Yummy Moral Ambiguity

Last week, Kat and I started watching Veronica Mars, Season 2 on DVD that she borrowed from Michele months ago. It was so good we started watching 3-4 episodes at a shot, and finished the season last night. It’s witty, exciting, full of twists, with only the occasional shortcut. Kat tells me Season 1 was better, so we’ll likely be watching soon.

There was one thing about the season finale that was really provocative. I’m gonna try to avoid spoiler territory by not using character names, but if you like to preserve all the surprises, you’d best stop reading now.

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It’s Move-In Day!

Five years ago today, Kat and I became parents when Dalys came to live with us full-time. We’re having a little family cake-and-ice-cream kind of party.

She gets teased a bit because she gets so many of these throughout the year: her birthday, her move-in day, her name day (the day the adoption became official). Kat and I just say “We’ve got eleven years of birthdays to make up for.”

Can we ever really make up for those trying, turbulent years? Dalys is sixteen now and will likely be navigating her own turbulent life before too many more years pass. Some days I only see the ways she’s different than Kat and I.

But on days like today, I’m just happy that she’s ours.

(and that Kat learned how to make empinadas because of her–mmm, mmm, good!)

Oops! and Surreality

The Dreamation Master Schedule is up!

It seems I’m scheduled to run By The Stars on Friday at 2pm. Problem is, I packed the game up in an unfinished state and forgot to cancel the Dreamation session. I suppose I’ll just run the Sorcerer game I ran at Southern Exposure and hope no one shows.


The alarm woke me from a strange dream. A whole bunch of us indie-folk were going out for Thai food at a convention. I think it was a dream-facsimile of The King and I restaurant in Milwaulkee. There was a very long wait to get everyone seated, because they were seating 3-4 people from our group at a time. When we finally got seated, Kat and Dalys were down at the end of a table, next to Keith Senkowski. There were no more chairs on the end, so Kat suggested I sit closer to the middle of the table, next to Luke Crane. Next bit of the dream I remember is me hanging out in the vestibule of the restaurant until my food arrives, listening to my MP3 player. A local friend who’s not terribly fond of the indie scene kept bothering me with stupid questions while I waited.

Whatever the dream meant, I woke up feeling melancholy.

By The Stars Confession — Week Twenty-One

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I lack the resources to go on. It has been eleven days since my last confession.

What do you need to make a create a great role-playing game?

What A Designer Needs What I Got
Insiration/Passion It comes and it goes, but it’s usually good.
Time/Thought Some weeks I need to fight for every minute, but I’m in no hurry.
An editor Thor Olavsrud’s all lined up and ready to go.
An artist Keith Senkowski’s doing amazing stuff in color these days and ready to work with me.
A reliable group of regular playtesters Nope.

And like a chain with a single weak link, it’s time I face the reality that I don’t have the resources to further develop By The Stars at this time. Lacking an editor would make for a hard-to-understand game. Lacking an artist would make for a drab game. Lacking playtesters would make for a game that doesn’t play well. And what’s the point of that?

My local circle of gaming friends has atrophied considerably over the last few years. So I find myself without a regular game, able to only scrape together an occasional meet-up. By The Stars needs a different sort of play environment. One doesn’t buy-in to a fantastic far-off galaxy for a day-trip. It’s a long-term voyage and I ain’t got the crew right now. I’m not shoving it out the airlock, but I am putting it into cryo-sleep. One day, when I’ve rebuilt my circle of gamers, By The Stars will return…

Which is not to say that I don’t have anyone to play any games with. A good deal of that atrophy I mentioned is due to the extreme popularity of German and German-style board & card games. They have a lot of advantages over RPGs:

  • So long as one person has already read the rules, time from opening the box to finishing the game is one to two hours.
  • Popular games are easily replayable with no additional prep.
  • You can play with whomever shows up a given week.
  • Folks don’t feel that they need to be “a gamer” to play.

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes it’s the same door. What I do have is a group of people who meet bi-weekly to play complex games, often those that they’ve never heard of before. I go to a decent number of conventions, where a single play-group lives for only four hours. I’ve got a number of semi-distant friends that can make the occasional game, but not something regular.

These are the game-players in my life. These are the people I should be designing for, because I’m one of those people, too. I may long for long-term, regular play, but, at the moment, that’s as realistic as galaxies far, far away. One-shot play is the bird in the hand. That’s what I need to shoot for.

And I will. I’ve already got ideas that will capitalize on those strengths of board and card games, infuse them with the creative freedom and drama of role-playing, and make them my own. More about that next week…