Monday, April 1, 2024

And we danced! (at Norwescon 2024)

Happy April 1st! There is NOT a spider on your shoulder, my friends.

This last weekend, Batgirl and I attended Norwescon just south of Seattle. Norwescon has always been a sci-fi and writer-forward convention, but has also made room for RPGs in the last few decades. I've attended in the past wearing different hats—fiction writer, RPG designer, or sometimes both.

This last time around, I decided to focus solely on gaming. Which is why I sat on and moderated some fun panels including worldbuilding RPGs, RPG sessions 0 suggestions, making RPGs more welcoming to new players, and strategies for teaching RPGs to young players.

I also ran an adventure called "Bitter Seeds" from the pages of my post-apocalyptic worldbuilding book Rust and Redemption. And guess what? Garth Hill (a patron right here on this site) flew out to attend the convention and actually cosplayed as his character, The Kid! (The Kid was a psychic "phreak" who could interface with computers with his mind). The game was fantastic and I've got to hand it to Garth and the other players for a great job dealing with challenges that included them rolling more 1s than I've ever seen, no joke.

Batgirl and I also got to dance the night away two nights in a row! When it comes to dances, there's really no better place to dance in a judgment-free zone than at a dance at a geek convention!

Monday, March 4, 2024

March Roars, Snow-Hail Falls

Heya Earthlings!

As spring roars in like a lion (it snow-hailed on me today while I walked our dog Tesla), all sorts of activities are jumping onto my calendar. The big ones are a short trip to Austin with Batgirl for vacation, a company summit where MCGers gather from around the world to hang out in person, and the sci-fi and gaming convention Norwescon 2024.

At Norwescon, I'll sit on several game-related panels and run a tabletop RPG adventure called Bitter Seeds—PCs in this post-apocalyptic scenario must find and retrieve viable grain from a before-times seed bank. Doing so requires that they overcome raiders, radiation, and other threats of the wasteland, including a mysterious warlord that has no face. If you're in the area and would to play, there's still room (as of the time of this writing)—sign up here! Don't worry, I've got a pre-generated character for you :). 

As all this is happening, I've agreed to play in another RPG game. Scheduling has proved a bit challenging, given the game I'm already in. Thankfully, there's a lot of overlap between the two groups, so despite the challenging schedule, we're all mostly in the same situation. 

Did I say challenging? My challenges are nothing compared to Baz's situation (the main character in my current Patreon novel), who was tracking the delivery of refined dream being smuggled out of the Nightland. His investigation was off to a promising start until someone collared him behind the pot shop. My latest Patreon post picks up right after that if you're curious.

[Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash]

Friday, February 2, 2024

Dice Make a Hard Man Humble

Photo by NASA Hubble Space Telescope ]
Hello Earthlings. Last night on the way home from a tabletop RPG game, I heard a chorus of frogs singing in a marshy, wooded area. The same chorus I always hear when Spring is near. Which is usually March, so that was weird.

But I took solace in the frog-song anyway, because in that game, I experienced an especially horrible run of bad dice luck that saw my "champion" humbled. It was a tough fight to be sure, but my friends, ouch. Tough fights are fine, but when you're consistently rolling at the wrong end of the bell curve, even WITH five second chances (you can use XP in the Cpher System for re-rolls, and I used up three of my XP and two of my friends' XP), I still couldn't land a telling hit or avoid a devastating blow. Afterward, Sean (a co-player) said, "Are you really a warrior?"

I was still smarting this morning, but with the day to give me some perspective, I'm ok with it. My character survived, and it makes for an interesting story. And maybe will knock my cocky "spellsword" character down a notch or two. In fact... I need a new character arc. I'm thinking of some version of "Fall From Grace" (of his sense of self-importance).

Speaking of someone facing mishaps, my latest Patreon post (Chapter 7, scene 3 of Dreamrider in the Nightland) picks up from scene 2 where Minerva met a three-headed entity that stepped out of the boundary between regular dream and what she regards as the realm of nightmare. One of the three visages is a manifestation of her greatest mistake...

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Zeigarnik Effect

I heard an interesting discussion on the No Stupid Questions podcast yesterday talking about closure. Specifically, something called the "Zeigarnik" effect (in an episode called Do You Need Closure?). The idea is that people more easily remember unfinished tasks than tasks that they have completed. 

Apparently, this brain mechanism extends to emotions, too. The idea is that our feelings linger — whether they’re positive feelings, like joy, or negative feelings, like frustration, when we don't get a complete understanding of what caused them. Obviously, this sucks on the negative side, and is why you should always talk things out when you are frustrated with someone.

But what about positive emotions? I'm making a bit of a jump here, but I can imagine it's related to why people are drawn in by wonder and mystery. Especially in a story or RPG session (though maybe in research, too). In the beginning, we don't know what's going to happen, why it happens, or what the consequences will be. 

But maybe thanks to the Zeigarnik effect, we are drawn in by the mystery, exploring it until we discover all there is to see.

Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

Just like Minerva, here in scene 2 of Chapter 7 of my latest Patreon novel. In the last scene, she decides to make an early dive into the Nightland (like, at 9 am) to learn more about someone who's done her dirty.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Sustainability Goals

Greetings from 2024!

I'm not one for explicit New Year resolutions, though I sometimes decide to make a change in my life and attempt to create new habits around that desired change. One such change was to think about sustainability, when possible, when it comes to buying goods.

I haven't turned my life around by any means. But I've made a few small strides.

It was actually two or three years ago that we got a subscription to Ridwell, which promises to actually recycle various stuff that normally ends up in a landfill, including plastic films and multi-layer plastic, among others. 

About the middle of last year I decided to try Bite, which cuts out the plastic toothpaste tube that goes into the landfill after a few months, as well as the weight of the liquid being shipped, in favor of tiny tablets you chew to make instant toothpaste. That's been working well.

And just as I decided to make my next shampoo purchase one that didn't include a huge plastic bottle that goes into the landfill every few months, Batgirl read my mind and got me a solid shampoo bar. I'm looking forward to trying it, right after I use up the fluid in what is hopefully the last shampoo bottle I ever buy.

I wonder what's next? Suggestions are welcome, if you've discovered sustainable products or hacks that achieve similar ends.

In novel-related news, I've got more chapters to drop at my Patreon. If all goes as planned, scene 2 of chapter 7 will drop tomorrow. Stay tuned, patrons! I'm grateful to each and every one of you!