My 2018 in gaming

[Updated to add the names of some women and enby game designers I had somehow failed to copy-paste from my spreadsheet.]

Once again, I review the list of games I played during the year we just said goodbye and good riddance to.

Despite having fewer health problems in 2018, the number of different games once again dropped, to only 28, down from 62 in 2015, 47 in 2016, and 44 in 2017. I had a lot of challenges this year again, plus little money to attend conventions (only Big Bad Con and one day at KublaCon), and no space to play at home.

As a result, I played only 7(!) different tactical and strategic games (board, card, and miniatures games), from 30 in 2015, 26 in 2016, and 18 in 2017. That makes up 25% of the titles I played.

On the narrative game front (role-playing games, story games, and live-action role-playing), I played 21 or 75% of my titles, compared to 32 in 2015, 21 in 2016, and 26 in 2017. Of these 21 games, I ran 7, or 33%: At the Stroke of Midnight, Blue Rose RPGFate of the InquisitorMisspent YouthThe Quiet YearThreadbare RPG, and Turn. Continue reading “My 2018 in gaming”

RPG test drive: Turn

I had a chance during the holidays to play with one of my online groups. You know how hard it can be to get a group together, especially when they are spread in different time zones; when the friend who was supposed to run the adventure had to ask for another week to prepare, I offered to run something in our original time slot so we would not lose our precious gaming time.

Since this group has greatly enjoyed Golden Sky Stories, I first thought I would try running Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but I just can’t quite grasp how play proceeds, let alone explain it to others. So I decided to playtest Turn: A Game of Shapeshifters in Small Towns instead.

Turn (Daedalum Analog Productions) is “a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern era”; I think of it as Northern Exposure meets Teen Wolf, or Twin Peaks done by Studio Ghibli.  It’s written by Brie Beau Sheldon and recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign (where you can find the beta playtest version, freely available.) Here is what the author says:

Players in Turn are shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must balance their human lives and habits with their beast needs and instincts in quiet drama. Their baser natures will challenge them as they strive towards goals from everyday tasks to life-changing experiences, and they will need to find comfort in one another to make it through without becoming stressed out.

Turn is part of the family of games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), which means that a lot of the setting and story creation comes from the players, not just the game-master. Starting a game involves group creation of the small town where the stories will unfold, and player characters are designed by picking one human role and one beast archetype and selecting from their menu of options to customize your characters.

Continue reading “RPG test drive: Turn”

Giving thanks, 2018 edition

I blame the cats for everything this week. First I screwed up my back on Sunday night when I was cleaning their litter boxes; then on Wednesday Ubaid woke me up by jumping on me and sent specks of litter in my right eye. I repeatedly tried flushing it with water but ended up having to go to an ophthalmologist to get it cleaned, the afternoon before a holiday.

The eye is improving but when I got up—or tried to—on Thursday, my back and sciatic nerve were aching too much to face an hour in the car each way to go to the Thanksgiving potluck dinner our friends Steve and Maureen were hosting. Edmund has been unable to sleep until dawn lately so he spent the day snoring.

By eight in the evening, I suddenly realized that since I was unable to move around enough to make dinner and it was getting late, I had better order soon if I wanted some kind of holiday dinner, so I got a couple of samosas (coupon!), tandoori chicken, navratan korma, the house lamb curry, aloo and garlic naan, and of course rice, from a Northern Indian restaurant nearby. Edmund woke up for food and we watched episodes of “Call the Midwife.”

Despite the hiccups, I still have a lot of thanks to give:

Thank you first to my husband Edmund, who has had a rough year, for holding on through the dark days. I know how hard it is and I’m so grateful that you marched on.

Thank you to my family for having given me the kind of love and care that seems practically like a fairy tale. Everything good in me comes from them, and everything dumb or selfish I do is mine alone.

Thank you to all my friends, too numerous to name and sometimes anonymous, who have been steadfast in helping us with their hearts, their time, their expertise, and their resources, despite other and better claims for their kindness. I don’t always show the appreciation I should when I feel I have not lived up to your kindness; when I am ashamed, I hide. I’m afraid of naming names because that automatically means missing some, but I love you all.

Thank you to the good people at Evil Hat Publishing, Vigilance Press, and Generic Games who have trusted me to work on their awesome games this year. It has been a pleasure and an honour working with all of you.

Thank you to Sean Nittner and the Big Bad Con team for not only making the convention a remarkable event but for making me think year-round about how to make things better and easier for other people, especially the marginalized voices.

Thank you to my online communities, where I have found so many lovely people that have made my life richer. I’m sorry that many of those have to migrate from Google+ and I hope we stay in touch in other virtual venues.

Thank you to the Resistance in all its forms. We have made a difference this year, and that should give us strength for the work still ahead.

Thank you to the medical professionals and support staff of Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco for keeping me alive and kicking, for being unfailingly kind, helpful, dependable.

Thank you to my feline deities, Valentine and Ubaid as well as my sweet Phantom who is gone but not forgotten. I live to serve you. 😉

Thank you to Copper Chimney for being open on Thanksgiving and delivering delicious food despite the pouring rain!

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”