Goodbye, Phantom

2018-04-03 13.29.20Phantom had not been eating at all yesterday and would not even drink water today. We had to call a veterinarian to euthanize him at home. He passed away peacefully at 2:30pm today.

We first heard of him four years ago when fellow cat-lover Brian Vo reposted a Facebook entry from Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue about him: he was considered unadoptable because he was an older black cat (reported as 15 years old by the people who surrendered him, although vets later said he was more likely between 8 and 12), with a blemish, a mast cell tumour over the right eye. It was a Saturday in July and the rescue volunteer who worked at the San Francisco animal shelter thought he would not make it to Monday if no one claimed him, so we decided to take him in.  Continue reading “Goodbye, Phantom”

Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight

Continuing with play reports from Big Bad Con: Friday morning in Games on Demand, I ran Meguey Baker’s At the Stroke of Midnight (Night Sky Games). The premise:

The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before.

It felt perfect to play in October.

System and Setup

Meguey released it three years ago; the full version which I was using is on her Patreon site, but she also released a basic free version on her Medium blog, so you can take a look.

I had scheduled it as a two-hour game, but it’s hard to gauge how long a given episode will take: you can play with 2 to 6 players and the Yahtzee-like mechanics make it difficult to guess when the end is near. As play aids, I had created a cheat sheets for the Signs; and I used my dry-erase Noteboard so we could draw the elements we created. Continue reading “Play report: At the Stroke of Midnight”

Misspent Youth: Young, Gifted, and Black

Setup

Last week at Big Bad Con, I ran Robert Bohl’s role-playing game Misspent Youth. Because I was running in a four-hour time block and it’s always a challenge for me to stay within the scheduled time, I cut through setting and character creation by using Misha Bushyager’s playset “Young, Gifted, and Black” from the recent supplement Sell Out With Me. The premise:

“What happens when a group of students from a predominantly Black, inner city public school score highly on a test that propels us to a predominantly white private, suburban boarding school? Will the other students accept us for who we are or will they make stupid ass assumptions about us?

“Will we be able to fit in with them? Do we even want to? Will we have to sacrifice our identities to become more like them or can we plant the seeds of true multiculturalism and make them more like us?”

I had two players, Kai and Joshua, and they were fantastic. The two characters selected from the clique in Misha’s playset were Mike (played by Joshua) and Sandra (played by Kai):  Continue reading “Misspent Youth: Young, Gifted, and Black”

My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 4

Sunday

2018-10-14 10.05.32
Regional map
Initially I had not signed up for anything on Sunday morning because I feared con exhaustion might set in by then. But I woke up in plenty of time to make the 9AM games so I grabbed a free coffee at the registration table and signed up for Brian Vo’s “It Makes A Village,” which sounded like Dungeon World meets The Quiet Year. Spoiler alert: it was. Our characters were:
  • Tenrissa the gnome artificer and tinkerer (played by Joey);
  • Matais the human fighter and village carpenter (played by Matt);
  • Elizabeth “Lizzie” Silverstone the elf bard who lived above the bakery (played by Summer);
  • Odd Ev the human thief, secret Santa to the village, who did odd jobs (played by Jim); and
  • Ysolde the human mage and would-be schoolmistress (played by me).
Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 4”

My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 3

Saturday

For my Saturday I had scheduled an array of playtests, all games currently being designed by people I love. I started with (Abyssal), a game Forged in the Dark by my friends and colleagues Ash Cheshire and Edward Turner. The premise:
Whenever humans build cities, they create shadows… hidden, dark places beneath the surface, where creatures that aren’t human gather. Some might call them monsters, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But you? You don’t belong to the surface or the shadows. You are in-between… cursed, or infected, or bitten but not yet turned. You stand at the edge of the abyss. Will you hold on to your humanity at all costs, or will you embrace the change that is happening to you?
It was cool to be the first outside group ever to playtest this. There were three settings to explore: Paris, 1793; London, 1888; or Las Vegas, 1971, and the players were asked to pick. Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 3”

My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 2

Friday

My offerings for Games on Demand (2nd year in a row)
On Friday morning I was scheduled to run a shift at Games on Demand from 9AM to 1PM. Although GoD shifts are all four-hour time blocks, GMs are encouraged to run two-hour games twice because this is useful to attendees who have just a bit of time between events. I was offering the same two-hour games as last year: Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year and Meguey Baker’s At the Stroke of Midnight. It was a treat for me to get to run both: the first group chose to venture in a graveyard at midnight to get a boon from a departed loved one, and the second to follow a community’s preparation for the expected winter hardships. Both groups of players totally “got” the spirit of the games.  Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 2”

My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 1

Last weekend was the eighth edition of Big Bad Con. I have had the privilege of attending every single instance and even to be part of the staff for the last few ones. It’s my very favourite weekend of the year, my Christmas. In the last 25 years I have worked for many other conventions (organized events, volunteered, or been on staff) and attended many more, but Big Bad Con is different. It launched in 2011 with a mission to build community among tabletop and live-action role-players. Within a few years, this expanded to mean more: to make the community welcoming to all and particularly to marginalized, vulnerable, under-represented groups. Here are a few of the practical steps taken:  Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 1”

The New Lair

Phantom on the bed with the retrieved Fate die.

We had many annoying setbacks but we’re almost finished settling in the new lair. Our debts are 90% paid off, we just have a little bit more to catch up with. The house is not rented yet but we moved into the little apartment that served as our gaming den. I’ll post photos when we’re completely unpacked down here, but it’s going well. We were only able to do it because we have wonderful, generous, clever friends.

We’re trying to make it as cosy as possible so that it will be pleasant despite the cramped quarters; we’re thinking of it as camping in the game room. We’re using organizers to maximize use of space, and the one thing we do have plenty of is shelf space for games, miniatures, and books. I even installed a wifi doorbell. As of today, we’ve officially moved in—including the cats!—even though there are still books and clothes to put away.

We would not have moved down here if we weren’t forced to by our finances, but there are things I can appreciate.  Continue reading “The New Lair”

Is ENniebody listening?

The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming.
—ENnie Awards website

The 2018 ENnie award nominees were announced on July 4 and as of July 11 the public can vote for their candidates of choice.

Every year I am flabbergasted that some high-quality releases did not make it onto the list. I know one reason for their absence is that it’s a big job and expense for small press publishers to send the application package. But even so, some electronic releases must surely have been submitted?

Conversely, I am also surprised, every year, by how many names I don’t recognize. I live and breathe RPGs, I have made the majority of my friendships through gaming, I read RPGs like others read the Wall Street Journal. In social media, I mostly talk about RPGs, with other gamers.

This year is a little more striking than usual on both fronts, taking me back to the earlier days of the ENnies. And that’s when I remember…  Continue reading “Is ENniebody listening?”

Surprise

We’ve spent over six decades trying to convince ourselves that the rise of the Third Reich and the resulting WWII was a perfect storm due to unique conditions that could only happen once. That the next time, we’d know better and Nazis and fascists would never be allowed to rise to power again. Well guess what? Perfect storms do happen more than once.
Ordinary, banal evil flared to the most profound evil humans are capable of back in the 1930s, and ordinary, banal evil people are perfectly comfortable going back there right now. Why should we be surprised that they will recoil at no evil actions? They didn’t then, they don’t now. What should surprise us is that the rest of us–the people who don’t plan on any cruelties and don’t deny the full humanity of refugees, or trans persons, or immigrants, or people of colour, or women–tolerate the banal evil and normalise it and allow it to be part of the common discourse.