Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving turned out to be quite nice this year. We headed over the Chez Winninger in the early afternoon. Nicole had made two different stuffings, John and Jenny brought homemade pumpkin pies and brined the turkey, and Bill and Chris brought candied yams and the classic green bean casserole. Christine oversaw the main event and the resultant feast was just lovely. You know it’s a good Thanksgiving if you’re still feeling stuffed five hours later.

I spent much of the weekend working on WFRP adventures, but went out both nights for some R&R.; A week after bitching about being too much involved with the game industry, what did I do for fun? I played games. Saturday I was back at Ray’s for a couple of games of Up Front (the old Avalon Hill card game). Nicole and Kate came by later (after some Xmas shopping) and Christine whipped up a late night frittata that hit the spot. Sadly, we missed the turkey sandwiches on Friday, as I was working. Sunday I went to Rick’s place to try out the new edition of Warhammer 40K. Yes, that’s right, my break from Warhammer was to play…Warhammer. Oh, sweet irony. Nonetheless, it was recreational gaming and fun to boot.

I’m pretty pleased with most of the changes to 40K this time around. Tanks can once again move and fire, Leadership has been made more important with new targeting rules, and close combat has been sped up. My Imperial Guard performed well, as for once my dice rolling was actually decent. I managed to outshoot Space Marines and even had success in close combat (rare with Guard armies) when my Rough Riders managed to charge and annihilate a unit of tactical marines that had been softened up with heavy weapons fire. My usual experience with Rough Riders is that they get shot up before they can do shit, so this was a welcome change of pace.

Wednesday I’m heading off to GenCon SoCal in Anaheim. Unless there’s some problem with the printer, we should be getting some advanced copies of the Black Company Campaign Setting in on Saturday so we can debut it at the show. I’m looking forward to this break in my usual routine.

The Test of Time

I recently viewed two different comedies from the early 80s. First, there was This Is Spinal Tap. It’s the 20th Anniversary this year so they did a little documentary about it on one of the cable channels (IFC I think) and then showed the movie. Tap totally holds up; it’s still clever and funny after all these years. A few days later I started watching Caddyshack. “Another 80s classic,” I thought. An hour later I turned it off. It was…awful. Really juvenile and just plain unfunny. I remember being a young teen when it first came out and everyone thought it was just the funniest thing ever. Now, it just makes me groan.

Shit From an Old Notebook

This weekend I continued my war against clutter in my office (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the house). In order to fit our extra futon into one of the downstairs closets, Nik and I had to move my old trunk up upstairs. It’s been at least three years since I had opened the trunk, so I had only a vague idea of what was inside. Now this is the trunk I took with me when I left for college and it has traveled with me everywhere since. Inside I found old notebooks, lots of detritus from college-era RPG campaigns and minis battles, magazines and fanzines, address books, odd bits of foreign currency, letters, a few photos, punk rock badges and patches, business cards from my first company and my first GTS, and lots of other random stuff. Naturally, I spent a couple of hours going through things and dusting off the corners of my brain.

All this served to get my thinking about my days in NYC and many of the friends I left behind when I moved. Some I have kept in touch with, but others I’ve completely lost track of over the years. I decided to Google some of them to see if I could find out what they’d been up to. I had more success than I thought I might. My friend Erin, who I remember as an aspiring photo student, is now a curator and has put on a bunch of exhibits in Manhattan. My friends Dan and Samara have been playing in a band for the past five years and are about to release their fourth album. Samara also just put out a solo record and is doing a mini-tour of Europe. Dana left her previous band and put out a solo record a couple years back. Jen has been directing plays and won a Princess Grace Award a couple years back. You get the idea.

Thinking about the friends I had in NYC and the social and cultural circles I moved in back then has made me frankly assess where I’m at now. It used to be that the game industry was one thing I did. Now it’s nearly the only thing I do. Almost all my friends are involved in the industry or used to be. I used to do political work but that fell by the wayside a long time ago. My penchant for seeking out foreign, cult, and B-movies in art house theaters has waned. I do still go to punk rock shows, but I don’t know anyone in the Seattle scene and I don’t feel like I’m part of the community. And of course the “51% equals a mandate so you better shut up and take it” crowd only further the alienation.

I feel like I need to add something to my life. I definitely need to develop a more sane work schedule. It can’t continue to be the norm that I work every weekend. I need to get out more and get involved in…something. Something that’s fun, something that’s just for me, and something that doesn’t involve the game industry. Hmmmm.

My Vision Is 3D

I took the bus down to our PO Box in Renton today to get caught up on GR mail. I got the box when I started the company, so I was working at Wizards (which is also in Renton) at the time. Back then it was very convenient. Now, not so much. Since the address has been printed on several hundred thousand books though, we keep it.

Anyway, one of the things in my box was the latest issue of Games Quarterly Magazine. While it no longer makes my eyes bleed, the magazine is a mess. It just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it for gamers, for retailers, buyers, or someone else? The article mix is thoroughly schizophrenic. Many of them are simply advertorials provided by the publishers themselves. Others seem little more than gussied up press releases, albeit several months out of date by the time they magazine comes out. In the midst of that there’s an in depth historical article for wargamers on the “missing panzers” of the Normandy campaign. Weird. What makes this salvageable at all is the few actual articles by game pros in there, though even those are fairly light weight.

What prompted this entry was one of the few decent reads in the whole magazine, the first of a new column called Steal This Idea by my esteemed colleague Jeff Tidball. Jeff’s basic plan is to talk about games that had some good ideas and how you can apply said ideas to other games you play. He kicks off with Everway, which is a brave choice. He talks about the idea of “Vision Cards”, which were part of Everway’s character creation process. Basically, the game came with a bunch of fantasy art cards you could look through while creating your character. You were supposed to pick five that related in some way to your character. The idea here was to use visual cues to help you create your character.

I was thinking about this on the bus ride home. It’s not a technique I use in my own games. Or rather, the card method is not. On reflecting on it, I realized that I do use this method, but in glorious 3D. Oftentimes, when I’m creating a character, I find a miniature first and then design the character to match the mini. Not only is this practical (“Geez, I can’t find any half-bugbear minis with spiked chains!”), it serves the same purpose as Everway’s Vision Cards. Before I start assigning numbers, buying skills, and all that, I have a 3D image of the character to work from. When I get really motivated, I paint the mini after I’ve done character creation and really bring the thing to life.

There’s one more bonus to this method as well. Should I not have something suitable in my thousands of minis, it’s a good excuse to get some new ones…

Chain of Command

I finished Chain of Command this week and it’s a scary book. It’s written by Seymour Hersh, the guy who broke the My Lai Massacre story back in the Vietnam era. If you want to see just how out of control the Bush administration has been over the past four years, read this book. What’s damning is that most of the material comes from people inside the machine, be they intelligence officers, military types, or diplomats. This is not some wishy washy lefty book with a few facts and a lot of conjecture, it’s an investigation that features people on the inside talking about where the Bushies have gone wrong. And it’s quite a list, but one thing links all the actions of the administration: arrogance. Not run-of-the-mill arrogance, but monstrous, Cthulhu-esque arrogance. The neocon crowd really seems to believe they can do whatever they want and that no one else could possible know better than they. Why listen to the military experts who tell you that you’re going to need more troops on the ground in Iraq when you’ve already decided that air power and special forces will be more than enough to get the job done? Why listen to your intelligence agencies when you can handpick ideologues to provide you with the lies you want to hear (especially when you can then turn around and blame the intelligence agencies when the lies are revealed!)?

All this really made me feel that the defining moment of America was not, in fact, the Declaration of Independence but the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer’s last stand may be the quintessential American story. Custer, with a very small force, is sure he can whup any injuns he comes across. He even refuses a complement of gatling guns because they’d just slow him down. In his arrogance, he can’t conceive the natives being able to resist his power. He is then proved tragically wrong, his force is annihilated, and he is slain. America today is just like Custer. We came out on top in the big war of our age, we have technological superiority, and we are certain that we can impose our will on anyone we please. We can’t conceive that anyone could defeat us, especially a bunch of bearded dudes hiding out in caves. And yet every day Iraq redefines the term “quagmire” while we are told that everything is great and democracy is on the march. I fear that we’re all going to pay for the arrogance of this administration.

Comedy Ensues

In an effort to laugh my way through the tears of four more years of the arrogant Neocon Nightmare, I’ve been turning to comedy this week. Nik and I saw Team American World Police last night and it was funnier than it had a right to be. I woke up this morning humming “America—Fuck Yeah!“, perhaps the most amusing bit in the movie. The Onion, however, is king. I was paging through my copy of Dispatches From the Tenth Circle when I ran across this story.

American People Ruled Unfit to Govern

Washington, D.C.—In a historic decision with major implications for the future of U.S. participatory democracy, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Friday that the American people are unfit to govern.

The controversial decision, the first of its kind in the 210-year history of American representative government, was, according to Justice David Souter, “a response to the clear, demonstrable incompetence and indifference of the current U.S. citizenry in matters concerning the operation of this nation’s government.”

A close runner up is a story from the first Onion collection, All Y’All Urged to Go Fuck Yo’ Selves. That certainly sums up my mood Wednesday morning.

I’d Hoped for a Happier Anniversary

I started this blog a year ago today. In my first entry I said, ” Suddenly, it feels like it’s the Reagan era all over again.” I was more right than I knew.

It’s now 2:30 am. There is some slim hope that Kerry can pull it out, but that gets less likely by the hour. I’ve had a shitty day, both for work reasons and because the election, and I can’t sleep. I ended up gluing together Uruk-hai miniatures while watching election returns because I needed to do something with my nervous energy. Unless Kerry follows the Red Sox in an unprecedented come from behind win, it seems I am faced with two potential realities for my country:

1. 51% of American really is ignorant enough, stupid enough, or dogmatic enough to vote for Bush after what will surely go down as one of the worst presidencies in the history of this country. Or:

2. Karl Rove and his dirty tricks brigade just stole another election, but with the entire apparatus of state power under their control they were able to do it in a much less obvious fashion than 2000.

Either way it paints a pretty grim picture, not just for the next four years, but for the 2008 election as well. If people could honestly vote for Bush after his administration fucked up literally everything they touched, from the two wars they started to the environment to economy to civil liberties, how will we ever be rid of these vile liars, cheats, murderers, and warmongers? If Rove did mastermind the theft of a second election, what’s to stop him from doing it again in 2008 when the Republicans put forward another worthless stain of a human being, Rudy Guiliani?

I find myself once again thinking back to 1860 and wishing that when the southern states seceded, Lincoln had said, “See you when your economy collapses; don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!”