Sunday, August 26, 2007

Actually did some gaming!

I was a bit homesick this past week. Not homesick for Toronto (though I do get that from time to time), but homesick for GenCon. I attended GenCon in Milwaukee, the largest game convention in North America, every year from 1995 to 2000. I waited in anticipation all year for those five days of GenCon. I've never felt so in tune with a place as at that game convention. GenCon ended last weekend, but last week all the GenCon reviews were hitting I tried to avoid most of them...

My hobbies have taken a back seat to my writing this summer. I'm enjoying writing, but I'm also looking forward to finishing this book so that I can do different game related stuff. In particular, I need to get some miniatures painting done.

The only gaming I've done is playtesting for This Favored Land, and a weekly (though due to scheduling conflicts it's come out as bi-weekly) game of Call of Cthulhu with friends on Skype. Three of us in our monthly roleplaying group also got to play Carcassonne: The Discovery a little while back. That's been it all summer, until this past week.

The Skype game has worked surprisingly well. Each week we seem to have some sort of technical problem, but I suspect it's because two of the players — Chris and his son Josh — play from the same house, sharing the same internet connection. I'll know better in a couple of weeks when Josh goes to college. The group plays well together, and there's something about a game over a VoIP line that focuses everyone. It's worked much better than I thought it would. Our monthly playtesting sessions have been fun, at least from my perspective. I'm a little less relaxed playing This Favored Land than I usually am, probably because I'm more analytical about the adventure. We had a pretty exciting episode last month, and I hope to capture the same excitement next week.

That was all the gaming I'd done until this past week. One of the folks at work is interested in history. We keep talking about going over to Vicksburg to visit the military park some time. His 12 year old son is into the Civil War. Last year I mentioned the game Memoir '44. He bought the game for his son, who loved it. They've been playing it off and on ever since. We decided to get together last Monday and play a game or two. He suggested he bring his son. At the last minute, his brother-in-law showed up, too. We ended up playing a game of Battle Cry (his son's side won in a squeaker) and Memoir '44 (which I won in a game that was almost as close). They enjoyed it so much that we're going to do it again, though no date has been set.

They also want to play a miniatures game. The likely game will be an American Civil War game. I have a lot of painted infantry for this (which I purchased about 8 years ago), but I don't have any artillery, cavalry, or leaders painted. I think they would also like a World War II game. Logan is interested in a World War II game, and I painted some 16 German tanks earlier this year. I started work on the Russians in the spring, but the book has curtailed my painting. I need to finish off the 16 Russians so we will be able to play. As you can tell, once the book is written I've got a bunch of miniatures to paint!

Last night Logan, Alana and I played a game of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. This is the first board game the three of us have played in a long time. I think we're going to play another game today, too.

On the roleplaying front, I have some ideas I want to try out. Once the the playtesting for This Favored Land is done, I'll be running a Call of Cthulhu campaign. This will be low impact, as it's likely to be a campaign I've already run. Jimmy has asked to run a D&D 3.5 game for us as our second game. This will let me play in a game for the first time in about eight or nine years. I'm looking forward to it, even if it is D&D (not exactly my favourite system). The time I save not having to prepare for a game will let me spend more time painting and writing. I also have an idea for another Skype game, if we can get the players.

It looks like I'm finally getting to play some more games, a trend I hope continues!

On The Lot is over!

On The Lot is finished, probably quite literally. I ended up watching it until the second last week, when I turned it off in disgust.

It wasn't too bad for most of its run. Each week they had five or six short films by the contestants. They would run a 30 second spot showing the contestant producing his or her film, then they'd run the film, then Carrie Fisher, Gary Marshall, and some movie making guest would comment on the films. Carrie Fisher was an okay judge. The guest judges were usually the most brutally honest. Gary Marshall was a rambling waste of oxygen (as was his sister, Penny, when she took over one episode). Some of the films were pretty good, some were awful, but it was usually pretty entertaining.

I hoped to see longer films in the second last episode. They were down to three film makers, so I thought, "Cool, they can produce films that were twice as long." I thought it might be hard for them to do a longer film with only a week between episodes, but I figured they'd have some way to do it. At the very least I thought they'd do a regular length film while a crew filmed the contestants, showing you more of the process involved in making a movie. Either option would be interesting. Instead, they decided to insult the audience.

Every week the contestants would shoot a film and play it on the next episode. Not so for the second last episode. Instead of double length films or even three new films, they had the contestants pick their two best films from previosu episodes and they reran those. That's right, the penultimate episode, where they wanted to encourage people to vote for the winner, was a greatest hits show. I was so upset at the travesty that I shut off the TV right then and there. A number of people on the show's web site were peeved, too. I didn't bother watching the final episode. I did turn it to the channel just in time to see who won, and then I turned it off again.

This was a mess of a show from the beginning. It was patterned after American Idol when it should have been patterned after Top Chef or even Project Greenlight. They blew the opening episode by not showing any movies. The first set of movies turned out to be the contestants' sample movie (the movie they made to get into the show) even though it wasn't advertised as such. At least one of the films was essentially a ripoff of two old Twilight Zone episodes, but none of the judges caught it (and praised the film instead). The second place winner produced a film early on that was offensive to people with mental disabilities, yet he still made it to the final two. And there was the insult in the second last episode. They did pretty much everything they could to wreck the show from the get go. The ratings were poor, so it's highly unlikely that there will ever be another On The Lot. Funny enough, I'm okay with that.

Writing progress

Work continues apace on This Favored Land for the Wild Talents roleplaying game. I lost essentially two weekends of work due to allergies. I've made up some time this weekend, though. Obviously my plan to finish most of the writing by the end of August and then spend September editing it isn't going to happen. That was a bit aggressive anyway.

The first chapter has been more difficult than I had thought it would be. It's the "splat" portion of the book. A "splatbook" is a roleplaying game supplement that focuses on a particular group in the roleplaying game's universe. The term "splatbook" comes from the way these books tend to cover a particular faction in the universe. White Wolf's vampire books are like this. They did a bunch of books on vampire clans that were named "Clanbook *", such as "Clanbook Tremere" and "Clanbook Brujah", etc. The "*" represents a "wild card" indicator in computers, or "insert word here". An asterisk looks like a smashed bug, so it's sometimes called a "splat". This is a long way of explaining that chapter one covers The Gifted (the people with super heroic powers), and four different groups that arose from the appearance of these super powered people. This requires the most imagination, and the most "refactoring" as I started writing each group's description. I stalled on a couple of the groups because my original ideas just didn't work once I started explaining them. I will have this chapter done tonight (with the exception of some character statistics, which I'll do later this week).

The second chapter is finished. This is the rules chapter that explains how to create characters. Chapter 3 is done, too. This is the chapter with the rules specific to the Civil War, including Civil War era weapons. I'm about 3,000 words into chapter 5, which is the "what was it like to live during the Civil War" section. Later today I will start on Chapter 5, and maybe even finish it. Chapter 6 is the "campaign" chapter. It gives the game master ideas for using the book. Chapter 7 is the introductory adventure. It's mostly done. I just have to write up the climax of the adventure, which I have in my head. I'm debating waiting until after next weekend to do that, as we should finish our playtesting of the scenario at that point. Chapter 8 is the references chapter and that's done. This leaves chapter 4. Chapter 4 is a timeline of the Civil War. It will be written like a journal, listing the major events of the war. In addition, there will be sidebars — which we envision will appear as hand written notes — describing activities of The Gifted. I hope to begin this in a couple of weeks.

It's been an enjoyable run, if a little frustrating at times. Now I'm getting into the stuff that will take less time to write, so I expect to see an acceleration in my writing in the next few weeks. I plan to take a vacation day the day after Labour Day. I'm also a bit concerned over the amount of time I'll have for writing the week after that, as I have to travel to Georgia to train clients. I certainly won't be bored...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My dice type!

It's been a month since I posted? Wow...

I'm not posting much today, but I'll do a longer blog entry on Sunday (while I'm watching the Turkish Grand Prix).

For now, I thought you'd like to see what kind of polyhedral die I am!

I am a d10

Take the quiz at

Here's what it said about me:
Ah, the d10! While you aren't actually a true regular polyhedron, you are the only die that makes logical sense — metrically speaking. Chances are, others see you as over-analytical or a goody-goody. While that may be true, you also have a gift for patience and tolerance. Growing up you probably had a calculator wristwatch that you never really needed to use (since you were faster on your own), and you probably aced all your classes (except for gym). You use the metric system almost exclusively, but are able to quickly convert in mid-conversation for the sake of your backwards Imperalist friends. You've coded in at least two different programming languages, and have created more original gaming systems than you'll ever admit. You're generally not a show-off, but you do take pride in being called either a geek or a nerd.