Hell of a Hat Challenge


Now, most of you know I’m a nerd.

I LARP. I write nerdy short fiction. I play video games. I post about nerdy things when I actually remember to post (which I will freely admit isn’t that often.) But I far from consider myself a spokesperson of all things nerd. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m developing my craft, so to speak.

Part of that is learning from others and I have a ton of people to learn from. I am good friends with many of the creative team from Eschaton Media (the creators of one of my favorite games ever). I studied Music, Theatre, and Creative Writing in college. I constantly do character research and genre research for characters I’m going to play. I turn to others who are more experienced than I and learn from the lessons that they have to teach.

One of the amazing people I have learned a lot from is Peter Woodworth. If you didn’t notice, his blog is one of the blogs in my blogroll. His insight is amazing to me. He is a writer, game designer, and teacher. And if you don’t think you know of his work, if you know of the Mind’s Eye Society or the World of Darkness, then you know of his work as he helped out with those. He’s pretty epic.

On his blog, he posts a series known as Bad Ass Larp Tricks. It is some of my favorite things to read from him and makes me do a lot of thinking about the way I portray my character. He has had me ask myself whether or not I am always trying to be in the spotlight or am I sharing? Do my choices make sense for my character? Why am I even playing in the first place?

His most recent post (Badass Larp Tricks #14: Nice Shoes, Wanna Larp?) is about the character choices we make for costuming and props. It touched upon a tradition of my game dealing with the pre-game character stuff photo. One that I’ve partaken in a few times but not hugely. And he asked us to think of the reasons for the pieces we have. In a world of the post-apocolypse, there are reasons for your pieces. The reason may very well be “I found it” but there is a reason why you picked that piece over all the ones you found. You didn’t just obtain it. There is something behind it.

He challenged people to pick no less than 3 and no more than 6 items and photograph them. Items that are hugely important to the character in some way. Why? What makes these items so important? I never really thought about which items specifically to put in the pictures. I always just threw everything in. But now, I sort of realize the importance of thinking and chosing exactly which items are in the pictures. The pictures are just as much a story of Jeanie as the pieces in them. The items chosen tell just as much as stories we portray in game.

So here, I introduce to you my character from Dystopia Rising.

My character is Jeanie Thomas, also known as Iron Slave A-825. She is a runaway slave from a place called the Iron Works. If I had to pick three items that were the most important to Jeanie, it would be these three items.


What you see here are three of her most prized possessions: Her research notebook, a Glowing Green Rad Rod, and her necklace. Each piece is hugely important to her and would probably send her flipping out if they went missing.

Her research notebook – This was obtained from a merchant shortly after she learned to read with some of the first credits she had ever earned. Jeanie is an intensely logical person, to the point where emotions and common social interactions are confusing to her. She is a scientist who is trying to understand the world and does so through research and experiments. She collects data. She writes down theories and tries to crunch numbers so that she can understand the world around her. Her notebook is where she records all that information. It’s what she knows about the world. It’s how she understands everything around her. It’s what she is trying to understand. It’s beat up and bloody and burnt. She works at a forge and does experiments, fires and injuries happen. But as long as she has a place to record her research and look back at it, she feels a sense of security because one day, she might finally answer all her questions.

Her Glowing Green Rad Rod – This was a gift from a close friend and teacher upon the biggest evolutionary step in her life. Jeanie is a priest of the church of Darwin. She looks for ways to evolve. Radiation is a catalyst in that evolution. Carrying her green rod with her is a reminder of her need to evolve further and a reminder of just how far she has come since her life as a slave.

Her necklace – There are a lot of pieces on this necklace. Some a lot less important than others, but all with meaning. The fairy pin, the craftsman key chain, and the charm bracelet are all gifts to her from others when she was going through a really tough time. Each piece was a way that the gifter wanted to remind Jeanie of her strengths. The mess of key chain rings are the scrap pieces she used in escaping the Iron Works. The spool of wire is a tool she utilizes in her engineering and science projects. If there was any piece that I could not feel like Jeanie unless I had the piece, it is this piece here.

These are not her only possessions. She has quite a bit more. But these are the ones that most show her as she is. They are the ones with the most meaning. They are the ones that she treasures the most.




This is a short story based upon the world of Dystopia Rising.



That’s one of the first things he always felt. Not pain from the wounds that killed him. No. This was different. This was an agonizing pain. Like being burnt alive. Wanting to scream out and not having the ability to do so. Wanting to run. Flail. Anything to make the burning just end, only not being able to move.

Having absolutely no control.


It was probably the most terrifying part of his trips through the gravemind. The submission. It’s what the gravemind wanted from him. What they fought over.

Walker was very proud. He knew who he was and he wasn’t going to let no hill-billy freedom haters make him anything less. He was an in-dye-vidual and that was just fine. But it isn’t what the gravemind wanted.

And so they fought.

Walker squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath. Ignore the pain. Don’t let the gravemind win. Think of the good things. Think of Merica. Think of Sweet Bella Brook. Think of the great taste of Miller-Weiser. Think of…


He could feel the gravemind putting weight and pressure upon his body. It hurt. It ached. It wanted him to give in. But no. No he wouldn’t. He was born free and he would die free. He would not give in.  Think. Think!

Bella Brook. Now there was a beauty. Sweet blonde hair. Lovely chest. And she looked absolutely stunning when she wore her red, white, and blue and her hat. It made her look so lovely… So tasty… Such ripe flesh…

Eyes flashed open with terror. No. He could not give in. He was Walker! Walker Gettysburg. And that was his lovely sweet girl. His… his… What was her name again? B… B… Barbecue… Yes… Delicious delicious… No need for a drink with all that lovely… warm… crimson…

Walker screamed out in silence. He could not give in. He was Merican. He was for freedom and justice and the Merican way. He would not give in to the gravemind. He would not submit. He was strong. He was proud. He was…

So very hungry.

The pressure on him began to let up. Slowly the pain began to ease. He saw her… what ever her name was… standing there… He let out a soft moan. She was absolutely beautiful and so pleasing to look at. Always had been. It made him wonder if she tasted just as good. He drooled a bit.

He reached out to grab her, to hold her, to pull her close. Just one taste. That’s all he needed.

So very hungry.

There was so much in the way. Dirt. Roots. Twigs. Rocks.


He climbed free and looked around with a moan. Starving.

He shuffled forward, arms outstretched. There had to be food nearby.

Delicious flesh.

He stumbled forward with a groan.

“Don’t let them take me!”


Die Again


This is a short story based upon the events of the LARP Dystopia Rising and various characters created by the players in the game.


With a sigh, Jeanie put her pen down on the pile of pages in front of her. Bits of cardboard, loose sheets of paper, a beat up notebook with pages of research and notes folded open to hold the page. Her eyes glanced around the basement room at the cobbled together reactor. The familiar hum and green glow from it was gone. Turned off at the beginning of the war. Now there was just the quiet drip of water through old pipes and the muffled sounds of music from upstairs at the bar. Though, for the town it was still a good place to sit and think.

Thinking was difficult.

Okay, so the thinking itself wasn’t difficult, just the topic of choice was. Thinking about research and data analysis was one thing. Trying to understand the pattern in numbers and various experiments was absolutely fascinating. Trying to piece together the pieces of your life so that everything is said before you join the horde? That was something else entirely.

She glanced down at the pages in front of her. Some pages were notes, scribbled and crossed out, of who she wanted to keep her belongings when she finally died. Some were letters, stories and memories, thanks to those she had grown to care about in the past two years.

Two years. Sometimes it was hard to believe that it was two years. Sometimes it seemed like it had been a lifetime since she had worked the assembly lines of the Iron Works. Sometimes it seemed like only days ago. The memories never went away. Especially when there were reminders of her life everywhere. If she was lucky, she would finish her research and remove her tattoo. At the minimum she would have started the research for the other Irons in town. She’d make sure Yossarian would have it in case someone else wanted to finish.

She grabbed her notebook and scribbled the word “research notes” next to his name and then returned the book to the pile.

Is this how it felt for everyone else? Was this how Medic felt before he died? Is this how Torch feels? Jimmy? Barnes? All of these people who are moments away from their infection taking complete hold. All of these people who spent every moment trying to stay alive because if they die, they don’t come back. Was this how they all felt? Did they all wonder if they had finished everything and found everyone?

Jeanie hadn’t found everyone yet.

Jeanie looked down at the pile of notes and letters in her lap. She sighed and felt her right hand reach up to the necklace she wore. Her hand found the little cog piece that said “craftsman” and she thought of the sister who had given it to her years ago in the Iron Works. The voice that was so clear in her mind and so clear from her last trip through the gravemind. Was it true that she was gone now, never to be found alive?

Jeanie shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair.

“I don’t want to die again.”