Archive for the 'geekery' Category

On Confidence, Arrogance

Long have I said, long have I known, that I cannot judge my own confidence. I mistake my confidence for arrogance, every time. When I think I’m being confident, I am often being an arrogant jerk. So I stay away from my own confidence so that I can stay away from my own arrogance. Can’t stand my own arrogance.

For years, that has meant not just being humble, not just knowing humility, but often humiliating myself and feeling humiliated. Good times. Some of this is learned behavior, picked up in school and exacerbated by an old job I held that was so psychically taxing and demoralizing that a therapist diagnosed me with PTSD afterward. Some of this is philosophical. I want to be nice to people and I’m nicer when I don’t let my head get too big.

Sometime around my last birthday, though, I realized something strange. I am a grown human. And I am running out of time to get done the stuff I want to get done.

So, without giving up on childish things, I’ve been endeavoring to add some new thinking to myself. I’m not trying to replace my humility or deny my failings, I’m just trying to add some strengths to my repertoire. I want to a better me.

When I released Always/Never/Now, I held back on producing some of the physical rewards because I wanted those keepsakes to be worthy and I was sure that I would get a slew of notes (and hateful comments) and corrections to make to the product before I had something worth assembling for print. I was still waiting for permission, not to make the thing I wanted but to feel good about it, to have made the thing at all.

When I released the beta for Odyssey, I expected an agonizing silence or a flurry of notes and emails about how the game was doing something wrong — or not doing some correctly enough. I winced when I send it out to funders because I was expecting … something bad. What I heard about instead were typos and enthusiasm for the final book.

Can you imagine how much time I’ve lost to self-imposed setbacks and hesitating steps and backpedaling? I was not a grown human, I was a shivering whippet. (Credit to Shane Nickerson for that metaphor.)

Thanks to some stellar friends and family (for example), I’m trying a different tactic this year.

With my new game, Dark, I’m setting out to realize something I’m passionate about and make it great. I’ve been playtesting it for several years, through several iterations, and a lot of players have told me they like it. I’m taking strength from that. I like it, too, and I’m taking strength from that as well.

Seeing the response to the idea of the game? It’s an incredible feeling. I’m hopeful that people will like it even more as I reveal more and more about the game in the coming weeks.

Some may hate it. Some may be turned off by its execution or its game worlds or by me and my mustache. All that is fine. I’m making it anyway, because I know it’s good and what I think matters, too.

I’m not asking for permission. I’m asking for help to make this thing real, not just for me. And, thanks to so many of you, it’s happening for reals.

I don’t know if this is confidence or what. But you know what?




In the last hours of last night, before midnight transmuted one day to the next, the Kickstarter campaign for my next roleplaying game project, Dark, crept onto the web. The campaigns of Dark take place in several different worlds, starting with the core world of a fantastical city where internecine intrigue and shadowy mysticism abound. (I’m revealing other game worlds over time.)

Dark is a roleplaying game about one-to-four player characters trespassing in places where they do not belong — sneaking into castles and mansions, treading in forbidden ruins, and stealing from tombs and temples alike. With further funding, we’ll see adventures for the game expand into futuristic dystopias and sci-fi epics, too. Stay tuned for that.

This is a stealth-adventure game inspired by the stealth video games I’ve loved on PC and consoles for years. This ground-up design takes stealth gameplay to the tabletop to cultivate a tense, suspenseful experience. We’ve been playtesting the game for a couple of years now and, thanks to the valuable input of great players, it’s been honed to an edge.

Want to help out?

Stay tuned to the Kickstarter page and right here for more intel on the game and its design. I’ve been waiting a long time to share this one.


The Odyssey Beta is Go

Rough Placeholder Cover

Rough Placeholder Cover for Odyssey

It’s time for a journey.

My new game, Odyssey, is almost here. The beta draft is complete and in the hands of a few first readers. The game’s been tested and developed over a few years. Now it’s time to raise money for art and get this thing looking as good as it can.

For that, I need your help. Thus the crowdfunding campaign for Odyssey has begun.

This game was born from inspirations doled out during Game Chef 2010. For that, I owe thanks to Jonathan Walton. That year the theme was “journey.” The ingredients? City, desert, edge, and skin. I set out to make a game about desert treks and oases and sunburns and a lost city and I got lost along the way. I ended up with the bones of what would become Odyssey — a game about journeys. (The “Sojourn” playset in the Odyssey book is in honor of that Game Chef competition.)

Odyssey wears other inspirations on its sleeves, too. The famous Fiasco, from Bully Pulpit Games’ Jason Morningstar and Steve Segedy, made me want to do a minimalist game — lean and clean and simple. Ben Robbins’ Microscope and Bully Pulpit’s Durance influenced some of the ways I talked about Odyssey in its own text. They made me want to present a solid, stand-alone, instance-driven, self-contained game of my own. More thanks owed.

During development, a couple of years ago, I discovered that Odyssey also fit the needs of the gaming night at Shared Worlds, the creative-writing camp I help to direct. Odyssey can be played in any world while exploring some of the notions of what makes up a character — and how those characters are changed by the journeys they undertake. So for two years I’ve been able to hone this game on the imaginations and curiosity of newcomers and experienced gamers alike. Put that on the list for thanks.

Now, as I pursue an art budget for the game, I anticipate owing you thanks as well. With your help, I can make Odyssey a complete game book with handsome art for each of the game’s featured playsets or “modes of play.” With your help, Odyssey finds its audience(s) and sparks a lot of fun new stories. With your help.

So, if you can, please check out the fundraising campaign for the game. See it for yourself. Let me know what you think.

And thank you all.

Fairytales of Slavery

For years and years, music I’ve bought has been piling up on iTunes. Some of it is on my hard drive or iPod. A lot of it is lingering in the cloud, not quite forgotten but fallen out of rotation — an artifact of another time. In lieu of buying new music, I sometimes dig up these old purchases and use them to travel through time. Here’s one.

Fairytales of Slavery

Fairytales of Slavery

Miranda Sex Garden’s Fairytales of Slavery takes me back to the radio station. I’m in high school, I’m the Traffic Director of the local radio station, which has nothing to do with cars and everything to do with carts — eight-track style loops of PSAs and station IDs. I’m also producing a weekly variety-alternative music show at the time.

CDs come into the station via the mail. We fill milk crates with albums like Weezer’s first (aka “the blue album”) and Miranda Sex Garden’s Fairytales of Slavery, which I listen to a few times. It fascinates me. I don’t know what the lyrics are, if they are really anything, but it’s dramatic and moody.

I’m running World of Darkness games a lot back then, including Vampire and Wraith, and I think this album might make for good atmosphere. I play parts of it on my radio show (called The Difference Engine). I find myself thinking about the album later on.

For example, years later, when I’m working on World of Darkness products for publication, I seek this album out on iTunes and buy it again. I listen to it for a year or so, then lose track of it. More years later, I find it in my iTunes cloud and listen to it again. It’s autumn inside this album, to me, and a part of me is alone in the basement radio station at night, looking at my reflection in the window between the engineer’s desk and the DJ booth, thinking about ghosts.

My Unproduced “Northlanders” Spec Script

Here’s something I found while cleaning my office. (Fortunately, it was also still lurking on my hard drive, so I can share it with you.) It’s an 8-page spec script for a back-up tale, aimed at Brian Wood‘s Northlanders series!

It’s called “The Bite” and I’ve posted the script as a PDF. I went and reread it just now and still rather liked it. A nice surprise, that.

This spec was not only unproduced but was never actually submitted. I think I took a few copies of it to C2E2 one year, in case I wanted to wave a writing sample around, but they never came out of my messenger bag. I’m not sure that spec scripts for comics are even a thing, but I had this story in mind and I wanted to give it form of some kind and so I wrote it up. It puts together a couple of my favorite Viking anecdotes from things like The Orkneyinga Saga. Plus, I really liked Northlanders and one way I know how to say that is by writing about it.

I’ll store it on the Work page, under “comics,” if you ever want to find it again.

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