Not Just the Name of The Kink's song.

• Tuesday, April 22, 2014 0 comments
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.

Cards - done [sorta].

• Wednesday, April 16, 2014 0 comments
Well, more or less. There are some small things I need to do, and I'm contemplating adding six more cards [because apparently I'm as masochist], but tonight I finished the bulk of the cards that make up the gameplay aspect of my card game. The next part is mocking up the cards, so the game can actually be tested - I have some rules that I like for it, pretty well set down, but I also have a few extra things, minor changes I might try after playtesting a bit.

Of course, the next part is going to be a bit tedious, since I actually think I might write out the cards by hand instead of attempting to print them on my own. There are probably much easier ways to do it, but this will at least give me a chance to make sure there are no redundancies, and won't leave me with yet more hours in front of a computer screen as I try to figure out all the necessary measurements and margins.

Anyway, just a short post to commemorate the occasion.

A family friend died this past weekend, and honestly, this feels a bit bittersweet, considering. But I might have reason to remember getting this far with 21 Others, so I wanted to make some kind of post about it.

The Rules

• Saturday, April 12, 2014 0 comments
The game is coming along pretty soundly. I have about 15 cards left to finish writing, which is one of those things that gets harder as you go along, because of the kind of... I guess hyper focus it takes to make things fit in the last few spots I have free. Taking a quick break tonight, and I'm actually going to try and hammer the last of them out.

The other big thing I did was write the game's Rules. They fit on a single page, and are less than 600 words, which I think is good. I'm trying to keep things simple, and understandable, and I'd like to sweat a little more out of that, somewhere south of 500 words on how to play the game. Shouldn't be too difficult.

I did hit my one big snag when I sat down to write the conditions in which you actually win this little card game I've put together. From the beginning, I kind of wanted a situation where, on some occasions, no one would win the game - kind of a little message about what grabs for power could get you. And I have that, and the appropriate situations where there's a definitive winner...but also one set of conditions that is somewhere in-between, which I'm worried will be unsatisfying in the long run, especially if one of the players at the table opts to be a spoiler.

I don't know. I'm just sweating it. I should wait until I get to play test a bit, which means finishing the main cards so it can be played. It is, after all, just a first draft.

An aside, thanks to everyone who chimed in about naming kingdoms. Will be diving into that soon too.

"The View From a Tree in The Zombie Apocalypse" in Non Finito Magazine

• Tuesday, April 1, 2014 0 comments
My short story about the fall of civilization, the coming rise of the undead, and the existence of the world's most famous cryptid was featured yesterday on Non Finito Magazine. Non Finito is the pet project of a great friend and previous collaborator of mine, Sam Roman. Here's a short excerpt:
A lot of my friends said they were ready for this. Some of them claimed they were even ready for this, specifically. Which would seem ludicrous, and was then, but you know, not so much now. So some of them had escape plans. One guy learned to fire a gun. Another bought a crossbow. I think some of the more pragmatic ones stored water. That spaceman food, the powdered stuff, batteries, canned peaches. Seriously, one of my friends, the one everyone thought was the most responsible of us, had an attic full of guns, and canned peaches.

So yeah. A lot of my friends said they were ready for this. Which is funny to me now, because I haven’t run into too many of them. That were, you know, talkative, smug, and surviving, instead of murderous, decaying, and trying to eat me. Which is a shame, because some company would be nice. Someone to talk to. Even the self-satisfied, “I told you so”-types. Especially up in these damn trees.

Click on through to read the rest
, and make sure to share with your friends. And while you're at it, you should submit to Non Finito too - Sam's always looking for new creators, especially ones looking for a space for those bits of art we sometimes have trouble finding a place for - those things left rough, unfinished, or raw. You can see the magazine's submission guidelines here, as well as their contact information.

Thanks, Sam.

How in the hell do they name these places?

• Monday, March 31, 2014 2 comments
After having quite a bit to drink on Friday night, and then piling two oddly-timed power outages on top of that, this weekend has been something of a haze. And yet, still work has been done.

This card game is starting to look mostly like a way to enable my Wikipedia addiction. To compound things, I've always enjoyed following the citation as much as actually perusing the articles, which is probably the closest thing we have to Alice's rabbit hole that isn't a psychotropic drug. Over the past several days I've racked up a web history ranging from the Greek city states to medieval methods of torture and execution, to what names were innovated by Shakespeare [an odd gap for me, since I actually studied those plays pretty extensively in college].

Oh, names. I'm been compiling kingdoms for this game, and there's one aspect of fantasy literature I just cannot wrap my head around - how in the hell they name these places. I once again like I screwed myself for not taking Latin or German or something at some point, so I could actually come up with something that was sort of... fun, airy, but evocative. Magic comes up with "Lorwyn" or "Innistrad" and Tolkien comes up with "Mirkwood" and "Gondor" and I... sit on great little gems like "Edgewood," "Riverport," and "Hilltop." None of which really fit what I'm doing now. And typically, when I think I've finally come up with something sort of interesting, I remember, no, wait, I've stolen it from an SNES RPG.

So if anyone has any nifty tips and tricks for coming up with names for fantasy kingdoms, I'd appreciate it.

For the game mechanics themselves, I'm still sticking pretty close to "Keep It Simple, Stupid" as I develop, though I've thrown a couple of extra things in just since Friday that sort of excite me, and that I can't goldfish out myself to see if they work or not. They feel like things that, if they don't work, they can be easily removed, but if they do have the interactions I expect... they'll become the most important part of my game. A off-handed suggestion by Justin kind of cracked things open for me, so I think the thanks have to go to him for any work I did this weekend.

Cameos, or loose approximations of.

• Monday, March 24, 2014 2 comments
Though I was fairly busy with review work all this weekend, several of my better opportunities to procrastinate went to tooling on the card game. Since this is my first foray into making any kind of tabletop game, I've tried to stick to the pat yet useful principle of "Keep it Simple, Stupid" - I figure the more complicated I make this thing, the longer it will take, the more mistakes which will be made. I mean, what I might wind up with is something downright unplayable or too easy, or... something, and as much as I tend to think if you're going to fail, then fail big, I'd like to wind up in the end with a game that, if not good, is at least complete.

Since I picked a fantasy theme [a lot of my escapism lately has been fantasy stuff - Red Sonja comics, SNES/PS1 RPGs, genre novels], I found an interesting way to use some of my favorite archetypes from the genre in admittedly generic [because I don't want to get sued], but I think kind of fun, ways. So far I've managed to compile a neat little list of semi-recognizable analogs, based on various characters I've listed below, with my own little twists.

1. Queen Jocasta
2. The Assassin Lightborn
3. Othello's Roderigo
4. Mary Firth
5. Jack the Ripper
6. Lady Macbeth
7. Henvy IV's Hotspur
8. Suikoden II's Ayda
9. Don Quixote
10. The Beastmaster
11. Conan the Barbarian
12. Red Sonja
13. The 300 Spartans
14. Thor
15. Santa Claus
16. The Oracles of Delphi
17. King Hamlet
18. Dolores Haze
19. Final Fantasy IV's Edward Chris von Muir
20. As You Like It's Touchstone
21. Grima Wormtongue
22. Eowyn
23. John Wiswell's Automatons
24. The Necronomicon
25. St. George the Dragon Slayer

These are mostly favorites of mine - pulled from all over, but still mostly in that fantasy vein. And while I know it seems like a lot, trust me when I say I still could use a few more, and if there's anything or anyone from those sorts of worlds that it looks like I might have missed, or you think I might want to consider, just let me know in the comments, or @ me on Twitter, or even email me at I appreciate the help in the meantime.

Heirs, apparently.

• Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2 comments
Time to get back to this, right?

In 2013, I made a whopping six posts. There are a lot of reasons... a lot of family stuff, some depression stuff, perhaps even just the inevitable conclusion to my slow falling off with this blog. I toyed with starting again near the end of last year, but was annoyed and frustrated with my attempts to change the layout, and just generally make the site look a bit better, and more importantly, simpler than it does. Even toyed with the idea of transferring the whole thing to Wordpress instead.

Still might. Still could. 

The past couple of weeks I've been doing some tabletop gaming. Barring "Magic the Gathering," and some "Cards Against Humanity," I wouldn't call myself a fan of board games, necessarily. I've actually always sort of hated them, partly because they always felt a bit like a punishment, or something that went along with other things I don't care to do, or have happen - Sequence with a girl about to dump me, my mom and I playing Uno on the way home after my college graduation, blackjack while camping. I mean, I guess Life was kind of cool, and if someone introduced me to something like North Korean High-Stakes Connect Four, maybe I could get on board [heh], but honestly, never been my scene.

But you know, good company always puts me in a good mood, and trying new things is always important, and I've found a few things about table top games I enjoy now. A friend's gift of "Timeline" was a very pleasant surprise, Sushi Go! was surprisingly fun, etc., etc., etc. I guess what really surprised me is how all the games are just mechanics that are the means to tell a story, even if that story isn't entirely linear or even much of a story. And that's kind of charmed me.

So it stands to reason that with little experience and no idea how to proceed, I've spent the past couple of days staying up until well into the wee hours of the morning developing a card game based off of this post - "With apologies to Regina Spektor, and Aaron the Moor" - just dropping about 10 heirs for what I have planning. This really is one of those times when I'm playing in a sandbox I've no real business being in, but thanks to having seen so little success with my own work, no one can really be all that critical about how I spent my free time and sleepless nights.

I'm also back to work on a comic project that came to me over a year ago, but because of aforementioned family problems, I found myself back-burning for... well, everything. And I've found a rather delightful collaborator in Glynis Mitchell, so with all this coming together, I thought getting back to the old work blog was a good idea.

Social is the New Religion

• Friday, May 17, 2013 0 comments
"I think what frightens me about Twitter and Facebook and all other social media is that it peels back a layer privacy that we still have to assume is still there. We get to see people's thought processes, their motivations, and sometimes the downright terrifying way in which they see the world. Yet despite being given this glimpse, it's verboten to stop them, to say anything to the effect of "whoa, wait a minute... you think you're being radical, but you're being anything but. This is destructive."

"Now, I'll grant, at first blush, this seems elitist, vindictive, and perhaps most importantly, equally frightening being said aloud by me. Whenever I feel pangs about this, I recall a horrifying bit of logic I caught while up late watching the religious station, where xyz-denomination compared forcibly confronting individuals about matters of faith to pulling someone from a burning building, and about how being worried about offending them while doing so, and not being passionate, not being - I'd say pushy, they wouldn't, but I digress - would be tantamount to going into that building and saying "hey, I don't want to offend you, keep doing you're thing, but you know, your house might be on fire, you should really get out. If you want." No, they saw it as seeing someone in present danger, and needing to drag them, kicking and screaming, from an impending doom. And I suppose writing this, and wanting to do that with people I know, people who have revealed problematic things about themselves - I could see how that would be construed as the same thing.

"Now, remember for second that I actually do have some conflicting feelings on that, since I wouldn't hesitate to save someone from a fire, but if they told me "hey, you know, it seems nuts, but I want to see how this fire thing turns out" then I might think about backing off. I have to concede that sort of thinking [the thinking of our little evangelists, missionaries, crusaders, etc.] which comes to influencing, commenting on, and attempting to change people's motives, methods, and ways of thinking is deluded and horrifying. And I don't want to interject myself into people's business to save them - especially if they don't want to be saved.

"Yet sometimes I wonder, and I struggle. Because I think what bothers me about this extra layer of people we get to see sometimes is not the damage that it does to themselves, but the damage it is going to allow them to do to others."