Gryphon, The Journeyman Scrivener

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11/28/2023 9:30 PM

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Lauded Sage Exemplar


I love Gryphon comments, especially when they're longer than the fucking story itself lmao --Cel

I liked all of Gryphon's reviews, he was very thorough --EndMaster

Gryphon's review of Eternal is longer than most storygames lmao --Mizal

Shut the fuck up Gryphon --Malk

Gryphon is a no life having bitch --Thara

You've gained a reputation, Gryphon, no one wants to walk thorugh tech support with you --Mizal

Gryphon uses MAC?!?! --Tim

Gryphon put a lot of skill points into productivity but none into technological proficiency --Sherbert

Never did I think I'd see the day when I was forced to accept a they/them in my virtual fiefdom, but the sneaky bastard tricked us with a featured game and all those reviews and with being so likeable and nice and so now here we are. --Mizal

Hey I'm Gryphon!  The keenly observant among you will by now have realized that this is my profile page.

Some of my favorite works of fiction are:  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Dirk Gently books, Asimoz's Foundation series, The Hobbit, The Martian and Hail Mary, Star Trek/90s sci-fi in general but especially Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, and Firefly.

In addition to writing and reading interactive storygames, I also enjoy writing fiction, hiking and camping in the woods, composing music, and I have an interest in the sciences.

Works by me:

Secrets of the Crag:  A traditional open-map dungeon crawl adventure.

Diplomat:  A cave-of-time story surrounding humanity's entrance into the galaxy.

Ruins of Anzar:  An item-based puzzle game surrounding the ruins of an ancient city.

Capture the Flag:  A cave-of-time story about a middle school capture the flag game.

Trophies Earned

Earning 100 Points Earning 500 Points Earning 1,000 Points Earning 2,000 Points Winner of the 2021 Culture Clash Contest! Having 3 Storygame(s) Featured Given by BerkaZerka on 03/20/2022 - Great Contributions Given by EndMaster on 03/13/2022 - For your all your contributions to the site Given by Killa_Robot on 09/28/2022 - For great activity and pumping out fantastic storygames at a speed that puts most to shame. Given by mizal on 03/15/2022 - For being a reviewing MACHINE putting everyone else to shame. And the storygames are nice too!


Capture the Flag

=For End Master's Manifest Destiny contest=

When Alexsis starts trying to steal your favorite seat in the school cafeteria, things get serious.  The pair of you decide to resolve this dispute in combat:  a game of capture the flag.  Can you beat your nemesis in a game of capture the flag, and reclaim what is rightfully yours?

This story is a short cave-of-time style game with seven possible victory endings.  Happy flag-hunting!

Featured Story Diplomat

As humanity begins to leave their corner of the galaxy for the first time, they encounter previously uncontacted alien races.  As one of earth's leading diplomats, you will play a key role in shaping the future of your species in this unfamiliar world.

A mostly cave-of-time style story with limited rebranching in a few places, and five victory endings.


Winner of End Master's Culture Clash Contest

Featured Story Ruins of Anzar

When a thunderbird attacks you while you search for the missing Professor Keirz, you crash-land on a plateau near the legendary ruins of a ruined Anzaran city.  You must make use of the resources around you to repair your damaged flyer, find your missing friend, and unlock the secrets of the ancient Anzaran temple.

An open-map item-based puzzle game with one good victory ending, and one great victory ending.  Good luck exploring the ancient Anzaran plateau!

For End Master's Manifest Destiny Contest

Featured Story Secrets of the Crag


Discover the dungeon's secrets, fight deadly monsters, learn magical spells, and more in this traditional dungeon crawl adventure!  Can you survive the dangers of the legendary Crag?


An open-map dungeon exploration game using player stats and items, with eleven victory epilogues, as indicated by the first two digits of your score.

Thanks to Nightwatch for the fantastic cover art!

The Sea of Legends

An unexpected supernatural disaster leaves you and your your younger cousins adrift in a strange sea full of mythical creatures and beings. Can you and your cousins escape, or will you succumb to the deadly sea?

Currently, this is a short cave-of-time style game with three victory endings. It is complete in its current form, consisting of the first of many planned "episodes" for the game.  It will eventually be expanded into an episodic gauntlet-style game.

Your score indicates which ending you reached.  0 for a death ending, and a score of 1, 2, or 3 corresponds to one the game's victory endings.

Articles Written

A Guide to Character Creation for Storygames
A general guide to character creation, and tips tailored specifically for characterization in an interactive format.

Coding Item-Based Battle Sequences
Use this system to code flexible battle sequences using items, link options, and player stats.

Creating an Equipping System
How to create a system that will keep track of which item a player has equipped into a specific slot, such as having a "sword" in a "weapon" slot.

Recent Posts

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 11/27/2023 6:52:58 PM

Probably Douglas Adams and Andy Weir. I write a lot of my stories in a dry first-person retelling style similar to the Martian (and his other works). Not sure if that was inspired by him or that was just why I like his books, I've been fond of that style since well before I read them. Douglas Adams taught me how to make narration engaging. Before then it was usually just a chore I slogged through to get to the dialogue.

Jerry Spinelli was one of my favorite authors when I was in elementary school, but I'm not sure how much of his style has translated into my own, as I haven't read any of his books in years.

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 11/21/2023 5:57:16 PM

I used to be one of those setting-first people who would create maps and histories before I bothered to figure out the plot or decide on who the main character was. I eventually realized this was damaging my ability to adapt the setting to the needs of the story as it developed. Now I usually take a story-first perspective, where setting details will emerge based on what the characters need. Weirdly, I've found this creates much richer settings, since it forces all the setting elements to be much more cohesive, and it lets you ensure that you get to show off everything you create.

When I think of rich settings as a reader, Sanderson's worldbuilding first comes to mind. He has incredibly complex worlds and backstory, but his plots are such that all the interesting setting details become relevant to the story. You can have the best setting in the world, but if the plot just happens in it, it will mean nothing. The best settings are the ones that are the only place in which their story could be told.

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 11/6/2023 3:16:22 PM

Weirdly, I think the main character with the strongest personality I've published on CYS is the narrator of the capture the flag game. Other than that, I've made an effort to make my narrators neutral and unimposing, to let the reader have the widest range of freedom in their choices. CYStians, I think, perfer distinct narrators even in interactive fiction, but there are lots of people who do perfer blander narrators for this kind of game.

When I'm writing non-interactive fiction, I usually write in deep first person, so I just make an effort to give the character a unique way of looking at the world. Have them notice things and make comments that most people wouldn't make. Give them a unique sentence structure and speech style. Then you never really have to describe them because the reader just gets it. You can do a similar thing for side characters, though that's tougher since the readers are only exposed to them through dialogue.

I never base characters off real people, since that's A) rude, and B) A great way to come up with flat uninteresting characters. You pretty much never know what's actually going on inside another person's head, and by associating a character with a real person it becomes really limiting in what you can do with them. I think making composites and stealing individual traits is fine though--just don't copy a person wholesale.

The best option to combine experience and 3-dimensionality is to pick a personality trait that you have in some way, and then make that the central defining feature of the character. This is especially true for villains. Ask yourself what unique perspective you bring to the table as a writer, and then give each of your characters a slice of that.

Thunderdome 10: Fresh vs Darius on 11/1/2023 4:12:29 PM

Story B

Thunderdome 10: Fresh vs Darius on 11/1/2023 4:12:20 PM


= After only a sentence and a half, I already feel strongly that this story is written from the perspective of a child, and it turns out I’m right. Great job nailing the voice.
= I like the way she calls the stick a sword, and I like the way you introduced that through the boy’s dialogue.
= Good imagery with the poppies.
= The description of prior events is paired well with the action, making it feel relevant and not just an infodump.
= This phrasing might be better: That dumb boy. “You forgot the most important thing.” <= This avoids repetition.
= “…and one for the flowers.” Nice.
= The transition into the flashback bit is smooth, and doesn’t feel forced. You do a good job using concrete examples to show the narrator’s feelings rather than just telling them to us. Her thought patterns help us get a sense of her personality too.
= If her father and mother are both gone, who’s looking after her? She doesn’t strike me as old enough to look after herself. You might want to clarify that. EDIT: I missed this, oops.
= Using ‘it’ to refer to her father is a nice touch.
= I think this story strikes a good balance of hitting the emotional moments without dwelling on them too much.
= Good use of the four-leaved poppy.
= Yeah, him not writing letters is pretty inexcusable. You might want to take that out on a re-write. He’s much more sympathetic if he has been keeping erratically in touch, and did warn Louise about his injuries & return, but not in such a way that she understood.
= The conversation about his injuries & such seems a little overly casual given the heaviness of the situation. I’d expect it would take more time for them to get here, but then, you do have a word count limit.
= I like the way you focus on recurring themes in your description. I also like the way you focus on actions as a way of communicating emotions.

Good, a simple concept that could be executed pretty well given the word length. The backstory is weaved fairly well into the action. I don’t have any major complaints or restructuring advice, this is pretty good considering the length, time frame, and prompt.
Characterization is fine. Louise’s narration clearly communicates her personality. Her father is less developed, but that’s only because we’re seeing him through Louise’s distorted lens. Even the boy in the first scene has a fairly solid character. You do a good job portraying children.
It does seem like the confrontation and resolution happen unrealistically fast and casually. With such an extreme reaction, it doesn’t seem logical that Louise would calm down so fast about the situation. Again, that’s a limit of the word count. I might have resolved the story on a more ambiguous note, but what you did is fine.
I’d also recommend leaving out the bit about him not sending letters. It makes him much less sympathetic, and it’s not really important.

Thunderdome 10: Fresh vs Darius on 11/1/2023 3:54:50 PM

This got long, so I'm just going to post my review of Story A. I'll review Story B later, and vote separately.



= I like the opening line.
= I wouldn’t bother with the line about the cursed portal yet. The current hook is fine, and it just confuses the reader about the timeline.
= “As though we were beholding a mansion.” Something about this seems weird to me. I’m not sure you used ‘behold’ correctly.
= Treacherous? Maybe just “difficult”?
= The beginning of the story is confusing in terms of timing. You mess up on tense a few times, which made me think some events happened in the wrong order at first. It’s also not clear why the story starts at them buying their house, since it doesn’t seem relevant to the events that follow. If it becomes important later, you can probably just describe it then.
= Another problem I’m noticing: show don’t tell. Right now, the narrator is basically just describing their past history with & feelings towards Thalia. I like the attempt to weave this into the present narrative by using the house description to prompt memories. That’s a great technique for delivering backstory. Unfortunately, I don’t think you quite pulled it off—there’s not a clear reason why arriving at the house is prompting this reminiscence, so it’s not tied to the present in the way it would need to be.
= I think the main problem is that the narrator seems to detached for these thoughts to be natural. If you go deeper into their head, it will seem more natural for them to be just randomly thinking about their wife.
= Another option is dialogue. Instead of just telling us Thalia always inspires them to do more, the narrator could verbally thank Thalia for everything she did to inspire them into being able to achieve this (getting their own house.)
= The narrator describes themself as being inspired by Thalia’s looks. That’s not inherently bad, but it’s a little weird. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Thalia’s personality to have this effect? Right now it makes the narrator come across as kind of shallow, and Thalia as a one-dimensional generic wife character.
= I don’t think I like the overly dramatic writing style. “Trecherous task.” “Auburn locks of shining hair.” “Stunning emerald eyes.” “Blessed with each other’s company.” “Tainted by unmistakeable longing.” “Fevered search.” This isn’t inherently bad, but it’s just rubbing me the wrong way. It’s coming across as really over dramatic, and making the narrator seem very distant and inscruitable. It might just be personal taste, so I’d encourage you to get feedback from others.
= The hag is described as “cunning” before the narrator has spoken to her. Since cunning isn’t a visual description, it shouldn’t be treated like one.
= Having gotten this far down, I’d suggest restructuring the story so that instead of a narrated reminiscence, you start with a short scene featuring the narrator and Thalia as they search for and locate the witch. You can cover through their dialogue & the narrator’s thoughts all the history you just gave in a way that’s much more integrated into the present story. This also has the advantage of giving you a chance to show Thalia & the narrator’s personalities—right now they’re both pretty flat.
= I still like the opening line, but I honestly don’t think the first-person-retrospective approach is doing you any favors. This story might be better if you just told it in order.

Eh. Didn’t do it for me. I get there’s supposed to be the lesson about not taking people for granted, but the witch clearly said “object”, and even if she hadn’t, the implication was clear that they were supposed to find something in the world.
I don’t think you pulled off the eldritch location thing. It’s supposed to be a weird place that makes you go crazy and kill the people you’re with. The description just doesn’t pull it off. Again, you just inform us that the narrator and their wife have gone nuts and are arguing, but the description isn’t enough to make it believeable. I think this is mainly a limitation of the wordcount. If you want to show a pair of people slowly going insane, you need space and time. It’s not a concept you can cover in only a couple hundred words.
The biggest problem is I didn’t care at all about the characters. They had pretty much no personality beyond loving each other and wanting a child. This story sinks or swims on their relationship, so I strongly recommend giving each of them a distinct personality—and then working that personality into their dialogue and actions rather than just telling us about it.

Ask yourself what the point of this story is. I’m going to hazard a guess and say the point is what the witch says at the end about taking people for granted. That’s good, because I think you actually have the groundwork for that in the story already. Here’s some things you could change to hone in on that theme:
!) Thalia and the narrator’s personalities. For this theme to work, they need to have clear personalities, while simultaneously taking each other for granted. You already have some good groundwork here, with the narrator only ever focusing on her physical appearance and the impact she has on them. Thalia’s personality should come through her dialogue and actions, but it’s fine and great if the narrator fixates on other things about her that are less defining. Thalia may be doing the same thing with the narrator.
!) Wanting a child at the expense of what they have. Thalia and the narrator have an apparently loving relationship, but find that they can’t be happy without a child. There’s a sense of absence in their lives that they believe only a child can fill. You can lean into that to show how they’re actually taking what they have now for granted. They’re incapable of being happy with only each other, and seeking to fix it externally. Maybe they’re really neglecting each other and the relationship, and really want a child out of the desperate hope that it will save their marriage.
!) If the narrator is the one to kill Thalia, maybe emphasize this for them especially. Maybe Thalia wants to try and be happy with the life they have, but the narrator is too focused on the idea of a better life to appreciate what they actually have. Maybe he resents her, and blames her for their fertility problems. Maybe she tries to persuade him to give up and go back, or to not seek out the witch at all, but the narrator drives them forwards.
Still not sure how you can fix the ending. Some of that might be length. I’d recommend leaning into the idea of marital problem the couple already have than just saying ‘uhh evil flowers made me do it’. Have the location be an amplifier for what already exists. Then, when the narrator snaps and kills Thalia, it’s a character moment rather than something random.

This is just one direction you could take the story to make it more narratively cohesive. If some other part of the story was more important to you than that moral lesson, my feedback would be different.

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 10/31/2023 12:39:17 PM

The main thing I vote based on is clarity. Was this story's language easy to understand, or did it make me work to read it? If both stories pass that bar, I move on to more a nuanced assessment, but if one falls short, my vote is pretty much decided right there.

Note that I don't mean 'hurr durr I hate thinking'. Thought provoking or complicated stories are fine, but you still need to meet a bare minimum of clarity in your sentence structure. I should be able to tell who is speaking, and I should be able to read your sentences in order without having to double back and make sure I understood them correctly.

After that, I look at stuff like pacing, how entertaining the story is, and whether the ending is fits the premise. The story shouldn't waste time on irrelevant or boring thoughts and details, and the actions and events should be evenly spaced. The ending shouldn't come out of left field, but should be dramatically satisfying and foreshadowed. The story's writing should genuinely interest me and keep me reading.

If both stories meet the criteria there, I start to look at higher level stuff like how dramatically satisfying the story is foreshadowing, characterization, and originality. I don't have any hard criteria.

A good thunderdome-esque short story concept should ideally be a single scene requiring no or very little backstory to understand. It's probably best to start with an ending in mind, and then build the story around that, rather than come up with an interesting premise and struggle to deliver on it.

How come Eternal is so weak in all his endings? on 10/30/2023 3:43:45 PM

Obviously I can't speak for EndMaster's intentions, but I felt that this was of major benefit to the story's theme. It feels like a lot of storygames tend to go the power-fantasy wish-fulfillment route of having the main character become an ultra-powerful god being. There's nothing wrong with this--as you mention, Necromancer does it to great effect, and Eternal has no small amount of power fantasy as well--but you can only get so nuanced about mortality in games where death is genuinely escapable.

Eternal is a story about the quest for immortality in its various forms, and each of its endings show the tradeoffs that one faces in seeking them. You can become immortal by writing a book, but you might not create a lasting political institution. You can found a long-lasting nation or city, but you might sacrifice some close personal relationships to get there. You can seize power and control from a world that is unfamiliar to you, but you might make practical mistakes and lose control over the meaning of your legacy. You can extend your lifespan indefinitely, but you might lose most of the thigns that really brought you joy. And as you mention in the Harbinger end, you can actually shed your mortality and live forever, but it comes at the cost of pretty much everything else.

This is a nuanced and thoughtful approach to examining mortality. The variety of endings with their various strengths and weaknesses leaves the reader with something to think about long after putting the book down. There's no right answer for which epilogue is 'best', and people who value different things will feel differently about the tradeoffs in each ending. (In fact, the 'canon' ending is the one in which immortality is totally sacrificed so that the Eternal can return to Alison.) This is true to life--you can't have it all, and you can't do everything. You have to make choices about what you want to do with the time you have, and live with the consequences.

Having an objectively superior 'victory' ending in which you escape aging unscathed would destroy this nuance. Suddenly the story stops being a thought-provoking examination of life and death, and becomes a challenge to be won. Anyone who fails to become immortal has failed, anyone who chooses to value something else in life is really just weak. It really takes away from everything else in the story.

On a less large-scale level, I actually prefer stories where the hero has humble origins and is vulnerable to normal death (unless the story is about invulnerability itself, like Necromancer). That the Eternal is mortal is what makes him interesting, and his accomplishments impressive. If he can survive a battle unscathed just by virtue of his natural abilities, who cares? As a reader and player, I want to have to work for it. (Though as a side note--I'm not sure this topic actually applies, since the Eternal is a supersoldier trained from birth to fight. He took those lemons and made lemonade, but he didn't exactly pull himself up by the bootstraps.)

I'm sure there's some things I'm forgetting here... the thing about Eternal is you can write a four paragraph effort post about it and still miss tons of relevant themes. Anyways, glad you enjoyed the story, and hope you enjoy your time on the site!

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 10/27/2023 10:36:55 AM

As someone who hates both writing and reading description, you have options here. My way of dealing with this is just to choose narrative styles that don't require heavy description writing. There are two that come to mind:

1. Deep first person. This can work well with frames like epistolary writing, but you can also just go for it in any story. I often choose narrators who are as uninterested by their surroundings as I am, and just give barebones summaries before moving on to the action. This rarely works in third person, but is much easier to pull off with a distinct narrator.

2. Screenwriting. Nobody is interested in engaging description here, they want writing that is functional and clear. It lets you move right on to the action and dialogue.

If you do like description and want to write it well, my best advice is to read a lot of stories that have the kind of description you want to emulate. There's a knack for sentence structure that you can pick up through experience. Also, try writing some description, then posting it on the forums for others to dissect.

But bear in mind: There's a lot of disagreement about there about what is good description and what isn't. Ultimately, you have to pick a style you like, and accept that it won't be for everyone. No style is.

Monday Night WRITING Questionnaire on 10/25/2023 5:16:47 PM

I used to be awful at endings, and am now marginally better, so here's what I've learned about writing them:

  • Don't be afraid to end on a dark or tragic note. Don't do it just for its own sake, but if that's what the story calls for, you gain nothing by trying to water it down.
  • Don't be afraid to end on a lighter note. If you write a dark story but find unexpected hope at the end, you're not harming your plot by letting it flourish.
  • Ask yourself what your central character(s) have emotionally committed themselves to through their actions. If your protagonist has spent the whole story trying to find a life of adventure, the audience will be disappointed if they settle down to a life of farming at the end. This technique can be especially useful in CYOAs, since if you let the player commit themselves to one thing or another through their chocies, you can have this affect their ending.
  • Return to the beginning. Stories are cyclical, so see if you can revisit the beginning in some way from a new perspective. Often authors do this by starting and ending in the same location, or with a similar scenario--but having the protagonists deal with it differently due to the experiences they've had during the story.
  • Implications for the future. The final scene should summarize how the protagonist's life has changed, and give a rough idea of what they intend to do going forward. Or if it's a tragedy and they've totally lost their way, it should focus on that.

This advice is mostly focused on actual ending scenes. If it's climaxes you struggle with rather than resolutions, my advice would be different.