Kris finds more things online to take up all his time

Kris here,

Sorry we went totally AWOL last week – we had a crazy week and the 4th of July was just all up in our grill. Haha! Grill. We didn’t cook outside because it started raining and I’m already 90% inept in the ways of starting fires as it is – thunderstorms truly are my kryptonite.

 

For those not living in the US, the 4th of July is where we celebrate not being blown up by trying to blow ourselves up. It’s a great pasttime, very traditional.

 

This week I thought I’d plug a couple projects that have been taking a bit of my time recently and probably a lot more time in the near future. Project Gutenberg and Librivox. They’re both sites dedicated to crowd-sourcing the digitization of public domain literary works, but the former works in print and the latter produces audiobooks.

 

I know a lot of public domain works get a lot of bad rep sometimes, but spend some time perusing the libraries and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting. The part of the sites that has such a draw on myself personally is the contribution bits. I don’t mind reading something from a hundred years ago or some dry piece of information, but I have a really hard time focusing on one thing at a time. In this case, you get a chance to read a bit and help preserve at the same time, and that’s totally great by me.

 

Librivox is a little different in that they need listeners to help listen to recorded works and make sure nothing is amiss, but you can do some of the recordings yourself. I’ve always been a huge fan of audiobooks, helping to make them personally sounds pretty interesting. Give them a look the next time you’re bored and check it out – the worst that could happen is that you get to read or listen to free books!

Kris definitely not going stir crazy

Kris here

Tina’s been in OKC for a couple of days visiting everyone so I’ve been down here with a lot of time on my hands. Awesome right? I can do all kinds of VIDEO GAMES WOOOO. I totally did too, I played the Witcher 3 finally, and colony survival and I got some Tales of Berseria in. These are fabulous games, you guys should check ’em out. Do you know what else they are?

That’s right, they’re roleplaying games. Okay Colony Survival is technically not a roleplaying game but it kind of fits so let’s play pretend for a minute.

These are all pretty fun, but I’ve noticed a huge downturn in my desire to actually play any kind of electronic games for quite some time. A BIG downturn. Like I didn’t turn my computer on except to write the blog from February to May. I wasn’t doing anything better though, I’m not some born-again workaholic or anything silly like that. I’ve been turned off recently by the odd boundaries game developers seem to be implementing when they clearly have the technical capabilities to do something I think would be simply amazing – or they can’t actually push that boundary because of the technical limitations. So instead, I’ve been working on Dads ‘n’ Dragons. I’m sure a few of you have heard about it , especially since about all of my recent posts have been about nothing else.

So I’m hanging out by myself in a sweltering Texas summer (air conditioning is expensive yo) just writing up some cool ideas I have to stow away, or use in the finished product, when I run across a question in my mind. Has another game done this? Am I copying someone? Is there a better way of calculating this number without forcing it on the players? A quick google search and two weeks later and I haven’t even touched my own game since like day 2. There are a pantsload of tabletop games being published every single day, and they’re pretty good! I didn’t give up on my own of course, that would be silly. But I’ve found myself wandering a repetitive cycle of the last week or so essentially doing yardwork, housework, and gamework. And games.

Okay, I did spend a few hours just gaming while listening to game developer podcasts, but that’s fine and I forgave myself. These guys repeat a lot of talking points I’ve learned over the last few months, I actually really like the format they work through and listening to someone from an industry repeat the things you’ve learned through reading is awesome. Like “Yes! It wasn’t a waste of my life! In your face Reddit!”

We’ll be visiting with Zack for a few weeks once Tina gets back from OKC, so I thought I’d see about a few tabletop games we could use to hang out with the children too, since I have all this free time on my hands. (Literally reading, writing or cleaning.) “But Kris what if the kids won’t because it’s not electronic?” I hear you readers, don’t even worry. I have a plan. I’m gonna make Tina play instead and then the partypoopin’ munchkins can just go to bed at like 7 or something so we have time. It’s foolproof I know.

I’ve run across quite a few I think would be good to learn, but I narrowed it down to three for the sake of time. Pokemon Tabletop United because children and also Pokemon. Mutants and Masterminds because my wife has convinced everyone that they like superheroes. Lastly, Call of Cthulhu. Okay the last one isn’t necessarily children themed, but I mean. They’re old enough to learn about our lord and savior Cthulhu. That, or I can convince the rest of the regular Pathfinder group to try it out; honestly most of the local group is more into the roleplay and less about the hack and slash of the game in the first place, which this game is amazing for. Which is fine, but also sad, since I myself am way interested in finding cool combinations to work together and murderhobo an entire universe worth of monsters.

Allow me to summarize each game briefly, so I don’t send everyone on a wild goose chase trying to figure out what these words mean.

The Pokemon tabletop game is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a Pokemon game, played on top of a table. It actually took me a little while to figure out some of the finer details of even just creating a character or building the teams since there’s quite a bit of involvement, but it’s a lot of fun. Imagine playing a pokemon game where you could have a team of like 2000 just waging war against a neighboring nation. Okay don’t imagine that, Pokemon are not instruments of war you tortured, angry souls. As long as you can put in a bit of effort to do some reading and watch a few youtube videos, this game has a pretty solid foundation – and if you find something broken, you’re welcome to fix it, because it’s your imagination!

The Mutants and Masterminds game is actually one I wasn’t super interested in at first. I’m not a fan of superheroes or their universes for the most part. I got to listening to some gamers on YouTube play through a few sessions of their own game and it was a lot more interesting than I figured it would be. I think the context of a dystopian future or a distant past mixed with the ramifications of being a super person in their own time can actually make for a pretty interesting story. I mean sure, you could rip everyone opposed to you in half, but that has consequences. Saving damsels in distress will make the bad-guys angry and attack more innocents. Helping the bad guys will make innocents angry and everyone will hate you! Dang that Captain Castor Oil is such a rascal!

Lastly, Call of Cthulhu is basically the polar opposite of the M&M game mentioned previously. Where you’re playing super powered heroes in that game, in THIS game you’re playing their mild-mannered alter egos trying to solve a case. Except you don’t have the super bit and you’re detective-working a case that will pit you up against world-ending monsters who can’t be comprehended with mortal minds. The game is a lot more focused on the “role” aspect and is pretty fun to listen to and design for. Ideally, you’re playing with people who like gritty worlds full of despair and horror, but I’m willing to bet I can come up with some lightweight games that even a twelve year old could play. Heck, maybe even Tina could play!

Kris’s game design ramblification

Kris here

Last week was a bit hilarious and a lot tardy, sorry about that! By the time Saturday rolled around, we were off gallivanting across the state to visit dear friends and eat all the food they had.

I tracked it!

Some of it.

So here I am today just chatting about more game design stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of digital legwork and game designing can be an interesting experience, so I figured I’d lay down a few “why the hell didn’t they tell me this earlier”‘isms. Not everyone is interested in game design and that’s fine because the first rule of game design is that you don’t talk about game design it’s super hard.

Thinking about designing an entire game is a daunting aspect and it requires a few key points that aren’t necessarily obvious, but they’ll hold you back until you figure them out. Since I’ve spent a few months spinning my wheels and having a ball thinking about ‘bell curves’ and ‘probabilities,’ I think it’s safe to say I’m now an expert in the field. Don’t worry, you’ll all get the life-altering chance to play my amazing game once I find a better expert to tell me what in the hell I’m doing. It’s right around the corner.

At the beginning of my journey, I looked at the tabletop games I was playing and thought to myself “yeah this is good, but it’s not great.” You ever get the feeling? Yeah this salad is pretty good, but that pizza is great. Sure my car is okay, but that monster truck is AMAZING. I don’t want to drive a good RPG, I want to drive a monster truck RPG!

Okay, but that’s wrong – you don’t make a game because you want a better one. Trust me. You won’t play that sucker for a year. Or years! There are thousands of every kind of game you can think of – pick one at random for a weekend get together every week for 10 years and you won’t run out of material, I promise. This was a tough lesson to swallow because I just want to play my game why can’t it just be done. Nope. You have to work first. I know!

The second thing I did was to create some mechanics to judge how to, you know hit stuff and scale walls. Not the actual actions or why’s, just the mechanics.

“But Kris who are you hitting? Why? What’s the deal with climbing walls, what kind of mechanics are needed there?”

I donno :<

That’s right, my second step and I was already into my second mistake. You probably think I’m really bad at this by now. Ha! And you’d be right! Then I stumbled around the Googles for a few days hours and I discovered that this wasn’t exactly undiscovered territory. There have been people who made games before. This bro even put together a list of questions out of a different set of questions which is an amazing tool to outline if you can think  of the answers.

http://socratesrpg.blogspot.com/2006/01/what-are-power-19-pt-1.html

And that’s from 12 years ago! So my third step was when I reached out to a few game design communities across the tubes – Reddit, StackExchange, Giant in the Playground forums. Yeah that’s right, mistake! No just kidding, this was actually fabulous. You never realize how stupid some of your ideas are until you find a group of peers and explain to them why having people do long division is an enjoyable experience. Every time I’ve hit a slump where I kind of stopped and whined and fidgeted about something not being right, I’d hop on one of those boards and tell everyone what a great idea I’d had. They were brilliant – less than 2 hours each time to convince me what a mistake my mother made when she released me into the world with such naivete and misunderstandings. I can’t say it’s always easy taking criticism, nor should it be. Heck, I had to dig into more than one persons’ questions just to actually figure out what they didn’t understand, why they couldn’t understand it, and why past me wrote his descriptions in such a dumb way.

Designing games is a lot of work, but it’s a good time you can share with a partner or even just do in your spare time to mess around. If the SocratesRPG guy was a bit too much of a read, just make sure you think through a few ideas before you get too far into the process:

1. What experience does your game provide. People scared of the dark for a week, looking over their shoulders and nervously laughing the whole time? Riddle solving, pitting spouses against each other in mortal combat!?

2. What do the characters, or the part of the game the people playing the game interact with, do. Why, how, and when do that do that. Is it a fantasy game and you can pretend to be a buff macho dude, or is it farm simulator 0018?

3. What do the people playing the game actually do to interact with the characters mentioned in question 2. Pushing buttons, rolling dice, drawing cards. Strip D&D?!

4. Play your game every time you make any change and play it again because you didn’t do it enough the first time.

Okay number 4 isn’t really a question, but you have to play the game you’re building. Really, play it all the time, you have to know how everything is working. And when you think you have it down solid, give it to someone else and have THEM explain it to yet another person and you’ll be well on your way to starting the design process. And if you’re married, your spouse might even buy you a brand new blanket to sleep on the couch!

Short Story Saturday

Tina here.

I don’t know about all you guys, but I am freaking loving the retelling of the campaign I play with my friends. If you don’t know already…. I am the pervy shoemaker. This week I have been feeling pretty gross and under the weather. So, as far as my story goes, I don’t know that I can really do any justice to providing a story. But bet your sweetest honey I am gonna try! Be warned, I asked my son for the type of story I am going to write. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~MARK~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The flames flew high as Mark ran down the hallway to the last room. This apartment complex had been in need of some dire upgrades to keep this kind of thing from happening but in this part of town, upgrades were not high on the list of priorities.

The last door was registered to a Mrs. Karhu, an 80 something year old woman who had lived here for longer than anyone could remember. Mark checked the air flow under the door to be sure he wasn’t running into a bigger inferno and opened the door. The flames were not yet invading on this apartment that seemed to be stuck in the 1940s, but the heat from the rest of the building being on fire was making itself known.

“MRS. KARHU” Mark called out though his mask, then quietly listened for a response.

He walked toward the back and checked the other rooms. In the back bedroom was the old woman, dressed in her Sunday best and laying on the bed with a suitcase next to her. Sitting quietly next to her was a small girl with long white hair, who turned to look at the fireman as he marched toward them.

“We have to get you out of here!” He closed the door and opened a window to wave down the ladder truck. When he turned back around the old woman was gone along with her suitcase. Mark had not heard the door open or felt any of the things that might happen if they had with the windows open. “Where did she go?” The small girl just watched Mark move around the room looking in the bathroom and closet. The heat was increasing greatly and they were running out of time to escape.

Mark grabbed the small girl and headed to the window to the waiting firefighter. “I can’t find the old lady!”

“No time, your backed in, let’s go before the building comes down on you!” The firefighter hooked a harness to the girl and instructed her to start climbing down.

Mark took one last look around the room and went out the window.

Hours later and the fire had been quelled but the building had been damaged so badly that it could no longer stand on it’s own. With a small rumble and little fanfare, the building came down. Everyone was mostly accounted for and escorted to a temporary shelter as they got things in order. The little girl had been alone the whole time and when everyone started to part ways and find a bed the girl just stood there. Mark watched from afar and waited to see what would happen. The landlord had said that there was no record of the girl in their files and that the old woman had always lived alone as far as he knew.

The night wore on as the girl continued to stand in one spot and observe everything that was going on around her. Then at 3 am Mark looked over to see the girl staring right at him. Her eyes seeming to almost glow with a pale blue light.

“You must come back. They won’t move on.” An eerie voice called out. With that the little girl opened her hand and touched a small necklace.

The flames flew high as Mark ran down the hallway to the last room. This apartment complex had been in need of some dire upgrades to keep this kind of thing from happening but in this part of town, upgrades were not high on the list of priorities.

The last door was registered to a Mrs. Karhu, an 80 something year old woman who had lived here for longer than anyone could remember. Mark stopped. This – this was familiar. Had he not been here already?

The door swung open and an old lady and little girl were standing there holding hands. “Hello Mark.” The old lady ushered in the firefighter as if he was just paying a visit. Mark walked in and shut the door behind him. Suddenly the heat of the fire was gone.

“Mark dear, won’t you sit with us a moment?”

Mark looked around quickly, the carbon monoxide must have messed with their heads. “No ma’m, there is a fire and we need to get you two to safety now.” Mark made his way over to the windows in the living room and looked out. Outside it was a dark night with the city going on as it always had. Where were the trucks? The flames? The other rescued people?

“Mark, I think you had better sit down. Allow me to explain.”

Mark looked around and shook his head. Something was wrong. With long strides Mark reached the front door again and reached for the knob. However there was a strange little girl blocking the way.

“Mark, she doesn’t want you to leave. I think it would be best if you listened to us first.”

The man looked back at the old woman for a moment and thought about sitting down. This big suit was extremely heavy. He shook his head and turned to the door again seeing that the girl was now gone, he turned the knob and pulled it open.

“You must come back. They won’t move on.”

The flames flew high as Mark ran down the hallway to the last room. This apartment complex had been in need of some dire upgrades to keep this kind of thing from happening but in this part of town, upgrades were not high on the list of priorities.

The last door was registered to a Mrs. Karhu, an 80 something year old woman wh-, wait. This door. This woman. This feeling. Mark felt as if he had something crawling under his skin. He shut his eyes and upon opening them found himself sitting inside an apartment he had never been to before but seemed to know where everything was. Across from him sat an older lady who was pouring tea for three people.

“Mrs. Karhu?” Mark questioned.

“Hello again Mark.” the old woman smiled.

“What is going on?” Mark took off his helmet and sat it next to him.

“Well, it appears that you are expected.” The old lady smiled. “You see, I was one of those working class women. The few who never had a family because my job was my life. Well, my dedication and experience led me to be the best in my field. I started working for the government and well. Long story short, I met her.” Mrs. Karhu nodded to the little girl standing to the side.

Mark watched the small girl as she walked over and sat next to the elderly woman.

“Mark, You are exceptional.” She paused waiting for him to watch her again. “You are like myself. Someone who is needed. We have something that is missing from people like this girl.” The woman patted the girls hands that were folded on her lap.

“Sorry, but, I don’t think I understand. I am a firefighter. I am needed during emergencies.” Mark stated trying to shake this groggy feeling.

“That’s right Mark, but you are also a leader. Waiting to emerge from your cocoon.” The woman smiled. Mark noticed a suitcase next to the couch. There was another one that looked just like the one he used for his sparce traveling. “Mark, they want  you to come with us.”

Mark looked back to the woman and saw that standing behind her were three other people, two men and a woman, all dressed as if out of the 1940s and watching Mark.

“Where?”

The old lady giggled, “No, Mark, when. We are needed in the future.”

Mark looked the people over and figured he was just dreaming. “Sure. Why not. Do I get a T-shirt as a prize afterward?”

The old lady smiled. “I don’t think you really understand but they take everything at face value, so your approval has been accepted and we will start the process to leave soon. Right Elanor?”

The small girl nodded. Mark laughed and picked up his tea cup.

The lady from behind the couch spoke up. “What age would you like Mark?”

Mark looked shocked for a moment at the monotone voice that came out without any feeling. “Age?”

The old lady stepped in again. “Yes, you can pick what age you would like to be when we get there. Technology is so amazing! I am going for 25!”

(To be continued)

Fabulous Fun Fictions for…playing

Kris here

With all my talk lately of building Dads ‘n Dragons(notTM) I’ve been reading up on a lot of board games and other tabletop RPG games out there. Both for inspiration or creative techniques around boring stuff, but also because it would, you know, really suck to spend a year making something that already exists. I’m primarily making it for me to play with my local group anyway. But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing RIGHT dang it! Wait no I take it back oh no I’m my daaaaaad~~~

Right, so I’ve been reading up on all that stuff and I figured it would be a good opportunity for another round of “What weird crap is Kris thrusting onto us this week!” Dearest reader, I only want the best for myself, and for everyone who likes me. So I’ve rounded up a small list of games you can play with your families that I never heard of before playing it with my family (and friends). Non-video games of course, do you think I’m some uncouth heathen? Sheesh!

Dixit  – Dixit is a hilarious game in the right crowds and the art style is so danged cute. Tina and I have played this with grumpy old men, happy not old ladies, and grumpy AND happy young children, and they all think it’s fabulous. You choose a picture, make a tiny story up, and everyone else throws in a card they think matches the story. The non story-tellers then all guess which is the main card, and everyone gets points! The rules are quick and easy so I won’t deliberate too long here, but it’s really good practice for on-the-fly creativity.

Betrayal at House on the Hill  – Holy crap you guys. I’ve probably put a hundred hours into this game and if someone came over to my house right now with a group and asked to play, I would…send them away. I mean jeez I’m not even dressed, it’s practically bedtime. But if someone called and asked if I’d like to play in ten minutes, HELL YEAH I’d zip out like a fly on picnic day. The game is essentially exploring a creepy old mansion for a while until Watson rolls 6 blank dice and starts the haunt. And then Tina wins the haunt. But the process of losing is just so fantastic!

Arkham Horror – I’ll be honest, I freaking love this game, but I play it far less than Betrayal at House on the Hill. The reason being just because it’s quite a bit longer of a game, and it’s a BIT rules intensive to explain sometimes. Also, it’s really only amazing with 4 or more people and our on-hand number of board game players is 3. But seriously it only takes like 90 to 120 minutes most of the time and it’s AMAZING. Not many other board games end my turn just because I’m scared of the scary tongue god. (http://www.arkhamhorrorwiki.com/God_of_the_Bloody_Tongue)

Love Letter  – Alright, that’s probably good with the board games already. Let’s turn to card games! Love Letter is about getting your love letter to the princess. You draw a single card each turn, and whoever has the highest card at the end is the winner! Except there are also things each card does, like the guards will let Tina actually guess the exact card you have in your hand right now it doesn’t matter what turn it is. Yeah you. You’re out. Sorry. Don’t get attached to winning if you’re playing against my wife not that I’m bitter or anything. We don’t actually have Love Letter anymore, but we do have Love Letter Batman. It’s identical, except the princess is the Joker and Robin can protect you against anyone, anywhere.

Munchkin – Munchkin is technically not a board game, because there’s no board! Though we did technically make one, it’s paper and I’m not including that. Most people have probably seen or even played Munchkin, but since it’s Nik’s favorite game to play with us, I figured I’d go ahead and include it in the list. You draw cards to your hand with things like “The Kneepads of Allure” or “The Boots of Butt Kicking” that you can equip to yourself with different bonuses, or curses, and you kick down imaginary doors to a dungeon and fight monsters. Some monsters are nice. The potted plant at level 1 won’t even hurt you, that’s how nice it is. It’s a silly game you can play with basically anyone who can read, and it generally takes about an hour to finish.

We have an animal cage literally brimming with board- and card games, but these are the 5 I find myself playing most often. For better or for worse. Let me know if you guys have any suggestions of your own, we’ll be happy to check ’em out!

Unless you say Settlers of Catan. If you say Settlers of Catan we can’t be friends anymore.

Dang it Kris!

Tina here.

Whatever Kris let in to this house got me bit bad. Metaphorically speaking of course. He has chatted my ear off about his rpg and his back and forth on setup and how it works. Last night he gave me a break and picked up a YouTube video by a guy documenting his progress in making his own rpg. Well damn if I didn’t make him pause and start over after fetching my notebook cause I had an idea.

That’s right. I am also making an rpg. However mine is aimed at nerdy families with younger kids. So if your friends are to busy trying out that new beer place in downtown Austin, you can just rope your family into game night in the guise of family time.

Really I know so many parents who are gamers and would love to play something like the established rpgs with their kiddos but the setup and explanations seem a bit daunting to explain to someone who you just finished explaining why you HAVE to wash your hands after you poop.

Now not to get you all hyped but I am excited and after I make a working model I will need a cast of various kinds of kids to be sacrificed to my little game. I promise to return them eventually. So yeah be on the look out for that and if Kris hunts you down to talk about magic vs physical fights, take a deep breath and enjoy the math and science he is about to throw at your face.