Thursday, May 28, 2015

Red Monkeys

My daily writing, inspired by +Wayne Snyder's post this morning:

     The giant creature shambled towards my hiding spot in the grove. An overpowering odor washed over me, reeking of rotting flesh, iron, and something else that my mind could not identify. Another step towards me placed it a mere three meters away, I held my breath and looked the creature over. I was hoping to find a weakness.

     The creature stood easily eight foot tall and the head at the top had a vague resemblance to a human skull. Across the shoulders was some manner of metal plating adorned with a vast number of dangerous looking spikes. A square box embellished with a multitude of blinking lights of various colors. I could not determine a pattern or purpose for these lights. Massive arms were bare and displayed an amazing level of physical prowess. Across the creature’s waist was a row of skulls that formed a sort of belt. Overall the visage of the creature was terrifying, but the worst thing was the long tube-like fleshy growth that hung from the creature’s belly.

     The long fleshy rope-like protrusion hung from the belly and was looped into a circle and held by the creature’s right hand. The protrusion undulated as if it were breathing. This terrified me.

     I had seen the creature use this protrusion on my companions after our scout ship had landed on the surface. Initial scans came back inconclusive and garbled. The unfazeable and positive Commander Keen opted to explore, in person, the area directly surrounding the ship. “A short excursion” he had said as he donned his helmet and grabbed a rifle.

     Sergeant Forten had advised against it, suggesting that half the team exit while half remained with the ship in a support element on the side mounted cannons. Commander Keen, ignored this suggestion and had the entire team gear up. He then opened the door with a bright and cheery smile across his face.

     He died with that protrusion covering his face.

     We had barely been outside the ship for five minutes when the thick foliage around the landing site suddenly parted and this behemoth of a creature stepped out. We all froze but I quickly determined this thing was not friendly and meant us harm. This creature’s protrusion struck with blinding speed and engorged itself around Lieutenant McNulty’s helmet. I heard a crack almost instantly and then a disgusting slurping sound. Fright took hold of my mind and I sprinted away from the team.

     Unfortunately this meant in a random direction and not towards the ship. My strides were long and strong and I soon found myself lost and unsure of the direction of the ship. I crossed a stream of purplish liquid and found a thick grove of trees to hide behind. I then rested a moment trying to catch my breath.

     Moments later the creature appeared across the stream and climbed the small hill leading to the grove. It now stood across the grove, staring directly at me despite my cover. It took a step.

     And that’s when the fucking red monkey leapt from the bushes and attacked it…

Monday, May 25, 2015

Writing - Memorial Day


I stopped at the bus stop and cowered under the meager cover it provided. The rain had begun to fall just after I had left the house and so I found myself without an umbrella. I shivered slightly and attempted to shake the cold, and the rain, from my body.

Suddenly I noticed someone beside me, I had not seen him shimmy into the small shelter. He was young, I guessed he had just broken the two decade line. I gave him the silent nod customary for men these days. Acknowledgement without the dedication, or the offering, of a conversation.

He opted not to play along. “Good morning.”

“Mornin’,” I replied with my not-so homegrown but earned over the years southern draw. I took the opportunity to look the young fellow over as his dress took me as peculiar. He was wearing khaki slacks but they had an odd cut, a line that seemed old fashioned to me. Certainly not something you seen the young folks wearing these days. He wore a thick wool but rain soaked jacket with a collared dress shirt beneath. He looked like he could be heading to church.

“Why you carryin’ flags mister?” He questioned, noticing the small bundle of flags I had under my arm. I was on my way to the cemetery to lay flags on a few of the boys I had lost in the war. Usually the Boy Scouts handle this but I like to place my own on my boys.

“They are for the boys I lost, helps me get through the days without them,” I reached out with an open hand. “It’s James.”

We shook. “Sergeant Jason McNulty, 101st.” I noticed he had a stuffed duffle bag at his feet, it looked like a large green sausage.

“Heading home?”

“Nope sir, heading back to the front, our boys need a hand. They left last week. My Sally was about to have our first so the captain let me stay back.”

“That was certainly kind of him.” I smiled, thinking of my two babies when they were born.

“I am grateful but now it is time for me to head over there and get to work,” His eyes lit up and I could see pride in those eyes. I remembered when I was young and eager like him.

I heard a bus and turned to see one fast approaching, my destination printed on the readout above the front window. I turned to him and place a firm hand on his shoulder. “Well, Jason, you take care of yourself, be safe and come home to raise that babe of yours.”

“I will do my best sir.”

“Tell you what, take one of these,” I handed him a flag from my bundle. “Remind you that there are folks back here praying for you.”

“Many thanks sir, you have a great day.”

I plopped into the seat on the bus and looked back at the bus stop but the sergeant was gone. I looked up and down the street, then across the street, but did not see the sergeant. “Fast little bugger,” I said to myself.
Twenty minutes later the bus pulled away from the cemetery gate and I began trugging up the hill towards the plain white alabaster markers the government provide the boys.

The hour was still quite early. I guessed I had beaten the Boy Scouts because not a single flag flew on the graves. I passed the first row, then the second. I always find it a strange feeling being here among the boys. Comforting, but eerie at the same time. Then I stopped in my tracks.
A single flag fluttered in the breeze three graves over from where I stood.

I looked up and down the rows, the next one, the last one. It was the only flag.
I knew the final resting spots of all my boys and this one was not among them. I shrugged my shoulders and was about to continue to the first of my boys’ graves but something made me stop and instead head towards the single flag.

I nearly dropped my bundle of flags as I read the tombstone:
Sergeant Jason P. McNulty
A CO, 101st Air Assault
6 JUNE 1944
Omaha Beach

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tinymorphs 2

Been in a bit of a lull in creative juices lately but I managed to pull off another Tinymorph map sheet. Given their small size I can see a GM cutting these out and arranging them behind their screen as they toss together a quick random dungeon.

I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend! Get out and enjoy the sun, dungeons can wait!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Writing Exercise - Building a story using characters

For our next writing assignment we were asked to develop a story focused solely on the observation from a simple sentence and then write a piece where we extrapolate upon this and develop a character based on this merger prompt. This piece is a complete deviation from anything I have ever written before. Heck, I even put a picture of a cute dog on the post.

For example:
‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’

This short description of a real person could be the starting point for a fictional character. 

Who might she have been?
Where was she going?
What did her appearance suggest about her mood or state of mind?
How old was she?
How did she live?

In answering these questions you are starting to build a concrete sense of character. You are starting to get a story.

In the darkness I could only catch glimpses of the woman as the bus flew past the lights along the highway. The effect of the rhythmic lighting was magical, with each brief glimpse offering up a new detail about the old woman to me. I had been deeply involved in a novel until I looked up and she caught my eye.
In her days she was likely a pretty sight with her curly hair and perfectly shaped face. Now she was well beyond middle age with a wrinkled face, the sort one gets from leading a wonderful life filled with smiles and laughter. Still, she was pretty and I bet more than a few older gentlemen would give her a wink and tip their hat. When we first met each others glance I had smiled at her and she smiled nicely back to me. A wonderful and friendly smile. Shortly after the bus began moving she had closer her eyes and fallen asleep, the white noise of the darkened highway rocking her to sleep.
At first glance her clothing looked expensive but with each successive burst of light I discovered otherwise. The edges of her red sweater were frayed with the flash of light. The next one revealed a button missing. The next a stain on the shoulder. The woman had hit upon hard times.
Her one extravagant expense seemed to be the large handbag she held firmly at her side. Her meek arm was wrapped around the top of the bag, holding it tight and safely next to her. I blinked at the next burst of light - I thought I caught movement in the bag. I leaned in.
With the next rhythm of light the top of the handbag slipped open and a small dog's head pop upward. It glanced around, the sweater-matching red bow atop its head bobbing and swaying as its nervous eyes darted around the darkened bus. The little dog struggled and fought to get itself clear of its pretty and soft prison. The next flash and it was on the woman's lap, standing up and licking her face.
She did not move.
The little dog whimpered slightly through four flashes of light. It barked sharply once, drawing the ire of some gruff voice from farther back in the bus. It whimpered again and then spun itself slowly around three times before settling on the woman's lap, its sad eyes staring directly at me.
We locked eyes for another twenty-seven splashes of lights before the bus drew to a stop. The little dog looked up as the five other passengers disembarked, not giving the woman or dog a second glance.
I stood and it turned its little head sideways at me.
I took a few steps toward the door, then stopped and looked back at the dog. "Come on buddy, your going to need someone to look out for you."
It yelped once, looked back at his friend, gave her a quick lick and then trotted after me.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

FutureLearn piece - Shooter

Yet another piece from my FutureLearn class. For this assignment we were to write something between 200 and 350 words and to focus on the character in the events you describe. I had nothing when I started and then I just dumped this onto the keyboard. Nothing special really but I was happy with how 350+ words just exploded out the gate once I had typed the first two sentences.

One note, all these are posted as-is. No editing or revision has taken place. There are likely spelling errors (I am a notoriously bad speller), grammar errors, and other writing sort of mistakes. These are meant to be quick, prompt driven gushes of writing and not meant to be completed works.

I opened my eyes. Blinked a few times, trying to clear my vision.
Anyone that has stared through a scope mounted upon a high-powered sniper rifle, admittedly a small portion of our population, will tell you it plays tricks with your eyes. You see things, you miss things, and you will even begin to "zone out" as some would say.
Today was no different than any other day. Today I found myself atop one of the many tall buildings that marked the glass and steel skyline of Chicago. I was wedged into a two foot wide gap in the air conditioning machinery that perched on the roof of the Mincler Building with the business end of the rifle expertly hidden among the pipes. Any person, even those with excellent vision, looking my way would simple see a shadowed area in the machinery and a bundle of pipes. 
I blinked again, willing my eyes to refocus. Long observations like this one were not my favorite. I preferred the much more efficient and quick methods that a up close and personal hit allowed. I see the target, I take them out. Done. Go get a bite to eat. These long stake out hits were a pain. 
I had been on the roof since three a.m. having come up to the roof to get situated so as to reduce the possibility that a person might see me moving about on the rooftop. I situated myself and had laid here frozen in place for neigh on eight hours now. My legs ached for my usual morning jog so I began the game of tightening my muscles for thirty seconds then relaxing them for a similar amount of time. Not perfect, but it helps.
Movement in the aperture of the scope caught my eye. The window blind raised in Malcolm's office and I could see his starched white shirt. He wore a pale reddish tie today, I could see it had paisley swirls of a darker shade of red that danced across the material.
I pulled the trigger.

Monday, May 11, 2015

FutureLearn story - 500 words of struggling with the blank page, or How I was saved by Mozart

I am taking a course over at FutureLearn and one of the exercises you do is to listen to the radio and write a 500 word story based off that. Something I struggled to do for about four days. I was rather busy at the time as well but that is no excuse. Then this evening I sat at my laptop and stared at a blank page for nearly two hours. It was rather quiet and I opted to open up Pandora, forgetting that I had last listened to the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart station. As the music started up it immediately conjured up an image:  gentlemanly fellow nodding off in a large reading chair, his dress and the decor of the room surrounding him spoke to me of late 1800s. I suddenly began to produce words. What follows is the 541 word result.

I opened the door after the soft knock had awakened me from my late afternoon slumber in my reading chair. My thin coat did little to protect me from the cool autumn breeze that rushed into my home when I opened the door. On the small porch stood a woman.
“Mr. Cross,” she quietly inquired. She was younger than I by easily ten years, small and rather pretty. Her clothing suggested a moderate home, likely married to a young man struggling to provide for his family. I noticed a thin wisp of reddish hair had slipped from its hiding spot under the small lady’s cap she wore. The tops of her soft brown leather utilitarian boots were covered in fresh mud, from where ever it is she had come, she had walked and not ridden.
“Yes, ma’am,” I opened the door completely now that I was aware of my visitor. “Can I help you?” She paused a moment, long enough for it to become uncomfortable.
“Oh! Where are my manners, do please come out of the cold,” I stepped aside and made a motion for her enter. I noted a nervousness in her eyes and she tossed a quick glance up and down my street. “Please ma’am, I have a warm fireplace with a pot of tea brewing. I would could use a visitor to share the brew.”
She gingerly stepped forward. I could see her forward momentum pause as her left foot crossed the threshold of my door. A curious thing. She stopped and removed her outer coat and shaw as I closed and bolted the door behind us. With the cool breeze now vacant from the foyer I could almost sense the warmth slowly soaking into the room from the fireplace in my front room.
“Do have a seat,” I waved her further into the front room towards the grotesque and garish couch Abraham had selected for me. It cast a stark image in the crowded room. The large front window that faced south cast the room awash in bright light and cast a long shaft of light across the room to land upon the fireplace. The walls on each side of the fireplace and the wall opposite the entrance we covered-floor to ceiling- with neatly arranged shelves of books.
The young miss turned the corner and eye drew wide, absorbing the wealth of knowledge that sat upon my walls. She paused in her steps and her eyes danced across the books, reading titles and authors. I believe she had actually held her breath.
She blinked a few times, willing herself back. “Yes? Oh my, yes. What a wonderful collection of tomes. I...I have never seen so many!”
“I am quite proud of my collection,” I smiled and moved to the fireplace to examine the pot warming to the side. “I believe no one should ever stop learning, the world is full of wonder and to stop learning is, well frankly, arrogant. To assume you have learned all there is to learn. You see, I am an astute student of learning. I am…”
“I know who you are,” she stated rather flatly and her eyes met mine. “It is the very reason I have come to you.”

Saturday, April 25, 2015


I am working on maps for Inkwell Ideas's latest Kickstarter and in doing so I made some geomorphs that did not quite pass muster. I doubled the number to make a good number, and hopefully make them more useful, and decided to post here.

As these are smaller than the usual so-called standard geomorph, I dub these tinymorphs. I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Sword Tomb - Sword & Wizardry Appreciation Day Map

In honor of the game that has brought me such joy, Swords & Wizardry (in all its versions), I am releasing this map into the wild with a CC Attribution license. You read that correct, so long as you say I drew it, you are is free to do with it as you please: release it in a free product, release it in a paid product, use it as toilet paper. If you want full resolution versions of the above map, please head over to my Patreon page (see the links below the image):

b&w version

sans border and stuffs

I hope you all have a great day and get some good gaming in.

Creative Commons License
The Sword Tomb by Matthew Jackson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.