Even more Writing With Dice

Screenshot anime Kawaisou, featuring Sayaka

Telepathy is a pretty nifty psychic power, except when your ability to send thoughts develops before your ability to read them, and you don’t notice until you scare the cute girl. And there’s nothing you can do because the dice decided it. (Picture from the totally unrelated anime Kawaisou.) 

Apart from short breaks for keeping up with my MOOCs at least to some degree, and a day at the local clinic with a pretty harsh heart arrhythmia, my main free time activity is writing books I don’t know until I write them. See my previous post if you want details on how I wrote the previous story this way. I’ll link to it again at the end as well.

I was not perfectly satisfied with the “game mechanics” of my novel. The story overall was interesting to me, but the balance between power and skill was off, making parts of the story drag while others became too predictable. Only as a matter of nuance, not something I could not correct for using my amazing Authorpower. But I decided to make my job easier in the next book by tweaking the balance. More about the mechanics toward the end of the post.


The overall plot is the classic heroic coming-of-age story seen in numerous fantasy novels (Harry Potter probably being among the most famous and well executed, although it dragged on too long for me). Also Smallville the TV series used this concept, despite having a very different flavor, so you can see it is a very generic and flexible macro-plot. The most interesting part for me is one that is usually not given enough airtime, in my opinion, and is also the reason why I frequently create new characters in role playing games. The magical time when the impossible gradually intrudes into the ordinary world: The wizard apprentice casts his first spell; the superhero discovers that he can lift a car. I want to zoom in even more, to include the time when you still tell yourself: “It could be a coincidence”, or “perhaps I just imagined it”, or “there’s got to be a rational explanation for this.”

One thing I learned from role playing games is that you need newbie zones where the challenges are realistic for your power level while you learn your role. In a way, the whole first book for each character is a newbie zone. He meets ordinary human challenges, just more of them than most people around him. This is not a time to deal with natural disasters or bloodthirsty dictators, but the way the hero deals with the baby version of the larger threats give clues as to who he will be when he is ready to put on the cape or the crown.

The first book was put on hold after about 80 000 words. It needs a rewrite and an ending that transitions to the next book, if any, but overall it was a satisfying experience. The next book is at a bit over 45 000 words now and still pretty early, though I may speed up a bit now. It is a new story with a new main character, using the same overall plot but different subplots and new dice throws. Intriguingly, the dice seem to know early on what kind of character I am writing. It is a bit spooky. I even close my eyes when tumbling the dice, and they still create patterns that suit the personality to some degree.


The current book is completely stand-alone and implied to be on a different world, albeit both are very close to our own, alternate timelines that separated from ours only decades ago. The background is the same: A “demigod”, a planeswalker with overwhelming psychic powers, has visited Earth in secret and begotten a boychild to protect the world through the trials to come. He then zips off, leaving his heir to grow up as a normal child, although looking a bit unusual and developing more slowly because of his longer lifespan. (The planeswalker in the two stories is not the same, although the purpose of his visit is.)

In this case, the powers begin to develop at the start of his last year in junior high school (school year ten in Norway, where this book takes place). I have also ramped up slightly the speed at which the powers grow stronger, while ramping down skill growth so that there is a greater element of uncertainty. Even with that, the psychic powers are little more than party tricks for the first year and a half, most of them even longer.


The dice rolls are the same as outlined in my previous entry, but there is now an exception on skill rolls. Up to an actual skill of 12 (as determined by the combination of INTelligence and skill roll) all rolls that begin with 4 (skill group 1) and 5 (skill group 2) increase the skill by one. But once the actual skill is 12, I roll another die. If it shows 6, the one-point increase happens to power level rather than skill. At skill level 13, either 5 or 6 means the point is transferred to power. And so on, although never below 1. Skill will increase more and more slowly over time, until it only rises at 1/6 of early increase. Meanwhile power will increase faster and faster until it scales at 11/6 of early increase. This is more intuitive in the results it yields, as a small increase in power will be very noticeable early on, but less and less so. Meanwhile skill determines the chance to succeed and the level of control, and these should improve rapidly at first and then more slowly. I am pretty happy with this setup so far.

I have also increased the soft limit on all physical stats (not INTelligence) to 20, which is the borderline between human and superhuman. This boosts his physical, seemingly natural abilities relative to the psionic, seemingly supernatural ones. Unlike the gentle healer of the first book, Tormod is a more robust hero and inclined to fight back, which does not necessarily end well even when he succeeds. He has some issues to resolve and lessons to learn before he is ready to save the world, or at least a small corner of it, in a hypothetical sequel.