Thoughts From an iPhone Screen Episode 1: Mom

I am trying a new format for short form blogging that focuses on word economy and capturing the mood of moment. It may read more like poetry than journalism, but that’s part of the beauty of such language… Anyways, on with it.
Mom- I didn’t plan to see you tonight,

Playing games with friends before vacation,

Nose is still stuffy from remnants of a cold,

Coughing because I gotta get home to take the NyQuil. Got lozenges though,

Things still suck,

Breakup blues, therapy droughts due to us going on vacation, wondering why I didn’t see it coming…

I talk to lots of people though,

Turns out I’ve come real,

But even though I know,

It’s still hard to see,
Sometimes I wonder,

Do I even know what I want?

I’ve been wrong about myself before,

And sometimes other people know more,

But that’s scary, no doubt,

Maybe that’s why no says it,

Sometimes you have no better explanation than “things are just shitty sometimes”

Old and big problems alike,

Don’t get fixed overnight,

Wishful thinking is fruitless,

Hinders real solutions, rea possibilities,

But coming to see you tonight, mom,

Made things just a little bit better,

It’s all I ever could have asked,

I’m so grateful,
I don’t talk about death a lot,

Who wants to talk about it,

But all sorts of ideas surround it,

By people far smarter than I.
But what was an end to your life was a beginning of mine,

Everything, and everyone, all changed,

For better or for worse,

I find to reductive to suggest death has one true feeling, one true emotion,

It can mean so many different things,

To so many different people,

All of it mixing together,

To create fucks knows what,
I’m not angry at you,

I do not blame you,

That changes nothing,

But I will say this,

I am in many ways grateful,

I knew someone so kind,

Someone who cared,

One with a unique touch,

But I am honest oh my approach,

I miss you so much,

I  am glad I saw you today,

A Moment of Darkness, or Perhaps Longer…

window-view-1081788_1920

I had hoped to return this summer with a triumphant amount of discussion about the relationship I cultivated this spring, maybe some interesting anecdotes and things that I learned. Alas, that can’t happen. While my ex and I had been broken up for a while now, we still talked until a couple of days ago.

This has been a very difficult period of time for me, and it has interacted with my depression in a largely predictable fashion. I have hinted at my depression in some posts, but I have never given it a real examination.

Continue reading

Things to Look For In a Tabletop RPG

cube-568059_1920

I love Dungeons & Dragons, everyone already knows this. But, I found myself wanting to go outside of that game in both setting and mechanics. My players got roped into running a D20 Modern campaign, which was a bit of a shock to my players who were used to 5e’s more streamlined approach when they opened up the skill and feat lists. D20 Modern’s character sheet has been removed from Wizard of the Coast’s website, perhaps stuffed in its archive mode.

A Google search leads to a fan-made character sheet, and you can only find the books at game stores that sell used copies (Games and Stuff gets a shout out here) or Amazon. It was during my search for a system (which I will write about in an upcoming post since I did manage to find one) that I eventually came to understand something in RPG product reviews.

I found that many product reviews lack a lot of information that I personally wanted to know. Usually, they boiled down to discussing mechanics and general “feel” of the system, but would only bring up cost and such in a very basic way. So, I wanted to compile a list of criteria that I had for purchasing a tabletop roleplaying game.

Cost of Entry

Simply put, if one wants to actually start playing, what do they need? I often hear about prices for core rulebooks discussed as if they’re in a vacuum when you usually need additional implements such as dice to play. This usually means that I end up looking at the introduction to find out what else I need, such as decks of cards, dice, and so forth.

Partly because my players are college students, and also because I try to be budget-conscious with my gaming decisions, I tend to go for systems that are less than $30 to buy core rulebooks for. Even now, my players are still getting their own copies of the 5e Player’s Handbook, which is understandable when the only thing separating you from total starvation is Cup Noodles.

Ease of Use and Ease of Explanation

Some RPG systems require a veteran player to show you the ropes. This doesn’t make them bad, but it’s severely limiting if you have a player base that doesn’t consist of veterans and you yourself don’t have experience with the system. My nightmare with playing the Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games is such an example. I’m sure that if a veteran sat down with me and ran through the entire system that I’d eventually get it.  But, can a completely fresh group sit down and play through a setting without succumbing to boredom?

System Flexibility and Portability

Dungeons and Dragons and, by extension, Pathfinder are exempt from this rule because of their popularity. However, for other games, I’ve found system flexibility to be a key issue when determining whether or not I want to purchase a new system. Since every system takes time to learn, it’s better to have a few systems that you use a lot as opposed to many systems that are only used in select circumstances (unless you have really patient or voracious players and money to burn).

In fact, I found myself looking for a “Not-D&D” system, which could be used when modifying D&D was too impractical and I wanted something that D&D didn’t specialize in.

Of course, there are systems that are good at solving particular design issues, such as GUMSHOE which does investigative play.

Publisher Support

Of course, when you play a tabletop RPG, you are going to have to visit the publisher’s page to download a character sheet. Additionally, you’ll probably want to see if they have additional rules supplements, campaign settings, premade adventures.

Are the character sheets printer friendly? I’ve seen many times where an aesthetically pleasing sheet gets the axe from me because of the sheer volume of ink it would require (even worse when they make these sheets in color). Are they form-fillable in PDF form? They don’t necessarily need to be since you’ll be erasing and writing stuff down anyway, but it is certainly nice if you have poor handwriting and need to write in static content.

Is there an easily accessible reference sheet that players or the GM can use? One RPG I looked at, which had problems with book organization, compounded this by having no GM or player reference sheet. Something that can be inserted into a GM screen is extremely helpful.

Is there a free introductory adventure meant to acclimate players and GMs to the game? Does the publisher have a “Getting Started” section that helps potential buyers pick what they need to play? Are there introductory rules for the game that can be downloaded as a PDF and played free of charge?

Is there a System Reference Document? How thorough is it? Has some content been removed or expanded upon? Has errata been covered on the publisher’s site?

This is a particular bugbear of mine (pun very much intended) because I find that nothing sours me on a system than a website that’s difficult to navigate or that is lacking content. If I don’t feel that the publisher is really supporting the product, it’s hard for me to get invested.

By the same token, there needs to be an easy access point, lest a neophyte get inundated with the sheer number of options. Otherwise, people will have no idea where to start.

Community

But a game where people play together is only as good as the people who play it. How easy is it to find a community? Do they have presences on Facebook, Reddit, and other channels?

Are they exchanging house rules? Settings? How is the user generated content handled?

I must confess that Wizards of the Coast’s method of focusing on premade adventures as opposed to rules supplements was a strategy I didn’t understand very well until I looked at the corresponding community pages like DM’s Guild. In actuality, a publisher should not act as an opener of floodgates, showering players with content. Instead, there should be a mix of publisher and community support, creating an ecosystem where content can be shared.

So, I find this list to be something that I would use in any given review of tabletop RPGs, and eventually, I’ll submit some reviews of my own.

Greetings From the Fish Tank!

 

Fishtank.jpeg

“Damn it, Paul. This is the last time you drive!”

 

So, now that the technical problems have for the most part been resolved, it’s time to get back to business. I decided that since I was about to enter a state of doing nothing (with the exception of planning multiple tabletop RPG campaigns), it would be worthwhile to devote some of my time to something longer term. My thoughts turned to raising a pet, but I couldn’t get anything that could potentially fight with our family dogs. We certainly couldn’t get anything that would end up becoming dinner for them (they celebrated Easter by eating rabbits).

Continue reading

Can’t Spin This

fidget-spinner-2329469_1920Now that I’ve managed to recuperate from post-exam exhaustion, it’s time for me to return to the blogosphere. I have a lot to talk about, and today I want to start with something topical.

I have seen the fidget spinner craze, and there’s been a lot of discussion on the toy in question and I want to approach a byproduct of that craze. Shortly after the fad took off, I saw the occasional odd post that voiced outrage at how neurotypicals were taking a toy meant for the disabled and making it impossible for the disabled to use due to the bans put into place after fidget spinners became popular and overused in the classroom.

These posts didn’t sit well with me. While the people who shared them probably just did so reflexively (which I admittedly find troubling, but somewhat understandable), it was because something unexpected happened.

Continue reading

A Roadmap For Summer…

I recently received notification that I had earned a handful of followers on the blog, and as a courtesy for both them and for my readers who are already awaiting my return.

Since we’re about a month away from when my academic year ends and summer begins, I can give a ballpark estimate to when I’ll be back. My classes end on May 14th and exams are finished on the 21st. I am not worried about my academic standing, since I am doing just fine.

A few things have changed, and it’s been a hell of a rollercoaster ride this semester, but I have a few things I want to discuss.

The one subject that has generated a lot of buzz for me in my offline life is my experience with friends-with-benefits arrangements. I specifically want to mention this because I saw a lot of people glorifying or romanticizing such a setup. Although I have alluded to it before, I want to give it a full treatment.

I also want to talk about my experience with depression, as I’ve found more and more that a conversation about the subject is urgently needed. Aside from the heavier subjects, I do have a handful of fun things planned!

I have been quietly expanding my collection of board games. I have also gotten into some new tabletop adventures! Other than that, I’ll have an open schedule during the summer. See you then!