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Listen to “Wet Fur” on Escape Pod

My story of death and pets appears today on the Escape Pod podcast.  This marks my triumphant return  – I don’t think I’ve had a story there since I took on the editing gig for a short while.  Most of my stories get a podcast recording already for Lightspeed Magazine.  When I realized that there was no audio version of this story, which first appeared in Asimov’s, I sent it over, and was so pleased that they took it for the podcast.

Give “Wet Fur” a listen.  Have some tissues at hand.  I do believe this one can be a bit of a tearjerker.

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It’s finally here, the next Dungeonspace story!

I’ve never received the kind of fan mail that I did for “The Cavern of the Screaming Eye.” Thank you so much to those of you who sent me a note to let me know how much you enjoyed it. I felt encouraged by all of you to continue writing stories about Dungeonspace and our young heroes Flip, Domino, and Basher.

Lightspeed is running the 24,000 word novella “The Dragon of Dread Peak” in two parts.  The first is available now.  The second will be available next week… but do not fear.  If you buy the ebook version of the issue (from WeightlessAmazon, Barnes & Noble, or the site directly, to name a few options) you can read part two immediately. And if you would, consider subscribing.  Lightspeed has been a huge supporter of my work and I am so thankful to them for publishing this.

Here’s a quick taste to get you going:

When I made the decision to take up an after-school job closing trans-dimensional portals into pocket-worlds full of dangerous monsters and traps, I thought it would be easier—or at least more fun—than working the counter at a fried cockatrice joint or selling newssheets on a street corner at the crack of dawn.

My team’s first outing into dungeonspace—when we defeated The Cavern of the Screaming Eye on our first try—had gone pretty good. Since then, we’d been running low threat level, poorly synced dungeons as practice, the kind that don’t actually kill you if you take damage inside them, that instead mostly just send you hurting back to Braxis City, our little isolated fragment of the real world. A good thing, too, that we’d started slowly. The subsequent weeks of practice had taught me and my teammates that, if anything, our early success had been almost entirely luck. It was still to be determined if I had the same kind of natural skill at overcoming the dangers of d-space that my brother Rash had possessed.

And now, our latest run had ended like the previous six; in total disaster.

I hope you will enjoy this latest story too.  Thanks for subscribing to my mailing list!

Read Part One on Lightspeed Magazine Now!

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#RPGaDay 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

What I anticipate most for 2018 is actually getting to play, and getting to play a lot.  Because I’m launching a new company, Level Up Guild, with my partner Elwood Schaad, with the express purpose of running high-end games professionally.

Level Up Guild (like us on Facebook for more updates) won’t be a publishing company; we’re going to specialize in offering and developing tools and resources to help people “level up” their games, to help you became game masters yourselves, and by running really, really nice games for people.

Our first product is a local offering called the Mad Wizards League.  This will be a semi-competitive D&D experience launching at the end of October.  You and three of your friends will form a team and take on the Crucible, a difficult and deadly dungeon.  Your team earns a score based on how well you progress in the adventure, and at the end of a season (about 3 months), the best scoring teams will win prizes.  Other awards will be given for “best team theme” and a few other aspects yet to be named.

The Crucible will be played with high-end custom dungeon terrain, miniatures, and other high end tools to make the experience fun and easy.  We’re hoping to really knit together the local D&D scene around our product, to bring all the various groups together in the spirit of friendly competition.  We will be hosted by a local gaming store to be named soon.

I have no idea if any of it will work.  But I’m really enjoying building, designing, and planning it.  I’ll be talking more about it as we get closer to our release.

I tell you what – this has been really fun. I’ve enjoyed thinking about these questions and exploring things that I had sort of forgotten about how important they were to me. I’m looking forward to making RPGs an integral part of my life again with the Level Up Guild and maybe just running a game or two here and there for fun.  I hope that if you’ve never played an RPG, these posts have inspired you to seek out a chance to experience a role-playing game for yourself.  And if you’re like me and semi-lapsed, I hope you get your gang back together and sally forth once more into the realms of imaginary adventure.  In these times, we need escapism more than ever.  Take a break from saving the real world now and then to save a fictional one. I think you’ll feel better for it.

Until the next post, I thank you for reading!

For the month of August, I have been participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I explored my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Because I’m not nearly enough up on the broader scene of indie RPG development, I know that nearly anything I come up with for this question is going to be pointed out as something that already exists.  African Steampunk, maybe?  Has anyone done that?  I wouldn’t be surprised.

The great thing about RPGs is that it’s the world’s biggest and most flexible playground for fertile imaginations. The diversity of games out there has never been greater. I think this is both and blessing and a curse.

For someone my age, it’s already hard to get a group together to play something. Add a million different options on top of that, and you’re going to find it less easy to agree on one system or setting. I think the proliferation of online games shows that RPGs are going through the same fragmenting of audiences that every other media has since the Internet came along, and it worries me. I personally have never played an RPG online in a video chat or anything like it because for me, the whole point of tabletop games is the tabletop. I spend entirely too much of my time on a computer as it is, and to do so even more doesn’t appeal to me.

There’s something to be said about a homogeneous landscape because it’s easier to create and find shared experiences.  Increasingly, it feels like we’re divided into tinier and tinier serfdoms.  And that’s okay, so long as people are willing to reach out of their narrow, specific pockets, to take chances on other things that aren’t exactly what they want.  So long as people are still willing to take chances, then we’ll be able to keep gathering around tables and performing the ancient art of communal story-telling.

I’m really happy so many people are living the dream and making RPGs.  It really seems to me to be a golden age of creation. I just hope it is a golden age of play too.  For me, it most definitely is not. Although I’m hoping to change that soon.  More on that tomorrow.

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#RPGaDay 29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

I’ve only backed two RPG Kickstarters in recent memory:  Tales From the Loop and Numenera.

I found both to be very effective, well-run campaigns.  The key for me as a backer is constant updates and communication.  Unlike some, I know that I’m backing an aspiration, not a product when I fund a Kickstarter.  Sure, I really want the thing, but I know that sometimes I might not get it, and I’m usually taking that gamble into consideration when I back something.  I don’t back nearly as much as some do because of this, but to each their own comfort level, I say.

Tales From the Loop is a game I really would like to get on the table for a one shot at least. It has the makings of a really fun 80s YA adventure, something like Stranger Things.  That’s not to mention the amazing artwork and world-building by Simon Stalenhag.  I’ve already blabbed at length about Numenera, so I’m going to give this one to Tales.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

We geeks love our quotes, don’t we?  In my early days (grade school), I would say that everything Monty Python dominated the quote game. There were probably other things here and there, but predominantly, what people around me quoted was this.  I had seen almost no Monty Python, however, so much of it went over my head until later in life. I still remember the first time I saw Quest for the Holy Grail. I came in on the catapult scene, and had no context for what I was watching, late one Friday night; My brother and I laughed so hard, we woke up everyone in the house and got in trouble.

By high school, it was probably Star Wars and the like that dominated the quotation wars. Python was fading except among the quirky theater nerd set, I found, in favor of something my generation had actually grown up with, instead of those older than us.

By college, it was solidly the Simpson, leading into Futurama, with a few odd movies thrown in, like the Princess Bride.  On of my highest moments of film-going was seeing a quote-a-long of Princess Bride in college where the entire theater of 300 students knew every word by heart.

These days, it’s probably a mixture of all of the above, and maybe quotes just don’t get slung about the way they did before.  Of course, I don’t have a regular game and don’t get to play often at all.  I like to play with clever, funny people, so a lot of the quotes I remember are actually original quotable lines that made me laugh.  A recent one, said by Liv to a player who was an android that couldn’t roll very well all session: “You’re like the Windows 95 of terminators.”  That one nearly had me in tears.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Eh, this question doesn’t thrill me.  Technically every game provides essential resources for play.  That’s what games are – life resources for structured play. There aren’t a lot of games that require extraneous resources for good play.  Now, I’m working on a company that specializes in utilizing a lot of extraneous resources to create really fun, tactile play, but you don’t need any of that.  You need some paper, pencils, dice, and a few willing friends.  And that’s it.  That’s the beauty of the role-playing game. Let’s not muck that up with lots of “resources.” Unless you’re into that sort of thing… then you may want to stay tuned to hear more about Level Up Guild.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

You can thank your GM by being present. By being focused. And by contributing to the success of the game.  Failing that, you can thank them by paying them for their time, I guess.  From what I understand, there is such a thing as a paid dungeon master now.

I can only speak for myself, but when I decide to take on a game, I take it as seriously as a job. I do hours of prep each week. I try to never be the one who can’t show up. I carve out serious time in my life around it.  I know that doing anything has opportunity costs, but that’s how much I care about running a good game.

In recent memory, I’ve had problems with phones at the table.  I am seriously considering a “turn all phones off” policy as a game master moving forward.  It’s not just upsetting to me – it’s upsetting to other players.  I know we live in this weird always-on instant gratification society, but the whole poing of RPGs for me now is to unplug and collectively build story.  Now, those people distracted by their phones could well be my fault. I might not be doing enough to draw them into the story, to get involved. So I’ll just keep striving to do a better job with that.

Also, it would really help move things along if you would roll your to-hit dice with your damage dice simultaneously.  You’d be surprised at how much that can speed up combat.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more

Look, clearly these questions were written for people who have been able to make RPG gaming a bigger part of their life than me.  It took me a while to even figure out that “PWYW” stands for Pay What You Want.  I guess it’s not uncommon for small scale game publishers to sell some of their materials with a name your own price scheme.

My response to that is, all of them.  All of them should be charging more. If people are going to get entertainment from your product, then you should set a fair price.  Relying solely on the good will of others is not a recipe for business success.  Charge for your work. Always charge for your work if you’re trying to start a business or doing something professionally.  Anything else hurts everyone else in your industry.  That’s just my opinion, informed by my opinions as a freelancer in regards to spec work.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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Gaming

#RPGaDay 23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Have you guys seen this awesome thing Monte Cook Games is doing called Invisible Sun?  I wasn’t able to afford the Kickstarter at the time, but I’m obsessed with what it’s going to look like.  This is beyond just layout.  Look at this box:

 

Clearly, they’re looking to create some next level stuff.  Bear Weiter has done a fantastic job laying out books for Monte Cook’s more traditional publishing materials, but I can’t wait to see more about what Invisible Sun is going to look like. The world building so far reminds me a lot of Mage: The Ascension, one of my all time favorite games.

I cannot wait to pick this one up.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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