Finding Joy Again

I didn’t work much this week. I’m not sure what’s going on, beyond the area manager trying to eliminate overtime, but days have been short and few. So, I’ve done some badly neglected yard work around the house. Stuff that’s been neglected because of evil animals and their owners who are no longer part of the environment. Just after I first got laid off from the photo studio, I was doing this stuff and keeping my weight down. Then a couple of years ago, things changed and I stopped working in the yard. Things have righted themselves recently, so I’m back to doing things around the house. Hopefully, I’ll take off some of the weight I’ve gained.

But yard work means I’m not focusing on the StarSea on days off, at least as much as if I were to just sit around on my days off and try to work on it. Not that I’ve done that, at this point. There’s always something demanding my attention, and I’m certainly not practicing anything mentioned in The War of Art. I have a hard time saying “no” when asked to do something around the house, or anything similar, and I’ve commented plenty of times how easy it is for me to distract myself.

But this week, while working, I started doing some sketching. I haven’t sat myself down and sketched like I did this week in years. I let my mind wander a little bit while driving, thinking about how vehicles would move in the StarSea. That led me to trying to figure out shapes 0f boats and ships, which led me to engines and rudders and such. That also led me to ask myself how the magic fuel is stored, so I designed some fuel cells, which end up more looking like Green Lantern‘s power battery from the movie (but a little less organic). I went off on tangents, considering how the Arcanists or the Divine Order might modify the design (or more accurately, what they might have designed that the Psionics have refined). I enjoyed the process quite a bit.

This designing leads me to wonder if game-ifying this setting is what I really want. Part of me does, as gaming is a great way to share the setting. But part of me is rebelling at the idea, I think, contemplating it as a venue for fiction of my own creation only. I will say that part of the simplification of the character creation system I mentioned last week was me moving towards the simpler system leading to a simpler format for character stat blocks. In my head, the stat block for a character built with Modes becomes complicated, as I envisioned it, and the simplification of the characters became more inline with what a reader might see in a comic book-style stat book, like DC’s Who’s Who or The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which I prefer. This seems to be common to all of the stat blocks I’ve seen of FAE characters versus Fate Core characters: FAE characters are simply more readable.

Part of me wants to see what other people would do with this universe, and part of me dreads that, as I have a certain vision for what I want of this universe. I want to focus on the intrigue between knights and their factions and opposing factions. I’m not especially interested in the criminal element that is prominent in Star Wars, but that I know other folks really like.

It’s getting late now, and I’m not going to answer these questions tonight. so I think this is where I bid you all adieu. So…


When It Rains…

…It pours. And it rained on me last week. After Easter, I spent time with the Kids one day that week, but that Friday, the shit hit the fan. My mother ended up with another infection, which is common for those with diabetes. I ended up losing my morning to some stuff related to her, and then a chunk of the afternoon getting her to the hospital and admitted.

Later in the day, I tried to boot up my laptop, and it refused. I was able to do a couple of tests that led me to the conclusion that my boot sectors of my hard drive were hosed, a conclusion which has since been held out. So, I got out the original hard drive the laptop shipped with (which I had replaced after a couple of years as had too little storage), go out and buy a new hard drive, format it, and restore my system. As the HD that was broken hadn’t been backed up for a while, I had to hand restore the system (a long, slow process). I thought I finally had everything done Wednesday. However, this Thursday I discovered that I couldn’t print. After some poking around on the Net, I discovered that this is a common issue between Acrobat and HP printers, and seems to be an Adobe issue. Before the research, I assumed that it was issues with the HD changeover, and wasted a lot of time with trying to reinstall the drivers.

In the midst of the weekend of shit-fan impact was International Tabletop Day, to which I took the Girl (and only her, as the Boy was still working on homework he’d put off since his Spring Break had started). We had fun with the day, but of course, while you’re gaming, you’re not getting other things done.

So, I again broke my promise to myself to get some character building done. Really, the mix-up with the Bookwyrm convention left me with no impetus to actually meet the deadline of this weekend to have this stuff done. And worse, self-doubt and double-thinking has created reasons for me to distract myself as well.

I’ve considered going back to a more FAE-style character building system, and I can only see one reason not to: character progression. Friend Will pointed out to me that with only six skills, the advancement system of FAE (Fate Accelerated Edition) is going to allow players to raise their skills quite quickly (a +1 every 3 sessions approximately, on a +0 to +8 scale, starting between +0 and +3). However, part of me likes the idea of simplifying my skill list and getting rid of modes, as it allows a broader base for PC actions and abilities. That is, players will get bonuses to most rolls, and therefore can feel their character is competent at many things.

My thought is to redefine the six approaches of FAE as specializations that are comparable to classes. So, characters would have ratings in Soldier, Infiltrator, Loremaster, Commander, Artificer, and Cavalry (a catch-all which would include all sorts of vehicle usage), rather than Modes that are essentially the same things. Let me explain further: In my previous iteration, I using Modes, which are groups of skills that players rate their characters in. The Soldier mode included Athletics, Fight, Notice, Physique, and Provoke. Notice was added to give soldiers the ability to be watchful as guards, but everything else makes sense for a soldier and provides little mechanical benefit other than bonuses to certain rolls (except Physique, which provides a bonus to “hit points,” and that can be folded into Soldier). You choose to rate that mode, and all the skills in that mode are typically at the same level (there are exceptions, but not regularly). Those kinds of skill groups are more or less how Bare Bones Fantasy works, and it was an idea that really attracted me to that system. Buy one “skill,” get a host of related things you can do with it. Creating modes was becoming a wrestling match anyway, so this change simplifies things for me. I think it will also create a tidier character sheet, especially for any major NPCs I choose to present.

This system fits with the fictions that influence my setting. For example, in Star Wars, all of the Jedi and Sith are competent at more than just sword slinging. They have their use of the Force, but they are also often physically skilled, they can fly ships, might be good with computers, or have a host of other skills. That could easily be simulated more easily with a handful of broader skills than a list of 20 or more specific skills.

With magical healing available, the whole advancement system of Fate/FAE can be scrapped. Fate advancement works like it does to slow healing and advancement, as far as I can see. They deliberately do not include magical healing, and comment on this in the rulebook. You get opportunities every session to rename aspects, which is how you heal consequences, injuries to body and mind more serious than a bruise, and failing to take those opportunities to rename consequences mean they linger. I’d like a more Storyteller/Hero System/Cypher System XP system anyway, so this would be a chance to build it.

So, that’s where I’m at and where I’ve been for two weeks. Thanks for bearing with me.

Right now, I need to go. I’m tired, and I’ve exhausted my thinking for now. Later.

More of the Same

Nothing to report, really. While I worked nearly every day this week, they were short days for the most part. The biggest thing I learned was that I have a talent for ending up in a seat on the sunny side of the car, which is an issue with the iPad. Like the commercials for the Kindle with the really cute brunette at the poolside, iPads don’t work well in sunlight.

Not that I have done much of import. I’ve just continued to be distracted. About the only thing I’ve got going on in my head is a couple of concepts for characters. I do need to test character building in the StarSea setting, so that’s something. I have one Psionic, an infiltrator sort of character, and an Arcanist, a woman who will stop at nothing to accomplish her goals. I need more concepts for all the Orders, but this is a start. I just need to sit down and work out the ones I’ve got in mind currently.

I think I missed a distraction last week. I started buying the D&D Dice Masters game a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been picking up booster packs as well. So far, the kids have been beating me with the Yugi-Oh! Dice Masters set, but that’s because Blue Eyes White Dragon seems a little broken.

So, that’s it. Mainly, I wanted to get back on schedule. After goofing off until Tuesday, I wanted to get back to my Sunday night schedule. By next time, I’m going to have a couple of characters built and see what they look like. I might even post them here, if I can get them in a good format.

See you next week. Later.

New Blog Po… Bunnies!

I can announce, right off the bat, that I’m 99% over my cold, and in only two weeks. I get some coughing on occasion, especially when I get hot, or first thing in the morning. But largely, I’m over it. Last summer, I was coughing for two months. I can’t wait for fire season… </sarcasm>

StarSea work as been limited, as I’ve been distracting myself. I think contributing to my lack of motivation, in addition to fear of success, has been a lack of written fiction. I’ve read a couple of comic books, but nothing else other than rulebooks, which are notoriously lacking in entertainment, in and of themselves. They’re tools for entertainment, but not entertaining.

So, Sunday night I started reading the Swords Trilogy, one of the books I picked up last year from the books store. This book is the first three Corum novels. I re-read the comics a few months ago (before I picked up this hardback), but the actual text is so much better. Again, his descriptions are wonderful in their depth and imagination.

As well, there’s a forward by Michael Moorcock commenting on how he was in Cornwall when he started the book, and that they were inspired by Cornish myth. Of course, this meant I did some research on the Cornish language and the pronunciation on some of the words. (Corum’s full name is Corum Jhaelen Irsei, he’s of a race called the Vadhagh, who have enemies called the Nadragh. Welcome to self-inflicted world.)

I also found a new distraction on my iPad, called King’s Road. It’s basically a Diablo-style game. On the up-side, I’ve only wasted a few hours on it. It plays pretty easy, and hasn’t presented any crazy challenges that I can’t get past, so I’m enjoying it for now. It’s a freemium game, which annoys me a little, but it’s not stopping me, yet.

The little bit of work I did on the StarSea was some work on the Aphorisms. I have the third for the Psionics (“Our Gifts are meant to be shared.“), and a couple for the Arcanists (“Power is meant to be seized,” and “Those without Power are slaves.“) I’m not entirely happy with the Arcanists’ phrases, but the’ll do for now.

While I was reading Corum last night, I did get inspired with an image of a personal anti-grav carriage, and did a little sketch. Not sure I need another little bit of tech to be floating around (pun not intended), but it was a nice little exercise, and one I hope is the start of me getting back into a more creative mindset and break this logjam.

I think that’s it for this week. Later.


Gah! I hate the mobile style interface! I want the old web post interface back!

Not much to report this week. I got even more sick, and this weekend I had a bad setback. I worked Wednesday, followed by GMing Fate, and then worked again on Friday. What I did Friday that set me back so bad, I don’t know. I went home earlier than normal, I slept a lot, and I still relapsed (or I feel I did). Yesterday I felt pretty bad, but today, while I’m still mildly congested and still have a mildly sore throat, I feel much better. Last week though… when I had days off, I was running errands or just trying to rest and not be very active.

The Fate game went well. We adjusted a few of the PCs’ aspects a little, to make them more invoke-able/compellable, and we got a better flow of Fate Points. I still think I’m going to close out the story in the next session or two (assuming I can get more of a show of players), and do the world building, etc. A couple of the players really seemed to be interested in the idea when I discussed it, so I think it will go over well.

I’m trying to get back on track with the StarSea writing, but I haven’t gotten very far. I have been thinking on the Aphorisms for the Psionics Order. I’m trying to come up with things like the Jedi and Sith Aphorisms. They got like this:

Jedi Code J Sith Code

The original thought I had was something like “We are our own best tools,” but it seems a little too utilitarian. What I’m thinking so far is something like “We believe in ourselves,” and “The Universe has gifted us.” Those both speak to the Diest Humanist ideas I want to be the founding of the Psionic Order. They also give me ideas for the Divine Order as something like “The Gods protect the faithful,” and “Through our belief, we are Gifted.” Each side needs another aphorism, and those will be treated as aspects both for the organization and the player characters who are members thereof, like setting aspects or situational aspects.

Otherwise, I spent time some time trying to reading the darned Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and get used to the cards. I did a little reading of Marvel Heroic RPG, and the Talisman board game rules (from Mayfair), but not much. I tended to crash out soon after my head would hit the pillow.

That’s about all I have. We’ll see how well I do this week in getting myself going on StarSea, as I have to prep for a Kids D&D game this weekend, that we had to displace for both my illness and a MTG prerelease weekend. Yikes!


Beware the Ides of March…

… for they are damned hot in Fresno. It was 91 degrees Fahrenheit here in the ‘No today. The house is still pretty warm as I write this, at 9:30PM. Add to this the cold I’m fighting (which is my body being stupid; more below), and today was a pretty miserable day. Well, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ll say I’m glad I didn’t get called to work tomorrow.

Thursday night, I aspirated something with dinner, probably my drink, and it left me with a tickle in my bronchial tubes. My body responded as if I was getting a cold. I’ve had head congestion, a little lung congestion, and a sore throat. I’ve been treating myself as if I’ve caught a cold to try to get over things faster. Hopefully, one more day of rest will kick this stupidity in the butt and I’ll be back to normal by Tuesday.

There was a fair amount of discussion on my Facebook page regarding what may be going on with the Fate game I run as an alternate to LFR. One of the first things we identified was DM trust. Until about Christmas last year, we had DM X, who is pretty trustworthy, but low role play. Since, we’ve had DM Y, who is a killer DM. The kind that will have the player’s opponents ignore attacks in favor of trying to kill a fallen hero. I’m a relative unknown to the players, so they don’t quite have the trust of me that may be necessary for the creation of workable aspects.

As well, there is my own inability to direct the players in how to create the “two-edged sword” style of aspects. Also, the PCs have too few aspects to have enough to fuel things properly. There is no defined world, which means there is nothing for the players to connect to for the creation of aspects. All of these things are hurting the flow of fate points.

So, I think I’m going to wrap up this scenario that I’ve been running, and them I’m going to use the A Spark In Fate Care booklet to create a world (with the players) and see what comes of it. I’m still not ready, in my own mind, to run something in the StarSea.

To be honest, I got to thinking about the StarSea and why I’m stalled out. I’m beginning to wonder if the codification of the setting is becoming a block. By codifying the setting, I’m eliminating some possible ideas. I’m saying “this thing doesn’t belong here.” And I wonder if part of me isn’t rebelling at that idea.

Honestly, I think I could run a play test now. I’m still missing a complete idea for my aggressive race (and what exactly races provide to characters), names for skills (and whether or not a couple of skills will be group skills or not), but largely I have most of the rules for the setting. Skill modes are set, the magic system is in place. The only thing I think I need to hammer out is whether or not I’ll be using some special rules for weapons and armor, so I can include lightsaber-like weapons. Eventually I’ll need ship-to-ship combat (which is really easily handled through the Fractal). There will still need to be some details as to player actions in ship combat, but that can wait. So I could still hit my deadline, if I could get back in focus on the setting.

My doubt in the rules comes at a somewhat convenient time, as I am so close to completion of the rules for play testing. “Convenient” in the “this is a prime time for doubt to torpedo the project” sort of way. Some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to are making me question how to publish the StarSea. Do I make it a free product? Do I stick it on DriveThru and hope for the best, as a complete unknown? Do I try to pitch it to Evil Hat (assuming I don’t try to move the setting to a different rules set)? Do I try to Kickstart it, again as an unknown? Do I want to take the role of publisher up?

In the meantime, I’ve been reading the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system (which I mentioned last week), as well as working my way through the Yugi-Oh rules for the Boy. That one I’m finding I really don’t like. It’s very much an exceptions-based game, with the exceptions being on thousands of cards with super-fine print. The Boy seems to innately understand the tactics of the game (beyond just having played the game more than me), and I feel like I’m just not getting it. He’s already mastering the new decks we got Friday night, to the point he completely had me stymied in three rounds the other night. Part of that is my trying to play with cards I haven’t read yet, but part is not getting the game. I’m amazed by it’s complexity. I got pretty frustrated last night, and expressed it in a way I could see hurt the Boy’s feelings. He so wants something he can share with me and his friends. I rather want that, too. I’m just not sure I can hack this particular game.

I need to call it a night. I’ve barely been up 12 hours, and I’m already feeling ready for more sleep.






I didn’t manage to get anything done with that ship image I discussed last week. I worked almost every day this week, as a lot of the retirees I work with are taking days off. The day I was off, I was taking care of odds and ends of life.

However, Wednesday night I got the opportunity to run a serious Fate combat. I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe its because they don’t have a full compliment of aspects, but I’m just not getting the Fate Point flow I’m told is supposed to be happening. I spent most of mine, and the players spent theirs, but there was not recovery. There were virtually no compels, as there was so few applicable aspects to be compelled. This leaves me wondering if the Fate system is just not something I can make work for me. If adults can’t get into the flow of the system (and that includes me), how am I going to get the kids in my regular game to go with the flow?

On the other hand, while listening to Accidental Survivor podcasts while doing all that driving, they’ve mentioned a website regarding a large number of hacks for a system called Cortex, in particular the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying flavor. Cortex is the house system of Margaret Weis Productions, a game company started by one of the authors of the Dragonlance novels.

I picked up the MHRPG Basic Game book when it was available, and I was quite enchanted with how characters were described in that game. They’re very similar to Fate, with the hero or villain’s powers described as an umbrella term with mechanical powers attached. For example, Captain America has a “power set” called “Super-Soldier Program,” that encompasses all his physical capabilities (including the limitation that the government or popular opinion turning against him can cause him emotional issues that allow the GM to mess with him), and his “Vibranium-Alloy Shield,” that covers all the cool stuff he can do with his shield. There is more to every character, but those items are similarly simple in definition.

On their site, MWP says that they are going to create a new system based on the Marvel rules, as Marvel has terminated MWP’s license (or Disney has). Their generic rules are also available. I’m thinking already about the possibility of switching systems. It makes me feel a bit flaky, considering this change so late in development of my setting, especially after the amounts of money I’ve spent on Fate system books, and the time I’ve invested. However, I have to have a game I can run and get the expected results, or better, that I can convey to my players succinctly.

I may need to consult with my local expert at the game, Scott. I know he reads this blog regularly and may be able to advise me on how to get things running correctly with Fate. If not, I really have to consider making a change. Time will tell.

Well, I work tomorrow, so I have to call it a night. Later.

Trying to find my way back

I’ve spent most of this week dealing with that reminder from the past. Thursday, I posted this one Facebook:

I’ve just realized that what’s been disturbing my sleep all week is an internal conflict of my morals regarding my legal obligations versus my opinions of the morality of the practices of those to whom I have the legal obligations.

Suffice it to say I believe I resolved this Friday, after doing some research, and I don’t believe it will be a problem again.

This was a major distraction, but one I didn’t fell I could avoid. It only added to my situation though, and didn’t cause it.

I think I need a break from the mechanical/author-ish end of the StarSea for a little bit. I realized this after I found an app that allows me to print from my iPad. I printed the following image:

Eberron Elemental Airship by Steve Prescott, 2004. Copyright Wizards of the Coast. No challenge is intended.

I actually have a better image, one that seems to be print quality, or closer to it. I prefer this image to some of the other images from the setting, as there are people visible in the ship and that the ship is shaped aquatic but by it’s lack of sails acknowledges that it is powered by something other than winds.

Last night, when I got home after D&D, I hunted up the adventure that the graphic is originally from. The deck plans look like this:

Copyright 2004, Wizards of the Coast. No challenge intended.

The two are unrelated. It looks like the editor simply commissioned two pieces of artwork and didn’t think that the two images needed to match. Kinda typically sloppy WotC art direction.

But as I looked again at this ship in the first image, I realized that in the past couple of weeks, I’d lost my way by focusing a little too much on the game mechanics of the setting and loosing track of the stuff I wanted to focus on. “Too much crunch, too little chrome.”

As a little but of a distraction, I want to do more appropriate deck plans for this ship. A creative exercise, if you will, related to the StarSea. Maybe get those juices going again, to help me resolve some of my choices. I’m having a horrible time with names this go-around, and it’s making me freeze up. But I need something to kickstart me again before I lose interest and put the setting on the back burner.

My eyes are feeling it, so I’m thinking it’s time to call it. Later.

What’s that I hear? A grinding stop, maybe?

Virtually nothing to report on StarSea. Did a little editing Friday, but that’s about it.

I’ve been distracted by a lot of things this week. Yard work, chauffeuring, work, keeping up Facebook (and that’s just keeping up with daily posts). My week ended with a reminder of some personal issues that I’ve been ignoring for a while that I need to resolve. I decided not to work tomorrow to maybe deal with some of this tomorrow.

The only thing of note this week was my trip out to Reedley (a small town South of Fresno) to a game store I’ve never been to before. Morgan’s Pair-O’-Dice is a pretty decent little location in the Downtown district. I found it a little on the dark side, as it’s in an older brick building with no windows but those in the front, and to my mind the lighting was a bit dim. Friendly staff was a definite bonus, and the discount on most goods was a nice bonus. I’d definitely shop there again, if I have reason to make the drive, as it’s about 20 minutes from Fresno.

That’s really all I’ve got for now. Maybe I’ll be able to focus more next week and get back on track.


Week in Review

The focus of this blog has kind of shifted over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed. I’m including more personal stuff here than was intended. As there are probably a grand total of six regular readers, I guess if anyone was going to complain, they would have.

On Tuesday last, I has an interview with the DMV. I’m 95+% certain I didn’t get the job. The first thing the guy who escorted me out said was a helpful “when you apply for DMV positions, do this,” which was my biggest clue. On the other hand, he said I presented myself well, so there’s that.

The State of California seems to like interview committees, as this is the second State job I’ve interviewed for in my life, and both (so far) have been by committee. And the make up of the committee seems to follow a pattern: There’s one interviewer who displays the personality of a lump of stone, and one who displays human response to humor, etc. When I applied a SCIF a number of years ago, there were two stone-faces and one personality. This time it was one and one. The personality was the one who escorted me out and gave me the critique. I came away from the interview feeling good.

On Wednesday, I spoke with one of the organizers of the local con, Bookwyrm, regarding not seeing my game on the list of games. Between a possible programming problem with my submission and my tardiness, it’s been decided that I won’t be running at said convention. I’m okay with that, but I’m going to continue to work on April 18th as a deadline for having an alpha test of the rules for the StarSea. I needed the deadline or I was going to keep futzing with things forever. Again, I am good with all of this. That weekend is also a Kids’ D&D weekend, so I don’t have to worry about multiple games that weekend.

This weekend, we did something based on something I was inspired to from a podcast I’ll call “SmallCon Winter 2015″. I’ve been listening to the Accidental Survivors podcast for quite a few years now. It started as a modern settings gaming podcast out of Canada, but has mutated into general gaming. One of their traditions is that every year or two, they travel to one of the guy’s family cottages and game all weekend. They call this “CottageCon”,

As the kids had a three-day weekend, our original idea had been to go to DunDraCon, but we found the pricing too high to be affordable this year, especially as we were going to be for only one day, in all likelihood. I’ve been catching up on this podcast lately, and a few of their older episodes mentioned one of the CottageCons, so I was inspired to suggest something like that as an alternate.

So we spent the weekend gaming at the Smalls’ home. Saturday afternoon, the Boy and I played Quarriors, which has since become the Dicemaster series of games. Since he’s now becoming interested in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game lately (the kids at school play that instead of the Pokemon TCG), and WizKids Games is now doing a Yu-Gi-Oh! Dicemaster game, I managed to get him to give the game a go. As usual, he beat me pretty handily. We played our usual D&D game that night, and I stayed the night so we could continue Sunday. The Smalls had gotten me the expansion for Pandemic for Christmas, but as the cards in my base set were in sleeves but I didn’t have extras, we couldn’t really mix the sets without wasting time unsleeving the base set, so we still haven’t used that set. We lost that one. As I had to work today, we brought “SmallCon Winter 2015″ to an early end. I expect we’ll have other “SmallCons” in the future.

For all of this, I did get some work done on the StarSea rules. I’m still stuck on how I’m presenting exactly the Aggressor race (my nickname for them so far). They’re basically Githyanki, but I’d like to have a more mythological basis for them, but I may have to forgo that.

I started trying for figure out how to handle magic. Last week, I’d found a couple of example systems that I wanted to try to pull from. I ended up favoring one over the other, but still incorporating some elements of each. But then I came to a problem of how to give players what was expected from these magical knighthoods. I knew the key laid in the Extras rules, and a re-reading later, and I had an idea.

The Knighthood Extras are going to actually provide a number of benefits as a package. A “Wyrdshaping” skill, along with a choice of stunts that inform the expected practices of the subdivisions within the knighthood. For example, the Psionics have their telekinetics, espers, and physical adepts. Each is a specific set of effects, which I need to delineate. There will be additional stunts to increase the levels of effect any of the three fields can achieve. For now, I’m focusing on getting the Psionic Order up to snuff, then I can expand into the other orders later.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m running out of steam on a lot of levels, so I think this will be the end of this week’s post. Thanks for reading. Later.


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