Category Archives: Art and the arts

haiku

thunder rolls
I pause to breathe
lightning on the horizon

(I posted this on Twitter but figured that I’d share with everyone.)


No Indie Mercy!

I came across this video yesterday. He’s talking about indie video games, but I think it applies to all forms of independent art. Quality is quality, regardless of how many people worked on a project. And, yeah, giving something a pass just because it’s “indie” doesn’t actually help the independent artist. So, yeah, if you don’t have the money to make a blockbuster, then don’t try! All you’ll do is make a bad blockbuster. Instead, make a small film…but do it well.


A Shameless Shill for Mr. J. Medeiros and Some Thoughts on Indie Marketing

It’s no secret that I like Mr. J. Medeiros. I was first exposed to his “Constance” single a couple years ago, and I’ve been listening ever since.

So, when I heard that it was possible to get a download of “Holding On”, I was thrilled. And when I read the details, I was impressed. Medeiros will give away a copy of the “Holding On” mp3 plus a bonus track in exchange for a link to the video from a blog or social networking site.

See, as an independent artist myself, I understand the difficulty of getting solid marketing exposure. And sure, everyone talks about creating a grassroots buzz, but that’s so very hard to do. There’s a lot of clutter out there, and it’s hard to cut through it.

But this idea is fascinating. You leverage your existing fans by offering them a free sneak preview of something they were already going to buy. I mean, the kind of person who is going to post up a link to the new Medeiros video is probably already going to buy the new album. You know, like me. As it is, I’ve played the video a number of times, just because it’s such a pretty song. Sure, I was already planning on buying this album. But that means that I’m also the kind of person who would be eager to get my hands on some of the new material early. And, really, what does it cost? Just a link from my blog.

I think that the indie game design movement needs to give some consideration to how to employ similar methods.

So, yeah, this post is a shameless shill for Mr. J. Medeiros. If you’re looking for quality, clean, socially conscious hip-hop, then you really should check him out. And, as mentioned earlier, here is the link to “Holding On”, his newest single.


An experiment of sorts

So, the other day, I found myself at the local Wal-Mart, where back-to-school sales were in full swing. Yeah, I know that it’s July, but we homeschool anyways, so I’m out of sync with the regular school calendar. All I know is that office supplies were on sale!

I really geek out about office supplies and posterboard. There’s this hovering presence of possibility around all that paper. Like, I should do something with all of it.

I managed to escape having only bought some pens, mechanical pencils, index cards, and three composition notebooks. I want to talk about those composition notebooks. The rest makes sense if you’re a roleplayer. I mean, just add dice and you can play just about any game on the market. Sure, I’d be curious to see a Burning Empires character written up on index cards, too, but it could be done.

But those notebooks….

I have various spiral notebooks floating around. They contain my scratch paper. When I need paper, that’s where I go. They have also contained design notes for games that I’m working on. Invariably, the notebook gets lost or raided for scratch paper. So, I’m going to try working with these composition notebooks. Each draft game I’m working on will get a notebook. (Yes, do the math….) Then, when I have an idea, I’ll scrawl it in the notebook. This way, I’m actually using manual means (instead of Google Docs or the like) to capture my thoughts, and it will serve as a consolidated design diary of sorts.

Also, I’ll be able to put the title on the front cover. That’ll help give some focus to the use of the book, I think.

At least, that’s the theory. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Samuel’s Goodies

My son Samuel has big ambitions. He dreams up large projects and then shops around for people to help him. It’s a good thing that his mother is as crazy as he is.

And so, the latest result of this insanity: Samuel’s Goodies. Currently, Samuel has one video online about making snickerdoodles. I know that I’m biased and all, but they were really good. So, if you want to see how it’s done, check out Samuel’s Goodies.


Showdown actual play posts

A couple weeks ago, Gabrielle and Raquel played Showdown, my current game-in-development. They were so taken with the story they created that Gabrielle actually wrote it up and posted it on her blog. It’s in several parts, which you can find here:

Showdown Intro
Showdown Part 1
Showdown Part 2
Showdown Part 3
Showdown Part 4
Showdown Part 5
Showdown Part 6
Showdown Part 7
Showdown Part 8

The story doesn’t show the actual game mechanics in use, but it does give a sense of the kind of story that the game produces.

I still need beta testers. If you’re interested, leave a comment!


It’s a poem! No, it’s a game!

It’s “Today I Die”!

Check this one out. It’ll take ten minutes, and it will satisfy your emo gaming needs.

You know, if you have some.


A quick point about roleplaying

First, watch this video. Go ahead.

Kinda pretty, isn’t it? Yeah, I like that.

Funny thing is that, before yesterday, I had no idea that there was formal glowstick dancing. You know, beyond just jumping around at a rave with a glowstick. But as a form of expression? Not even a little bit.

Also, I’ll bet that none of the people in that video are roleplayers. And that’s the point right there.

The world is full of wonderful human activities. People do the most amazing things, which are beautiful and delightful, which will be ignored by most people in the world. Glowsticking. Street luge (with a hat tip to Ben Lehman’s XXXXtreme Street Luge). Roleplaying.

And yet roleplayers persist in trying to claw for the mainstream, waiting for that one game which will come along and give us mainstream cred. Because, somehow, when that happens, we’ll all feel like we have permission to enjoy this quirky activity that we call roleplaying.

Glowsticking will never be mainstream, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the dancers in that video. Instead, they are simply embracing that which they love; whoever shows up will be included.

Maybe roleplayers should just focus on embracing that which they love, not on demanding recognition from the mainstream.

I think I’m going to watch that video again.


The Treachery of Princess Eterna During the Molar Invasion

Note: I’m helping out with a group project over on Structured Freedom that is attempting to make a short anthology of freeform games to use as a teaching tool. Each game can stand by itself, or they can be combined together into an extended workshop. In order to shake off some of the perception that this style of play must be about broken people mooning about, contemplating suicide and generally being a drag, all the games are superhero-themed.

So, I’ve finished the first draft of the game, and I’m posting it here for comment. You can also check out any further discussion on Structured Freedom in this thread.

Introduction

Earth has many heroes, yet none are as brave and noble as the Immortals. Led by the superbeing Princess Eterna, the Immortals defend their home planet from all who would bring it harm. But will their strength be enough to defeat the invading Molar army?

“The Treachery of Princess Eterna During the Molar Invasion” is a short Jeepform scenario of superhero melodrama, intended to be used as an introduction to this style of roleplaying. The game is intended for two experienced players and two to four new players. If my calculations are correct, this game should take about 45 minutes to play, but really, these time estimates are mostly made up, anyways.

Also, this is an ashcan. No, really!

Setting up the Game

Establish the Play Area

You don’t really need much to play “The Treachery of Princess Eterna During the Molar Invasion”. Just the players and enough space to play. If you’re playing inside, you’ll probably want to play in your living room or some other large room. If you’re playing outside, then make sure that you have enough space to spread out a bit
Assign Characters

The Immortals

If you are teaching the game, then you’re playing one of the Immortals. This allows you to play as important characters, demonstrating how to play the game, and also allows you to be in a good position to help facilitate the game.

The three Immortal characters are Princess Eterna, Ajax, and Rolling Thunder. However, no one plays Princess Eterna. In fact, as you will see, she never actually appears in the game.

What is Ajax like? What are Rolling Thunder’s superpowers? I really don’t know. You get to make it up! But then, if you’re teaching this game, you should have figured that out by now.

P.A.T.R.O.L.

The Immortals are the most powerful superheroes in the world, but they are not the only ones. Organizations of young, ambitious superheroes are rising to prominence everywhere. The Immortals tend to think of these superheroes like many parents think of their young children: cute, but not terribly effective.

If you’re not playing an Immortal, you are playing a member of P.A.T.R.O.L., one of these new superhero groups. You should choose a superhero name for yourself, either from the list of suggested names or from your own imagination.

What are your superpowers? I don’t know. It’s your character, not mine. However, do keep in mind that this game is about superhero melodrama, not superhero action. So, don’t choose superpowers because they will make you strong. Instead, choose superpowers that will make you entertaining.

Also, the Immortals really don’t like being shown up. So, either Ajax or Rolling Thunder can veto your superhero name or superpower. So be entertaining, but don’t be dumb.

Suggested Names
Lizard Lad
Mr. Fabulous
Super Ooze
Dante
Inferno
Secret Woman

Playing the Game

The game is played as a series of Scenes, interspersed with narrative Interludes.

Scene: All’s quiet on the home front (2 Immortals, no P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Interlude: The Molar Invasion Begins
Scene: A Hard-Fought Battle (2 Immortals, 2 P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Scene: “We are losing” (2 Immortals, 2 P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Interlude: A Desperate Plan
Scene: “Be prepared for anything” (2 Immortals, 2 P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Interlude: A Vile Betrayal
Scene: The Blood of Heroes (1 Immortal, 2 P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Scene: Surrounded (0 Immortals, all P.A.T.R.O.L.)
Interlude: A Sudden Reversal
Scene: “So what happens now?” (0 Immortals, all P.A.T.R.O.L.)

How to Play a Scene

Most of the game is played in Scenes.

There are some rules that affect what exactly you make up in a Scene. These rules exist to help everyone work together creatively to craft an enjoyable story. So cooperate with them, and see what happens.

First, each Scene has a name. This may look like it means something, but it is simply a creative prompt. Pretend that the scene list is the chapter list from the DVD of this story. What sort of scene would go with that title?

Second, each Scene tells how many players from each team are in the Scene. So, at the beginning of the Scene, decide which characters will be in the Scene. Some of these characters may choose to enter the scene after it begins. If there are more than two superheroes from P.A.T.R.O.L., the Immortals should be sure to mix up the different P.A.T.R.O.L. players to make sure that everyone has a chance to play.

During a Scene, you play make-believe. If you’re in the Scene, then you jump into the play area and act out your character. Don’t forget that you know much of what is going to happen in the story, so feel free to foreshadow or be ironic. If you know the future, you may as well have some fun with it. Remember: be entertaining, but don’t be dumb.

The Immortal players are ultimately responsible to make sure that each Scene is set up and plays smoothly. Don’t be afraid to pause a scene to coordinate creative vision or to do a scene over if it wasn’t very good.

How to Play an Interlude

During an Interlude, someone reads the appropriate text. Even better, have someone in the audience read the appropriate text. Be as overly dramatic as possible. After all, this is a superhero melodrama.

The Molar Invasion Begins: “But little did they know that danger was already headed their way. Far above the surface of the planet, a spaceship flashed into existence, blotting out the sun. Landing pods detached from its side and fell towards the planet. The Molar invasion had begun!”

A Desperate Plan: “Princess Eterna flew above the battlefield, trying to plan . It was obvious to her that only one course remained to the last defenders of Earth. They must take the fight to the enemy. Quickly, she gathered the other Immortals and prepared for their assault.”

A Vile Betrayal: “At last the Immortals gained access to the bridge of the Moleship. Before them stood the Mole King, squat and hideous, dressed in his powered armor and surrounded by his most elite warriors. But then, Princess Eterna went to him, embracing him and passionately kissing him. It was a trap! Princess Eterna had betrayed Earth to her love, the Mole King! The other Immortals turned to flee. But it was too late. Led by the Mole King and Princess Eterna, the Mole soldiers attacked.”

A Sudden Reversal: “But as the beleaguered defenders of Earth looked to the sky, they saw something strange. The Mole People were retreating! Their shuttles flew back to the Moleship, which jumped into the inky blackness of space. Earth was left in peace.”

A Word to the Immortals

Immortal players, do you see how you’re not actually in the last two scenes? That’s on purpose. The whole point of this game is to teach the other players how to play these games of ours, right? So, this game actually phases you out of the game. Work with this feature of the game. Loosen your control on the game as it progresses and, if at all possible, try to let the P.A.T.R.O.L. players put the last couple of scenes together themselves. You’ll still be around to help, but maybe they will have learned enough by that point to try it themselves.


It’s only been a decade or more….

So, some happy news for me!

Many years ago, I heard the album The City by Vangelis. (For those of you who don’t know, he’s the musician responsible for the soundtracks for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner.) Derf Hopsecger, a friend of mine, owned it and would let me borrow it from time to time. It was a musical rendition of a day in the life of a city, from sunrise to nightfall.

I loved that album.

So I set out to locate it for myself.

I’ve been looking for years. For years. Like, I think that I’ve been looking for the last twelve years. Maybe longer.

Today, I located it on Amazon. No, it wasn’t there before. I’ve looked.

And now, it is mine.

Hooray!