I have an Intro to Media class at Pellissippi State. Nice class. I had to take a series of photos related to a form of media. I have tweaked them in photoshop and otherwise made them more presentable. I am not at great at photography. It is something I wouldn’t mind being better at actually. I like good photography. Still, these were all taken with my point and click or my phone. I am somewhat pleased with how they came out, so I thought I would share.
I chose as my media, games. Specifically, I chose table top RPG’s such as Dungeons and Dragons. This is a media which is both print and interactive. These are photos of dual games running at the same time in the local game store, Organized play.
The photos were taken the Living Forgotten Realms event at Organized Play in Knoxville, TN.
I have been helping to write a larp for a while now. It is called Dust to Dust. We have a really good development team and I would like to humbly say, it is one of the more detailed larp worlds ever written. The rules are interesting and have a lot of depth as well. It is a project with a lot of text. The plot committee are all fans of the text prop. Anyway, I can’t give you any event dates yet. Those come later, but what I can do is provide you with a website to see what the game is about.
You can find it here.
I hope you like what you see.
Case in point, I played Empire Builder with my mom recently. She has loved that game for years. I played it with her back when, I was in college the first time. I enjoyed it back then as well. Recently though, we played and I had long ago forgotten most of the rules. Sitting down and playing, I began criticizing the game design. I got locked out of action for several turns, as did someone else at the table. I began talking about how that was bad design at the table, and I think that is where I began to go wrong. Being critical is often an unpleasant experience for the people around you. Mom did not have as much fun, despite winning. I didn’t really enjoy myself that much either, because I was focusing on what was wrong.
I have been on the receiving end of this. I have tried to run games for people and had the fun in running the game drain away because some of the players kept focusing about how bad the game was. They would joke about it at the table. Normally in conversation, I would likely agree with them, but it killed my enthusiasm for the game. Everyone involved did not have as much fun as we could have had. I don’t think the player was wrong about his criticisms. I don’t even mind him bring them to me, but that should have started a different conversation. It should have been “I don’t feel like playing this game and this is why”.
So, am I saying being a rules wonk is a bad thing? No. Being able to analyze, understand and critique a subject does often increase your enjoyment of that thing. I love comics. More importantly, I made a point of learning about the art and storytelling in comics, so now I can enjoy them even more. I can pick up on subtle nuances and influences. It makes the reading experience much more rich. It is the same with games. If you know more about the games, you will appreciate the nice new mechanic, and the simple ways of conveying story. You gain something with the analysis, but you can loose the ability to simply play and enjoy game. There are too many examples I can think of, where someone would decry the horrible game design in games they got hours of enjoyment out of. First and second edition D&D were games that many of us started on. They were brilliant. By modern standards in game design, the thinking in them is out of date, but damn it we had fun playing them.
What I am saying, is don’t let your critical mind get in the way of enjoying the experience or ruin it for someone else. I have done a podcast critiquing games. It was my job to find problems in computer games at the last company i worked for. This may predispose me to find fault in games, but I shouldn’t be so vocal about those critiques when I am at the table. It will not help anyone there have fun, not even me. I would suggest to other game rules gear heads, would be designers, and critics to look out for it in themselves. We all love to talk rules. There is nothing wrong with sharing your thoughts on a game, but save it for the right venue. If you can’t relax and enjoy the game despite it’s flaws, then don’t play. Explain it to the group and say, this is not their fault, but the game is not for you. Maybe they pick another game to play, or you don’t get in on that game. Either way, clear it up before you get to the game table. Don’t be vitriolic or rant about it. You may not like the game, but others might. It is not your job to convince your friends how wrong they are.
As an added note on larps, you are often asked for feedback on the larp events. There are some people, who treat this as an opportunity to tear down every minor annoyance they had in a game. There are some people who are completely insensitive and become vitriolic in their feedback. What are these people thinking? Maybe they tell themselves “we were just being honest.”? “Just being honest” is often code for “I am profoundly unhappy person who wants all attention focused on me and when it isn’t i will be an asshole till you give me what I want.” What it does do is wear down the COMPLETELY VOLUNTEER STAFF. You are killing their fun. Their desire to keep running the game is diminished. It is okay to express concerns. They want to know when people are not having fun, but don’t let yourself treat them like strangers. Just because the feedback is not face to face, does not mean you should suddenly forget these people are often your friends, or in the least are putting in a lot of effort without any tangible reward, so you can have fun.
Whatever the venue though, being critical and thinking critically are two different things. Don’t get them confused. Be considerate of the people you play with and how your input effects the mood of those around you.
So, going to school eats a lot of my energy and time. It is going to a good cause, but it is still eating it up. One thing I have hard time doing, is taking time to play games. Too much else needs my attention. I have writing projects for Dust to Dust, podcasting, hopefully some game and fiction writing, on top of the school work.
I think will settle into the routine a bit more and I will make more time. The first few weeks should be a time of adjustment as you get used to the new work load. All of that said, I am paying for some things I really don’t need to be. World of Warcraft is not really a good investment for me. I am not spending time doing it, and for a while now, when I did get on I couldn’t play wiht the people I wanted to. They out leveled me a while back, or they are not on as often any more themselves. Either way, I am just not having much fun in the game even when I can play.
What I am going to do is cancel it and uninstall it. I need the hard drive space anyway. I have a number of single player games I can play when i have the time. Also, there are too many quality free MMO’s to play if I want to do that. I may get too the point I have time for social gaming online. When that happens, I will post something to my friends seeing if they want to play some free game with me. Champions online seems a good one for me, or Lord of the Rings online.
I am going to make some time to do some more tabletop gaming. I need the social interaction if nothing else. It is easy to let school eat you up and depression can set in as all you seem to do is school. Table top gaming has always been a bit more rewarding, anyway. How and where I get that type of gaming in is still a work in progress.
For those interested, school is going pretty good. There are some subjects I am better at than others. I am tired of being the broke college student and I will be glad when that phase is done.
When I originally composed this post I specified gmail, but let me rather say Google as a whole. I use GMail and from there I can get social networking, phone calls, video conferencing, and task management. Add to that, google calender where I track my classes, gaming sessions, and other important events. Also, add Google Reader, which allows me to track feeds from over a hundred sites including news from Reuters, all the major blogs I follow, and updates from the blogs of friends. I can easily share links with my contacts in gmail, and I even do a lot of my writing in google through Google Docs. I work on a number of projects, where I need to share creative work with others, and Google doc’s makes that so easy, as we can both edit the same document. Google is my one stop shop for a lot of the things I do online.
Boing Boing is a simple blog, but it is a blog run by some very savvy people. They share fascinating bits from around the internet. Whether it is the news of some new political movement, or a scientific breakthrough, or even a new book release from a favorite author, it is always interesting and well thought out. If it is cool, eclectic or smart, it has probably shown up on Boing Boing.
I was going to list another geeky news site, but I decided to list one I actually work on. Temporary Hitpoints is a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons blog, providing support for players of the game. I am one of the bloggers who contributes to it. I have been helping out on the site since it’s launch.
I occasionally contribute to the Tome Show podcast. Jeff is a good guy and he has a fun little podcast about D&D, and more specifically 4e D&D. I appeared on the most recent episode which can be listened to here.
The episode is meant to be a review of the new D&D series. We meander in the beginning on some recent news from WotC and I get a bit curmudgeonly, but all in good fun. You should go and give the show a listen.
Another fine, fine, article I wrote for the 4e blog, Temporary Hit Points.
I wrote it as part of a series I am doing for the blog on playing evil. This one is a counter point article, talking about playing goody goody characters. I feel like the article on playing evil came out better and I need to work on my closing. Still, I like it.
Oh, I am going to try and be better about noting here on my blog when something I worked on goes up somewhere else. We will see how well that one holds up.
I am occasionally surprised by my mom. I sort of forget, she has spent a lot of time around people who I and many of my friends admire. She get to do this by being one of those people who helps run science fiction conventions. She tends to do stuff for World Con among other things. The economy being what it is, she has had to slow down some, but she has been doing it for years. So last night we were watching thing I recorded off HBO. It was the movie, Public Enemies. It is a fairly good movie all told, and mom enjoyed it as well. After the movie was done, they were playing “making of” segments for Game of Thrones. They had George RR Martin on the screen talking about the time mom had walked into the room after taking some of her evening meds. She looks at the screen and says, “Oh, hi George.” I look at her. “Mom, you know George RR Martin.” “Oh yeah. He is a nice guy. I have hung out with him a few times.” “you know they are making that show based on his books, right?” “Oh. Thats nice.” The fact she knows George RR Martin is bad enough, but the fact she hasn’t read his stuff and just knows him as George, the nice guy she hung out with at a con, is why it is a bit of a disconnect. When I was growing up she was a firefighter and paramedic. As she grew older and slowed down, she transitioned to a new life where she gets to hangout with world famous authors and is not star struck by them. She has had a meal with Neil Gaiman, she and her husband are on a first name basis with Terry Pratchett, and all the while she is still just mom. It is very possible, my mom is cooler than your mom. Just Saying.
So, it is Christmas time. A season of giving, of snow and family. It also a great time to work in some gaming if you can. To that end, some friends of mine and I wrote a bit of a Christmas project. We called it the 4E Christmas Special. It is filled with goodies for DM’s and players a like. The contributors are myself of course, Jeff Griener of the Tome Show, Tracy Hurley of SarahDarkmagic Blog, and Samuel Dillon of RPG Musings. The 4E Chistmas special is a PDF and free of charge to anyone who wants it. It can be downloaded from here. That is part of Sarah Darkmagics Adventure Vault, which as actually a handy resource anyway you cut it.
It is my hope folks will like our little bit of holiday cheer. We have 3 Delve style encounters, some feats, and a magic item all with a holidays theme to them. IT is also released on a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike Licence. That is a fancy way of saying you can redistribute all you want. You can change it all you want. All we ask is you say where you got it and don’t make any money off it or a derivative work. Tell your friends about and spread the Christmas cheer.
It is easy to see in politics. The Republicans will blame the infringement on your paycheck on Democrats. Democrats will blame the downfall of the economy on Republicans. Fox news will let you know terrorism is the fault of Islam. Many Middle Eastern groups and nations will blame the United States for the troubles in their nations.
The problem is that almost nothing is that simple. The world is so complex, and the factors are so many, that blaming one group or another for any problem is specious.
A good example, was an argument that started up at a party, I was recently at. The fact someone brought up the illuminati, will be ignored for the moment. The contention that was put forward, is that all of our jobs going over seas, was due to the Republicans gaining the presidency in the 80′s with Reagan. All of our financial woes could be traced to his administration, as far as this guy could see.
This is ridiculous, of course. I am not a big fan of Reagan’s policy decisions, and I am unlikely to agree with many Republican sacred cows. I am a progressive, but even I can see the problem with this contention. The fact jobs started going over seas may have had more to do with weak economies in the individual nations that are getting those jobs. Weak economies mean our dollars buy more there and so it is cheaper to move the factories there. What is more,l governments like say China, would help subsidize the companies and artificially deflate the worth of their money to strengthen the trend. And still more factors play in to this, the rise of a consuming middle class, the birth of big box retail outlets like Walmart, and the cheaper cost to transport goods over seas, all played a huge role in the jobs slowly drifting overseas. Republican deregulation initiatives may not have helped the problems, but they did not cause it either.
In most issues you can name, (the rising cost of health care, environmental damage, the recession, wars in various countries, the slow degradation of civil rights) you can find a myriad of factors that play into them. To blame them on anyone group or cause actually clouds things. The truth is, the world is complicated. It is not so easily broken down into simple statements and maybe we should have less of that going on.
I think people do this, because they need someone to blame. It makes the world feel more controlled than it is. It also saves them from looking to themselves to blame. We are the cause of our own problems more often than not. We accept certain notions, let them guide us, and we are doomed to accept the outcomes. We could stop the shipping of our jobs overseas, by not buying things made over seas. Of course they are more expensive, so instead we buy the cheaper product and loose the jobs. We could get rid of corrupt career politicians, but we are told nothing we do will matter and so we believe it. The result of course is we get the politicians we deserve, for believing we can’t effect the outcome.
I am not saying there is no one is ever to blame. A man pulls a gun on a shop clerk and kills him. The gunman is to blame. Your direct actions do bear a responsibility. I am just saying, it is a more productive use of our time to think of big problems without the illusion of blame to cloud things.