Kickstarters I Have Backed

Since 2012, I have, through my account (not my partner's) backed 13 Kickstarters:

  • Singularity & Co.
  • a smart thermometer 
  • wipebook
  • a card game about using funny voices for new characters (Noisy Person Cards)
  • a board game about political movement building
  • the Baby Beastiary, vol. 2 & vol. 1 reprint
  • 7 role-playing games
    • Unknown Armies
    • Red Markets
    • Ki Khanga
    • Dialect
    • Monsterhearts (2nd edition)
    • City of Mist
    • Harlem Unbound

Honestly, I think I've got some weird tastes. Either that or I tend to think if the project will eventually be available through some mainstream sources I'll just buy it that way instead of backing the kickstarter. Or both. It could be both.

So far, Singularity & Co. did what they said they were going to (keep a bookstore open and publish some sci-fi), the thermometer and wipebook were delivered to us, and I've picked up the Baby Beastiary at Gen Con 2016. Partner and I still use the thermometer. We tried the wipebook (notebook make of dry erase pages essentially) and found that while we liked the idea, it didn't fit with how we used notebooks. Not the fault of the product, just wasn't for us. And the Baby Beastiary is directly responsible for my Monsters and Other Childish Things character. Besides just being, you know, really fun to read. So, I feel like we've gotten our money's worth out of those.

Noisy Person Cards has slipped their planned released date but were good about keeping the backers up-to-date on what was going on, where they messed up, and what was happening now. All of the rest aren't even estimated to be coming out until sometime in 2017. Heck, Harlem Unbound finished its Kickstarter this morning. All of which is going to make for an interesting 2017 if even half these projects hit their projected release dates:
March — Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game
April — Rise Up (political movement building board game) and Unknown Armies
June — Monsterhearts 2
July — Dialect (birth and death of a language)
Aug — City of Mist (Noir Superheroes)
and of course the one I'm working on, Red Markets, slated for Dec. 2017

I've been lucky so far. None of the projects I've backed yet has crashed and burned, flaming out in a wreck of not-finishing or putting out a product. If that continues to hold, I will have a lot of new games I can review here :D

Space Miranda Rights

You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a firewall and the integrity of your personal memory banks. You have the right to algorithmic system access. You have the right to an advocate and a forensic programmer. If you cannot afford these services, they will be provided to you by the state. Any data you do not mention but later come to rely on in court may bias your case and be grounds for obstruction charges against you. Do you understand your rights and responsibilities as I have explained them?

State of Gaming and Other Projects

It's the last blog post of 2016, so I'm going to do a look back all my stuff for the year. At a minimum, it'll help me fix in my memory the fun stuff that I did.

Seeing as this is a Thursday post and therefore technically a gaming blog post, I'll start off with the gaming podcast I'm on: Technical Difficulties. We launched at the end of March 2016 and as of Dec. 29th (knock on wood), have yet to miss an update! We've completed two campaigns and are in the middle of both playing and releasing a third, as well as 17 episodes of one shot scenarios. Lots of multi-part one shots... Had an interview with Caleb of Hebanon Games, a couple bonus post-mortem episodes on our campaigns, and talked about Gen Con for an episode too. Played in eleven different RPG systems (good grief), three of which were play-tests: Red Markets, Upwind, and The Veil (which, honestly, I don't think we're going to release those two episodes; system was not our speed). All in all, we've released 52 episodes in roughly nine months and have 9 episodes in the backlog. Pretty good for our first year!

Speaking of Red Markets, I've just totaled the word count of what I've edited on this project so far: 235,108. Wow. I just... It doesn't seem like quite as much when you work with it in sections (with each section under its own contract). And the sections get shorter and shorter as Caleb realizes just how many pages its going to take to print everything. There's still a fourth section being written that I'll get to edit. I did my best to trim down the first two sections — pulled 4k and 2k out them. But this third one, I finally asked point blank for a word count Caleb needs to keep the entire book under the planned page count.

He needs me to trim a 64K word section down to 50K, or the fourth section is going to have to be severely cut down. I'm doing my best: pulled out 4K so far. But we'll have to see how close I can get to 50K. It's good to have ambitious goals, right?

I also got to do some writing for Red Markets! When y'all get the finished product, check out the d100 encounters table. I wrote 33 of those. :)

Also in 2016 Red Markets work, the con packet has gone out for play testing.  Tom, Partner, and I did meet our goals of having something runnable for Gen Con and WashinCon. We all ran at least one game at both of those conventions, for a reasonable mix of people who already knew of the system and folks who'd never heard of it before. We got some good feedback, refined some of the text, wrote the text we'd previously skipped (because we knew the information in our heads) in favor of time, and generally expanded actual explanations and GM tools. Thanks to Caleb's monthly updates to the Red Markets Kickstarter backers, we opened up a play test to run this packet for folks who hadn't written the packet. So far, we've handed the packet out to 123 people and already gotten 14 responses. Which is just amazing to me. Did have to turn one dude down — he wanted to get the packet so he could read up on the game before a friend of his ran it at a convention. I think the line was 'so I can mess with [GM] when they run it.' Not cool dude, not cool. Told him we preferred clean runs of the game and looked forward to hearing from [GM] with feedback. We are cutting off handing out the packet on Dec. 31st and asking for all feedback to be in by the end of Feb. 2017. So there's my project time in March planned out.

Speaking of project time, I have finally started making time for my personal writing again! I've started doing drabbles for my Monday posts and I'm finding them to be a) really fun and b) good exercise in letting go and writing without a plan. Now to work on consistently writing more than three or four hundred words. And describing things, instead of relying on the visual I'm using for inspiration to do it for me. Also, the fourth draft of my novel project is in the works. I'm excited for this draft — it should close up a couple plot loopholes and add depth to a couple characters. Hurray useful critiques!

Speaking of critiquing, I was part of a critiquing circle through Scribophile this year. I guess it was like a writing circle? Any rate, there were four of us and we all gave each other beta reads. Scheduling was interesting since we had folks from three different US time zones and one lady in France. Any rate, that was helpful in that I got some specific feedback (although Caleb's is playing a bigger part in this fourth draft of the novella) and worked on my critiquing skills more. Also my ability to express "uh... this is a problem," tactfully. Explaining that someone had accidentally written colonialism and racism into their epic fantasy aiming for anti-racism was tricky.

Finally, I also signed a contract to edit a second RPG project! They approached me! I'm so excited. I haven't actually gotten clearance from them to talk about it in public, so I'm not going to say the name. But I hope I'll be able to talk about it more in 2017.

Oh, yeah, I also kept up a posting schedule here and on my Tumblr :D 

On the personal front, it's been a reasonably good year. For everything else Fuck 2016.

Happy New Year everybody. May the next year be better than the last.

On Deciding to Back an RPG Kickstarter or Not

Partner popped up with an RPG Kickstarter today called Harlem Unbound and did I want to back? RPG stuff is one of those things we try to both agree on before buying since we both like the hobby and would prefer to share. Partially that's because RPG books can be expensive and partially because any game is a bit of a time commitment, so only one of us being interested in any particular RPG is a great way to either not play together or one of us have an un-fun time. Besides, if it appeals to both of us, there's a better chance it'll be good, ya?

So, what do I look for when deciding if I want to back an RPG Kickstarter? Figured I'd walk y'all through my thought process.

Well, first thing I check (and this might be way too obvious) is the title. Is it evocative? Does it give me a sense of what the project is going for? In this case, I find 'Harlem Unbound' to be pithy, evocative, and I'm already thinking I'm inclined to give this thing a chance.

Alright, next, is it a new system or supplementary material for a system already in use? In this case, we've got a supplement, here called a sourcebook, to Call of Cthulhu or Gumshoe. I like playing in the mythos setting, have had good experiences with Call of Cthulhu, and am interested in learning Gumshoe (even if I haven't gotten around to it yet). So far so good. 1920s Harlem — a time and place I only know as the briefest of sketches that would expand the world I could play  in those systems? I'm interested.

Next watch the pitch video. Looks like the creator put time and effort into making it look professional and evokes the time period in question. Cute framing device (creator's three or four year old daughter interviewing her dad) that also evokes the 1920s. Creator name checks a couple names I'm at least aware of from the era as part of the research he's done. Clean description of what the project is. Still interested.

Check the creator's track record: already backed 52 other projects on Kickstarter and this is their first project on Kickstarter. Says to me they likely have seen what works and what doesn't on Kickstarter, so will only promise what they can deliver. Successful previous projects on Kickstarter would be nice, but everyone has to start somewhere and this doesn't look like a heartbreaker project, so consciously choosing not to penalize for not already being successful.

Goal: modest and already surpassed three times over with three weeks left to go. So definitely will fund. Hm, extra swag/add-ons of the physical stuff variety (dice and a sweatshirt). That's not great — many a Kickstarter has been sunk by physical stuff costs...  Let's check the stretch goals next.

Let's see, already funded are two extra scenarios, a keeper's screen, more art, a longer history section, printing in color, and extra creatures. Left to be unlocked are another character class, a scenario, and printing a hardback book. I like the stretches, they are focused on making the core product better. I'm a little worried the creator isn't asking for enough money for each stretch goal, but I haven't done the research on printing an RPG book and they look similar to what I recall from the Red Markets Kickstarter. So. Still good so far.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'd like to back this, so let's look at the pledge levels. 

Hm. There's a 5$, 25$, 40$, and 50$ pledge level (actually, there are higher levels too, I just know my limits). The 5$ just gets Partner and I in the acknowledgements page — that's no good, I want to use the product. 25$ gets me a digital copy but none of the stretch goals. I assume that would be the additional scenarios but the creator isn't making two books, one with the longer history section and one without. That's an assumption but it sounds like a waste of time to me... Any rate, I personally may not care about getting a GM's screen, but I do want those additional scenarios. 40$ gets me that digital copy with the stretch goals while 50$ gets all that plus a hardcover copy. Well, Partner and I already have a lot of RPG books, both digital and physical. I'm alright keeping this digital only, especially since I don't actually own a physical copy of either base system. 

I would have loved to have seen the digital only, no stretch goals at 15$ with a softcover + digital (maybe no stretch goals?) at 25$ or 30$. But again, I haven't run the numbers from the creator's side and the pledge levels are in no way egregiously different than other projects I've seen, so I really just have to trust that they're selling it at the fairest price they can while paying everyone working on the project a fair wage. 

40$ pledge level it is.

Annnd backed.

So that's more or less how Partner and I choose RPG Kickstarter projects to back. Is it in a genre we like to play? If not, is in an area of RPGs that we're looking to stretch into? Are the creators people we feel we should back and support in order to bring new ideas or new perspectives into the hobby? Does it look like it's going to meet minimum viability? Does it look the creators have an idea of what they're doing? Do they have a plan (as evidenced by the stretch goals)?

And finally, can we afford the price they're asking right now?

We've started to get feedback

I'm finding getting feedback on the Red Markets Quickstart guide is just as exciting as any time I've gotten a critique on Scribophile. We're already at eight responses, just two weeks after sending out the first wave of packets, so I thought I'd walk through some of the feedback and my thoughts on it.

My impression, looking through the responses, is that this feedback comes from five different gaming groups. Of the eight responses, the first four

  • came in at different times
  • all played the Papers, Please job
  • three said they were playing with their regular groups in person (in different locations than each other)
  • the fourth was playing with their regular group remotely

The second set of four responses are all from the same group, I think, because:

  • they all played the same job (The Same Old Grind)
  • they all played remotely
  • NOT with their regular group
  • and oh yeah, they all filled out the survey at the same time

So far, 75% of the players have been from the US which isn't notable except that I'm slightly surprised it wasn't 100%. Hello Norwegian and Filipino Red Markets players!! 
5 out of 8 played in their sessions and three folks GMed which is a decent ratio from my perspective. Nobody had ever played (or GMed) before which meant we are reaching our intended audience. I'm slightly sad that the job I wrote (The Same Old Grind) has been used by fewer groups (assuming my assumptions are correct) than the Papers, Please job. But it's hard to argue with a mall job in a zombie apocalypse. Either way, everyone has seemed to enjoy their gaming sessions. Well, except for one person.

One person did not like Negotiations at all. Which, to be fair, can be it's own little mini-game. And is the section we're getting the most feedback of "please clarify this." But they didn't feel like it builds the setting, enhances the play experience, or ties in with the survival/resource management style or zombie genre of the rest of the game. But, you know, the genre is Economic Horror so either we did a bad job of selling the game to this person or this isn't the game for them. Which is going to happen! I'm sad they either didn't enjoy or didn't understand how to flesh out the home base through scams in Negotiations. But. It's one person out of eight. And we absolutely do need to clarify the Negotiations section. It's been the trickiest part of Red Markets to explain and to learn. For Caleb too, not just us. 

On the other side of things, we did ask folks for their favorite part of their session. We're gamers guys, of course we want to hear about that crazy thing that happened during the game. So, before the play test, everyone we'd played a session with was already familiar with the setting. This meant that one of the Legs we'd put in to illustrate a particular danger in setting (fast zombies essentially), every player had gone 'oh shit, Vector' and shot them before they could get up and be scary. It made for some tense times at the table if players missed their shot, but. Slightly disappointing for us as GMs.

The first GM to give us feedback managed to get the Vector up and running at their players. :D Based on their feedback, that part of game play does work as intended on new players: "the stress shown by the players was palpable and made for a very tense, frantic fight." And then of course two of their players rolled complications of zombie bites.

Life is good. 

So, generally happy players, direction for us on specific things we mentioned but didn't explain, and a whole bunch of people going 'Negotiations are confusing and this didn't really explain it!' Plenty of direction for us to work with, even if we never get another survey response.

RedMarkets drabble the third — Sarge has the tactics

Well, this is turning into a series. Drabble the First here, Drabble the Second here.

 Hat tip to  Sixpenceee  who posted to Tumblr and  BastLynn  who's Tumblr I saw it on.

Hat tip to Sixpenceee who posted to Tumblr and BastLynn who's Tumblr I saw it on.

“What do you think? Auction the location off or strip it ourselves?” Pixie said, gesturing behind her.

Sarge looked back at the mill, shading his eyes against the setting sun. Four or five levels, fenced in site, extracting the steel for recycling. He turned back and continued walking towards the already-dying-before-the-Crash town. There wouldn’t be much stock waiting to be turned into steel on-site, not with the mill already heading towards closing. They’d really need at least one eighteen wheeler, preferably more, to make this kind of score worthwhile.


“Forge you think? They’re situated on an old foundry.”

“Bit far. Don’t think they’d want to risk their trucks getting out here. Not really worth it otherwise.” Sarge focused on a house at the end of the lane for a moment — thought he’d saw movement in the windows. Another second and the curtain flapped back across the window. There was a breeze, it probably wasn’t an ambush.

Pixie sighed. “That’s a lot of steel to just abandon to rust and ruin.”

“Get Mort in front of the council. Enclave expedition back here, haul the stock back home, sell it on to Forge. Fund that fence upgrade and new houses we need. Need the Fencemen crew for security anyway, scrapping everything is going to be loud.”

“Ah. Yeah. That could work. I’ll pitch it to Mort at dinner.”

Sarge nodded and focused on the creek two hundred yards ahead. He appreciated Pixie's focus on the strategy level stuff — the kid was going honestly the only reason the two of them had a shot at getting out of this hell someday.

Waterway ahead still looked low and clear. Sarge waved at Mort to hurry it up a bit. The man was a good negotiator, just could not seem to ever improve that cardio of his, no matter how many times they all went over the fence.

A Video Game post

In my downtime recently I've been playing Civilization VI. It's a pretty good skinner box for me. I've been playing Civilization since the first entry in the series (I think. I might have missed one or two. Definitely since Civilization Alpha Centauri at any rate), so I've got the nostalgia factor. Also I walk into the game knowing the basic goals and moves, so I can start playing from the word go really.

The diplomatic game, which I've never been all that good at, is more finicky for me in this one. How various civilizations feel about you is governed by their leader's personality a lot more than previous games and I'm not so good at catering to people's particular pet issues. I'm not on the coast Norway, I can't build a damn navy!

I've played through a game on the default difficulty (Prince) and had my usual play through. Won the game through a culture victory while aiming for a space victory. Whoops? Civilization has always been a great skinner box for me. I always want to click the button for just one more turn, up until the very end game at which point I'm tired of playing but I'm pushing through turns as fast as I can in order to finish the game. Can't walk away from unfinished games!

Any rate, for the first time in my history with Civilization, I've pushed the difficulty up a step (King).

The game is kicking my butt. 

On the one hand, that's really frustrating that my skill level a this game I've played for years (never mind that it's a new iteration with different interaction between the pieces) is too low to handle the jump up. On the other hand, it's good for my productivity and continued interaction with the world since I'm not looking up three hours later and kicking myself for the next half hour to just get off the game already. The frustration is keeping my sessions to about one hour chunks. Which is much more manageable.

Any rate, it's a game I love that takes up too much of my time and brain space whenever a new edition comes out. What's everyone else playing?

Another Red Markets Drabble

Well, I thought was done with the previous Red Markets drabble, but then I saw this photo by Marchand Meffre. Hat tip to ElayesIldogan who posted it Tumblr and Xen0phile who's Tumblr I saw it on.

Mort grabbed the guardrail and wheezed a moment. He hated stairs. Hated heights, hated these rickety, decaying messes of forgotten civilization...

“You need a moment?” Pixie whispered.


“Sure we can, nobody’s made a bloody screaming mess yet. Better to catch your breath now than when we have Casualties bearing down on us.”

Mort just shook his head and hauled himself forward up the stairs after Sarge. The big man and his comfortingly-large pistol were on the next landing, carefully scanning the path forward. Mort didn’t want to find out how Sarge would live up to his reputation for verbally taking the hide off of folks who pissed him off if Mort forced too much separation between Sarge and Pixie. The kid might not know it, or might just be keeping it professional in the field, but Mort could see the signs. Sarge was keeping his sanity together by watching out for the kid.

“Last time I go into the field...” Mort muttered, finally creeping up to Sarge’s position.

Pixie and Sarge snorted simultaneously. 

“That’s what you said the last job Mort. And the time before that. Office door is 150 yards down the hall here. Pixie, rear. Mort, warm up your Ubiq specs.”

RIP My Inbox... Or: What happens when you volunteer to give people stuff

So a while back Partner and I teamed up with a gentleman by the name of Tom on the RPPR forums who was looking to write a quickstart packet for Red Markets. The idea being that we'd put together a short version of the rules, for players and GMs, add in two jobs they could choose from, and have a good product for introducing new players to the system, either at conventions or home games. We've been working on it for five or six months now. 

And now it's ready for play testing.

We're at the point where we need fresh eyes on what we've done to tell us where we missed a bit. What's unclear. What works and what didn't.

To that end, we asked Caleb to mention something in one of his updates to the Red Markets Kickstarter backers.

He wrote an entire update just on the fact that a) we did this and b) we're looking for people to play test this packet. So go email Laura if you're interested.

My poor, poor inbox. 

As of writing this post, I've gotten 70 emails from interested parties. I have never had 70 unread emails in my inbox before. If only 10% of them actually return the questionnaire, that's seven sets of feedback which is amazing. So Partner is busy compiling a list of all the emails, and in a day or two we'll do a big old mail merge into the bcc field with a link to the packet.

I'm so excited.

A Red Market Drabble

The writing prompt (seen on tanif's tumblr):

 Image from silent-musings on Tumblr

Image from silent-musings on Tumblr

Pixie looked up at the maze of decaying pipes, girders, and pulleys. The smaller pipes might be salvageable without any equipment — just pull and jerk them off. The team would need to seal the building first though; that’d be loud and the area was still populated enough it’d attract casualties. Probably not the best use of their time. 

Maybe they could auction off the site location and intel on the LifeLines. There had to be an enclave in the area with enough of an industrial base to recycle all this scrap. They’d have to get on that before everything finished rusting out though. Maybe they’d need escort and security services. No reason not to use the crew that’d already done the recon.

Pixie made a note to float the idea past Mort on the walk home. Right now they needed to raid the upstairs office. 

Into the Black — Character creation

Partner is going to be running an Eclipse Phase campaign... sometime. I don't think anyone is entirely sure when we're going to get anything on the schedule. But anyways, the campaign is titled Into the Black and I know it's going to start on Extropia. 

Fucking Extropia. I have a fairly visceral reaction to the libertarian paradise of the EP universe. 

Maybe it's the microtorts — nuisance law suits (essentially) for anti-social behavior (like... jaywalking or jostling someone in the market place) put into the system by individuals. Essentially Extropia's method of social shaming/enforcement of baseline societal norms in a society that worships the individual and the only recognized tie between people are contracts. Fucking microtorts.

Maybe it's the "Slavery is legal, as long as they signed the contract." 1) Slavery. 2) I see nothing in the description of Extropia to balance the accumulation of power business will yield, so I don't see how a contract between people in Extropia is between equals. If you don't have the skills to work through the legal precedent of Extropian contract law yourself OR money to hire someone to do it for you, you are going to be screwed over. Extropia, to me, reads as an entire legal and social system that explicitly denies any help for the least among us. And that is what I judge a society on, how it aspires to and how it actually does treat the most vulnerable members of its society. Extropia, is not the habitat for me.

I should probably play an Extropian character one day. It'd be a good exercise in stretching my role-playing abilities.

But this campaign is not that day. I'm going to be playing an Argonaut data analyst — area of specialty to be decided as I build my character over the course of this blog post. I am using the Singularity character generator put out by Post Human Studios for the point build method. Because that's the default and I'm a masochist apparently. 

I always start out with Aptitudes (or the local rpg system equivalent). Laying in the baseline fundamentals of strengths and weaknesses is just how my brain works. In this case, I want to build a character who lives a life of the mind. To that end, I know I want high COG (cognition: problem solving, logical analysis, understanding, memory, and recall) and WIL (will-power: self-control, your ability to command your own destiny). I also want good INT (intuition: skill at following your gut instincts and evaluating on the fly, including physical awareness, cleverness, and cunning) as well as SAV (savy: mental adaptability, social intuition, and proficiency for interacting with others, including social awareness and manipulation). That's going to leave the physical aptitudes (coordination, reflexes, and somatics) hurting, but that's the choice I've already made by choosing a life of the mind.

COG: 25
COO: 10
INT: 15
REF: 15
SAV: 15
SOM: 10
WIL: 20

Then traits, because I like those, they're my thing in RPG systems. Ego traits (things that will follow my character from body to body): Fast Learner, Hyper Linguist, Information Control, Math Whiz. Essentially a nerd who does complex math in her head fast, who learns quickly, and picks up languages rapidly. A nerd who moves through life leaving a light touch on the information networks on purpose. This time I didn't feel like taking any negative Ego traits, partially because at this point I still had what felt like a surfeit of points to spend. 

Add in a couple traits dependent on my morph: Mild allergy (pollen) and Innocuous (looks a lot like everyone else). So unless I'm sneezing walking through a hydroponic garden, you're probably going to loose me in a crowd.

Next, I'm thinking about who she's connected to (and yes, this character defaulted to female):

@-rep (anarachists, Barsoomians, Extropians, scum, Titantians, etc.): 40
c-rep (hypercorps, Jovian Republic, Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, etc.): 20
i-rep (Firewall): 40
r-rep (Research Network Alliance [scientists]): 50

I threw in the c-rep because I figured that while she doesn't like the hypercorps of the old economy, they do have money to throw at basic research, so she's done some work for them. Have to slip into enemy territory to acquire knowledge sometimes.

The skill list is long, so I'm only going to touch on some highlights. Like Partner wincing at my low (30%) skill with kinetic weapons. The highest rated skill I took is in a Profession, namely data analysis, which makes sense since that's how I've been describing her, as a data analyst. After that are a bunch of Academic skills, a few points tossed into an Art: Code skill, and lots of points into Infosec (hacking), Interface (using computers), Research, and Investigation. 

I know things. And if I don't know it, I know how to find it. If I can't find it, I know who to ask.

And I've got the tools to back me up on that.

More Red Markets Editing

So the capitalization guide has been enforced. All "--"s have been turned into "—"s (I don't know why those bother me so much!) Most spelling issues have been fixed or noted as something to come back to (mostly names which will need to be check against themselves for consistency). All major blocks of green "Microsoft thinks your grammar is wrong" have been looked at and mostly involved telling Microsoft to knock it off. Every it's, its, two, and too has been checked. 

I'm now on the 509th 'to' out of 1280. So far one has been altered. 

I seriously think I need to shuffle the order of my proofing hit-list. Right now it's in "what order did I think of it" order. Which in a lot of ways translates to how ofter I've made those errors in my own writing. One or two are from internet articles of common writing mistakes/typos that I've looked at and gone "yes, I need to include checking that when I edit."

So I think I want to reorganize this list. More or less reverse the current order, so the least common issues will be at the top of the list and the most common at the bottom. This way I'll get the easy mental boost of checking off a completed number on the list early in the editing process and have all those completed sub-tasks when I start the 'to' grind.

Everyone always has a lot of 'to's in their writing. Not that I've looked for conjugations of 'be' in writing, but at this point I could (crankily) believe that 'to' shows up more often than 'be'. (::grumble, grumble::)

Duskers — A Review

I'm about fourteen hours into Duskers so far, so still in some very early stages of the game. Partially that's because I've reverted to a bad habit from my Nethack days and been restarting the game instead of resetting (like the game is designed for) when my ship and drones end up in an untenable situation. Yes, I do count every restart as having lost the game. I've lost a lot of games of Duskers so far. But I think I've got a handle on what I'm doing now. Sort of. Maybe?

The story so far is that you wake up in a ship and the entire outsider works is silent. No ship-to-ship communications, no distress signals, no nothing. Like the entire universe died, except for you in your slowly decaying ship. You've got a few drones you can user to explore other drifting ships in space, collect 'scrap'  and fuel to keep your shop functional and moving with, and deal with hostile things on the other ships. Your drones, at least so far, are not very good at dealing with hostile things. The effective strategy so far has been to use motion scanners to figure out which rooms are clear (assuming the scanner can read the rooms), explore those rooms, and then lure the hostiles into there and shut the doors behind them.

The conceit of the game is that you're doing everything over a command line interface. Oh you've got a video feed from your drones, when it doesn't cut out. But your only control is the arrow buttons and a command line.

The game is not clear whether you, the player character, are an organic person or an AI. Which raises interesting questions about the whole 'did AIs cause the singularity and an extinction level event for humans?' possibility raised in the game. Other possibilities I've encountered so far include 'grey goo' and 'pandemic scenarios'. I haven't been able to follow up on those possibilities very much so far, so I'm interested to see where the game goes with those. Every initial lead comes from messages pulled off the logs of derelict ships. Which is just creepy, given the text corruption scattered throughout. Also, the "ages" of these derelicts has typically been around the two hundred mark, with no indication if that's years or what. So how the heck long has the player character been in ... cryosleep?

I'm also unclear what 'reseting' is and there's some interesting philosophical questions involved in that. Every time I've reset, I've gotten new drones to pilot on ship with the same name and same apparent configuration. Where do the new drones come from? They have different upgrades. The map doesn't change, you still have access to all the messages and information you've already found. The community forums I've seen indicate that whatever hostiles have learned from you is carried across resets. So what is a reset? And how the heck does it work in-universe.

So, yeah, I'd recommend this game for anyone who finds rogue-like games more interesting than frustrating. The game play has been keeping me interested to see what happens next. The controls feed into the story, in addition to providing a challenge. And gosh darn it, I want to know what happened in the game universe. 

Where did all the people go?


Now seems as good a time to talk about self-care as any, seeing as I basically took all of last week off for that. Not the day job — couldn't get away with not going to the day job — but there was no writing or editing in the works last week. I avoided my news sources as much as I could, played video games, and practiced a lot of deep breathing.

Self-Care, a definition by the author: the act of focusing specifically on things, actions, and other stuff that make you feel better about yourself and your life. Focusing on doing what you need before work, projects, or other folks.

Why self-care is a good things is, at least in the abstract, so obvious to me that I tend to have trouble articulating why. It's... like the breathing masks in airplanes. You have to have oxygen before you can help someone else because if you don't, you could pass out in the middle of helping them and then you'd both be doomed. You have to have your head in at least a semi-functional state, or how could you produce any work? Or at minimum, at a rate that would be useful? Or of a quality that wouldn't necessitate going back and redoing it.

On the one hand, I was 'lucky' in that the need for self-care was so apparent (to me) after a very specific event (US election — last I'm saying about that). So I didn't end up spending time flailing at my writing or editing, not making progress or doing bad work. Not making progress (otherwise known as flailing) would have made me even more anxious. Which is the opposite of needed or wanted. Bad work would have involved losing time (overall) since I'd need to put in more work to fix it. Or I'd end up with bad work in the finished project, which is always undesirable.

On the other hand, specific events requiring self-care afterwards are kinda shocking and rather upsetting. I wouldn't say traumatic (in this case), but that's because I'm doing the thing where I say other folks have it worse than I do (which is true) so I'm consciously toning down the implications of the words I'm choosing.

And I get on my author's case for 40 word sentences.

Any rate. The first thing I did was contact the author I'm editing the latest project for and said "I'm going to need a few days to get my head on straight." Which, 1) was just the right thing to do, have to communicate with your boss; 2) a contractual obligation (which I honestly think should be a standard part of any contract); and 3) worked out great since the response I got back was "yeah, me too."

Next thing was to try out a new video game, one I thought would require a lot of focus and thus allow me to shut out the rest of the world. So I'm playing Duskers. To quote the developers in their sales pitch: "Pilot drones into derelict spaceships to find the means to survive and piece together how the universe became a giant graveyard." It's fun and frustrating — the drones are controlled through a command line interface; whee!

Third thing was using the three day weekend (Veterans' Day on Friday) to the best of my abilities. Which meant sleeping in, having relaxing mornings, seeing friends on Saturday, and getting lots of chores done on Sunday. Which is not how I'd expect most other folks to do self-care. But, doing chores around my home allowed me to impose my idea of order on my personal space. So that's helpful.

Oh, and I started reading The Unreal and The Real: The Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin.

For me (and I fully expect everyone's self-care to look different) distraction, imposing order, and reading formed the core of my self-care plan. Distraction got me to stop continually thinking about what was upsetting me. See, my brain likes to try and make plans to deal or work around 'the problem.' But when the problem is something that I don't have enough information to deal with or it's just going to take time, then the Hamster Wheel of Despair(tm) comes into play. The Hamster Wheel is my brain continuously grinding away on one thought track without making any progress towards a solution; sometimes it is itself the actual problem. So that's when I need to break my brain out of that thought pattern by distraction for at least a few hours. Sometimes concentrating on deep breathing will break a Hamster Wheel in the making. If I catch it early enough. Imposing order on my home through chores lets me feel like I have some control over my life. Also I like the visuals of stuff being put away better, so it makes for more pleasant surroundings. 

The reading just makes me happy. I haven't been reading for pleasure enough (it's never enough...) this year. Starting a new book by an author I love just feels good.

How do y'all deal with your own Hamsters?