Friday, November 16, 2012

DRUID DERRICK - How it came to be

Most of the time when I start a book, I have an idea or a scene in mind. I then create a character and give him or her a goal where the book can end. At that point, it's like getting in the car and driving across the country - you know where you want to end up, but the trip, the places you might pull aside to visit, are completely impromptu. You gotta love that kind of journey, especially if there is no real deadline to worry about.

DRUID DERRICK came about in much the same way and it yet was very different. Growing up, I was never much of a game playing person, meaning board games then, though I do enjoy playing monopoly from time to time. I have the game on my computer but I haven't played it in ages. When I came online and discovered Facebook, as what I think of as a natural progression of the discovery, I tried out a few of the games I found there. In favor of my writing I have blocked whatever games I've been invited to, keeping my distractions down to only three and maybe soon just two. Outside of that, my most favorite of all games I have EVER played is Dungeons & Dragons. Never before or since have I had so much fun or laughed so much during a game. I still have all the books though I no longer play because there's no one around to play with and it is really difficult to play with only two people. Plus, just like all my other games, I'd rather write.

So the next best thing is to mix the two. Here's how I started. Following the rules of the game I rolled up a Druid. Now according to the rules that I had (the rules are constantly evolving so I know what I have is rather archaic), a player character couldn't become a druid until he was already a level nine Cleric. Then I had to determine some sort of timeline. Out of curiosity, I figured I'd take my druid all the way to the highest level. Now how can I determine how long that would take?

From time to time, as Dungeon Master, I have been asked how long a character needs to spend on studying a spell, thus giving the rest of the characters in the party the problem of what to do in the mean time. So I decided to give spell study a time value. I figured a level one spell would take a month to learn, a level two spell, two months, and so on, so a level seven spell would take seven months.

By the D&D rules, each character advances in level when they acquire a certain number of experience points, and with each level came a certain number of new spells. There is a different list of spells for Wizards and Druids or Clerics just as there is different rules involved with these characters and how many of what level of spells they get, but how many spells a character can use per day is handled the same way - this is one rule that always bothered me, but the rules were the rules and at the time I had no idea what to do about it.

Wizards went off to school or to some higher wizard to learn their new spells (all behind the scenes) - hence the need for a time span, but Clerics, Druids, Paladins and I think one or two other character were bestowed their spells by their god(s). Because of this major difference I wanted there to be a difference between how spells are recalled and used. I was okay with Wizards being able to memorize only so many spells per day, and as they gained experience, they became better at this and could therefore be able to memorize more spells per day.

According to the D&D rules, Druids' spell casting was handled the same. I suppose, in the interest of simplicity, that was best, but it never settled well with me. Recently (long after I no longer played) I decided to make another small change to the rules. Just as I assigned a time span to learning a spell, I assigned an energy value to those spells bestowed by the gods. Now there's a little difference here because there are level zero spells so I assigned them one point, level one spells got two points, and so on, so level seven spells got eight points. Using these points, my character had 41 energy points as a level nine Cleric turned level one Druid, and he could spend these point rather like hit points on any spell he has been given. That means he could cast up to eight level four spells or forty-one level zero spells before needing to rest and reconnect with his god (meditate). I stay with the rest of the spell restrictions when it comes to acquiring a new level of spells. So as a level one druid he can only cast up to level four spells. At level two he can cast level five spells. At level four he can cast level six spells. And at level nine he can cast level seven spells. He reaches Grand Druid before he can cast level eight spells, and since that is where my book ends I didn't take my table any further.

Enough of that - back to my timeline

Going back to the need for time to pass, especially since I didn't have experience points to go by, I went back to what I gave a Wizard to learn a new spell. I also went back to the original table listing how many of what level spells a Druid gets when he advances a level. Using this information I determined that it would take an average of 7.6 months (sometimes seven, eight, or nine months) to advance a level. That was the backbone of my timeline. Now it was time to fill in some details. How many and of what level spells he gained determined how many spell energy points he gained.

Here was the beginning of my biggest problem. My timeline would cover ten years. But what did I know at the time - onward with my planning.

According to the rules, there were special skills acquired as time went on so those had to be added in, and there was what was called feats where over time he becomes better at some skill or another. There was also set times when he is can figure out how to use a new weapon or he has managed to get better with one he already has. The best is the special skills, the most notable of which is his ability to change shape, but there is something to go with every level.

Okay, so that is the meat and bones of my timeline, but that is by no means the end. According to D&D rules, I'm supposed to roll the dice for wandering monsters every day, and twice during the night; it served to fill the game day, as the character party was going to or from some dungeon, or even within a dungeon for that matter. Now here's another thing I changed in the game. I figured in the 'real' world, a level nine character stood just as good a chance of finding a level one monster as anything, but since I didn't want my level one characters to be immediately squished by some level nine monster, I figured they weren't really going where the big monsters were anyway, however, I was rather more brutal than the game rules called for, meaning level nine characters could meet level nine monsters. The pesky rats and bats might annoy a level 36 player but I figured if they ever existed in their world, they would always exist in their world, so why not include them. If any of you gamers out there would like any of my lists and tables just shoot me an email and I'll send it to you. As you might have guessed by now, I've spent a lot of time thinking on this game even though I no longer play it.

I didn't want to clutter up my book with wandering monsters on every page so I altered the world. Since my druid was walking around in USA today, I put the recognized D&D history, battles and most of their monsters and magics into a carefully hidden past. The war was ultimately won and most of the monsters were wiped out. Much of the magics that enabled extra-planier monsters to come over was outlawed along with any magic involving animating the dead. Also in some great council of magic users, everyone agreed that humans could no longer be trusted with the skill - yes even the human Wizards agreed, besides by then they were likely in a minority. At any rate, because of all this, and what with a little extinction along the way, my list of monsters narrowed down to something far more manageable. So, to free up the pages of my book, I decided to roll for 'monsters' only twice a month, once for sentients and once for animals.

Now I had my timeline. Now I could start my book.

Now I needed an event, a trauma, a reason for my character to turn druid being as he's only a normal fifteen year old American kid. To sculpt this, I gave my character an unpleasant home life - not so bad that he was driven from his home, allowing enough ties to keep him home (his friends and perhaps his mother) with enough enticements to wish for things to be different (the D&D game he played with his friends). The trauma I picked was a rape, something I figured would be particularly traumatic for a boy. I've been told from a couple different sources that this is way too cliche, but I can't think of anything better. At any rate, I used that to tip the scale, that and a little magic to hide his memories, not that he wanted to remember his life, and my character was heading into his life as a Druid.

Now you might think that an average American boy taking up the life of a Druid, no matter how close to a D&D Druid he wanted to be, would be little more than a hermit, but not only did he have help during his first few steps, but there was a reason he had help, that reason being rather sinister, after a fashion, and planned since before his very conception, believe it or not. Ah but now I'm getting into some of the threads I've woven in since I started the story. Always a puzzle - the whys of the things that happen, and the stumbling upon the clues as we go along. Also, if he was only a hermit, no matter how glorified, there would be no dryads in the grove, no Chrystal Palace somewhere in the Rockies full of elves, no pixies living under his bed, no centaurs, halflings or dwarves either.

This is the foundation of this book. In another month (book time) year seven will begin, so in book time I'm a little over 2/3rds of the way to the end. Here is where the problem with my ten-year time span comes in. As of today, my document is 793 pages long and the last month of my timeline is on page 818. Those last 25 pages is not all simple timeline with small notes to tell me who or what he meets, there's also notes on ideas for parts here and there. Though not many, they can be anywhere from a paragraph or two to a page or two. In most of my timeline, each month takes up only from say 4 lines to around 8 lines. Then there is section breaks for when a new 'level' is reached - these levels are the only place where I start the chapter on the next page.

This book is the only book where I constructed any kind of an outline. Notes like what creature he meets or what skill he learns all need a plausible reason to occur, therein is the text of my book. I hope to finish it this year, or rather by this time next year, but there is no real hurry. Like I said I really love the impromptu journey to a known end. I figure when Derrick takes his seat as the youngest Grand Druid in centuries, at age 25, he's going to outline some drastic changes that will change the entire druid society.

I'll have to get there though. You never know what might happen along the way. I certainly don't.



Willow Drake said...

That is really awesome!! I had no idea that is where you got the idea for him. I love the character and world you have created and can't wait until it's finished so I can read it all!!!

Mari Collier said...

Finally found you again. I'm still not receiving notices when people posts on groups. Oh Well. That's an awful long timeline. I don't play fantasy games anymore. I'd rather read and it is no longer necessary to do so. It's a good way to develop a wizard or warrior to fight evil spreading over the land of (you insert name). I've also gave away the types of letters I wrote at work.

William Kendall said...

That's a plan!

My brother used to play the game. I couldn't understand it myself...