A new look.

Have been meaning to do this for a while. I've had a few conversations lately with some friends, and speaking honestly I always seemed to produce more when I had this space to work in.

I've added sidebar links for Justin, Staci, and Glen's blogs, ripping liberally from Justin's own buttons he designed [thanks, and sorry, man]. Would like to add a few more, and get a proper Blog Roll too, but I'm tired, and a cursory glance isn't showing me anything I love right off. Couple of things I'd like to change in the coding of this template too, but it'll be touch and go for a while.

Any critiques, comments on the changes would be helpful, of course. Something that you're just not crazy about, I might be able to fix.

Hoping this all means I'm on the edge of something. Guess we'll see.

Help my friend, my muse, Lex Friedman.

I know this has sort of become a blog where I only post when friends of mine need help. But honestly, I can't think of any better way it could be used.

This Lex Friedman, she was in an accident recently, broke her femur - I only found out today. She's an amazing actor - she has a huge heart, and I've been lucky enough to call her a friend. She's also... it is hard to explain, if you've never met someone who inspires you, but, for instance, as lovely as the headshot is I've posted here, it's not how I think of her - there's this vibrant, active, bright light there, and on more than one occasion I've attempted to capture it in my own work, capture this larger than life personality, this capacity for love and action and strength. Lex has been kind enough to humor me through it all too.

Other friends of hers have set up this GoFundMe page - http://www.gofundme.com/helplex - to help her get through this very trying time, as she recovers from her injury. I'd consider it a personal favor if you'd look, share, give if you can - I know it's a hard time of year to ask for money, but this is one of the best causes, best people I know.

And thank you.

Help me help those who took me in.

The happy couple below are who I fondly refer to as my other mother and other father, Lauri and Ruben Roman.

Lauri and Ruben are two of the most kind, crazy, and loving people I know - which, for me is really saying something. In college, so often they were my holidays, the brought me into their home, showed me some of the many secrets that both New York and New England hide from the typical tourist, and made me feel like I had roots somewhere other than the "holler" I came from. Yes, at the time I was dating the wonderful daughter Samantha, but even after that, they've always made me feel welcome and loved, have met other girlfriends, and called and written and sent gifts during the holidays. I've always felt like my family is shrinking - death, divorce, all of that - but Lauri and Ruben and what they've done for me is one of only a handful of times [along my mother remarrying, and my kid brother being born] I can proudly say it grew.

They have been limping along, but managing, like so many of us, for some time. But like every single one person living pay check to pay check, it only takes one more unexpected thing on the pile, and it can leave your entire future in doubt. Their landlord has notified them that their current place of residence will soon be sold, and they are looking to raise the first and last month of rent, along with a security deposit so they can move. I know they hate having to ask. But they shouldn't feel the least bit bad - I'm sure we all agree, we all need help sometimes.

I'd consider it a person favor to me from anyone who can help them out during this particularly hard time. The link to their account can be found here or by clicking the picture above. And if you can't give, if you can spread the word, I'd appreciate that too.

Friday the 13th - Wrath of the Kill-ver Fish.

I have a superstitious streak. Which is weird because, you know, avowed atheist and believer in the absolute cruel randomness of the universe. Yaaay.

Justin came over to play some Magic and just hang out - we hadn't gotten the opportunity to lately [and by the way, if you want to see some amazing comic work, you should head over to his site to check out why - he's doing some amazing and innovative work right now when it comes to developing and coloring comics. If what he's doing works out, and I'm more than sure it will, he'll be making some big waves one day], and I promised him I'd dig out a handful of old Swamp Thing comics from the Moore years that I had doubles of. He's wanted to get a better look at the coloring, which isn't printed in nearly the same way these days, even when the big collections and omnibus editions are put out. 

I dug out a few long boxes, but was having trouble finding them. There's this place, like a cubby or a hidey-hole under what would be... the desk, I guess in my room, which I stuck about six long boxes in to maximize space in my... let's go with modest... living quarters. What I pulled out were a bunch of moist, chewed up boxes, falling apart as I tried to pick them up, and dropping out comics pulped in the wrong sense of the word.

A wet wall. Comic books full of silverfish. 


As gross goes, it doesn't get much worse. Tiny translucent land shrimp that eat paper and adhesive, and like nothing better than to chow down on one of the things I love the most in this world. Plus, they bring centipedes in, which are... frightening and loud and far bigger than any bug should be [seriously, how are folks  afraid of spiders with shit like this in the world?]. They're pretty much one of the biggest bads of the comic collecting world, one I fought, one my mom hated about my particular hobby, one of the reasons part of my collection was bent out of shape when I switched for a while to Rubbermaid tubs instead of long boxes...

Anyway, I freaked a little, repeating myself, edge of a panic attack [been a bit, old friend], etc. - Justin's always pretty well got his head together though, and having him there to help pull things together with me mentally, hold the light, the trash bags [sob]. With his help, I managed to get everything out of there, and sorted enough that I could clean up the mess, hang some cedar, get the comics in a place to be properly gone through, to see what survived.

Look, I have always said my comic collection was a reader's collection. Dad's was too, and when he passed and I got his comics, the bends, the tears, the nicotine stains... they were a pleasant reminder of him. Sure, growing up in the 90s, I have heard every rationalization for shucking materialism, but I don't buy it. I just don't. We put parts of ourselves in things. Some of them we make, some of them we purchase. Some we share, some we don't. That doesn't mean we all have to be hoarders. 

Even though now I'm dealing with a hoarder's problem.

Going through the contents of the six boxes, I've by and large lucked out. Everything of mine and dad's was mostly bagged and sealed, keeping the moisture and the bugs out. Most of what was in the boxes that were under there were only technically a part of either of our collections - a friend of my father's sold us a rather large lot of comics on the cheap from the sports store he once ran. We really only planned to pick and choose from these to supplement some of the holes in our collections from a stint of particularly hard financial times, and everything else was boxed again and tucked away. Dad held on to them, and then they passed to me. Most were monuments to the worst of the 90s - softcore porn, Image comic ripoffs, loads of the manga Dark Horse attempted selling on a monthly basis [now, call me softy, but I still mourn for them. The thing about making comics is that there is a small place in your heart that knows the work that goes in to even the worst, and keeps you from *completely* hating anything], and few if any were ever read by either of us - we wanted the Green Lantern and Avengers and Thor we wound up bagging and slipping into our own unfinished collections, which were fine, as were the Swamp Things I was looking for - they weren't under there after all, instead stacked up off the ground. 

I'm not saying that nothing important was lost - a few bags were compromised, and one of the boxes had newer stuff in it [for some reason - newer stuff is usually kept off the floor so I can get at it], meaning a handful of copies of "The Boys," "Ex Machina," some Dan Jurgens Captain America, and a few copies of the Cassandra Cain "Batgirl" will need to be repurchased. Which means, fixable, in a way, but still heartbreaking.

And all of this - all of it, is embarrassing too. I always held myself up as better than this, a "good collector." I don't think much about geek cred, and again, reader's collection, I never meant to sell any of this, but in a way, its worse, because that's a lower bar and I still screwed it up. Thanks to some unexpected payments for work I did in the past, though, the new corrugated plastic boxes are on their way, and some resealable bags and cardboard backs too. Time to get the bulk of the collection back in protective shape, which should be easy with the extra time, since with grandma's health [another story for another time], she's been of a keener mind when I'm closer, just in case.

So I'll be taking the time, letting myself poke back around into the stories I love and grew up with, making sure what wasn't stored in that soggy hellhole won't ever be in danger of the same thing happening, and what was and survived the experience will never have to face it again. I think even some of these comics might be unloaded, sold, donated, something, to give myself more room, and make sure my focus is on the memories that are most important, and maybe share some of these them with others.

I don't know. We'll see how it goes. Hoping it won't take over my life.

Happy Friday the 13th. And Happy Father's Day.

I'm sorry, dad.

21 Others: First Revised Edition

Certainly far from the last.

I've been fairly busy this week with the proper jobs in my life, but that didn't take some time to go through and fix some of the problems that plagued the game in the first two tests. I feel like I've addressed some of the biggest concerns of the game, particularly as it concerns some the vestigial elements I mentioned last time, fleshing some out and removing some others. Six cards have been eliminated from the deck completely [I'd like to add four cards in their place, but one step at a time, I figure], and I reprinted several cards with clearer... I guess instructions would be the word to use. I guess that's yet another swipe from MTG - "if it's written on the card, it's the rule."

I changed the names of a couple things too. Wanted to give a shout out to the lady who gave me the most helpful suggest last time through.

There's a possibility I might get another test in on Monday at my friend Caitlin's birthday, which I guess was the reason for wedging this in when I had things I should have been paying more attention to.

The only regrettable part about all of this is, for at least right now, the game is 3-21 players. The 2 player mode just raised too many questions, and is something I'm going to try and figure out later on down the line. I've thought about possibly hosting some sort of event here at my house [I have a long table, in an attempt to get some other people who are more at my skill level or lower with games to give it a shot too, hopefully with some hardcore table-toppers thrown in the mix.

21 Others - First Play Test

Thanks to the help and enthusiasm of Terry Bartley, I was graciously invited to play test my card tonight with his games group. They usually get together for a D&D campaign, or a new board game, but were incredibly generous to give up one night and their tabletop to play the first two games of "21 Others" - as well as give me a lot of really great feedback about the game. All these guys were veterans when it came to gaming too, so their feedback had a lot of good stuff, a lot of stuff I can, and will, use. The "special thanks: for this game is building up fast.

I was a bit on edge during play. I've never really had problems getting feedback on my work, but with a game, it is just so much different, watching people engage with what you've produced, and getting to engage with it to, with them, and sort of feel all the various successes and frustrations in real time.Very exciting. A little terrifying. But they were such a great group.

Got a game going with seven players, tweaked the rules a little the first time, at the behest of those at the table, and really got into the play of the game. Right now, it looks like a good game would come in close to an hour long, which seems okay, seems like something people would be okay with, in practice at least. That's probably the biggest relief - overstaying my welcome with a hardcore group of tabletoppers would official be a death knell for this, but I feel like my little game passed that test, and am pretty heartened by that.

I have about four pages of notes in my garbage short-hand, well less "notes" and more cues to the problems that we run into while playing, and a couple of more in-depth things which were immediate improvements on play. There were more than a couple of "why didn't I think of that?" moments too, which are lovely and humbling - and a lot of things were pointed out to me, underdeveloped things, things I wasn't sure if I'd use, which for some reason I kept calling "vestigial tails" out loud [because I just couldn't stop saying "vestigial"], which I think I can develop, which I think I have to develop further - opportunities to reach out beyond my "keep it simple, stupid" philosophy a bit.

There is one play mechanic that seemed... wildly off, really unpleasant for folks, and from the comments, most definitely flawed, and I may actually focus just on overhauling it for the next week or so, maybe even before the next play test. I'll keep you updated.

I'd like to thank everyone again, too. Feel like I've shaken a lot of my dread now, and I might be able to hunker down and actually make a game people will have fun playing.

"21 Others" Games Played Count: 2

Prototype of a Prototype.

Wasn't that what Protoman was?

Anyway. Finished putting my little card game together Thursday night, everything was printed, sleeved, and generally looks too much like bootleg Magic the Gathering for my tastes, but... what I have is a box full of cards that is play-testable, and that's the most important thing. I think I've managed to stir up some excitement in my friends Caitlin, Terry, and Trinh, as they seem ready to help me out with the testing part of it, which is very kind of them.

More than anything, their enthusiasm when I told them, along with a string of "LIKEs" on Facebook have brightened my spirits considerably. As I get closer to actually playing it out with people, I'm not sure if I'm nervous, or just a little sick of working on it and goldfishing it out in my head theoretically, but a lot of Friday night was just... dread. I want to work out the kinks, I want the game to be fun, be interesting. And everything's moved so smoothly. Makes me nervous.

Tonight I polished off the rules and gave the game a nice little intro. It occurred me I hadn't checked in here about how things were going, so I thought I might do that.

Even though I've got people to play test with, naturally, anyone else interested in also trying it out are welcome to contact me, come hang out, play a few games. If you're one of my people located around the world, and wouldn't mind playing it with some friends, I'm open to that too - of course, it would be a little intensive - there are 205 cards in all, which is a lot of printing and cutting, all of which needs to be done on card stock, or sleeved up in El Cheapo Deck Protectors. Still, if you're willing to put in the effort to check out my little brainchild...

Might get to play as soon as this week. Will report back.

Not Just the Name of The Kink's song.

I spent roughly four hours scrawling out information on note cards last Friday night, when I realized, you know, there's a much easier way to mock up these cards that won't make it feel like my hand is breaking. 

One of the big inspirations for making this card game was "Magic: The Gathering," a hobby I rediscovered a few years back. One of my favorite things about the Magic cards is the flavor text, and it's a concept I stole almost completely for mine. I've always been charmed by alternative storytelling, and the fact that Wizards of the Coasts manages to make a long-running trading card game that is both functional, and hints at, even outright tells an overarching story while sticking to various, sometimes contradictory themes over time has always been amazing to me. I can't claim that my forays into flavor text this time does anything nearly as amazing as what WotC often does, but as a first go, I've been pretty pleased, and if I entertain no one else by the time this project succeeds or fails, the bad jokes, plays on words, stupid puns, and endless hours spent in, of all things, a pocket thesaurus, has been a lot of fun for me.

So, as much as I don't want to get sued by my heroes, I downloaded the freeware "Magic Set Editor" and took a couple of nights to leisurely use their templates to do functional mock-ups of my own cards, and then ordered about... 300 Super El Cheapo card sleeves, so I don't have to worry about the first cards I make being hard to shuffle or see-thru. What I've ended up with is something that has all the necessary information to play with, a good little color-coding system, and a design-style I WILL IN NO WAY BE KEEPING, as I am only using these to test out the actual play of the game with friends, to help fine tune the rules, see what works, what doesn't, and what needs added, and what needs to go.

The nice thing about the MSE template is that it lets me get all my information for play in there, there's already a place for Flavor text, and it'll make any changes in the early stages relatively easy. The downside is, it'll look even more like a MTG rip-off while on the table, which I'm not wild about, except more bland because there are zero illustrations.

Of course, if I continue to go forward with this, I will need to find an artist to not only design the card illustrations themselves, but also the card borders, so this isn't exactly anything that wasn't already planned for. I just think my original idea, with the note cards, was to give the people who I eventually play tested this with sort a blank slate kind of feeling, so I could get at their feelings of what they were picturing, projecting on the cards themselves, and now having the immediate relation to the MTG frames is a little... disheartening. Useful? Yes. Mostly in my head? Entirely.

I took another run at the rules last night, eliminated one big play mechanic, but nothing gone is ever gone forever at this point. Honestly, having as many rules as I have right now really feels to me like a betrayal of my "Keep it Simple, Stupid" mindset, so there could be further changes like this even in the next couple of days.

End count is a whopping 205 cards. I'd be printing them now, rather than writing about them here, except I'm all out of printer ink. Waiting for gods of Amazon and Epson to smile on me, and deliver unto their servant the tools needed in which to make his art.

From there, it'll be about 30 pages worth of printing [probably double that after I screw up a few times], and then I'll whip out the paper cutter Sarah gifted me with a few years back. And then... play tests! Which I'm hoping Terry and Caitlin and whoever else I can get on board to help out with this will be willing to suffer through.

Stay tuned.