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Subject:Alone, unmourned, and unloved
Time:11:33 pm

On the same day that BoingBoing announces that it’s publishing the newest Elquest story online, I read that Dave Sim seems to be quitting comics.

This is great news for the Pinis, but it’s unfortunate that the creator of the other big indie comic of that same generation can’t seem to figure out how keep his career afloat.

Granted, many of Sim’s problems are of his own making. Not only did his wife divorce him, but I’ve recently learned that Gerhard no longer associates with Sim either professionally or personally, and that Sim is estranged from his family. I don’t know the stories behind those latter two things (and only a bit about the first), but someone who wrecks all of his close relationships probably isn’t doing a great job with business relationships either.

(Also, if you’re building your career on a single massive comic-book project, you might want to think twice about inserting into it a crazy rant describing half the human race as parasitic leeches.)

Still, Sim’s failure makes me melancholy.

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Subject:Walling keeps creeping
Time:02:03 am

You’d think René Walling would have taken his banning from Readercon as a warning, and cleaned his act up. That’s what a sane person would do, right? Take extra-special care not to be a sleazy jerk, just to be on the safe side? Just out of a sense of self-preservation, even if not out of an honest desire to be considerate of women’s feelings? You’d think.

I had hoped so, if for no other reason than that he and I have at least a couple of friends in common, and his bad behavior hurts those friends (in addition to the women he behaves badly towards). But here’s some news from the just-ended Worldcon in Chicago:

From: copperwise
2012-09-05 12:26 am (local)

I was disgusted to find him tending bar at the Commonwealth party. Then he made repulsively suggestive comments to the girl I was hanging out with. She was disgusted by his smarmy, smirking leer, but she didn’t feel he was worth making an issue of. She was unaware of the Readercon issue at the time, though.

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Subject:Boardgames 10 Aug 2012
Time:01:20 am

I decided to skip seeing Lewis Trondheim at Bergen St Comics, and went to NerdNYC boardgame night. Here’s what I played:

Rise!
Simple two-player game. Each player gets to take two actions per turn, which is the primary constraint on the action. We didn’t even bother finishing the game out when it became obvious that I’d win and there was no way for the other player to catch up. There are expansion rules that might make the game more interesting, but we didn’t use them.

Pandemic
Pandemic’s been around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve played it. Players cooperate to defeat a disease-ridden planet. We almost won, curing three out of the four diseases. This was fun; I’d play it again.

Zooloretto
I’ve played this one a few times, and been doing pretty well at it recently. I miss the speed and simplicity of Coloretto; maybe I should buy a copy.

I also saw a group playing the new anniversary edition of Puerto Rico. Fancy! Metal coins, redesigned pieces, new artwork.

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Subject:Digger mystery panel
Time:09:55 pm

I’m finally getting around to reading Digger, and not really enjoying it much, to tell you the truth. But I’m still fairly near the beginning (just started Chapter 2), and maybe it gets better later on. Anyway, I’m trying to figure something out. Could someone tell me what’s going on in this panel here?

mystery panel

Here’s the whole page. I get what’s going on before and after that panel, the action of the page in general. But I can’t figure that one panel out. Here are the possible readings I’ve come up with:

  1. Digger is moving her left hand (the one not holding the pickaxe) horizontally for some reason. For a moment I thought maybe she was pulling a cover off of the pickaxe head, but the thing I thought might’ve been the cover I now think is just part of her vest. I can’t think of any other reason for her to be swinging her arm like that; she winds up with her hand behind her, which makes it less effective for the move she makes in the next panel.
  2. Digger is swinging her pickaxe back and forth. (The speed lines continue past the pickaxe on either side, so it would have to be a back-and-forth motion.) Seems plausible, but her right arm doesn’t seem positioned plausibly for the full extension that would be necessary for the head of the pickaxe to follow that arc. And this still doesn’t explain why her left arm is behind her.
  3. Digger just threw the pickaxe from her left hand (where we see it in the first panel) to her right. This connects the first and fourth panels, and accounts for the pickaxe moving from one hand to the other, but again, it’s weak as a prelude to the action in panel five (she’s using both hands for the pickaxe anyway; why waste time and risk dropping it to switch hands?). Also, the speedlines depict an arc of horizontal movement; a thrown pickaxe would have to arc vertically. And this reading doesn’t explain why the speedlines are continuing past the head of the pickaxe.

Also, when does the actual story start? Like I said, just started Chapter 2, maybe 70 or 80 pages in, and the characters are still just wandering around chatting. I’m thinking Ursula Vernon would have benefited from the discipline of publishing in pamphlet form. Cerebus started out crude, but that first 22-page issue contained a full story.

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Subject:SANity mechanics for WaRP
Time:03:44 pm

Atlas Games has released an Open Games License version of WaRP, the mechanical part of Over the Edge. (For those who haven’t heard of it, Over the Edge was a tremendously influential role-playing game released 20 years ago. And yes, there’s an anniversary edition.)

The PDF included in the download package is so horribly formatted that I had to slurp it into InDesign and rejigger it just to get something I could stand to look at, and while I was doing that, some half-formed rules popped into my head for handling Call of Cthulhu-style Sanity loss. (Odd, because I never really liked Call of Cthulhu as a game.) They look like this:

Instead of having a Sanity rating that starts out high and gets eroded, we have a Madness rating that starts out low and builds. Each character starts with 0 Madness (though you can start higher if you want, as part of your Flaw).

When your character runs into something horrible, the GM calls for a Madness roll. The GM rolls a number of dice based on the horribleness of the thing you ran into. You pick a Trait to use to oppose this roll, and take a number of penalty dice equal to your Madness.

(I was originally gonna have the GM roll your Madness + horribleness dice, but realized that’d be a pain in the butt for testing multiple characters at once.)

If you fail the roll, two things happen: (1) Your Madness goes up by 1 point, and (2) whatever Trait you used for the Madness roll gets cracked.

What does cracked mean? In fictional terms, it means that your character now has a psychological association between the Trait and the horrible thing. In game-mechanical terms, it means you make a mark next to that Trait on your sheet, and from then on, every time you roll that Trait, one (or more, because your Trait can be cracked more than once) of your dice should be of a distinction color or size. If the distinctive dice roll highest (or among the highest, in the case of ties; and in the case of bonus/penalty dice, we’re only counting the dice you keep for your total), you have to narrate some sort of crazy behavior into your action. This doesn’t have to mean success becoming failure; just that your character is becoming unhinged in some way that comes out sometimes when you use this Trait.

A Trait that has been cracked a number of times equal to its die rating is fully cracked. A character goes fully insane if their Central Trait becomes fully cracked, or if every one of their other, non-Central, Traits becomes fully cracked.

Fringe powers should probably start out with one crack each.

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Subject:Hugo nomination
Time:12:08 am

I forgot to mention it here (having covered it on Facebook and Google+, and had it covered for me on Making Light): I’m nominated for a Hugo award this year.

Technically, it’s The New York Review of Science Fiction that’s nominated (for Best Semiprozine), for something like the 22nd time. (We haven’t won one yet.) But this is the first year we’ve been nominated that I was an associate managing editor, so my name’s on the ballot this time (along with David Hartwell, Kevin Maroney, and Kris Dikeman).

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Subject:Home Fires, Gene Wolfe
Time:05:31 pm

About half-way through Gene Wolfe’s Home Fires, I gave up. Why?

The dialog. Wolfe’s never been great at writing dialog that sounds like real people talking, which is why my favorite Wolfe work (The Book of the New Sun) is one in which this flaw is made a virtue. But this is bad even for him:

“It wasn’t that at all. They tried … I was afraid to tell anybody. Terrified! Put your arm around me. I’m serious! Do it. I need a man’s arm around me, and you’re just right for me and — oh, damn! I’m g-going to c-c-cry.”

The crazy right-wing politics. There’s the North American Union, with its single currency. There’s the European Union, where thieves get their hands cut off because of sharia. There’s the UN, which always takes the sides of the poor nations of the world instead of the NAU.

The tech illiteracy. The setting is Earth, in a resource-poor near-future. Our protagonist has a cellphone, but nobody else seems to, and from what we see in the half of the book I read, it’s just a phone. Websites exist, but there’s no sign of social networking. When pirates hijack an enormous, luxurious cruise ship, the protagonists talk for a while as if there’s a possibility of keeping the news under wraps, as if there wouldn’t have been hundreds of people tweeting “OMG pirates!” within ten seconds of the first shots being fired. When the protagonists talk (via some kind of video-phone communication) with the authorities on shore, they argue a bit over the location of the ship, as if there’s no such thing as GPS. The whole thing could’ve been written in the 1970s.

It’s been a while since I really enjoyed a new Wolfe book. The Wizard Knight was the last one, and even that had its annoyances.

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Subject:Indie RPG scuttlebutt
Time:03:21 pm

Not certain, but I’m guessing that this has something to do with this.

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Subject:Eminent Domain and Quarriors
Time:12:47 am

Been a while since I talked about boardgames, hasn’t it? I’ve been getting my fix at the monthly NerdNYC boardgame nights. I’ve played a couple of new things:

Eminent Domain
I’ve played this a couple of times. It’s a space-themed deck-building role-taking game, like a cross between Race for the Galaxy and Dominion. The innovation is that each time you take a role, you gain a copy of the card for that role. Also there are neat little plastic spaceships.

Quarriors!
Another deck-building game, but with dice instead of cards! You get a bag of dice with various symbols on them, and at the start of each turn you pull out six and roll them, generating “quiddity” (magical power) that can be used to summon creatures or buy new dice. Your creatures go out and fight other players’ creatures, and if they survive to the start of your next turn, they score victory points for you, and let you cull unneeded dice from your collection. We played this twice today, and while the first game took about an hour and a half, the second (once we all knew how to play) took just 45 minutes (and I won).

Eminent Domain seemed pretty tight, by which I mean various strategies became apparent as I learned the game, and it seemed like there was a clear link between success and strong play. Quarriors! seemed less so. There was a high luck element, and the strategic connections among dice were less clear than those among, say, Dominion cards. One of the discussion threads on BoardGameGeek claimed that there were some optional “expert” rules in an upcoming expansion that tightened up play: Allow the purchase of two dice per turn, and require that the scoring creature be culled.

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Subject:Unburying treasure
Time:10:39 pm

Treasures uncovered while looking for the gesso:

  • A pack of a dozen 4×5-inch canvas panels, pre-primed, ready for painting.
  • A small desktop easel.
  • An old AOL bisk tin, filled with colored glass aquarium stones, of the type gamers use to track various game resources (hit points, Fate points, etc).
  • My copies of four games from Cheapass Games’ “Hip Pocket” series: Light Speed, Agora, Nexus, and Steam Tunnel.
  • The power supply for my old Belkin seven-port USB hub. I now have all of its pieces in one place! And no strong need of it.
  • My copy of Asterios Polyp, which I still haven’t read.

Treasure still to be found:

  • The gesso.
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[icon] Avram's journal
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