That Great Divide

Posted in poetry with tags , on August 13, 2015 by Joseph VanBuren

That great divide                    between his teeth,

It looks like it                         has grown to be

A place for food                     to sit and stay

Until the teeth                        just rot away.

If only he                               would shut his mouth.

He has so much                     to talk about.

Of what he speaks,                I cannot care,

For at this gap                       my eyes just stare.

My thoughts: decay               and entropy;

The limits of                           mortality.

We wish to find                      a sense of worth,

But if we don’t                       help ourselves first,

Our souls just may                 be swallowed by

The darkness of                     that great divide.

From Dungeon Master to Diverse Writer

Posted in other with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2014 by Joseph VanBuren

Slowly, you step into the old throne room of the castle, your footsteps echoing back at you as they bounce off of the arched ceiling twenty feet above. The room extends ahead of you, an abandoned hall covered in a layer of dust, empty save for two rows of massive pillars. The air is cold, stale and still. As you progress forward between the pillars, your torchlight reveals the end of the hall, bringing the throne into your view. The grand seat of stone sits upon a wide pedestal of marble, in front of a tattered wall tapestry, flanked by time-worn statues depicting demonic knights. And then, in the illumination of your torch, you notice it: the king’s remains, a cobweb-covered skeleton sitting upon the throne, his hollow eye sockets somehow staring directly at you.

Perhaps I didn’t describe it quite that well at the time – I was fifteen years old – but I can still recall the magical feeling of excitement that I felt when I ran my first custom dungeon. I had only been playing Dungeon & Dragons (D&D) for a couple of years, but I rapidly took on the responsibility of learning how to be the Dungeon Master (DM) for our group. It took some trial and error, and by the time I mastered it, most of my friends had either moved away or “outgrew” the game. What I didn’t realize at the time was that being a DM was more than just an enjoyable pastime for me; it was actually preparing me to become a writer of several styles and multiple media, molding me into a multi-class wizard of the pen. Before mapping out the explanation for this, I present a little background for the D&D impaired.

D&D is a type of game called a pen-and-paper role playing game (RPG). This is as opposed to the video game genre, RPG, the only kind that most young people have heard of these days. Indeed, the legends of old are true: people used to actually sit around a table together, write on paper, interact face-to-face and even use their imagination to play games! Well, some of us did. Those that did not called us nerds and weirdos, which is, of course, what we were. And most of the time, we secretly preferred being weird and nerdy. D&D was one of the few ways for the social outcasts to get together, be themselves and feel good about their quirky ways for once.

In a game of D&D, everyone around the table plays his/her own character, except for one person. The chosen one is the DM, and he/she acts as a storyteller and referee of the game. The DM describes the story and setting to the players. The players then “role play” the actions of their characters accordingly, the DM determines the results of those actions, and the interactive story continues to unfold in this way. That is the essence of the game, in a nutshell. To be the DM was essentially to be in charge of the whole world in which the game takes place, to know the ins and outs of all the places, people, creatures and events that the players’ characters may encounter.

There was something about being intimate with an entire fictional world that I found (and still find) utterly fascinating. Learning the layout of the land, getting familiar with the characters and how they affect the story, plotting out potential gameplay scenarios – it all intrigued me to the point of obsession. I wanted to learn everything about the world that I would be unraveling, so that I could be the best DM possible and better prepared for how the players might play. This required a lot of reading, not just of the D&D material but also of my own extra research. I was determined to be thorough, and I needed to be clear on all the details of the game, which sometimes used words I hadn’t previously known. D&D is probably the sole reason why I know what an alcove or an acolyte is. To this end, being a DM increased both my vocabulary and my interest in reading.

After running a few D&D games successfully, the inevitable followed: I created my first custom dungeon. I was able to start from scratch, designing everything – the maps, encounters, characters and storyline – from my own imagination. It was the ultimate plateau of nerdy weirdo satisfaction. Being the DM in a game of your own creation and running it with several players is like being a god in a socially awkward universe. Much of that gratification comes from the great amount of work it takes to get to that point. My first dungeon was small, consisting of about thirty pages of notes. Yes, that is small for a D&D game if you’re a thorough DM. It took days of brainstorming, weeks of reading and a month of writing to finish. Eventually, as my obsession with creating and writing grew, I designed an entire kingdom (in game terms, a campaign). My first dungeon became one of numerous locations within the kingdom of my campaign, all of which were tied together by an intricate story scribed by yours truly. I devoted so much time to writing that I flattened out the index finger of my right hand from holding a pen so often.

Constructing my campaign became a personal passion, pleasurable even in the absence of possible players. A good eighty percent of my campaign was seen only by my eyes. This DM would not be deterred. In fact, my obsession oozed into other parts – nay, every part – of my life. The concept of “making it my own” actually changed the way I enjoyed other hobbies. I was no longer satisfied with merely reading a book, listening to music, watching a movie or playing a video game. I wanted to write my own everything!

Over the years, I have done exactly that, acquiring an impressive array of literary achievements since my days as a DM. I have written hundreds of songs that have been recorded and distributed around the world. I am the author of two self-published books, one of short stories and the other of poetry. As a freelancer, I have penned a number of informative articles and editorials. The film screenplay and video game script I wrote just for fun. In addition to all of this is my own fictional world, eighteen years in the making and still a work in progress, currently around three hundred pages of material. To this day, I continue to write on both a personal and a professional level. An obsession with creating and “making it my own” remains with me, driving my passion as a multi-faceted writer, and I owe it all to being a DM in D&D.

Amalgamon – monster character description

Posted in character/story dev with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by Joseph VanBuren

All I was given was this picture… here is the creature description I created for it.Image

Born of an arcane accident, Amalgamon fights with the fury of a Hell it is forced to dwell in. When a necromancer attempted to resurrect a demon’s corpse, something in the ritual went amiss, and the soul of the deceased demon instead entered the necromancer’s body. After a gruesome and painful transformation, the result was Amalgamon: a two-headed monstrosity resembling a Hellish demon with a skeletal Siamese twin.

Due to the curse of being attached to a demonic soul, Amalgamon was dragged to Hell and can never leave. It now serves as a gatekeeper of the underworld. Posted as a sentry between territories, Amalgamon uses its pent up rage to fend off those uninvited guests that would try to get through the gates. It is a creature of little words and even less patience.

Amalgamon’s fighting style is furious and unpredictable. It relies heavily on its ability to fly to dodge oncoming attacks. Amalgamon is quick and tough but lacks a sense of strategy. This is partially due to the duality of existence it faces in being controlled by two different souls, which at times drives Amalgamon towards two different courses of action. In fact, the two heads of Amalgamon can sometimes be found arguing between each other, which is when it is most vulnerable to attack. In most cases, however, the souls work together towards the common goal of defending the gates of Hell.

Normal Attacks
Light damage: Claws
Medium damage: Double Bite
Heavy damage: Wing Slap – this attack sends out a surge of wind as well, which has a chance to stun the victim, causing that player to lose his/her next turn.

Special Abilities
Wing Shield – Enclosing itself within its massive wings, Amalgamon can protect itself from normal attacks and lessen the damage from special attacks.
Fury of Claws – Using all six of its claws, Amalgamon becomes enraged and unleashes a quick succession of claw attacks.
Possession – An ethereal form of Amalgamon’s skeletal head is projected forward, and the ghostly entity enters the opponent’s body momentarily. This attack does no damage, but steals Resources from the player targeted and gives them to the player controlling Amalgamon.

character outline for Dark Domain a.k.a. Nocternal

Posted in character/story dev with tags on May 28, 2012 by Joseph VanBuren

Adriana Van Helsing

Survivalist of the rEvolution Underground

Location: Sanctuary

Age: 24

Sex: F

Nationality/race: mostly Dutch/Germanic mixed with other European blood

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 150 lbs.

Eyes: green

Hair: red-brown, medium-length

Physical appearance: Broad and a bit muscular, not exactly feminine but still fairly attractive, even with the scar under her right eye. She dresses in camouflage fatigues, partially covered by pieces of makeshift body armor. With her attire, she looks kind of like a cross between a military soldier and a medieval warrior.

Personality/behavior/habits: Strong of mind as well as body, Adriana often takes the lead in situations. She is blunt and abrupt, sometimes giving people the wrong impression – she just calls it as she sees it, maybe with a hint of attitude depending on who she’s talking to. She is a follower of the rEvolution Underground. She also believes, or wants others to believe, that she is a descendent of Abraham Van Helsing (insisting the story of Dracula is a historical account rather than a work of fiction) and has claimed the last name as her own. And though not always open about it, Adriana is a lesbian and quick to angrily reject any man that even remotely flirts with her.

Talents/skills: Adriana is trained in many different weapons; proficient with swords and knives, and a good shot with her submachine guns, which she prefers for their small size and light weight, as she‘s often on the move. She is a survivalist – she adapts well to most situations and can make quick, tough decisions.

Weaknesses/fears: At times, Adriana’s impatience and brashness blind her from seeing the bigger picture. Her self-righteous attitude borders on egotism, often making social interacts awkward for her.

Motivation/goals: Adriana is driven by her desire to destroy evil and her urge to show the world that women can kick ass just as much as men.

Background: Being raised solely by her neurotically protective father, young Adriana wished to run away from home. She took an interest in survivalist tactics and self defense at an early age and trained to use various weapons, against her fathers wishes. When the undead appeared in NYC, Adriana’s father refused to follow her to her friend’s bomb shelter, so she left him behind. After the nuclear bomb hit and things settled down on the surface, she set out with minimal supplies, in search of other survivors. Once she came across Sanctuary, she had found her new home. Many residents at Sanctuary now look at her as a leader, though they aren’t always willing to join her on her ventures out into the world to search for supplies and more people.

excerpt from The Black Circle

Posted in horror, screenplay/script on May 6, 2012 by Joseph VanBuren

INT. DETECTIVE OFFICE – DAY

Visibly exhausted, Melissa slumps into her chair, sighing. She looks around at the piles of paper and folders on her desk and all around her. She opens the top drawer of her desk and reaches into it. As her hand passes over a bottle of liquor in the drawer, we get a clear view of a small scar on the top of her hand; it seems to be shaped into some kind of strange symbol. Ignoring the liquor, Melissa removes a photograph from the drawer and looks at it.

MELISSA’S POV: The photo, old and wrinkled, is of a middle-aged woman standing on the porch of an old house.

DISSOLVE INTO:

EXT. OLD HOUSE – NIGHT

The middle-aged woman steps off the porch, with a YOUNG MELISSA (six-years-old) following her part of the way.

YOUNG MELISSA

Don’t go to them, mommy!

From young Melissa’s POV we see the woman (her MOTHER) looking out into the complete darkness that surrounds the house. She seems to be waiting for someone. A sudden wind blows, making Mom’s hair and dress dance. She turns around towards young Melissa.

MELISSA’S MOTHER

(euphoric)

They’re here!

In the darkness behind Melissa’s mother, a shadowy figure forms. The figure’s arms reach out and grab Mom by the shoulders. Then the silhouette of a head lurches forward, lingering over one of Mom’s shoulders, but the only visible details of a face are luminous red eyes and a set of fangs. The fangs sink into Mom’s neck, sending a squirt of blood in Young Melissa’s direction. Mom initially seems shocked more than in pain, betrayal in her eyes. Then the fangs rip out a bloody chunk of her neck, causing her to release a shrill scream of agony.

YOUNG MELISSA

(crying out)

Mommy, no!!!

Young Melissa stands still for a moment, paralyzed by the horror of the scene before her. Then the darkness actually starts rolling towards her in slow, menacing waves. Young Melissa blindly darts down the road, running for her life. She keeps running, the shadow wisps trailing her, until she sees the headlights of a car on the road coming towards her. She frantically waves her arms in the air. The vehicle stops, and now we can see that it is a police car. A police officer gets out and rushes towards young Melissa. The officer bends down and Melissa embraces him. We see that the officer’s name tag reads “Stone.”

CLOSE UP: Officer Stone’s face.

DISSOLVE INTO:

INT. DETECTIVE OFFICE – DAY

CLOSE UP: Chief Stone’s face

ZOOM OUT from CHIEF STONE’s face as he enters Melissa’s office. (It’s apparent that this is the same police officer from the flashback, only older now.)

CHIEF STONE

What are doing here so early?

His voice startles Melissa, snapping her out of her memories. She hurriedly places the photo back in her desk drawer and closes it.

MELISSA

Jesus, Chief! You should try knocking.

CHIEF STONE

You should try filing reports.

MELISSA

Sorry. I got behind yesterday. I’ll definitely have something for you after tonight.

CHIEF STONE

I hope so, ‘cuz the feds are ready to shut you down.

MELISSA

That’s because they know what I’m hunting, and they know I’m close. It’s a catch-22, chief. I have to be careful what I present to them. They just want me to open the doors so they can come storming in. But this is my case.

CHIEF STONE

(sincerely)

Well, even though I don’t always approve of your methods, I know how much this means to you. I’ll support you on this as long as I can.

MELISSA

Thanks chief. It means a lot to me.

CHIEF STONE

But you need to produce some results soon!

MELISSA

I know. Trust me, nobody wants to get to the bottom of this more than I do.

A brief moment of silent contemplation for Melissa. Determination burns in her eyes.

FADE OUT.

Lucifer and Jesus Meet in a Coffee Shop

Posted in humor, other with tags , , on July 7, 2011 by Joseph VanBuren

Lucifer: “Coffee’s good here.”

Jesus: “Yeah, man. I’m working on my fifth latte.”

Lucifer: “I prefer to drink mine black. The darker the better.”

Jesus: “I have a lot of work to do. I need this jump start for the day.”

Lucifer: “What do you do?”

Jesus: “I do a lot of work with the community. I’m a social worker – grief counseling, behavioral therapy, things like that.”

Lucifer: “Sounds like a lot to handle.”

Jesus: “Yeah, but it’s totally worth it, man, to help all those people in need. So, what line of work are you in?”

Lucifer: “Business management and marketing. I’m the CEO of a major conglomerate. We manufacture and sell all kinds of goods, from music and video games to pharmaceuticals.”

Jesus: “Wow, sounds like you got your hands in everything.”

Lucifer: “Pretty much.”

Jesus: “Hey, are you going to that thing on December 21, 2012? I was thinking of going, but that’s kind of my busy season, so I’m not sure if I’ll have the time.”

Lucifer: “I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be attending that event or not. I’ll have to see what my projections look like at that point.”

Jesus: “Well, maybe I’ll see you there. If not, I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”

Lucifer: “Bound to happen, small world and all. For the moment, I must excuse myself. Duty calls.”

Jesus: “Same here. I have a long day ahead of me. It’s gonna take a miracle to get through. Catch you later, man.”

Hmmm…

Posted in other, poetry with tags , , on June 15, 2011 by Joseph VanBuren

This is just crazy –

Simply fucking nuts,

That I have to find the words,

The proper consecutive letters of the alphabet,

The one that I know,

To make a feeble attempt

To express the intense feeling

That rushes through my very being.

It is absurd

To think that I need to try

To actually describe what I feel,

What I perceive –

It is ridiculous.

My fingers tap the keys

And my brain shoots electric impulses

That I experience as memories and emotions,

Things that we could never understand,

Not even when they are our own.

Ouch!

Shit, it hurts.

To begin to explain how I feel,

Forced to adhere

To rules of the English language

To express abstract sensations.

This is an impossible feat.

It cannot be done.

But in some strange way,

By putting this nothing into writing,

I have given a glimpse

Into the sheer unfathomable folly

That is being me.

This is either profound or pointless,

But goddamn,

I just wrote it,

And you just read it.

Thank you.

You just helped me get rid of something

I can’t even identify.

It is all over, for now.

What a relief –

For both of us, I’m sure.

Thanks again,

And you’re welcome.

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