Finally! Character Creation. It’s taken a while to get here but here we are at last. At the end of the Time and Tide Campaign, we spent a few hours discussing the campaign and then turned it over character generation ideas. So coming into the character creation session they had a general idea of what they wanted to play and what everyone else was thinking about playing.

With lessons learned from Time and Tide, I intended on this being equal in length to a regular session. Also, I prepared a few exercises to increase cohesiveness. First off, we discusses some skill list modifications. These changes were taken from a source I found that seemed to cater to exactly the kind of game I wanted to play. It adds some more science skills and removes notice. We also spent some time on expectations and the differences between D&D and Fate.

With the rules changes out of the way, we delved into the world itself. We changed the start date to September 1941 and I explained some basics about the current state of affairs in the United States. Before the session, some of my players expressed concern over the direction of the story and its drift towards the war. I took some time to assuage those fears and ensure that the focus would be on the mysticism and occult which is what differentiates our game world from the historical one. Also, this was not intended to be a dark campaign, were staying away from The Holocaust and other atrocities. With all that setup, I introduced the setting aspects, Knowledge is the Real and Tempting Power and Always an Imminent Crisis.

We spent the next hour setting up the characters, names, nationalities, high concepts and troubles. There was a lot of back and forth as each player tried to figure out how to express their characters in the new system. I don’t think there are any changes I’d want to make to the process. I feel as my group plays Fate more and more that they will get more comfortable.

For the next phase of character creation, I had them write one paragraph stories. The first story was about an assignment they went on for the Smithsonian. The second and third stories were where they played a key role in helping another one of the characters complete their assignment. Each story took a long time to complete but they turned out fantastic. They provided strong past associations between the characters. Now not every character connected to every other one. But each character had interacted with four of the other team members, which meant only two that they hadn’t. On the fly it took me a while to work out the connection map, so next time I’ll have it prepared ahead of time.

At the end, we wrapped up the session talking about skills, stunts and languages for everyone. They worked on those mostly between the character creation session and the launch of the campaign. The players are really good at writing and role-playing between sessions. But one player started every thread in Time and Tide, so I compelled another player to kick off the thread for this campaign. Speaking of which, we have a title, The Department of Collections.

2016-01-22 - Department of Collections

I decided to participate in 1GAM as part of my resolutions for 2016. The theme for January is hobby. The first few weeks of January have been taxing and I haven’t found time to do much work. But I did manage to come up with a basic concept. A puzzle game themed around game nights.

Towards the end of my tenure in Gainesville, board game nights became the premiere social event for my friends and me. Anywhere from three to twenty people would arrive at my humble abode and we’d play games late into the night. As my board game collection grew, decision paralysis often took hold. It’s difficult to find a game that everyone wants to play and everyone can play.

2016-01-20 - Game Night

And that’s the theme for my January 1GAM. Your friends have arrived for a game night and it’s your job as host to maximize their fun. You arrange the games and the players to solve the puzzle. There are a handful of traits that represent compatibility between players and games. The more a player’s traits match the game’s, the more fun they have playing that game. Games also have a range of allowed players.

I like the theme and basic design. I’ve had a little bit of time to implement it but nothing to show just yet. I’m hoping to have a no-art playable demo by the end of the month.

For a while, I’ve been struggling with continuing to work through the drawing exercises as part of Learning to Draw. The last exercise I tried was drawing a chair to learn about negative spaces. Despite my progress, I was ambitious and crashed and burned in my first attempt. Since that incident, I’ve struggled to get myself motivated to continue improving.

This is bad. I have a pair of costume ideas I’d like to start on for DragonCon. Both are going to involve months long build times and need significant visual preparation. And my drawing skills are just not there yet. My fiancée has pushed me off the starting line this weekend. Over the past year or so, I’ve been collecting various Udemy courses during their big sales. During the Thanksgiving Day sale, I grabbed Learning 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator Course. Sunday, we started the course and came away excited.

2016-01-18 - Blender1

Much like Learning to Draw, I have little prior experience. I’ve tried using Blender before but never got anywhere. The first section of the course focused on installing, configuring and understanding the basics of the software. It helped a lot to spend that time getting familiar with the interface.

2016-01-18 - Blender2

After dinner, we started working through Section 2. We didn’t finish the section but we made it past the mid-section quiz and completed our first major model, an airplane. We scanned an image search for wooden toy plane and located this one from Etsy.

2016-01-18 - Wooden Toy Airplane

Here’s my finished model in Blender. I’m pretty happy about it. It took a couple hours for me to build but I think it looks great. I’m meticulous in creating things and I hope it shows. This course will likely take me longer than I hoped.

2016-01-18 - Blender3

With the model completed, I transferred it over to my old laptop and ran it through Netfabb and Cura. And then I printed it on our LulzBot Mini! My first print of a model I created.

2016-01-18 - Printed Plane

2016-01-18 - Printed Plane2

Now to start work on my Invincible Iron Man armor!

When we last left off, I came to the conclusion I wanted to run a pulp heroes campaign. Today, I’ll discuss refining that idea and some of the early preparation. I inserted a bit of lag time between when the campaign started and when I started writing these posts. I don’t want to reveal everything before we play. But I do want this series to be timely and relevant.

Settling on the pulp heroes idea, I started to sketch ideas about it at all times. First I wanted a more concrete concept. I honed in on Artifact Collection Agency. Warehouse 13 was one of my favorite shows.1 It took a bit to find it’s groove but promoting Claudia to the main cast helped a lot. Also, who can say no to Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade?

With Indiana Jones rattling in my mind, it felt right to set the campaign against a backdrop of World War 2. I wanted the war to be in progress but without the United States involved. That left a few year span between 1939 and 1941. I planned to set the game in 1940 but we ended up moving the start date to September 1941.

As we inch closer to my wedding in July, my available time to prepare and run a campaign will decrease. With that in mind I want to make sure I wrap up this story before then. I settled on an ending date around late-March/early-April. With no play during December because of holidays, playing fortnightly meant that I’d have about 7-8 sessions. I’d spend the first session setting up the plot and introducing the rules system. It didn’t seem like I’d have enough sessions to do a full three act structure. So I’ve divided the campaign into two books. One that happens in the United States and one that happens in Europe.

One particularly obvious lesson I learned from Time and Tide was about party cohesiveness.2 There should be conflict within the party at times. But there needs to be a strong bond that keeps the party together. A second lesson was making sure I help players unfamiliar with the rules to make good choices by spending time with them before kicking off the game. With those in mind, I scheduled a character creation session for the middle of December.

Given the concept and task, it made sense to make their employment the strong bond. The characters are capable individuals who function as a team and have a good working relationship. There would be an innate trust of each other. I settled on two possible employers, a museum or the military. Initially, I had settled on the museum, the Smithsonian. As we neared character creation, I swung towards the military option. But I left the answer to the players as part of character creation.

So, we have seven characters employed by an organization chasing artifacts with magical powers in World War 2. This was something I wanted to run and a story I wanted to tell with my friends. They agreed. So next time, I’ll talk about the character creation session and the characters that will be starring in this adventure.

  1. At DragonCon 2013, I missed the panel as the line wrapped around the hotel by the time I got there. In 2014, I managed to snag a spot and get to see the main cast. But about halfway through, I got a text informing me that if I hurried down to the basement, I could snag a picture with my best friend and Sir Patrick Stewart. Sorry WH13! 
  2. At some point, I’d like to write a series of articles on the campaign itself. 

I’m not the easiest person to buy a gift for. I have a few wishlists scattered across the internet.1 But this Christmas, I knew exactly what I wanted, the Bioware Mass Effect LootCrate. I’m generally not one for random things to put around my office. But how could I pass up a box filled with things from a universe I absolutely adore? Unfortunately, we missed our opportunity to get the box. But my fantastic fiancée put one together for me anyway. First up the box she gave it to me in! Stellar job.

2016-01-13 - N7 Box

Next up, the cloth articles. First a hand towel. Then a t-shirt. Finally a patch. Towel is already in use after a wash. The t-shirt is a bit too small at the moment, but it gives me a reason to keep working out. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do with the patch.

2016-01-13 - N7 Clothes

The Art of Mass Effect book! I like to pick up art books here and there and this one definitely deserves a place in my collection. I plan to use it as drawing practice and reference material for my future Mass Effect cosplay.

2016-01-13 - Mass Effect Art Book

An N7 glass that will be primarily used to contain orange juice. Also an N7 card box she printed on our LulzBot Mini and painted. Inside a set of Mass Effect sketch cards from Etsy. Still need to figure out how I want to display the cards but for now the box is awesome. Finally, an iPhone 6s case. It took me a few weeks to get used to but it does it’s job and looks great.

2016-01-13 - N7 Cards

This haul was better than the box of stuff LootCrate delivered. I’m glad I missed out on that one and got this carefully curated selection of Mass Effect items from my fiancée. She did a kick ass job.

  1. Amazon books, Amazon stuff, CoolStuffInc games, Steam games. 

For the past year, I’ve been participating in the Ludum Dare game jam every few months. I started by joining up with some friends, A Flat Miner Studios, for the first two jams. A successful jam means that I’ve made a game and learned something along the way.

With A Flat Miner Studios, we built INtire and Renfield Hearts. Both were fun to play and had good mechanics. I learned how to use GameMaker and made my first two games ever. In August, my limited available time for the jam weekend prevented me from re-joining A Flat Miner. This was my decision, they had invited me back but I didn’t feel I could contribute much. Instead I organized another team with two of my friends/co-workers. They built Meownster. I provided guidance, design and some interface work. It turned out pretty good for our first attempt as a group.

Last month, we joined forces again and brought in two other friends/co-workers. This time most of assembled in Gainesville to work in the same physical location. This jam was a success but there is room for improvement.

LDJAM 34’s theme voting ended in a tie, Two Button Controls and Growing. Friday night we whittled away ideas and while we sort of settled on one. We were divided and didn’t come away with a clear concept by the time we retired. I think a lot of this was due to the two themes. One theme would have provided us more focus. But the two themes let us generate too many ideas.

When we reassembled on Saturday we still didn’t have a clear design and so we muddled through the day. We got a bunch done but we spent the first part of the day clearing up the design. In the aftermath, one of the team members has suggested storyboarding. Storyboarding promotes a clearer picture of the design to everyone.
Next time we’ll also focus on getting to a minimum viable product much sooner. The game we delivered only used one of the available buttons. The second button allowed the character to block incoming attacks. But it proved to be an ineffective strategy. So another team member suggested we allow more time for bug fixes and improvements.

I was disappointed with a few of my goals for this jam. It was my intention to livestream this jam. I still haven’t gotten comfortable with streaming yet. I hope that by the next jam I will be. I’d also like to be able to contribute more on the art side.

The art, sound effects, music, and level designs were great. Just the gameplay execution was lacking. It’s got the seed of a good to great game. It just needs a good amount of refinement that wasn’t possible in the space of a weekend. So, LDJAM 34 was a success but definitely felt like a sophomore slump. When we return in April, we’re hoping for a better end result but I’m still proud of what we produced this time.

And so, here’s Shemeowbi.

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on my drawing. I’ll admit a big part of that is that I struggled with the current exercise and gave up for a bit. But before I gave up, I got a chance to draw my hand again. And this exercise made me proud of my progress before taking a hiatus.1

For this exercise, we used our drawing panes to draw our hands. This process took a while but I like the result. Then we were to transfer the drawing from the pane to drawing paper. I generally consider myself a patient person but drawing continues to test my limits.

2016-01-08 - Hands 2

Another cool thing about drawing my hand again was that I used the same pose for my initial drawings. So we can look at a comparison of the same subject in a similar pose. The first before I read much of the book. The second after completing the current chapter

2016-01-08 - Hands 1

I found my progress pleasing until I started the next exercise and these drawing show how far I’ve come in just a few months. Now to get back to it soon so I can continue improving.

  1. The holidays also weren’t particularly conducive either. 

Hello 2016!

While I’m not a fan of celebrating on New Year’s Eve, I am fond of turning the page onto a new year. The clean slate. The upcoming events. There’s always a sense of wonder and excitement for me.

So here are my 2016 resolutions for all to see!

  1. Read one book every month.
  2. Watch one movie in a theater every week.
  3. Design a game as part of 1GAM.
  4. Continue progressing my workout routines.
  5. Continue podcasting at least bi-weekly.
  6. Improve the quality of blog posts and journal entries.

Most of these are incremental goals. Small steps that move what I have been doing forward. But that’s what makes them great resolutions. They are improvements that will take effort and dedication but are wholly achievable.

Oh and I’m getting married this year!