Playtest: Dream Askew

Yesterday I got a chance to play Avery Alder’s Dream Askew (Buried Without Ceremony) for the first time. We tried a playtest of the new edition for which a Kickstarter funding campaign was ending today (you can still pre-order through the page afterwards.) The book is going to contain two takes on the system:

  • Dream Askew proper, where you play members of a queer enclave in a post-apocalypse setting (written by Avery);
  • Dream Apart, where you play inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe (written by Benjamin Rosenbaum).

Both make me want to play, and I hope to have a chance to try Dream Apart soon. The art looks wonderful for both settings, and amazing contributors have been added through stretch goals. I expect the final result to be a delight.

Preparation

In addition to the playtest materials available on her website, Avery was also kind enough to share a draft of the “How to Play” chapter for our playtest. I love how caring, generous and thoughtful Avery’s writing is. The chapter provides advice for the play environment and behaviours, not just the mechanical aspects.  Continue reading “Playtest: Dream Askew”

My oldest character sheet

While going through our possessions (the great trash/sell/store/keep purge), I found the binder that contained some of my oldest character sheets.

So today I present to you Keridwen, my elf fighter/magic user (I wanted to be a bard, Cú Chulainn-style) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the first character I ever made. Keridwen was created, rolled stats and all, back in the fall of 1984 at the gaming club of Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, called Polyèdre (Polyhedron). This makes her character sheet 32 years old—older than many people I play with these days.

In addition to the four-page character sheet (in French), there are lists of spells she was eligible to or barred from, psionic abilities she acquired, and a bad photocopy of a portrait I drew.

The choice item, though, is the last page—the will. Club members had an unwritten agreement that you could only pass a deceased character’s possessions to another of your character if the will had been drawn up. So Keridwen left everything to her half-sister Olwen with the caveat that her cash should be used to avenge her if she had been murdered…

#MayRPGQ2018: Part 2

This is the second half of the #MayRPGQ2018 challenge for tabletop role-playing game enthusiasts from Brie Sheldon.

May 18: Where do you play that most encourages your creative side?

Program, badge, buttons

Big Bad Con. This convention is my Christmas, it’s the best weekend of the year. People who show up there are ready to say yes, to try new things, to take risks. Its effect stretches on through the year for me, recharging me with enthusiasm and ideas. Continue reading “#MayRPGQ2018: Part 2”

Play Report: Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitors are a dour lot.

After a delay of over two years, I finally ran Fate of the Inquisitor for the first time yesterday at KublaCon.  It was a moral victory to finally be able to do this!

This game is my hack using:

  • the rules of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus I wrote for Evil Hat Productions (PDF available on a pay-what-you-want basis on DriveThruRPG, and Open Content rules on Fate SRD);
  • the Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) setting,
  • particularly  as  presented in the Dark Heresy role-playing game from Fantasy Flight Games/Ulisses Spiele, and
  • borrowing the random tables from my husband’s Fiasco 40K playset for, well, Fiasco.

Why? Because on the one hand I don’t enjoy the native system for Dark Heresy, it’s just not my cup of tea; and on the other, we have a bazillion WH40K miniatures which were handy to demonstrate the miniatures rules for Fate from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. 

I had four players, including my husband Edmund. The other three players (the very nice Gregg, Thomas, and Jon) were new faces to us and to each other. Edmund is well-versed in both the WH40K universe and in the Fate rules I was using, of course. However, the other players had minimal knowledge of either setting or mechanics. Their role-playing background was primarily from games like D&D or GURPS, and were there to learn about the Fate system.  Continue reading “Play Report: Fate of the Inquisitor”

Movie Impact

I just completed this challenge on Facebook.

“Ten movies that made an impact on you and remain in your rotation, in no particular order. Post the poster, no need to explain. Nominate a person every day.”

 

My New Development

The news I alluded to in a recent post have been officially announced: in addition to acting as project manager for new books in the Fate line, I am now also stepping in to replace Leonard Balsera as Fate Line Developer for Evil Hat Productions.

Lenny is stepping down to be able to keep up with his own increased responsibilities as COO and Creative Director of John Wick Presents. He has been with Evil Hat and working on Fate in its various forms for nearly 15 years. He is instrumental in creating some of the features I like best in Fate Core, the current version of the system. He is savvy, personable, knowledgeable, creative, and who knows how I will be able to follow such an act!

It’s tremendously flattering to have been invited to fill in the role of line developer for Evil Hat’s flagship line, and even more so when picking up the mantle after someone like Lenny. And it’s wonderful to be associated more closely with Evil Hat, since they have been such great people to work with and for.

One of my official mandates will be to bring even more diversity to the talent pool in all roles (writers, system developers, editors, artists, and so forth.) I will redouble my efforts to attract to our projects skilled people who are as diverse as the world I see around me.

Finally, I will also be scouting for new third-party games based on Fate for which the creators would like printing, distribution, and marketing support. Of course such games need to fit in with Evil Hat’s release windows, quality standards, etc.

So yeah, just call me Doctor Fate…

#MayRPGQ2018: Part 1

For May, we have another neat challenge for tabletop role-playing game enthusiasts, the #MayRPGQ2018 challenge from Brie Sheldon. It has questions for the even days of the month.

May 2: How do you introduce yourself?

To other gamers, I usually mention my long-time online handles, dating back 20 years: Anemone, Evil Anemone, Méchante Anémone, and variations thereof. If I know we have gamer friends in common, I mention them. And to publishers, I mention that I have written for Atlas Games, Evil Hat Productions, Generic Games, Vigilance Press, and ZombieSmith, and that I am project manager for the Fate line at Evil Hat (plus awesome new responsibilities I’ll talk about later this month.) I do have gamer business cards I use at conventions! Continue reading “#MayRPGQ2018: Part 1”

More love for friends near and far

The cats disapprove.

This is another personal update post. I have not had much of a chance to keep up with social media and blogging, except in the most superficial way. Messages of support from caring friends have languished unanswered, to my shame.

We’ve been packing boxes, moving furniture, etc. Both Edmund and I are feeling our age, sigh. The cats are nervous, they hate change… I also work on keeping up with my game writing and publishing assignments since they’re my sole source of income. This Sunday, however, I gave myself permission to spend my writing time catching up with non-urgent matters.

Many kind friends have given us their precious free time to help with these chores. Some have provided their financial knowledge to help us straighten up our situation. Sean Nittner also set up a GoFundMe page—and people were wildly, extravagantly generous. So many people donated! I had no idea that so many people cared. This has been a life-saver.

Last weekend was a very busy one; we rented a truck and friends came over to help us move about 90% of the items going to storage, particularly the furniture: antiques from Edmund’s grandmother. What remains to move are boxes, which we take a few at a time.

The truck rental was a story in itself. I had reserved a truck from Budget Truck Rental in South San Francisco, the smallest they had that would have a ramp or lift; this turned out to be a 16-ft (4.9m) truck with a ramp. Instead of charging me, as advertised on their website, $29.99 a day plus $0.99 per mile, they charged me about two-thirds more: $49.99 a day plus $1.49 per mile, and gave me as a reason that this way, I was guaranteed a truck rather than taking a chance that it would not be available. Whatever that means.

I showed up right on time on Saturday morning—and sure enough, my truck was not there. Whoever had rented it before me had not returned it. There was another truck, a 26-ft (7.9m)  with a lift gate but they wanted to charge me more money for it. I was very displeased but I remained polite, if a bit brisk. I got on the phone and called competitor Penske Truck Rentals, a couple of blocks away, where the helpful personnel immediately found me a 16-ft truck with a lift gate AND quoted me a price that was lower than Budget’s, AND then gave me another 10% discount because the cabin had not been cleaned yet and was a little grungy.

As an epilogue, Budget had the gall to run a $50 cancellation charge on my card so I had to spen half an hour on the phone later in the week to get that reversed. It’s what we’d call, back home, “Sévices à la clientèle.” So F U, Budget, I’m never darkening your door again.

Double-decker hatred.

We’re not finished moving into the small apartment, formerly known as the gaming lair, because there’s a sequence that goes: clear space downstairs – take items removed to storage/sale/donation – move object from upstairs into new space downstairs – clean upstairs. Right now we need to clear more space in the apartment and the garage so we can finish setting up our living quarters.

We also still have a bed and dresser to bring downstairs once space is available, and a replacement fridge to move from the garage into the apartment. Good times.

This week the priorities are: schedule visits from a plumber and from a debris removal service; take boxes to storage; buy more boxes and fill them with the remaining items going to storage.

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 25 through 30

Final round of Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 25: Being a tabletop role-playing game designer means…

Argh! This kind of question makes me worry about gate-keeping. I feared at the beginning of this challenge that many people would self-select out because of impostor syndrome.

I think of the definition as flexible and inclusive: if you create games, supplements, scenarios, settings, rules, playbooks, worksheets, and other tools to share with the world, if you listen to constructive critique and try to improve, if you keep polishing your work, then I’d say you are a game designer.

I’m not saying that keeping your meticulous DM campaign notes since the first game of D&D you ran in 1979 and trying to run games in that compendium at every convention makes you a game designer. Based on my training as an engineer, I think that in order to qualify as a designer:

  • You need to articulate what it is you are trying to create.
  • You need to separate the product of your work from your own identity, enough to listen to reasonable criticism.
  • You need to want to improve the product of your work even if the improvement goes in a new direction.
  • You need to keep informed about approaches other designers have used to solve similar problems so you don’t try to reinvent the wheel or publish fantasy heartbreakers.
  • You need to think of several different solutions to every problems rather than pre-select based on bias.
  • You need to try, evaluate, reject or refine, and try again until your design can be pronounced good by comparing to your objectives.

These are features of design, any kind of design. It’s not about how many copies you sold, or how long you have been working on an idea.

Continue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 25 through 30”

Hard times and good friends

Things have been tough all around in the last two years (among the 99%, anyway), and our household was no exception.

When I diagnosed with breast cancer just over two years ago, I lost the energy and time to work. For months before I was diagnosed, my employer had unexpectedly dropped me (and hundreds of other employees) from full-time salaried to part-time as-needed, cutting all benefits including health insurance. When I contacted them to see if they offered any kind of emergency assistance, they said no.

For a while I received income from the state disability insurance and that kept us afloat, but after a year it ended—just as I was recovering from pulmonary embolisms linked to one of my treatment medications. But soon I began feeling better and started writing again, and managing projects for Evil Hat Productions again. I contacted my day-time employer to let them know I was available for work again. They told me they were terminating me instead.

I was getting good feedback and writing contracts from game publishers but that’s a side income, not enough to pay rent in the San Francisco Bay area—unless I was able to produce an additional 70,000 words a month. Instead of reaching this fantastic level of productivity, I started getting other physical and mental health problems and so did my husband.

Despite the incredibly generous help of friends and the wonderful publishers I work with (Evil Hat and Vigilance Press in particular!), we kept losing ground: maxed out credit card, checking accounts frequently overdraft, utilities cut on a rotating basis of “who can we afford to pay right now”, and falling behind on the rent—putting the landlord, one of our oldest friends, in financial danger himself.

We reached the bottom recently, facing homelessness even as I was being checked for suspected heart and lung disease. To be honest, for a few days the only thing that kept me from doing something stupid was remembering how much love and effort my family, friends, and the medical staff had put in keeping me alive and well these past two years. I had no idea what to do, and I know my husband Edmund was equally floored.

Then some of our friends helped us again find money we didn’t know we could access (small retirement funds we can cash), and to make a plan to purge our possessions, shrink our footprint, and balance the future budget. The house we’re renting has a mother-in-law apartment downstairs behind the garage, so we’ll move there and rent the main floor, a nice 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms house. We’ll pass the rent revenue to our friend the owner, who agreed to the plan, and thanks to more work and pay I was just offered by Evil Hat we should be able to catch up a bit at a time.

So for the next few weeks we’re selling, storing, giving away, or disposing of anything we can’t keep with us; trying to organize the apartment to be livable for two adults and three cats; clearing and cleaning the house; and dealing with various financial institutions. At least we can move a little bit at a time rather than having to do it all in one day, and we won’t have to change our address. I still need to find a day job, but at least I won’t be so desperate.

And I got a bit of good news last night: my heart and lungs are fine, I’m simply “de-conditioned” from months of health setbacks.

In all this, our many friends have been so very wonderful. If it wasn’t for them, we would not have been able to face this, to break it down into manageable tasks, or to find the necessary information and resources. We are so very grateful.