Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for Non-Gamers & Kids

As we dive pell-mell into the holiday season some folks continue their quest to find the right presents for people on their list, each with their own parameters based on relationship, etiquette, interests, and budget. Even gamers can prove problematic since they often have quite exactingly specific tastes in games...and frequently own everything for game lines they particularly enjoy. I’m always looking for ways to draw newcomers into the adventure gaming hobby – both adults and kids – so this season I’ve assembled some low-cost gift ideas for people who might like joining readers at their gaming tables.

Some adult newcomers to gaming might find satisfaction with the many Eurogames and similar fare happily found in such ubiquitous venues as Target and Walmart. Solid standards like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo, Carcassonne, Castle Panic, and Pandemic are good go-to games for adults seeking to break into the current popularity of board games, yet their prices tend to run higher than most casual gifts and they’re not always good for younger children. I’ve also featured a few specifically kid-friendly games – Dino Hunt Dice, Rory’s Story Cubes, Set, Dungeon!, Forbidden Island, Stratego Battle Cards Game, Robot Turtles, and the D&D Starter Set – in a similar holiday gift post two years ago; they’re all still valid recommendations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Step Up & Give Thanks

[Years ago I worked for a local chamber of commerce and wrote a similarly themed piece as appears below – with some topical revisions – for the November newsletter one year. It’s still relevant today whether we’re part of a community of commerce seeking success, a geographical community of neighbors and citizens, a nation facing challenges ahead, or a community of gamers.]

We count our miseries carefully and accept our blessings without much thought.”
Chinese Proverb

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It’s easy in these anxious times to succumb to the worrisome hype and fear of the unknown, the unsettling feeling that our lives might descend into hardship, sacrifice, and loss. We should resist the urge to complain and instead embrace the challenges before us by considering solutions to problems and stepping up to improve our own lives and those of others less fortunate.

All too often we take for granted the many things we do have. Gamers enjoy an engaging, dedicated community of players, creators, professionals, and friends who realize their combined well-being – and that of the adventure gaming hobby – is just as important as their individual strengths. Whether we’re part of a small circle of gaming friends or a greater community through online interaction or conventions, each new contact is more than a chance to improve our own gaming life; it offers an opportunity to enrich someone else’s.

In this season of thanksgiving – on the eve of the season of light-within-the-darkness – let us reflect on the many gifts we enjoy, both simple and extravagant, and commit to investing some of those in making our world a more positive place for our neighbors in need everywhere. Many local and online institutions strive year-round to help the community; they rely on donations of time and money from volunteers to continue their mission to help those in need. Are you seeking opportunities to make a positive difference in our community this holiday season? Thanksgiving and the holidays come once a year; but we should remember to always remain grateful for our blessings and continually seek to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

* * *

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I recently discovered a resource of adventure gaming historiography at the regional used bookstore that – besides providing an interesting and critical glimpse into the state of the hobby in 1980 – struck me by its relative lack of acknowledgment to individual game designers for their creations. I’m thankful that over the hobby’s more than 40 year history giving designers their due credit has become more the rule rather than the exception in today’s hobby gaming community.

Every few months I make a pilgrimage to the regional used bookstore with some (often futile) hope I’ll find a few books or even games catering to my varied interests at affordable prices. In the past few years the store has thankfully included a section for used games, ranging from vapid party games and kids fare to hardcore chit-and-board wargames and Eurogames. I also check out the hobby gaming shelves to look for adventures and supplements for games I’ve enjoyed in the past, newer fare to help me explore more recent games, and books about gaming in general. Alas, most of the choice roleplaying or wargame books and most of the interesting boxed games come with prices more suitable for exclusive collectors on ebay than average people browsing the shelves in used bookstores. I chuckle sadly to myself when I see a “Free RPG Day” release marked at $10.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Subscription Model for The Infinite Cathedral

Photo by David Schweighofer
I’ve been developing a medieval fantasy roleplaying game setting – The Infinite Cathedral – on-and-off for longer than I care to remember. It’s undergone refinements, revisions, and expansions as I’ve worked on different portions throughout the years. I’ve drafted and reworked various chapters to one degree or another. I have sections ready for publication and others consisting of sketchy notes, ideas in my head, and good intentions. But over time my expectations for the project’s format have evolved in line with my more recent reflections on publishing and my personal aesthetics about game material. What’s the best method – from the perspectives of both publisher and readers – to release this grand opus? Do I spend time building a vast sourcebook in the traditional publishing model or do I release bits as the inspiration energizes me and smaller portions reach completion? How can I establish the setting and expand upon it within the parameters of these forms? The conventional publisher part of my brain leans toward the standard sourcebook format, but the player within me (and the one seeking more timely remuneration) seeks a route that allows me to release short-but-sweet morsels on a more immediate schedule.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

WEG Memoirs: Player to Publisher

When I first began working at West End Games in 1993 I had to rapidly transition my mindset from that of a Star Wars gamer fan to that of an editor for an established Star Wars game line. I had experience on both fronts, having played roleplaying games since 1982, including the Star Wars game since its publication in 1987, and having worked for almost three years as a reporter and then an editor at a hometown weekly newspaper with a particularly exacting editorial mentor. My newspaper experience prepared me for various aspects of working at West End’s editorial department, yet my adventures with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game didn’t prepare me for managing with and in fact relying on the greater “Expanded Universe” that, even in those early days of Star Wars’ resurgence with fans, was rapidly growing out of hand.