Racism I Can Do Without: Low-hanging fruit for the white ally

OK, Ramanan S pointed out to me that we have not had significant discussions of race in tabletop roleplaying games since The Thing last year. I take that as an indicator of the chilling effect, but nonetheless it’s not a good excuse. We need to talk, and even more so we need to act.

This is not a post to examine the root causes and come up with an overarching plan to eliminate racism, tokenism, erasure, etc. I can’t be the one to tell you all about race problems in the tabletop gaming community. I’m not on the receiving end, and my white privilege means I will, by definition, not be able to see all the instances.

But there are some things that are obvious enough that we can see them, and react to them, as white allies and tabletop gamers. I can speak about what I do see, and what I can do about it.  Continue reading “Racism I Can Do Without: Low-hanging fruit for the white ally”


RPG a Day: Wish I was playing…

Note: Yesterday (July 31), S. John Ross came up with a great hack for #RPGaDay2017, which I will be using. That’s really pretty much how I treated the prompts in previous years, but I like that it’s made explicit. 

1. What published RPG item do you wish you were playing right now?

Ugh, ask me again in five minutes! We’re starting directly with the kind of question that is difficult for me: narrowing things down to one title.

This very minute, I would be really pleased if a good gamemaster offered to run Blades in the Dark for my husband and I and a few more brave rogues. I have the glorious Special Edition, I’m itching to play. I love stories of clever heroes, ensemble casts, moral dilemmas, and daring plans.

Scrivener Lesson: Setting Up

This weekend I spent some time jotting down some ideas for the easiest writing prompts, drafting a few answers (Screenshot #1). I also made sure to set up properly, for example, choosing a cloud backup location, Dropbox, for safety (Screenshot #2).

And yeah, yesterday I saw this great idea from S. John Ross for reframing the writing prompts and I decided to add it to my project Research section. There were a couple of ways to do this. First, I could just add it to the list of links (Screenshots #3 and 4).

But I decided I wanted to be able to access it from within my Scrivener project, so I created a new file in my Research folder, and pasted John’s text with a source reference (Screenshots #5 and 6). That way, I can have it open in the bottom window area as I write (Screenshot #7).

Then I decided I need to write a Scrivener lesson for all this, but I want to be able to locate it separately from my prompt. So I converted the first entry from file format to folder, and added a new file in it to contain the Scrivener lesson (Screenshot #8). You can easily switch between Scrivener file and folder formats and back again (Screenshot #9), the difference is pretty much just conceptual for our purposes.

It’s a useful thing to do if I want to be able to create collections of related text. In this case, I want to be able to group only the Scrivener tutorials at some point, so I will create separate sections for each. I will also change the icon (Screenshots #10 and 11) for easy reference. In a subsequent lesson I’ll show you how that serves my purpose.





Mashup: Scrivener + #RPGaDay2017

Hey, it’s that time once again! Thanks to an initiative launched by David Chapman, for the fourth year in a row August is #RPGaDay in the Google+ circles I follow and on Facebook. How it works: every day throughout August you get a writing prompt related to roleplaying games.

It’s a good way to share what we love about our hobby rather than kvetching about geek world annoyances, and an encouragement to write more often for bloggers and authors who can use the practice.

For me, the secret to completing this challenge is to write several entries in advance. On previous years I drafted them directly on Google+ (2014) or in WordPress (2015 and 2016). But this year I had an idea: since I was just talking about how useful Scrivener is, resulting in a number of questions on the software’s features and how to use it, I thought I would write my drafts in Scrivener. This will allow me to plan and compare entries more easily.

More importantly, though, this will allow me to share this mini project. I set up a Scrivener project with 31 sections showing each day’s prompt, and I added the graphic version of the prompts and a list of useful links in the Research folder.

A zipped version is located on Google Drive, feel free to use it. You can see I jotted down quick ideas onto the index cards; I could have removed them from the version I’m sharing, but I thought they would serve as examples of how I use Scrivener in planning my writing. I hope this will encourage people to participate in #RPGaDay2017 and/or try Scrivener.

I expect this little project will result in 6,000 to 12,000 words for me throughout August.

Software Review: Scrivener

OMSFSM, Scrivener! I love it so much!

I wrote War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus on LibreOffice and it worked well enough, but by the time the manuscript got to about the 50% mark, it started being a real chore to revise and restructure. By the time I finished, it was 221 pages that we were passing back and forth between writer and editor to handle in LibreOffice and MS Word, and it was rather unwieldy.

Towards the end of the process I downloaded Scrivener but I was too far along to try converting the document. However, when I worked on the Open Content materials from War of Ashes later on, I tested a variety of more advanced writing tools (mostly distraction-free editors and LaTeX-based power tools), with the most promising being LyX and Scrivener.

In the end I decided that Scrivener was a good option for me. It was powerful, flexible, inexpensive, multi-platform, easy to learn thanks to its great tutorials and manuals, and supported by a vibrant community.

When I say inexpensive… The macOS, Windows, and iOS versions go for $40, just enough to cover minor support costs, and you can download a free trial version. The Linux version (that’s the one I use) is free because it’s unofficial but the user community is very helpful, and I ended up sending my $40 as a donation because it was worth every penny.

It has so many features and so much flexibility to work the way you want. I use it right from the planning stage to create my structure and outline, and to gather my writing resources: publisher’s guidelines, references, examples, cheat sheets, lists of names, notes I jotted down, etc.

I use its metadata features to add notes to each section such as keywords, actions needed (“Write examples of play,”) references cited (“Top Secret, TSR, 1980,”) status (“first draft”), or who will be a collaborating author on this section.

I have Scrivener set up to save the draft in my working folder and create a backup on Dropbox, in addition to using iDrive for my regular computer backup. On top of that, every time I stop working for the night or reach a significant milestone, I compile an export version of my draft in .docx format and post it for my publishers on Google Drive so they can follow my progress, and have a work product in hand if anything happened to me.

But I kind of got used to its ease, and I forgot what an improvement it was! Except that when I stopped to take stock of my progress tonight, I looked at the page count and realized what a chore the current drafts would be to handle on a basic word processor. In addition, I had reworked several individual sections of the Tianxia Rules Companion this weekend and instead of being a major hassle to locate the sections to edit in the middle of a manuscript, it was a breeze. So I just had to say a word for useful software!

Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.


Waiting in line at the pharmacy

Today I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon to check on progress as I heal. Edmund kindly accompanied me, though it’s tedious for him. It was slow-going because the entire computer system was affected with unusual lag, and every appointment was running late.

The doctor blessed my progress, warning me that healing would continue to be slower than normal as long as I was on some of my post-cancer medications. She also gave me a prescription that had to be compounded at the hospital pharmacy, and the necessary paperwork to extend my disability leave.

I decided to take care of the paperwork first, hoping this would give plenty of time for the pharmacists to prepare my prescription. When we got to the Release of Medical Information Counter, there were a LOT of people waiting; the number being served was 11, and I was assigned No. 25. We sat down to wait but a quarter of an hour, we were still on No. 11. Edmund suggested that he stay to provide my paperwork, and I go check in at the pharmacy to make sure the order was in.

So I got to the pharmacy, checked in, and was told it would take about 45 minutes. Edmund and I started a turtle race for who would get done first, and I decided to keep him entertained with tales of my adventures.

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If you’re wondering, it took me a total of just over 90 minutes from the moment I checked in at the pharmacy to walk out of there. Edmund finished first with 15 minutes to spare, but since he’d already waited waited at least that long before I got the the pharmacy, it’s probably a draw. That said, the personnel was very nice and diligent, they checked on me a few times, it’s not their fault the place was packed and the computers were sluggish. Yes, we could have decided to come back later, but I didn’t want to restart the clock…

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!


How to discourage me from playing your game: Part 3

AaaarghThis is the third of a three-part rant discussion on things publishers do that turn me right off their role-playing games.

[Edit: Traduction française disponible chez ptgptb.]

A big challenge in role-playing games is that they are usually read several times in greatly differing circumstances. In this section I focus on their ease of use at the game table. I’m not talking about system choices and mechanics, but strictly about how well the book supports game play.

3. Use in Play

At the game table, the reader will be trying to find specific information quickly, particularly rules information.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game: Part 3”

How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 2

Aw-noThis is the second of a three-part rant discussion on things publishers do that turn me right off their role-playing games.

[Edit: Traduction française disponible chez ptgptb.]

Naturally, a single mistake probably won’t do it unless it’s ginormous and egregious, but a few too many and I’ll move on to the next game on my long wish list.

2. Readability

A big challenge in role-playing games is that they are usually read several times in greatly differing circumstances.

  • The leisurely reading you do on the bus when you just received your book from a Kickstarter campaign.
  • The selective reading you do to familiarize yourself with the setting and make a character for next Friday’s meeting with your gaming group.
  • The studious reading your friend is doing to prep for that same game as game-master.
  • The frantic reading in the middle of a game session to locate a particular piece of information or interpret a rule.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be to address all these needs; for example, a book may be perfectly well organized to present the setting information in an orderly fashion, but make it a nightmare to retrieve in a hurry at the game table. Today, I want to examine the ease of reading proper, all the kinds of reading we do when we are not actually playing.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 2”

How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1

Scary-BookI’m a gaming junkie, especially where it comes to role-playing games. I’ve been gaming for decades, I have played or run at least 177 RPGs as of this writing, not counting different editions, playtests, or homebrews, and my shelves are overflowing with more I have yet to play. All this to say, I want to love your game. But it’s amazing how many published games still turn me right off because of mistakes that could be avoided with moderate effort, and sometimes even quite easily.

Not that that writing games is that easy, I know! There will be competing objectives, budget and schedule considerations, and so forth. But there are also some elements that can be incorporated in the planning, and hurdles that are make-or-break. In our cottage industry of devoted hobbyists, some mistakes are being made over and over. Even free games can be ruined so thoroughly by some of these mistakes that they lose the chance for a good review, which can’t be why you’re putting them out there!

One big challenge for game publishers is that there are several ways to approach the reader or, if you want, several opportunities to lose a gamer, so let’s look at them separately.

I’ll post the other sections over the the next few days.

[Edit: Traduction française disponible chez ptgptb.]

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1”