Talkin’ ’bout Big Bad Con, yeah…

I spent my discretionary time this weekend working on prep for this year’s edition of Big Bad Con. We had our official launch a few says ago, and we’re very excited!

It will be our second year at the new venue, the Marriott Walnut Creek, and we are planning to make better use of the excellent space. (I was bold and already booked a room.) We received a lot of useful (and mostly heart-warming) feedback on last year’s event, which prompted some changes. Notable items include:

  • A new board game track with a game library
  • An expanded program of panels and workshops
  • More games for teens
  • Better access to parking and food at the hotel
  • Quieter space for Games On Demand
  • An all-digital system for on-site game signups

And probably more stuff I’m forgetting. The con have fantastic staff handling all these projects.

Immediately after Thursday’s announcement, we received many game submissions. I spent much time this weekend approving games and communicating with game-masters. And thinking about what games I want to run…

We also received submissions for panels, seminars, and workshops but we’re holding those in draft form until we have our official guest list finalized. This must wait until after the Kickstarter campaign that will run through May. Still, if you have ideas of panel topics you would like to see on the program, send them in!

 

Get Off Your Ass and Stand Up For All

dnc_ass-assPart of my entertainment last weekend when I was in the hospital was to watch SS-Gruppenführer Milo Yiannopoulos lose traction. First, there were Larry Wilmore and Malcolm Nance telling him what’s what on “Overtime With Bill Maher.” Heads-up: you need to wade through the opening bullshit before you get to the good stuff. Then there was NAMBLA(1) Chair Yiannopoulos’ own recent words finally being acknowledged for once, and finally Laurie Penny’s post-mortem.

But amusing as it was, there was a background to this that infuriated me throughout: the continued treatment of Yiannopoulos and his droogs, and the validation of his odiousness as just what everyone is really thinking. It peeked through in Penny’s reluctant tenderness for “Peter Pan” and the “Lost Boys,” but it was shoved front and centre in Bill Maher’s handling of him.

Milo Y constantly spouts racist, misogynist, ableist, transphobic shit, but the (alt-)Right only flinched when he sounded too much like their idea of gayness. They don’t give a shit about protecting children but they do have a knee-jerk reaction for the Gay Man Preying On Their Sons. BFD, nothing new in the Log Cabin’s closets; but we, the liberals, #TheResistance, we should not normalize any of this. I was appalled to hear Maher join in the denigration and mockery of trans persons rather than tell Milo he’s not edgy — just a narcissist piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be humoured. Thank you, Larry Wilmore, for taking the burden on yourself.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have to come to grips with the Maher type of liberal, spouting old garbage like it’s 1974 or something. Look at them in the face or in the mirror: the privileged, gated community, comfy, bougie liberals; the not-my-backyard, not-my-problem liberals; the All-Lives-Matter liberals; the white women who voted for trump; the TERFs and the SWERFs; the “race realists”; the I-got-mine-Jack liberals.

Fuck ’em.

Let’s not BE them. Let’s not be this clueless, let’s not insulate ourselves in our little corner of privilege like a bit of blanket allowed by those hogging all the riches and power. Let’s respect human beings as we want to be respected. Let’s fight to protect the rights of women, persons of colour, refugees, children, DREAMers, disabled people, trans persons, Jewish, atheist, Muslim, LGBTQ, and any number of artificial divisions I’m forgetting right now.

Trans persons are not confused: they want to be treated like full human beings, be protected from assault, and have their bodily autonomy respected.

Black people and persons of colour are not reverse-racists: they want to be able to get decent education, employment and housing, their children to have the same chance of surviving a police encounter as if they were white, and a shot at the famed American Dream every once in a goddamn while.

People advocating for marriage equality are not asking for new rights: they just want to form a family on their own terms with the same protections heterosexuals receive under the law, including some simple peace of mind.

Refugees are not terrorists: they’re fleeing terrorism, state-sponsored violence, persecution, famine and other calamities, and they get extensively vetted before they are even allowed a visa.

Immigrants are not rapists and murderers: they’re hard-working people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in a country that shows them little but contempt but is all too happy to exploit them for cheap labour.

Muslim beliefs are not any more threatening than Catholic, or Baptist, or Latter-Day Saint ones: the Quran speaks words that are dang similar to those of the Bible or the Book of Mormon.

People with disabilities are not a burden, nor are they inspirational: they’re us(2), needing to marshal our strength and use life hacks when it’s not a hip Buzzfeed article.

And cis women do not need need to be protected by the law from trans women — they need to be protected from cis men. Their rights, their autonomy, their safety, their health care, their paycheck need to be protected from greedy old cis men in Congress and in the White House.

What part of this is hard to understand?


(1) National American Milo-Boy Love Association. Return.


Edit:

(2) I woke up at 2am, remembering this sentence and hating it. It sounds like I’m comparing living with a disability to having a bad day; that’s not what I intended. What I mean is that people with disabilities are ordinary folks like us us, not strange others, and that many of us will deal with disabilities in our own lives at some point; moreover, much of the help required — for example, under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) — is very modest, not the insurmountable barrier some people imagine. Return.

The Lung Con

Oh great, another illness post…

Although we had planned to spend Presidents Day weekend at DunDraCon, I was concerned about a cold that was leaving me severely short of breath and occasionally dizzy last week. I saw my general practitioner because I had been told to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath. She gave me antibiotics to avoid the cold turning into bronchopneumonia. But although the cough rapidly got better, the breathing and dizziness didn’t — I was panting from merely getting up and walking to another room. So on Friday morning when my doctor called to check back, she said I should go directly to the Emergency Room.

A proof-of-life photo for my friends.
A proof-of-life photo for my The friends.

A few hours later I had had an electrocardiogram, a CAT scan, an echocardiogram, ultrasound of the legs, and multiple examinations, as well as being hooked up with an intravenous heparin drip for blood thinning, electrodes to monitor my heart, a pulse oxymeter, three catheters in my arms, a sphygnomanometer cuff for frequent blood pressure monitoring, and a nasal cannula for oxygen.

Doctors said the CAT scan showed “multiple, extensive” pulmonary embolisms, and the echocardiogram indicated that my heart was enlarged on the right side from overwork to pump blood through the obstructed alveoli. On the plus side, my physical strength, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and even oxygenation were generally good, no clots were found in my legs, and I had no chest pains at any point.

pulmonary_embolismI was at one of these tipping points when the benefits and risks of two different treatments seem to exactly even out.

  • In a moderate case, the treatment would consist of administering heparin to prevent further clots, then allow the clots to dissolve gradually, transitioning me to another blood thinner like warfarin for long-term maintenance. The risks in this are primarily associated with clots starting to move before they’re small enough and causing cardiac problems.
  • In a severe case (i.e., when things are dire and you can’t really f– them up much more), the treatment would be the administration of a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), often referred to as a clot-buster. The risk then is to cause catastrophic internal bleeding, particularly in the brain — such as a stroke.

In the end the primary doctor, a pulmonologist, was very cautious. She sent me to the Intensive Care Unit instead of a regular room because clot-buster treatment can only be administered in the ICU due to the risks. I was monitored at all times with a heparin drip, but the tBA treatment was not immediately administered. It was crazy busy in the ICU with some acute cases (fortunately, I was in the quieter wing) so it was only in the evening that the doctor was able to come back and talk to me. Since my vital signs were strong and I had even eaten dinner (I was SO hungry by then, having left home without even breakfast), she decided to keep me on heparin but supervised in the ICU for the moment.

In ICU with my pussy hat for warmth.
In ICU with my pussy hat for warmth.

Thus ended Friday night, with me sleeping in the ICU, nurses watching me and blood samples being drawn every few hours. Despite the severity of the case, I was by far the “healthiest” looking patient in ICU. Two things that made the nurses chuckle: I asked for a sleeping mask, and I was the only one well enough to eat an actual breakfast on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon I was allowed to get up, take a few steps around the room, sit up in a chair for a couple of hours. I spoke to the doctor a few times throughout the day. In the evening I was well enough that she transferred me to the Transitional Care Unit (TCU); she just wasn’t willing to risk a stroke if she gave me the tBA.

So I got to TCU in time for the night shift. Because the ratio of nurse to patients is much lower there, the doctor told me with some insistence that I was not to wait at all if I needed even the slightest help, but immediately use the call button to summon a nurse. So I did. In fact, I try to be the most obedient and courteous patient around, but when I need help, I ask firmly. I had to, because there were a lot of distractions during my stay in TCU!

When I was wheeled there, the room across the corridor from mine was already the site of a commotion. The patient there was a woman who appeared to be suffering from dementia, along with whatever other problems were being treated. She was having hallucinations at times, she would not comply with the personnel’s instructions, she would not let them take her stool-stained garments, she yelled, etc. Several nurses and aides were tied up with her case at all times. Their patience and gentleness was truly amazing, but they were clearly very tired.

In addition to the noisy neighbour, other rooms had multiple visitors, and I could hear everyone’s televisions. Possibly because of the number of elderly patients, the wing was kept much warmer than the ICU so I was sweating like a pig. Nevertheless, I was grateful that the nurses told me they would trust me to call for any help I needed and allowed me to keep the door to my room closed for the night. And yes, I could hear the agitated patient and her cohort of personnel throughout the entire night. I was grateful I had my iPhone and earbuds to have some soothing sounds covering most of this. After my 3AM blood draw, instead of going back to sleep immediately, I spent a couple of hours making a music mix on Spotify!

No cannula anymore!
No cannula anymore!

I finally slept again for a few hours, until I was awakened on Sunday morning for more monitoring, sampling, and the sounds of Jesus TV coming from neighbours’ rooms (soon to be replaced by super-violent-movie sounds!) But happily, once the lab results came back I was switched from the heparin drip to Lovenox injections every 12 hours and warfarin tablets in the evenings, much less cumbersome. I was also allowed to do without the oxygen cannula for most of the day, so I had fewer pieces of equipment interfering with comfort.

Edmund was actually with me for much of the time, unexciting as it is to sit in a hospital chair. Since we live only a few minutes away, he was able to come and go for meals, errands, and checking on the cats. He brought me dark chocolate-covered pretzels and raisins, fresh blueberries, and flowers. Throughout the weekend he kept up this shtick with live reports from the “game convention” which made me laugh.

Since I could hear everyone’s televisions, I played music and sang along when I was alone — as confirmed by the pulse oxymeter readings, this actually helped me get nice, long, regular breaths. The nurses chuckled again and encouraged me to continue (I told you they’re dedicated!)

On Sunday afternoon I was allowed to take a couple of closely supervised walks up and down the corridor; it was nice to stretch my legs. I spent a second night in TCU, a little quieter noise-wise though the agitated patient started again on Monday morning.

But after breakfast and a couple more walks, the doctor came to talk to me. Because I had someone at home with me and because I showed good comprehension of, and compliance with, medical instructions, she said she would let me go home but sternly admonished me to treat this as if I was still in the hospital: bed rest or sitting quiet, no activity until my blood prothrombin time (coagulation rate) is in the right range and the clots are dissolved. And by early afternoon on Monday, I was home. Hurray!

Valentine and me, minutes after I got home.
Valentine and me, minutes after I got home.

It was so nice to be home, without wires and catheters, and buried instead under a pile of purring cats! Valentine, in particular, has been keeping a close eye on me. It’s been a luxury to sleep in my own bed and be able to take a shower at last!

I’m in contact with the anti-coagulation clinic pharmacist for dosage adjustments. I must report any unusual symptoms, of course, and come in to the lab for blood sampling every couple of days. The best guess right now is that the tamoxifen I started taking in late January to prevent cancer recurrence is what precipitated the problem (pun intended). I have follow-up appointments scheduled with my general practitioner and my oncologist.

I want to say thank you to all my friends for their encouragements and kindness. I know some of you wanted to come visit me in the hospital, but I just wanted to rest most of the time. The care I received was stellar, but I still wouldn’t call it a fun place to hang out at! And thank you to all the ER, ICU, and TCU nurses and doctors, who were so kind, respectful, and competent (and in some cases, funny!)

War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a 2016 ENnie Nominee!

ENnies 2016 Nominee
The 2016 ENnie Awards nominees were just announced and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus has made the list in four categories:

  • Best Art, Interior
  • Best Family Game
  • Best Rules
  • Product of the Year

It’s up against high-quality, popular releases but it’s so nice to be on the list. (Now I know that at least four people read it!)  ^_^

I am so very fortunate that on my first professional writing gig in the role-playing world, Evil Hat Productions let me create a book the way I wanted to, with the support of their fantastic knowledge and staff resources. It doesn’t get any better!

War-of-Ashes-Pageheader

I made a thing!

2016-06-12 10.25.09 My friend Dorene’s mother just turned 100 this week, and there was a big celebration yesterday. After much hesitation I decided not to go and expose myself to so many people’s germs while undergoing chemo, but I did manage to contribute. When preparing the party Dorene wanted to give away mementos or party favours; I came up with the idea of a card deck using some of the many photos of Primetta, the centenarian, for the face cards. Primetta happens to be a fierce card player.

In addition to the family photos I used the Open-source software Scribus for the layout, card graphics from Openclipart for the pip cards, the ornate border snagged from one of the vintage photos to create a frame, and DriveThruCards for the card printing. DriveThruCards was fantastic; not only do they offer tutorials and templates for Scribus and InDesign, but their support is is helpful and friendly. (Shout-out to Brian!)

I had help from Dorene for photo selection, and most importantly from my husband Edmund for photo correction and resizing so I could just drop them in the layout without having to do all the contrast and colour adjustments. As usual with cards printed via DriveThruCards, the cards are pleasant to use and the deck shuffles well. Dorene ended up ordering 90 copies of the deck so she would have enough for the guests and for Primetta to give away to her friends at card games. [Edit: Primetta loved it! Big success. 🙂 ]

Here is what the cards look like. As mentioned in the image that shows Primetta’s mini-biography, she had quite an adventurous youth — she was in Italy when it entered World War II!

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Filming gamer habitat

In more fun activities yesterday, we toured the Walnut Creek Marriott with Big Bad Con and filmed raw footage for a Kickstarter video. As announced a few days ago, Big Bad Con will take place at the Walnut Creek Marriott this year; we were pretty much bursting at the seams after five years of growth at the smaller Oakland Airport Hilton. The contract was signed so it’s official. I’m using a stock photo here but soon the footage will be available. The hotel has lots of nooks and crannies like this where you can chat, exchange stories, or set up a private game. It’s a beautiful space, the personnel was nice and helpful, we’ll have more space, people are coming up with new ideas — it’s going to be another fantastic convention.

wcmarriott-02

ICONS: Monster Mash!

I ran ICONS (1st edition) for Edmund, Karen and Jesse and had a fun time. They decided to play Spectre, Risk and Cheshire Cat (nemesis: Turbo-Cat) — a corporate-sponsored black ops industrial (counter-)espionage team working for Standard Industries. They stayed unknown and unappreciated, unlike Standard Industries’ public super team, the Standard-Bearers.

Two of the best moments were when Cheshire Cat, in her secret identity as mild-mannered teacher Mr. Myerson, met with his student Angel on the train and had to both save the train from a super-villain and protect his cover; and when Risk intimidated The Troll by sheer force of gumption, even though she was outclassed in terms of power.

I enjoyed the game but next time I run ICONS, I will hit the Fate-like elements harder.

Playing ICONS

 

The Case of the Dead Client: A Damon Sainte, P.I. Adventure

Cityscape Snapshot by Atomhawk

From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class.  From 10 feet away she smelled like someone made up to be seen from 30 feet away.

— With apologies to Raymond Chandler

It was a very bad morning for Damon.  Sleeping on a half-broken couch in his office was old hat by now, as was the morning sound of a stone gargoyle landing outside the window at dawn, or a feline deity demanding breakfast.  Nothing that a bad cup of coffee or three wouldn’t fix, especially with some bourbon thrown in.  Memories of the previous night were fuzzy — something involving a beautiful woman, a fist fight, and alcohol.  Just like every night.  Through sheer force of will, the detective managed to keep one eyelid propped open as he rolled out of bed and onto his feet, fumbling for his coffee cup.

There was an angel sitting behind his battered desk.

She looked like a goddess, radiant and attractive beyond the understanding of mortal men – brunette hair worn off the shoulder, alabaster skin without a trace of imperfection, and blue eyes as wide and alluring as the sky on a summer day.  Full, red lips that were made by some deity for the very purpose of being kissed.  Looking up from the newspaper she was reading, she cocked her head to one side and gave Damon a smile full of hope and trust.  “Like a puppy hoping for a home,” he thought sourly.  His heart still skipped once.

Then he caught a whiff of the smell.  A smell he normally associated with back alleys, strays hit by a railrunner, and the city morgue on a warm day.

“Awake?” said the angel with a voice like honey and milk.  She tapped the newspaper.  “I was just reading the obituaries.  So strange to see my name there.”  She smiled again, all innocence and trust.  “Thank you for agreeing to find out who killed me.  It really means a lot.”

From the corner near the food bowl Ubaid piped up “And you complain about the things I drag home!”


Thus read the introduction we had received via a email: on Sunday we played a new episode of the adventures of Damon Sainte, P.I., an ensemble cast setting my husband wrote for the game Bloodshadows from West End Games.  The most recent episodes were posted here and here.  Our player characters this time were Damon Sainte himself (Steve P.), Cat the former pit fighter and current casino owner (Maureen), Chummie the newspaper boy with a not-so-imaginary friend (Adi), and Marycete the nurse, a worm collective animating a dead body (me).  Short descriptions of all character backgrounds are found here.


Damon
Damon Sainte

Damon questioned the dead dame, Dottie. She was sure she could not have died in her sleep has the obituary claimed. And she wanted Damon to investigate.

Her last memory was of having gone to sleep in her home in the wealthiest part of town, the Diamond Districts. She lived with her parents — and their twenty-five or thirty servants and employees of the art gallery. Dottie did not work or study but she painted and entertained many suitors. No pets, no enemies. But Alfram Gallery was known as the most prestigious in Galitia. Continue reading “The Case of the Dead Client: A Damon Sainte, P.I. Adventure”

Dark Matter: RPG?

Dark_Matter_IntertitleThanks to the magic of the Fire TV Stick we recently bought, Edmund and I are half-way through watching the first season of the Space channel series Dark Matter (no spoilers on episodes 7 through 13, please!)  We’ve been viewing this very much as someone’s role-playing campaign, with classic players: the Fast-Talker (1), the GM’s Spouse, a.k.a. the only one that is sensible enough to be trusted as party leader (2), the Gun Bunny (3), the Ninja (4), the Weirdo (5), the Real Role-Player (6), and the GMPC (Android).

END OF EPISODE 6:

GM: OK, we’ve been playing this for a while so we’ve reached a milestone.  You guys can change one of your aspects now.  Think about taking something that will anchor your character in the story, build connections among you.

4: I change my Trouble from “Wanted for Murdering my Father” to “I Will Avenge my Father’s Death.”

GM: Uh, OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of known space, and you won’t interact much with your family, right?

4: That’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you guys?

6: I took “I Must Bring the General to Justice.”

GM, weakly: OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of…

6: Yeah. But that’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you, 3?  You’ve had some time to become familiar with the premise, you saw the background plots everybody else is taking. What about your own mysterious past?  You could take something to add a little depth to your character?

3: Nope.  I’m fine.

GM, looks at character sheet: Your aspects are Big Gun, Other Big Gun, and Even Bigger Gun, your High Concept is Gun Expert, and your Trouble is Trigger-Happy!

3, proudly: And I have the stunt “Two-Handed Shooting”!

GM: I fucking hate you all.

[Edited to add:]

EPISODE 7:

GM: Hey guys, 3’s player can’t make it this week but my friend Chris is in town and will play 3.  I hope no one minds?


Dark Matter Intertitle” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Convention Report: Big Bad Con 2015

Big Bad Con 2015 badge
Badged and proud of it.

I recently attended — and helped with — my favourite game convention in the world, Big Bad Con.  I can’t believe it was the fifth edition already!  And Edmund and I have been to every instance — and have a ton of souvenir pins to prove it.  (You can read Edmund’s description of this year’s event starting here.)

Every year has been better than the previous, an amazing feat of continuous improvement of an already superb convention.  But this year was also organized differently.  Because of a SNAFU with the hotel, negotiations were difficult and a contract did not get signed until mid-May 2015, for a convention that takes place in October.  If you have ever tried to put on an event of this scope, you know that they take the better part of a year to organize, so this was a challenge.  Plus, organizer Sean Nittner had been putting on the convention with a handful of staff for the first four years through sheer personal energy, and I think exhaustion was setting in.

The Big Bad Wolf and the Wolf Pack

So this year Sean started with a call for volunteers which Edmund and I answered, followed by a Kickstarter campaign to make up for the hotel’s increased fees. The KS campaign was a runaway success, with 205 backers pledging $14,050 or seven times the sum of $2,000 Sean was asking for.  He used the extra money to bring in a bevy of guests selected among enthusiastic community builders and diversity champions in our hobby.  Continue reading “Convention Report: Big Bad Con 2015”