Monday, August 29, 2005

GenCon Followup

Black & Green Games (that is, me, Emily) made it to GenCon Indy this year as part of the Forge Booth. Our little traveling party to get there, made up of Meg & Vincent Baker, Drew Baker, Joshua Newman & Ben Lehman, had five role playing games between us we were bringing to the show, three of which were just hot off the presses for their debut:

  • Under the Bed by Joshua Newman is a slick little role playing game where you play a child's toys trying to help the child overcome the difficulties of childhood. Think Wizard of Oz the role playing game, or Alice in Wonderland.

  • Polaris by Ben Lehman is a role playing game set in a fabulous civilization in the uttermost North, facing it's demise in the face of demonic invasion. Think Lord of the Rings crossed with the Ice Queen, by way of Baudelaire.

  • Breaking the Ice by me is a romantic comedy role playing game for two (or more) players. You play two characters going on their first three dates. Think Bringing up Baby, Sleepless in Seattle or Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    It was, in a word, amazing. Meeting the many amazing people from the Forge and elsewhere that I've only known from online was a real treat. Folks whom I've enjoyed working with & admired for years are now known quantities, and what's more, real friends. Ralph, Mike, Julie, Paul, Danielle, Matt & Matt, Clint, Ron, Dave, Luke, Tim, Eric, Star, Andrew, Michael, Kat, Gordon, Keith, Judd and many more--it was so great to meet you finally, what an amazing group of folks. And new friends: Allan, Gregor, Malcolm, Ian, Morgue, John, James, Ed and everyone else--what an unexpected delight to get to know each of you. Well met!

    And working at the Forge Booth taught me the real value of a cooperative creative endeavor. There were 23 game companies there, all independent designers of games with their staff & helpers. In another context we would have seen each other as the competition, people to vie against for sales. But instead, we demo'd each other's games, sent likely customers towards the designer who'd written the game they were interested in, and helped run the register & stock the books to keep everyone's sales flowing.

    And sales were kind to me: 66 copies of Breaking the Ice sold, putting it as the 5th best selling game at the Booth (per unit sales). I got incredible feedback on the game and it's art by my talented friend Barry Deutsch. And seem to be off to a good start all around. If you're thinking about publishing a game, I can't recommend starting out this way highly enough.
  • Friday, August 05, 2005

    Travel is broadening

    First real post here. A wrap up from some traveling I did in July, taking in some amazing sights and getting a chance to have some in depth discussion about role playing with freeform folks who represent my roots in roleplaying. While with them I was able to sit in on a session, which I will be writing up soon as a pseudoethnography. Well, it'll be observations on the meta & in game level anyway.

    Some recap. Flying out from my home in the hills of Western Massachusetts I went down to North Carolina. This was the first gaming stop, actually. While visiting with Ben, Andy K. and Orie, I got to attend Yukicon. It turned out to be a "play the indie game in development"-arama. Awesome. The line up for me:

  • Breaking the Ice

  • Open Boat

  • Exemplar

  • Verge

  • Dogs in the Vineyard

  • Let me just say, wow.

    For my own game, it was just what I needed. Playtest by 6 people, only two of which had played the game before (including myself). I had to explain the game sensibly to a mess of folks & then let go & let 2 pairs run on their own. Very interesting especially since in the group I was the only female. Since it is a game about two characters going on a date, I've had some concern--and gotten some input--that it might be intimidating or awkward for folks to play who were not of the appropriate orientation. But here a bunch of (presumably) straight guys got into the story & enjoyed watching their characters fumble around towards ecstasy or entropy, depending. A high point of one game was when one character made a sleazy pass at another in a holocaust museum where she worked, get this, in front of an orthodox jewish man who was visiting. I cannot say oy vey, but those are some chops.

    Vincent is offering put an ad for BtI in Kill Puppies for Satan. I thought it would be an odd match up, but maybe he's more onto things than I realize. This can be extreme dating.

    Moving on, the next stop was Topsail Beach in North Carolina, near Jacksonville, NC. It's an island, sort of an oversized sandbar, generously scattered with vacation homes that pop up 3 stories tall, looking out one way over the ocean, the other over a green choked narrow sound.

    Me & Iris intrepidly working on the treasure hunt.

    While there and later in their home in Portland, OR, I got the opportunity to speak at length with Sarah & Charles about various aspects of role playing. Many of which I am still unpacking & chewing on. Grist for the mill. Sarah gave me some great insights into the world of online narrative RP, the fanfic world and it's ancillaries. Fully concensus based gaming. Try this on for size: only the person playing a character has the right to determine if something (good, bad, indifferent) happens to their own character. Flies in the face of the Czege Principle, and does it handily & well for, what? thousands of people? How many folks are there out in the online rp/fanbase community. Many more than play rpg. But I think there are a lot of different issues going on here. More to say & think about.

    In Portland, I got to visit my erstwhile companions, the Ennead. The aforesaid root roleplayers. Back in the basic culture of my freeform development once again. Kip, I will write up that session next. Believe me.

    While visiting, I also made a trip south to see more friends & the redwoods....

    The other purpose of this trip was to do some professional development. Visiting foresters in the Pacific Northwest, to hear first hand about the different issues & attitudes confronting forestry professionals there. I got to visit the Discovery Museum run by the World Forest Institute. Had a everything from a cross-section of a 635 yr old Douglas Fir, cut for the Portland, OR Centennial celebration, to a fire-jumper simulation you could run: try to parachute down to a target to hit the ground running to suppress a forest fire. Many issues here cross-secting this exhibit: use vs. exploitation, suppression of fires vs. allowing natural disturbances to take their course. It's a complicated world of questions, is land managment and forestry. Well, at least I won't be bored.

    More soon on the process of publishing Breaking the Ice. It's been longer & harder than I'd imagined, but also easier and more fun in many ways. All the best to everyone else out there getting their games ready for GenCon Indy 2005. See you there, I hope.