My Favorite Solo Role-Play Pairing

If you’ve never role-played with a GM oracle, you’re missing out on something. Nothing is quite like a good GM, of course, but neither is a human GM quite like a “solo oracle,” especially when you turn solo into group play.

The trick to oracle play is to ask questions you would of a GM, but mainly in yes/no form.

“Is there a back door to this basement?” Turn a card, “Yes,” or another card might say, “No, but.” Let’s go with the second. “Okay does ‘but’ mean there’s a window?” Turn a card, “Yes, AND.” I’m going to assume “AND” means the window is something I could use as a door, so it must be within reach, and it isn’t locked.

Here’s where the RPG rules kick in. I’ll use my favorite RPG’s Climbing skill to see if I can get up and through that window. Roll the dice, succeed, and now I’m out of the burning building.

But few oracles are just “yes/no.” Most have prompts to answer other questions you might ask a GM. “What do I hear through the door?” Guess I’d better use my rogue’s Listening skill. He succeeds! I turn a couple of cards, pair a couple of random words on them, and decide “faded” and “joyfully” mean some goblin guards are walking away, laughing.

When you’re playing like this in a group of friends, somebody else might have an even more exciting suggestion for what those words mean. The end result is something that feels very much like gaming with an extemporaneous GM. It isn’t open-ended chaos, though, because oracles tend to have mechanisms for generating scenes that follow an unfolding plot to a crescendo just like GM-led play.

Things have come a long way from that AD&D 2e appendix of dungeon mapping I used to use out of desperation when my friends were out of town and I was jonesing to give my wizard PC some play. Check FB for solo role-play groups and you’ll find a wide variety. Or check out professional voice actor Trevor Devall’s YouTube series “Me, Myself, and Die.”

Having played many, many oracles over the past couple of years, the one that edges out the rest for me is GameMaster’s Apprentice. There are simply so many prompts available to choose: from the usual yes/no, to verb/adjective/noun pairings, random character names and virtues/vices, item suggestions, a scatter diagram, sensory snippets like the scent of “hot, melted butter,” and much, much more.
I ain’t gonna lie, other oracles, especially Mythic and Cut Up Solo, have their own uniquenesses that make the choice difficult, but what tipped the scales for me was GMA cards’ random Difficulty number and their “dice wheel” of random dice results.

Pretty much all my solo role-play nowadays, and most of my group play, is with my own Bookmark No HP RPG. And that difficulty number and dice wheel mean I can play in a space too small to roll dice, with just a piece of note paper, or even a text app on my phone (while waiting in the car, or at the doctor’s office).

I like that pairing so much, in fact, that I asked Larcenous Designs, the GMA publisher, if we could offer the two as a bundle on DriveThruRPG. And one of the more awesome things about that it means the Bookmark No HP RPG can be more than just a PDF, it can be a physical playing card. DriveThru can’t print and ship less than a dozen cards at a time, which kept Bookmark from being a physical item. But ordered together as a card with GMA, it works.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. ? More news to come.

Black Lives Still Matter

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

Last year, just after George Floyd was killed, I asked myself, “Why does that ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan feel familiar?” And discovered that I’d first heard it when Trayvon Martin was killed 7 years earlier.

Seven years of my blissful ignorance of killings and abuses heaped upon people of color. My mother taught me to care about injustice. I was ashamed. But that’s not the point.

The point is that it just keeps happening. Year after year after decade after century.

This post isn’t prompted by news of Rittenhouse or Ahmaud Arbery. It’s simply about noticing, remembering, and acting. Me, I wear a Black Lives Matter wristband 24/7 to wake daily reminded, and I give a bit each month to the Equal Justice Initiative, because that’s the topic I’m most moved by. Popcorn Press’s chosen charity is Feeding America; EJI is mine.

We white folk can’t afford to forget. And we can’t afford to do nothing. There are so many other causes riding on it.

Talk about it. Read about it. Do something about it. Giving is easy.

If you disagree with this post, *sigh*, please don’t bother commenting. It isn’t for you. It’s for family, friends, and fans. There’s a struggle going on, and we can put our shoulder to the burden, if we’re willing to follow. Message me if you’re at a loss as to where to start. Maybe I can help. Or maybe you can help point me.


Vax or Nix?

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

I just got called a clown on a FB post. For defending Matthew McConaughey’s statement against a child vaccine mandate.

Take a breath after maybe saying, “Well, you are a clown!” Or if you’re maybe saying instead, “Hells yeah we don’t need no vaccine mandates!” And hear me out.

I believe in the essentiality of vaccines. Grew up in the presence of a man crippled waist down by polio. I know the effect my grandmother’s young death of tuberculosis has had on my father’s side of the family. And I’m appreciative that polio, tuberculosis, and smallpox have all been conquered by vaccination.

But I also grew up with a girl whose lower right arm was shrunken, never developed beyond infancy, because of prenatal thalidomide. (Not a vaccine, but poorly understood medication.)

And to a lesser extent, I’m aware of the potential damage of both HPV and the HPV vaccine. That issue’s a harder call, but I can’t support a mandate.

COVID is an ongoing, deadly serious situation. I’m for a universal mask mandate. (What sort of backward country do we live in that it’s not already a thing?)

And I’m strongly in favor of COVID vaccine mandates by employers, including in government. (It’s called freedom. Employers are free to mandate them. You’re free to look for another job if you don’t like it.)

I’m mostly in favor of a COVID vaccine mandate for children 16 and up. It’s fully approved, and they’re hardly children.

But let’s consider the words “mandate,” for children 5-15, of a vaccine only “emergency authorized” for that age range.

I have two granddaughters next door aged 5 and 7. We all live in a remote part of Nebraska, 6 miles from hardtop in any direction, our adults all vaccinated, masked for any trip into town, disinfecting everything we bring back, and refusing to allow visits by even extended family members if they’re unvaccinated. And like many children in this time of COVID, those granddaughters are homeschooled.

Should it be mandated that they take an emergency authorized vaccine?


But yours and mine? And masks? Abso-effing-lutely. Let’s stop clowning around.

The Graveyard of Webpages

This website is 21 years old. While searching it for one subject or another, I sometimes come across posts with links to articles that no longer exist on another site. (Or sites themselves that no longer exist!) Chances are, if I posted I want to keep it.

Which is where the “Wayback Machine” comes in, i.e.

Take this personal post from 29 April 2010, for example. I stumbled across it today, while looking for something else, and decided the “Need a Story Idea? Check Lost and Found,” link sounded worth reading again. Here’s where it landed me: “Oops.. This Page was not found.”

If you’re not code savvy, and you want to find the original, left-click the link, copy it, go to, and paste that link into their search bar. Up will come a series of calendar pages with spots marked for days when the page was last crawled. Click a dot on the calendar, click a time stamp on the pop-up, and you’ll be taken to the page their crawler copied.

So, now that old post of mine leads to the article after all!

It’s a good article, by the way. Worth your time. 🙂