Thursday, August 23, 2012

Daily Parade of Horrors

Gen Con
Gen Con (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ok well the 200 words a day plan tanked entirely. but I am helping a friend with a blog but that's as maybe. I had a great GenCon. I had a terrific time and met Alasdair Stuart who has been kind enough to provide guidance in some of my writing here. He is a man of letters himself at  . So anyway I am re-enrolling in college now trying to get a teaching license. Hopefully that will work out. I am overbooked for next week though. I also have some other projects that may be coming down the pike but they are secret.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

clever moment

I felt very clever today. someone was nattering out about the masses not understanding and threatening his art. I said, "Its not so much the masses you have to watch out for as the Forces and the first derivatives of Acceleration." (third derivative of position if you care) I like this joke more than is at all appropriate.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Well Otakon was a thing.  I have been writing, just not here. I think I need to go back to it. There just have not been enough hours in the day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Its been seven hours and 15 days

Oh well its been about two weeks or so since I promised I'd write 200 words per day and I have just not all here. I wrote some as responses in other people's blogs I've written reports, short fiction etc. just not all here. That being said though it sounds like a bit of a cop out. So here's for making up for list verbiage. I'm going to try for 1600 words here and now.
Zen dog dreams of a medium sized bone. Adam Long
Another renter had come and gone. This one was some kind of hospital worker. The courts had helped and hindered, they said I was entitled to eight month's rent out of him but that finding him was my own hangup. His baby momma took my nice carpets and bed. she left a ratty sleep sofa, a pile of old crts and several rooms full of medical detritus.
I had a cop come with me to look through the stuff to make sure it wasn't drug paraphernalia. It wasn't, although the piles of needles, lancets, tubing and bandages were certainly potential biohazzards. I walked the block to the hospital to ask for a sharps box and some related equipment and they were quite helpful. On y own I decided to use a pair of red plastic salad tongs to pick up the various objects and put them in the sharps box, I also wore gloves, mask and goggles. Its not paranoia just preparedness. I wandered, swaddled in protective equipment through the house. After a day of cleaning an old colonial home in hundred degree heat while wearing  such things I was soaked through. I spent the last of my energy to get to the beach, float in the ocean and get a sandwich on the boardwalk.
On the drive home the cars ahead of me contained hurried tourists and small grey stones tapped on the car window, kicked up by their tires. That same irregular staccato tapping was repeated at night as I slept. The heat broke and the rain on the air conditioner made gentle taps through the night that even invaded my dreams as though I were haunted by the ghost of Gregory Hines.
The next day was cooler in the morning and a surprising amount of cleaning was done but by noon the remnants of the rain had ceased to cool and merely turned the air into a swampy mess. I took a nap in the newly cleaned kitchen, the compressor from the fridge making the occasional tap. When I awoke I found that with well rested clear eyes I could see medical waste I had missed the night before. bits of needle and tube strewn about with gauze. I cleaned long into the cool night and in the end took pictures to attract future renters. A fruitful day demanded a reward, so a wander to King's and some Pineapple ice cream later, my sleep was a blissful one.
The dreams that night involved being chased by a rabid Shirley Temple as she sang about the good ship lollipop and attempted to rend me limb from limb with her Medusa-like curls, but that's what I get for eating dairy before bed. I do not regret my gustatory decisions.
I awoke and set about preparing the house to be viewed, purchasing cookie dough, getting forms and pencils etc. when I noticed a pile of needles, tubes and gauze I had apparently missed. It was small and after cleaning I had to see to a dripping faucet on the second floor, the drip of the water against the basin was made audible by the newly earned and hard won stillness of the house. I slept this night in the rental property to get a feel for it once again, as potential renters would surely ask about the climate control or any other potential issues with the house. When I awoke I went to the kitchen and went through the motions of a breakfast. and I noticed, in the corner an arrangement of needles, tubes and gauze. I quickly flipped though my phone to the pictures I had taken of the very same corner not long before. It had been spotless. I quickly looked around the area to see if it could have fallen off any shelves or out of any holes in the wainscoting or vents or other reasonable places. Then quickly discarded the idea that my house was beset by diabetic Ninja with Alzheimer's. I again heard the tapping. this tie I moved the fridge. I thought I saw a small gleaming ball bearing roll beneath the counter, making arrhythmic tapping noises all the way. Effort with flashlight and tongs revealed a small and improbable creature. Eight hollow needle legs, like hypodermics joined with bits of tubing to a bulbous translucent rubber body. It attacked the tongs with fangs that jabbed like lancets and attempted to wrap them in strands of silken gauze. I placed the creature in a steel thermos. eventually the tapping stopped and it fell apart into a pile of medical debris. I could still faintly hear the tapping. The fridge was unplugged, the sky was clear of rain, and Gregory Hines had been dead for years. I followed the sound to the floorboards and decided to instead go around to the door that leads beneath the house.
Normally this would be called a crawlspace but the erosion and the age of the house has turned it into an unofficial cellar where a man can stand if he's under 6'5".  The floors and walls are made of the same sandy soil that makes up the whole coastal town and deep strong beams are sunk into the ground. From time to time communities of cats must be discouraged from holding whatever dark congregations they arrange through the use of traps, chemicals or simply finding and filling in the holes they make. There hadn't been a problem with the local feral felines in nearly a year, perhaps this should have been my first suspicion as I stepped upon the sand and heard a muffled crunch. Kicking the uneven sand revealed the skeleton of a cat, wrapped in its fur. devoid of flesh or fluid and preserved in gauze and the cool dry air beneath the house. I thought briefly of Egypt and their mummified crypt guardians and was about to leave when I saw it, a mound the size of a man. his face smoothed over, wrapped in threads of gauze and silk. Unlike the protagonist of many a horror movie I ran then and there. I knew I could not hear the tapping of the needle spiders on sand and staying home was not an option.
I now knew the location of my erstwhile renter and will be contacting the local police with this information. I will no longer be seeking monetary redress for his late rent. I have however sent you this letter. As a customer of your insurance company I have paid quite an exorbitant amount for your policy regarding loss property value or income due to vermin and other animals after the feral cat incidents over the past few years. I wish for you to please rid my house of this cryptozoological horror post haste as  I have potential renters coming in and I do not wish to have them exsanguinated.
B. Walker

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Like a circle, like a spiral

So plot then, this might be a cop out post but compare this
with this
with this, and this
and you get this, this, and
So the windmills of my mind are grinding slowly but they are grinding exceedingly small. What I do apparently is to writing as farming is to cooking.  Mitch Hedberg has a good bit about it. Something that the Extra Credits guys and the Hulk missed about designing narrative for games is that for games you should not be designing narratives. You should be designing the tools you use to make narratives. The best example of this that I have found lies in third edition dungeons and dragons. (or 3.5 or pathfinder, to a lesser extent fourth but its still there at all).
Your  potential choices at the beginning of a game are infinite. you're first level and you can go anywhere and there's not going to be much difference between you and the various ncps in capacity and most of the pcs can basically do each other's jobs, albeit badly. Most of what you do is a grind or a bit of fine point accounting and deciding the minutia of day to day life. Nothing tells you you have to leave home but over time if you have built an area that works the experience mechanic is such that you will rapidly challenge, then defeat then master anything in your starting comfortable area. It turns out, at this time you have received some sort of special abilities that have speciated and separated you from your partymates and no one would mistake you for anything but the most stalwart of npc classes. Even if you stay in your home area physically the scope of the effects of your actions move beyond the small area in which you start and you begin affecting the course of towns. As this continues, you get to the real meat grinder, death comes easily and often but resurrection is possible and expensive. Successful parties develop problem solving strategies, hone their skills in and out of character to maximise for the ability to work their will in the world. Then you hit the next threshold from 15 to 20 where death has no sting and you are, not at all metaphorically, the master of many worlds. Your ability to go to or pull resources from other planes really comes into its own, you can consult gods without much trouble and you have either reconciled with the local power structure or you are the local power structure wherever you may be. Once again all of this is implicit in the mechanics. It doesn't matter if you're running ballroom dancing contests or Conan rip offs or Tolkein rip offs. If you are using d20 or its descendants and their core rules mechanics this is what will happen. s for the parts where players decide t then go home or do other things afterward, who can say? What does happen, however is the power curve flattens, the fantastic becomes mundane and the players, as a rule, stop questing because wherever they are is irrelevant, they are home wherever they want to be and most of what you do is a grind or a bit of fine point accounting and deciding the minutia of day to day life.  So at least as far as the mechanics are concerned a journey home or something like it has been achieved.
Yahtzee, Portnow. etc all talk about building story into the mechanics but there is precious little about how that is done. I am not sure if I can manage it but I will try over the next few weeks. It basically goes something like this. Watch the real world and listen to the stories and narratives people put around real world events when they happen. watch movies yourself then listen to other people when they describe movies. The Hulk has a good bit about concrete details somewhere, I forget the concrete details.
I will need to tighten this up later, but step two goes something like this, after getting a good feel for how people will report an event after the fact, take a good look at mechanics, look at what they mean, try playing games re-fluffed. For example call the cleave feat something else like, very good follow through or battle pirouette. Something that helped me was studying a little bit of real world physics and then physically doing high school type kinematic experiments. then trying to picture what would happen in the game world if the game rules replaced the standard force equations.  Try playing your game with all of the contextual speech removed, like having fireball called power 3 and enervate called power 4, dwarf as race 1, halfling as race 2 and removing any words that don't have a game effect like dwarves being shorter than humans, effectively they are not. Just play through a session or two with this disconnect. See what stories you end up making about the noble and valiant 2s vs the brawny and brutish 1s.  these are the stories your mechanics build. If they don't match up with your fluff, you need  to change the mechanics more or re-fluff your  system.
If you do this sort of thing for long enough you will get a feel for which mechanics map to which narrative devices under which circumstances  and which ones the players will pick up and use. Now you know what to include or keep out of your game based on the kind of experience you want the player to have. To once again put out the food metaphor, game design is like Iron chef, you now know what ingredients to prepare and leave out so that your players (who are the actual cooks) can make a worthy meal you will all share. You are the chairman, once you have set the kitchen in motion all you can or should do is ask how they are doing and what they plan. If you have set up the kitchens right, not only will your players surprise you every time but their surprised won't derail or destroy the game, you will reach a sublime mix of emergence and predictability, because no matter how good a storyteller you are you are likely not as good as reality for coming up with interesting twists.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the quest of 200 words

My tablet has died and I've only had it a week. I am going to try to get a spare charger and see if that solves the problem. In the meantime this is posted from my new smartphone. I have had an idea for a jeepform. I do wonder though. Apparently to be a jeepform you must be initiated in their ancient secrets by anotheer jeepformer and I do not know if playing jeeps with Lizzie Stark counts.
The basic structure of the game is six people are gathered at the funeral of the seventh. It has three acts. Act 1 the eulogy, act 2 burial, act 3 one year later. The basic mechanic is interwoven with a game of truth, dare, double dare, torture, kiss, or promise.  A game all the characters played together in their youth.
Act 1 the characters only have access to truth, dare and double dare. Act 2 they only have access to torture, kiss and promise. Any character can, once in the game call for a flashback between 2 other characters, not themselves, in which the calling player says character A dared character B to __________. Then A and B play the scene In act three there are no more flashbacks and everyone's backstory has been hashed out. Now everyone has time together playing ten minutes of the rest of the funeral, then a one year later reunion, then a soliloquy saying how things have gone after ten years.
Except for writing the backstories I think this is a jeep.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Run as fast as you can just to keep Still

I managed my way through the 1200 words in fits and starts but it took 2 days so I owe another 200. this is going to really kill next week when I have to do 300 per day. So I have been having an interesting conversation with a scientist who says that one of the best ways to get reliable metadata about publishing and writing is to engage in fanfiction. Apparently unlike traditional authorship methods fanfiction has reliable metrics of quality, a large base of readers who are willing and able to comment and a pretty fast turnaround time for editing. This having been said it is still fanfiction and having the madness of the crowd determine your style may or may not be the same as having a room full of out of touch editors do it. He does have some interesting metrics about wuality of stories as they vary with size. he uses views upvotes downvotes etc to make a complex formula replicated here. . apparently 2000-8000 words is the sour spot for terrible stories. More than 8k and you see an increase in quality, also less than 1k and you see a steady climb. So I am thinking I'll keep increasing my daily output of basically barfing on the page all this week. Then increase and increase and increase until I can reasonably hit 1000 per day then stop and work on polish and editing and polish and editing. It's probably not a terrible  plan.

Catching up part 2

Thursday morning was spent swimming, then there were a pair of Pickup Jeepform games. Well, only one of them, Doubt was a proper Jeepform  The other game was a Freeform put together by some people who run Jeepforms called Let The World Burn. It's a lot of fun. For those who don't know what a Jeepform is, it is the antithesis of ethical gaming within the social contract, as a matter of fact it is as far from being a larp while using the same tools as being a sailor is from being a mountaineer. Both careers involve heavy use of the use rope skill and care about weather, that is about it. Although, fun fact something I found out about Jeepforms and the use rope skill... never mind. In a normal Larp the separation between character and self is essential to sustain a game world and the suspension of disbelief, not only that but to  properly make a sustainable environment people have to have actions in character not affect or be strongly affected by actions out of character. Jeepforms encourage a thing called Bleed. Bleed is when you take context, emotion and out of character desires and motivations and impose them on your character in order to use the character to explore those things in a consequence light environment. Jeeps are specifically crafted to maximise Bleed. Freeforms of the same school allow Bleed and function when players are bleeding  but it is not expressly necessary for the game to function and while the structure of the game allows it, it does not specifically try to induce it. Due to the personal nature of the Jeepform experience I will not be telling anyone how it went especially not in an open forum like this one.
Thursday evening we all had empanadas and discussed making a squirt gun based larp  called Urban Island in which you save poor unfortunates from heatstroke. You start with a sponge and work your way to fire hose. It still has some teething troubles.
Friday morning, More swimming followed by the Iron GM competition. The ingredients were Phasm, Potion factory, and Payback. I came in third, got some cool prizes. If you want to see more about it it was totally televised on the net and for all I know on espn 8 'the ocho' The winner was one of the guys from Hitmouse, an Indie RPG studio that I love and respect. I'll be glad to see him at Gen Con. Then the EOE team played in Live action space marine. It was cool. It was a lot of fun, the props were excellent, they had randomizers built into nifty guns, provided costumes for everyone, the sets were great and the game was terrific . There were a few teething troubles as this was the first time the game had been played. Also it emphasized to me just how much of the base Warhammer mechanics are luck and rely on massive troop numbers to have strategy have any meaning by letting the law of averages play out.  Then drinking, then sleep.

Monday, July 9, 2012

So much for habit forming

<p>The convention i have recently attended, dexcon, kicked all of the ass. The only problem was an overwhelming lack of internet. So i have not written my 200 words since Wednesday. As i write this it is Monday. This means 1200 words today. And since my phone my desktop and my laptop are all recovering, this is coming to you from an unfamiliar tablet. I am significantly discomfited by the missing click and press of keys as I type. But now is the time to learn the new way of doing things. I has an oddly similar moment reversed yesterday. When trying to get some files from someone we used my kindle as it was the only device with a sufficiently robust connection. For several minutes my friend poked at the screen and grunted in nearly simian frustration. "It`s not working." He had grown to accept as standard that any piece of technology would have a touchscreen and any icon would be responsive to his will. The small keyboard and navigational pad had completely passed him by as tools. He presumed them to be vestigial attachments like the ones on my smartphone. After a few moments of shuffling a cursor around the skills of a lifetime of window icon mouse and pointer returned and it all worked out in the end. This entire enterprise shocked me. This was a man who had published with Linotype&#160; on dead trees. How quickly the habits of years have melted away before this new interface. Right now i am reduced to a variant of hunt and peck, but as i type blue streaks follow my fingers when i do not lift them quickly enough tempting me to try this new typing as calligraphy method. I don't think it will work out well. My vocabulary does not lend itself to the method. In fact i used it to try to type the previous sentence and it took more than a dozen tries to swipe the word vocabulary. In the end i had to type it, blue streaks mocking me all the while. </p>
<p>Sadly, I can not remember the details of the entire convention. Some was lost and never put in long term memory. Some was&#160; erased by tiredness, some by alcohol and some by promises of secrecy. On the whole this may be better than having written my thoughts of the moment as many would have been uncharitable before i later received context. Then again some things that seemed perfectly innocent became more sinister with time. Enough dithering, here was my convention.</p>
<p>Wednesday. We split into two teams. Jax, Alex and I on team A, Aisling, Jocy, Susan, and Tasker on team B. Team A arrived at 3 am on site so we could help with setup at 8, and set up we did. Dexcon, unlike most conventions I have seen keeps many careful metrics of who exactly does what to whom, where and when. Their methods of tracking guest behavior, likes, dislikes and trends are more professionally and competently recorded and assembled than many sociological experiments i have seen. Like the realm of the sciences, this takes a lot of prep sign in sheets, big boards with schedules and descriptions,  rules and warnings, rewards and puzzles all must be placed just so and in tim and with a workforce that is often untrained and entirely volunteer. Our team integrated easily and quickly into this hive of activity and in the afternoon was joined by team B. They too took to the organisation like a fish to tartar sauce. Not necessarily willingly but very well. In the evening we attended opening ceremonies. As it turns out, they had a spotlight and no light tech. Alex is an excellent light tech and during the ceremonies even got to engage in some tech humor with the comedians. This led to some later comic misunderstandings, but more on that later.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Turnaround time

Well now that I've been home, spent a day at work its time to pack again for another con. Dexcon this time. It's a lot of fun,  I get to run the same pony nonsense as I did in Bronycon but also the new Champions piece and good old Changeling. God willing and all his little angels nothing important will explode, be damaged or be stolen by kleptomaniacs in strollers. There's a story behind that but not a good one. I've been doing my best to keep up correspondence with the various Californians I've met and rationalists and its been largely hit or miss, but its silly season for them too. I think I'll be doing more long form prose in another week or so when I have more than a few seconds to breathe. On the plus side, new Terry Pratchett "The Long Earth". Am I the only person who when they order Amazon things to themselves always fill out the gift card with a note to myself so I can remember the context under which I ordered the object? Or maybe just a reminder because the post will come later. I bought a book for myself with some surplus I had and wrote to myself on the book. "I hope you had a good date. If you have not made the time for her, do that now." knowing that I would be mad superbusy and not take the time to really care for my partner. So we went out today, her favorite restaurant. It was a calm moment in the eye of the hurricane and worthwhile.  Interesting part is I almost never remember writing the note, but notes delivered with a gift have greater impact. The rationalists call this "doing something to affect your future self." Me I am not certain the notes are coming from my past self as I only have Amazon's word for it, but whoever is sending them the advice is good. I'm pretty sure past me is the same shortsighted jerk that present me but hey. Have kept up the good work! (time travel tense is weird)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Watashi Wa Nezumi Da

So, I'm home again after Bronycon and I might have stopped in the most American place in the world. I passed through a crowd of Chinese nationals buying electronics to send home, past a booth where a man was selling illegal fourth of July fireworks, and into a Walmart that had a McDonald's inside. This was the first time I had seen such a thing. All of the ones near me have Little Caesar's. I was looking for the bathroom and the first three people I saw, blue clad workers,  spoke no English.  In fractured Spanish I found out where the potty was and became like many visitors in this strange land. I showed up, commented on the decor, took a giant dump and left. Pausing only to use some of their resources. Unlike many  visitors to this American metaphor, I stopped and was briefly grateful to each person who had helped me on my way. I then promptly bought the most overpriced thing I could find (A fountain Coke) out of a feeling of obligation to the people whose wherewithal I had used for my own personal enrichment. We drove home. Now the reason for the post title is I have made it home to my bedroom and people have compared my room to a rat's nest many a time. It's a large wodge of blankets and pillows haphazardly mixed with stuffed animals and clothes. But recently I have accidentally acquired a desktop so it is now also overrun with thick surge protector cables  that criss cross the environment, lacing between fans, computer parts, portable devices in mid charge and old crt's. The cables are kept away form the cloth because of  fire safety and all. All and all I feel most comfortable here with the hum of the wires and the fan. There's an rpg I'm playing where several of the npcs have mistaken me for one of the prolific species of that world, rats that take human form. They don't mean that in a bad way. They're good folk, the Nezu, and pillars of the community. But I think I see their point.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

exercise in frustration

well this is an exercise in frustration. i am writing this post from the back of an undersized sedan heading for seacaucus new jersey. i am writing it on my new phone, largely to see if i can. with the exception of the shift key not functioning and a few other quirks it seems to be going ok. however, i can not capitalize, use punctuation besides , and ? and. nor can i make numbers or contractions. it is interesting. i feel like e.e. cummings. so i am in a small and worrn car with three lovely women heading to bronycon in hopes of bringing larp to bronies. I am now writing this post on my new asus trasformer. The real pity is I can not for the lifeof me make anything copy to clipboard and then paste back out elsewhere. I am not sure If I will ever make this work. I can't type properly even using this dock. If anyone out there knows how to properly make this thing work I'd love to know.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two Hundred Words A day

As part of my rationality training ( I am attempting to write 200 words per day. I picked this number since it was approximately the length of the features I used to write for radio and I figured I'd be able to handle 200 words  per day even if I was at a convention from my kindle or something else. Sometimes I might post old writings but they don't count unless 200 new words have been added to the text. Well as I have burned up 83 of those words being meta I suppose I ought to have something of substance in this last bit. The thing I learned about in the Minicamp that I retained best is timeless thinking. The understanding is not far from the mode I use when writing a book or working on a project. The rule is if I am not doing it I am not going to do it so do it now. ON a related note, every time I have explained Timeless thinking I have gone and flossed. Its complicated and weird but more on that if you want to know. Tomorrow we do mages most likely.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012