Saturday, February 17, 2018

Death in Games - Let Me Live (revised 2/17/18)

Hi all!



I recorded this recently and had to make some updates, but now it's a new video on a new URL: https://youtu.be/Uluvyh64_P8













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Monday, February 12, 2018

You're getting dumped by your catgirl girlfriend

My friend Caitlynn Belle has an excellent game, "you must break up with your werewolf boyfriend" and I have hacked it!

Here is: "You're getting dumped by your catgirl girlfriend"


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KIK0zVT817AUr9yWRZxBSKc12M0gW-xEfI6RCBA4iSE/edit?usp=drivesdk



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Quick Shot on Fate Accessories Kickstarter

Hey all, got together with Fred Hicks real quick to ask him a bit about the Fate Accessories Kickstarter that's currently running. See what he had to say, and check out the Kickstarter too!

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Dice with matching Fate points.

What is the Fate Accessories Kickstarter about, both as a product and as your vision?

The Fate Accessories Kickstarter is a follow-up to our 2014 Kickstarter for Fate Dice that launched that whole line (now 11 catalog entries deep) and breathed new life into the whole Fudge Dice thing. In the years since the Fate Dice have continued to be a real tentpole for us in terms of revenue, but our initial stock from that run has been dwindling. We've sunk profits from the line into reprinting the most of the stuff that's getting low or even ran out (in the past several months we've gotten reprints rolling for the Antiquity, Eldritch, Centurion, and Vampire sets), but we also want to expand the line with more dice offerings in new styles and quantities, as well as launch a new line of Fate Point tokens that are color-coordinated with an existing (or to-be-funded) set. We've got a bunch of potentials waiting in the wings that we really want to show people, get their thoughts on, and get their help expanding the catalog. 

Infernal dice style.
What have been some of the challenges approaching reprinting and expanding - both creatively and from a business perspective?

I'll answer this backwards. :)

Dice are expensive, not on an individual scale, but on a manufacturing-run scale. When we get dice made it's a 5000 unit minimum order with the folks we have our primary die mold with, so that means for any one packaged dice item it'll cost us in the low 5-digits (think $10k-$15k range) to get another run made. Our original runs that were Kickstarter-funded in 2014 were manufactured at around 8000 units each, but as we approached 2018 most of them were down to around 1000 units or less. They've been a good supporting pole of our company's revenue stream, so letting multiple catalog entries run dry just wasn't an option.

So we looked at the most popular ones based on the last few years of data and made sure to get reprints of those rolling. Our Core Dice had already sold out, but the iridescent material we use there is a bit more difficult to source, which increases the minimum print quantity, so we decided to leave that one be (especially given something I'm about to get to below). We also decided we'd let our two licensed sets, Winter Knight and Atomic Robo dice, run their course without a reprint. I love the sets, but I also like the idea of not needing to pay royalties on our dice sales. We'd already brought back the Antiquity one, so that meant Vampire, Centurion, and Eldritch Fate Dice needed the reprint.

Of course that meant that the dice money we could have spent on developing and releasing new sets was spent on reprints... which brings us to our first Kickstarter of the year. Given that it had been four years since our first Fate Dice kickstarter, we felt it was a good time to turn to our fans again and ask for some help funding an expanded line.

Creatively, tho, man, that's the more difficult part of all this. There are only so many materials styles and distinctly-different colors you can offer before there starts being some kind of overlap. And honestly that's not something we came to terms with as much as we should've before we launched. We faltered a bit in our first week of the Kickstarter because we didn't make a good enough case that we were offering enough new and different, despite it feeling really obvious to us how things were different even if they fell in the broad categories of "green" or "blue" or "purple." But recently (just yesterday at the time I write this) we started off our second week of the KS with a reshuffling of our stretch goals to put the new and different more visibly and more close at hand, which seems to be working as we're getting a new surge of interest.

This was made possible in part because we're bringing a new dice construction method to the party: layered dice, where different colors of material are injected in sequence, letting you produce dice that have a striped or gradient effect depending on what colors and sequence you choose. Of course, that triples the difficulty in color selection, but does let you produce some dice that definitely don't look like any others we currently have.
Malachite dice design.

How do you choose what products are the right ones to bring back or newly develop - what ones really called for the action, and which ones are you most excited about?

I've already talked about some of the decision making that went into deciding what we brought back, so I'll focus on new development here.

We knew we wanted to get into the Fate Point token space. Campaign Coins did a great set of metal Fate tokens, and those are still out there if you can find them, but we didn't want to get into metals manufacture. That left us with the idea of creating a line of Fate Points tokens that use the same material as an associated set of dice; if we get the chance to expand the line further, we'll do more tokens in more styles to match other sets we've had done (or will have done). That's the other baseline goal of the Kickstarter, to make a new accessories line of Fate Points possible.

We've also prior to the Kickstarter begun an effort to make sure there are single player packs of Fate Dice out there — ones that contain 4 dice instead of 12 — as we've been hearing over the past few years that there are folks who want to buy a specific, single style of dice rather than a 3-style pack. As a dice addict I don't really understand that line of thinking, but I know my biases are not universal! So that's what gave birth to our Fire and Midnight Fate Dice single-player sets at $6 each. Our layered dice will also come in that kind of packaging, in part because they're a little more expensive to make, so that lets us price them at $8 per set — a 12-die set of all layered dice would need a price a lot higher than the $15 we normally charge for 12-die sets.

New materials styles and new construction methods tend to play into our choices of what to develop as well. Another set we had made without Kickstarter backing is our Frost Dice 12-die set that we released a year or so back. That came about because our manufacturer told us about a "matte" finish that could be applied to translucent dice, which give them a frozen-liquid appearance. It's an attractive set. Obviously the layered dice from our Kickstarter stretch goals also arose from access to a new construction method. To a great extent what can be done in manufacturing tends to drive the creative side of this more than the reverse — what methods can be used act as a fruitful constraint on the creativity.

As far as what I'm most excited about from the Kickstarter? Besides the Fate Points, it's definitely those layered dice. Have a look. :)

Aquatic dice design.
--

Thanks, Fred, for a great chat! Make sure you all check out the Fate Accessories Kickstarter to see what Fred &co have to offer!

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Power IRL Powered by D&D

I wrote this for school, but I wanted to post it here so others could use it, also, example of how I'd like to use games to explain concepts of leadership and development. -Brie

The illustrations on this page are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by John W. Sheldon.


The best way for me to understand the different types of power was to put it into perspective of a fantasy roleplaying game. This might sound lazy, but it helps me remember it better and gives me perspectives.

Did I list druids here? Of course not - their power is more fluid in nature and depends on their interpretation of their magic, at least partially. I would consider them to have something like reward/referant. They're a weird cookie.
Some of the main archetypes or roles in tabletop fantasy games are paladins, clerics, fighters, wizards, rangers, rogues, and bards. They each have different ways of moving about the game and taking actions, and have different abilities. When reading over the types of power initially probably four years ago, the following role assignments stuck out to me:

Paladins have legitimate power. Legitimate power is "the authority granted from a formal position in an organization" (Daft, p. 370). Paladins are typically given a role of power from their chosen deity, and can occupy a position in a church, as well. They are literally assigned power. With this, they can take actions themselves, as well as call others to action. To use this power, a paladin (or someone in real life) could call back to their own authority and speak to how their actions reflect the intentions of that authority.

Clerics have reward power. Reward power is "the authority to bestow rewards on other people" (Daft, p. 371). Clerics are also religiously-based, and can give people healing or blessings with deific magic. They have the ability to reward people for heroism through those blessings and through healing and recovery. A cleric (or someone in real life) might use reward power by promising that if a certain goal is met, there would be monetary, emotional, or needs-based reward.

Sassy fighter is sassy - and coercive.
Fighters have coercive power. Coercive power is "the authority to punish or recommend punishment" (Daft, p. 371). Fighters are typically combat based and often brutal and violent. Their typical modus operandi is to go punishment first. (Shoot first, ask questions later.) Their work is mostly done with threats! Fighters (or people in real life) could use coercive power by promising retribution should people not follow their orders and satisfy their goal requirements, and follow up on it if there is failure.

Rangers and wizards have expert power. Rogues also have this power. Expert power is "the authority resulting from a leader's special knowledge or skill" (Daft, p. 371). Both wizards and rangers are experts in their fields, with deep knowledge of whatever it is they do. Wizards are academics, while rangers are more on-the-ground and experience based, and very skilled. Rogues have many skills but are more jack-of-all-trades in a lot of cases, which makes them have a lot of generalized authority because they know at least a little bit about almost everything. These type of archetypes (or people in real life) can use their power by explaining the facts and support behind the requested actions and goal-focus, and use their knowledge to propel action. 

Rogues know where it's at (in your safe, that is).
Bards have referent power. Referent power is "authority based on personality characteristics that command followers' attention, respect, and admiration so that they want to emulate the leader" (Daft, p.372). Bards are charisma based (mechanically and conceptually) and can guide people however they see fit. A bard (or person in real life) could use their power by speaking to ideals and behaviors that they hold and ensuring that others know the value of those, inspiring them to act to also carry those goals and behaviors into their work and personal life.

Legitimate, reward, and coercive power are hard power because they are all about control. If you do this, I give you or take away this. If you don't do this, the whole authority will know you defied them. They are concrete things that immediately threaten or promise things, or simply force authority on people, and that makes them almost immovable. Soft power like expert power and referent power are explanatory and guiding instead of forcing, and therefore can lead people towards success or goal-meeting without making them feel like they have no choice or making them feel like they have to do something instead of wanting to do something, because it makes sense or satisfies some higher-level need.

What kind of power would a dragon have compared to a barbarian? It depends on the dragon, frankly.

Daft, R.L. (2015). The leadership experience. (6th ed.). Stamford,CT: Cengage Learning.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lag

I was very hesitant to write this post but I think I should.

Things have been quite rough here, and John and I are financially strapped. I also started back to grad school and a second job for the semester. We ended up, after two significant financial hits (one of which isn't resolved), starting a GoFundMe. 


It took all my willpower but we honestly had no choice. We have met our goal but we aren't  sure how far it will carry us while  we deal with crises at work and home. We're grateful for all of the support and care everyone has shown for us!

The purpose of this post, though, is to let you all know that I will be super busy over the next few months and my energy is also incredibly low, but I'm doing my damnedest to keep involved and post. It will just likely be rarer. I hate that, but I only have so much of me, and I've already been struggling with physical and mental health, so I have to be careful.

If there are things you think are super important that you want me to know about, feel free to tag me into them or email contactbriecs@gmail.com with anything like that. I also am happy to talk to people interested in doing guest posts (paid with the Patreon dollars). If there are smaller ways of contributing I can do, let me know.

If you're promoting a project and would like to do a Quick Shot (three question) interview, go to the bottom of the Contact page to see how.

I hope that you will all stick around as I muddle through an incredibly challenging time of my life, and continue to support me. I love you all and I want to keep bringing good things into your lives - and I will do my best to keep doing so. I'm sharing the GoFundMe, my PayPal, and other related things below.

I know this is all very personal, but you all know I'm like that. Thank you all so much for being here!

Love,

Brie

https://www.gofundme.com/keep-the-sheldons-afloat

PayPal.me/briecs or PayPal.me/thoughty

cash.me/briecs

Patreon.com/briecs

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Love, Joy, Empathy, and Why I I'm Not Giving Up

Last night I had the awesome experience of going to see Mikey Neumann's Movies with Mikey Live, courtesy of my friend Anders as a 30th birthday gift. Mikey reviews films and is a video game writer, and he is one of my favorite people. It was amazing - I laughed, I cried, and it hit some nerves in important ways.

There are a few things Mikey said that made an impact more than all the rest, and some of them weren't just a few words. I'm gonna go through the hard ones first then roll it back to good. This will relate to games, I swear.

--
Mikey at one point asked, "how many of you have been alone with your thoughts for two months?"

I raised my hand (I think there were two or three of us). When he said it, my mind rubberbanded - shot backwards and snapped forward. When my husband John was deployed in Iraq, I lived alone for over a year in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I shut myself inside, I tried to vent it out in journals or on places like LiveJournal that was mostly screaming into a void, but I couldn't escape my own mind.

My mental health deteriorated rapidly, and my physical health didn't do well - I'd lock myself in the house for days. I saw people, but it wasn't broken until I sat on the floor of my mom's house, completely delusional and fully in belief that the world was ending. I sobbed for hours and sat in terror of what would come and my biggest fear, the scariest thing about an apocalypse, was that I might live and be alone with myself forever.

That fear hasn't faded. It's still scary to me, and I worry that my being a trash fire to be around will make that a reality - my behavior and incompetence will lead to my partners and friends deserting me, because I know I would desert me.

So there was that.

Then Mikey talked about his experiences in the hospital when he had his frankly terrifying event last year. I have not been hospitalized long term, but the facts of physically deteriorating, not having diagnoses, and sudden onset symptoms are familiar - and the experience he described is one I desperately fear. Every time I have a twinge in my back, a cold, a night where waking up seems like the worst option. So it shook me up, just like listening to him talk about things close to this before. I cried a lot.

I'm struggling right now because every thing that goes wrong just wrecks me. I made one mistake at work the other day and just destroyed myself over it for hours. I'm still thinking about it. I struggled with design work and almost bailed out on a contract because I can't look at my own work and see value. I told myself I wasn't allowed a birthday because I don't deserve it.

So that also happened.

Mikey also, earlier, had talked about altering perspectives, helping people see movies in different ways that might change how they feel about them. He talked about Deep Dive, and it reminded me how I wished he would do a do-over of the Jupiter Ascending episode because John said it wasn't nice and that I would get upset. See, I love Jupiter Ascending, and it's often hard to get people to see the good in it. But it made me think about how our first tries are often not our best ones. That gave me a little shiver of hope. Over the past few years I've nearly shut down this blog and quit games multiple times, after my work continued to be inadequate and the blog floundered. I don't want to end things, but my self-loathing and lack of success has been heavy. But maybe if I keep trying?

Then he talked about the important part - love, joy, empathy.


I honestly can't remember everything he said. I was so overwhelmed. A lot of people might know that I've been struggling with my mental and physical health for a long time, and one of the ways I've tried to do that is to try to be kinder.

I'm an angry person. I always have been, angry, ready to fight, every day. I'm bitter and fiery and it's exhausting. But ever since the Dark Years, I've been trying so hard to be better.

I worked on not calling people names and swearing at them. I disengaged from relationships that allowed my anger to grow and fester. I preached to be kinder, to love people, and I asked people to stop hurting people.

But lately, I have not done this. I have been exhausted, surrounded by everyone else's anger, boiling in hurt every day by the words of my friends, colleagues, and the people who control my life. My work makes me angry. School makes me angry. I am so angry all of the time, and it turns into this cycle of self loathing because I don't want to be angry, but it often feels like my only alternative is sadness.

My doctors have told me that a happy medium will always be a challenge for me, and that experiencing joy will be fraught because it'll be hard to find and the crash can often be very brutal. I'm glad they told me, but it's something I struggle with because it's true.

I need to change that. I may never normalize to happy, and I might not be able to be joyful without a crash. But that has to be okay. It must be. With that in mind, I'm reflecting on how I pursue games and create them, and how I engage with the community.

Love
- I will give my love freely in all ways, even if it's just a general love of humanity.
- I will try to ensure that love is a part of my games, encouraged and recognized.
- I will remember that hate is less effective than love.

Joy
- I will have more fun! I want to find at least one fun thing a week to enjoy, in games or out.
- I will support joyful games, bring attention, and encourage more joyful games to be made.
- I will put joy out, too, by trying to post more about good in my life, including the positive work I'm doing in design.

Empathy
- I will support those in my community who struggle in the ways I can.
- I will continue to fight against injustice, and against harassment, and try to find opportunities to change our landscape to support those in need.
- I will let go of bitterness against those who have wronged me.

--
The last of those is one I have already started pursuing, with my apology weekend where I asked people to apologize to me freely, without any given reason, and I forgave everyone who did. It was revolutionary for me.

I have realized, just while thinking on this, that my recent deep struggles might not be solved by these efforts, but that it doesn't actually matter. This isn't about fixing me, or anyone else.

It's about living.
<3

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Five or So Questions on Faerie Fire

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Shannon Campbell from Astrolago Press about the new bestiary currently on Kickstarter, Faerie Fire, which is compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Shannon is the creator alongside Dillon MacPherson and Malcolm Wilson. The Kickstarter runs until the morning of February 7, 2018. Check out Shannon's answers below!

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The Conglomadog by Kory Bing
Tell me a little about Faerie Fire. What excites you about it?

Faerie Fire is a collaboration between myself and two of my gamemasters: Dillon MacPherson and Malcolm Wilson. The three of us are friends and colleagues and we're all very passionate about tabletop gaming--we're active homebrewers, Dillon and Malcolm especially. 

There's loads of things that excite me tremendously about Faerie Fire: the fact that it's full of items and creatures that the three of us have enjoyed so much in our own campaigns, and now we get to share them with everyone; the list of incredible illustrators that I'm so grateful to have had the chance to work with; and the fact that it's entirely up to our own creative vision what goes in the book. AND THE AESTHETIC IS KEY. I'm super stoked to get to work on such a vibrant, colourful project. We wanted to make a really wild book that felt a little bit sexy, a little bit dangerous--but at the same time super inclusive.


What was the inspiration for Faerie Fire, and how did you start compiling and creating all of this content together?

To start, a lot of it was homebrew we had developed for our own campaig
ns. Dillon and Malcolm have known each other for a decade and as they were both game designers and avid game masters, they were constantly developing and exchanging new content. They'd always wanted to make a tabletop compendium of their own, and the success in recent years of similar projects spurred them on. I'm a writer and narrative designer in video games but I've also had experience as an editor on various print publications--including Bones of the Coast, a Kickstarter-funded comics anthology I helmed in 2016, and The Underground: A Sam & Fuzzy RPG, a tabletop system & setting I edited a couple of years ago.

Right away it seemed clear to me that we should do something aggressive and bold--that it wasn't enough to just produce content that was the same flavour as the vanilla stuff already widely available. We were spending a lot of time in the fairy realm in a campaign that Malcolm was GMing and it seemed like there was a lot of content there to explore and develop--and it quickly became clear that anything we made for the Wilds would be anything but vanilla.


Pox and Pilfer by Amy T. Falcone

Why did you choose to use 5e as your base? Is any of the material flexible to use in other systems, even just the flavor?

Dillon and Malcolm have been playing for 10 years but I only came onto tabletop games with D&D 4th edition, which I played for about a year before 5e came out. After that I went through a handful of systems--but I kept coming back to 5e. I like long-form storytelling and character-driven stories, and 5e is just the right combination of intuitive and versatile--and it's so, so homebrew friendly. Pretty much every 5e campaign I played ended up having homebrew added before too long: custom player races and classes, new magic items, weird hybrid monsters--and everyone I played with was always happy to go off book. 5e feels like a robust and elegant toolset.

One of the things we'd really like to do with Faerie Fire is make it Fate-compliant as well (I'm a huge fan of Fate Accelerated)--whether this is done as a stretch goal, or as a side hobby over the next year, is hard to say. We think that the style and aesthetic of Faerie Fire would readily fit into a lot of systems and worlds--though the mechanics would obviously need to be adapted a little. And, of course, the fast-paced, glamorous, brilliant setting of Faerie Fire would make it a perfect fit for one of my favourite impromptu systems: All Outta Bubblegum.


How did you choose artists for the project to capture the aesthetic you were looking for? What was your search like?

I come from a comics background, and for five years I ran a curated comics festival called VanCAF that put me in touch with a large network of artists, so I quickly compiled a shortlist of talent that I thought would be a great fit for the project. We had an open submissions process, as well, where artists could pitch monster ideas for us to collaborate on--but in the end we only selected a handful of artists that way.

The vision was for Faerie Fire to be vivid and stylish and bold and glamourous, but I also wanted it to be non-binary and queer. It seemed to me that if we approached it as an art book as well as a supplemental, then it might provide an opportunity for people who have otherwise felt excluded from gaming to discover how incredible these worlds could be. To that end, we wanted to collaborate with diverse creators. My own connections were very LGTBQ+ representative, and feeds like @sffpocartists on Twitter and the #drawingwhileblack and #latinxartists hashtags provided a bounty of skill & talent that made it incredibly easy to discover new names I might not have been introduced to otherwise.


Tell me a little about the design process. How did you flesh out the creatures? What did you do to make sure everything was consistent thematically and mechanically?

The design process was a little bit different from artist to artist--some artists preferred to be assigned a creature, in which case they'd give us some requests (flowers! or feathers!) and tell us what they hated to draw, and we'd build them a custom creature that played to their strengths. Other artists had their own idea for a creature, so we'd get them to run it by us and then cross-reference it to all the other monsters going into the book to make sure that it was unique. We'd send back design notes, if necessary, but otherwise we wanted to give the artists as much autonomy as possible.

Making sure that each monster is unique involves, basically, a lot of spreadsheets. We have cross-references for creature type, whether they're humanoid or not, sentient or not--whether they have damage resistances or vulnerabilities, whether they can be used as a familiar or a mount. The book runs the whole gamut. Dillon and Malcolm design the stat blocks between the two of them and each of them reviews the other's work--I come in at the last to give the final review, whip up the lore, and make sure everything looks hunky dory from there. As the art comes in we review it and, if there's anything that doesn't quite sync up with the lore & stats we've developed, or if the artist has surprised us with something we weren't quite expecting, we'll tweak the written content one last time to make sure it gets the most out of the art and doesn't introduce any confusing inconsistencies.

The book is designed around the a chaotic Fairy plane, home of the fey. While not all the creatures originated there, they've all been affected by it, and that shapes their powers and design. We've also introduced the Plane of the Living Light, a neon-inspired plane that kind of bumps up against the Wilds--those with special sensitivities can see into it, and certain creatures can channel its living energy through them. Everything in the book, therefore, has been touched by one of these two things: either chaotic fey magics, or the pulsing, energizing Living Light.

Because the aesthetic ranges from the cyberpunky Neon Noir to the fun colours and friendly animals of certain beloved 90s stationery, there's a wide range of creatures: some are monstrous, some are sexy, some are friendly--some are just plain weird. Each and every one of them is an original creation.


To finish off, what are a few of your favorite items and creatures in the text, and why?

My favourite probably comes down to two or three different creatures: there's the Kapny (which is going to be drawn by Jemma Salume), dryad-like creatures that live in the husks of trees burned by wildfire; I'm also a huge fan of the Cawillopard (drawn by Desirae Salmark), a tall, giraffe-like creature whose head can't be seen for the weeping willow branches that trail down its neck; it has a symbiotic relationship with glittering spiders that live in its branches. When you're under its expansive canopy, the spiders make it look like the night sky shining above you. Pretty! But also creepy, depending on your particular phobia. And, lastly, I'm a big fan of our "cover girl", Sepal: she's the warden of the fey prison, where all the prisoners are transformed into flowers and shrubs for the duration of their imprisonment. She keeps a disciplined, well-manicured garden, and she's a fierce and cunning member of the fairy nobility; though she mostly prefers to stay out of the various squabbles and underhanded politics of the court, it'd be pretty stupid to underestimate her--she literally grows her own army. Yuko Ota drew Sepal for the cover of the book and the interior illustration of her, as well.

Jesse Turner is drawing all our items as we speak and each time he turns in a new one, it's even more fantastic than the last. I'm most looking forward to seeing the finished art for the Comet's Tail: a magical flail that looks something like a glowing comet, and allows the wielder to cast Minute Meteor. 

The Wayfarer by Jesse Turner

--

Thanks so much to Shannon for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed it and will check out Faerie Fire, a 5e supplemental on Kickstarter - don't miss out, the Kickstarter ends February 7!


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