farm food, and a seemingly natural posterior was several dark secrets that became known to the party as time passed. First thing I presented was the use of necromancy, a small but seemingly important foreshadow about the disrespect of human life that the culture showed. The concept was simple, why should death prevent someone from still being useful if the soul has moved passed to the next life?

The next idea was the concept of The Amusement War, stolen from Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. The underlying idea was that the culture applauded the concept of people being effectively tortured. When the party had a look at the culture, they saw only a small part of the community celebrating this and used it as a representation of the culture at large. We also had some meta symbolism that featuring the two most powerful men sitting across from each other overlooking this game. The King sat on his iron throne, representing his men and physical strength while Davik sat on his gold throne representing his money and influence. The party would need both aspects to be able to succeed in their objective.

Over the next few episodes, the party finds out secrets from both of these figures. Davik was using his money to fund a virus that will turn people into Lycanthropes featuring some easter eggs for the party from the previous story arc. Davik is implementing this virus on his own people to set up his own power structure and the question lies is if the people he affects were willing or not in his scheme. The lycan virus is something I wanted to set up as a playable race and storyline for future campaigns and therefore needed to be implemented in the story lore.

For the King, we realize he was using his status to develop laws to be able to harvest blood. Blood is an alchemical ingredient that can be used to create magical items. In lore, this started roughly fifteen years prior with a purge of any none tiefling. The blood was then used to give the King immense power and started leading his Kingdom through fear. Some of these humans and elves escaped and started a resistance that was there to help out newborn babies but they simply did not have the firepower to be able to plan an effective coup. When the first coup failed most of the community fell back into submission. This particular storyline was designed to have two parallels. One being Nazi Germany against the Jews and the second being our current state of affairs with the government having much more firepower than the civilians they protect. It was interesting playing into those two themes. This was also inspired in part by Fullmetal Alchemist and the use of the philosopher’s stone.

As we go further into the campaign, we will get the opportunity to explore new themes, new ideas, and subtle Veggietales references. Join us every Monday night at 9pm at twitch.tv/pwrlvlpodcasts.

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Woes of the Dungeon Master

Lowrollers went live last week and we are currently getting back into the tabletop gaming mindset. I am reminded of some of the difficulties of being the main dungeon master of a group of peers and some of those dislikes and I figured I’d share some of them with y’all.

  1. I already know the story line. Sometimes during the “slower” parts of the story my role as storyteller becomes difficult. Quite frankly, I already know all the answers since it is my story. I have to work on understanding that my players barely know how their character acts let alone the world around them. At the same time, I cannot skip all the “boring” lore parts simply because it is an uninteresting concept to me. These small details are critical details to learn, but God can they be soooo boring and I think this happened in my last session I ran. I didn't provide enough details perhaps because I already know them.

  2. Things that are obvious to me are not obvious to the player. I can say something around the lines of, “This curtain is a darker shade of blue then the rest” and my party will do nothing. But lo and behold, a statue is in the room clearly it is going to come to life! I know there is something off with the curtain because I wrote the story line but that information may not be obvious to the players. Or in the example of the curtain, the curtain the clue is so obvious it must be nothing.

  3. Player decisions versus character decision. I have a certain head-canon in my head. If one of my characters are really interested in the agriculture in my head, I may provide an interesting crop for the player character to investigate and even though the character is interested, the player may not be. Sometimes that can prove difficult as I have some of these hooks that are simply not taken advantage of because of players forgetting their own story line. This hasn’t been a problem in recent months, but when a game first comes together it can prove difficult for players to truly understand their characters. Because of that my first arc in a new campaign is very story driven, giving the players time to really fall into their characters goals and personality.

  4. Sometimes I really don’t want to DM, and I just want to be a character who explore the world. I don’t get the opportunity to make in depth characters for the story in the same way a PC would. My in depth characters are basically villains and quest givers. That can be rough because there may be a jealousy involved to a player who gets these great character building moments. Jealousy isn't really an issue for me, but I can see where that can become a little rough.

Just some thoughts into the mind of the Dungeon master. I’m sure other game masters have the same issues (and many more!) It may be interesting to start a discussion about it. Also check out my DMing in action on Lowrollers Live at 9pm every (most?) Monday nights! We introduced two new characters to the story this past week! 

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LowrollersLive Starts Tonight!

I have spent a lot of my childhood playing tabletop games which was initiated by my parents playing the game Champions in the Hero System. When I got into college, I think I mentioned D&D very loosely in conversation and was given one of three reactions:

1. Isn’t that a game for nerds.
2. That is Satan's game, how dare you play that!
3. Oh hey, I used to play that too.

And thus I ignored the first two responses and gathered some of my friends to begin the journey of becoming addicts to collaborative storytelling. We have played games like Fate, Fantasy Hero, homebrew star wars and starcraft systems, and most prominently D&D Next. And this storytelling concept gave us the idea to take our game to twitch.tv tonight! My friends and I have developed a weekly campaign that has accumulated our joint experiences as story enthusiast. I figured I will give you a brief overview of the characters and what to expect when you check it out!

Astor Mithlader is half-elf Bard/Paladin played by Daniel Garcia. Danny started my campaign as a rather new tabletop gamer. His character idea was thus very… shall I say it?... dull. He was in a traveling performing group and decided to make a name for himself as a bard. So I opted to make this character the target of my own storyline through an archfey Damh. Astor unwilling trapped Damh in his sword and thus Damh has forced Danny to make Astor more interesting. Astor explores a coming of age story that basically shows Astor making right decisions and being the hero he was destined to be.

Narroth is a half-dragon sorcerer played by Jonathan Edwards. Jon created this idea that he wanted to have the greed of a red-dragon and slowly become more dragon-like. I turned this idea on its head and played a storyline where Narroth can gain power by acting more human. From here Narroth is attempting to find a balance between his two natures leading to a theme of wholeness. Narroth will continue to learn more things about his draconic heritage while also realizing there is much power from simply being human.

Zarrius is a tiefling gnome monk played by Robert Seitz. I am incredibly proud of Seitz as a player, his normal archetype is a dumb barbarian or fighter whose main contribution is smashing someone's head in. When he joined the campaign, I basically told him I did not want a dumb brute just for the sake of combat. With much work, Zarrius was born. Zarrius has duel sponsorships, one from being a clerical devotee to Obad’hai and the other by signing a contract with Asmodeus to try and save his mother. Thus we find a theme of morality and specifically “doing the wrong things for the right reasons”. I personally find this character fascinating and very believable. How far will Zarrius go to save his family?

Lady Lillith Von Kiln is a human cleric played by Alan Seymour. Alan was having some trouble in the past chapter finding a character that truly fit in with the tone and nature of the party/story. Then we finally landed on Lillith, a character who is struggling to find peace with her past. Lillith blames herself for the death of a significant other and her acts in the Tower of Babel may have changed time itself. Thus a theme of forgiveness is present but who or what is Lillith trying to forgive? It is also important to note Alan is our New York friend we met while playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. While we no longer play the MMO, we come together to play D&D and have kept in contact because of tabletop gaming.

Bryn Wanders is our tiefling fighter played by our executive producer Daniel Allinson. Bryn will join the cast in the first episode tonight but she has been hinted at in the previous story arc. See Danny pitched me this character with a 35+ page backstory involving what has happened to Bryn and thus I am excited to see how he chooses to play her tonight. She portrays a theme of contentment and I personally am excited to see how she pushes the party.

Story-wise, the party has just been saved after a crushing defeat in the Tower of Babel where they accidentally set free an old God. This God is known as the Lecherous Lion, a mind-controlling beholder who has created the mind flayers and allowed psionics to enter the world. The party is going to try and fix the problem they caused and (hopefully) redeem their mistakes.

Check out the next chapter of Shadow of Death: Road to Redemption tonight at 9pm PST at twitch.tv/pwrlvlpodcasts!

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2017 Retrospective

Today is the first day of the new year. I woke up and brewed some coffee, did some devotions, and watched as the Salvation Army march the rose parade… then proceeded to fall asleep for the rest of the parade. Normally the week before the New Years is figuring out what plans actually make sense for the next year, and the week after is really just looking back to what happened the previous year. So let us see what happened in 2017.

The year started with myself recovering from a severe car accident, and thus the first half of the year was recovery and then finishing school on pure adrenaline, but that isn’t quite exciting at all. But hey, I graduated with a B.M. in Music Performance in May! During this time though my Tuba Quartet did make an appearance as the Guest Artist at Westmont University and an invited group to the South Western Tuba Euphonium Conference where we presented a 30-minute set.

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Then the beginning of the summer came around and I took a bit of time to sleep before heading off to India to play a few concerts and teach some music to the people of Aizawl. Spending about ten days there, it was a time to really learn and appreciate a new culture. Also around this time I started my website and created the brand “rondeaucreator” as my chosen title for my creative endeavors.

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Later that summer, Think Tank launched and we have released 13 episodes to really try and figure out the method of podcasting. This upcoming year, I hope to be able to produce more episodes on a more consistent basis now that I know a little more about what I am doing. Also this summer, my patreon launched! An area to test my writing and attempt to practice while attempting to make a little money on the side. I am hoping to develop the patreon a little further as I pursue some more writing paths.

September I started a new job that involved cooking, banquet serving, and other various food-related activities that were used to supplement my income and help pay the bills that sorely needed to be paid. I have been able to learn a lot about cooking and basic kitchen applications as well as hone some of my knife skills.

In November, Danny Allinson, the executive producer of pwrlvl podcasting network, and I decided to take my ongoing D&D game and put it on twitch in the new year. This past story arc was titled “Rise of the Wounded King” which paid homage to the classic D&D monster a beholder. The party played on the theme of trust and my party grew as storytellers and creative minds. 

We just recived the art of our 5th character but haven't implemented it in the promo.

We just recived the art of our 5th character but haven't implemented it in the promo.

November into December was a huge focus on being a euphonium player again. I lost a lot when I was in recovering from my car accident. And it wasn’t until early December did I feel at the level of expertise that I was at prior to my car accident. Something I am growing on as I enter into audition and competition season.

So professionally speaking, we have seen some growth which will allow some grace to some of the other things going on in the United States this year. But that second half of 2017 of growth can be used as a platform for being able to grow into the new year. God Bless as y’all reflect the goods and bads of the past year but focus on the good as much as possible.

New Year Goals and Thoughts

I sit in between these two holidays in a state of wonder. Recently, I’ve been trying to get my leg up in the world. Attempting to create an opportunity for myself to be able to make a living in Southern California. But these things take time, patience, and sometimes a decent amount of money. For example, I’m looking to buy a plane ticket to Washington to attempt to get a graduate assistantship for the upcoming Fall term. A step like this would allow me to get an apartment while also progressing my career goals and ideals. But I have to buy that plane ticket and the idea that I’m spending money to eventually make more money seems to be a conversation of debate about using financial resources. I bought my Yeti microphone when I first started to podcast for the promise that perhaps pwrlvl will make a couple of dollars to reimburse that eventually.

But with the New Year comes a natural time to reevaluate my goals and figure out so consistency with my patreon, upcoming book campaign, music, and spending time with the people I love. Here are some things that are definitely on the market for that.

January 7th will be the first episode of Think Tank of the new year, and I am aiming for 48 episodes in the 52 week year. Think Tank is a cultural anyasis podcast where we take some news articles and truly attempt to see the state of the world through what the media is putting out. Listen in for that!

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January 8th, “Lowrollers Live” officially launches on Twitch.tv where I’ll be storytelling a group of people through Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. The story of the Wounded King has arisen and our young heroes must band together to attempt to save the world from the evil they have committed.

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March 1st, will be the beginning mark of my 180-day book campaign to hit a presale goal to get my book published fully. Follow Asmund Steiner as he stumbles on the secret to magic in this Science-Fantasy world. Book will be told from two perspectives, Asmund dealing with his current problems in a realistic tone, and Asmund telling his past in a biased manner.

Summer of 2018, I want to get a CD in a studio. I’ve speculating doing some work with Harrison Scannell where we have briefly talked about rearranging the Four Seasons for a variety of bass frequency instruments, or perhaps a solo CD featuring a great amount or repertoire. This depends on budget though, and the Spring I'll be looking at costs for such a project.fd1

Patreon will undergo some new changes for the new year. I’ll be charging per story from here on out instead of a monthly membership. I’ll reevaluate the tiers of pay and some of the goals by the end of the year and launch that soon.

Fall 2018 is where I hope to be back in school for music. I didn’t find much classical recital work with just my B.M. in Music Performance except for having some consistent jazz gigs. I hope to remedy that as well. I am also aiming to potentially start a recital series in late Spring and Early Summer as well. Hopefully, something will come here but I may be late in planning such an activity.

Look forward to new content from myself and stay tuned for more info!

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Lowrollers Live: The Rise of the Wounded King DM's Thoughts

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to finish a story arc in my ongoing D&D campaign. This chapter was called “Rise of the Wounded King” that played on the idea of trust between the party. I figured I should attempt to give a little insight into the creative process of storytelling a campaign. When I write story line for a game that takes place over several years of our reality, I plan it in five sections. An introductory arc, an arc that has worldly consequences, a 3rd arc that is more about characters versus themselves over a great evil, a couple of arcs completing some backstory elements, and then the final arc against the big bad that I attempt to foreshadow at the beginning. This arc is my 3rd arc; the players are not fighting an obvious villain, and the goal is to see major character growth.

To set this up, I create a mythical tower based on the Christian bible and the Argentine short story The Library of Babel. The Tower has all possible knowledge of all possible books that can ever exist. The concept is based on the idea that even a monkey on a typewriter can eventually strike gold and speak the truth. With that, I sent my party to three major places in the current lore: Warbid, the Clockwork City, and Zhengzhao. The concept was that they were looking for parts of a jade stone that should form a key into the Tower of Babel.

Warbid is run by two gay Kings in a desert Arabian feel culture. For this approach, I really wanted people to be more accepting of my tiefling player character and really challenging to my elves who normally walked into places without any trouble. I also wanted to tackle some progressive thoughts on the idea of a masculine based culture and sexuality. The culture was also open to sexual advances; with nobility tending to be very elitist and putting emphasis on looks. A river ran next to Warbid, and like the Nile and the ancient Egyptian culture; I played an emphasis on the river overflowing and fertilizing the land. It is believed that the Nile flooding had a parallel to an orgasm and therefore sex was highly prioritized. The party had to infiltrate a party of a prince and thus hilarity pursued.

The Clockwork City ran on greed; even the King was there to make a quick dollar, very obviously extorting the party by charging them a pretty penny. The party must dwell in the Underdark to meet a new culture of Duergar, normally very evil creatures. I tried to put on a twist where these people who had recently converted to Moradin and thus had the lawful good tendency. I also tried to teach the party a very strict lesson here: not all fights are meant to be fought with swords. Every fight in this particular chapter would have provided a better outcome if the party had simply made a tactical retreat. A lesson I don’t think the party actually learned and it involved a party member ultimately leaving the group and remaking his character. 

Zhengzhao had two major influences: Chinese heritage and the culture that Patrick Rothfuss made in the Wise Man’s Fear of the Adem people. The idea is that these people had a vastly different lifestyle and that they were known for rigorous philosophical and martial training. The culture didn’t have any place for music, physical touch, or overall emotional things. I took notes from the Art of War by Sun Tzu and basic monolithic training. For everyday life, private lives were private and must be kept that way. I prepped a whole montage on "physical touch" just to show how rare the action was. Oddly, my party ended up getting into political debates based on the idea that governments needing a fair amount of transparency instead of privacy. The jade was rather easy to obtain, but it allowed the party to feel wholly uncomfortable in the new environment. 

The arc theme was trust; a topic that is becoming extremely difficult in the current political climate and one that I actually punished the party for. From the beginning, one of my player characters was actually the villain of the arc, coaxing the party to a goal. He kept up the guise (and passed all his deception rolls) and was able to use the party to unleash a great evil; the beholder god known as Lecherous Lion, the Wounded King. These consequences are going to set up the next arc quite nicely, as trust was betrayed. Can the party truly redeem themselves in light of all that has happen? Well, we will find out on January 8th at 9 pm in the new year with "Shadow of Death: The Road to Redemption". Stay tuned for more details of Lowrollers Live.

Thoughts on the Strength of Faith

Warning: This has some religious thoughts but a necessary topic regardless.

Last night, I was made aware of the origins of the song I Have Decided to Follow Jesus where the words are written by a martyr who died in India. I'll copy and paste what Wikipedia says about the tune. 

"According to Dr. P. Job, the lyrics are based on the last words of Nokseng, a Garo man, a tribe from Meghalaya which then was in Assam, who along with his family decided to follow Jesus Christ in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary. Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus." His two children were killed and in response to threats to his wife, he continued, "Though none go with me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, "The cross before me, the world behind me." This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.[1] The fierce opposition is possible, as various tribes in that area were formerly renowned for head-hunting." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_Decided_to_Follow_Jesus)

This tune has made me think very heavily about commitment and faith. I am a Christian and I don't hide that fact, but I also believe I need to give a certain amount of respect for other faiths regardless of what I believe. But when faced with certain death, how can I be certain I would have made the decision to keep the faith or denounce the cross. I find myself to be very driven in my faith and my professional life, but I don't like to take any more risks than I have too. I couldn't even imagine putting my family on the line for my faith, and it makes me consider if I don't have a strong enough faith to stand for what I believe in. 

But on the same line of thought, almost every person is going to deal with harassment of some sort. Not a day goes by where I don't see someone insulting Christianity, or Christians insulting atheism. Perhaps a racist comment will come up, or some form of an offensive comment to the LBTQ+ community, and it is really disheartening. To even have an opinion makes you a target nowadays.  I hold my faith and beliefs very strongly. Most can be heard on my podcast and have caused me to have many... uh... aggressive conversations with my peers and contemporaries. Perhaps in that mindset, I have truly decided to follow Jesus and am standing up for my faith. Perhaps I am not, and I need to work harder, too.

I wish that people would show more compassion to each other in their beliefs. Honestly, people have lost the art of discussion and seem to want to produce conflict instead of reducing it. People have gotten so angry with different beliefs that it isn't feasible to have an honest discussion. I think our last presidential election really proved our inability to simply talk, listen, and stimulate the intellect. I encourage everyone to open discussion in an honest and sincere way and to show some compassion for the people who need it.

Thoughts on the Protest this Weekend

I am likely going to talk about this subject on the next episode of Think Tank, but I figure I should voice some of my thoughts here for a brief moment. Here is a point of view that will likely receive a lot of negative criticism and I should begin this conversation by simply saying I am not afraid to be wrong. This Saturday, people took to the streets to protest the Trump administration and someone even called for riots via the Antifa Civil War concept. While I am glad that has not happened and I’ll elaborate on that in the Think Tank Podcast… I wanted to talk a little about protesting.

I don’t believe that protesting has had the same effects that it once did in the past; and currently it provides an inconvenience to the people around you and could potentially set back your cause tremendously. Protests used to be a way of awareness for certain issues when it was harder for information to be spread. But awareness for an issue is now currently able to be presented much earlier than when a protest can be organized. In other words, you are bringing attention to an issue that people are most likely already aware of. People see a protest on anti-trump in Los Angeles and they basically say, “We already know you are unhappy, but don’t block traffic.”

And then people get angry, and protesting can lead to riots and violence. I don’t want to see people get hurt and I want to see people safe. People are angry and anger leads to people choosing not to listen. Protesting fuels anger on both sides, and disrupts a proactive conversation. I want to advise to try and control your anger, and talk to the other side; you may find you are not so different after all and perhaps compromise can be reached. Don’t do something that may hinder your cause. I admit I am no expert, and protesting may still be beneficial but please control the emotion behind it.

I encourage peace.

Euphonium in the classical world

I was at a recital about a week ago and had a conversation with another attendant I had just met. He asked my major, and I responded that I had graduated with a performance degree in euphonium. He then made a comment like, “Guess you aren’t expecting to get any work.” And I bit my tongue and let it slide. This other person was also a musician who ended up not pursuing a music degree for an unknown reason.

I chose an instrument I fell deeply in love with, an instrument where the color of the timbre is something that moves me deep in my soul, and an instrument that has the ability to match the cello in finesse and virtuosity. But what this man said does have some truth, the instrument is simply not very marketable. Nothing in classical music is really marketable anymore. One of my dear friends and colleagues, Harry Scannell, and I have had many long nights talking about this. In a market when music is easily accessible, only the people who are going to have a niche are going to succeed. And let us be honest, is it going to be the euphonium player who has the niche or the 3,000 violin players that are in LA alone?

I hope I can truly make a name for myself as a euphonium soloist to; be able to change minds and change the heart like I want to. Hearing a comment like that is really disheartening and people are set in their ways. Last year, I invited a piano player to one of my free concerts and simply said, “I have no interest in listening to euphonium and tuba.” When even people in my own field doesn’t give the instrument any respect, we have some issues. May the culture change for the better as time passes.

Take a listen to one of the pieces I love to play. Not terribly complicated or difficult, but stirs powerful emotions:

Folksong by Bruce Broughton Aaron VanderWeele, euphonium Bill Way, piano from his 2009 recording, Panache www.euphoniumlessons.com Program Note: One of the most versatile composers working today, Bruce Broughton writes in every medium, from theatrical releases and TV feature films to the concert stage and computer games.

The Effect of Stories

I grew up falling in love with stories, which I attribute to my mother being an English major and the fact I moved around a lot as a kid. See, my parents are divorced, and every year generally one of them would move to a new place. I didn't find much consistency during those younger years so I believe I became sort of a recluse and stayed in much of the time. I did some extracurricular activity through music, but beyond that, I was mostly at home watching television, reading, or playing a game. I loved the idea of playing games, but when I was with my father, the rule was, "You must read 30 minutes to get 10 minutes of gaming." So, my average day was to go to school, come home, read for 3 hours, and get an hour in front of the computer or the TV to play a game. I grew up with Baldur's Gate, Legend of Dragoon, and the Final Fantasy franchise. With my mother, gaming was more of a family activity; we would watch each other play games like Spyro or Crash Bandicoot.   

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But ultimately, I think my ability to appreciate stories came from the very first moments of Final Fantasy IX. For those of you who don't know me, that game is my favorite game of all time. Mostly because in that first arc we are (spoilers) trying to kidnap a princess who wants to be kidnapped. Then, through damage sustained to your airship, the ship falls into the forbidden forest. Yada yada – you play through this dungeon area and the party kind of comes together. Except for one character, who ends up sacrificing himself to save the party and at the bitter end he accepts death bravely. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time, not really having very many emotional outlets, but this affected me really hard. From the clever (in my mind) idea of a princess wanting to be kidnapped by people who were hired to kidnap her to the death of a very beloved character who was created to die. At that moment, I had a new perspective of fiction, of stories, and of how to affect a person and tug at those heartstrings.  

It really is the small things that affect people. I attribute my desire to create to that moment of seeing the character die. And when I get into the grind of performing music and writing; where sometimes the emotional aspect of it goes away. I remember that moment where the character died and remember I can make those moments for other people. Thus I continue to write, I continue to practice, I continue to create. With practice, I can hopefully stir people in a newfound way and push people to come to a more human level.  

On that note, I don't really apply a lot of my emotions into every situation. Even with music, I approach it from a coldhearted mindset. I think stories keep me human in a sense. It reminds me to use my emotions instead of approaching it will cold-hearted integrity. That is what I want to accomplish through my work – that it is okay to be human when the world wants us to be cold-hearted.  

Stay tuned for more work.  

Altruism and the Source of our Issues

                Over the course of the past couple of weeks, a lot of my free thoughts have dealt with an idea of Altruism. I have recently come back from a trip to India with the Salvation Army and therefore had an opportunity to view their culture. I did a little bit of teaching, a little bit of playing, and really a lot of talking to the locals.

PC: John Doctor

PC: John Doctor

While I was there I had a deep appreciation for their concept of community. Here, on the other hand, it appears that we are only willing to help people out when it is a convenience. A great deal of the time, we take a great first step and give the help that we can afford; and then proceed to pat ourselves on the back and walk away. As soon as a person attempts to get help, we become annoyed and tell them to “make your situation better” instead of helping someone in need. How often do we view someone in trial as an annoyance and nuisance when it is someone who is simply down on his luck.

As a child, I remember an instance during recess (maybe 4th grade) where I was trying to tell a friend my life story. I was telling them about my parents’ divorce and my unknown biological father. This kid proceeded to tell me he was bored and wanted to play. I understand that this is a mindset of a child who hasn’t developed an emotional palate yet. But how often do we see that mindset on people who have reached adulthood? As a Christian who sees this in a lot of his Christian colleagues, that is really a shame.

"Compelled by Love" by Andrew Blyth has a message that is similar to this.

Compelled by love
Called to serve Wherever there are souls in need.
Compelled by love,
Called to find the lonely and the lost.
Touched by God’s grace,              
I’ll love where hearts are hurting.
How can I offer less than all
When I am born again by his forgiving?
I’m compelled by love.

I am far from an example of proper altruism – but I am trying to do become an example of what it needs to be; though recently that has proven rather difficult. I am rather down on my luck but will continue to try fixing older problems; while also trying to show love and respect without reward.

The Next Week or So

Tomorrow I leave for India with the Salvation Army in an attempt to teach and play some music. And I always have a hard time traveling. On one hand, there are a lot of reasons to stay home. This time around though, the trip has cost me a couple of job opportunities. I recently graduated college and with that experience I came across a lot of trials. I thought I was set for a new job but in reality it appears that I overestimated my status in the job I was slated to get. As I went into the job market from here, most people were saying that they were not ready to hire someone who is heading to India within the first month of working.

And on top of that, I was in a near-fatal car accident that has really put a struggle on the physical capabilities. I had to learn to adapt and "slow down". And all this happened while having tremendous emotional struggle of a lot of things coming down and coming at me when I was my physically weak, but I won't focus so much on that. 

But during this time that since I have realized I can't look for a job pre-India, I decided how I wanted to live my life. I want to do it where I can free-lance and stay at home as a writer and creator, while being able to do solo recitals once in a blue moon. And as I launched my patreon account and made this known to many people, I was caught with a lot of resistance and not a lot of support. From friends not doing truly understanding, to people saying that "free-lance" creators cannot exist as a career without extreme consequences. I have thus opted to disagree. I am attempting to launch a career (albeit that it will take a long while) where I can work on my own time so I can also do the necessary stuff during my personal life. This concept of patreon, and eventually podcasting, was a first step in realizing that I can do what I need to have a career where I can spend the day doing work, and spend the evening with my family. And many people do not believe that it is possible, but I disagree I have seen examples of it happening. And I just need to play smart and work hard.

I think this is a very important step, that I understand this will take many years to develop. But I think it is very important that my goals and intentions are not selfish but to try and set a schedule that works around myself, not necessarily my personal life working around my job. I don't think my patreon launch was really that successful, but I am going to leave for the trip in India and do some extremely good work in the world and try and give back a little good in the world. And when I get back, I am going to do some good work. I am going to release some reviews and figure out my plans for that as well. Wish me luck in India, to really help out and then come back here and work on free lance, get a day job, fix some personal issues, and find some much needed stability. 

 

A few thoughts on the state of the art

I knew at a very young age, I wanted to do great things. All the prospective careers I have thought of involved an element of grandeur. I wanted to be Captain America for a little bit, then I wanted to be a cop. After some time, I wanted to be a forensic scientist with the FBI before I went full swing to being a musician. Now as I sit contemplating my post undergraduate life, all I want to do is be a creator. I want to create stories that stir the soul. I want to be a person who can master art form that people appreciate. But it seems like my greatest sin to many people; is that I have a desire to get paid for it.

As I launch my patreon account and musical endeavors with the effort to do something positive with it, I have come across a lot of opposition of people telling me to get a “real job”. Since when is creating not a real job? Why can’t I do something I deeply love to do and find support from my peers and friends? It has been a conundrum. It is like the idea that musicians need to play “for exposure” and not for the paycheck we as a society do not like to pay the people who bring us art.

And as the world seems to be going into darker places, we need to take the time and support the positive aspects of culture, which I believe comes from the arts. If we can support the arts, we will be more united as a society to deal with problems of unity and harmony. Instead, right now we see arguments on social media involving insults to people you hardly meet.

With all that being said, I will simply say; I support artists. I support creators. I support my friends who are trying new things. I support unity. I support peace.