Monday, November 26, 2018

Con Tales like Jet Trails

As the ever-festive wintry mix of November slogs in December, it's been quite a time. A lot of it has been "meh" to awful. This was because of too much of a good thing, partying, and some really poor health in general.

Carnage was an up and down thing. I reaffirmed some pretty long-term relationships through the room parties. We hung with CCrabb, Rags, Mister Dresser, and Matt at Scott and Petra's den of villainy and expensive drink and food. There we met many of the characters of Dark Phoenix fame, the Kruppa not being the least of them, and had a good time. The minute we got back to our room though some newcomer, if not two of them, would turn into a jerk.  And it involved the jerks plying Pery, who I still think claims me as her husband, with too much alcohol, declaring their dislike of me and making passes at her. After being invited to leave my own room, one telling me "I am Carnage. You have no say here." I had to strong-arm both of them out on Thursday night/Friday morning. A cop would appear on the scene after repeated hotel security visits, he took my side and that should have ended the story. Pery would miss her event on Friday because of a crippling case of mystery flu and I'd play Civilization III all day. Friends would swing by for a night cap and close out the day nicely. On Saturday night the second jerk from Thursday was invited back because he is a childhood friend of one of our long-term friends, and he went into asshole mode within minutes in front of other people this time. He would end up falling asleep in a chair after showing his nipple and blowing kisses at Pery whenever he could. Pery would insist on a last bit of partying at 6am on that now Sunday AM at another locale. I insisted we let Mr. Asshole sleep and if he woke up all by himself in a warm and cozy room he could call hotel security for a rescue since he'd been so comfortable in MY room all weekend already. We got to bed around 8:30am in a finally empty room. Check out was 11am, we were packed at 10:52. Boy the drive to Syracuse was hell, but the pizza in New York soothed both of our under-slept souls.

While I have been ill for most of November, causing me to cut into my savings to pay bills and whatnot, Wobble is in the post production phase of things. This is the fun part of the hobby for me. I get to talk to other creative sorts, editors and illustrators, about the work. I get a bit of feedback from proof readers. I have even been sketching diagram thingies that I hope can be polished up before the final formatting.

Yesterday, I shopped small and local like a fiend. I also got to be a local "game designer" running a quick kill Crawlspace game at the same event. A little something called Genghis Con which is organized by Cleveland artists and publishers every year. This year Beckett, of Beckett fame, opened a side room for local game makers and musician techno sorts. I had expected a table next to the Weird Realms stand in a crowded dealer room, what was there was a mini-convention all on its own. There were at three tables with games going on, when I was able to corral three people that had expressed interest in Crawlspace plus one more experienced role-player whom I think was just passing by. George, Matt the Makker, along with Kelsey and Chris helped my work through my first running of Crawlpace's "Places in Space". The run time was 51 minutes, plus another 30 for Character creation and the Opening scene.
While I had the Act structure and differing random fates worked out for each of the Characters, it is a horror movie of a scenario, these Players helped me flesh out the module by assigning cop archetypes to their LEO Roles during the course of play. I think this was the best test play that I have had to date.  After the session, I had meant to get back to two vendors in main dealer's hall, but a H/A, part of my on-going health drama, was erupting. A good thing though because I had spent 200$ plus already. Still need to find those guys around town. I want those products.

The celebrity that I know is John G of Shiner Comics

"Places in Space" Beta Testing in progress
Pery arrived home from a trip to her family's home abode a couple of hours afterwards. We caught up a bit. I was able to present her with homecoming gifts (a mug, a bandana, and a comic book) from Genghis Con, before the headache would send me to bed early. Oh yeah, the space for the local convention had a Visitor sign in book in the bathroom. So all in all, still a good month with plenty of hilarity.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Parts of a Toolbox, w/o Being a Tool

As a GM, I learned a long time ago that writing twenty plus pages of notes for every type of game of that I run before I ever sat down to compose a scenario is not only helpful it’s kind of a thrill just for me alone. I have the vanity that someday each project will be published and readers around the globe will see how deep and clever a mythpoet I really am. Now when I sit down at the table, it took me a little longer to learn that using my voice to only fill in gaps around the players’ story is pretty essential. This is for anything from a party of tomb-robbing medieval “adventures” dealing with the swamps of doom or a task force of FBI agents dealing with a group of Chinese-funded hackers that happen to be vampires. Whatever the deal is, let the promo for the adventure set the premise and then let the Players set the tone and depths. I should just be ready for them.
Now I am not advocating that a GM always tend towards a sandbox approach to things. Pacing tends to be the most important tool in my toolbox when it comes times for the event. With a new group, or an impromptu one such as at a convention, the GM should be building the paradigm at the start and by the end of the session, they should mostly interpreting player-driven situations and explaining their rule usage. Established gaming gangs often spend the beginning of a session exploring their Characters and then around the ¾ mark of time, I have to provide a quick dilemma to be overcome or not to set the basis for the next sit down. Most GMs with established campaigns, time frames for adventures may not be specified so reading the Players and their own energy levels is gauge of when the ¾ mark is, so don’t be a clock watcher unless necessary.

Races and Racism
Get over it. When it comes to fantasy role-playing, as in dealing with the fantastical not just variants of Tolkien tropes but entering the unreal into any sort of setting, there is the expectation of the Players being able to come across the alien. By alien, I mean that which is foreign or different from their own point of view. Hopefully this brings goosebumps to the joy center of their imagination first. And then whether they fall into a discourse of anthropological style study of the world created by the GM or they decide to hit it with their war hammer is the point of the game. The point of the game not the problem with it.
If a GM cannot separate their elves from Appalachian hillbillies or Mongolian plateau residents in their head, they need to spend some researching those cultures. This sort of activity has always help me design human cultures, which is what they are, for whatever world I am playing with then get me onto designing something possibly creative about the species that I am calling elves. Even if these elves are 99% human-like, so are chimpanzees in our real world and they are very exotic to anybody encountering them. There should be something different about them, if the GM is doing this for fun.
Now the Player having expectations of what fantasy folk should be like should be expected. They aren’t sitting down at a table to be a part of band of dwarven warriors lead by a gnome magician to reclaim a lost wonder works forge from a tangle of trolls and a fire giant overlord because they haven’t read Terry Brooks books. Now if the players are all about, “my dwarf has a Scottish accent.” I as a GM like shake things ups. For fun I might give everything Korean names, and flat out use Confucianism and Buddhism as the dominant forms of spiritualism among the dwarves and gnome separate yet similar communities after the game starts. Since I do my own research, I just happen to have a pocket-sized notebook of notes from working with a K-Pop fan for years, I don’t need an “oriental adventures” source book and come up with pointlessly complicated Classes and some nonexistent standin culture instead focusing on the universal of dynamics of the quest. The archetypes of the Warrior, Wizard, or Rogue all work just fine regardless of rules system that one is playing with. If the player can’t get over it, oh well. I one time had a batch of dudes have a real problem with playing a campaign essentially set in northern Africa circa 570 AD. I heard their “Nordic-Celtic” campaign died on the vine after an introduction game when D&D 4th Edition came out-- they play collectible card games now at the coffee shop we used to hang out at. Good for them. Most of the players will become immersed or play the fish-out-of-water trope.

Getting the Chance to Talk
As role-playing is a social interaction, Gming can be a reclusive pursuit getting the party together. It does make things move along nicely without forcing the point though. The outsider role works for players great in role-playing, even when as a GM I am not mixing things up. It gives me a chance to do expository based off of my grocery bag full of details I have in my head without doing the railroad-y thing. Scenery not stealing the scene is a great tool towards helping a narrative come together. Heck, I am the scenario author. Even DM GMs should have some narrative as part of their game session, it helps put their personal mark to their scenario despite of how free-form or patterned it is. Once again being prepared is important.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ain't that a Kick in the Head


Wow. At the website where I sell my PDFs I am now a double-barrel "Copper Best Seller." I am very proud of this not because of the sales but because of the products that have that badge attached to them. One is my New Khazan title which is my sphere fantasy for the Tunnels &Trolls rules system. Now that doesn't surprise me. T&T is a brand name which sells solid and only gathers more readers as people start looking for stuff to read as well as play. 9KW (my own abbreviation for New Khazan) was easy for me to write. I was adapting my passion for space opera with my love of the Flying Buffalo Incorporated-owned (FBI) rules system written by Ken St Andre. So when it sold well and quickly, I bought pizza and beer with the profits and kept on writing-- A behavior which continues to this day, just not as often with said item's moneys. 

The second is my TAG Spacers product. Lordheads know, I did not know any one besides old friends from space RPG chatroom days had ever heard of it let alone read this one. It was written before 9KW, actually being typed on an old fashioned typewriter that my Grampa had given me to be photocopied, folded in half, and mailed to people back in the 90s. I dressed it up a bit when Pery Publishing first started and we released the "new and improved" version. After a few sales over the opening month, nobody ever seemed to talk about it. Running it at conventions had enthusiastic players that'd buy a copy a few weeks later, then I'd never hear from them again. I felt I had produced a flop, but I knew the system worked just fine. So I concentrated on writing T&T stuff.

There have been signs though that people have been buying it. Besides the itemized sale reports, where it was always hidden beneath all the new and shinier pieces buying my rewards that week, folks would say things. Indeed the author of a bootleg version 9KW for a certain Outlaw Press, done without my permission of course but in the T&T crowd a bit of piracy is forgiven if the person doing it apologizes and is nice when foiled, told me, "The copy I had of your New Khazan notes was mostly your Spacers (the TAG ones) classes and the spells were from the equipment lists."

Okay what's the big deal? People get higher rankings by selling their untested brands at "Chose Your Price" rates and just giving it away for free all the time. You see, I don't do that. I sell. I don't plan on home improvements with the money, but I insist on some recompense for the artwork (which people need to start investing in again because the big companies are getting sucky with their choices) and formatting, as well as just the time spent. Still it is nice to go perusing a random review of a newer product and find out that your flop of a product from a decade ago has made into to medallion level sales of game sales at a preferred site.