Sunday, March 10, 2013


I'm discontinuing this weblog for the time being. I've started a Tumblr, which I started at the beginning of the year, and which seems more conducive to the kind of posting I've been doing lately - quotes, links, single photos, etc.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interruption VI

If I've seen you in the past few weeks, chances are that I've talked your ear off about Friday Night Lights, the final season of which I just finished up tonight. Now, I don't know the first thing about football, and yes, I think it's easy to assume that FNL is just another hour-long evening soap opera. But honestly, I think this is just about as good as television gets: warmly written, wonderfully human, and full of moments of quiet beauty. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Interruption V

This morning I finished Ann Patchett's Bel Canto:

"She came to him and he pressed his damp face into the fall of lemon-scented hair. He was in love, and never had he felt such kindness towards another person. Maybe the private life wasn't forever. Maybe everyone got it for a little while and spent the rest of their lives remembering."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gamestorm 2012

This year's Gamestorm was from March 22nd to March 25th. This is a repost of my report back in the relevant Story Games thread.

This was my fifth Gamestorm, and far and away my favorite. It was also the first year I attended all four days, and that was definitely worth it, though I was pretty exhausted by the end. I was busy enough with Indie Hurricane stuff and games that I'd scheduled that I barely saw the rest of the con - I spent maybe half an hour in the boardgame room and two minutes in the dealer's hall. Anyway, here's what I ended up playing:

We Are Here To See The Evil Wizard Kormakur with Robert, Ross, Michael W, and Morgan. This was a great way to start things off - one of Bully Pulpit's free little experimental games that they were giving away last month. We played for about an hour and a half, which was a great way to kind of ease into the convention mindset.

My Daughter, The Queen Of France with Abi, Michael P, Nicholas, Matt, Morgan, and Al. This was a tough one. I broke both my "no MDQF with strangers" vow and my "no story games with more than four people" vow because, well, MDQF is my favorite game, and apparently I can't pass up an opportunity to play it. As it turns out, playing with strangers was no problem (everyone was great), but seven people is more than a little unwieldy, and as Shakespeare, I completely forgot to write Abi's character into any of the scenes. Don't get me wrong: I still really enjoyed it. Next time, though, I'm playing with three others, and we're finding a quiet corner of the hotel to play in.

Penny For My Thoughts with Ross, Morgan, and Al. We decided we were still up for another game after finishing MDQF at 9:30, so we started up a game of Penny, figuring we'd be finished by midnight. WRONG. I think we finally wrapped up around 1:30 - it's great game, and I might have found my character's arc the most satisfying of the four times I've played, but we were falling asleep at the table by the end.

Mouse Guard with Candy, Adre, Justin, and Paul. I think this went really well! It's funny, though: Joel had asked me if I'd be interested in running this in the Children's Programming track, which I was, but Friday was still a school day, so I ended up playing with four adults. We had a four-hour slot, so I scrapped my plans to run a pregen scenario and had everyone make characters (which was a nice way to introduce some of the rules) and then whipped up a mission on the fly. Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves, and we got to hit all the stuff that I think is important to show off in MG: Nature, Fate, Nature, Persona, Nature, scripted conflicts, Nature, Beliefs, Nature, Goals, Nature, Instincts, Nature, etc.

Umbra with Carl, Twyla, Seth, and John. This is Carl's Shadowrun-inspired hack for AGON. I suspect that I don't have a competitive bone in my body, so AGON isn't the best fit for me, but I love to see it in action, and it was great to see Twyla and John tie for Rep (Glory). And of course, it's always a treat to play in a game that Carl's running.

Fiasco with Brady, Johnzo, and Cathe. One of us had never played before, so we went with the Suburbia playset, and everything went swimmingly: teenage Tile World manager in love with his stepmother, middle-aged Tile World sales attendant setting the manager's car on fire, dog turd held triumphantly aloft in divorce court, etc.

Monsterhearts with Brendan, Jackson, and Michael P. I'd never played Monsterhearts before, and man, was that a mistake. We played part one of Joe's "Misty Harbour" scenario, and things went great. Which is to say, um, things went horribly wrong.

Slammin' with Morgan, Hans, and Jonathan. Pretty silly, and a lot of fun! It took a little while to get the hang of how the turns work, but this one definitely takes the "AXE COP Danger Patrol" award for most giggling of the con for me. I hadn't realized Jackson had these at the IH booth - I would've picked up a copy.

Shelter In Place My first time running (or playing, for that matter) a LARP. The LARP folks were terrific about organizational stuff, and I had fun, but I definitely realized I have a lot to learn about setting up this kind of thing. More about that here.

Murderous Ghosts with Bryan. We only played for a few minutes on Sunday morning while we waited for the early games to start, and I just felt like I was starting to get the hang of it when we stopped, but I'm pretty excited about this one! I wanna find a copy of my own soon.

Zombie Cinema with Johnzo, Sherry, and Brendan. Along with Fiasco, this is my go-to pickup game for three or four people. We ended up telling the story of a pathogen carried by in-flight meals and of the four survivors trapped in quarantine at PDX.

Also boardgames! I think I played Catacombs with Michael W, Samurai with Adre, Justin, and Ross, Dominion with Bryan and Sev, and a great game of Battlestar Galactica with Brendan, Christian, Johnzo, Matthew, and Twyla.

So yeah, I think that was it! I was really excited about this year, and I was just thrilled with how everything turned out. It was especially great to play with folks like Christian and Johnzo, who I've hung out with a fair amount but have never actually played anything with. Thanks so much to everyone I played with, everyone that facilitated open gaming, and especially to Joel and Hans for organizing the Indie Hurricane stuff and Fi for coordinating LARP stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Play 2011

I logged 319 board game plays (including some expansions) and 78 story game plays in 2011, by far the most in both categories since I began keeping track. In retrospect, what's most remarkable to me about those numbers isn't just how much I played this year, but how easy it was to play that much. I talk a lot about how, at its best, the story game or indie RPG scene or whatever you'd like to call it synthesizes the two formative cultural experiences of my adolescence: Dungeons & Dragons and the DIY punk scene. Both story games and punk place an emphasis on decentralizing creativity; both are relatively small, in terms of population; both can create moments of spontaneous intimacy and understanding between their participants; and as a result, both tend to foster much stronger connections between those participants than one might expect. The last twelve months have really borne out last idea, and really crystallized how much I think of my fellow players as one of my communities, and of many of them as good friends. As a result, I feel like I'm all the closer to an ideal of mine: that play and creativity, rather than being a discrete activity, separate from one's "real" world, would instead be a passion woven into the fabric of everyday life.

Anyway, a few specific highlights from the past twelve months:

Fabricated Realities
I made it to five different play-focused weekends this year (the others were Gamestorm, NemoCon, GoPlay NW, and CozyCon), as well as hosting a game day to play this year's Diana Jones Award nominees, and I had a wonderful time at all of them, but Fabricated Realities was something unique. Somehow, Grace, Jackson, and Ross managed to blend the low-key, friendly feeling of a house con with the open quality of a more traditional convention - not to mention a remarkable physical environment - and the results were amazing.

My CCG experience is practically nil - I hadn't even touched a Magic deck until late 2010 - so Netrunner was a revelation. A lot of that, though, has to do with the specifics of this design: the asymmetrical roles, the bluffing and feinting, the almost unbearable tension of having a vulnerable agenda. I'm grateful as hell to Matthew for inviting me to his closed-environment league, since I'm not sure when I would've otherwise played, and it's currently one of my favorite games.

I realized recently that there are two distinct pleasures that I get from roleplaying. One is during those elusive moments when all of the players are in sync, when there's a magical feeling of shared discovery, when play is so intuitive and natural that you're almost not conscious of it anymore. But what I've come to understand is that there's a second pleasure that's equally rewarding, and that's taking another player's wholly unexpected contribution, something you never would have anticipated, and rolling with it, forming something completely new. Microscope excels at creating those moments.

My Daughter, the Queen of France
There's so much that this game does right: the way the fiction created by the players parallels the dynamics at the table; the way it gracefully allows for the false starts and time to warm up that might cause another game to stumble; the way it gradually folds in layers of complexity and emotional engagement. It's a jewel of a design that's never failed to be less than completely rewarding, and like I told Tori after playing two sessions of it, one right after the other: "I wouldn't play this game at a meetup night with strangers... because if they broke this game for me, I think I would cry."

Film 2011

I might have seen fewer films in 2011 than in any year in recent memory, and so assembling this list was a little trickier than I'd anticipated. That says more, I suspect, about how I've been spending my time lately than about the quality of this year's releases. There's always no shortage of films I regret having missed by the end of December, but it's a particularly long list this time around: Margin Call, A Separation, Meek's Cutoff, Super, The Tree of Life, Certified Copy, Melancholia, The Skin I Live In, and The Future, with many others no doubt having slipped my mind.

Before I start, the rule I set for myself was this: the films below had to be released straight to video, video on demand, or theatrically in Portland in 2011, which is why a couple of 2010 films with delayed releases ended up making the list. Anyway, here it is:

10. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

09. Source Code

08. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

07. Somewhere

06. Win Win

05. Martha Marcy May Marlene

04. Bridesmaids

03. Blue Valentine

02. Drive

01. Hanna

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Day 2012

Happy new year to all.

Friday, September 23, 2011