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.
On Sunday night I was scheduled to run an episode of Blue Rose, but for a variety of reasons this was not a good time emotionally-speaking. However, the whole group was available and eager to play so instead I ran a light-hearted adventure of The Warren (Bully Pulpit Games) by Marshall Miller. This game a sort of Bunnnies & Burrows powered by the Apocalypse, very easy to run with minimum preparation,
I used the “City Park” playset created by Kristin Firth and Eric Mersmann. It’s based on Central Park in New York but we decided to set it in Austin, Texas instead. This matter because of the weather, wildlife, plants, etc. Because it had been a crappy week, we agreed to make it more My Little Bunny than Watership Down.
Nutmeg the Thumper (female), a Strong rabbit; a young, energetic, go-getter, with a short-haired white coat and a black streak. She had an ongoing dispute with Oakley the squirrel, who kept getting to the best acorns first. Played by April.
Character Move: Thumper. When you cuff, kick, or knock another rabbit about, you may roll +Strong instead of +Shrewd when you Speak Plainly.
Pip the Swift Runner (male), a Swift rabbit, young and overconfident; the best runner in the warren, he would do anything on a dare. Played by Adi.
Character Move: Swift Runner. You have never met an animal you couldn’t outrun. When you Bolt, treat a roll of 6- as a 7-9.
Fluffy the Hutchwise (male), Shrewd rabbit despite being less than a year old: given to a child as an Easter gift, but left in the park to “run free with his rabbit friends” when the realities of caring for a house rabbit sank in. Known for his long soft coat, and floppy ears, a bit unkempt at this point. His rival for expertise on humans was an escaped laboratory rabbit called 76, with a very different perspective.
Character Move: Hutchwise. Raised in a cage or hutch, you are familiar with humans’ routines and mysteries. When you Pay Attention to humans, add “Why do humans do that?” to the list of questions you can ask. The GM will tell you a truth and a falsehood—pick whichever is more interesting or useful.
Peanut the Pigeon-Speaker (female), a Steady and experienced rabbit, currently pregnant. Her short coat’s shades of gray and ring marking around the neck made her look uncannily like a pigeon, so she had forged a bond with them.
Character Move: Circles of Life. The fight for survival makes for some strange bedfellows. When you first use this move, choose another type of animal with which you have history and rapport.
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).
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?
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”→
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:
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.
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”→
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”→
I did not have a good weekend. On Friday night after eating lightly, I started feeling the same abdominal pain I had felt in November from appendicitis. At the time, I was treated with antibiotics but warned that in 40% of cases treated this way, patients eventually still have to have an appendectomy. Hey, people buy lottery tickets for much worse odds! But this time, it had to go. I didn’t wait, I asked Edmund to take me to the Emergency Room where I was admitted, prepped (I’m currently on blood thinners so that means bringing my coagulation rate down), and operated on. Hurray for laparoscopy and highly skilled medical teams!
I was discharged today (Tuesday) and I had a collection of Kickstarter deliveries waiting for me:
We saw Black Panther and it was even better than I had hoped. It’s now a strong contender for best Marvel movie ever, and therefore, for best superhero movie ever.
Visuals and special effects: 5. The most gorgeous eye-candy delight Marvel Studios have ever brought us. In scale and poise it holds its own against Asgard, and is much more joyous and colourful. Every visual choice was very carefully made. The tribes of Wakanda feel very different yet true and (mostly) unified.
Soundtrack: 4. Good mix of pop, traditional, and orchestral music.
Writing: 4.5. I have very few quibbles; the main one is that some characters I would really have liked to see again appear to have died the Final Death. But the dialogue is fun and smart, and the pace is good. Also, reflections on insular and and nationalist attitudes well-suited for our times, by a film-maker who cut his teeth on current events.
Casting: 5. There was not one actor I didn’t love, the choices were excellent all around. The characters’ personalities shone brightly and the lines were well delivered.
Direction: 4.5. Superb attention to detail and sense of an overarching vision. Ryan Coogler assembles the funny, dramatic, sad, tense, and absurd moments into a lifelike tapestry. I really enjoy the glances that characters exchange, the little non-verbal moments. Some exposition, but really not that much considering the amount of material the movie brings in, and well handled.
Editing: 4.5. Tight. Even the slower or more solemn moments did not feel like self-indulgence.
Superheroics: 4.5. The only problem is that the Black Panther suit is, well, black and can be a little hard to follow in the action. But the fights were definitely larger than life.
Diversity: 4.9. As the meme says, they even had two Tolkien white guys (Andy “Gollum” Serkis as Ulyses Klaue/Klaw, and Martin “Bilbo” Freeman as Agent Everett Ross.) Gender, orientation, and ability diversity not really showcased.
Feminism: 5. It passes the Bechdel test as well as the Strong Female Protagonist benchmark. Female characters have their own agendas and goals, their own opnions and methods. You can’t swing a dead panther in this movie without hitting a cool female character doing cool stuff.
The Edward S. Curtis Award for Anthropological Detail goes to Ryan Coogler and the set design team for the futuristic Wakandan buildings in the style of the Songhai and Aksum empires.
My take on it: who says intersectional social justice is dour? This is the bomb!