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”

The Watch: Game Setup

So yesterday I spoke about our game of The Watch. This was our kickoff, where we got to create characters, clans, and even our great enemy, the Shadow, in its broad strokes. Edmund, Dani and I had all played in Bryanna’s playtest games last year but Fish was new to the setting.

I felt much more relaxed about a friendly series set up for love of the game than I did about the playtest. I love playtesting and I try to give useful, constructive feedback, but I tend to tackle it as a more goal-oriented, must-meet-scope-and-deadline task than regular games. Yesterday I felt free to explore the setting and work on the detail of character relationships, unpressed by deadlines.

Gaming via VoIP has its technological and emotional drawbacks, but it does let you assemble the most wonderful gaming groups that could not possibly meet face-to-face, and it allows the use of nifty tools in real time.

For example, in our online games we usually prepare a Google Drive folder or other sharing point, and collectively take game notes during the game. Yesterday was no exception. You can also look for images of people, places, and objects right when they’re mentioned. Our GM Bryanna is very proficient with Roll20 and sets up great sites with backdrops, maps, character tokens, counters, card decks, etc.

We opened with a discussion of everyone’s comfort level with varying levels of darkness, violence, etc., and the use of the X-card, followed by a brief tour of the game’s themes and tone, and the Roll20 tools.

We then discussed the Shadow, our Sauron-equivalent, and basically what we’d like to punch in the face the most for this . From the options available, we picked:

What the Shadow Is :
Reality Warping
Terror Inducing

What the Shadow Wants :
Pervert the land and all its creatures
Submission without resistance

What the Shadow Does :
Turn women into objects
Crush autonomy and grind down the willful

The Shadow’s Servants:
Men twisted into unnatural creatures of war
Cogs in a devastating machinery of war

The Shadow’s Moves
 Terrify its opposition
 Attack en masse
 Eliminate support
 Make you doubt yourselves
 Snuff out ambitions and dreams
 Corrupt memories into twisted facsimiles

We made four characters:

  • Otac the Bear, our Corporal; from Clan Toltho, known for their crafts folk and farmers (Fish); and three Wardens:
  • Reule the Spider; from Clan Dothas, known for their mystics (Edmund);
  • Papho the Lioness; from Clan Richti, known for their nomads (Dani); and
  • Teyka the Wolf; from Clan Molthas, known for their rugged mountain folk (me).

We asked each other questions and established our characters’ relationships, generating a good deal of setting seeds in the process. Here is a relationship map I made today on Google Draw with what we generated yesterday; there is actually much more detail in our campaign notes, but I like visual tools. Relationships can be edited on the fly.

We then fleshed out our clans, and discovered more secrets, ties, and rifts! I think this is shaping up to be The Lord of the Rings + The Black Company + Fury Road.


Credits: Cover of The Watch by Claudia Cangini. Relationship map’s background image CC-BY-3.0 by David “Deevad” Revoy, obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Otak is actually of Photo of We’wha, a Zuni Lhamana,CC-BY-3.0 Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Reule is actually model Nicola Griffin, demo’ing the Winter 2015 collection for Caterina Wills Jewelry. Picture of Papho is actually of a Hawaiian woman with face tattoos, Getty Images. Picture of Teyka is actually of actress Zhang Jingchu in “Jade Warrior,” 2006. Picture of Miri is actually of a Tibetan girl, copyright Adele Stoulilova 2010. No copyright challenge intended.

Post-cancer update: Heart and Mind

I had a check-in with my oncologist yesterday morning and she continues to be happy with my progress.

At our last meeting in July she switched me from tamoxifen (which works by blocking estrogen from binding to receptors in the breast) to Arimidex (which limits the production of estrogen altogether.) Tamoxifen is known to be an additional risk factor for blood clots and for uterine cancer, while Arimidex increases risks of osteoporosis and muscle and joint pain. In light of my pulmonary embolisms last February, my doctor (and I) felt the risk trade-off was logical.

I’m staying on Coumadin until and unless I become more physically active on a steady basis, at which point I could be switched to low-dose aspirine instead.

I will get my final MUGA heart scan in three weeks, and since all previous ones have been satisfactory, I don’t expect bad news. I will also be getting an MRI this fall, which will keep alternating with mammograms every six months for the foreseeable future (one of each a year.) That’s because of the dodgy genetic profile that suggest increased risk.

So no cancer-related health problems right now, and side effects are being monitored. I feel well cared-for, as usual.  Continue reading “Post-cancer update: Heart and Mind”

RPG a Day: Finding Reviews

10. Where do you go for RPG reviews?

I check out a lot of reviews from friends in my social media feed on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. When I know I have a lot of tastes in common with the reviewer, I check their new write-ups as soon as they are posted. If it sounds like my cup of tea, I put the title on my list of games to try.

If I’m looking for reviews of a specific game, I usually start with the official website of the publisher, then big distributors like DriveThruRPG or even Amazon, then do a general search to see what the word is. If it’s an older title, I also check RPG.net’s Game Index; if it’s a small press/indie/non-traditional sort of game, I’ll search a bit on the Forge and Story Games forum archives.

#RPGaDay2017

 

 

 

 

Play Report and Review: Relicblade

On Thursday my husband Edmund, our friend S., and I got to try Relicblade, a miniatures game from local company Metal King Studio. This is a skirmish-level, 35mm-scale game pretty much conceived and executed by one person, Sean Sutter: he wrote the rules, drew the art, and sculpted the minis!

The Relicblade had been Edmund’s birthday present this spring, but we had not tried it yet because Edmund wanted to paint the minis first. The basic game set comes with two factions, the Heroes and the Pig Men. Edmund had immediately declared them to be social justice warriors and male chauvinist pigs, respectively. The colour scheme of the heroes was selected to reflect his official team name, the Rainbow Warriors.  Continue reading “Play Report and Review: Relicblade”

KublaCon and the Stately Pleasure Dome

We just spent a nice weekend at KublaCon. Yes, I managed to go to a game convention without any medical emergencies! In fact, I felt very good.

Since KublaCon takes place at a nearby hotel we can drive to in about ten minutes, it is affordable for us — we don’t have to rent a hotel room, we get to sleep in our own bed, no worries about feeding the cats… In many ways, that is the best feature of the convention for us.

Pluses about the organization and amenities: the senior staff seems to take problems reported very seriously, including safety and harassment; all volunteers and staff I talked to were cheerful, helpful, and friendly; there is open wifi service everywhere in the hotel; and the atrium area is pleasant to hang out in for open gaming.

Minuses: the hotel and events are not very accessible, I saw several people with canes, wheelchairs or scooters labouring to get around the maze of tables, stairways, and corridors; parking is discounted but still $10 a day, and difficult to get on Saturday and Sunday; and game registration uses the hated shuffler system (a post topic for another day.)

The game listings are not very oriented toward my type of play, but there is enormous choice for people who like the D&D Adventurers’ League, Pathfinder Society, or board games. Still, we managed to have four days of fun and see lots of friends.

The unfortunate registration desk layout

Friday afternoon: The Lost Age

On Friday afternoon, we had hoped to get into a game of Monster of the Week, but it was full. However, in the same room was a game of the soon-to-be-officially-released The Lost Age, and none of the players who had signed up showed up (Friday afternoons can be difficult to schedule for people who have to work or are traveling.) We heard GM and author Keith Leiker pitch his game to wandering players, so decided to jump in and make the game happen. I’m not going to describe it because I wrote a comprehensive review of it yesterday, but I liked it.

[Edit: We also managed to get our Sixth Gun RPG books signed by author Scott A. Woodard!]

2017-06-06-11-58-38.jpg

Friday night: Headspace

On Friday we managed to get into a game with GM Kasi Jammeh, who was running a game Powered by the Apocalypse, Headspace. You can think of Headspace as allowing you to play something like Sense8, a group of telepathically linked characters who can share skills.

I was very interested in this game. However, half the group of players were in the mood for wacky hijinks, while Edmund and I, at least, were looking for dark adventure and intense emotional turmoil. Don’t get me wrong, it was a congenial evening, but I didn’t really get the experience I was looking for.

Saturday: Hanging out

Yep, I’m old. Gaming until midnight got me really tired. I woke up at 11am, and only because Edmund brought me coffee. We moseyed on over to the convention and met with friends, hanging out in the atrium. Our friend A. brought her six-year-old daughter H. and I ran a freeform game of runaway fairies and bridge trolls. It was H.’s first RPG and she apparently really liked it.

We went home around dinner time, since we didn’t have any games lined up for the evening.

Sunday: Gateway to Hell!

On Sunday there was more hanging out with friends, then we played a Fudge/Fate hack in a setting inspired by Call of Cthulhu. GM Dennison Milenkaya did an excellent job of leading us through character creation, setting development, then through the investigation of a haunted house in New England.

We had a grand old time and the game only ended because most of us needed to go to bed. (We did get to a satisfying stopping point first.)

Monday: Live the Revolution!

Finally, today — my birthday — we played in GM Brian Williams’ DramaSystem game, where the group created an entire setting and cast from the sole premise that we were associated with a revolution that had just succeeded.

From this we spun a group of mismatched aliens working along a space elevator, and the push and pull of alliances as they struggled to secure their factions’ future.

After the game we left the convention for the last time and went to have some delicious Mediterranean food with friends for a late lunch.

Swag

As a coda, Edmund and I got each other birthday presents. We got some fantastic-looking games from local designers.

I got Edmund Relicblade, a miniatures game from Metal King Studio, along with The Seeker’s Handbook, a scenario book for the game.

He got me the board game Leaving Earth from Lumenaris, along with expansions.

When we finally got home we napped, then we called for pizza and watched a little television. I call it a weekend well spent.