RPG a Day: Adjacent hobbies

26. What hobbies go well with RPGs?

  • Scratch-made pizzzaReading, of course! All those adventures playing in your head, inspiring you to the virtual adventures you want to have with your friends.
  • A lot of crafts go well with too, such as drawing, map-making, miniature painting, terrain building, even sewing and costuming.
  • Some of us have a passion for theatre, acting, public speaking, or writing.
  • Cooking is another good one! There is something about breaking bread together that creates bonds between people.

mountain of books PO-2s_Assembly




RPG a Day: A Question of character

25. What makes for a good character?

Katsukawa ShunshôIn your opinion, what do you need for a satisfying character?

Obviously, this will vary tremendously. A player character that is satisfying for me to play has to have enough drive to action, enough personal involvement in the story and with the other PCs to be moved to act. I have to be able to see clearly what she would do, rather than have to evaluate a collection of stats first. Some tensions are great, motivations to act in clear but divergent ways: divided loyalties, relationships, obligations, rivalries, codes of honour, etc.

A non-player character that I find satisfying to interact with has to have hidden depths, complexity, and both good and bad traits. Villains, in particular, are most interesting to me if they can almost convince us that they are the heroes! Almost. A good way to build that in is to use the “passions” (rage, noble, and fear stimuli) from Unknown Armies. In fiction, examples of good villains include Hans Grüber (Die Hard), Mr. Morden and Alfred Bester (Babylon 5), Mags Bennett (Justified), “Nucky” Thompson (Boardwalk Empires), etc.




RPG a Day: Giving games

24. What is the game you are most likely to give to others as a gift?

It varies a lot with the person and their tastes, of course! But in the past my husband and I have given several copies of Jonathan Tweet’s Everway to friends. I love that beautiful, innovative game! More recently, I gave several copies of the book I wrote for Evil Hat Productions, War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.🙂

Everway WoA Layout Cover




RPG a Day: Don’t ask

23. Share one of your best ‘Worst Luck’ stories.

Shadowrun4-coverShadowrun 4th Edition, 2006. Big handfuls of six-sided dice for everyone.

We’re operating in the northern part of the Free State of California, south of the Tir Tairngire.  We’re coming to the climactic act of the adventure, and we’ve staked out a spot where something is amiss but we’re not quite sure what to look out for. There’s four players at the table and we’re not stupid, we all have sunk points in Perception; the lowest of us has eight dice and the highest, with all bonuses, has 15.

The game-master calls for a Perception roll, and we all fail.

No problem, we have Karma points up the wazoo! We re-roll.

Nope. Nope. Nope. We can’t see our own feet.

So a squad of Elven spies from the Tir successfully gave us the slip and we missed the big finale. Effing Elves!




RPG a Day: Starting right

22. How does your group like to start a session?

Food_and_Tianxia(Alternate question from BrigadeCon’s list.  Today’s default question was “22: What are some random events in your games that keep happening?” but it didn’t inspire me. I’ve been gaming for too long, randomness has had a chance to show its true face!)

We pretty much always start with the news, the chit-chat, the general buzz friends make when they get together. You know it has to play itself out anyway, and it’s makes for a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. We often use the time to eat a pot luck meal or some snacks, read the recap from previous episodes, and so forth.




RPG a Day: Generous interpretation

21. What was the funniest misinterpretation of a game rule in your group?

ArsM4We’re rarely hung up on rules interpretations, and I can’t think of any hilarious examples. But back a decade ago we started an Ars Magica (4th edition) game and we went through the Covenant creation, with dismaying results.

In this game there are tiers of characters: the all-important Magi, hero-level Companions, and the ubiquitous, disposable “grogs” that serve them. The characters form a pool; in any given adventure you normally have one player using their mage character, one or two playing their Companion characters, and the rest of the group playing the lowly, short-lived but balls-to-the-walls grogs.

While wizard and companion character creation has lots of options, grog creation is usually done based on random ability rolls. To speed up the creation and bookkeeping we use the Metacreator software package, which allowed to roll the stats automatically, and we all agreed that for grogs we would take these stats rolled as-is.

Months of play later, we were discussing one player’s favourite grog, who had simply astounding (positive) ability scores. The player cheerfully explained that the scores were “as rolled”, but he had used the software to roll hundreds of times until he had a grog he liked! To this day, I’m at a loss to explain how this could have been a misunderstanding.




RPG a Day: Learning challenge

Fate Core Cover20. What is the most challenging but rewarding system have you learned?

Fate (Evil Hat Productions) — not because it’s inherently complicated, but because it required shifting mindsets altogether. I’ve described in a previous post how I played Fate-powered games for several years without “getting” it, and how things changed when I tried the Fate Core edition.

Essentially, I had to learn to switch from a pass/fail mindset (choose a skill and roll to see if you succeed) to a fictional positioning mindset (this is what a character would do, roll to see what direction the story takes, create mechanically reusable  little bits of fiction.) Not only do I now adore the Fate system, it has also changed how I approach other games.




RPG a Day: Learning the ropes

19. What is the best way to learn a new game?

Playing at ECG
Teaching InSpectres

There is no doubt that for my learning style, new games work best with a game-master and at least a player or two in the group who are familiar with the game and willing to teach it. Of course, now that I’ve been gaming for decades I can learn on my own but for the first few years it was difficult for me to visualize a game in play just from reading the rulebook.




RPG a Day: Innovation time?

18. What innovation could RPG groups gain the most benefit from?

Felicia listensThat’s a funny question. If I had an idea for something needed, I’d already be pushing for it. If we can reach into the realm of pure imagination, it would be this thing called “listening” which we try to practice at our table but I’ve seen too often missing in some earlier groups or at conventions!




Day 2, Cycle 7: Final infusion

Steamed green onion & pork buns
Steamed green onion & pork buns

This is the last chemotherapy cycle. I’m a little surprised because the first two days have been better than the start of the previous cycle; I must have overdone it with outings the weekend before my sixth infusion. My blood test results are generally good: white blood cell counts, liver function, electrolytes, coagulation, etc. I’m a bit anemic, as expected at this stage, and my potassium level is low, so I’m taking supplements for a few days. The doctor even prescribed a different medication against diarrhea that seems much more effective than Imodium. So while I feel tired, it’s been more in keeping with what I had come to expect before, with the chemo taking a few days to bring me all the way down.

Green Tea Sesame Buns
Green tea sesame buns

Yesterday I was well enough after the infusion to go enjoy Happy Hour with my husband and our friend Dorene at Dim Sum King in Daly City. We had one order of each of the following: xiao long bao (a.k.a. Shanghai dumplings), crispy BBQ pork buns, steamed green onion and pork dumplings, cilantro hand-pulled rice noodle rolls, fried spring rolls, steamed tofu skin rolls, and green tea and sesame paste buns. Most came in threes which made it easy to split (except the XLB, four pieces.) Everything was very good and with Happy Hour, we can in under $35 bucks, tax and tip included!

Today I had an appointment at the Genetics Department in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights. We took the scenic route along Skyline Boulevard and the Great Highway to avoid traffic and have a more pleasant view. We returned the same way and swung by Pacifica to have a late, late lunch (or early dinner) at Rock’n’Rob’s Famous Burgers, overlooking Rockaway Beach and the pods of feeding whales and porpoises. The little side trips, friends’ visits and lunches make the medical stuff feel more like outings and less like the terrifying chores they are.

Edited to add this photo of my last chemo session, with Dorene.

It will be a month before I have my genetic testing results, which may tell me whether I have some of the genes that most frequently lead to recurring breast (and other) cancers, or it may be inconclusive. The counsellor explained that results come back typically as negative 60% of the time, 10% come back as positive, and 30% as inconclusive, i.e., non-typical but too rarely seen to determine whether they’re a problem. I’m betting I’ll get an inconclusive result because that’s the least useful you can get!


The information, however blurry it is, will factor into deciding whether to opt for a lumpectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy under monitored anesthesia care vs mastectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy, possible modified radical mastectomy under general anesthesia or even double mastectomy. That’s what I mean by “terrifying.”

Also, I’m too fat for plastic surgery and reconstruction after a mastectomy, so I would have to go flat or with a stuffed bra, excuse me, an external prosthesis.

Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, California
Rockaway Beach