Next week I run the first session in my new fantasy roleplaying campaign (still to be named). It takes place in the same world as my recent short story – The Final Prophecy of Jalahar, currently in editing. The events in the game unfold a few years after those depicted in the story. This would make a lot more sense if you knew either story, I know, but I can’t reveal those just yet.
What I can reveal is some of the background information; my notes, essentially. This is basic stuff, outlining the geographic area and hinting at both political structures, trade and so forth. There’s even a crude map! Norkol is inspired by a mix of early Nordic middle ages and dark fantasy. You won’t find jolly gnomes or aloof elves here, but a goblin might steal your firstborn in the night.
My very first novel length story was a fantasy tale based on a roleplaying campaign I had run with a group of friends, a couple of years earlier. It was back in the 90s somewhere, when this idea first took hold of me. I wrote the story, made a handful of photocopies and handed them to friends and family, and that was the end of it. Except not really. A decade and a half later, here we are.
Some of the basic ideas in the story kept coming back to me over the years, and eventually, not too long ago, I stopped resisting and started taking notes. I was excited to have given in and returned to an old source of inspiration, but I soon discovered that I had unleashed an unstoppable force. So many ideas for details, myths, legends, heroes, villains and places popped into my head, my note taking couldn’t keep up.
I wanted to write a specific story, but found I needed to know more about the past for it to work, so I set about writing another story, about one of those past events. Only to find that I needed to go even further back in time. So finally, I said fuck it and started at the very beginning – with the creation myth!
I took a look at the notes I already had about my pantheon of gods and the earliest ages, and then wrote them out how I imagined they would be written in the Allbook, the holy scriptures of my imagined world.
What my ultimate ambitions are for this, I honestly cannot say. It started with old, festering inspiration, an itch to write some fiction, and because I missed the nerdery of running a roleplaying campaign. But because I am having so much fun with it, and because I hate the thought of anything gathering digital dust on my hard drive, I thought I’d share the creation myth.
I am a nerd. I always have been, from my early memories of playing with Star Wars toys in the late 70s and graduating to Dungeons & Dragons, video games and comics in the 80s. Then the 90s, where I was deeply involved in the Danish gaming community, writing for a magazine, active on the con scene and even getting paid to game with kids! However, that was also the time I started feeling the pressure to “get a life” and “grow up”.
I spent the late 90s and a good part of the 2000s looking for a new identity. It’s clear to me now, but back then it was just life. I had wanted to be a writer, a photographer, a filmmaker and tell stories for a living, but that did not seem to fit with the rest of the world (as in: paying my rent). So I adapted, got a haircut and a “real” job in IT. It was vaguely creative, and I even made pretty good money for a while, but I also felt the joy of life getting sucked out of me.
I still played the occasional game with friends, but that was about it. The urge to tell stories was satisfied by writing novels and song lyrics, I even got published and played on the radio – but I had given up on making any of that into an actual job. It’s easy to say, that I should have pushed through and stuck to my guns, but I didn’t have the self confidence to do so. Maybe I was just too young and inexperienced.
I found photography as a way to tell my stories and make some cash, but I still supplemented my income as a bartender for the first couple of years. My nerdier interests remained firmly planted in the back seat.
Eventually, I started running into people with similar backgrounds, but who had stuck to their nerdy interests in their professional lives. Some had become established authors, others were designing story-based team building events. The range was larger than I had imagined, and that inspired me.
Since 2009, I have made a conscious effort to reawaken my inner nerd, and I truly believe it’s the best thing I have done for myself in years. Luckily, I have a wife who is also a nerd at heart, and who supports me completely.
I started a fresh gaming group, playing D&D for the first time in more than a decade. Even though the campaign died out, it got me back to writing game material — I wrote maybe 150 pages of notes for that campaign, some of which was put online. And it felt right. It felt good. It felt like home.
So for me personally, I am naming 2012 as the Year of the Nerd. I will be working on as many nerdy projects as I can, and for the first time since the 90s, I will be attending (at least 2) conventions this year. I’m even a panelist at one of them. So here’s to you, my fellow nerds. And thank you for the inspiration.