Meditation on Logan Bonner

This post is part of a series about people from whom I am learning. This one’s a remix — I wrote most of this one for a post at Ryan Macklin’s site for his own series:

When I think back, I remember that I met Logan at a hotel-room party a few Gen Cons ago. Logan writes. Logan edits. Logan designs. Logan draws, inks, and colors. Dammit, Logan does it all. One day that guy’ll be standing on the balcony of the house his skills built, and we’ll stand in the foyer raising our glasses to his work and meaning it and he’ll still be all modest, with that straight-backed posture, making a well-timed callback to the night’s first gag and we’ll all laugh and remember that Logan hasn’t changed a bit — he’s still a mensch who does it all. Logan combines a thoughtful nature with a quick wit in a way I find astonishing and confounding. He’s always considerate, taking the time to consider your feelings, but he’s so swift with support, enthusiasm, or a joke that it sort of alarms me to realize how fast his mind must work. From Logan I’m learning how to be funny and incisive without being caustic — because me learning how to do everything Logan does just isn’t feasible. How grateful I am, to have met Logan Bonner.

Meditation on Anne Petersen

This post is part of a series about people from whom I am learning:

I’m lucky to get to play games like RPGs with Anne, whose sense of character and story are formidable. I could say that I admire Anne’s photography, craftiness, curiosity, or quick-witted instincts to look up all that which she does not know. I could say that and be honest and write about that, but the thing I’m learning lately from Anne are some great practices and habits for discussing difficult topics. Charged topics. Political topics. Rough-edged, half-formed, hot-to-the-touch, fresh-from-the-fire topics that I’d shy away from online. Anne’s open-minded, true-hearted, generous methodology helps me clarify and sharpen my own thoughts, opinions, positions — and reveal my errors and assumptions. “That’s fair,” she says, to let you know that you’ve been heard. It’s like being able to hone a dull dagger on a sharp sword. She could slay me dead, I suspect, with that sword, but Anne uses her immense creative, design, and managerial skills only for good. Thankfully! With those skills she can crack open, unmake, and remake anything she pleases.

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.

A Bit of RPG in My MMO

LOTRO Story TimeRecently I returned to Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) after quite a bit of time away. It was the release of the Mac client for the game that brought me back—I’ve been hoping LOTRO would come to the Mac for a long time. Now that it’s here, I’m finding it fun and easy to dip back into the game now and again. (I’m not even high-enough level for the new Rohan content, yet, but I’m getting there.)

Back when I was last diligently playing LOTRO, or perhaps the time before that, I founded a kinship (like a guild) as a means of getting a private chat channel for me and my friends. I stewed and fretted over what to call the damn thing, though. I went back through quite a bit of Tolkien’s lore for Middle-earth, the expanded lore of the game, and thought about all the joke names for kinships that I’d seen come and go on my server. I ultimately decided that I wanted to be able to play with the lore a bit while also paying playful homage to LOTRO’s writing and quest design. I chose to call us the Boars of Evendim. (If you get the reference, please don’t spoil it here.)

I founded the Boars kinship years ago and many of its members have since scattered to the four winds of gaming. Even I tend to return to LOTRO in bursts, playing for weeks or months at a time, devouring content new and old, and then drifting away for a time. LOTRO doesn’t feel like homework or a time sink to me — I play it when I want to, taking to it like I might binge on a television series. Works for me.

When friends of mine came to the game, at least for a while now that the Mac client exists, I immediately invited them to join the Boars of Evendim. I wanted us to have a common chat channel. I also wanted a chance to experiment with more in-game roleplaying and try putting my backstory for the kinship into words. A few of these friends of mine are role-players with experience from both tabletop play and WoW. I wanted to get a better sense of how RP worked in the MMORPG environment… and I wanted to write a bit about Middle-earth. Instead of telling some of my friends the out-of-character reason for the Boars name, I promised to tell them the in-character reason for the name.

Then I promised again. And again. Then it felt like I’d need to actually tell a tale to live up to the promises I had made in-character in Middle-earth.

Read more »

AW: Moving Principles

“Whenever the true objects of action appear, they are to be heartily sought. Enthusiasm is the height of man; it is the passing from the human to the divine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson in “The Superlative” in The Century (February 1882) (via)

This is a follow-up to an earlier post here, “To Do What, Do What?” In that post, I looked at some of what made Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World (AW) a difficult text for me. I’d intended to write this post, looking at some of what makes Baker’s game exciting and attractive to me, much sooner, to share it as a counterpart to dispel some smoke and, toward fairness, draw some circles around some of what makes AW compelling and shiny to me.

Doing that briefly proved difficult.

The only reason this isn’t at Gameplaywright is that the first part was posted here, ’cause it was about me as much as it was about AW. So it goes.

I’ve taken the tack, here, of singling out just a couple of things I enjoy, for the sake of time, both yours and mine. By now I presume you, dear reader, care about AW to the extent necessary to read this stuff. If not, get thee to Google or wait for the next post. It’s coming along shortly.

So. What is it that I dig about AW so much that its mad elegance drives me crazy with envy? What is it that I wish I’d developed for games that I’m working on? I’ll pick just two examples: moves and principles.

Read more »

Next Page »