On Impossible Standards, Failure & Success

It’s been a very long few weeks.

If I’m being honest, it’s been a very long few months.

It all started with some fairly large misses on my end on the production of Tiny Dungeon 2e. In fairness to myself, I’m working two jobs, while conducting a job hunt.

But fairness to myself isn’t something I’m good with. That’s just an excuse.

I screwed up. And then I screwed up on something else (a few somethings). And then tonight, again. It feels like a trend lately. And when I mess up, I start to read into conversations through the lens of failure. It’s almost impossible to get around it. Every email is a job I’m losing, every conversation is someone wanting to quit working with me.

Logically, I know that it’s a byproduct of two cons in 6 weeks, two ongoing jobs, two ongoing fulfillments for Kickstarters, and no breaks and no vacations.

I know that GKG has a pretty good reputation and most of our customers like us. At least I think so. Most people would call my career at this point successful. I’m really good at ignoring bad reviews. But my own mistakes? Not so great. I mostly feel like a failure.

I can’t remember the last time I felt recharged and ready to go.

But like I said. I’m not good at fairness to myself. I hold the work I do in the game industry to a very high standard. I mean, the idea of asking folks to give me money for a game is based on a level of ego that I have to have, and I’m asking them to trust me. I take that very seriously. Trust is a sacred and important thing.

So when I mess up, I take it hard. Very hard. I don’t like messing up, and I especially don’t like making mistakes I feel are stupid.

Self-care and self-forgiveness are hard. I’m very aware of my weakness, especially as they relate to bipolar. What I’m bad at is letting stuff go when I make mistakes and failure hits.

I’m not sure how to get over this hump. I realize I’m holding myself up to an impossible standard of no mistakes, and experienced and veteran companies make these same mistakes (or worse ones), but that doesn’t feel better. I’m not them. I’m me. And I made the mistakes.

I don’t have some grand illuminating point to this. I don’t have some solution or reference, or quip that’ll fix it. I wish I did. But I know doesn’t work that way.

I do have a few days off where I’m not bringing any electronics, no work, just quiet, the wife, books and movies, and recharging myself.

I hope it helps. I need something to work here. Cuz I feel like I’m not.

Planet Mercenary – A retrospective?

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Planet Mercenary is a game I helped to write and did a majority of the rules design on, especially the initial engine and concepts.

It’s a game I’m very proud of. Exceptionally so, and I consider it firmly in the “Best Work” category of my career (which while small, is growing rapidly.)

Last night, the Game Chief Secrets PDF was delivered to backers.  That marks the last big item from the Kickstarter owed to backers.

It also marks at least three months of downtime without thinking about Planet Mercenary (the team is taking a break.)

With the looming conclusion of the first round of the Planet Mercenary lifecycle, and the break hanging over my head like the famed Damocles Sword, I find myself reflecting about Planet Mercenary and the journey it set me on.


That’s September, 2013. That’s is the day I sat down with Howard at the Dragon’s Keep (a game and comic store) in Orem Utah, and we talked about how I’d approach a Schlock Mercenary roleplaying game.

He told me a mechanic he had in mind that had been roughly outlined (Mayhem), and basically put me in a on-the-spot job interview, asking how I’d approach the design problem.

Howard has a mind for story telling, humor and understanding what an audience needs as opposed to their wants. It’s these qualities (among others) that make Schlock Mercenary amazing, and it was apparent even in that first conversation, that those qualities were going to be core to how he approached Planet Mercenary.

You all know the phrase: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” That’s exactly what this meeting was. Years of homebrew, entering online adventure and RPG writing contests, and dinking around as a freelancer or consultant made for a fun hobby.

Suddenly, it was a job.

And when Howard sent out those tweets that night after our meeting, it was a job like one I’d never had.

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This was the day I had to sell Sandra Tayler on Planet Mercenary (to the best of my recollection.)

If you don’t already know, Sandra is…sort of the gatekeeper for Hypernode Media. She’s business-minded power behind Schlock Mercenary, and her and Howard handle all of it together.

This was the day where the project would live or die. Kinda a big deal. Sandra has a mind for business and potential I find myself jealous of. She understands what she does in a way I can only hope to approach.

In the Game Chief Secrets PDF, Sandra talks about this day and meeting, so I’ll avoid it. Just one note.

She says I was focused and sharp. All I remember is throwing up on the way to the meeting from nervousness, and the rest of the meeting is kinda blurry.

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This cover mock-up is an older one, and it wrongfully omits Sandra’s name (which thankfully, the actual book has printed on there.) I’m terribly at google-fu. No skill points there.


The Schlock Mercenary fandom is rabid (in a single word.) There’s an active reddit, Facebook group, forum thread, all the pieces. They support Howard and Sandra, and were exceptionally welcoming.

There’s even a whole, very active Facebook group for Planet Mercenary. It’s one thing to make something, it’s another to be able to watch it be embraced, criticized, and commented on.

It’s apparent that Planet Mercenary has a life of it’s own.


At the core of the experience are Howard and Sandra.

At points we were talking once to twice a week, with emails every day in between.

When you work with someone that much, you either learn to appreciate and love them, or you learn to hate and dread them.

Luckily, on my half (and hopefully Sandra & Howard’s), I landed squarely on the love and appreciate side.

Sandra & Howard are wonderful collaborators, among the best I’ve worked with (and I’ve worked with some serious talent.)

They’re supportive, understanding, engaged, and passionate about all their projects and all parts of their jobs. Even the ones that grind on, or drag, or could be considered tedious. They bring the same zeal and drive to everything they do.

I couldn’t have asked for better partners, and I’m grateful that they invited me in to their world and let me play around in their sandbox for bit.

I count myself lucky in some ways I never thought I would.

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One quick note. I often comment on how only a handful of folks know how the popular sophont type of Esspererin got named.

During the Kickstarter, one of the stretch goals was more playable sophont types. We hit it, Howard and I were reviewing the list (at this point, we had something like 30 sophonts prepped for the game.)

Howard sent out an email listing the sophonts we hadn’t included, and some requests for “something robotic”, “something small”, and some other requests. I sent back a something small that became the Queltro (a popular sophont in it’s own right.)

With a wry joke (I’m not funny like Howard or Sandra), I also sent in a bonus small sophont (because “two Something Smalls, make a Regular Sized Sophont.) I had asked my wife for some feedback before I sent them over (as I’m wont to do.) She mentioned the game needed gremlin space fairies.

Below is the original pitch for the Esspererin (dated 5/12/2015.)

Extra Something Small: Extra Something Smalls are tiny little humanoids with 4 wings. They can actually survive in the vacuum of space without breathing, and LOVE mechanics (their home planet never developed technology like that, due to their size). They’re considered bad luck, and tend to act like pilot fish, following ships around space ports and repair station, doing “unauthorized repairs, which usually go horribly wrong.”
  • Gremlins: Anytime a Extra Something Small does a Mechanic, Engineering, or Computer’s check, invert the color of the Mayhem dice. That’s right. The two regular dice are now Mayhem dice. The mayhem dice is now a regular dice. However, the GM automatically gains the Mayhem card before a player can look at it and this card can’t be negated by a player. The Extra Something Small gains a RiPP every-time they make one of those skill rolls. 
  • Flight: Extra Something Smalls can fly. Simply allow them to move in 3 dimensions. No biggie here.
  • Skill Bonuses: +1 Dodge, +1 Computers, +2 Engineering, +1 Mechanic.
  • Skill Penalties: None. 

Obviously it changed. I have to confess, I’m exceptionally proud that the Queltro and Esspererin are such integral parts of the Schlock Mercenary canon, and that I could provide the story seed that Howard was able to take and spin into something wonderful and unique. Every time they appear in the comic or a player raves about them, I smile. Knowing something I helped start is going to last a long time and bring enjoyment to others is a feeling I never thought I’d have.

And since I promised: Esspererin stands for “As Per Erin”, since the base idea of space gremlin fairies came from my wife in a conversation with her.

Howard says: “Small correction. Esspererin is not “as per Erin.” It’s “Extra small something, per Erin.” E.S.S., per Erin.”

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You can buy Planet Mercenary here. And I think you should. Not just cuz I get paid if you do (I do), but because it’s the smart thing to do if you like good, clever, unique games.

Top Ten RPGs of 2017

Like last year, I’m doing a non-review of my favorite RPG products of the year.

I don’t review RPG products anymore, but I can certainly tell you what I loved. This is simply my impressions and responses to products that have come out.

Consider these recommendations, but there are so many great RPGs out there. It was hard to choose the best of list, and there are many more I wish I could mention.

It’s been a rough year for a lot of folks, and gaming is a great way to cope with life stresses!

I also never put my games on this list. But if you want to buy my games, there’s links in the menu on the left!


RIFTS_PG_Cover_90010.) Savage Rifts: Technically, this was a 2016 release, but I didn’t get my print copies from the Kickstarter until January 2017, so I think it counts. It wouldn’t be a Best of list for me without at least one Savage Worlds game on it!

An update of Palladium’s Rifts setting to the excellent Savage World ruleset, Savage Rifts brings the gonzo and weird Rifts world into an accessible ruleset.

It doesn’t feel like Savage Worlds, instead feeling like Savage Worlds reflected through a funhouse mirror. All distorted, weird and fun.

It’s imminently accessible, the books are a fantastically fun read.


pic3689282_md9.) Starfinder: There’s a lot of Science Fiction on my list this year, which is interesting.

Starfinder is a great book. I’d pretty much gotten off the Pathfinder bandwagon when D&D 5e came out (I preferred the streamlined nature of 5e), but man, if Starfinder hasn’t grabbed the lapels of my attention and stared me down.

It’s got great art, a fun setting, and a strong focus on streamlining some of the crunchy bits of Pathfinder, while still obviously being Pathfinder.

It’s still a bit crunchy for me, but unlike Pathfinder, I can actually see myself attempting to run Starfinder.


pic3537715_md8.)  Changeling: The Dreaming – 20th Anniversary Edition: I missed the boat with the original editions of Changeling, but man, if I am not fully on board now.

These edition is gorgeous. It’s equal parts throw-back to the early editions (which I now have and own), and equal parts advancement.

The art lands, the prose is exactly what I’ve had expected, and this is a game that knows what it wants to be.

I love it.


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7.) Tomb of Annihilation: As long as Wizards of the Coast keeps pumping out great 5e products for D&D, I don’t see  it’s inclusion on this list fading. This year, there’s actually two D&D products.

First, is the Tomb of Annihilation. A modernized homage to the classic Tomb of Horrors, it’s a huge campaign with lots of cool pieces (like dinosaur races), and a fun setting.

It’s got a good mix of the “old-school” feel, while still being squarely the modern D&D we know and love.


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6.) Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Oh look, the second D&D 5e product.

About three years into the D&D 5e life-cycle, Wizards has released it’s first major “crunch” update, providing tons of options for players to change, improve and differentiate their characters.

Lots of cool subclasses. Lots of cool feats.

Just, lots of cool here. I see this being an essential tome at my table.


pic3340551_md5.) Blue Rose: So I never played the previous True20 edition of Blue Rose, but I remember it catching my eye on the shelf.

This new edition is a massive tome, chock full of content. It’s got a super developed setting that feels very different from other fantasy settings, a complete inclusion of the Fantasy Age ruleset, and a lot more!

I really dug this book, and while we didn’t play a campaign very long, I can see myself returning to it.


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4.) DEGENESIS: The Killing Game: So, DEGENESIS is one of the prettiest (if not the prettiest) RPGs on the market. Period.

The ruleset is fantastic, and The Killing Game is an amazing adventure/campaign for the DEGENESIS setting. It’s just packed with amazing art, stunning layout, and it’s visually, just a work of art that I can’t help but stare out.

The game deserves far more attention and market penetration than it’s getting.


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3.) Paranoia: Red Clearance Edition: Man, I dig Paranoia. Always have. I loved the zany rules, the crazy take on satire.

This new edition is a surprising amount of content in a tiny box. A totally revised ruleset, with lots of new elements, a shift in focus (no longer Communists, but Terrorists), and a lot to love, I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s a steal for what you get at the price point, and we’ve already had hours of fun from it.


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2.) Middermark: So, I’ve not played Torchbearer in the Middarmark setting yet, but hot damn, I love this book.

It’s a work of art. Carefully crafted and an obvious labor of love by the lead writer, Thor, Middarmark pushed my like of Torchbearer into a full-blown love affair.

It introduces new rules, a new class, tons of wonderful world building (tree and weather tables, a throwback to Greyhawk,) with evocative and great art throughout.

I absolutely adore this book, and it is just amazing.


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1.) Star Trek: Adventures: So yeah. This is absolutely the best game of the year. Let me list the reasons why.

I love Star Trek. It’s a two decade long love, and it shows no signs of abating (despite Discovery’s attempt to kill it.)

I love this version of the 2d20 ruleset. It’s a perfect match, and it’s clear the designers of this game are on the same page as I when it comes to what makes Star Trek, Star Trek.

It’s a fun, easy read.

It’s huge. Just packed with stuff. It’s crunchy in all the right places, while simple and fast in the right places.

Yeah. It’s the perfect Star Trek RPG!

 

 

Alan talks on Writing Excuses

At LTUE 2017, I got a chance to sit down with the talented Writing Excuses crew and talk about how to turn ideas and stories into games!

You can listen to it HERE.

We talk about Planet MercenaryTiny Frontiers, and various components of games. Luckily my fantastic hosts make me sound smart, and we had a great time.

I certainly hope I get the chance to do it again!

 

 

 

A boring life update post.

So what’s going on in the life of Alan these days. This poor blog has been a bit neglected.


Moving

The wife got a new job, so we’re moving! As I can work anywhere, it’s really irrelevant where we live. However, this means my day is filled with work. Frantic packing. Stress.

But it’ll be good. The new place is a better fit for our family and lifestyle (less fast-paced than SLC Valley where we live now).


Working

Oh man. Am I working like crazy.

In the last 3 months, I’ve released 2 roleplaying games, ran a Kickstarter (currently on), helped with two others, and am prepping two more releases in the next few months, and more next year.

I got a new job. It keeps me pretty busy. I’m still doing work for Nocturnal Media, Planet Mercenary and a few other items.


Gaming

With the impending move, the gaming has slowed a bit, but here’s what we’re currently playing:

  • Star Trek: Adventures – I actually get to play in this sucker, and I’m playing the Human Captain, Montgomery Rhodes. I should do a bigger write up about this.
  • Blue Rose – The new edition of Blue Rose grabbed me and one of my groups is trying it! Good times.
  • D&D 5e – We’ve got an ongoing D&D 5e campaign that is going great.

There’s other odds and ends in there, but that’s the primary thrust!


Puppies

Oh yeah. I have two puppies.

We’ve had Fae (the Black & White Chihuahua / Greyhound mix) since April-ish. She’s a little terror who runs on pure energy, and Ella (a Chihuahua-something mix) whose sweet and clingy and tolerates Fae with excessive patience.

They’re pretty freaking adorable, and they keep me busy. Also much healthier!

Ok, there you go. Life update! Expect your regularly served gaming posts and record reviews to start as soon as the move is over and my records are unpacked (sad Alan).

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Gallant Knight Games and the Future

I’ve received a few questions on what is happening to the TinyD6 line, and the products I had brought with me and created with Nocturnal Media in the aftermath of Stewart Wieck’s passing.

This is the official statement:


Effective August 1st, Gallant Knight Games will be stepping back out from underneath the Nocturnal Media publishing umbrella.

As Stewart’s brother Steve steps in to manage things at Nocturnal Media, it’s clear that Steve cannot put the same full-time energy into Nocturnal (given his other job running DriveThruRPG) and thus Nocturnal cannot continue to serve as a publishing partner for the full scope of projects it planned to release. Nocturnal is returning many projects it planned to publish back into their creators’ hands, even strong-selling games like the TinyD6 line. As Steve said, “Stewart’s ghost would smite me down if Nocturnal continued to hold onto the rights to publish these projects and then underserved the creators.”

I will still be working at Nocturnal Media to help project manage and deliver on outstanding Kickstarters, current projects (such as PALADIN) and some future unannounced projects.

Nocturnal Media will continue to fulfill the outstanding Cold Shadows Kickstarter, but the rights to that game, The [REDACTED] Hack, and the TinyD6 line and all its pieces will be back in my hands. 

Other games of mine that aren’t out, will also come back to me. This includes unannounced games, games I’d developed prior to the buyout, and some IPs I brought with me. 

The Tiny Dungeon 2e Kickstarter scheduled for August 1st is being rescheduled for September 5th (to allow me to accommodate for my Nocturnal work load, and wrap up the existing projects and products).


You can expect some more news from me in the near future.

Vinyl Review: Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen

Another Vinyl review. You’re welcome.

Today I’m reviewing Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen (one of my absolute favorite albums). It’s Cohen’s 13th studio album and was recorded when he was 80 (!). Popular Problems was released in 2014.

I got my copy from a local Barnes & Noble. It’s a single disc, ten track album.

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PHYSICAL IMPRESSIONS

  • This record is really light (160 grams most likely), and as it’s one of my most played albums, I worry about that sometimes.
    • Note: There’s no sound quality benefit to a thicker pressing inherently (there are some around the stability of the record for your needle and arm), but higher gram albums last longer, so I prefer it.
  • The record is a carbon black pressing, as I’ve noted I prefer. So great.
    • Note: Colored vinyls look cool, and are often thematic, but the carbon black increases the lasting power of the physical record itself, so I prefer that.
  • The cover leaves a bit to be desired. The colors strike me as weird, and they certainly don’t match the content of the album.

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TRACK LISTING

Of the 10 songs on the track, all  were written (at least collaboratively) by Cohen (which is normal).

SIDE A

  • Slow– I love this song. It’s focused, regular beat, and Cohen’s off-track vocals give such an authentic feel. The gravelly purr of his voice as he moves through this blues and rhythm infused track really sets the tone for for the rest of the album.
  • Almost Like the Blues – The lyrical talent on this song is incredible. Somehow the disparate words weave this perfect story, and the minimalist instrumental backing really drives home Cohen’s growl. Probably my second favorite song on the album.
  • Samson in New Orleans – A haunting song about loss and pain, and missed potential. This song continues the very stripped down feel of the album (the backing is there, but it’s so subtle, it pushes Cohen to the front).
  • A Street – A song focused on love and condemnation, somehow Cohen pulls anger, longing, pain and cynicism into a single ballad that covers all of those feelings well. A great song.
  • Did I Ever Love You? – Throughout the chorus, Cohen takes a backseat to his backing vocalists, who carry the song into what feels like uncharted territory on this album. The questioning nature of the song, and almost “bluesgrass” feel of the chorus seem jarring the first go around, but after a few listens, it all clicks.

SIDE B

  • My Oh My: Another great song (I’m going to say that a lot), and the languid pace of the instruments as Cohen meanders his way to the end gives this song a somewhat-unique feel throughout.
  • Nevermind: A bit more up-tempo than the previous few songs, Cohen returns to the signature growl of his later work on this track. There’s a deep bitterness on this track, echoing against a sense of loss.
  • Born in Chains: A great song and one that Cohen had been working on since the 1980s, the time it spent in gestation shows. A ballad in the truest sense, it showcases the troubadour-esque nature of Cohen’s earlier work.
  • You Got Me Singing: A melancholic tune closes out the album, with lyrics about lost love, and references to religion and hymns. True Cohen in the best sense, and an excellent ending song.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I love this album. I’ve loved it since it came out, and I will continue to love it for years. Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite artists and this vinyl does not disappoint.

I do wish the pressing was of slightly better quality (I’d prefer 200 grams), but in the end, as long as I can buy a new copy when mine wears out (which it will), I am satisfied and happy!

Vinyl Review: Traveller by Chris Stapleton

One of my big “off-line” hobbies is listening to, and getting vinyl records.

This week I got Chris Stapleton‘s Traveller record, so here’s a review!

Traveller is a 2015 release by Stapleton and is his first debut album (although he’s done lots of work on very popular country songs as a lyricist and backing vocalist).

I got my copy from Amazon (because I haven’t found a vinyl store here I’ve liked, though I haven’t tried very hard).

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PHYSICAL IMPRESSIONS

  • The record isn’t a 200 gram weight pressing, and it might not even be 180 grams. (160 would be my guess).
    • Note: There’s no sound quality benefit to a thicker pressing inherently (there are some around the stability of the record for your needle and arm), but higher gram albums last longer, so I prefer it.
  • The record is a carbon black pressing, so points in it’s favor for that!
    • Note: Colored vinyls look cool, and are often thematic, but the carbon black increases the lasting power of the physical record itself, so I prefer that.
  • The Black and White photos on the cover and back are attractive and set a certain look and impression that I find appealing. It conveys a “worn” or “well-used” aesthetic that matches Stapleton’s vocals and lyrics.

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TRACK LISTING

Of the 14 songs on the track, 12 were written (at least collaboratively) by Stapleton. This is not a kid friendly album (as a note).

SIDE A

  • Traveller – The title track is a strong track, focused on establishing the tone of the album and it does a wonderful job. At times melancholy, at times defiant and joyful, Stapleton establishes his brand of country and the backing vocals from Morgane Stapleton (his wife) are strong and serve well as a compliment to his lead.
  • Fire Away – A down turn after Traveller, this song is likely my least favorite on the album. While Stapleton delivers great vocals, the song itself seems to wallow and drag itself on.
  • Tennessee Whiskey – A singularly fantastic cover by Stapleton, this song is one of my favorites on the album. It’s strong, thematic, and highlights Stapleton’s unique sound. Morgane Stapleton’s vocals again serve as the perfect compliment.
  • Parachute – A popular radio hit from this album, this is another very good song. Stapleton digs his heels into the lyrics, dragging them out into the song with some serious panache.

SIDE B

  • Whiskey and You: A heart-wrenching comparison of love and alcohol, I give this song high marks for it’s stripped down nature, and it’s natural sound.
  • Nobody to Blame: A track that puts Stapleton’s lyrical prowess on display, this might be my favorite song on the album. Comparatively, it’s fast moving and a bit more “rock” in it’s pace and tempo than the others on this album, service as a great second track on the B-Side.
  • More of You: A middling track, this feels like a filler track on the album. Put here to keep it going, but not really serve to showcase much. It has a very classic country sound, and it sorta rolls in and out of your ears and listening field.
  • When The Stars Come Out: Probably my second least favorite track on the album, this one is nice, but it just doesn’t fill a need on this album another song doesn’t feel better.

SIDE C

  • Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore: Probably the most heart-wrenching song on the album, you can hear Stapleton’s voice cracking and breaking with emotion on this song, lending it a crushingly haunting and personal feeling.
  • Might As Well Get Stoned: There’s a strong sense of resignation and triumph alternating through this song. It’s not “fun”, but it’s energetic, interesting, and a listening pleasure.
  • Was It 26: A cover of the Charlie Daniels classic (the second of two non-Stapleton penned songs on this album), Stapleton has chosen a great classic to cover here, showing an unique take on a staple of country music.

SIDE D

  • The Devil Named Music: A condemnation of the stresses of touring and road life, this track hits hard, and keeps moving. I really like this one.
  • Outlaw State of Mind: A track that seems more inspired by AC/DC than country, Outlaw State of Mind is an aggressive, tough sound on this album, and a great way to (almost) close off the album.
  • Sometimes I Cry: At the end of the album, Stapleton returns to the melancholy and heartbreak that has defined most of this album. A good, solid closer song, though I’d have preferred to swap the track order, and put this ahead of Outlaw State of Mind.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I really like this album. The listening sound on vinyl sells the authentic nature of this production, and the whole thing feels very personal. Stapleton has a strong grasp of simple, yet deep lyrics, and the whole album resonates with a personal touch throughout.

His wife provides excellent backing vocals, and the entire production team which was Stapleton and his producer, Dave Cobb really cut against the standard country mold here.

The more I think about it, the more I’d push this album into the 9/10 range (a few weaker tracks hold it back). I can’t wait for his next album.

In Memoriam: Stewart Wieck

On Thursday, June 22nd, my employer, mentor, and close friend Stewart Wieck passed.

A great many folks said very nice things about Stewart, such as HERE on rpg.net, HERE at Chaosium’s website, and HERE on Onyx Path’s website. (There’s many more, but those are a few).

Stewart touched a lot of lives, and much will be said about his career in the game industry, the boundaries he pushed, and all of those things are essential. World of Darkness formed an indelible part of my formative gaming. I talked to Stewart every day for the last 8 months (as we worked together, we had lots to discuss), and those conversations were full of his enthusiasm for gaming, life, philosophy, esoteric topics, and reading. We shared previews of projects he knew I was excited for (both mine and others), and eagerly asked and followed up on my personal life.

 



 

One of my earliest interactions with Stewart as an employee was around the failure of IVF for my wife and I. We were on our fourth cycle, had undergone a majorly invasive surgery to set this one up for success, and had spent two years and almost immeasurable dollars on IVF (I say almost, I am acutely aware of how much we’ve spent).

Stewart had known I’d be unavailable the day of the results, and when I didn’t respond with good news, he reached out and asked how we were. We chatted briefly, and he gave us his good wishes.

A week or two later, he asked what our plans were, and I informed him we were going to stop trying IVF and take some time to sort out the future. He commented that he understood, and asked if it was financial (I’d made a comment about the excessive cost to success rate we were experiencing at this juncture), and offered me an advance against royalties to do another round.

IVF is not cheap. And here, my boss who’d I’d worked for about a month, was offering me a significant advance because 1.) he cared about our family, and wanted to help, and 2.) he believed in my quality enough to have the confidence he’d make his money back.

We didn’t take the advance (we’re trying private adoption), but I kept that number in mind as a bench mark, quietly tracking when I’d have earned out that advance and could justify his faith in me.

If you discount Kickstarters (which I do), I would have earned that advance out right around this week.

 



 

More than anything, Stewart left a mark on me in the way a publisher, game designer, and individual could behave. There was no malice in him. He welcomed designers new and old to the Nocturnal fold, helping to put their games out there, wanting to teach everyone about the joy in gaming. He was quite literally, a paladin and champion for the virtues and transcendental abilities of gaming.

I have three moments in my life that I consider defining. The first was my marriage. The second was the Planet Mercenary project and running that game for Steve Jackson.

The third was a conversation I had with Stewart after I’d joined the team, where I asked him quite bluntly why he felt my company and time were worth an acquisition and salaried position.

He told me that he felt I understood the potential of gaming to change lives as he did, and that after we’d spoken, he’d felt I’d be a partner who would focus on uplifting the industry. I left that conversation feeling as though I’d just won the lottery.

That was Stewart in a nutshell. That response is exemplary of the sort of person Stewart was. Not just a brilliant, boundary pushing game designer. Not just a giant in the gaming industry, who molded and challenged us all. But at the most essential and fundamental level, he was a good, kind person.

That’s the legacy I’ll remember most of all. That’s what I will try to emulate and carry forth, more than all the other pieces of his legacy.

 



 

No matter what the future holds, Stewart helped me set a course that I can be proud of. He showed me how to be a good person, a good businessman, and a good friend.

His loss is a hole I won’t ever fill.

Thank you Stewart. For everything.

-Alan

The Beginning of a Saga

SAGA_Rulebook_35238Recently, Wife (whom I’ve been trying to get into wargaming with me) and I decided to give the historical war game Saga a try.

I’m a huge sucker for historical war games, and even more of a sucker for 28mm or 15mm war games. However, locally, 32mm science fiction and fantasy rule the game tables, so I’ve never taken the plunge and just bought in. My flirtation with historical wargaming has always fallen flat, or opponent-less. Well thanks to marriage, and the fact my wife is forced to do my hobbies with me, this is a problem no longer!

So we took a bit of a gamble on Saga (but with the added benefit and insurance that even if we don’t play it, I can use the minis as Saxons and other enemies for Pendragon RPG nights). I’m going to be pseudo-documenting our journey into this game as we go!


We each got an army:

Saga covers a wide variety of armies and times (Roman/Arthurian Briton, Crusades, Viking Age), but we wanted to stick into one set game at the start. As the Saga: Dark Ages rulebook was all our local shop had in stock and this was an impulse purchase, Viking Age it is!

Two armies, two sets of custom dice, one rulebook later, and here I am assembling the minis.

Part of the deal of getting Wife into a wargame is I have to do some of the annoying parts (assembly), so I assembled our two boxes!

Let’s talk about that.

First, I assembled mine to get a feel for it. It wasn’t too bad. Most models need an arm or two, a head, and a shield attached, and then bases and done!

When doing my wife’s I took some photos of the process. Without further ado, here is a stream of terrible photos!

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The box (in case that wasn’t clear). The box contains a full starter war-band (you need about two more units to fill up to a “full” army (as their rules indicate).

 

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Sprues and bases!

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The Viking Warlord in full assembly.

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Started by separating out all the bases and begun with working on the Hirdmen, the elite guard unit for the Warlord. IMG_20170416_0839470

In order to make things a little easier on first time wargamer Wife, I kept the weapons consistent for each unit of 4 Hirdmen. The game requires some unit cohesion, so to make things simpler and less complicated up front, each unit has the same weapons. Mechanically, they’ll function the same, but it makes spotting the units faster and just…better. I didn’t think to do this for mine, but I’m wishing I had.

So one unit of hand weapon Hirdmen, and one unit of Spear Hirdmen

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While the Hirdmen were drying and setting, I started working on her Bondi (Warriors). These are sort of the rank and file of the game.

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Hirdmen with heads and shields!

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Spear Hirdmen with heads and shields!

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Headless Bonid, armed with hand weapons. I did the same thing for the Bondi that I did for the Hirdmen and kept the weapons similar inside each unit to make quick spotting easier.


Not a bad day of assembly. 16 Bondi, 8 Hirdmen, and a Warlord took about 90 minutes.

The smaller scale took a bit to get used to and it’ll be interesting to paint. Luckily, I’m really excited about these ones, so I’m looking forward to getting to work with them. Post painting up my warband (Wife will paint hers), I plan to work up terrain. Yay for terraining (which is my favorite part of wargaming).

My goal is to get a starter game in this week and write up a battle report about how it went.

This looks like a fun road to journey down.