My Return to Weekly D&D

In May 2017, I began running a D&D campaign for my two sons and our friends. I use D&D here generically. The rulebook we use is Basic Fantasy, which is D20 refactored to behave similarly to Basic D&D. This successful campaign came after a few false starts with Microlite20, Pathfinder and Dungeon World. These initial failures were some combination of the kids being too young and the rules being too complicated. In retrospect, we probably would have been fine with Microlite if we’d waited a couple of years, but I took a left turn into trying popular games before sorting out what I really wanted out of the game.

My initial aim was to provide for my sons the experience of gaming I had as a child and a young adult. Remembering my own playing fondly, lead me to reading retrospectives which would turn my thinking towards a return to playing. My group of friends had stopped playing after giving D&D 3E a good shot and after we all had babies to take care of. Boardgames were an easier format for constantly shifting players. General dissatisfaction with the 3E game also meant any talk of returning to D&D triggered hard lobbying for 2E from our most fervent RPD advocate, Jeff.

The conversation about the 1E DMG’s Appendix N I’d stumbled into enabled my successful run by focussing attention on the inspiration behind the original role-playing games. I began identifying why the older games were more fun than the newer games we’d tried. And given my primary goal of exposing my two sons to the tabletop RPG experience, I discovered the lever I could use to pry Jeff away from 2E. The pitch: a game for the kids with rules simple enough for 8 year olds and with dads at the table for coaching.

The regular game has evolved over the past two years to bring the adults in as equal players. We continue to learn and adapt to best serve each player’s needs, which makes the games better over time. I can now consider D&D a primary hobby rather than something I had fun with as a kid. And when I observe my sons engaging with the game away from the table, planning their own adventures, I feel deep satisfaction.


London Town Movie Review

The whole family caught this fine film via Netflix last night, finding it quite entertaining. Just like the year 1979 in which it takes place, the story is more earnest, innocent and romantic than most fiction you’ll encounter these days. Esthetically, the film produces warm feelings with it’s remembrances of vivid color and Clash songs you can sing along to. The plot moves along without lingering on useless atmosphere. The protagonist is a likeable kid who faces challenges, conquers them and grows as a result.

You’ll find nonsense criticism of this movie that complains about it being unrealistic, which misses the point as much as complaining that Van Gogh’s paintings are blurry. It’s romantic. It features Joe Strummer the mythical hero. It presents a vision of things how they ought to be. It has something profound to say about being 15, about transforming into an adult.

Creative Pursuits Martinez News

The Martini Available in Hardcover

I published a hardcover book containing the play I wrote this year, The Martini. The blurb on the back is as follows.

Martinez Cocktail — Martinez Special — Martini: the libation universally celebrated as the quintessential cocktail enjoys no documented nativity. Despite aspirations of adoptive metropolises, the sensible historian recognizes a likely heritage that begins in Martinez, California. Yet, like the last swallow of gin, vermouth and olive brine swirling at the bottom of a glass, the veil of time obscures important details of this sought-after story. Now, inside this book, you will find clarity in a delightful martini tale, told twice. Illustrated prose encourages gathering close and reading aloud, while a second form provides a play in one act to be performed and enjoyed by a gathering of friends.

You will find The Martini for sale on for $19.79. On, The Martini sells for $21.99, with free shipping if you already subscribe to Prime.

You might purchase this book because your gift-giving skills rival those of the jolly old elf himself.


Captain Walker, Unsung Hero of Martinez

This man has abandoned civilization, married a squaw or squaws, and prefers to pass his life wandering in these deserts; carrying on, perhaps, an almost nominal business of hunting, trapping and trading but quite sufficient to the wants of a chief of savages. He is a man of much natural ability, and apparently of prowess and ready resource. –Captain Philip St. George Cooke

I think the kids today would call Captain Walker based, very based in fact. This quote from Cooke describing Walker is more a confession of confusion than criticism. In modern vernacular, I imagine him saying, “I don’t get how this guy refuses to follow the rules yet constantly kicks ass.”

If you visit our Pioneer Cemetery, you will find the grave of Captain Joseph R. Walker. This hero of Martinez hardly gets the attention he deserves. Here’s some inspiration to take away.

  • He founded and named Independence, Missouri when he was only 21.
  • In his 60s, he was still exploring and performing secret missions for the U.S. Army.
  • In 1833, his group were the first white people to visit Yosemite.
  • He warned the Donner Party not to cross so late in the year and they called him an ignorant pike.
  • His policy with hostile Indians: negotiate or be punished. It must have worked well. In all of his adventures, he only lost one man.
  • He never let Fremont forget his cowardice at Hawkes Peak: “Frémont, morally and physically, was the most complete coward I ever knew. I would call him a woman, if it were not casting an unmerited reproach on the sex.”
  • After the dishonorable execution of Apache chief Mangas, Walker ceased helping the U.S. Army work with Indians, despite a track record of peaceful negotiations and trade.

You might enjoy my upcoming play, The Martini, because Captain Walker appears in the first scene.


The Martini — A One-Act Play About the Origins of the Famous Cocktail

You’ve probably heard about how the martini was first mixed in Martinez, but perhaps you’ve experienced doubt because of fake news coming out of San Francisco or New York. If you value the truth, you can experience the real story soon by attending a performance of The Martini presented by Onstage Theatre at the Martinez Campbell Theater in June.

The play outlines key moments in the history of the martini, from its discovery in 1849 to how Professor Jerry Thomas came to document it in his book to how the legend grew to include Richelieu’s Saloon. Along the way, the performance treats the viewer to the rich personalities of Martinez history. You will meet Colonel Smith and Captain Walker, both brave California warriors. You will witness famed mixologist Professor Thomas learn the recipe of the martini on Lincoln’s Day of Thanksgiving. You will wonder at the suave stylings of Monsieur Richelieu as the events described on the famous plaque are replayed for your enjoyment.

Regarding the veracity of the work, playwright Leon Atkinson poses a philosophical question about the nature of truth that descends into incomprehensibility, using words like epistemology. While definitive documentation of the martini history may be beyond reach, there is little doubt that in these situations people turn to inspiration. Both the martini and Martinez enjoy significant reverence from their devotees.

Anyone who imbibing the famed cocktail likely acknowledges the unwritten ingredient called The Spirit of Martinez, a force propelling Martinez residents towards fraternity, benevolence and good cheer. Local personality Joseph Tully has been known to reply “no effect” when asked about the strength of a prepared martini. The consensus opinion concludes that the strength of The Spirit of Martinez overwhelms the relatively weak effects of alcohol.

Are the people of Martinez mistaken, or are they tapped into a source of knowledge others cannot perceive? It’s a topic that deserves further research. Your two best opportunities for learning more are enjoying a martini in a fine Martinez establishment (such as The Lane) and attending a performance of The Martini. This second, limited opportunity can be exploited only from June 2nd through June 10th.

Performances of The Martini are part of a three-part festival of one-act plays. All performances are at 636 Ward Street in Martinez. Specific times are as follows.

  • Friday, June 2 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 3 at 8PM
  • Sunday, June 4 at 2:30PM
  • Thursday, June 8 at 8PM
  • Friday, June 9 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 10 at 8PM

Playwright Leon Atkinson is expected to attend opening night June 2nd as well as the final performance June 10th.

You are encouraged to phone 925-518-3277 to make a reservation. Payment for tickets is made at the door.