Mark – Short Story Saturday

Tina here again.

What? You were expecting Kris? Well it appears that when I leave the state, his body goes into shutdown mode. Kris has been working hard at the house cleaning things up and not being able to sleep because I am not there. So when he laid down on the couch to take a breather, he passed out. And texted me in a tissy because he didn’t have his story typed out or fleshed out. Ten mins till a post is due to go up, Okay so here I am. I love doing quick writing flashes like this. I considered going with Alma, but I think Mark is hanging around waiting for his explanation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark looked over at the old woman who now sat there with sparkling eyes. “Wait, so you are going to go to the future but you get to be 25 again?”

She smiled, “Yes, I also have to take on a new name as well. I have already picked out mine and just have to wait to get there and make sure it fits in the system.”

Mark shook his head and took a small sip of the cup of tea in his hand. “Sure, Who doesn’t want to relive their teen years with the knowledge of age behind them. Sign me up for 16.”

The room was starting to fill with a smoky haze but felt no warmer then before. Mark though that he should feel…something about this. Something about smoke made his brain buzz. There was something he should be doing right now. He took another sip of the tea. Wow, this was so sweet. Was it sweet before? Looking up Mark noticed that the people that had been behind the lady were now seated next to him. He smiled. This was a lovely tea.

Bells chimed. Mark looked around the room for them. As he did the colors of the room seemed to run along his vision causing them to smear across the room. He tried to look back but this only had the effect to bring the smudges back around, clouding his vision from seeing anything but colors. Mark laughed. Well, this tea is lovely. What a beautiful sight. It reminded him of the paintings his mother used to do. He missed his mother. She was beautiful. The bells grew louder but more soothing in his brain. His brain was feeling quite warm. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath that smelled like the sweet tea.

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)

Kris talks about the extra-larges in his life

 

Kris here,

My lovely wife took some important time last week to discuss something important to her heart. I applaud you Tina! So I thought I’d spend this week talking about something special to my own stomach heart. A weight loss journey can’t be possible without the most important ingredient of all.

Food!

So let’s talk about pizza today. It’s fine, Tina will be fine with it. You can trust me.

There are some important choices you have to make when discussing kinds of pizza to eat. The first one is of course whether you’re in Italy, New York or Boston or some place that will actually get me shanked for talking about non-Italian, New York or Boston pizza. I don’t live there so I’m going to sadly be discussing just regular, make-it-yourself or buy-from-some-place type pizza. Just so we’re all on an even, easy to understand, cheesy playing field.

We have to start with the layered or stuffed type pizzas of course. That’s kind of cheating isn’t it? Making a pizza and then basically hiding another pizza inside of it? What is this, 2000 calories per slice? Guh, they’re so amazing and obviously the best . I know some places have started up some gimmicky, let me turn your crust into cheesebread or some kinda crust-to-breadstick transformation. Let me tell you about those: they’re amazing too. Yeah I know, THIS is why I’m on a weight loss journey! Sheesh.

We could talk about the bread/crust/cauliflower or whatever that you actually bake everything on top of, but honestly it’s just a vehicle for the rest of the food. Do what you want peeps.

So we skip to the wet ingredients on the dough-bits that keep everything from drying out and burning to dust. Tomato-based sauces are what I see most of the time and they ARE good, I love em to death. It’s a bit played out though, right? That’s why I like to shake it up. Some things go well with sweeter sauces, like pulled pork and barbecue sauce or a nice taco pizza with a spicy, mildly sweet sauce. Honestly any reason to add tacos to my life is a win. Alfredo sauces, cheese sauces, olive oil, cream cheese – all these are a great way to stick more food on top of your food.

Lastly, and most importantly, the actual toppings you put on the pizza itself. Lots of people I know just like cheese. I guess that’s fine, just laying like 6 pounds of cheese on a pizza is fine, I’m okay with that. Let’s go ahead and call out the elephant I’m building into the room: if you don’t like a good ham and pineapple pizza you can go right on down to hell. Sweet and salty is a classic combination – and if you put mushrooms on it, then I’ll even be your friend. Let’s not get carried away now – it’s not the only combination, but damned if it isn’t the only one I have to hide like a coke addict.

“Akerlund! What are you eating over there?”
“Oh this boss? Uhh, uhh nothing. Nothing I was just doing drugs” *snorting pineapple through a straw*
“Good man!”

I think I’m the only person in my close circle of friends that loves to just throw all kinds of stuff on the food. Tina wants cheese and spinach, Nik’ll eat any meat or cheese. I’m over at my own table like “Hey you guys want a piece of this pepperoni-sausage-mushroom-black olive-onion-green pepper-jalapeno-roast tomato pizza?” And everyone else bought their own table so they could ban me from it and they’re over there like “I swear if you step one foot closer I’m calling a priest! Get back!” It’s such a cruel, cruel world sometimes.

Let me know what other things are actually the best foods or pizza toppings and I’ll put it on a list of things to keep pictures of in my wallet. I like playing around in the kitchen quite a bit, so pictures are my inspiration when I get goin’.

Short Zombie Saturday

Colby-Jack wiped the sweat from her eyes for the millionth time as she removed two more crusty loaves from the oven. The morning rush was frenzied and she was doggedly determined to catch up for the lunch rush. Although, judging from the sun, it should’ve started already. She cursed and remembered the rude city watchman who’d told her to clear out a few hours ago. Did he put a sign or something on her door? Better investigate. That son of a…You have the presence of mind to tell someone off one time in a position of power and they-

Bodies littered the street outside her door. Dead eyes open, uncaring, staring into the abyss of the sun. Well this doesn’t seem like it was the watchman’s doing. She waved her hands in someone’s face for a moment, but there was no reaction. His eyes didn’t even twitch. She pulled him bodily away from her shop; she didn’t want to be disrespectful to the dead, but she couldn’t have these people dying all over her livelihood.

Colby-Jack spent a few minutes investigating the streets a few up and a few down from her own. As far as the eye could see, rivers of motionless citizens polluted the pathways, lying face-down and face-up, however they fell she assumed. She retreated back to the store to gather some supplies. If there was a plague after all, then she’d better get to that East church. She wrapped up as much bread as she could comfortably carry and stowed it in a travel bag, then attached leads to Parmesan and Cheddar. The two cats were not pleased to have been awakened, and meowed grumpily.

“Get on with it, you lazies. It’s not like you’ve actually done anything that would necessitate the need for a nap in the first place.” She briskly walked the streets, the two cats keeping pace easily. The streets were devoid of any moving body, so it was relatively easy going.

The further East she got though, the more she found herself being forced to step over the bodies as they grew more and more densely populated on the city streets. “Jeez I bet the rich people probably just all rode carriages, the good for nothing-” Colby’s eyes narrowed. She scanned her surroundings quickly, looking for splashes of color, or at least clean clothes. All the souls surrounding her now were dressed in tatters and smocks, workman’s clothing that was shredded and dirty as sin.

“Ohhhhh.”

She huffed once, turned herself right around, and marched West. “I’ll bet those cheeky bastards are beside themselves right now, sitting around and sipping iced wine or reading a book about working or something. Ugh!” Grumbling to herself more for the noise than any actual anger she felt, she made good time and found herself back at the city center before long. The rich folk were all locked up in a walled section of the city, but surely one of them needed a new baker while everyone was dying in the streets?

“What’s an ankle like you doin’ in a shoe like that, girl!”

Colby stopped short. “Ex..Excuse me?”

An old guy with a smaller pack stood hunched over in the street, examining her footwear.

“Y’got no arch support. Where’s the cushioning? Your shoes ain’t got no sole. Eh HEH HEH!” The old guy rubbed his hands together greedily while he chuckled to himself.

“Ugh, who are you?” Colby-Jack took a few healthy strides, taking care to hide her cats.

“Ol’ Fenton Shoemaester, at your service. I’ve got a 6 at my place with YOUR name on it missy, let me take you home right quick.” Grunting with oldness, Fenton heaved himself to his feet and started leading the way East.

Colby noticed they weren’t actually the only two walking around – she must’ve been more distracted than she realized.

“Uh, thanks Fenton, but no thanks. There’s a bit of a situation happening right now in town, not sure if you’d noticed. Nobody with fancy clothes is lying around so I figured those guys are holed up behind their wall, living the high life. I’m heading that way so I’m afraid I don’t have time for shoes.”

Fenton gasped in reply to her sacrilege and opened his mouth to reply.

“Excuse me”

A sweet voice drifting over the breeze shut his mouth before his reply, however.

“Have either of you seen any of the officials around? I was hoping to get some information that might help the congregation at THE LORD’s church. Everyone is so sick, I’d heard there was a cure.” A young lady in the soft layers of a church’s apprentice approached tentatively.

Fenton’s eyes did some wandering while Colby spoke up. “Nay girl, I’ve not seen anyone coherent until this man here started talking about- GET AWAY FROM THERE!” The baker brandished a baguette, beating the old man’s grubby hands from the poor girls’ feet. “She’s been through enough without a wackjob trying to get her out of her shoes so early in the day, Mr. Shoemaester if you please!”

Fenton guffawed into the quiet streets as he allowed himself to be shooed away. “Now now baker woman, either we’re all going to die, or we’re going to be on our own for some time. It would be nice to have some comfortable shoes either way – wouldn’t it? Make ya feel better. Give you spunk! My place is right on the way to the rich folk, c’mon let’s swing on by and I’ll prove it.”

***

An hour later, the two women sat in his small sitting room atop comfy chairs.

“Old man, I’m a bit taken aback. It’s like walking on air.” Colby paced the room in the new boots, somewhat at a loss. “Did you have to put these giant holes in the sides though? It feels a might chilly to be wearing things like this around.” Glancing to the younger girls’ shoes, she wasn’t surprised to see it cover even less.

“Fenton they’re wonderful, how much do they cost?”

He waved the young lady’s hands from the laces. “Don’t be silly, don’t be silly! It’s the apocolypse, I wouldn’t dream of charging you. These weren’t for sale anyhow, I was just waiting to meet the right feet. What’s your name, anyhow?”

“Tess Prees, from the church of THE LORD by the north wall.”

“Lovely to meet you Tess.” Colby stood and moved to the door. “I was just on my way to make the rich people let me stay with one of them. If the cure is anywhere, it’s going to be holed up with those fools, not distributed to the poor people now conveniently as far away from the wealthy district as they can be. Don’t you agree?”

It did make more sense than the Vitsuata church handing out tens of thousands of antidotes for free. “I suppose you’re right. So you think they’ll listen to us though?”

“I don’t care, that’s where I’m going. Come along if you like.” With that, Colby-Jack whisked out the door, cats in tow.

“Okay sure, might as well try something.” Tess hurried out the door after her.

“Wait for me!” Fenton snatched up the sketchbook under his desk and shoved it into his bag as he rushed after them.

When a little goes a long way

Tina Here!

One of the things I love about my husband is the drive and passion he can have for projects. He wants to clean the room. You can bet your 70’s disco playlist he will get it done. He wants to build a world, Hell, why not build a world, novel, and game based around that world. One of the things that has been hard on both of us has been our weight. He would never say anything to me about it because, well, I am extremely sensitive about it. However, since I was pregnant with Nik we both have grown quite a bit. I saw one of my inspirations on YouTube talk about her own weight loss journey and thought huh, I bet I could do that.

So, Kris and I downloaded Lose it and have been tracking our weight loss for the last 16 days. I haven’t really lost much but I didn’t expect to loose to much. Really, I wanted to have a log of my eating habits for a month to take to my doctor for advice. Well, so far what I have observed is that I very rarely eat over my “allowed” calorie limit. However, I have days were it is bad, just like everyone I am sure.

 

So far this has been more a trial of memory and remembering to log everything. Often times I hand it over to Kris and go, “Does this really look right to you?”

So far it has been telling me I should reach my first weight goal by January next year…. or July… It can’t decide. So I guess we will find out around then.