Saturday, July 04, 2015

Blargh

Is it really so hard to understand that constantly insisting on technical precision in conversational language is an obnoxious waste of time? When people are making speeches, the difference between a democracy and a republic is almost always irrelevant. There's no reason not to refer to the Whateverittechnicallyusedtobe as the Confederate flag, because that's what it's called here in the future. I've even heard people sniffing haughtily over the difference between strategy and tactics, which... seriously? And don't even get me started on the gun jargon evangelists. The point is, outside of specialized professional usage, language is fluid. If everybody knows what you mean when you say a word, then THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS.

Okay, I feel better now.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fantastic Fourness

I'm a long-time fan of the Fantastic Four. It was one of the first comic book series I collected and I still re-read the old issues. Despite the inevitable doubts, I'm excited about the new Fantastic Four movie. I can't help it. I had reservations at first about Sue and Johnny not being biological siblings, but I found that fairly easy to get over. As long as they act like brother and sister, I'll be fine with it.

I also like the other two movies, though, and I'm a little bit sad that they didn't just continue that line.

I know, I know. These movies are far from perfect. Their Doctor Doom was just not Doctor Doom. In both movies, Sue had to get naked in public for no particular reason. The scene where Sue's response to Ben's angst was to whine about Reed not paying attention to her makes me cringe every time. And back to Doom: besides not being properly Doomish, he has awful, awful, awful fight banter.

But the biggest of those is easy to dismiss. Doom isn't Doom, but he's a great villain in his own right (except for the banter, but that's only a few seconds of pain). Seriously, try watching it without comparing him to the comic book character, and then tell me what's wrong with him. And the thing is, we don't even need Doctor Doom. Sure, he's a great villain, but he doesn't define the Fantastic Four. He never did.

For me, Fantastic Four is about two things: (1) these characters and their relationships, especially with each other, and (2) facing the Unknown. Just look at the first issue. First off, see who's not on the cover? Right. Doctor Doom. After a little bit of bickering, they bravely and illegally hurl themselves into the  void. Then they go into a kaleidoscopic underworld and face not only strange monsters, but the Mole Man. Like the FF, the Mole Man is a human transformed by his exploration of the Outside. When they do meet Doctor Doom in #5, it's as a set-up for a time travel adventure.

Doom is still an important recurring villain, one most FF fans look forward to seeing. I wouldn't deny that at all. I just want to make the case that what really defines the Fantastic Four is not the villains they fight; it's the new worlds they explore. And the family thing too, but I don't think I need to argue that point with anyone who's ever even flipped through an issue.

The two movies from a few years back have what I'm looking for in a Fantastic Four movie. They've got mad science, the Unknown, and four people with super-powers held together not only by that fact, but also by a disarmingly normal kind of family bond.

I've heard people fuss about the cast. Unless they're only talking about Doom, I don't get that at all. The actors playing the Fantastic Four in these movies all handle their roles beautifully. I don't even know how to argue the point, because the opposite position makes no sense to me.

So anyway, yeah, I'm looking forward to finding out what they've done with the my old friends in this one. I can tell from the previews that they know it's got to have the Unknown, and I think I see the kind interpersonal dynamics I want, as well. It looks like it might also have another strange way of pointlessly cramming Doctor Doom into the story, but I'm still going in with an open mind and a lot of hope.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Carnage, Social Media, and Bad Ideas

I switched my main focus from Blackridge to the Bad Idea. I just found myself too consistently pulled in that direction, while every step on Blackridge was feeling forced. Still, maybe someday. There's a lot of potential there, and I developed some cool stuff while I was working on it. One of my Gen Con events is set in Blackridge, even.

Qalidar... yeah, I know. I'll get there.

I submitted one event (Doctor Who: Out of Joint) for Carnage. Planning to put in one more. I'm thinking it'll be D&D or another Doctor Who. Possibly both, at which point I guess the "one more" bit would need updating.

I probably won't be visible much on Google Plus or my public Facebook page for at least a few weeks. Maybe longer. I think social media stuff is consuming way more brainspace than it's worth right now. Seems like I've been figuring out ways to talk about what I'm working on more than I'm actually working on it. I'll probably still tweet a random thought now and then, though. It's easy enough to blurt those out and be done with it.

Here's a picture of a tree.

Monday, May 18, 2015

You Can't Come to Cartmanland

Looks like my Gen Con events are almost sold out. There's still one slot open right now, and of course there are the other Peryton Gamers to consider.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Five friends meet at a hotel to play games. What happens next will make you stop eating mushrooms!

Or maybe...
Troll Hoot V: The Hilltop Horror 
I wasn't even sure I was going to do a blog for this, since I know Tom will and I'm not sure I have much to add. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun to post something with one of those moronic clickbait headlines. Don't worry; I won't make a habit of it.

This year's hoot was in Mansfield, Ohio. For years, we've been driving past this place on the way to other things, looking up at the motel on the hilltop and saying, "we need to have a hoot there."
For a variety of reasons, it finally happened. I promised you something about mushrooms, didn't I?
Okay, we'll get to that. We got started Friday evening.

The Creep
We started off with a Crawlspace adventure by Tom, part of an ongoing series he's been running for years, most of which I've missed. One of the cool things about this game, as I've probably said before, is that your character is an actor trapped in a series of movies, so you can have the same character in a series of adventures playing a different role each time. My character is starting to build up quite a resume, from The Return of Count Vulgarr to The Swamp Troll to this one (and one more on Saturday).
In The Creep, I played the love interest to a character who had been tortured by alien experiments that left him confused as to whether he was a pizza boy or a head in a box. He was just being released from the insane asylum when we got started and was already seeing "mushroom eagles" in the sky. It didn't get better from there. Chasing each other around in circles over drugs and post-psychiatric-institution trauma, our characters were eventually abducted by three-armed alien bigfoots and experimented upon. Caed/Robin and I escaped. I'm not sure, but I think we may have been the only ones.

A Fistful of Hypo
After breakfast, we kicked off Saturday with Beckett's Glow adventure, which I loved because I got to play a humanoid ant who liked to make "human suits" out of skin. Not that that was particularly an ant thing - just something I always thought would be fun. Caed/Robin and I decided that both of our characters were named Robin because, in the hive, "we are all Robin."

Upon obtaining the fabled mulberry wine, I gained super-psychic-ant powers which enabled me to enslave the other Robin and go back home to rule the hive. I think there was also a gang war going on and Tom & Drew's characters might have gotten killed in a big explosion downtown. I can't be expected to save everybody, can I?

Cards Against Humanity
In between sessions, we played Cards Against Humanity, which I had never tried before. Lots of raunchy fun.

The Keys to Christmas Place
I played more of a cameo role in this, as a somewhat disinterested FBI agent who got dragged into a freaky case when some MIBs tried to assassinate her. There was something about kids (or gnomes) and Christmas music and a trailer park. I definitely remember Beckett's parrot turning out to be an alien flying crab-fungus. I guess I shouldn't wait so long to write these things up.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Is Not My Beautiful House

I got into game design with the Peryton Fantasy RPG. Its first incarnation was a booklet that I photocopied, folded over, and staple-bound early in the summer of 2005. Distribution? That consisted of giving it away to whoever still looked interested after I explained what I had done. Two more incarnations brought it to its current form and even put it onto the shelves of faraway game stores.

Before I jumped into this, I had never really thought of myself as a game designer, or even someone who wanted to be a game designer. I built my first game primarily out of frustration.

I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons off and on for a long time. When the third edition came along, I liked it. I thought it fixed a lot of things that were annoying about previous editions. Weird little subsets like thief abilities and tracking were condensed into a simple core mechanic. Armor class became a target number -- one of those ideas that was so good that it seems obvious in retrospect. Multiclassing made sense. Some other stuff, probably. They also built a bloated mass of feats and skills into it, though. They turned monster and NPC creation from creative recreation into a chore. Running the game started to feel more like work than fun.

I didn't think much about it. I just started playing other games or just doing other things. When Castles & Crusades came out, I thought it looked great at first, but then I realized that, for the sake of nostalgia, they were undoing a lot of the progress I admired. What I also realized was that anybody could do this d20-modification thing. So I downloaded the SRD, tried out some ideas, and made the game I wanted to play.

From there, I kind of got swept along. Fourth edition D&D came along and I didn't like it. Pathfinder came along and it was, if anything, worse than 3rd edition D&D. My own projects came and went. I continued to enjoy playing Peryton RPG and, eventually, I started working on Qalidar:Resistance.

Peryton RPG was never much more than a d20-fix, but Qalidar was really its own thing. Still d20-based, but with unique classes, a built-in world beyond the familiar heroic fantasy formula, and all sorts of other cool stuff that I had been dreaming up over the past 20 years or so. So, yeah... cool, I guess.

Recently, though, I added fiction to the list of things that I self-publish. Not anthologies with other writers -- those are a nightmare -- just my own stuff. For a variety of reasons, I'm loving that. One of them is that I've found a huge well of motivation and just plain joy in knowing that, once I finish a book, I can consider the job done. Sure, without promotional work, it might not sell much, but that's beside the point. It's out. And that got me thinking about why I was writing game stuff.

I no longer need to write my own game to get one I'm excited about playing. Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space is awesome. I have an Icons campaign that's going great. And, to be honest, I'd rather play 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons than Peryton Fantasy.

I also think that most of the fun of game design was in teaching myself to do new things -- not just the rules-wrangling, but layouts, graphic design, organization, all that stuff. It's not new anymore, though. It's just work. Tedious, plodding work. On the whole, I enjoy the work I do in my day job quite a bit more than that stuff.

I can't even remember when fiction-writing was new, and it's still immensely rewarding. Game design? Fuck that. Games are for playing.

Oh, I'm still gonna finish Qalidar. I might even support it, or get someone else to support it. I don't see me designing any more games for a long time, though, if ever. There's just no reason.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eyes Open

Losing Lanterns was as good as Losing Lanterns could be, but there are things that nag me about it. Chief among them is that it's a novella made out of short stories. It was never really plotted out the way a novel should be, so it has a weird, lumpy, pacing and... other stuff... I guess. Yeah, boring topic. I only mentioned it because I'm excited to be doing this next one the right way.

Okay, technically, my next-up project is another Qalidar supplement, but I don't have a lot more to say about that. Okay, a little bit, but then we move on to novels. The Qalidar supplement is going to have the rules for taking characters up to 20th level, which is as high as I see it going. Beyond that, it's going to focus on a species of aliens called the stardust, including sections about their technology, organizations, goals, and methods. That's pretty much it. Mostly it's material I wrote a long time ago that just needs cleaning up.

One project that isn't next is a fantasy novel that's been slithering around the back of my head for the past 15 or 16 years. It's based on an our 1999-2000 D&D campaign, which is why I have been referring to it as my bad idea. A story like that -- even after I turn it into a coherent story -- is going to be full of nostalgic moments and other memories that mean nothing beyond a very small group of people. Naturally, I can write around that, but my own unreliable instincts would be something I'd have to constantly look out for. See? Bad idea, right? There's still a good chance I'll try it -- I came up with some great stuff just tinkering -- but not this time.

Another contender, one I haven't mentioned before, is a different fantasy novel. This one would feature Aradoc (from Losing Lanterns) on his own in a strange, dying land. The reason for this and for his jumbled memories is something that gets worked out as we go. No, it's not Hell or any other kind of dead people place. The other thing going on is a tense desert journey with a group of adventurers with loosely overlapping agendas and not much in the way of scruples. And lots of other stuff that I'm not prepared to go into here. Again, this is definitely still in the queue; it's just not next in line.

The winner? Welcome to Blackridge, a fictional college town in the Arkansas River valley. A diverse collection of characters plot and scheme in a vaguely soapish fashion. Also, some of them are conjuring spirits and making deals with dangerous alien intelligences. I'm hoping to combine some engaging characters with an area I know very well for a backdrop and some low-key but creepy paranormal/occult stuff to keep them hopping. There's an actual plot in there too, but I'm keeping that to myself for now. I don't have a title yet.

Imagine the perfect conclusion.