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”

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.”

 

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.

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.

Taking Threadbare out for a spin!

This weekend I ran a short adventure of the game Threadbare via VoIP for three of my friends, and I think we all had a good time. Designed and published by Stephanie Bryant, the game’s production was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and is now available on DriveThruRPG.

Threadbare is a stitchpunk role-playing game set in a broken world populated by broken toys. Your character starts out as a Mekka (a hard-shelled, plastic or metal toy), a Sock (a single sock, often thought to have been lost in the laundry), or a Softie (a soft-filled toy).

This game is about repairing things that are broken. From the characters, their stuff, their vehicles, even the world itself—everything is damaged in some way. The players’ job is to fix it.

We only had about three hours to play so we created characters and I ran the very shortest introduction adventure offered in the book, called “Furry Road.” But since all Threadbare adventures are designed as mad-lids, the replay value is high, and this intro game dovetails easily into further adventures.

Here are the characters (images created by the respective players), and the opponents they met:

Cookie Furryosa (played by Bryanna) was a bossy but relatable bright pink muppet-type with one Minion eye and a purple sash. Somewhat grumpy yet always ready with a fun story. (Also, Bryanna gave her an awesome voice.)

Shadow’s Keep (played by Fish) was a Bunch of Little Guys, specifically a set of D&D miniatures, including three goblins (one was named Carl), two goblin wolf riders, one goblin sorcerer, a rogue, a sorceress, a gnome illusionist, a dwarven fighter, an elven bow user and a fairy dragon.

Dream Car (played by Edmund) was a former Barbie Dream Car Jeep. She had been the subject of a horrible teen goth punk home art project when her owner became an angsty teen and was now painted in a bad attempt at “Dia de Los Muertos” art with slogans like “Fuck the Police” and “Eat Your Parents.” Barbie and Ken’s plastic heads adorned her front bumper and she had plastic spikes and various “Mad Max” additions. She didn’t really understand what happened and still mostly thought of herself as a fun, cute, pink roadster that could be loved by children and have fun adventures.

The ACTION FIGURES (opposing the heroes) took themselves very seriously. In the picture, back row from left to right: Clarence, Donatello, Merle, Barnaby, and Stu. Front row: Pluto.

My 2017 in gaming

Nerdling time!

Despite having somewhat fewer health problems in 2017 than the previous year, the number of different games was down to only 44, from 62 in in 2015 and 47 in 2016.

The primary difference was in fewer different tactical and strategic games (board, card, and miniatures games), from 30 and 26 in previous years to 18 in 2017. And for this I blame: Gloomhaven. We played that game so much since we got it in February 2017! If I tracked hours spent per game instead of just game titles, we would see a very different pie chart.  Continue reading “My 2017 in gaming”