Wednesday, April 22, 2015

That Bus ...

Every year about this time, I get hit with a ton of projects. And - every year - it catches me off-guard.

In the last two weeks, I've had ... um ... six projects cross my plate. And I'm honestly not sure if any of them have even been announced, yet.

It's a lot of work. I've talked about this before. But the work I do is nothing compared to the work done by the translator. I do not envy him his task. Most of the projects I receive come from a friend of mine who I've worked with for close to a decade, now.  He's a good guy and over the years, he's come to anticipate some of my corrections and I've gotten used to a few of his translation quirks.

This long-term relationship has, I think, made both of us better at our jobs. As an added bonus, we trust one another. He trusts that I'm not making changes just to make it seem like I'm doing something, and I'm now comfortable enough to make (in some cases) sweeping changes. In fact, I'm more comfortable making these sweeping changes with other translators, too.

He also knows what style of game I like playing. Usually. Of the games I worked on this weekend I'm very interested in a few of them and there are a few that I think I need to try first. I don't think there are any that I'm likely to dislike.

So thanks, Eric.  I appreciate you and I enjoy working with you, even if I don't say so often enough.

As for the rest of you: I'll talk about the games when I can.  Promise.

Meanwhile, it's been a very long weekend, and I need to get some sleep so I can drive to Portland to pick my wife up in the morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bags of Fish

When you buy a new fish and take it home to its new aquarium, you don't just dump it into the aquarium right away. Instead, you take the bag of water that the pet store gave you to get the fish home, and you float that bag in the aquarium for a few hours.

This allows the temperature to equalize, and you won't shock the fish.  At least, that's what I was always told when I was a kid.

There are actually a ton of steps to take. But they are all so you don't stress the fish out to the point where it dies.

Gamers are less delicate than fish (thank goodness), but sometimes we still need that acclimatization period when dealing with new people.

I'm gearing up to run an L5R game, as you may know.  At least one of the players doesn't know most of the other players, so I'm trying to schedule a "Bag of Fish" day, where the players can meet and hang out in a stress-free environment.

I'm probably going to throw on some chanbara films, hopefully some that are thematically appropriate for the game we're hoping for. I have a few in my Instant Video library - the first of the Zatoichi films, for example. Probably at least one Kurosawa film. Ran and Throne of Blood are both very good choices for political games. Kagemusha has been a favorite for a long time, too.

But it's a good low-stress way for players to meet one another and start to figure out what sort of (out-of-character) relationships they're going to have with one another, and how their interaction is going to go.

I didn't used to do this, and it often led to stilted and awkward role-play for the first few sessions as players who didn't know each other tried to figure out who each other were both in and out of character.

I'm really excited about this game, and I really don't want it to come to a screeching halt because one (or more) of the players isn't relaxed and comfortable and into it.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

... And That's A Wrap

I ended up not going to any panels today. Instead, we discovered that the battery in the car was dead. Or dying.  It started okay after a jump, but I still need to take it in tomorrow to get it looked at.

Instead, I sat and people-watched for a bit. Or, rather, I did until a mob formed in my vicinity. By then, we'd already checked out of the hotel, so my choices were ... none.  Sit and wait and hope they'd go away.

Ah, well.

All in all, it was a lot of fun.

One of my friends the other day asked me why I go to so many writing and combat panels when I'm neither a writer nor a martial artist.

I am a writer.  I'm a blogger.  You're reading my words right now.

As to the combat panels? They give me ideas that I can use later in games. Or ideas how to respond to players who say, "Yes, but realistically ... " -- responses that are better than "Because the rules say so," which - realistically - should be enough, even though it's nearly always an unsatisfying.

And, of course, I've always got something going in the back of my mind ...

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Day Three

Today was good.

I started at 10:00 this morning with a Norse Sword, Shield & Spear Tactical Combat panel.

It was a lot of fun.

It was immediately followed by a similar panel with a Roman theme.

Both panels had many of the same panelists, who were knowledgeable and fun to listen to.

I followed that with a "Kickstarter and Games" panel.  Had I not already been far too familiar with Kickstarter, I probably would have gotten more out of it.  As it is, it was pretty much a waste of my time. But I figured it would be going in. The panelists were experienced and knowledgeable, and the panel itself - again - would have been useful were I a newbie to the concept and execution of crowdfunding projects.

After that, I went to "Your Anti-Procrastination First Aid Kit," where I got two pages of notes. A very good panel. A very useful panel.  I followed it up with my "Jack-in-the-Box" panel where I waited twelve minutes for a burger and two crappy tacos. And I managed to spill my soda three times.

That was followed by "Geek Geek - Don't Tell Me," a popular trivia panel here. I was originally planning to skip this panel. And, in retrospect, I probably should have. Trivia panels are either crazy-easy or crazy-difficult. Or both in equal measure.  I tend to be good at trivia games (my family won't play them with me these days ... ).

That was followed by "Society & Military," which was supposed to be about how a culture impacts the makeup and organization of its military. It was more about how the US treats its veterans & active-duty troops. It wasn't an uninteresting panel, it just veered wildly off-topic as soon as they started taking questions from the audience. I got a couple of good notes from it, though.

Then I had a break, and want to a panel on writing dialogue, which was a ton of fun and I got about two pages of notes out of it.

Simon R. Green is an absolute riot. If he's ever at a convention you're attending, make time to go to one of his panels.

Panels like this are what I miss at GenCon. Do they have them? Yes. Absolutely. But when I'm at GenCon, I'm there on someone else's nickel, and that someone else gets to decide how I spend my time. So I don't go to panels and I don't play games that aren't in the booth (until after-hours, but even then we usually play games that are in the booth so that I can teach them more effectively).

Tomorrow is the last day of the con, and then we head home. A whopping ... 20 minutes from here.

Considering how the parking has improved (there is now a massive parking garage across the street), we are considering not staying in the hotel next year (but still attending the con). Steph and I have consistently had problems here (although - to be fair - not for the last few years).

We'll see.

Either way, I'll have a post up sometime tomorrow (probably in the evening), and then I'm taking this Wednesday off so I can take a closer look at some of the super-hero games I own to see if I can figure a few things out.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Day Two: Underway

Today is one of the big days for panels.  It is now 3pm, and I've been in panels pretty much solidly since 10:00 this morning.

My first panel of the day was "One-on-One Combat for Writers" - it was a very informal panel, where the experts broke into groups and writers could ask them to demonstrate something. There were armored-fighting experts, unarmed experts, martial artists, firearms people, and all manner of other experts there.

It was a good panel, but was not the sort of panel where you expect to take notes.  The best part for me was the question, "What keywords would you recommend we Google later to learn more."

Fiore. German longsword. Italian longsword. Half-Swording.

The next panel was "Universal Rules of the Fight" - it was some rules of thumb for combat. Not as useful from a writerly or gaming perspective as I'd hoped, but I still got some good notes that I can probably translate mechanically into a game with some effort.

The next panel was Worldbuilding 101.  I've been to several hundred worldbuilding panels at various conventions over the years, and they have never been bad.  Well, not quite right. The only times they were bad were those times the moderator was unwilling to cut people off when necessary.

It was a good panel, I got some good notes.

The next panel for me was a "Game Design Workshop" that ... wasn't really a workshop. I managed to get a page of notes, but they're really thin notes that are things I pretty much knew anyhow. Not a complete bomb, but not a full success for me, either.

I followed that with "Believable Magic," which is - much like Worldbuilding 101 - a panel I've been to dozens of times. The difference is that the magic panels have been so very hit-or-miss over the years. This one was good.

I'm triple-booked in the Guidebook app for my 4:00 panel. And I don't know if I'll be attending any of them, to be honest. I'm starting to feel a bit peopled-out.

We'll see.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Done For The Day

My second panel of the night was ... less good than the first one. That's not to say it was bad - it just wasn't As Expected.

The title of the panel was "Urban Fantasy's Hard-Boiled Detective Roots."

That's right - another non-gaming panel.

I can't say it veered wildly off-topic, because it would have had to start out on-topic for that to be a thing.  It started out off-topic and then occasionally steered towards being on-topic, but mostly stayed away from its stated goal.

I did fill a bit more than half a page, but more than half of my notes were book recommendations.

We spent more time talking about magic and magic systems and realism than we did mysteries or noir. Which is a bit disappointing, but it's not a deal-breaker by any means for me (even though there are panels on good magic systems that I will likely be attending).

One good idea that one panelist had was talking about speculative fiction (SF/F) was not a structure, it was a texture.  Mystery is a structure. Adventure is a structure. Romance is a structure. Fantasy is trappings. It's a paint job. It's wallpaper. Treating it like it's a structure on its own is a recipe for disappointment.

And, near the end, one of the panelists pointed out that spec-fic and hard-boiled mysteries share a common origin - the pulps. Which is something I'd never considered before.

So it was a good panel. It just wasn't what I would have expected given its title.

One Panel Down

So now I've been to my first panel of the year.  A couple of thoughts:

1) It used to be Thursdays were slow.  Mostly-empty panels. This one wasn't. Not even close.  This means that Saturday especially will be a total zoo. I suspect it's because the Guest of Honor is George RR Martin.

2) Because I go to panels to learn, the more notes I take, the more successful I consider the panel to have been. A full page of notes is a good panel. Two pages is an exceptional panel. Half a page is an average panel.

This was a good panel. Not the best ever, but good.  Solid.  Assuming my social anxiety doesn't kick in, leaving me in the room for the entire weekend, this should be a pretty good Norwescon.

Also of note: the moderator in this panel ("Warrior vs Soldier") was good - he kept the discussion flowing in both directions (to and from the audience), and everyone who felt the need to say something had that opportunity.