June 25, 2022: Ioun

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This post is basically an ad for my book, The Ioun Codex (print)(PDF), because I think it’s a great sourcebook for all fantasy role-playing games and more people need to know that.

I’ve always liked ioun stones, one of the more iconic magical treasures in Dungeons & Dragons. I mean, how can you not? They’re these floating gemstones that orbit around someone’s head and grant them abilities and powers. I always wanted to have one in a game, but never got the chance, so instead, I went and wrote a whole sourcebook about ioun stones. I took the concept as found in D&D and in the original Jack Vance story from where they came from, and expanded the lore into a whole exercise in world-building, which was both a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

Inside the book, you’ll find rules for making your own ioun stones by rolling on (or choosing from) a series of tables, as well as information on other forms of ioun crystals. There are some NPCs that can help tie all the new info into your own campaign, ancient lore if you’d like to give your ioun creations some backstory, and creatures to fight against or seek alliances with.

The book hasn’t done as well in sales as I hoped it would, though, which given it’s iconic D&D-ish topic, has me a bit baffled. I opted for a rules-light approach, using generic stats and rules that could apply to any D&D-adjacent game or be easily adapted to other systems in order to increase reach, but sometimes I wonder if that hurt the book instead. I stand by my decision, though, but I still wonder. Ultimately, I think the book just needs greater promotion in more D&D-focused channels, and for fans of the book to tell others about it.

So take a look at The Ioun Codex (print)(PDF) if you haven’t yet, I think you’re gonna like it. There’s also an Appendix if you’d like to get even more ioun content. And if you’d like to help me out even more, tell others about the book as well.

June 24, 2022: Positive

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After two years and a half into the pandemic, it is now my turn. I’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

It came like a thief in the night, literally. I had a night of weird sleep, of tossing and turning, of being really cold then really warm. I felt ok-ish in the morning, so I went to work (thankfully I got to just be by myself in my office) and that’s when I started feeling yuck: shivers, cough, headaches, dizziness. I got a PCR test done at the urgent care, but the rapid test I did at home, the one that’s supposed to take 9 minutes to give you a result, took 10 seconds to turn positive.

Yes, I am vaccinated and boosted, and I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why I feel tired, but not exhausted, why I’m congested and have tightness in my chest, but I’m not struggling to breathe.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to bed.

June 23, 2022: Practice

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In The Practice, Seth Godin lays out in over 200 entries why we should focus primarily on the act of creation rather than on the outcome. Obviously, we all desire a good outcome to come from our work—let’s call that success—but Godin argues that the outcome flows from consistent practice. Do the work consistently, ship the work regularly, then repeat.

Following up on my last post on my influences, the question then becomes not just who are the influences on my art, but what is my art exactly? What is that thing I do consistently, then ship, then repeat?

Words. That’s what I practice consistently. That’s what I ship regularly. I’m a writer.

I sometimes limit myself by trying to fit into little boxes of my own making: I’m a game designer, I’m a blogger, I’m a fiction writer, etc. These are useful for marketing purposes, no doubt, but I am all that and more. I write games, I write stories, I write blog posts, I write essays, I write scripts, I write prompts, I write technical specs, I write instructions, I write memoirs, I write journal entries, I write, I write, I write (except poetry, cause I suck at it). Yes, I do podcasts, and yes, I do videos, and yes, I do some basic graphic design, but it’s all in service to the writing, in service to the words.

There are certainly lots of writers that have inspired me, but I’m figuring out that the people who are my influences are more those who consistently do the practice and ship the work, regardless of the medium of their art. It’s the dedication that influences me.

I want to make a living from my art—I desperately want to—and that means I need to get writing, do it consistently, then ship the writing, and send it into the world. This daily blog is part of that, but I need to do more. It’s the only way I’ll achieve the momentum I need to make a living from my art.

June 22, 2022: Influences

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I find myself wondering, who are my influences in terms of my art, and I’m having a hard time coming up with an answer. I can’t really point to an artist that has altered my perception to the point of embedding themselves in my artist-psyche and changed it for good.

I could say that Neil Gaiman has been a huge favorite of mine, and that his work in modern fantasy has certainly been inspirational, but I wouldn’t say he’s been influential to my work. I could say that David Lynch has been an amazing source of inspiration in terms of themes, structure, and mood, but has he been influential to my art? Lately, I’ve been greatly inspired by Van Neistat and his video essays, but has he been an influence?

Merriam-Webster defines influence as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways,” while inspiration is “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions.” My perception is that, in casual conversation, most people use the terms interchangeably, although, related as they may be, they’re quite distinct. I can think of tons of inspirations, but struggle to name a few influences.

I might be navel-gazing, to be sure. I see artists I admire talk readily about their influences, how that work by X shaped this creation they made, or how Y art movement gave rise to this piece, and it’s fascinating because when they point it out, I can see the DNA from one in the other, but I can’t trace that in my own art.

Of course, that then begs the question, what exactly is my art?

June 21, 2022: Summer

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Happy first day of summer to the northern hemisphere! I kicked off the summer season this weekend with a lovely time at a lake, and with friends by the pool, plus some delicious Puerto Rican food to celebrate Father’s Day and to recharge my Boricuameter.

Part of me is excited about long days to do stuff outside, especially days where the sun is out and the breeze is refreshing. I can’t wait to go hiking again, and I wouldn’t be mad at all about more days by the lake, or the beach.

That said, the other part of me is excited that this marks the longest day of the year, and that we now begin the steady march towards my favorite part of the year, the fall.

What are you excited about this summer?

June 19, 2022: Father

This November will mark 28 years since my dad died.

When I was a kid, and lived with my mom, seeing my dad only a few times a year when he visited Puerto Rico, mostly having a relationship with him via calls and letters, I would sometimes think about the future, when I would have kids of my own, and be sad. Sad because, as much as I loved my dad, I loved my mom more, and I figured my kids would love me, yes, but never as much as they would love their mom.

I’ve never said that out loud to anyone before.

It took maybe 30 years from when I first had those thoughts for me to become a father, and the moment my daughter was born, from the moment I first held her in my arms and cried, wept, with happiness, amazement, awe, pure AWE, and love for this new life, I knew kid-me had been wrong.

Kid-me thought love had volume, could be measured, had limits. Kid-me thought that to love one parent was to love less the other. Kid-me was hurt because his dad wasn’t there, even though his dad did his best within the circumstances. But kid-me loved his dad to pieces, even as he loved his mom with his whole world.

I am not a perfect dad at all. I make tons of mistakes, fall short of who I can be to my daughters, mess up. I know they have days when they have a favorite parent over the other, and that’s fine. I know they love me, in their kid way, and I take that love they give as it comes, as it is given, as they are or are not able to express it.

Kid-me, being a kid, thought in selfish terms: my kids won’t love me as much as they’ll love their mom.

Kid-me had no way of knowing what I know now: my kids’ love is boundless, different for each of us parents, yet identical in nature and intensity. It is LOVE. But more importantly is that my love for them is infinite and powerful, and it has nothing to do with their love for me. Even if, God forbid, one day they told me they don’t love me anymore, my love for them would not diminish.

This is what kid-me never knew (because how could he?), that his dad’s love, that my dad’s love, imperfect and fallible as he may have been, his love was perfect, endless, and powerful. And though he’s been gone for almost 28 years, I still feel that love in my life.

Hopefully, 28 years after I’m gone, my daughters will still feel my love in their lives.

Happy father’s day, Dad, Abuelo, and Tio, the men who throughout my life have taught me what being a man and a father is.

June 18, 2022: Neopolis

I’ve written and released a new gaming supplement for DoubleZero (Director’s Cut) by Lightspress Media.

“A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both [...] tear things down and make new again.” ~ Rasmenia Massoud

NEOPOLIS presents a collection of high-tech spy-fi city locations that can be used as districts of Neopolis, or independently as part of your own urban center. From the neon glitz of The Orchard to the concrete sprawl of Blocktown, down the twisting streets of The Maze through the Silver Gate at the Arche D'Argent, the city beckons with its wonders, secrets, and riches.

NEOPOLIS features six fully-stated locations with overviews, notable areas, contacts, hooks, and new rules, including rules for locations and a new trait.

DoubleZero © Berin Kinsman. Used by permission.

You can buy it from DriveThruRPG for $3.00.

Lightspress’ DoubleZero keeps inspiring me to make these modular game supplements where I go browse Unsplash and other royalty-free photography sites, find evocative images that hint at a story, then let loose writing the tale that unfolds. What’s neat is that, slowly, from all these mini stories, a larger tale is emerging, and I’m having fun getting to discover it as much as my readers are.

It’s been a great excercise in contrast to the more structured essay work I’m working on for the next issue of Rhymes With Seen, or the more formatted design work I’m doing for the next issue of Zine of Wondrous Power. If those are songs written following certain genre rules, the DoubleZero Mission Files are more akin to jam sessions caught on tape.

I’ll stop with the musical analogy.

Check out NEOPOLIS, and I hope you enjoy it.

June 17, 2022: Creativity

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Where does creativity come from? What fuels it? What makes that well burst in some people and dry out in others? What is creativity anyway? What the heck am I going on about?

Minds far more trained than mine have tried to tackle these questions, so it’s not like I’m really trying to come up with an answer for the ages. But I’ve been wondering about them lately because I’m actively thinking about my art and process, and figuring out my creativity is a component of that series of thoughts.

Creativity is not inspiration, though many confuse the two. Inspiration is what gives birth to the idea which gives birth to art. Creativity, however, is what transforms inspiration into idea into art. Without creativity, inspiration and a dollar get you a cup of coffee (there must still be $1 coffee somewhere, right?).

For me, inspiration comes from a thousand places: it comes from a song, or from a movie, or a photograph. Or even from just a snippet of those. Maybe from a half-forgotten memory, or the way I understood something wrong, yet so right. It comes from other people’s art, other people’s processes, or other people’s mistakes. Inspiration comes from a thousand places, but creativity? It comes from one place.

Compulsion.

My creativity comes from a compulsion to express myself–my Self–using this imperfect body, this imperfect language, this imperfect mind, in order to expose my Soul, my Spirit.

There’s no other reason. It’s irrational, really. It’s taking Frost’s road less traveled and adding potholes and neverending construction as if it was I-95. But I have no choice. I’m compelled to express mySelf creatively. I have spent decades trying to do so, imperfectly every single time, and I will spend decades still trying to do so, imperfectly as well.

There’s no other way.

And what a beautiful thing that is.

June 16, 2022: Insomnia

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I normally write these posts the night prior to their publication date, or sometimes early in the morning. Last night I was still trying to figure out what to write about today, and as I tossed around in bed for two hours before I finally fell asleep, only to wake up again an hour later, the topic dawned on me: insomnia.

I’ve slept terribly this whole week, no doubt a combination of anxiety over being back at work, and side effects from my new medication. I manage to fall asleep, yes, but it takes effort, I sleep fitfully, wake up several times a night, and have been racking up a tiredness debt to rival the national debt. Today in particular is a bad day: It’s 9 am and I’m up to my third cup of coffee. I know I’m gonna pay for it later today.

I just gotta make it to the weekend and then I can take some melatonin and hopefully sleep better. The side effects I know will level out as the medication builds up in my system, at least that’s what all the literature tells me. As tired as I am, I haven’t been short-tempered, which I’m gonna take as a good sign that the med is doing its job.