Speculations About Doctor Who’s Latest Mystery Woman

The internet has been buzzing with speculation as to the identity of Missy, a mysterious new character introduced in the seventh series premiere, “Deep Breath.” The usual assumptions to her identity are flying, she’s the Rani or Romana in a new form, she’s a previous companion (with Amy or River Song being the top choices), she’s a future Doctor. But one character keeps popping up with growing frequency and credibility. Before you read on, be warned that the ideas here are laden with spoilers from the current series and the classic show.

Many fans now believe that the name “Missy” is short for Mistress, the female variant of Master. If you’re unfamiliar with that character, the Master is both the Doctor’s oldest nemesis and his childhood friend. The Third Doctor once referred to him as “my best enemy.”

When we last saw the Master he was coming to terms with the horrible revelation of the cause of his descent into madness and confronting the Time Lords on Gallifrey. If the Master is now Missy this implies several story developments.

First, the Master somehow has escaped from Gallifrey, which is currently trapped outside of normal time. Either that or he (she) has the ability to draw people to Gallifrey, as Missy is seen welcoming newly-deceased characters to a supposed afterlife. If the Master/Missy can initiate travel to or from Gallifrey then we may be in line to see it restored to the universe by the end of this series.

Second, that the Master has probably not mended his ways since he had a near-heroic moment during the finale of “The End of Time, Part 2″. Missy’s overly soothing manner and severe manner of dress paint her as a probable villain. Showrunner Steven Moffatt used Madame Kovarian, the main antagonist of Series 6 in a similar manner.

Finally, if Missy truly is the Master, then the powers behind the show are opening the door for a future incarnation of the Doctor to be played by a woman. Neil Gaiman introduced the idea of a gender-changing Time Lord in “The Doctor’s Wife,” but the Master/Missy would be our first on-screen view of an established character taking on another gender after regeneration.

Who is Missy, truly? If Steven Moffatt continues the style of previous seasons we’ll have to wait until the premier of the finale, Death in Heaven, on November 8. Until then we have eight more episodes worth of clues and teasers to discover and analyze. Happy hunting!

An Autobiography

My Turn by Jacob DC Ross

Note: This essay originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Spectrums Magazine.

My own journey as someone living with autism has two starting points. Of course I’ve lived with the condition for my entire life, but like many, my diagnosis came when I was well into adulthood. I was alone on the day the that I received my diagnosis, my wife was on a weekend beach retreat with her family. I was seeking treatment for a recent diagnosis of bi-polar disorder and left the counselor’s office in a daze.

While I’d always known that I thought differently than most other folks, I attributed this to my above-average intelligence level. I had always presumed that I was much like everyone else, only more introverted. Yet here was a label, incontrovertible proof that I was an outsider.

Autism was nothing new to me. While I had always accepted others for who they were and defended them, I knew that so many in society looked down on people with autism, and this affected me. In the space of an hour I went from the man I had always thought myself to be to a diminished person. It’s strange, but that night I felt as if society had checked a box next to my name in some great census that read “sub-human.”

In his book Aspergers from the Inside Out, Michael John Carley writes that when he received his diagnosis that he “took a walk”, mentally reviewing his past in a new context. I saw in the next few days how my life was different than that of neurotypical people. Moments where I didn’t “get it” seemed clear to me now. It was as if everyone else was constantly in on jokes whose punchlines I couldn’t understand.

The state of confusion and self-pity was not long-lived. With the help of faith, friends, family and Carley’s book, I began to accept myself as a person again. Nobody I knew judged me. It was amazing to see that it brought me closer to my parents and others, as if they too had “taken a walk” and now everything that we had done together now made sense. A few of them even said that they had always known that I was autistic and assumed that I had also known!

I’m grateful to my friends and family. It’s through a strong support group that I’ve been able to function as an adult. Without reminders and help I would simply forget to pay my rent on time, do my laundry or simply not get some of the basic things that my friends pick up on with little effort. My advice is to never let pride or shame keep you from seeking the help you need; you’ll be surprised at how much your people really love you if you let them.

I’ve mentioned a wife, Amy. She’s the wonderful girl who for whatever reason decided that I was marriage material. My biggest concern from my diagnosis was for her. I worried that I was emotionally incapable of being a good husband. In my mind I seemed at best like the character emotionally-repressed character Spock, and at worst like the uncaring sociopaths in crime novels. In the past I’d neglected and hurt my wife through a lack of empathy and with the diagnosis I believed that I was not able to love her.

Amy’s been an amazing support. She literally and figuratively held my hand through everything. She’s supportive, forgiving and loving like nobody else in my life. A few months after my diagnosis Amy was pregnant. The surge of happiness and elation reminded me that I was not a joyless robot. The miscarriage a month later was the lowest point in my life.

It’s strange, but it was then when I realized finally that autism doesn’t make me any less human. The deep sense of loss, for my baby, my wife and myself spoke as much of love as it did of grief. Seeing my poor wife’s sorrow and knowing that I couldn’t take it away and reflecting for hours on end of the pain that she must have been feeling told me that I had the capacity for empathy.

I’m a dad now; my little one came a year and three days after we lost our first. I know now, after the hardest journey that I’ve ever taken, that I have the capacity for love and empathy. My heart is just as human as that of anyone else.. I could write volumes, but I’ll just leave you now with what I’ve learned. You must rely on your loved ones, let them accept you and open your heart to them as wide as you can. A full, rich life is within reach if you trust yourself to live it.

Non-Player Cards Kickstarter

Andreas Walters and Andrew Montgomery-Hurrell have launched a Kickstarter campaign for a product called Non-Player Cards. Andreas is someone who has  been an indispensable help in my own publishing ventures. He’s a class act and 100% professional. He was also gracious enough to grant an interview for his new project.

LTB: Who is Andreas Walters? So are you doing this project all by yourself?

ASW: Always a good start I am Andreas Walters (ASW) and I am the founder of Non-Player Cards, but I can’t take all of the credit. Also with me is my co-creator Andrew Montgomery-Hurrell who will also answer some of the questions you have for me.

 Who am I? well I am nothing more than a mere gamer and tabletop enthusiast who started publishing his own supplements when Monte Cook Games released their Numenera Limited License for small 3rd party publishers. As so far, I have had two successful commercial publications, with a few more to come ;)

Editor’s Note: The two publications in question are Ninth World Assassins and The Mechanical Bard.

AMH: Turns out, he isn’t alone! I’m Andrew Montgomery-Hurrell, the co-creator of Non-Player Cards. Andreas and I have worked together before on a number of projects, mostly with me acting in a writing and editing capacity and I’m excited to be working with him again on this. I’ve been lurking behind the curtain, busy knocking together our website and doing work as the lead writer on the project to put together all the textual content for our cards. The most fun part so far has been writing some interesting code for helping build our Names cards.

LTB: Can you describe Non-Player Cards for us? What makes this product distinct from other NPC generators?

ASW: Well, NPC deck is a deck of 300 cards broken out into 8 categories.

  1. Names

  2. Professions

  3. Relationships

  4. Personalities

  5. Traits

  6. Quirks

  7. Secrets

  8. Goals

Each card is a unique aspect regarding that category featuring a unique piece of art in addition to having a short description. These are both intended to give the reader some inspiration on how to use that facet.

Well, when you look at an NPC generator, what you’ll find is that they tend to be very setting specific, stat-block generators, or just pictures (which tend to be of recycled art). We are doing what all of them are not doing. Which is to give the reader inspirations to build from.

AMH: For me, a lot of the appeal is the tactile feedback you get from holding the cards in your hands. I’ve written a bunch of web-based generators for Numenera, and while those are useful and helpful, when you are writing or running a roleplaying game and need to find some inspiration, having something you can feel and hold in your hands, without the hassle of lugging around a computer or tablet or waiting for an app or page to load, is really useful and physically satisfying to use.

LTB: Do you plan on releasing NPC expansions for specific games or intellectual properties?

AMH: Definitely, if we can get the licenses. In the early stages of this project, we had the Numenera franchise by Monte Cook Games (MCG) in mind when designing it. Since then we’ve changed tact towards a more generic, generally useful deck for the base pack, but I know I’d love to be able to embrace the Numenera setting fully with a complete set of booster packs if MCG was interested.

ASW: Correct, as Andrew said, we would love to embrace and do setting specific booster, Imagine it, having professions, secrets and goals (and more) all tied to your specific setting? That would be awesome, and we probably won’t have any negotiation leverage until we get closer to our funding goal, but its definitely on our radar.

LTB: Are you going to create companion products that generate scenes, stories, locations and the like?

ASW: Its definitely within the realm of possibility for us to do that, we’re gonna get this project done first before taking on the rest of campaign development, but I can’t say we haven’t discussed it ;)

AMH: I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas bubbling away in the back my brain, but it’s a bit early days to confirm anything yet. I’d highly recommend checking out the BackStoryCards Kickstarter – it’s a product that helps create inter-character connections and back-stories, which overlaps a little with the NPC Deck but also compliments it quite nicely.

LTB: What has been the most rewarding part of your experience producing these cards?

ASW: Seeing them come to life, finally being able to hold and feel them. Its weird to know that these products are coming alive. I’ve planned out a few Kickstarter projects, and this is the first one where I have had the support and resources actually go out and do it.

AMH: Being a whole continent away, I’ve not yet had the pleasure of holding some physical cards in my hands, but so far just seeing what was just a seed on an idea in my head coming into full bloom has been really exciting. At least as much though is the gorgeous artwork by our artist, Eren Arik. It’s absolutely beautiful and I can’t help but smile every time I browse through the artwork we’ve got so far.

LTB: What’s the $150,000 Stretch Goal? Pretty please?

ASW: Well, isnt that the $150,000 question :) If we can get that far in the KS I’ll have my socks blown off (literally), but what we’re planning will be fun and, ‘its a secret’  ;)

AMH: Oh man, I will be absolutely over the moon if we achieve that. But for now, it’s a secret – maybe we’ll make a special Secrets card to announce it if we reach that goal ;)

LTB: In one sentence, what do you want each person who uses NPC to get out of them?

ASW: I could say it in one word “inspiration”

We want those who use our products to be inspired,  no matter what system, setting or game.

AMH: I think Andreas has hit it on the nose. Inspiration is the heart and soul of this project. It’s not just a product for other people, this is something I’ve always wanted to be able to use myself, something where I can inject my brain with a hard dose of inspiration, right when I need it, without needing to distract myself with complicated tools or technology.

Races of Karexus, Volume I is Out Now!

I’m very excited to announce that my indie publishing operation, Thunderegg Productions, has released its first product, Races of Karexus, Volume I!

Races of Karexus, Volume I is the first in a brand new line of supplements for the bestselling Numenera RPG. Set on a colony of the Ninth Age, Karexus and its inhabitants bring more of the mystery, excitement and weird that you love in your Numenera games.

Inside you will find:

2 New Descriptors, Mercurial and Selfless

2 New Foci, Swarms Forth and Takes Root

2 New Species and new complementary rules for playing non-human PCs

2 New Organizations, the Naturalist Society and the Delned Artists’ Circle

2 New Location-based Descriptors

9 New Cyphers

A beautiful map and write-up of the Northern Wilds, an untamed land on Karexus

New Creatures, including a kin of the fearsome Titanothaurs

Several NPCs

New Weirdness in the form of Cypher packs

This book is designed to be either played with its new setting or dropped into the Ninth World. It is written in broad strokes so that it can easily be ported even into an ongoing campaign. This pdf is set up for screen reading; no need to scroll back up to read a second column of text!

Give it a look, let us know what you think! This book is a labor of love and I look forward to all feedback.

A World of Dew Interview With Ben Woerner

Despite his busy schedule, Ben Woerner, author of A World of Dew, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his project. The Kickstarter is available here.

1. Can you explain a bit of the background of World of Dew? What is exciting and unique about it when compared to other RPGs?

A World of Dew is a Samurai Noir RPG, it’s a sequel to John Wick’s Blood & Honor. Play characters from your favorite Chambara films in a story-driven city. That’s the elevator pitch for the game. What makes it different from all the Japanese RPGs is that unlike them it focuses on everyone else in Japan that are not the samurai. Geisha, Yakuza, Ronin, and even Gaijin are all playable characters in A World of Dew. It also focuses on telling the stories like you see in Chambara films, so Violence is quick, brutal, and deadly, not a long hour long affair for a fight that would take two minutes of screen time.
2. The Kickstarter page mentions the Tokugawa era of Japanese history. Will you include background on other eras like the Heian or Sengoku Jidai?
The game is written to delve into the Tokugawa time period. John Wick’s Blood & Honor was written to cover the Sengoku Jidai. Your clan is the most important in that game and Warfare is also an element in that game, which are two things gone from A World of Dew. Cities replace Clans and now there’s more intrigue and down in the gutter stories versus the sweeping epics of the Sengoku era. I find the Heian period interesting as well, but it’s even less well known than the other two popular eras and I really wanted to write a game about all the other interesting characters you see in Chambara films which don’t cover the Heian very much. Perhaps one day I will get a chance to write a game for that time. :)
Editor’s Note: The previous game, Blood and Honor, is being included as a reward to everyone who backs this project.
3. In addition to history, are there any literary or other inspirations for World of Dew?
There are! I’ve already mentioned Chambara films. Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, and movies like 47 Ronin, and Memoirs of a Geisha were all inspirations, but not literary inspirations. Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro novels — classic police detective noir stories set in Tokugawa Edo were a huge inspiration for me. Also James Clavell’s Shogun novel was another. The Sano Ichiro novels are why the Police Investigator Giri is in the game and Shogun’s story of the English Sailor Anjin-San (which is based off a true story) is why I made Gaijin playable characters. 

Besides books, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo comics as an early inspiration for me, and the Lone Wolf and Cub manga. Other media that have inspired me are all the Japanese RPGs I’ve played over the years, especially Legend of the Five Rings, anime like Rurouni Kenshin, and last but not least, the video games Shogun and Shogun 2: Total War released by Creative Assembly. 

4. Working on this project, what has been your absolute favorite element of the game?
All of them? I know, it’s a cop out, but I really like all the different pieces of this game. They’re so much fun to fiddle with. I think make the City is something I’m proud of as a large working organic game element that does what I want it to do. I’m proud of all the Giri because each one is unique and are probably the most creative parts of the game for me. I love the two large new elements of the game besides the City: Flawed Virtues and Ninjo. They were vague concepts I wanted to put into the game, but I wasn’t sure how. I wanted a way to represent the blindness of Zatoichi, and a way to represent the ever present conflict of Desire in some of my favorite characters. Both of these elements were very hard for me to formalize and I’m proud of them because they represent, to me, some of the hardest mechanics that I had to create.

5. Since the Kickstarter is already a success, can you fill us in on your plans for future releases beyond what’s been shown?
The main book and the rewards will be going out to backers as soon as possible, hopefully before GenCon this year. After that I’m aiming for the expansion book, The Sound of Water, to be finished and mailed out to backers before Christmas. 

As for other projects, I have a few. The ones I’ve been talking about are a hack of Apocalypse World using a Cyberpunk setting. I’ve got a very unique idea regarding cybernetics and I’m a HUGE cyberpunk fan. Everything from Ghost in the Shell anime to William Gibson’s novels. I’ve also got a huge project that’s a major IP, but I don’t have the rights to it yet, and don’t want to talk about it until I do. Even then I’ll probably be under an NDA. Finally, I have two other proto-projects that I have in my head and a few notes jotted down, but aren’t being designed yet. One is a cowboy hack of A World of Dew. Chambara films and Cowboy Westerns share a ton of similarities. The other is a project regarding demigods. I’ve also got a few freelance projects I’m working on. I’m writing a setting for John Wick and Gillian Fraiser’s game Wield, it’s a Japanese setting, big surprise. :)

6. As an RPG designer whose Kickstarter has already pulled in over seven times its goal, what advice can you give to up-and-comers hoping to use crowd funding for their project?

Look at all the big successful Kickstarters for role-playing games. They all have several things in common:

1. The body text is LONG and full of multiple sections to describe everything in the game. You need a GOOD elevator pitch for your game. That should be at the top and in your video. 
2. They use a lot of graphics. First each section usually has custom headers, and then in game art is spread throughout break up the text. I tried to get one piece of art per every visible “page” of text.
3. Their tiers are very important. The first tier should be the most basic and offer the core PDF of the product. Then each tier after that should be one more thing you’d really want and justify the cost increase. Don’t be afraid to go for higher tiers either. The most successful KS’s seemed to have plenty of tiers of higher rewards that really helped raise the total funding pledges. Of course, those tiers HAVE to be worth it. If you had the money and wouldn’t want the tier than no one else will. Make those tiers worthwhile to all your awesome potential backers. That being said, make the tiers fit your project. You don’t want $400 tiers for a single small 30 page character folio. 
4. Your video is important, but not the most important. It needs to be polished (mine could use some more, or a voice actor besides me that wasn’t stupid nervous when he did the voice work), and informative.
5. Try to get most of your work done before you launch. Get your product for your rewards sourced, get your actual project done or as done as reasonably possible, and get all your info from anyone else involved with your project. I had most of everything I listed done, but was not rushing on headshots and bio for my Stretch Goal people. I had to scramble a bit to get those in time.
6. Finally, and most importantly, have a social media presence before you launch. Give previews on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Have a page for your game company, and also mention it on your personal page somewhat. If you have friends that are gamers try to get as many of them as possible to play the game in Beta so that when your game comes out they can give honest assessments of the game to share with other people when asked. Then when you launch your campaign you can use your presence to share your game information and that can echo throughout the various platforms via friends, family, and professional contacts. They may not be personally interested, and that’s cool, but they might know someone who is and then your message is continually carried forward. Then hit all the appropriate game related forums with polite announcements. Don’t be rude it, but be informative as possible. It also helps a LOT if you are already a regular member of said forums. People trust you more if you’re a member of the community, and you should be. If you aren’t join them today and get involved. :)

A World of Dew

So there is yet another Kickstarter that is absorbing my attention.  A World of Dew from Ben Woerner is a continuation of legendary RPG writer John Wick’s Blood & Honor. It expands Blood & Honor’s focus from clan samurai to include all members of Japanese society.

One really cool feature is that if you pledge even 10 bucks then you get not only the A World of Dew PDF, but also Blood and Honor in PDF form, as well as the now-unlocked companion book, The Sound of Water. It’s a great bargain, getting all three ebooks for just 10 dollars. Additionally, 25 bucks gets you the World of Dew physical book, plus all the PDFs, and you can also buy Blood and Honor and The Sound of Water as physical books.
The Kickstarter is here. Give it a look. You’ll be glad that you did.

My New Venture

So, I am a freelance writer. I do a lot of work writing for various RPG lines. My most notable work is called Rescue Ops. It’s a supplement detailing firefighting and coast guard-type rescue operations in the setting of a sci-fi RPG called Traveller. You can check out Rescue Ops here.

I have recently started up a publishing outfit. It is called Thunderegg Productions. I chose the thunderegg as my symbol because it is the state stone of my home, Oregon, and because when you find a thunderegg there is a great moment of discovery as you turn it over or crack it open to see inside. I would love for a reader to get that same little thrill.

Thunderegg’s first book will be called Races of Karexus, Volume I. It is a supplement for the Numenera RPG by Monte Cook Games. Numenera is a neat RPG of the very far future. My book will detail a world that is a semi-forgotten colony far from Earth. I’ve spent countless hours writing this book, putting it together and getting the art. I’m very proud of it and expect it to be out in a couple weeks.

My second release is going to be called Neurodiversity in Roleplaying: Asperger Syndrome. The goal is twofold: I want to help inform players of RPGs about the Autism Spectrum while clearing up misconceptions, and I want to help Aspies and the parents of younger Aspies to gain a sense of empathy through roleplaying.

I’ll be updating this site with more news in the near future. In the meantime you can also check out Thunderegg Productions at www.facebook.com/ThundereggProductions.

Thoughts on the DSM-5

This article originally appeared on SpectrumsMagazine.com in 2013. I encourage every visitor to check the site, as it is very informative and full of inspirational stories.

The new DSM-5 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has done away with Asperger Syndrome as a separate diagnosis from autism. As an adult diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, I feel the old AS classification as a type of autism was like saying that breast cancer is a type of leukemia. To me, the new blanket diagnosis of autism seems a step in the wrong direction as far as diagnoses go. However, perhaps there is a positive side to what I hope will be a temporary situation.

The DSM-5 is the fifth edition of the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the United States, the DSM serves as a universal authority for the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. Treatment recommendations, as well as payment by health care providers, are often determined by DSM classifications, so the appearance of a new version has significant practical importance, according to Wikipedia.

In folding the Autism Spectrum into a more general diagnosis, many folks have felt a sense of losing their identity. While this may be true, people with both AS and other forms of autism can benefit from having a more closely linked image. Currently, Aspies are portrayed in the media as the “fun” type of autism, with characters like Sheldon Cooper of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory or Abed Nadir from NBC’s Community being played for laughs. While we Aspies may be aware of our situation and have the good humor to laugh along, the general public does not have an accurate image of what truly a person with AS feels and experiences. Additionally, these media portrayals do little to encourage neurotypical people to learn more about the condition that they find so amusing.

Aspies may be able to leverage the mainstream media portrayal to shed some compassionate light on how others with autism are viewed. Although having a greater degree of social functionality, we often feel alienated in a group, or from the people with whom we share our lives. While Aspies can laugh at ourselves, we are more than our diagnoses and the joke can get tiresome.

The other positive aspect of the new DSM classification is that we might use this time to better identify with people on the other parts of the spectrum. More than most others, Aspies have a voice with which they can make their experiences, needs and inner selves known to the world. Children and adults with more severe forms of autism are often locked inside their own bodies, incapable of self expression. While it is wonderful to have a group identity and a unique voice, we could all do well to remember that we can help speak for those unable to speak for themselves.

A Return to LTB With a Post From My Wife

In honor of April Autism Awareness my wonderful wife just posted a very moving thought on Facebook today. She expressed herself so articulately and beautifully that I feel her post should be the first on my return to Life Tinted Blue!

It’s so fun to see everyone in their blue! I never really knew much about autism until Jake was diagnosed as an adult(hopefully with growing awareness people won’t have to wait until they’re adults). Suddenly so many things made sense. The diagnosis didn’t change Jake (not that he needed to) it changed me. Sometimes our perception of “normal” can be off. What is “normal” anyway? Autism is a different way to think, feel and see the world. Accept people for who they are and what they offer. It can be a beautiful thing. Jake has taught me so much and continues to; I’m thankful to have him.

Amy, I really love you.

How Do I Feel?

How Do I Feel?

 

A big part of my goal here at Life Tinted Blue is to help foster understanding between neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals. I know that people like me must seem to be as mysterious to all you NT readers as you are to those of us on the spectrum. The best way that I can devise to help with this understanding is to simply tell you all how I feel.

 

And I don’t mean how I feel now. I’m referring to my emotional process, rather than my current state of mind. The most fascinating difference that I find with the neurodiverse is the great degree of difference between our thought processes and those of everyone else.

 

I’ve heard it said that the neurodiverse are capable of experiencing more than one emotional state at a time. Bittersweet moments, sad romantic films and the like can elicit a multi-emotional response. This is not something that I think I feel. I understand it in theory, but that understanding is like the man who has never before seen the color purple and to whom it is then said “combine red and blue in your mind.”

 

I feel in the same manner that I eat. When I have a plate in front of me, I work on one type of food at a time. I might alternate bites of broccoli and potatoes, but I don’t mix the two in one bite. If two or more of the things on my plate were meant to be eaten at once, I feel that they would have been cooked into the same dish. This is an imperfect analogy, because while my manner of eating dinner is based on preference, the way I experience emotion is rooted in biology.

 

An event might make me sad, fearful, happy or relieved, and it may cause more than one type of response. But I do not experience these emotions simultaneously. If I chew quickly I can sample two types of food on my plate in quick succession, and if I think about it with enough focus I can switch rapidly between two emotional states.

 

What I want you readers to take away from this is that when you are speaking with an autistic person, give them time to react to events and words in the way that they need to completely understand what it going on. It might take us a bit of time to get to where everyone else is, but we will likely come to a similar eventual conclusion. And if our reactions seem inappropriate please be patient with us. If you need to get ahead of us, feel free to do so; we may all end up discussing the broccoli and potatoes over dessert.