Let it not be said that he was a big man, though he was the giant in any room. He saw himself a Captain Ahab: his underlings saw Moby Dick. What in his eyes was passionate was in theirs predatory. Over the years of their mutual acquaintance the boundaries between the two visions were blurred, until Anatoly was both Ahab and the Orca, hunter and hunter. As the veteran he strode Chernobyl’s halls invigorated by the company of the young workers (“Be healthy, comrade!”), as the white shadow he lounged against the grey metal console, cigarette smoke curling from the corners of his mouth like fog rising from the ocean, awaiting any slip of the operators, to strike.
They had all been caught, they had all been lectured: they had all learnt to respect and fear Anatoly Stepanovich Dyatlov.
This has been an invisible man introduction for the protagonist of my Chernobyl novel, the very real Anatoly Dyatlov. The goal was to write a character introduction under 200 words, and without referring directly to your character’s physical appearance. Win? Win.
Australia Day is this weekend, and in honour of the proud beating of my heart to this vast brown land, I’m taking the weekend off and having a dystopian holiday.
You can too! It’s kind of like a game, where you do what you would anyway but with an extra dose of challenge. Here’s how it works:
Dystopian Weekend Challenge
1. No car.
2. No internet.
3. Natural food, meals prepared from scratch.
4. If you can find it, you can keep it.
5. All equipment to be used over the weekend must fit in one bag. I’m making an exception from this for my bike. <–immediately cheated.
6. Can do a shop beforehand, but once the challenge begins, the car rule applies.
7. For power: every six hours (12am, 6am, 12pm, 6pm) roll a die. Whatever the number is = hours power is available. So if at 12pm you roll a one, you have one hour of power between then and 6pm. If you roll a six, lucky you.
8. You can only use hot water when the power is available.
My extra challenge is:
* Design an irrigation system for a greenhouse using only scrap parts.
* Document ten varieties of plants, harvesting seeds where possible.
I’m counting the weekend as research for my novella, Apocalypso. The irrigation system and seeds are both directly related to the story, but if you want an extra challenge which is more personal to you, just think about basic needs: shelter, food, companionship. You could always rig up some solar panels, introduce an oppressive government regime, or something equally as uh, challenging.
If you do it, please let me know! Otherwise, have a happy Australia Day, wherever the bloody hell you are.
Just while we’re here; because there isn’t much on at the start of the week compared to the end of the week, the podcast release day is going to be moved to Tuesday. That will be sometime late Monday if you’re in the US. Episode 4 of Literature Emergency Broadcast will be available on the 28th. Fingers crossed this will have everything running a bit more smoothly.
Okay, off to charge my Kindle while there’s still power. >:|
How You Can Be An Adventurer
Part Two: Your First Quest
Building Your Party
This is arguably the most important decision you will be making about your life as an adventurer. Whether you be a dragon slayer or a junk hauler in deep space, it’s vital that you don’t attempt a quest without at least a few trusty companions.
However, when it comes to companions you’ll find more often than not, trusty is the last word you’d use to describe them. Right down there with “useful” and “good personal hygiene”. And that’s why it’s vital to vigorously screen anyone you’re contemplating bringing along with you.
You can find companions in two ways. One, generally the less effective method, is by asking everyone you know to go with you. The second is to wait for them to come to you. The second is usually by chance – someone you meet along the way, a friend who is finally convinced that they need the Jewel of Jupiter, and you’re their best chance of getting it.
Either way, promise yourself now that you will subject your would-be companion to intense scrutiny. Unless you fancy ending up mugged and stabbed at the bottom of a ditch, ask yourself:
- Do I owe them money?
- Do they suspect me of courting their spouse?
- Are they stalking me?
- Do I suspect the rumours about their violent and deranged nature are not entirely overblown?
Never, never go on quests with any companions who tick YES to any of the above questions.
If your companion has made it through round one, some more points to consider are:
- Can I name at least two skills they will contribute to the party? Darning? Necromancy? Big hands (great for gather quests). Family member owns a takeaway shop (useful for cheap potions).
- Does their personal fitness match the level needed for my kind of questing? Be aware that someone who answers “no” to this does not immediately disqualify themselves. Companions can get fitter. And people with physical injuries can still do plenty of things. Just remember that you may not want to invite your 300 pound post-op hip replacement aunt spelunking caverns with you.
- How likely are they, at the end of the day, to hit me over the head and leave me for dead at the end of a dungeon?
Another way of wording this last, which is often overlooked, is, Can I stand their company for the length of the quest, or will I be tempted to knock them out, take their things, and leave them for dead?
It happens more often than you might think.
Tell Your Mother You Love Her (Also Tell Her Where You’re Going)
This one is pretty straightforward. You’re going. Let your mother, or anyone else, know where. They can’t send out the search party to hunt for your mangled body if they don’t know where you are!
Choosing Your First Quest
Deep breaths. Now for the best part. There are many types of quests, ranging from the mundane to the improbable. They fall roughly into the following categories; have a browse and pick which quest best suits you. Sections marked with * are tips how to make your quest more challenging.
Delivery quests are some of the most straightforward in the business. Someone at home wants a letter posted? Boss needs thirty crates of oranges delivered across town in fifteen minutes? The princess of Mars has twenty thousand tons of unobtanium she needs to get out of the galaxy? Sign yourself up!
*Admittedly, ducking down to the post office isn’t likely to get your blood pumping. To make it harder include patches of hostile or unfamiliar terrain on your delivery, or impose a time limit. This may mean deviating through the rough side of town, or giving yourself half an hour to get from Mars to the other side of Pluto. Nothing like a challenge!
These quests are enjoyable because they remove you from your usual walk of life and place you somewhere unfamiliar in circumstances you may not usually experience. Does your grandmother need someone to take her to the specialist? Does the prince need absconding across the realm? Did this cute young girl get lost in a dungeon, and needs you to help her find a way out? These are all escort quests, so put your name down!
*Although it is a general rule of thumb that anyone you escort will be, by nature, a completely useless example of humanity and hinder you at every turn even as you attempt to save their life, some are worse than others. If you really want a challenge, try spending an afternoon running errands with your venom-spitting terminally ill grandmother. On a bike.
Generally but not always the opposite of delivery quests, gather quests will always run to a formula of “get a + n + x” where a = quest giver, n = number of items to be gathered, and x = type of item. This can range from Get Brother 10 Porn Mags to Get Brother One Psychiatrist. I mean really, who still buys porn mags? Hasn’t your brother heard of the internet?
They can also be more pleasant tasks. “Pick Niece 15 Daisies” sounds like quite a nice afternoon, as does “Pick Sultan’s 5 Hot New Wives”.
*These quests can be made more difficult in a few ways. One is instead of going to the shops for your “Buy Mum A Dozen Eggs” quest, go to market. This way you can haggle, and the challenge only builds if you’re sure to bring less money with you than the gather item costs. Another way is to avoid taking money altogether. Won’t Mum be impressed when you bring her a dozen wild duck eggs!
The old Kill Ten Rats. Alternative, Kill One Cheating Spouse. Hrrrrm. Let’s be honest: unless you’re in the er, pest removal business then you’re not gonna get a lot of kill quests. And that’s probably for the best. You’re going to feel awfully mean-spirited after you’ve meticulously stomped those sixteen lady beetles for your nephew, even if it does make him happy.
One way to bring kill quests into the realms of legality is to substitute the word “kill” for any other verb. Okay, “murder”, “slaughter”, and “slay” are all out too. But how about “Hug Ten Babies”. Wow, nice. How about “Drink Six Beers”? Now that’s my kind of quest!
An easy way to make this quest accessible, and really give yourself a challenge as well as a surprise, is to make three lists. One, verbs. The second, numbers. The third, nouns. Then add any combination of verb + number + noun, and you’ve got yourself a quest. Just make sure your numbers aren’t too high, otherwise you’ll be hugging babies all day. And then things will get weird. Police involvement weird.
These are the kind of adventures that adventures are all about. This is where you wake up in the morning, step outside, and say the first thing that pops into your head along the lines of “I’m going to do ten loads of washing today”. Or “I’m going to space today”. Or “I bet I can swim across the river”. Set yourself a challenge, and don’t let your brain screen it. “I’m going to spend the afternoon drinking and watching Adventure Time” is a pretty cruisy quest. But “I’m going to spend the afternoon drinking tea and watching reruns of the Bold and the Beautiful with my great aunt”… well, you’re in for a trial.
Gather quests made easy
Don’t have anyone to send you out for the paper? No sweat! So long as you have an internet connection and a satellite navigation system of some kind (or just a smart phone) you can go geocaching. This adventuresome task will see you gallivanting all across the countryside in pursuit of tiny treasure and a sodden logbook. It’s heaps of fun, and it’s free.
The challenge for all geocachers is, as you will know if you’ve ever done it, never to admit to anyone what you are doing. Ever. Not under any circumstances. If a cache has sent you into a storm drain under the town armed with only torches and raincoats, and you happen to be pulled up by someone you know as you climb into the sewer, do not tell them you are geocaching. Tell them you lost your contact lenses. Tell them you’ve been employed as town sewer inspector. If you’re trespassing on someone’s property, tell them you were thinking of breaking and entering. If you’re lurking around somewhere at night and the police roll along, then you’re practising prostitution. It doesn’t matter what else you say you’re doing or to whom, but you cannot be caught geocaching.
And that can lead to some very interesting adventures indeed.
That’s all from our article on How You Can Be An Adventurer. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and be sure to get into heaps of strife and danger good times. Be sure to share your own adventures with us in the comments!