Wow. Now that was a great convention! Dozens of events went off with barely a hitch to be found (at least that I heard about). Pick-up games and animated conversations scattered like snowflakes across several floors of the hotel. Double Exposure put on a great con, and the Indie Games Explosion was a great success!
Thanks to the bottomless ingenuity, dogged persistence, and tireless hard work of my wife, Kat, I will not be using Sorcerer as the engine for my By The Stars session on Friday.
I’ll be using With Great Power…
It will rock. Be ready.
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.
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!)
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.
Just as a testament to how far off-line I’ve been, I just discovered that Paul Tevis posted my interview at Voice of the Revolution. It doesn’t sound too bad considering that Skype cut out on us at least a dozen times during the recording of it. Luckily, I didn’t spend too much of my 15 minutes of fame talking about By The Stars.
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…
Another week without play or playtest in sight. Before the last scheduled playtest fell through, I was getting excited again. Even made some sketches. Maybe I’ll post them some time.
Forgive me, By The Stars, I am on the cusp of failure. It’s been nine days since my last confession.
I think I’m going to have to push BTS to a 2008 release and focus 2007 on rebuilding the actual play in my life. I hadn’t realized just how much I depended on it for design. While working on With Great Power… I was playing a sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible, but always “System Doesn’t Matter” game of Eden’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. In retrospect, I can see how my mild frustration with that game shaped WGP… When play of a broken game isn’t going well, the game designer within can always respond with “but it would work better if we did it this way.”
Which leads me to my crazy idea. I think I might head down to my FLGS and try to set up a game of WEG’s Star Wars. It doesn’t do what I want it to, but it is somewhat popular. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll break down and run d20 Star Wars. I need to play, which means I need players!
Nothing is set in stone yet, so I’ll be back with another progress post next week.
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Special Trivia Challenge for Mo & Brand: I write cinematic games. Name me blind film directors.
Another week without progress. The playtest got canceled again.
Forgive me, By The Stars, I am frustrated. It’s been one week since my last confession.
Why is my progress so glacial? Why do I get nothing done? Two reasons, the lesser one first:
My Day Job We’ve lost another person in our department recently, which means spreading the work among those of us unlucky enough to remain after this round of musical chairs. And it’s not just the hours. It’s the fact that to get through the hours, I need to focus only on the task at hand, work through my breaks, and switch off my soul. The funny thing with a soul is that its doesn’t switch back on so easily. Even once I return home, my creativity and enthusiasm are nowhere to be found.
I’m Not Playing Since GenCon, I’ve played RPGs seven times. And three of those sessions were on the same day at a convention, so we’re talking 5 days out of the last 126. If I can’t play my game, why am I even designing it? I ask myself. If I’m not playing any games, how can my game be any good? A game designer that isn’t gaming is like a blind painter or a deaf musician. I know that my playtests are going to be horribly unfun both because the game is broken and incomplete (as it should be at this point), but also because I’m out of practice. Role-playing, like any skill, takes practice. And I ain’t getting anywhere near enough.
* * *
In other news, Brennan Taylor and Paul Tevis interviewed me for The Voice of the Revolution. It was quite enjoyable. I think we touched on some good stuff. Look for Episode 3 in the near future!
The first playtest is scheduled for this Friday and I’m nowhere near prepared enough.
Forgive me, By The Stars, I have procrastinated. It’s been one week since my last confession.
I have a draft of a character sheet. I have a skeletal outline of the game procedures. I have a lot of things that I just don’t know how they work.
But I have people coming to my house on Friday to play, so we will muddle our way through whatever I have, come up with rules on the fly to cover what I haven’t anticipated. We’ll find a dozen ways that the game sucks and one or two where it’s brilliant.