Showing posts from 2015

As we say in Academia, 2015/16.

So! It's the end of the year! That means it's time for a yearly wrap-up, along with everyone else's blog. :)

Things I did:

Got started getting tested for autismCoordinated convention stuff for IGDNHelped make the case for a quiet room at GenConTaught engineers why communication is importantTaught music students how writing fits into what they doFinished Chill and delivered it to the worldGot my dissertation prospectus approved and outlined key parts of itGot my first publication acceptance as an academic Got my first "revise and resubmit" as an academicDeveloped my first material for Onyx PathMet my oldest's girlfriend via Facebook (!)Discovered HamiltonKnitted some major projects, including the Pac-Man blanket, finishing Will's color stripe rainbow blanket, and a whole bunch of fingerless glovesDiscovered that corn, milk, and nuts really are not my friends at all any more. :( Luckily cheese and yogurt are still on good terms with my stomach, for the most…

Rising Waters, Season 2 Finale (and DFA playtest)

My apologies for the long delay in posting; I have a few things I want to wrap up on the last day of 2015. First of all, I want to post the end of Season 2 of the Rising Waters game, and then I want to comment a bit on the Dresden Files Accelerated playtest.

When last we left our intrepid crew, they had gone to the librarian to get some word on their gifts. Jeffrey, said librarian, was impressed and rather horrified at the same time. He pointed out that these were some of the weirdest things he'd ever seen because of their combination of fae and demonic magics. These are not two great tastes that taste great together, and while it explained how fae magic could take on ghosts, for example, it did not in the least reassure him about what's going on.

The group was equally chastened, realizing this just got a lot stranger than they'd bargained for. They had to get back to the tea shop, though, since Hui had made Dylan promise to have Eldi back before dark. Nobody wants to be …

Happy Thanksgiving!

While we had the official McFarland holiday feast of Thanks yesterday, today I have the blog post of thanks! I am officially thankful for the following!

Matthew McFarland, as he manages through his wizardry to let me have a semi-normal life with food and friends and gaming and kids and a house and dogs and family and love. His kiddos, Teagan and Cael, who very patiently stand in with me for my own kids sometimes, despite being awesome kids on their own. His mom, Suzanne, who is a pretty darn good mother-in-law and who is one of my primary sources of higher ed encouragement.His ex, Heather, who is sane and smart and patient and good-humored. And a cake wizard.My dogs, who remind me that as long as we have petting and food and water and a nice place to sleep, nothing is all that bad. Alisdair, my eldest son, who is 18 and trying to find his way in the world. William, my youngest son, who is 16 and cutting a swathe with his humor and dapper choices. My advisor, Chris Flint, who is suppor…

Why I'm not excited about the new Deadpool movie, or Neurotypical Emulation Protocols (NEP)*

I was out with my husband last night shopping and doing errands and getting dinner when we started talking about the new Deadpool movie that will be coming out next year. He's excited about it -- likes the acknowledgement by the studios that the former appearance of Deadpool was just dumb, likes that they're being true to the comics with it. I have thus said that, although I can also appreciate these things, I will not be going to see it with him. He wondered why that was, and so I told him, and he suggested I post about it, which I am now.

*For the record, I do not yet have a diagnosis of autism. I have been referred to start the process of getting one, though, and my son is on the Spectrum, and my speech-language pathologist husband is convinced of it, so take that for whatever it's worth.

I have a large hole in my ability to get humor. I know that it's there, I know what triggers it, and I know what thus to avoid. I can tell when other people will find things funny…

No guilt.

So everything happened yesterday. Earthquakes, floods, bombings, shootings, all over the world. Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Japan, Mexico. Probably some other things I've forgotten about as well, or else didn't hear of -- I was traveling all day, so my connectivity was spotty, and by that I mean perfectly reasonable. I try not to be online 24/7, and it's probably not a good thing for anyone to be online that much.

Facebook, in the wake of what seemed an unreal series of terrorist attacks in France, did the seemingly nice thing of doing check-ins for French users and a French flag overlay for profile pics to offer support. And really, it let a lot of people -- and by people, here, I largely mean American people --  have a way to vent their feelings and try to be supportive in some small way to the aftermath of the French bombings.  It was not long, however, before it was pointed out that no such care was given to the bombings at a funeral in Beirut, or to the ongoing issues in Sy…


My dear readers, I am greatly happy to be able to post again. I was paddling my little boat along when suddenly a great wave of Grad School and Work came along and swamped me, and I've been bailing furiously ever since. I've just now gotten my head above water again. The final effort was a recitation from Cicero's First Catalinian Oration, lines 4-17, for my Latin 201 class yesterday. I am happy to say that I have survived it and now in some circles can be considered a real student of Latin. Apparently this is a traditional torture inflicted on Latin students once they get far enough in their studies. You can see you tube videos of it if you look. One person in my class even wore a toga-ish garment. I was not that dedicated.

Of course, naturally once one finishes a great work, one gets sick. I have no voice today, so my talking has been curtailed and instead I am using my online voice to write a post! I hope to actually write a couple of posts today -- I'm dreadfully b…

Rising Waters DFA Playtest: Character Conversion!

Woo hoo! So my group and I were fortunate enough to get into the Dresden Files Accelerated Beta Playtest, which has been a complete blast. Rather than making characters from scratch, we converted the characters from our ongoing game into DFA characters last session.  Before I go into what we ended doing this evening, though, I want to talk a bit about the playtest and the effects the change in system have had.

So, to no one's surprise, DFA is based on FAE (Fate Accelerated Edition). For those who've played the Dresden Files RPG, you'll know that it's FATE plus some clunkier bits as it tries to encompass the magic and setting and variety of critter abilities within one game. I love the game, don't get me wrong, but it's definitely not the most streamlined system in existence. The magic system in particular was far more complicated in practice than was convenient, and using it always slowed the game down for us -- particularly annoying when you're playing a …

Boo rain-y-ness!

Today was a day full of cold and rain. I got halfway through the day, huddled under a blanket with long sleeves and pants and socks on and my hands freezing while I typed before I finally gave in and suggested we should turn the heater on. The high for today was 48 degrees Farenheit or so, which means cold. It's much more pleasant now that the heater is on, really. That said, it's OCTOBER THIRD, people. What the heck is up with that? The rest of the week should be warmer, and I'm glad of it, because I really don't need to be running the heater all winter starting now. That's crazypants.

I've been working on editing today, and I've almost gotten through a chunk of the book I'm working on, which is lovely to contemplate. I've also almost got the Totoro baby romper completed -- just two more snaps to sew on. And here it is! All done and laid out and ready to be sent to its new home. It is, admittedly, too big for said little girl, but it means she'…

Desire to knit rising...

So I am currently anxious, because I have far too much going on in my life that have deadlines over the next few weeks. It's all good and workable, but it's all got to be done, and that's okay. But here's the thing -- stress makes me stim. (Stimming, for those that don't know, is a desire for tactile sensory input and activity that focuses on that sort of input. It's a neurological autism sort of thing.) Over the years, I've sublimated a lot of my stimming behaviors into things that can "pass" -- tapping my fingers together in time to music, running my hands through my hair, etc.. My husband always notices when I'm stimming, though, even when I haven't noticed it myself. Some people are just observant like that.

Now, though, in the past few years I've hit on like the best one ever -- KNITTING. I mean, could be crocheting, whatever, but for me it's knitting. The yarn, the motion, the fingers running over wood (I prefer wood to metal…

Project Ramblings: A Comedy in Five Acts

Game Design Thoughts Ahoy!

Okay, so A Tragedy in Five Acts. It's actually done a lot better than I thought it had any right to, and I'm glad about that. Word of mouth has spread enough that people are starting to run it at cons who aren't me, and it's turning out to be something of an evergreen game -- it sells consistently if not hugely, and that makes me happy. It's never going to be a sales leader, but it has something of a following, and that makes me happy.

That said, it's occurred to me of late that the endgame in Tragedy needs some reworking. It works great until you get to Act V, and then things stumble a bit in resolution -- it's not impossible to work it out, by any means, but the system that drives the game so well up until that point just stops mattering, and that feels rather abrupt to me. It's a thing I've been thinking about addressing in a second edition of the game, and the more I think about it, the more I want to press forward wi…

Dissertation Chat: Latour

This recurring feature of my blog will be talking about various sources I'm using in my dissertation, both in the hopes of getting my brain around them using the "can you explain this to your friend/relative/spouse/grandmother" method of understanding concepts, as well as seeing what other people think of such things and fostering some discussion.

Our first topic of discussion today is Bruno Latour and his undying fights to bring science studies into the light of respectability -- and, you know, to reorient our relationships with the world as we know it at the same time. Just a little thing. No big deal.

So, if you don't know who Latour is, what you really need to know is that his primary theory, using the terminology that's been largely settled on (although he's still not entirely happy with it) is a thing called "actor-network theory," or ANT for short. The jist of it is that we tend to look at the world (and particularly science) in terms of subj…

Diversity in Gaming, or not being the yardstick of the universe.

Man, that is just not an exciting title. But I'm currently writing a mentoring guide about diversity in games, and so that's where my mind is at. The pic to the right was drawn by the amazing Timm Henson, and it's one of the Agents available for play in our free downloadable Chill character pack. His name is Bradley.

So, diversity means a lot of things. Basically it means "have a bit of everything involved, more or less equally spread around." That's harder than it sounds like when you're used to everything looking one way and you start changing it up. It can be difficult to think outside the box, and so most games and game companies historically haven't worried about it. There are some stand-out exceptions, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't so long ago we were having talks about passive cheesecake and chainmail bikinis being a righteous standard for portrayals of women in games (and in some places on the internet, people still do).

For a few…

The past returns

So, I have this project I've been working on, and it's now crunch time. It's designed to be a Halloween costume / cute outfit for a certain little girl, and I only see her mom once a month, and I need to finish the dang thing like now because she'll be here this weekend. The big thing that has been holding me up, though, is that I've decided I need a flower on it. The pattern doesn't call for a flower, mind you. No, I'm the one who picked a flower to go on the hat, and I cannot convince myself to go forward without it.

Of course, as any knitter can tell you, it's not that you can't knit flowers -- you can -- but it's a lot of work and there's very little point when crochet does it so much better (knitting - straight lines, crochet = circles). You can do things in both crafts to offset these basic tendencies, but you're crafting uphill a bit in either case.

 So I decided, finally, to bite the bullet and pick up a crochet hook and start a…

I have made a pair of socks that is too small for everyone I know

I really like these socks. I made them for my stepdaughter, because I wanted to use up this fantastic striping sock yarn I had and because I didn't have enough of it to make socks for me. So I made the first sock and it fit her like a dream, but then 2/3 of the way through the second sock, I ran out of yarn.

Given the tightness of finances during the summer, I put the socks on the back burner until I could afford to get more yarn. Finally, this past week, I did. I finished up the sock and gave it to her to try on... and she'd grown out of it. :(

The socks fit Cael, but they are made of wool and are fuzzy, and he doesn't care for them despite appreciating the striped awesomeness. So now I have this awesome pair of handmade kid-size wool socks that don't fit anyone I know at all. I am a sad knitter, if only for the fact that I could only wish that they would fit me, but there is no way on this earth that they will go on my foot. *sad trombone*

I will wash them and block…


Okay, so I'm going to start doing periodic status posts to kind of keep myself honest about my workload and what I'm focused on at the moment. I'm working on balancing freelance gigs + coursework + school work + teaching + dissertation reading. I'm staying home today and not doing a whole lot out of the house (maybe going to pick up the ceramics I did with my stepdaughter), so hopefully I can get things done.

Here's my current statuses across the categories:


Redlines for the one of the Dark Eras for the Onyx Path book; finished one era, still one to go. Deadline of Monday. Started in on the next chapter for Emerald City, the Interface Zero 2.0 book I'm working on. Got 500 words done yesterday -- aiming for at least that much today. Coursework: Read another two chapters on Cicero. Finish translating Ad Familiares 7.1.Study vocabulary.Teaching: Grade 11 1st drafts with global and local feedback for Monday. Dissertation Reading:  Finish Pandora's Hope (…

Letting Perfect be the Enemy of "Oh Just Do Something Already."

If you know me at all, it doesn't seem like this would be a problem I would have. And yet, I can assure you, it is something I struggle with on a regular basis. In looking around at the Internets of late, it seems to be something that others struggle with too, so I thought I'd write about it.

So there's a thing that happens where nothing is quite right. We can envision something as it should be and anything short of that seems like a pale comparison, practically a joke. When we could have the awesome of the perfect thing, why should we be asked to settle for anything less? Why shouldn't we push ourselves to achieve the thing that is obviously so much better?

This is a thing for me in my writing. It's a thing for me in my knitting. It's a thing for me in a lot of ways. It's an outlook I sort of struggle with when it comes to politics and compromise and solutions to issues at work. I have problems being invested in something and yet being flexible about it a…

Non solum canes sed etiam feles vivens promisce

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, but actually doing Latin translation, even the relatively easy stuff, is kind of kicking my butt. On the one hand, I actually seem to be able to do it, more or less, which is a vast improvement over this time last year. I lost a lot of ground over the summer that I'm slowly getting back, but it's a process that for now involves looking up nearly every freaking word and making sure that yes, that's the word I think it is in the form I think it might be, which means it means X.

Luckily, I actually like doing Latin translation, though I'll like it much better as I improve at it. It's code breaking, basically, and it's got the satisfaction of doing puzzles combined with "oh THAT's what that says!" What's funny is that I sort of approach my dissertation the same way, with my focus on objects and meanings and how we code or decode things. Apparently those letter substitution puzzles I loved so…

Things that happened this weekend:

I went to DragonCon and saw a ton of cool costumes.

I walked miles and miles, as I stayed in an off-site hotel.

I learned that Atlanta has hills downtown.

I saw 3-4 whale sharks -- I didn't even know that was a thing, but they're amazing.

I watched giant manta rays loop-the-loop.

I saw river otters sleeping in a pile.

I learned that the flight between CLE and ATL is surprisingly short.

I had some of the best biscuits I've had in a year.

I watched bits of 300 twice accidentally.

I learned how to use my phone as a personal internet connection.

I ran a game of Clue: A Tragedy in Five Acts that was called "Murder in the Caribbean."

I came home and now I'm going to go fall over. G'night.

Game and voices (semi-random)

So designing games.

One of the weird things I've discovered over the past year is that I actually have ideas about games. I have the game I made for Game Chef (called Vovetas), I have another all-ages game I'm still working out, I have Daedalus, and I have A Comedy in Five Acts still on my plate, in addition to some far flung ideas about the steampunk mad scientist game, and a couple other RPGs and other things that I'm doing freelance (and, you know, my dissertation and syllabi and whatnot but lets not talk about that right now).

I have discovered during this period of time that yes, I really am a game designer. Not just a mechanics inventor or writer or editor, but a designer, designing games from scratch. I have opinions about what works and what doesn't, and although I don't get things right all the time, I get them right often enough in games that I feel as though this is not going to be something I give up lightly. I think it's especially important given t…

RPGaDay2015 -- The End

Okay, so I fell behind again. Here's the last lap, though, all in one fell swoop for all you patient readers who are, no doubt, endlessly interested in all my RPG stuff. :)

Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play

Oh man. So... Shadowrun. Shadowrun was my go-to favorite for a lot of years. It was the first game I ever really GMd. I like how the fantasy races let us deal with some of the uglier aspects of human nature head on. I like how the magic gave it just enough fantasy without getting rid of all familiarity (and I'm a sucker for urban fantasy). I liked the cyberpunk aspects of it. I loved the people it introduced me to, many of whom are still dear friends to this day. It was my entryway to the industry, first in editing through my work for FASA Corp., and then through writing as I started picking up bits and pieces in the line. I haven't touched it since I parted freelance ways with Catalyst.

Really, the reasons for this boil down to two things. First, I really don'…

RPGaDay2015: Day 27

Day 27: Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games into One
So, this isn't really something I do, and as a result, I'm not entirely sure how to take it. The closest thing I've done recently, though, is make the pitch to take one or more characters from out ongoing Deadlands game (specifically the scrappy orphan kid who's grown up under the tutelage of the Chinese kung fu master/laundry owner in Colorado) and transport him through the time shifts into Feng Shui 2, potentially taking some other characters along as well or else making new ones. I think it'd be awesome. :)

RPGaDay2015: Day 26

Day 26: Favorite Inspiration for Your Game

So, my favorite source of inspiration, by far, is music. I regularly start my games by playing a song I feel to be thematic in some way -- it works great to get my players' attention, get them in the mood, and let them know the game is starting (thus transitioning them out of chat mode). I have gotten a bit out of the habit with this most recent reboot of the game I'm running -- it's something I should get back to, though. I also tend to use it at the beginning of the classes I'm teaching, if I need a way to get their attention and I can relate it to the lesson. I should definitely do it this semester, though. So yes -- always, always music.

(By the way, if you're interested in running Chill, you need to listen to Hozier's album. Seriously, the whole thing. All of it. If you haven't already. OMG.)

RPGaDay2015: the last week's worth of entries

So school started and I finished an editing job and... yeah. Also, my corgi decided to chase a buck and suffered some muscle strain, and was the most sad corgi ever for a couple of days. (He's fine now). But yes, I let this get away from me, and now I must catch up.

RPGaDay2015: Day 20, Favorite Horror RPG

So, for a lot of years, the World of Darkness was like the only good answer to this question. I couldn't have picked a specific flavor of it until these last few years, where it was really Changeling: the Lost. There's a lot of resonance there for me. That said, I honestly have to say that Chill 3rd Ed has replaced it. My favorite thing, bar none, is being a person trying to fight off the bad things. That is the horror game I want, and I want some success to be possible. I wanted Kolchak the Night Stalker, etc. And Hunter sort of did that, but not in the way I wanted. Chill does. And yes, it's kind of a gimme, since my company made it, but seriously: I freaking love p…

Rising Waters: Season 2.5, Session 3

Following the ghoul battle, everyone went to get cleaned up. Zeke's phone rings, though. It's his mortal, not-informed girlfriend calling to verify their dinner plans.  Ree'sha (I'm spelling this wrong, I know, but I don't have his sheet in front of me) asked if they were still getting together, and whether or not she needed to buy a new dress for his friend's wedding, since she got an invitation but she remembered his friend was a bit odd.

Zeke immediately went on alert, as his girlfriend was now planning on attending Uno's wedding when he still didn't have an invite, and from all they could tell, wasn't going to get one. He broke off from the rest of the group and set about getting dinner reservations and getting cleaned up and prepped for what might be a difficult evening.

Upon hearing that people were getting invitations to his wedding, Uno starts freaking out. People work on calming him down while they start checking with their own loved ones. …