Showing posts from 2016

Happy New Year!

So, I really meant to post more in December, truly I did, but then the end of the semester happened, and then I fell and broke my thumb, which put a damper on my typing overall. I just got my cast off yesterday, and it's a glorious feeling. (See pic of my son cosplaying John Bender from The Breakfast Club to embody that emotion. :) ) It's sore, and I can't ask it to do too much, and I have a splint to wear at night for support, but it's so much better than it was.

So I have more about game design to post, but I'm going to take a bit to do the obligatory end-of-year post. 2016 seemed like a year of huge upheaval for just about everyone I know. Some good, some bad, but lots of it regardless. My eldest son moved in with us and started his senior year again, for example. He's doing well, but it was an adjustment. My dad had health issues but is doing okay. My car got wrecked (by my son) and replaced with my parents' old minivan.  I had a chapter approved for m…

Game Design: Core Tenets

So I've been bitten by the fantasy bug, probably at least part in reaction to the whole election stuff. This isn't unusual, really -- look at Tolkien -- but it's unusual for me, because working at WotC and on d20 stuff for so long had seemingly inoculated me against fantasy stuff. I still can't play D&D or Pathfinder. It's like a mental contact allergy, except it involves ranting and a reaction to classes and levels.

However, I've started putting thought into a fantasy game, and I think it a) actually has some legs and b) would be fun to play and c) does enough that's different to be worthwhile and not just another heartbreaker. So I figured I'd post about it as I go along and see what people think.

So, first of all, I've figured out I have rules for game design overall, and even fantasy games have to fit within them. Here are my rules.

1) There has to be a goal of play. 
I have nothing against sandboxes settings and systems, but that's not …

Updates and Full Plates and Imposters

Oh friends, readers, and countrymen, what tales I have to tell you. I have returned from London and completed revisions on my first dissertation chapter. I have started writing using the research I did in London for my fourth (written second) chapter. I have been teaching a class and I have made a prototype for a new card game, which is not a thing I have ever done before. I have made hand-raised steak and ale pies for my gaming group, and shared the joy of Jaffa Cakes. My company has even just finished a successful Kickstarter for a new Chill 3rd Edition supplement -- Monsters. We not only met our very realistic (aka not lowballed) goal, but we exceeded it by 5k, and as a result will be adding extra content in the form of more monsters!

Closer to home and the present day, the weather is currently giving me fits as it yo-yos from 40s to 70s and back again, all of which triggers my migraines. Metatopia is this weekend, and I am not really ready, but I am likely as ready as I will ever…

Things I've Learned in London: Week 1

That is some big fish. No, seriously. That's a MEDIUM. Really well done, too. Cod, but that's like the least adventurous fish they have there -- I just like cod. If you get the chance, go to The Fish House on Portobello Road. The upstairs waiter is this very nice Italian guy from Milan. Two thumbs way up. My hair loves it here. It's the humidity, I'm sure. Seriously, best hair in ages. Sweating. So. Much. Again, it's the humidity (and that I'm fat, I'm sure). Because the temp isn't that high and the exercise is not that strenuous, and it seems to depend on the room I'm in (if I'm in a room) as much as anything. Not terribly fun. Better on lower humidity days.Laundry services. Expensive, but a super nice splurge. I can't afford to do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. They even got the spot out of my skirt! I got a coat. Actually, let's be clear -- I think I could be in love with Marks and Spencer. I've had to restrain myself f…

London research ramblings

So, I thought I should probably post a bit about exactly what I'm trying to research, if only to give myself a chance to work through it.

My initial plan was to look at reprints of famous novels, particularly in periodical format. Specifically, I'm looking at Novelist's Magazine, and trying to figure out what changed both in subsequent printings and in this particular format of the novel. I'm looking primarily for added illustrations, but I'll also take general decoration, typeface, layout, etc.

I wanted to look at two novels: Pamela and Joseph Andrews. The image to the right is the title page from an early edition of Pamela by Samuel Richardson. This is, of course, kind of appropriate, since Pamela was such a huge hit, and Joseph Andrews is Henry Fielding's response to Pamela by writing about her brother and his adventures.

Now, I know from research that both Pamela and Joseph Andrews were published in Novelist's Magazine. And obviously, the British Libra…

Things I Learned in London: Days 2 and 3

The coffee shop/bakery across the street from me sells the best latte I've ever had. No, seriously. It is that good. Here is it. Apparently it's part of a small chain, but if it serves coffee this good, I don't care. Also, their regular coffee is quite nice as well. The only thing I don't care for is their insistence that everything should be served on a small plank. A plank is not a plate. Even trenchers had a carved indention. It's not that hard, people.

If they tell you that they have crispy bacon, they're lying. Or else "crispy bacon" is code for "not-crispy-at-all bacon, but it has grill marks. See?" On the other hand, ham hereabouts is amazing, and I don't even really like ham all that much.

Public restrooms are hard to come by. Some places don't have them at all, some places hide them unless you ask.
- Traveling and being an introvert is hard. I'd been pushing myself because, after all, I don't have that long here, and I…

Things I've Learned in London: Day 1

London has a serious thing going on with avocados. I mean, I like avocados a lot, and even I am now wary of finding them where they don't belong after a single day. Caprese salad should not have avocado. Just. No.Yay, I'm staying in a Georgian townhouse, on streets with a lot of other Georgian townhouses! I can pretend I've come to London for a season and can leave cards for people!Boo, I'm staying on the third floor in a Georgian townhouse, with three flights of stairs and no lifts, as they say! And the plumbing is wonky. And there's no climate control, though the gorgeous weather currently makes that less of a concern.I can eavesdrop on everyone, and only half of them are in a language I understand! Fun! :)Doggies are everywhere! Everyone's walking a dog. It's awesome.People are generally nice! It probably helps that I'm generally nice too.I still feel like I'm walking around a movie set. I'm not sure how many days it'll take me to be conv…

#RPGaDay -- Orientation Week edition!

Here we are again with another installment of RPGaDay 2016! This week has been orientation week at school, so lots of meetings and prep for the next semester going on. Let's pick up where we left off, shall we?

15th: Your best source of inspiration for RPGs?
My players, always. I mean, that sounds kinda cheesy, but I'm very much a player-driven GM. I don't come up with a story I want to tell until my players do. I figure out storylines over time based on their choices and backgrounds. I mean, I watch movies and read books and stuff like anyone, but I don't tend to set up a story or anything. A huge part of my enjoyment in something comes from the people I'm with, so that's what matters first to me.

16th: Historical Person you'd like in your group? What game? 
Oh, this is such a weird question. Um, I'll reveal my 18th-century geekitude and suggest Jane Austen playing Monsterhearts.

17th: What fictional character would best fit in your group?
Um... I'm …

Summer's End

Here we are, coming to the end of another summer. I'm not ready.

My youngest son is going back to Seattle at the end of next week. I won't see him again until Christmas. I'm not ready.

My oldest son is starting school on Monday. He's getting a do-over on his senior year. This is his chance to make it work, and I'm overseeing it. I'm not ready.

I leave for London in a week and a half, and I'll be there for three weeks. I'm both terrified and exhilarated. I am not, however, ready.

Matt's already back at work. Has been since last week. I am still not ready.

Next week is orientation for the new semester. Definitely not ready.

I want to be ready. I want to be caught up on working and sending stuff over to my advisor. I want to feel like I've spent enough time with my kids, that I'm where I need to be, that I've spent enough time with Matt. Instead, I feel like things are coming to an end and nothing is quite okay, and that's somehow my f…

#RPGaDay -- Week After GenCon edition!

Okay, so maybe we're doing this in weekly installments instead of daily. That's okay, right? Especially if I'm also writing on my dissertation?

10th: Largest in-game surprise you have experienced
I'd have to say in Monsterhearts (2nd or 3rd season) where it came out that Rook was kinda playing us all only. And when Dora left. And when Ginny's brother Bastian died. And when Austen and Briar actually became a couple. Okay, so lots of them. It was a big game for sudden plot twists.

11th: Which gamer most affected the way you play? 
Hrm. My ex taught me to play, but I don't know that he really affected the way I play -- he just gave me a space and means to do it, which I don't intend to discount -- it was a useful thing. I think honestly it might be my friend Trey. Trey was the first friend I made RPing on a World of Darkness MUSH, and our characters ended up getting involved -- I was a normal introverted human and he was an 8th or 9th gen Gangrel who was on the…

#RPGaDay -- Gen Con edition!

Okay, so I was at Gen Con, and it was awesome and super busy and sort of a blur, and at night I came back to my room and fell over, so I didn't post a single thing. I didn't even knit, which if you know me at all is like "whaaaaaaat?" So yes. That said, here's my catch-up post.

2nd: Best game session since August 2015
Oh, good heavens. That's crazy. Um... I've got to say the final session of this season's Rising Waters game, which you can find here. I'm proud to say that despite difficulties and playtesting and all manner of things, my players found things getting wrapped up in ways they didn't expect, with loose ends getting tied up and new cliffhangers being generated. My perennial fence-sitter character finally chose a direction and now we've got new and reinforced alliances to move forward with, and now the focus gets to shift for the next season. My players were really pleased, and they're excited for me to come back to it, whenev…

#RPGaDay: Dice, dice, baby.

It's #RPGaDay time again!

I like taking part in this for a few reasons: one, I don't see a lot of other women doing it, and I think it's important to be visible like this. Two, I think it's fun. Three, it gets me thinking about aspects of gaming I don't normally stop and think about. Four, it gets me in the habit of daily posting to my blog for a month. :) So let's give it a go!

August 1: Do you prefer to use real dice, a dice application or program, or use a diceless system?
Real dice. I have a brick of yellow/blue six siders (originally to play Warmachine in Cygnar colors), a regular set of polyhedrals in blue/purple swirl, and a bunch of FATE dice, plus some extra d10s (reflecting the amount of time we spend playing Storyteller games). All of it I keep in an ARU (All Rolled Up) I bought at GenCon a few years ago. It is the best dice conveyance ever. 
I've tried using programs before, but I like the kinesthetic experience of dice. Programs just feel lack…

Community dynamics and bad actors

UPDATE, 8/1: Heading out tomorrow for GenCon, so I'm closing comments. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful replies.

I'm back from Rare Book School and so I'm just now getting to this -- my apologies. This is long and I go through a bit of social construction/community game theory to get there, but I think it's really valuable. Bear with me.
Okay, so once upon a time I came up with a list of currency types in communities, the sort of thing that determines status and the types of actions that garner those varieties of status. In particular, I was thinking about online communities, but there's a lot of cross-over into real life. They were: expertise, service, activity, investment, proximity to source, and celebrity.

So for example, let's say you're dealing with an online fan community. Expertise is a currency earned by knowing all the tiny details about whatever. If your fan group is about Whedon,…

Writing and Shootings and ... yeah

I cannot stay silent. Silence is assent.

Two new names are on this list. Add in the police officers shot in Dallas. Add in the protestors who were also shot (but thankfully, not killed).

This is not the way we should live. This is not what we should be. I fear for my students, for my children, for their friends, for their parents, because this touches everyone. This is why Black Lives Matter. This is why we cannot accept easy answers. This is why we have to dismantle the system, address racism, train our officers to do better and be better, and hold them accountable to a higher standard. This is why we must invest in inner-city neighborhoods instead of leaving them to rot. This is why we must examine hiring practices to ensure we aren't excluding minorities just because. This is why we must always strive to be better than who we are -- because who we are as a society kills people.

Join the ACLU. Join the NAACP (you don't have to be African-American, and if that makes you uncom…

Game Design Ideas

So, despite the fact that I need to be dissertating (and I am, I promise!), I keep having ideas for games. Some people do this with short stories; some people do this with article ideas, or crafting ideas, or whatever. I've gotten to the point that I do it with games. Now, I'm a person who believes that it's not the idea, but the execution that makes something awesome, so I don't mind talking about my ideas. I also think there's only a couple of people in the industry I know of who might be willing to take them and run with them, so it's not like there's a huge risk. As such, I'm going to list out my game ideas and hope that they'll leave me alone until next year, when I can actually start to do something about some of them. If, of course, some of my fair readers wants to comment on some of these ideas and tell me what they think, I'd be interested. Do note, these are mostly working titles.

Vovetas: My Game Chef entry from last year -- a rotatin…


So we're back from Origins. Matt covers some of the general stuff that he did as well as the administrative headache stuff we experienced here in his blog. I'm not going to retread a lot of that, because I lived it once and my stress levels don't need to repeat the experience at this point. I am deeply sad my "All My Circuits: A Tragedy in Five Acts" hack didn't get any players -- I chose the theme for the game to be in keeping with the theme for the con, and it looked like it was going to be a lot of fun.

Now, that being said, what did we do at Origins? I worked the booth a lot, spent a lot of time I wanted to socialize off in my room by myself, which makes me sad too (stealthy pine nuts, I abjure thee! Cigarette smoke, my bronchitis-affected lungs abjure thee as well!). I didn't get to do anything like as many things or talk to as many people as I wanted to. That said, there were some successes that happened.

1) +Amanda Valentine  and I worked with +Ev…

Bronchitis and Game Chef (or not)

I did not Game Chef this year. I wanted to, and thought I might, but then this whole bronchitis/hives/low potassium/dissertation thing happened and I was like, yeah, maybe not. And so I didn't. No one in the McFarland household did, although my stepdaughter at least came up with an idea. From what I've seen on G+, a lot of people were really taken with the theme and ingredients, though, and there look to be a number of fun entries to come out of it, which is awesome. 
One of the things I've been musing on since I decided not to do Game Chef this year, though, is how high the bar to entry actually is for making room in game design for new designers. I mean, on the face of it, it's simple. Anyone can design a game, any time. But in reality, game design is a time sink. You need free time to think, to plan, to come up with mock-ups, to play, to write. You need stability and space and a way to find at least an hour every few days to yourself when you're not so exhausted…

My son lives with me now.

In what is undoubtedly the biggest change in my life in years, my oldest son (now 18) has moved in with Matt and I. He's going to finish high school here with us, and then we'll see where he ends up for college and whatnot.

It's strange having him here, but good. Like most teenagers, he must be lured out of his room with food and activity, drawn back inevitably like the tide when these things are finished. Between being introverted and having his own room for the first time in ages and ages, he's busy inhabiting his space and has little time for anything else if given his druthers.

As for me, I have assumed the mom mantle again like a familiar robe, slipping it on even as I attempt to treat him more as an adult. Some of my efforts to do so are made more difficult by the issues that brought him out to me again, admittedly, issues that have to do with his ability to handle adult life and school and time management and environments too full of sound and fury, to be poeti…

Robinson Crusoe's Stuff, pt. 1.

So I'm doing this taxonomy thing, and I have an urge to post progress somewhere so I won't lose all sight of it in the morass of sadness that is this particular form of archive creation. I have finished the object/term listing for what I consider the opening section of Robinson Crusoe, wherein he is a man-child trying to go to Sea in defiance of God and Father and everyone with sense.

I am now into parsing his time as a slave, which goes much faster. I'm pretty sure I'm recording things that aren't anything like the objects I'm supposed to be focusing on, but honestly... rather do it and not need it than need it and have to go back and do it, right? And I know that making an archive is a pain, but even the work I've done this far tells me that it's necessary to do. I also did one for Swift's "Lady's Dressing Room," but as that's a not-overly-long poem, it wasn't too taxing (hah hah). In addition to potential objects, I'm l…

Object Taxonomies

So I'm at the point in my dissertation where it would be most convenient if my page count were rapidly increasing, but my most recent meeting with my advisor (combined with stupid health stuff that's mostly at the annoyance level but might be kicking into bronchitis (see you Tuesday, doc) has pulled that all to a grinding halt. Instead, I've had to step back and go into a bit of an organizational fury, making spreadsheets until I keel over.

See, the thing about making a dissertation about objects and the role they play in fiction and how we interpret them means we have to talk about that very thing, and that means I'm making claims, and that means that I really ought to be making those claims consistently (assuming there is a consistent claim to be made) and that means that I need to organize the objects that are being used in my source texts into some sort of use-order, which means making groupings and deciding what those groupings mean (and along the way, what is an…

Origins and GenCon!

So, I forgot to mention. If you're interested in the games that my game company puts together, we're going to be at both Origins and Gen Con this year. We'll be at the Indie Game Developer Network booth at both cons, as well as running games. I'm running a one game of A Tragedy in Five Acts: All My Circuits edition at Origins (check the on-site book), and then I'm running two sessions of A Western Tragedy in Five Acts at Gen Con, Thursday at 10AM and then 6PM. There are still tickets open for the 10AM game.

In addition, we've got games of Chill 3rd Edition going on, and even a couple of curse the darkness games that Matt's running. Also also, we've got the long-awaited SAVE: The Eternal Society book nearly out the door, coming to you this summer in print and PDF! Let me know if you have questions -- see you there!

Game Design and Boobies.

Now THAT, my friends, is a title. But I digress.

This is me. Taken last fall, over on campus. I have too many things to carry with straps, as you can see. I am also heavier than I would like, but I've largely made peace with that. Also, I have this weird camera smile. I blame the overbite. But whatever. I am cis, female-identified, heterosexual. I have glasses and I dye my hair purple in places. I also, although this picture does not show it, have boobs.

My chest is not going to go down in history as one of the perfect chests of womankind. I am no Phryne. But breasts, I have them. And now that that's settled...

I am also a game designer. A game designer, and I have boobs! Imagine! How did this happen, may you ask. Were they added later? [No.] Do I have a secret lab of subordinate male game designers whose work I claim as my own, in exchange for baked goods (as that's one of the things that breasts enable, right)? [Er, No. How weird. What a terrible supervillain that would …


Not that I don't have enough things to occupy my mind right now, but one of the things I really loathe about my brain is the lovely "trip into work" anxiety that happens on a regular basis. I'm really not sure what the exact trigger is, but as I start thinking about the day or the week or the whatever, even if it's stuff I'm looking forward to or that I've done before, I find that become a deep-breathing, heart fluttering mess. I have to manage my feelings and my blood pressure to keep from obsessing over... nothing in particular. It's really dumb. Anything I pick, as soon as I figure out how to handle it, the anxiety then moves to settle on something else. It's free-floating; it's just me, there's not really anything in particular to be anxious about.  I'm not the only one who has this, and I am on medication for it (it used to be much worse and constant, although I didn't realize it at the time). It's just such a pain. It'…

"Apolitical" gaming

So this is related to the kerfluffle regarding Emerald City Tabletop Coalition, OrcaCon & GeekGirlCon, and Chance Daniels. I'll start by saying I am connected to some of these people online via friends of friends, but don't know them personally. You can get caught up on the origin of the story here:

FYI, I don't know Jessica personally, though I think we've met at a con once? I follow her on twitter and such because we're in the same community and I hear good things about her work.

Reportedly, for the tl;dr version, ECTC removed mentions of OrcaCon from their feed because they viewed it as a "3-day political event that also had some gaming," and Chance stated that they/he viewed GeekGirlCon the same way. OrcaCon, fyi, is a new gaming con held in Everett, WA in January that has an inclusive focus; the theme for 2017, according to their website, isn't dragons or robots or superheroes, but rather "Race and Access…

Norovirus 1, Michelle 0

So sometime (it may have been at my surprise birthday party, sadly) I picked up the dreaded norovirus. It basically ate my life starting Sunday morning (I'm still not recovered, but I seem to be better). I threw up four times in twenty-four hours, and I will not discuss the other events. Seriously, it was not messing around. I haven't been that sick in that way since I was a little kid. I managed to keep drinking ginger ale, despite the fact that I knew it was all coming back up anyway. And this morning, I've managed to eat two saltine crackers! Whoo! I can also be enough myself to post this, whereas yesterday I slept something like 20 hours out of 24, and sitting up for fifteen minutes was cause for another nap. I couldn't even manage to watch Poirot, my go-to when I don't feel well, because a) they had scenes of people eating and b) I couldn't follow the plot for more than 10 minutes at a stretch.

Si, loyal doggie that he is, apparently spent the whole day la…

I've been a bad blogger...

... but I've gotten a lot of work done, so that's something.

I've finished three knitting projects and started on two (2!) pairs of socks, one color work and one plain that a friend requested. I'm looking at starting on a star-stitch scarf, because obviously we all need another scarf in the world, and I can't let this yarn I bought that's the wrong size for what I want to do go to waste. It's really pretty, even if it is far too yellow for me to use in a lot of ways. (I look like death with yellow next to my face. Seriously. Not a good thing.)

Sephi got out of the yard yesterday and went wandering, and I went this morning to pick her up from animal control (she's fine -- the lady there knows her and knows us, we just couldn't get back by 3:30 to pick her up, given that we finally got the call at 3:25). All is well, though we have to make sure her paperwork is caught up and get all the collar batteries for the invisible fence updated.

My gothic class…