Friday, July 27, 2012

Save vs. Cat Piss

Cat Piss range increment 7 to 10 feet

So, Wednesday night was game night for my usual group. I arrived home after worse-than-usual traffic to find a couple of my players lounging out in my front yard. As I was setting things up and people began arriving, my players started urging me to run the game outside. The weather was gorgeous, in the mid 70s and nobody felt like being cooped up inside. I began to weigh the pros and cons of happy players vs. potentially distracted players and decided to give the outdoor game a chance. So, we whipped out picnic blankets, unrolled the battle mat on the front walk, and I settled myself in to run things from the stoop.

Well, just as we were about to get started, one of the neighbor's cats came by to visit our cat Sapphy. The neighbor cat, who we call "Buddy cat" really likes Sapphy, though the feeling is not reciprocated. The point is, we're familiar with him and he's generally well behaved. Tonight, however, as he was sniffing around the game area, he backed up to the camp chair where one of my players was sitting.

(The following activity happens in about 2 seconds.)

Tail begins to rise

Fiancee (sitting across the walk) eyes get big "He's!"


Player in camp chair leaps up, says several naughty words and then looks mortified.

Save vs. cat piss FAIL

Thus I learned just one previously unforeseen example of gaming outside. The game start was delayed as we chased Buddy Cat from the yard and got my player some replacement pants. Though the cat spray episode was certainly the low-point for the evening, my inner debate of happy vs. distracted players continued to play out. People seemed chattier and jokier than normal, which is good from an "everyone is having fun" standpoint, but was also causing focus to drift. Because we quickly entered a combat encounter, the cross-talk, singing of the Chariots of Fire theme and other more joyful distractions forced me to constantly wrestle with my players' drifting focus in order to keep the game moving. This was made doubly difficult by the fact that I was working from a modified setup myself. I found myself searching for stat-blocks, overlooking extra minis errantly placed on the board and generally felt all higgledy-piggledy.

Ultimately, I think everyone had fun... despite cat piss... there were some epic moves and kill shots that happened during the course of the single encounter we managed to pick our way through. Everyone, myself included, definitely enjoyed being outside. Still, whenever I have a fumbling game, I feel like it taints the fun being had... like so much cat piss.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: The New Death and Others

Death Stalks you at Every Turn! Deeeeeeeath!
Grandpa, that's the cat.

Nigh on a month ago, I received a request from author, James Hutchings to review his e-book, The New Death and others. It took a bit longer than I expected, what with the invasions of 9 year-olds, Space Shuttle Trainers and other interrupting-type things that have come my way this past month, but I finally got my chance to sit down and read the New Death during a camping trip a couple weeks ago... for camping is the perfect time to really read.

The book is a collection of short stories and poetry, with a fantastical slant. Hutchings is at his best when writing with his tongue firmly in his cheek. At such times, I often found myself chortling out loud as I read. His poem, "If My Life Was Filmed" serves as an example of one of these moments.

If My Life Was Filmed
If my life was filmed, it would
go straight to DVD
and someone who was famous once
would have the role of me
and if five stars meant "excellent"
you'd give it two or three
and most of those who rented it
would watch ironically.
Years later they would track me down
and do an interview.
They'd say "I heard you died," and I'd
say "Yeah, I heard that too."
"Is any of it fictional?"
"Perhaps a scene or two.
There weren't as many ninjas, but
the rest is mostly true."
Many of the pieces in New Death utilize a fable-esque voice, assigning personae to concepts such as Death, Commerce and Fame. Though these pieces on occasion flailed their messages nakedly about, I generally enjoyed them. I have always been a fan of myth and folklore and have on occasion penned my own such stories. Hutchings also proves to be incredibly fond of puns, which I count as a good thing. His Sherlock Holmes-style mystery, "The Adventure of the Murdered Philanthropist" was pun-riddled enough to set my eyes doing laps in my head... again, I count this as a good, if groanful thing.

Anyway, The New Death is available for download from Smashwords. If you are looking for a light, amusing read, or perhaps need inspiration for cultural flavor in a tabletop RPG, picking up this book may very well do you right.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kerbal Space Program

This weekend, I stumbled upon a wonderful little indie game that blends my current professional focus with my idea of fun, and explosions... lots of explosions.

The game, called Kerbal Space Program, puts the you in charge of building and launching rockets capable of putting little, green "Kermen" into space. You begin by assembling your rocket from various parts in the game's Vehicle Assembly Building. Then you head out to the launch pad to fire it off and see what happens.

The game does not currently have specific missions, but you can set your own goals from completing a successful sub-orbital hop, to reaching orbit, to landing on the MΓΌn. KSP features solidly realistic orbital mechanics which equates to a very high learning curve. After playing for several hours, I have had a couple sub-orbital launches, but still haven't managed to reach orbit. I suspect that I will need to do some number crunching, or at least jotting down in order to achieve that next milestone.

Having spent the past year and a half developing a space exhibit for the museum where I work, I am very pleased to see a game like this. Though the physics are difficult to master, the simple process of tinkering with virtual rockets and blasting them to space or smithereens is a lot of fun.

The game is currently in an open beta test ala Minecraft. There is a free demo version available for download with limited features. If my description sounds intriguing, I encourage you to check it out. If you get sucked in like I did, it is currently just $15 to pick up the latest test version, which will continue to yield updates as the game progresses.

Let's light this candle!

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