You are here ⬇️

We’re still unpacking boxes and putting things away, but it’s beginning to look more like a home and less like a flea market. This afternoon I posted a photo on Twitter showing the portion of the den that looks habitable, and I started thinking what great big geeks it shows us to be.

But then it also dawned on me that it shows lots of connections to the people in my life, my friends, from the mementos Edmund and I have given each other, to furniture items we got from local friends, to games and art created by people I know online and sometimes in real space, to presents we’ve received, and games we played with great people. So I marked up the picture to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Thank you, friends, for being in my life!

Kickstarter arrivals

I’ve had a couple of Kickstarter campaign deliveries in the last couple of weeks. First, the Zine Quest entry by Lauren McManamon and Jesse Ross (Hedgemage Press), Girl Underground, a game Powered by the Apocalypse:

Contents: The game is really interesting and I definitely want to run or play this soon. I particularly like that although the Girl playbook is narratively central to the game, the Companion playbooks all feel interesting and exciting to play, not mere sidekicks. Other favourite feature: GM support for adventure-building includes an array of fantastical locations with prompts, NPCs, plot hooks, and guidance for scene-setting.

Even though I already have two games booked at Big Bad Con, I’m now considering running this at Games on Demand in October, or maybe running it online for friends this summer.

Format: It makes a better ebook than print zine because the text ends up so small I can barely read it even in good light. That said, the layout is elegant and the art lovely.

Second arrival: Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne by Ruben in ’t Groen (Nocturnal Media/Gallant Knight Games/Chaosium), a game based on the rules from Pendragon:

Contents: The book is massive, with over 450 pages, and excellent. The Pendragon v5.2 rules are carefully adjusted to reflect the Frankish empire, and the rich setting section is well written. It’s exciting for me to read a game based on these tales, which were as present or more in my youth’s reading lists as Arthurian legends. Edmund is planning to run a campaign starting very soon.

Format: The text is small but not as tiny as Girl Underground‘s. The book binding, end pages, gilt page edges, bookmark ribbons, covers, and section headings are beautiful. The pleasing layout is similar to that of Pendragon, but in addition the red headings (rather than blue) make it easier to navigate quickly.

The illustrations… Well, the first backers-only PDF version had raised a hue and cry with the poor quality of some illustrations. In response, Nocturnal Media and partners commissioned new art to replace the most egregious pieces. The art is now technically competent but often flavourless. Unlike the famous pieces from the public domain, most notably those by Gustave Doré, few of the commissioned illustrations evoke the Carolingian setting and not just some generic European medieval fantasy.

And this gem still made it as the chapterhead illustration for Chapter 17: Foreign Cultures. RLY? I can’t decide which this least evokes at first glance, Charlemagne’s paladins or foreign cultures. Except the cis het white dudebro culture, which is foreign to me.

Still, the book is overall a good purchase and I think we’ll have good gaming with it.

Progress, sort of?

Some day, this will be a living room.

Sheesh. We/re still unpacking, cleaning the old house, and getting to new the new housemates. We each took falls and scraped joints, we’re banged up and bruised, sore and tired, but we’re making progress.

We’re deeply grateful for the help and moral support we once again received from our friends.

The new neighbourhood is less suburban and more mixed-urban, which means less privacy and more traffic, but also three bus lines right on our street that connect to CalTrain stations. The terrain is rather flat, not steep like our old neighbourhood, so it’s less daunting to take a walk. It also appears t be the world capital of ice cream vendors, with the chimes of ice cream trucks and bike-powered carts constantly ringing. I have not broken down even once yet. Yet.

Continue reading “Progress, sort of?”

Big Week!

Two big events in our lives this week, which should help a lot with mental health! First, I accepted a half-time job that I can telecommute for, thanks to a tip and recommendation from my friend Bryanna. If all the hiring paperwork can be taken care of in time, the start date is July 8. I’m very excited about this!

Second, I just signed the lease earlier today for a shared house, and our cats can stay with us. 💖 We heard of this through our friend Karen, and the people we’ll share with seem super-nice. The only sad part is that we could not find anything we could afford in San Bruno, so I will have to step down from the city planning commission. This is not very far, though, a little further south and closer to the Bay.

We’re moving – but where?

You know how we have been struggling in the past year. We had hoped to be able to sublet the main house area and live in the in-law unit; this project dragged on with one hurdle after another until we finally learned that although our friend and landlord was willing to accommodate this arrangement, it is illegal where we live (not permitted by the zoning code). Now we have to leave by the end of May.

We don’t really know where we’ll end up; it’s too expensive in the Bay Area, so we are looking at rural California (Humboldt County), Portland OR, Vancouver BC, and other less expensive places. We’re also looking at shared housing programs.

To be honest, homelessness is on the list of possibilities and pretty darn near the top. We have used up the finances raised for us by our friends on GoFundMe, all our savings, and all our retirement funds. We both have health challenges, physical and mental. My energy level is low, I have not managed to work full-time since my bout with cancer. And we have two cats, which always makes it trickier to find housing.

But since we let our local friends know a few days ago, we have also received offers of help to find a new place, get employment and move, invitations for temporary stays while we search, and so forth. We are poor in money, but rich in friends. As soon as we get back to a sustainable living situation, I will be satisfied; I don’t need more. I love you all.

Avengers: Endgame – Spoiler-free mini-review

  • Visuals and special effects: 4.5. It’s extremely well done, but I’m docking it half a point for borrowing the dour DC palette too often. Give it back, Marvel, you don’t want to play with someone else’s dirty cast-offs.
  • Soundtrack: 4.5. Lots of good use and reuse of both orchestral and pop music. Alan Silvestri’s work is solid, and there are little musical jokes in the soundtrack.
  • Writing: 4. Unlike Avengers: Infinity War, which I thought was a jumble of good scenes tied by a weak excuse for a plot, Endgame actually has a plot that hangs together, at least in a comic book way. Also lots of good lines.
  • Casting and acting: 4. Not a whole lot of new faces, but nearly all of the old ones are there, even minor ones. Solid acting, with some actors once again showing more range than they often get credit for; made me cry a few times (that’s an easy feat right now, though.)
  • Direction: 4. Smoothly moves back and forth between moments of drama, humour, and action. The character development moments felt like they received special attention. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s vision seemed much clearer, much like it was in Captain America: Civil War.
  • Editing: 4.5. Tight. There is a lot of material packed in there, and segments that could get mired for a long while are resolved briskly; yet poignant moments are given the time they need to unfold. Good sense of comedic tempo as well.
  • Superheroics: 5. Although my favourite superhero group action scene remains the fight at Leipzig-Halle Airport in Civil War, there are a lot of quintessential superhero moments in Endgame, so many that it may take repeated viewings to catch them all.
  • Diversity and feminism: 3.9. Characters of many different origins, orientations, genders, etc. appear, but the lion’s share of the focus is still on white (straight, cis) men. There are even some scenes that deliberately highlight this, I’m not quite sure what the message was. However, three of the female characters in particular do have serious moments of deep self-realisation, and that was cool. Also, thank you Wakanda for putting up with white people’s messes.
  • The Sean Bean Award for character I will most miss in future Marvel movies goes to Stan Lee.

Like most other Marvel movies, Endgame offers a lot of cool little touches for fans, whether they are the long-time comic book fans or the newer fans who have followed the movie franchise. I enjoyed the many call-backs to scenes from previous episodes and the way they were spun, some times in parallel and sometimes in contrast.

As others have said, this really felt like the end of a season and the ushering in of the next one. I enjoyed, will likely see it again, would recommend.

Agon: Death of a Prince

On Friday we held the fifth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and visited our third island.

The lying in state of a body, terracotta pinax by the Gela Painter, latter 6th century BC.

Our heroines landed on the island of Nimos, where they were surprised to learn of the untimely death of the crown prince, one of their companions during the War. The royal family and the whole island were in mourning.

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Map-making: Using vintage floor plans

Hey, it’s been a while since I shared some tips for making maps for games!

Over on Pinterest, where I collect image inspirations for role-playing games, I’ve been seeing a lot of lovely vintage floor plans for manors and houses. It’s great material for your Call of Cthulhu or Good Society game. However, they’re not always available at a scale that lends itself to making nice game maps. Here is a simple workaround.

Continue reading “Map-making: Using vintage floor plans”

Agon: Seeds of Democracy

Tonight was the fourth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and our second island. Dolia’s player was unavailable so our heroes were Antiochis and Phaedra.

Our heroes landed on the islands of Ion and Soros, linked by a land bridge. Usually there was a gate on the island but it had been destroyed and masses of people were fleeing from Ion into Soros. Orta, the giant who controlled Ion, was raging; his cries of rage and stomping could be heard from afar and every stomp was accompanied by a ground tremor.

Seeing something big going on at the royal palace on Soros, the heroes went to check it out. King Vlakas was preparing to pronounce judgment on his daughter and leader of the Soros army, Commander Tyla, for failing to stop the Ionian refugees by force. The King assumes that the heroes were sent by the gods to restore order on Soros. Tyla recognized the heroes and called them by names and deeds, asking them for support.

Continue reading “Agon: Seeds of Democracy”