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Canlis Scavenger Hunt 2020

The fine folks at Canlis, the only restaurant in Seattle where you have to wear a tie, ran a scavenger hunt last week as part of their Canlis Community College project. Prize was a $5,000 gift certificate. This attracted the attention of some of my Ingress pals, since driving around the city trying to figure out someone else’s plan is basically our core competency. The first four challenges, we did relatively horribly. But the final challenge, the one for all the marbles, that went differently.

Review: Slugblaster Turbo

Mikey Hamm is Kickstarting Slugblaster, “A tabletop roleplaying game about small-town teenage hoverboarders who sneak into other dimensions.” I’m a sucker for gonzo plus an old pal of mine is editing it plus it’s a Forged in the Dark game, so I backed it. But what’s really interesting to me is the way Mikey released the quickstart rules. I’ll quote him.

“With pandemic-era online play in mind, Turbo is built entirely inside a shared google spreadsheet which includes all the rules, playbooks, dice rollers, shared progress tracks, and monster generators you need.”

So that’s interesting. I don’t know if Mikey Hamm is involved in the Gauntlet, but that sounds like a turbo-charged version of their character keeper concept. What’s it look like?

Tech Note: JournalPress Plugin

This is very obvious in retrospect: the reason my WordPress to Dreamwidth crossposting stopped working is because Dreamwidth made security changes and as a result you don’t get to use your password for the API any more. Good change! If you cluelessly don’t pay attention, though, your WordPress plugin will stop working.

Solution: go to the Mobile Post Settings page and generate yourself a new API key. Easy.

This is a very light excuse for a weekly post but man, this week was kind of disfocused for various reasons.

YKRPG: Boîtenoire Template

The Wars setting in Yellow King RPG includes these sort of portable telegraph machines called boîtenoires. I wanted to generate some prop messages for our campaign, but I couldn’t find any templates, so I whipped up a simple one myself. Then I rang a couple of variations on it. Here they are.

Right-click and save any image for the full sized version. I recommend HPLHS Telegram as a typeface for filling in the body; that’s what I used for the header labels and it’s a free download.

Here’s an example of how I used these:

Boitenoir Message example

Pretty self-explanatory. I fiddled around with the header block (To/From) for a while before figuring out how to make it look reasonably official. I smudged the date because time is very slippery in this particular setting.

In our campaign, I decided that paper is in short supply so I used the faded letter background. Since your campaign may be different, I also made a pair of them with generic vintage paper. For my purposes, I used the Scriptorium’s Lysander typeface as the header typeface. (You can buy it individually but that’s very cost-inefficient, so I linked to the package deal. Or wait for one of his occasional 30% off sales, get the full Display bundle, it’s a great collection of historic-flavored typefaces.) This seemed like it might be a bit frilly for everyone’s tastes so I generated another pair of templates using HPLHS Headline One, also available for free from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

While I’m getting distracted by talking about design resources: Design Cuts is my go-to source for cheap bundles full of resources. Usually $30 for a bundle, there’s always a bundle available, and they usually cycle through typeface collections, vintage design resources, and product mockup bundles. The quality is not insanely high but for the purposes of me fiddling around with props? Awesome. Would also be very good for sourcing Roll20/Foundry backgrounds.

Five Nice Things

This seems like a good game to play. I’ll go!

  1. Miso paste. I’ve been cooking more during the pandemic and because food gets dull, I’ve been making myself branch out from the usual. Miso paste is the latest ingredient I’ve added. It’s just awesome for a burst of umami. I’ve put it in eggs, S. has put it in vegetables, it’s great.
  2. Criterion Channel. I have a lot of streaming services; this is the one I’d keep if I had to cut it down to one. It’s not just classics; they’re running a New Korean Cinema program right now that’s full of great movies. They’re (slowly) getting better at Black representation. And I’ve seen at least two movies on there this year that took my breath away.
  3. My local community Discord. A pal of mine set this up, it’s got something like a hundred active people, and it’s well filtered into categories so I don’t have to pay attention to the Among Us players if I don’t want to. It serves as a social center, link exchange, and support nexus. We’ve crowd-funded a couple of urgent needs for people. It’s great.
  4. Grant Morrison’s Batman comics. I read the first third of these a while back; a month or so ago I noticed that the complete run was collected in those big heavy omnibus volumes. I am in the middle of the second volume now. It’s very Grant Morrison with these jagged edges of sincerity poking through the glossy madness from time to time.
  5. Online tabletop gaming and every pioneer who spent time figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. Right now I’m involved in two ongoing campaigns, and I manage to keep a decent stock of one-shots going as well. It’s the only thing that brings me new human faces during the pandemic, plus I love gaming.

BitD: One-Shot

I ran a Blades in the Dark one-shot for some old gaming pals, S., and one person I hadn’t gamed with. Totally fun, unsurprisingly. Ginger wrote up the session here.

There are seven playbooks in Blades, and each of them has five potential friends/rivals. So that’s, what, a 45% chance that someone will choose Slide in a four player game, and then if the distribution is truly random, that someone has a 20% chance of picking Bazso Baz as their rival? So maybe around 10% of the time you kick off a Blades campaign using the book’s starting situation, you’ll get the fun of the crew already hating Bazso Baz? I was an English major, be kind.

But man, it was so great that Michael said Bazso Baz was his brother! That’s a lot rarer.

Also fun: both Michael and S. said that Nyryx was their friend. Except the Slide has Nyryx as a prostitute, and the Whisper has them as a possessor ghost. That is the best plot point right there. If this was a campaign, Nyryx would have pulled all the strings to get the crew together.

Politics, Gaming, Modern Times

In a recent Monster of the Week mystery, I made the Big Bad an incel. I thought about it a bit before making the decision to go for it. I was careful to humanize him; he had family who loved him, and I explicitly didn’t make him a killer. But I didn’t mask his motivations and I gave him a couple of alt-right tropes.

The players were definitely a touch taken aback. Nobody objected, and while they were careful not to kill him, that’s generally how they deal with human threats. I think the momentary uncertainty was more because it’s a pulpy game that got a touch serious all of a sudden — it was the reality of the Big Bad, not the specific fact that he was an Intel.

I also have a Delta Green campaign percolating, set in the PNW, that revolves around white nationalist movements. That feels safer, since most Delta Green players are expecting some dark material.

I think all this is appropriate gaming fodder. I mean, you’re not obligated to stuff political extremism front and center in your games. However, I also think that a lot of these slimeballs get a lot of milage out of secrecy. I’ve had so many fruitless online arguments with people who just aren’t convinced white nationalism is a problem. Gaming is a way to tell stories to each other, and some stories are worth telling.

Conversely, in the same Monster of the Week game, COVID-19 doesn’t exist. That was an explicit decision at the start of the game; we don’t need to be reminded of it and we wanted to escape that aspect of reality. I can easily imagine a modern game in which it does exist, but it doesn’t feel dangerous to avoid it.

Which is interesting, since there are certainly people who deny how serious it is. But I’m not gaming with any of them, and that’s a matter of denial rather than lack of awareness.

Parenthetically, while I was writing this, the back of my brain spit out a campaign frame for Monster of the Week in which the group is an anarchist mutual aid group, and I really want to play in that. So if someone could run it for me that’d be great.

Saint Freeman’s City: Concept & Mapping

I’m really deeply thrashed this weekend. Pets with digestive problems, G1 Climax wrestling tournament, and a fun online gaming convention. Nevertheless.

In my copious spare time I’ve been kicking around an idea for a West Marches style Electric Bastionland game. Short explanation: Electric Bastionland is a deeply weird minimalist urban exploration fantasy game; West Marches is a campaign style in which there’s a large pool of players who self-organize self-directed game sessions, designed to lessen the load on the GM. The driving motivation for Bastionland PCs is paying off crippling debt (oh, so it’s a reflection of 2020!) which works just fine for a player-driven game.

Since I’ve been wanting to play Bastionland for a bit, and since West Marches is an intriguing campaign style, I was pleased to realize I had a good match on my hands. Here’s how I put them together and started fleshing the idea out.

The G1 That Is

My whole week has been pretty much New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax tournament for the last couple of weeks. 19 shows in a month, it’s kind of a crazy pace. This is their big heavyweight tournament of the year every year and for a while it looked like it might not happen but they managed to get a few critical wrestlers back into the country and here we are!

New Japan has a streaming service now, ten bucks a month and you get English commentary too. Usually real time although with the pandemic that’s been delayed a couple of days. All good, the Japanese commentary is enthusiastic.

This is my second G1. I watched last summer’s cause I read a couple of previews that made it sound excellent. I’ve been pretty damned haphazard about wrestling since the Benoit murder/suicide, but much to my pleasure New Japan has reawakened my enthusiasm. I’m a bit unhappy about how they’re booking Will Ospreay, but so far I’ve been OK ignoring his matches. I’ll see how it goes; if they’re really going to put a belt on him I may wind up more unhappy.

Anyhow. One major cool thing about the G1: New Japan doesn’t do a lot of singles matches outside title challenges and tournaments. So you’ve been watching all these great wrestlers compete in multi-man tag matches and it’s cool but MAN wouldn’t it be nice to see Tomohiro Ishii face off against Jeff Cobb one on one without all the tagging in and out?

(Yes, it would, they’re both very strong bowling balls on legs. It was a great match.)

That also means the G1 usually has a couple of matches where the wrestlers are facing off for the very first time in singles competition. That’s also cool.

The G1 is made up of two blocks, A block and B block. Everyone in a block wrestles everyone else in the block, 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw. Winner of A block wrestles winner of B block for the right to challenge for the heavyweight championship at the big New Year’s event, Wrestle Kingdom. The blocks run on alternate nights so that the wrestlers can get a bit of rest. So you get five matches from block A, then the next show there are five matches from block B.

In previous years, they’ve filled out the show with multi-man tag matches using wrestlers from the other block. (Not that much of a break.) This year, because of COVID-19, there’s one match between Young Lions — trainees — and then right into the five block matches. This makes the shows a tidy 2.5 hours long instead of sprawling 3-4 hour things. That’s been really nice.

Plus there are only three Young Lions in Japan who are ready for ring work, so the three of them are just alternating singles matches and getting way more experience than you’d normally see. This is also very cool and I bet it’ll benefit these guys a ton in the future.

But with an average of over 4 shows a week it’s still a lot of wrestling. And I’m off to watch last night’s final.

Automating Unsplash Widget

iOS 14 allows you to put widgets on the home screen, which is very exciting to those of us who aren’t Android users. For Android users, it’s an opportunity to point out that Apple is late to the party. The new capabilities resulted in a wave of widget apps, which allow you to customize widgets and put your own stamp on your phone. I like tinkering, so I decided I wanted to do something beyond the typical “calendar with a photo of my cats behind it.”