Archive for the ‘Random crap’ Category

“Boys Don’t Read.”

31/03

My name is Pab Sungenis, and I write books for boys.

That may surprise you. If you look at the “young adult” shelves at your local bookstore, how many books do you see there that are aimed at boys?

Not many, I’ll bet.

You know why that is? Because boys don’t read.

Stop laughing.

I’m serious. Stop laughing.

I know that for a fact because I’ve been told it on good authority by people who supposedly know. I’ve been told it by a number of literary agents (including one who once signed me, then told me she couldn’t sell one of my novels because, and I quote exactly, “boys don’t read”) and at least one editor from a major publishing house.

That’s why all you see on shelves are romances with female protagonists. Or if there’s one with a male protagonist it’s actually a male that’s designed to be cuddly and non-threatening because they want girls to read it and fall in love with the boy. They do this because, of course, “boys don’t read.”

Never mind that the first young adult novel ever, The Catcher in the Rye, featured a male protagonist, was written by a man, and has a reader base that is largely male. Then there’s The Chocolate War, where you can count the female characters on one hand. Critically acclaimed novels that created modern young adult literature.

And neither would get published today, because “boys don’t read.”

Of course boys read. But they don’t read young adult literature. And do you know why?

Because no one will take a chance on books for boys. Because “boys don’t read.”

This is called a vicious circle. If you’ve never heard it before go look it up.

Boys don’t read YA because there’s almost no YA published for them. So publishers look at the sales charts of YA titles and see title after title all aimed at girls. So why aren’t there any titles for boys on the charts? They don’t think it’s because they don’t publish any books that boys want to read. It’s easier for them to assume that boys don’t read.

Even when a publisher takes a chance on a book for boys, guess what happens then? Bookstores don’t stock it. Libraries don’t order it. No one gets a chance to buy it. Why don’t they order it and stock it?

Because “boys don’t read.”

Well, guess what? Boys do read! I used to be a boy (back in the dark ages before the internet) and I read everything I could get my hands on. There are boys out there right now who love to read, but their choices are limited because agents, publishers, and bookstores have all bought into the stereotype that boys don’t read.

So how do we break them of this misconception? We have to show them the uncomfortable truth they refuse to accept: that boys do read.

First, let’s give them some visual evidence. If you’re a boy who reads, and are between the ages of 12 and 17 (the target audience for young adult literature) I want you to to snap a photo of yourself holding whatever book you’re reading at the moment. If you’re reading it on a Kindle or Nook, photograph yourself with the title page on the screen. Then post it to Facebook, or anywhere else you hang out on-line with the caption “I’M A BOY AND I READ.” Feel free to E-mail it to me here or post it as a comment, too. Let the publishers and agents know that you want them to give you something to read.

Then we need to give them something even harder to deny. On Saturday, April 27, 2013, I want every boy who reads to descend upon the nearest bookstore at 1 PM local time. You don’t have to buy anything (although it might help our argument if you do) but I want you to make an appearance. If you can make yourself a T-shirt that says “I READ” to wear while there, all the better. Let those bookstores see that you want them to stock books for you, too.

Reading is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something to hide away from everyone else. And until all you book-reading boys come out and show your faces, your reading options will continue to be severely limited. So show your pride. Shout it out loud.

Just don’t shout it while in the library, please.

“I Could Do That” vs. “I Wish I Could Do That.”

14/02

There are two reactions most people have when reading what someone else has written.

One is “I could do that.”

The other is “I wish I could do that!”

Most people assume that we would rather have people think “I wish I could do that” — admire our flowing prose and six-dimensional characters as they lose themselves in the universe that we hew out of the chaos of the blank page in six glorious days like the gods we are — instead of looking at our prose the way someone looks at a Jackson Pollock painting and think “pfft. I could do that!”

Me? I’d rather people think “I could do that.”

You see, when people have that reaction to your work, it means you’ve been more successful. You make it look effortless. Your plot flows out of your characters naturally, and your dialogue sounds like people really speak. People think “I could do that” because your work is so real that they don’t notice all the work you went through to make it that way.

Take, for example, John Finnemore. When I listen to his radio sitcom Cabin Pressure my first reaction is always “I could write like that.” Then I listen more carefully and I notice the craftsmanship. I realize that it isn’t Martin Crieff and Douglas Richardson having banter back and forth; it’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Roger Allam playing roles quite unlike what they’ve become known for. But the dialogue seems so natural — so real — that for a moment you lose yourself in the magic.

Essentially, if they think they could write like you, they’re seeing the art. If they wish they could write like you, they’re seeing the artifice.

And I’d rather been an artist or artisan than artificial.

A Call for the Abolition of the Apostrophe

27/12

“Well I told ’em right then”, Fido said
“It should be easy to see
The crux of the biscuit
is the apostrophe”

– Frank Zappa, “Stink Foot”

As a general in the Grammar Wars, and oft-wounded veteran of said conflict, it is not easy for me to admit defeat. However, in at least one battle against the continuing deterioration of the proper forms of the English language, it’s time to take a lesson from Czar Alexander after the Battle of Borodino, and burn the mutha to the ground so to speak.

It’s time to just get rid of the apostrophe.

Don’t deny it. You’ve felt the same thing. Not only when reading Facebook status updates from friends who allegedly have at least some kind of college education or looking at greeting cards that wish you “Happy Holidays from the Savidge’s” (from the Savidge’s what?), but also when piecing words together yourself. There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t accidentally typed “its” instead of “it’s” either with or without the help of a smartphone’s auto-miscorrect feature. The sheer abundance of greengrocer’s apostrophes out there has reached the point of being a blot on the landscape.

So why do we even bother with this archaic piece of punctuation while wonderful marks like the interrobang and the snark, which can actually be of use in written English, languish?

Contractions

While contractions have a long and storied history in the English language, they really have morphed into something entirely different. Our brains have wired themselves over the centuries not to think of contractions as shortenings of two or more words (unless you’re Data) but as words unto themselves.

The confusion between the “you–” words is a perfect example. The reason that certain people today tend to type “your” or “youre” instead of “you’re” isn’t that they’re illiterate or ignorant (although a fair chunk of them are) it’s that they literally don’t think of “you’re” as being “you are.” To them “you’re” is a distinct word which just happens to be a synonym of the two word phrase “you are.” The same can be said for “there” and “they’re;” people aren’t thinking “they are” and shortening it to a contraction, they are thinking “they’re.”

Now let’s look at won’t. This is a mutated contraction and qualifies as a distinct word. What letters are being deleted in the contraction? Not a one. Under normal English contraction rules the contraction would be willn’t, wiln’t, or win’t. But because these sound awkward our language has taken the phrase “wont not” from Shakespeare’s time and substituted its contraction for what would be the proper one for won’t. Won’t is its own unique creature and today the apostrophe in it is archaic and superfluous.

So, despite being immortalized by Tom Lehrer, it’s time “N Apostrophe T” just faded off into the distance to be replaced by “nt.”

Contradictory and Conflated Rules

Remember, always use “‘s” to denote possesion. Uh, unless you are saying “its.” Or “hers.” Or “theirs.” Or “ours.” Or the noun ends in an s. Or sometimes an x. Or a soft c sound. Or you’re using British spelling rules. Unless those British spelling rules are modern British instead of classic British.

Let’s face it. The rules for writing possesion are not as easy nowadays as Professor Strunk once insisted. They weren’t even that easy when he was writing. (Has anyone ever really written “conscience'” as a possessive form, or told someone they have a “heel of Achilles?”) And they get even more and more complex day by day. This is “Sungenis’ Blog” after all, in which he praises “Groucho Marx’ wit.”

British style has been trending away from using apostrophes in general possessives for some time (“mens clothing,” “peoples bank,” “ladies washroom” etc.) and it’s time to once again copy the Queen’s English. For the most part these possessive apostrophes are unneeded and outdated.

Science Fiction

C’thulhu F’thagn R’leyh T’Pau Q’apla Shur’tugal Ra’zac Zar’roc T’ai T’gentu’gat Wi’tch and so on.Stop the insanity!

If getting rid of the apostrophe means that sci-fi writers will lose their favorite crutch in creating names that look exotic and hard to pronounce on paper then so be it, the apostrophe must die!

Conclusion

This will not be an easy transition. It will not happen overnight. But it must happen, and happen soon. Our language will be the better for it.

Let’s get rid of the apostrophe.

Writer Beware Redux – “America’s Next Author.”

22/09

There’s another “contest” out there calling itself “America’s Next Author.” They’re promising prizes of up to $5,000.00 for a winning short story.

But when you read the rules, there are some hiccups.

5. GRANT OF RIGHTS. By submitting an Entry you grant eBookMall the publication rights to your Entry during the contest and 12 months after the completion of the contest.

Umm…no. By submitting you should only be offering an option for rights, which they would exercise if you win one of the three awards. Simply by entering this contest you’re granting all publication rights (which includes all media) to your submission, whether you win or not or get any kind of compensation.

So let’s say you write a story and submit it to them. You don’t win the contest. A month later you turn around and sell it to The New Yorker for a nice chunk of change. The people running this contest can turn around and sue you for not only every penny you just earned but for statutory damages as well because you’d already granted publication rights to them by virtue of these rules.

Also…

In addition, to the extent that any moral rights (for example, the right to attribution and the right to integrity) apply, you waive (and to the extent that these rights may not be waived, agree irrevocably not to assert) your moral rights in your Entry for purposes of this Contest

Never surrender your moral rights, especially without payment. Do you see where they say “the right to attribution?” That means you give them the right to publish your work, even if you don’t get paid for it, without even identifying you as the author.

Always remember, read the rules in their entirety before you enter a contest.

“I Am Jack’s Unexpected Plot Complication.”

16/06

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains very severe spoilers that will not only ruin Fight Club the first time you see it, but also the second time. (Don’t ask if you don’t want to know and haven’t seen it yet.) You have been warned!

I love the film version of Fight Club. In fact, I think the film is one of the very few occasions that the film is actually better than the book. Of course, the book is genius as well, but I think the film really opened the story up and expanded upon it. It also rewards multiple viewings, since once you know the basic “secret” of the film you can’t watch it the same way you watched it going in blind. And each time after that, you pick up on new little details.

One of the major ways that I think the film is better than the book is in its portrayal of the trinity of the narrator’s personalities, each with a separate role and function in the narrator’s life.

“Wait,” I hear you cry. “Trinity? What trinity? There’s only two personalities: Jack (played by Ed Norton) and Tyler (played by Brad Pitt). There is no third personality of the narrator!”

Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Our narrator (I’ll call him “Jack” just for convenience’s sake) has three distinct personalities: Jack, Tyler, and… Marla Singer.

The Story So Far

To refresh your memory, here is the basic set-up of Fight Club: An insurance examiner (we never learn his name but he’s usually referred to as “Jack” because of a running gag parodying Readers’ Digest article titles) whose job is to calculate whether it would be more cost-effective to recall vehicles or just let motorists die and pay off their families, is having trouble sleeping. Prompted by a condescending off-the-cuff remark by his doctor he ends up attending support groups for the terminally ill. After his first attendance at a meeting for victims of testicular cancer he sleeps like a baby for the first time in ages.

Jack continues attending support groups for diseases ranging from Tuberculosis to ascending bowel cancer to parasites. One night Marla Singer, a strange looking woman smoking a cigarette, attends the testicular cancer group setting off a chain of events. He then meets a man on an airplane who starts telling him things he secretly wants to hear and encourages him to rebel against his consumer-driven lifestyle.

The twist is supposed to be that the man, whose name is “Tyler Durden,” doesn’t really exist; he’s an alternate personality that Jack’s mind created to cope with the stress brought on by the job that he hates, the stress of the modern world, and his inability to sleep.

I maintain that another twist, not apparent upon first viewing but pretty obvious upon multiple viewings, is that Tyler is not the only alternate personality created by Jack’s mind. There is pretty strong evidence in the film that Marla (as played by Helena Bonham Carter) is also a personality of Jack’s.

I am He as You are He as You are Me and we are all together.

One thing Hollywood consistently gets wrong is the idea that a person with “split personalities” would have just two, and that those two tend towards Good and Evil. This is not true in psychology; it’s only true in transporter accidents on Star Trek that allow William Shatner to chew the scenery.

In real life, people with dissociative personality disorder tend to have three or more personalities. Once an alternate is formed by a person’s psyche it becomes easier for others to be formed. Some people will develop personalities to deal with specific situations like self-defense, lust, or to rationalize inaction. (If you want to read a piece of fiction that deals with DPD realistically, go read Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff.)

To examine what role each of Jack’s personalities play, let’s pull out Freud’s psychic apparatus. While simplistic, it’s sufficient to describe these three personalities. The personalities roughly equate to the Id, the Ego, and the Superego.

Image

Jack is the waking personality of our narrator; it is the personality that deals with the outside world most of the time, and is the most realistic of the three. Tyler is obviously the repressed, animalistic side of the personality always out for self gratification; he is the personality that does all the things that the narrator wants to do but his dominant personality (Jack) either is afraid to do or knows better than to do. Balancing out these two is the Superego or “conscience,” which helps the Ego keep the Id in check. This is the role that Marla plays.

One other thing you might find significant is the names of the personalities. “Jack” was (and some places still is) a common generic by-name for a man. “Tyler” comes from an old English term for the door keeper of a tavern (that is to say, a bouncer). And Marla? It’s an English corruption of “Magdalen,” believe it or not. Read into that what you will.

A Bird in a Guilt Cage

This is cancer, right?

When we first meet Marla at 11:07 into the film, Jack is contemplating the fact that the affection he is getting from Bob (the man with bitch-tits, played by Meat Loaf Aday) is coming under false pretenses. “Bob loved me because he thought my testicles were removed, too. Being loved, pressed against his tits, ready to cry: this was my vacation.” Jack knows he doesn’t belong there and that he is, in essence, lying to Bob and the other men in the room. Then Marla appears, puncturing Jack’s illusion and emphasizing Jack’s lie to him. He calls her a “tourist,” echoing his reference to his own lie facilitating his “vacation.” This is best summed up by Jack’s narration at 11:42:

“Marla, the big tourist. Her lie reflected my lie, and suddenly I felt nothing. I couldn’t cry. So once again, I couldn’t sleep.”

Tyler flash.Jack becomes angrier and angrier as he contemplates Marla’s interference in his lies. Just as he’s deciding to finally confront her, we see the second “Tyler Flash” of the film. These are single frames where director David Fincher digitally inserted an image of Tyler Durden into the action before we’ve met him. The first time we see a “Tyler Flash” is when the idea of attending the groups first comes up. Now as Jack is losing the benefit of these groups to his conscience we get another flash. The Tyler personality is asserting itself urging Jack to confront his conscience and get what he wants.

At 14:08 in the film, Marla has completely subverted Jack’s lie as she replaces Jack’s “power animal” in guided meditation. Marla is in Jack’s head — but is she just there now, or has she always been?

When Jack starts questioning the validity of his attendance, Marla appears to throw a bucket of cold water on the proceedings. Jack no longer feels the benefit of his lies because his conscience is eating away at him until his base emotions start rebelling.

Throughout this film, one common thing marks every re-entrance of Marla into Jack’s life: they all come when he is (or should be) feeling guilty about something.

The Marla Timeline

The rest of Marla’s appearance in the film is best viewed as a timeline, marking significant moments between herself and Jack (and, by extension, Tyler), and what leads me to believe that they signify that there is no person named “Marla Singer” except in Jack’s head.

uvs120616-003When Jack confronts Marla at 14:27 she calls him out. “I saw you practicing this,” she says about the confrontation, but we have not seen Jack practicing anything. Perhaps she has seen him preparing what to say from inside his head? When the group comes together to let themselves cry, Marla appers to embrace Jack, but there is an awkward moment at 15:47 when the facilitator walks by and admonishes Jack to “share” himself “completely.” She only looks at Jack and does not acknowledge Marla. Could it be that she is admonishing him to share because Jack is really standing there alone, not sharing anything with anyone?

16:54 – While Jack is pursuing Marla, traffic stops for her. Later (17:50) when Jack is no longer pursuing Marla but is beckoning for her to come back to him, traffic doesn’t even notice her. This might be because Jack is actually the one crossing the street the first time and thinks he is yelling after her. The second time he remains in the doorway and summons back the personality that was about to disappear. Yes, when traffic stops Jack is still back in the door of the laundromat, but we know that the Jack personality ofter perceives things as if from the sidelines. This is clearly seen on at least one other occasion (see 24:31 below).

18:24 – After Jack and Marla reach an understanding that will keep them from seeing each other, a bus passes in front of Marla and Jack suddenly wakes up on a plane. Has the entire confrontation/reconciliation with Marla been a dream while he slept? (It’s established later that much of the Tyler personality’s active periods come while Jack is asleep.)

21:03 – The first actual appearance of the Tyler personality, coming as Jack is waking from a dream where two planes collide. Is Jack still asleep and just experiencing Tyler for the first time in his dream, the way he finally confronted his Marla personality?

uvs120616-00624:31 – Jack stops walking out of the airline terminal and stares at the street. Tyler comes along and steals a car. (This actually happens because we hear someone react off-screen.) This shows that the Jack personality will on occasion stop in his tracks and observe what is going on when another personality takes over his body. This explains why traffic stops for Marla at 16:54; the Jack personality is on the sidelines but the body (under control of the Marla personality) is out in the street.

45:23 – Marla re-enters Jack’s life 8 weeks after he stopped going to support groups (the activity which triggered Marla’s appearance through guilt). She’s attempting suicide. Marla does not give Jack her address, yet his Tyler personality knows where to get her when he becomes aware of her. This is because Marla’s apartment building is in Jack’s head.

47:53 – The Tyler personality does not show up (become active) in the scene until after the Marla personality has left (i.e.: become dormant).

uvs120616-00548:46 – Tyler recounts his meeting Marla. When he arrives she is about to die from the overdose but quickly recovers without any intervention by Tyler (i.e.: making her vomit, taking her to get her stomach pumped, etc.). By the time they leave at 49:53 she is fully conscious and relatively coherent. Seconds later she is groggy again and says that Tyler needs to keep her up all night. This is not Jack (being run by Tyler) keeping Marla conscious, it’s one personality keeping another in a semi-waking state.

50:55 – “Marla doesn’t need a lover, she needs a case worker.” Because she’s another manifestation of Jack’s mental illness?

51:00 – “She invaded my support groups, now she’d invaded my home.” Again, Marla is a manifestation of Jack’s guilt. He subconsciously feels guilty about the actions he has taken through his Tyler personality and summons Marla to stop them. However, the Tyler personality is too strong for Marla and overcomes her by seducing her.

55:28 – “Except for their humping, Tyler and Marla were never in the same room. My parents pulled this exact same act for years.” Jack uses the example of his parents to rationalize his alternates’ actions.

uvs120616-0041:03:15 – Jack has just had a big confrontation with his boss, who has discovered the rules of Fight Club that Jack had left in the copy machine. Jack has threatened his boss which makes him feel guilty. Guilt = Marla! The phone rings and Marla is supposedly on the other line. The boss stares uncomprehendingly at Jack, then at the phone’s handset. This is because Jack has just picked up a phone that did not ring, and is talking to no one.

1:21:27 – The next time we see Marla is shortly after Tyler has threatened to shoot a man in the back of the head, Fight Club has destroyed the forerunner of an Apple store, and Tyler has given his “all singing all dancing crap of the world” speech. These are the most extreme actions the Tyler personality has perpetrated yet and at least one of which (the death threat) has caused Jack much emotional distress. Guilt = Marla! And Jack specifically tells her he wants her to stick around. (“You don’t have to go.”)

1:22:36 – “Why does a weaker person need to latch onto a stronger person?” Add “-ality” to those “persons.” Jack’s personality is nothing without his other two.

1:40:11 – Tyler has built his army and disappeared. “I’m all alone. My father dumped me, Tyler dumped me, I am Jack’s broken heart. What comes next in Project Mayhem only Tyler knows. The second rule is you do not ask questions.” Jack feels guilty. Bingo! Marla! The first words out of her mouth are the question the Jack personality is afraid to ask: “Who are all these people?” Jack chases Marla away; having been deserted by his id, he dismisses his superego.

1:46:46 – Having discovered that the Tyler personality is part of him, Jack seeks confirmation from his other personality. She confirms that Jack and Tyler are one and the same.

1:52:50 – This is one of the few moments that is tricky to reconcile to this theory. The waiter (who is a member of Project Mayhem) refers to Marla in the third person as “the lady” when he suggests avoiding the clam chowder. I’m willing to chalk it up to Jack’s brain reconciling things the way he reconciled people reacting separately to him and Tyler in the past.

2:09:08 – Marla’s last entrance comes after Jack has killed off the Tyler personality. With the maleficient personality dead, the lawgiver personality can manifest again. As the other Project Mayhem members (who never refer to Marla) leave, they stare confusedly at Jack, who is once more talking to himself.

Conclusion

Is Marla just another one of Jack’s personalities? I think the evidence is pretty good and I choose to believe it myself, but it’s not a slam-dunk guarantee.

For one thing, there is no hint at all that I’ve found in Chuck Palahniuk’s book that Marla doesn’t really exist. Of course there are huge differences between the book and the film (most notably the ending), so the fact that Palahniuk never intended Marla to be anything other than a real, breathing human (if he did in fact intend that) doesn’t impact her appearance in the film.

Did David Fincher set out to plant all of the hints that Marla could be just another alternate? He’s never said anything about it that I’m aware of. Still, Fincher is notorious for planting tiny details that can send a story spiralling off in a different direction when you notice them. Hell, all of Fight Club is one big mind-fuck the first time you see it.

One thing I’m certain of: if you go back and watch Fight Club again with this idea in your head, much like the first time you watched it after you knew who/what Tyler Durden really was, you’ll never see the movie the same way again.

Writer Beware

05/06

So I entered a writing contest. Fortunately for me, however, I was asked to confirm my acceptance of the contest rules. When I re-read them I saw something I didn’t see the first time.

The works and copies of the contestants’ writings from the contest and the final novel may not be put up for sale by anyone other than redacted without sending pre-agreed royalties to redacted which will then be dispersed among the authors as previously described.

Neat, huh? By entering the contest, you not only grant publishing rights to the house running the contest if you win, but you agree to give them the sole option of publishing your book if you lose.

With the proliferation of “social networking” (I encountered this “contest” on Facebook) in recent years, no one should be surprised that the “preditors” (that’s a deliberate portmanteau of “predator” and “editor,” and not a misspelling by the way) would seek a way to exploit them. Just as the PublishAmerica scam thrived off of the early days of the web, modern equivalents are using Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to find their victims. This one even has its own Facebook and iPhone apps, pitching itself as an “American Idol for Novelists.”

Some basic rules for those who choose to enter writing contests:

1. Read the fine print three times.

That clause that I posted above is stuck in the middle of the last paragraph on the page of rules, right after a whole slew of royalty payment percentages. Most readers’ eyes will glaze over after all the mentions of 1.77% and the like; as I said, even I didn’t catch the killer until the second reading. Go through the entire thing, including what might look like boilerplate, three times. If anything strikes you as not kosher just walk away.

2. Know what rights you’re signing away.

You’ll almost always be asked for first domestic publication rights. Magazines running contests will want first serial rights. Very few legitimate contests want subsidiary rights and ones that do should be approached with trepidation.

3. Approach “new” contests with extreme caution.

The longer a contest has been around, the better. If it’s lasted more than one year it’s probably not a scam (but that is no guarantee). If it’s been around for twenty years, it’s certainly above board. There is such a thing as a legitimate new contest, but they’re outnumbered by scams. If it’s new look at it even more carefully than you would have before. (Especially if it bills itself as something “different.”)

4. Entry fees alone do not make it a scam.

Some of the biggest contests charge entry fees simply because they are so large and running them takes a buttload of cash. Entry fees weed out frivolous entries, and cover the expenses of running a contest. Just because they want $5.00-$20.00 to enter doesn’t mean they aren’t above board. But a new contest with an entry fee? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

5. When in doubt, walk away.

There are so many real contests out there that there’s no need to enter a particular one. If you have any doubts at all (and I do mean any) walk away. It’s not worth it.

The reason scammers are out there is because enough people fall for their scams to make it worthwhile. Be smart, learn to spot them, and don’t get caught.

Yahtwentee (or d20 Yahtzee)

28/04

I’ve been re-living my misspent youth in a variety of ways the past week. For one thing, a number of recent conversations have involved the old role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, or at least the old Second Edition that I played. For another, I found a Yahtzee app for my iPhone and have been playing it obsessively.

My mother taught me to play Yahtzee (or, I guess, since we played a variation and weren’t using the official Hasbro rules and score-sheet, I guess we were playing “Yacht”) when I was young. Maybe she thought it would be good exercise for my math skills. Maybe she thought it would be a good way to teach me the rules of probability. Maybe she just loved the game and no one else would play it with her. Whatever the reason, she taught me to play it and on many a night we’d sit there with graph paper playing five or ten games of Yahtzee.

And when I say “playing five or ten games” I meant playing them simultaneously. Your roll could be used in any of the games then underway, to allow you the best chance to use every roll. Hasbro used to put out a game along these lines called “Triple Yahtzee,” but playing just three games at once was never enough for us.

This morning, while playing Yahtzee on my phone and another discussion referencing D&D (brought about by Bryan listening to the audiobook of Ready Player One at the other desk), I thought “why not combine the two?”

So, with no actual play-testing (so no guarantee) and just a little work, let me introduce you to Yahtwentee!

YahtwenteeScoreCard

Yahtwentee is a variation on Yacht played with d20 (twenty-sided dice, for the uninitiated). It lasts about as long as three games of standard Yahtzee (or one game of Triple Yahtzee). It’s best played with 2-5 players, but can be played with as large a group as you want (if you have the time to kill), or played solitaire to try and achieve the highest score possible.

Equipment:

You will need:

  • 5d20.
  • Score cards. (A printable PDF version can be downloaded from me here).
  • Pencil.
  • Some form of scoring markers.

Gameplay:

A turn starts with a player rolling 5d20. The player may then set aside any number of dice, rerolling the others, or may stop rolling and proceed to scoring. (It is legal for a player to reroll all five dice. It is also legal to reroll dice previously set aside.)

On each turn, a player has a maximum of three rolls. After a third roll, the player must stop rolling and proceed to scoring.

There are 32 different possibilities for scoring each turn. Each space on your score card must be used only once:

  • By number: Add up the total of any given number shown on your dice. For example, if you have three dice showing “12” you can score 36 in the “12’s” space on your card. Two “8’s” can be scored as 16 in the “8’s” space, and so on.
  • Three of a kind: If the numbers shown on any three of your dice match, score the total number shown on all dice.
  • Four of a kind: If the numbers shown on any four of your dice match, score the total number shown on all dice.
  • Full House: If three of your dice show the same number and the other two show the same (different) number, score 100 points. For example: 12-12-12-3-3, 8-8-8-17-17, and so on.
  • Small Straight: If four of your five dice have sequential numbers (example, 5-6-7-8), score 125 points.
  • Large Straight: If all five dice have sequential numbers (example, 9-10-11-12-13), score 150 points.
  • Crit: If all five dice show the same number, you have made a critical hit and score 300 points.
  • Fumble: If your roll can’t be scored in any open space (or if you prefer not to score it in an open space), you are allowed to score it as a fumble with the total number shown on all dice. You are allowed six fumbles per game.

Scoring 0: It is legal to score a turn as 0 in any column if you cannot (or choose not to) score it as a fumble or in any other space. For example, say you roll 1-7-10-12-18. If you have used all your fumbles, and have already scored 1’s, 7’s, 10’s, 12’s, and 18’s, you may score the turn as a 0 under any other open space. Every turn must be scored, even if it means scoring it as a 0.

THAC0 Bonus: In each of the four columns with number spaces (1’s through 5’s, 6’s through 10’s, 11’s through 15’s, and 16’s through 20’s) there is a certain score threshold listed in the space second to the bottom. This is that column’s THAC0 score. For quick reference, it’s equal to a roll of three of each number in that column. If your subtotal exceeds that column’s THAC0 you score 100 points in the “bonus” space for that column. (Old-school Yahtzee players are warned: it is much harder to make THAC0 than it is to earn the upper bonus in Yacht/Yahtzee.)

Multiple Crit Bonus: If you have already rolled one critical hit and scored it in the “Crit” space, any additional crits that you may roll earn a bonus. For each crit over the first place a scoring marker on your score card. At the end of the game, each marker is worth an additional 500 points. Then you may score that crit in any vacant space (including as a Full House, Small Straight, or Large Straight). Note that if you score 0 in the Crit space for any reason before rolling a crit, you do not get a scoring marker; markers are only given for crits after one that you score in the “Crit” space on your scorecard.

Winning:

After every player has scored in each category, the players each total their scores. The player with the highest score wins.

Have fun! If you try the game, be sure to comment and let me know how it went.

 

Yahtzee is a trademark of Hasbro for their variation on the classic dice game “Yacht.” “Dungeons and Dragons” is also a trademark of Hasbro, or to be specific their Wizards of the Coast division, for their role-playing game. I claim no rights to either name.