The Sky Is Falling
12/30/99: Well, here we are at the last update before the leftmost number on the Cosmic Odometer rolls over. While some folks are rushing out to the stores to buy powdered milk and shotgun shells, I'm here catching up on my writing and reflecting on how neat it's been to live in the same century that gave us the Beatles, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and Doom. We walk through the same world that Isaac Asimov did, and that Jeff "The Frugal Gourmet" Smith does, and Woody Allen, and poor Charles Schulz. Before this century, there was no Snoopy! No Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! No Atomic Bomb! No Harold & Maude! No Dungeons & Dragons. Unbelievable.
Based on the existence of Motown alone, this has been the greatest century in the history of mankind. And the most royally screwed up. I guess one probably goes hand in hand with the other. A couple of World Wars on one hand, The Princess Bride on the other. I guess we can call it a wash.
Enjoy your New Year, folks; drive safe and party hard and try not to play that Prince song too much. And, at some point in the festivities, take a moment of silence to mourn for the unfortunate math geeks, who don't get a new millenium for a whole 'nother year.
See you in Y2K!
12/27/99: Sometime later this week, Among the Clans should start appearing on game-shop shelves (it'll be in chain bookstores, along with the rest of the Original Series RPG line, sometime in February). As time allows, I'll be adding various bits of "support" material for it to the Blue Room, from outtakes to expanded language and history material to amusing toys. One entry in the latter category is the Graalek typeface, a Windows TrueType font containing the "Andorian Alphabet" used as a decorative graphic in the book itself. Last Unicorn Games has given me their kind permission to share it here with you, so be sure and drop by their website to let them know you appreciate it.
12/25/99: . . . From Austin! Now that we've plowed through our loot, it's gonna be a day of good food and Burl Ives and blinking lights. And probably a movie later, and then some live jazz at the Elephant Room!
Yesterday, Sandra and I went out walking in one of the local parks that we'd never tried before - and felt all Christmassy amid the huge stands of cactus! Texas is definitely a different sort of holiday aesthetic . . . But the good stuff is the same: People chilling out for a day and noshing. Christmas is, as ever, very merry here.
Hope this finds everybody having a nice holiday with friends and family.
Among the Clans!
12/21/99: The latest Star Trek RPG supplement from Last Unicorn Games is now available: Among the Clans: The Andorians - my first book since this summer's TOS Narrator's Toolkit. This worldbook, written by Yours Truly with help from the able hand of Trek Rules-Master Steve Long, explores the history, culture, religions, and language of one of Star Trek's "forgotten" races - the blue-skinned Andorians, introduced in Dorothy Fontana's excellent episode, Journey to Babel. To celebrate the book's release, I'm auctioning a signed copy of it on eBay, along with all of my original drafts, hand-drawn maps and research notes!
Fans of the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG may also be interested in the "Last Uniform" TrueType font I added yesterday to the fontworks. It's a freebie-font inspired by the body-text used in LUG's TNG supplements - handy for webpage design or spiffy player handouts.
Another nice bit of news today is that Antoine Dinimant, a French gamer and really nice guy, has placed la Démographie médiévale facile on the Web for those who dig French to enjoy. It's a translation, of course, of my own Medieval Demographics Made Easy article, with additional notes added from our correspondence (like an explanation for how I arrived at those average-distance figures). It's been a good day!
12/17/99: Something I'm not sure if I've mentioned here before: I've written a handful of reviews for RPGnet, the (hands-down) best online "zine" for adventure gamers on the whole of the World Wide Web. Recently, my review of TSR's Axe of the Dwarvish Lords ran, and I completely forgot to mention it here! I'll probably add a Reviews page to the Secret Library soon, to provide permanent links to these things. In the meantime, drop by the RPGnet Reviews page often; new reviews are tossed up on a daily basis! And if there's an RPG product you've got an opinion on, by all means write a review and post it. It's purely an amateur free-for-all, and that's why it's so great: you never know what you'll read or even if it'll be in reasonable English, but you know it'll always be worth a click.
12/16/99: Yesterday, the Learning Kingdom's "Cool Fact of the Day" (both a website and an email list) was the history of the pretzel, and it included a couple of follow-up hyperlinks for those who wanted to know more. In this case, the "more" included how to bake the twisty morsels at home. Through some unexplained miracle of search-engine serendipity, our own Blue Room was selected by the Cool Fact gang for unexpected waves of new visitors! I just checked the server logs, and sure enough, the spike was dramatic, with nearly 900 fresh, salty hits to the S. John & Sandra's Soft Pretzels page in a single day! Yow. It's nice to know that our Christmas tradition may end up a tradition in other households this year, too. Nothing like the smell of fresh baking to make a home feel cozy at the holidays. Happy baking, folks, wherever you are!
Watch the Skies!
12/7/99: As you can see, I've done some updates this evening! First up is my new Star Trek RPG page, taking its first shaky steps onto the web. There are only a few items there now, but (as pages around here tend to do), it will gradually develop and grow until I look back on it and scratch my noggin, wondering where I got all that time (check out the GURPS page to see what I mean). Give it a quick cruise! Live long and prosper . . .
The second item is at the bottom of (nearly) every page on the site: A revised set of links (mirrored by the fresh buttons here on the main page), complete with an adorable little search window, so you can look to see how many times I've used words like "muppet" or "Gygax," and other statistics of scholarly import.
The BIG news is the triumphant return of Sparks, in the form of the new Watch the Skies! space-adventure set! This is the first full set of Sparks we've produced, with Dan Smith handling the spiffy artwork and me doing the words and font-design. This new set has even more art-detail and versatility than the original sampler set, and (of course) there's a really cool freeware version, as part of my sinister plot to clutter everybody's desk with little paper toys (mwahahah). If none of this is making any sense to you and you don't know what the heck a Spark is, click here and see!
>pauses to catch breath<
Here at home, colored lights and cool weather has everybody feeling mellow, and the little paper toys are starting to resemble a snowdrift. Now I can relax and hope that Sandra gets me more printer paper for Christmas :) Hope this finds everybody well.
A Cray Canyon Christmas?
12/4/99: Over at Craig Roth's excellent homepage (the site that put Unlimited Mana online!), there's an old GURPS adventure of mine called Cray Canyon Cold Snap, a horror scenario set on the #40 Long-Haul, a fictitious railroad heading deep into the Colorado Rockies in 1882. With six-guns and rifles and a lot of courage, the PCs are called upon to save the train from a mad killer . . . Who turns out to be something more.
To give myself a little practice on the ins and outs of netbook-building, I created a new PDF Version of Cold Snap for Craig's site (174k ZIP archive). So, if you like the adventure and want to print it out to run it, you can have a spiffy for-the-printer version, now, complete with maps! All you need to view and print it is the free Acrobat Reader software (version 4 or higher) from Adobe, available for both PC and Mac.
Give it a try and let me know what you think: The lessons learned from this for-fun project will be applied, someday soon, to full-fledged gaming products I'll be creating and selling in PDF form. If you like that idea, drop me a line with suggestions or comments.
Now All We Need Is Snow
12/1/99: The Christmas tree is up, the Vince Guaraldi is in the background, and everything feels good here in Austin for the holiday season. Many projects are bubbling around here, too, and that has me excited and exhausted! In addition to my work for the paper-publishers, I'm doing more and more electronic stuff, with new fonts - and PDF netbooks - on the way. Case in point: In another week or so, the first "non-sampler" set of Sparks, Watch the Skies! will be available for sale! Sparks were slowed by technical problems for a while, but a new approach to the design solved those problems and improved the level of detail retained from the original art, so Dan and I are really happy with the new set. Like the sampler, the new set (26 miniatures, plus blanks and "flats" for fallen weapons, deck hatches and severed limbs) will be available in both Windows and Mac format.
If you're in a puzzling mood, give the first Tiny Terror a try. More of those coming soon, too!
11/24/99: Outside, it's chilly and rainy, as it should be. Inside, it smells like turkey and fresh bread, as I prepare a few things for tomorrow. Sandra snipped the green beans and loaded up the dishes while I made the bread dough (for the stuffing!) and started a pot of turkey stock (from necks, onions, garlic, carrots and all that good stuff), and, of course, the sugarless cranberry sauce. Now, the dough is rising in a warm oven, the stock is simmering, Sandra is off to sleep, and I'm winding down, making notes on the whole thing and fiddling with work.
Here's the cranberry sauce recipe, for your consideration. I haven't had time to make a proper webpage for it yet, so it's just a plaintext export from MasterCook. Using measurable Equal for the sweetener was a no-brainer; the trick was thickening it (normally, it's thickened by the sugar), and cooking it in a way that doesn't render the Equal into slag (it breaks down at cooking temperatures, which is why it's, sadly, useless for baking). The cornstarch solved the first problem handily, and cooking the berries in plain water solved the second. It tastes really good, too.
And of course, the bird will be trim breast of bird, the gravy will be made from the neck-stock, not pan-drippings (thickened with a "cold roux" of flour and water), and so on. This is my first holiday feast as a diabetic, and I've gotta tell you, It's really kind of fun. I've learned so much over the past few months . . . Not just about spreading out my carbs so I don't spike, but about the interplay of protein, fats and fiber, the balance necessary to get all right vitamins, the amazing power of regular exercise, hundreds of other things. I've trimmed down considerably, have more energy, feel a whole lot smarter, and I'm enjoying more variety in my diet than I ever had reason to before. As I told the nutritionists at the hospital: If it weren't a nasty, progressive disease, diabetes would be the best thing to happen to my health since Sandra!
Ah, well. We take the good with the bad. And good's winning, right now, so I'm plenty thankful. I'm thankful for Sandra, for the new discoveries the summer brought, for my work, for you guys, for the seasonal weather, for the smell of turkey broth and bread.
Enjoy the day, and all the days that follow. See you soon!
11/23/99: Earlier this year, when I was working on Among the Clans: The Andorians for the Star Trek RPG, I did a lot of language-work for the book, laying out the basic sounds of modern Andorian so that the place-names and whatnot presented in the book would be consistent. The book will even sport an appendix so that the GM can pick up where I left off, and I may add some kind of Andorian language page to the site sometime soon, too.
Anyway, when all that was done, I started playing around with alphabets that I might one day map to the sounds, as a hobby project. As it turned out, the LUG guys liked the alphabet enough to buy it from me to use as a decorative element in the book.
In the meantime, I'm happy to share an early "draft" I discarded. It didn't strike me as sufficiently Andorian, but it's a fun alien alphabet that I've given the name Martian Hull Markings. The lines of the Regular version are inspired by the old Star Trek credits typeface, and there's also a more organic "Gloopy" version mapped to the italics. It's available now as a freebie from the Blue Room Fontworks. Enjoy!
I Love You, Sandra!
11/22/99: This update to the Blue Room is for Sandra. It's our second Anniversary today. Sandra, I love you. So much that any attempt to express it in words just leaves me hollow and aching to hold you; there's no way words can touch it. Thank you for another beautiful year, sweetie. As ever, I'm humbled just to know you, to have the opportunity to admire you, let alone to call you my own wife. I love you, Sandra.
For the rest of you, you can see the two of us in the Photo Gallery. Here's hoping your day is as happy as ours.
The Search is Over
11/20/99: Life has been busy again, with game-design work a'plenty, a great visit from my buddy Chris Reid from Virginia, an unpleasant assortment of icky cruds and headaches, and more random oddness than I care to list (cruds and headaches aside, though, life has been good). All this stuff kept me from the Blue Room for well over a week, but I had to drop in to say "hi," and to happily announce that the Champeen GURPS Title Word Search master is none other than Mark Cogan of Tucson, Arizona. Mark wasn't a random draw, either - he was the only fellow to find all 47 GURPS titles hidden in the puzzle! I'll be shipping him his autographed Star Trek corebook this weekend. A big "thank you" to everybody who played, including those who didn't mail in an entry, but e-mailed to tell me they enjoyed fiddling with the puzzle, anyway!
11/10/99: From the murky depths of the riverbottom, the Undine watches and waits. On the bridge above, Blind Geoffrey keeps the spirit tamed. And now, Geoff and friends are a permanent addition to the Secret Library.
This piece is one of three I wrote for CityBook 7: King's River Bridge, the project I'm proudest of so far. As a long-time fan of the CityBook series, it was an absolute thrill to become a part of it. It's now just as thrilling to be able to share part of that here, complete with Steve Crompton's map and Liz Danforth's artwork. Many, many thanks to Rick Loomis, the man who is Flying Buffalo, for giving this the thumbs-up.
Sandra Meets Sandra
11/6/99: The beautiful weather here in Austin made the Texas Book Festival a perfect way for Sandra and I to spend a Saturday afternoon. With tents and pavilions arranged on the grounds of the capitol building itself, and readings and seminars inside, the Festival is one of the coolest annual events in the city. It was an extra-special treat for us, since my Sandra got to meet Sandra Brown, a romance-writer-turned-suspense-writer who's just about Sandra's favorite novelist in the world. I spoke briefly with Mike Nesmith (the former Monkee who's mom invented Liquid Paper), who was there promoting his own new book.
We'll probably go back tomorrow! It's hard to get too much of piles and piles and piles of books, scads and scads of readers (and editors and publishers and friendly volunteers), live music, and friendly people wearing giant bookworm costumes. All the good things in life . . . If you're in Austin, don't miss it.
11/3/99: Plenty of changes to be found in the Crossword and pencil-puzzles department lately, from a new Star Trek puzzle to Java and Across Lite versions of the fifth and sixth Crosswords. Get those pencils (or keyboards) sharpened, and your mind with them!
Good news for fantasy gamers: In another week, I get to add one of my favorite fictional groups of friends to the Blue Room, courtesy of Rick Loomis and Flying Buffalo. Sadistic halfling twins, a brawny woman who'll rip out your teeth by hand while she's styling your hair, and their boss, Blind Geoffrey Theobald, an aging sorcerer who wants an angry puddle beneath him to feel your pain - in order to save lives from the folly of his youth. Blind Geoffrey's Barberie & Cauterie can be found in CityBook VII: King's River Bridge. As of Veteran's Day, it'll also be found here! See you then . . .
11/1/99: Sandra and I had a really nice weekend; a nice mix of stay-at-home snuggling and watching-movies type stuff and on-the-town enjoying-Austin type stuff. Saturday evening found us up at Shaggy's on South Congress, scarfing down spicy food and enjoying the band and the costumes; Halloween itself took us to (among other places) the inevitable Sixth Street festival, for more music and food and crowds and street-salesmen pushing electric deely-boppers. At the drop of the hat, this town closes down Sixth Street for another gathering, and all the clubs get loud and all the cart-vendors show up and it's worth it every time! Austin's especially nice this time of year, now that it's cooling down just a bit and the breezes are coming in. We called it an early night, though, since that stay-at-home snuggling sounded good again, so after winding down from a relaxing weekend, I figured I'd wander into the Blue Room again and say hi. Hi!
This looks to be a good November. My good buddy Chris Reid will be visiting from Virginia, I'll be doing some more GMing, got lots of interesting writing that needs to be done . . . Mom's coming down for Thanksgiving, which means plenty of Kill Dr. Lucky and my first crack at preparing a holiday feast fit for a diabetic king (I'll share the recipes I come up with)! And of course, winter is coming - my favorite time of year. Happy days. Hope yours are going well, too.
Trick or Treat?
10/31/99: Happy Halloween! Step closer; no razorblades in what I have to drop into your sack . . . You guys already know I like pencil puzzles and similar games, but this time around I've opted for something a little more relaxing than one of my scatterbrained crossword puzzles: a good old-fashioned word search! Easy, right? Of course, it helps to know what words you're searching for, and I'm not going to tell you, not exactly. But if you're the one who can find them all, you get a free roleplaying game out of it, which I think you'll find a treat. And no matter what, you should have a good time looking, so head on over to the GURPS Titles Word Search contest, and give it a try!
If you fancy something a bit less cryptic and competitive in your word-searching, I've also made one for my sweetie's site, a puzzle based on her fun list of newfie slang - give it a try, and take a quick tour of her whole site while you're there. She's been working hard on it!
10/27/99: Because I'd hate for the site to be a mess when the trick-or-treaters come calling this weekend, I did a "flush" of the entire Blue Room this morning, deleting the site and reloading it from the master files on my hard drive (the directory had accumulated a lot of clutter). While it was down, I took the time to do a few "invisible" spiffs (stripping out some excess code, updating a few links here and there). So, if you got an alarming 404: File Not Found error while trying to read the Novus Ordo or something this morning, that's why! Sorry if anyone got spooked, but 'tis the season, after all!
Man, this thing has grown. I hadn't really been keeping track! The Blue Room consists of over 250 files (about 4 megabytes, all told), including over a dozen ZIP archives and other non-webpage files available for download!
Speaking of which, be sure to come knocking for treats here at the site; I'll have a little something waiting!
The Latest Godling
10/25/99: John "Tucker" Taylor (see his snazzy website immediately!) has been added to the The Grand List Of Blue Room Crossword Puzzle Godlings Worthy Of Cash and Sexual Favors tonight, as the master of the August/September crossword. Read more about it on the Godling page, and you can check out the solution to the puzzle by clicking here! Or, if you haven't yet taken a crack at it, avoid peeking and enjoy the puzzle itself!
Feel the Heat
10/19/99: Over at World Charts.Com, Blue Room readers have been turning out in goodly numbers to keep the Blue Room in the public eye! I just wandered in to see how things were going, and on this page (you'll have to scroll down to the bottom, but still) the news is especially good! Not only are we in the happy ranks of the Top 100 for our 22nd week running, we're apparently "hot" right now (15 votes is pretty good for a homepage that doesn't keep a big "Vote For Me" button on it)!
A big thanks to everybody's who's been voting; stuff like this helps keep the Blue Room highly placed in some search engines (like Google!), which means that lost gamers in need of the Truly Badass advantage or the Big List of RPG Plots (or lost bakers who want to make sourdough bread but find the Usenet FAQs on the subject to be snooty and confusing) can make it here safely through the online jungle. You guys rule.
Sandra's Page & More
10/18/99: After a few months of absence from the Web, my wife, Sandra, has the beginnings of her new site online! And since we're sharing webspace now as a couple (all snuggled up here at Illuminati Online), there are no bothersome GeoCities banners to worry about anymore :)
I've just finished uploading tons of Blue Room pages with updated links to the new URL, so please let us know if you find any outdated or broken ones, and be sure to drop by my sweetie's spiffy new page to give it a look! She's the one who actually knows HTML (I can barely hand-code italics), and she does what very few webmasters do these days (including lazy old me), which is annotate her link-lists so you know a little bit about the sites she links to!
Over the past couple of weeks, those of you who follow the site updates log may have noticed a few other Blue Room changes that I never mentioned here, including the updates to my GURPS Library Ratings and the new Risus link, to George Pletz' Risus Madcap material!
Life here in Austin has been really nice, lately. The cold front has finally hit Texas, and the weather is my idea of heaven: wet, cold, and cloudy. I've got the AC turned off for the first time in ages, with the balcony door open and a hot mug of ceylon tea at my side. Yesterday, Sandra and I enjoyed the weather as we walked over to one of our local movie theaters to catch The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. It was especially fun since we'd just seen Mandy Patinkin (who plays the E-VIL Villain, Huxley) performing live in concert at the Paramount this past Friday (an incredibly great show). And, as per usual, I've been happily busy with work, sketching Russian villages, doing last-minute maps of Andoria, and writing material for upcoming Deep Space Nine and Next Generation supplements, as well as acting as Developer for the upcoming Star Trek movie-era sourcebook, Final Frontiers. Exciting stuff!
Pictures from Home
10/5/99: Yesterday, the Newfoundland Photo of the Day site featured one of Sandra's photographs of Fogo Island, back home in Newfoundland (it's in the archive). She's got a collection of images submitted, and (if the Photo of the Day site keeps to its habits), most of them will probably be appearing soon. Keep an eye out!
The Language Barrier
9/26/99: An amusement for bored web-wanderers: While fiddling around with one of those online translators again (I'm hooked, I tell you), I decided to translate a document from English (or what I like to think of as English) to Spanish and then back again. My target document was the Blue Room Journal. The final result is right here. Can you see why I'm hooked?
9/23/99: Almost ten years ago, myself and some friends of mine got together and did a different sort of GURPS Space campaign. Inspired by Stephen Beeman's article on "TV Style" gaming, and also in the mood to do a round-robin game where every player was also the GM, and wanting to do something both action-packed and funny, we did Warp Space. Set in the second season of a fictional comedy/adventure TV show, the campaign chronicled the adventures of the I.T.V. Glitch, complete with commercial breaks, opening credits, Dan Jasman popping bubble-wrap through the game, and John Franks scaring the heck out of us by putting a large plush orangutan in a lab coat. There are only a few campaigns that can give me more grins when the mood to wax sentimental strikes.
Anyway, a recent thread on the TrekRPG mailing list brought this stuff back to mind, and I went rummaging through my old floppy disks trying to find the various player-handout files I'd written for the game, years ago. Many of them I'd thought lost forever, but I managed to find almost all of them - including the original "series bible." After hunting the web for a method of translating old XyWrite III files into more contemporary RTF format, I was in business, and I now present this only slightly-embarassing bit of my past for your perusal (40k ZIP file).
Crack that Whip
9/19/99: Back to steady writing after a week of semi-vacation! Kenneth and Sheila made their way back toward Chicago yesterday morning after a week of happy Austining. Ah, what a week. What do game designers do when they get together? We rotate air mattresses with our toes, that's what we do. Fortunately, no photographs survived. We also did fun things like catch The Lost World - the 1925 silent classic, complete with a nifty live orchestra - at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Tonight, Sandra and I were out to supper with William "Sniper Bill" Toporek, a friend that I met in New Orleans a year ago at Crescent City Con, just recently moved here. The Austin gaming scene just got one (very good) player better!
So, all is well and all is quiet, and the keyboard is rap-tap-tapping along again. This week will probably see some regular updates to the Blue Room, too, so stay tuned. And don't forget to snag the Windows version of Mastery for the upcoming tournament!
The Right Tools
9/16/99: Give a man a hammer, and everything starts to look like a nail. So if you give a Star Trek Narrator a toolkit, does everything start to look like a campaign? I can't rightly say, but the best way to find out is to try it. The Star Trek RPG Narrator's Toolkit, crafted top to bottom on my trusty old keyboard, is back from the printers today, and available now directly from Last Unicorn Games. If you have a game shop nearby, it should be on the shelves there as of next weekend (distribution network permitting), and in chain bookstores a month or so after that. I'm a dancin' fool, anticipating my own author's copies arriving soon.
It's my personal tour of the skills essential to great GMing, plus an original Star Trek adventure and a snazzy screen thrown in for spice. The book focuses on concrete technique over general theory, in order to provide a genuine set of tools that any GM, from novice to grizzled veteran, can get use out of. For example, if you find my Big List of RPG Plots to be handy, you're likely to get even more use out of my adventure-design techniques in the Toolkit. I provide articles on each of eight distinct methods for coaxing an adventure out of a brain that insists that it has no adventures to give. Plus stuff on scene-building, getting the most out of NPCs, intensifying the atmosphere of a game, and a whole section on "damage control," dealing with problems ranging from despairing players to sudden lags in pacing.
Read the plugs section for a bit more, but can you tell I'm proud of it? I had more fun writing this book than anything in years, and I think it will show. No matter what RPG you play, you'll find it useful, I'm sure.
9/14/99: As the summer finally starts to loosen its grip on the Texas climate, things are happy and busy. Our good friends Kenneth Hite (Star Trek RPG Line Developer and weekly game-columnist extraordinaire) and his wife Sheila Ralston are visiting this week, which means the usual blend of good food and Austin amusements is twice as nice (plus they both have birthdays this week).
Work continues here on all of my projects, from my Trek work to Time of Troubles to a short-fiction project I'm working on to next month's Crossword. Also upcoming is the first Blue Room event to have real physical prizes - the 1999 World Mastery Tournament, to celebrate Armin Sykes' development of some spiffy new net-play software for the Mastery freeware computer version. If you're a Windows user and want to help him test it out, drop by the site and download the version 2.5 beta, then find an opponent and play! The Tournament itself will be announced in a few weeks, and the prizes will include some GURPS stuff, a beautiful copy of the new Star Trek RPG hardcover, free registration for a copy of Armin's GCA program, and a few other goodies. So brush up on your Mastery!
9/5/99: Which makes sense if you've seen Twin Falls, Idaho - playing at "indy/arthouse" theaters right now. And you want it to make sense. It's a great movie. Sandra and I caught it Friday night, and just loved it to pieces. Go go go, darnit. Seriously. You've not seen the like.
Tonight was a fun night for gaming. Jeremy Zauder (from SJ Games), Dustin Wright (from Chaosium) and two more nice folks -Will Rouse and James Nance - joined Sandra and I for a GURPS rendition of T1: The Village of Hommlet, the classic AD&D adventure by Gary Gygax. This was part of my "Austin One-Shot Series," where I pull together a completely new group for a one-shot every month or so. A grand time was had by all, complete with yummy chow and lots of five-dollar words (courtesy of Gygax). Just a really fun bunch of players, tonight, really laid back and never hesitant to roleplay and have fun with it. We engaged in good old-fashioned brigand-hunting and dungeon-stomping in fine style, with flashing swords and sparkly magic all around. They even remembered classic manuevers like "let the NPC open the door." It's like riding a bicycle, I guess. Definitely need to do more of that, and it's inspired me to get back to work on GURPS Grunts for the Blue Room, when I have time again. Hope springs eternal!
Anyway, hope your holiday weekend is going well, too. Best to you from us.
These Are The Voyages
8/29/99: I only wrote a single chapter of the Star Trek Roleplaying Game - or what was meant to be a chapter (in the end, it got smooshed together with it's sister-chapter into one big one). But the wait to finally see a copy was as agonizing as the pre-publication anxiety I normally reserve for books that I've written cover-to-cover! Why?
Well, first of all, I just wanted the game, badly, as a fan. When you see it, you'll see why. On top of that, I was really proud of my little chapter (ditto on the "when you see it"). On top of that, this is my first time "in hardcover" with more than a couple of paragraphs. On top of that, this is only my third time in chain bookstores. On top of that, this is the first Star Trek project of many (see the plugs section, just updated today), and on top of that, it's the first time that Kenneth Hite and I got to work together on a Trek project, since Kenneth is, of course, the Star Trek Line Developer.
This game is - finally - on game-store shelves across the country. Those same game-store shelves which now feature GURPS Russia, so it's a good week, darnit (GURPS Russia is now officially Out of Print, by the way, and I wouldn't bet the church bus on it returning anytime soon, so Now Is The time, as they say).
So, get thee to a game shop!
In site-news, I recently added a Blue Room Update Log, a page where any significant changes made to any part of the site will be recorded. If you look there now, you'll see such fun things as a recent "upgrade" to the Pizza Article, a new page in the GURPS section, and more.
8/21/99: After years of waiting, the hard work and love I poured into my best work ever, GURPS Russia, has finally paid off. This past Wednesday, when Sandra and I were out browsing around waiting for Dr. Strangelove tickets to go on sale at the Paramount, we dropped into the local game-shop, and . . . there it was. On sale. Where gamers could see it.
I've waited six and a half years for this. Frankly, I still don't think it's entirely sunk in yet. But it sure was nice. Cheers.
8/13/99: Literally "a real bastard." That's the Italian equivalent of "Truly Badass," which you're probably familiar with from Beyond the Grip of Realism and (in a stealthier way, thanks to Dr. Kromm) GURPS Black Ops. A while ago, I included a link to the Italian translation of Unlimited Mana, but I hadn't realized that there was a whole slew of translations of my articles at the same site! I've now updated the GURPS and Gunmetal Blue pages appropriately. Godono! And ciao ai miei amici in Italia.
Recently, a nice chap in Japan wrote and asked permission to do similar translations in his language; more on that as it happens.
In Risus news, Tim Huntley has added two new Risus pages to the World Wide Web, one for his "As-of-Yet-Unnamed Risus game" and one for Cthulhu-Style Sanity/Insanity Rules. My own "Gonzo Trauma" rules will be addressing the issue of Sanity in a much sillier way in the upcoming Risus Companion, but Mr. Huntley has provided a very simple and clean system for doing it in more serious games.
Standing at the Crosswords
8/8/99: Somewhere far north of here, another Gen Con is getting ready to wind down (click here for some fun photos from the con, courtesy of Last Unicorn). Here at home, I'm getting a bit of writing done (focusing on the Narrator's chapter of the upcoming Klingon Boxed Set, at the moment), after a nice evening around town with Sandra! She bought us a Cheapass Game that struck her fancy; we had a fun browse at one of our favorite used bookstores, plus a nice mix of just wandering around town, a bit of grocery shopping, a meal out, and lots of smooching and being shamelessly affectionate in public.
And here on the Blue Room, the latest Crossword is now available for your amusement, and Tim Driscoll and Colby Perkins are once again honored on the Godlings page - even though they didn't quite solve the July puzzle! They came closest, though. Who will take the mantle of Godling this time? Might be you!
8/4/99: Just a general update and a hello, this time around. Site updates first: I've done some fixes, snips, and additions to the oh-so-handy Blue Room Home Search Page. As always, the best way to use the page is just to snag it and put it on your hard drive (just drop the contents of this little ZIP archive into a directory someplace) to have a quick-loading and nifty search page of your very own. Or, you can access it from here. Either way works.
Health Update: After many icky tests at the hospital, the good news is that I don't have heart trouble. Rather, the nasty chest pains seem to indicate something gastrointestinal, possibly a hernia. Being a diabetic with a hernia sucks, but it's positively rosy compared to the prospect of being a diabetic with heart trouble! So, color me grateful, both for my healthy heart, and Sandra, for being so good for it!
Speaking of my sweetie, Sandra and I went to see Run Lola Run the other night - it's a punky little German film about young love, drug deals, robbery, and causality. Sort of. Either way, it's fast-paced, deliciously amoral, and shamelessly lighthearted, which is quite the combination. If it's in your town, don't miss it. I've still got that "Wish" song running through my head . . .
Anyone attending Gen Con this weekend should do two things for certain. The first one is to find the Last Unicorn Games booth to get a copy of the Star Trek RPG - finally, the Original Series game will be available, and it promises to be a beauty (plus, I wrote a chapter)! Released at the same time will be my Narrator's Toolkit, although that might not make the Con itself (keep an eye peeled at the local game shop). While you're there, tell the LUG guys I said Hi! The second thing to do is to find the Wizards of the Coast booth (they're bound to be there someplace; you might have to ask around; I'm sure the display will be very subtle and small). Tell them that I said that they rock. Recently, Sandra and I purchased a slightly faulty copy of a Robo-Rally supplement (being junkies of that incredibly cool boardgame) - one of the map boards was misglued. I contacted WotC via their customer support line, and those guys turned Heaven & Earth upside-down to make amends, being real nice to me and busting into their private stock to send me a replacement board. Kudos to WotC!
And watch this space for more. This weekend, I'll put up a new Crossword, and announce the new Godling for the current one - if there is a Godling to announce! 'Til then, take care.
An Eclipse on the Horizon
7/20/99: If you're within a couple of hours of Columbia, Missouri, make plans to attend Eclipse 2000 this coming January! I'm officially confirmed as the Gaming GoH for the con (even if their website doesn't mention it just yet), and both I and Sandra will be there, bringing Gaming Cheer into the fresh new millenium. If all the Y2K fanatics are right, we'll be gaming by torchlight in the burned-out ruins of a once-great town, with hordes of post-apocalyptic mutants raiding the Con Suite for pretzels and stale 7-Up, so bring blankets and shiny trinkets to trade, just in case! Naturally, I'll be running the Star Trek Roleplaying Game and boosting the noble folks over at Last Unicorn Games, as well as talking up my upcoming Chivalry and Sorcery book, doing my best to encourage up-and-coming gamers (and game-writers!), and generally convening all to heck. And if they get the artist GoH that they're trying to, it'll be an awesome double-bill. More on that as it happens!
In other, odder news: AD&D miniatures? "Sure," you say. "I've seen lots of AD&D miniatures." Not quite like these! See my review over at RPGnet!
A Spirit of Adventure
7/12/99: Another game-night this past Saturday - a Bigass Game of Robo-Rally with Scott Haring, Tim Keating, Steve Scivally and the Costellos (Mike and Mel and Marissa!) in attendance - got me in a cheerful mood, and I'm starting to finally settle in and cope with this whole diabetic thing. It's still bloody horrible, really, but I've found one thing out: my new dietary "restrictions" don't feel especially restricting, after all. There are lots of drastic changes, but I see it as less of a series of "cant's" and more of a set of encouraging choices that I should have been making anyway. It's a whole new set of culinary challenges, that's for sure! And Sandra is switching habits along with me, which helps a lot. Overall, it's an adventure!
Another thing that has provided distraction and amusement in a difficult time has been my recent eBay addiction. I always had a thing for flea markets, anyway, and I even have several odd auctions of my own in there, testing the waters (and the limits) in my own small way. Many more on the way, most likely - it's been fun!
The verdict seems to be that the current crossword is a bit on the tricky side! One friend reported that he and a group of four others were working as a team to conquer it - and couldn't quite get it. Another correspondent has sent a solution, but it fell just short of the mark, and he's back to a corner of the drawing board. Since previous puzzles tended to net fresh Godlings within a day or two of posting, at most, I can only conclude that the next puzzle needs to be toned down a bit, so it will be (and it'll be here in August)! In the meantime, the Godling who does conquer the current beast will be showered with praise and be the subject of wonder. So sharpen those pencils and give it a try!
A few minor updates to the site recently - mostly in the form of "invisible" fiddling with format and whatnot, but also a new feature in the Secret Library. Coming very soon: My Star Trek RPG page!
7/7/99: The past week has been quite an education, in everything from the normal nutrition-oriented stuff (which has really just been Yet More Confirmation that medical science is just making it up as they go), to plenty of fun lessons in the Wacky World of HMOs. Just wanted to post a brief update to stay that I'm still here, figuring out how to cope with it all - and to thank all the nice folks who've written me with well-wishes, recipes, book recommendations, personal references to other folks that can help, and more! It's made a real difference in a difficult time.
I'm officially back to work today, letting my keyboard take me back to the United Federation of Planets on behalf of the fine folks at Last Unicorn Games (who took home a well-deserved Origins Award this past weekend for the swellerific Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG). The new Star Trek RPG (The Original Series) will be out in time for Gen Con or thereabouts; watch for it (I wrote the adventure-design chapter!), 'cause it'll be even sweller and terrifficer! My Star Trek RPG Narrator's Toolkit (my first-ever book on GMing, which is something I've wanted to do for a long time) will be released at about the same time. Snag it!
Back to work with me . . . And in the meantime, give the July Crossword a try! No new Godling has mastered it yet!
Ah, Sugar Sugar
7/1/99: Well, it's been a trying couple of days. The other night, some shortness of breath and chest pains landed me in an ambulance, with EKG thingamajigs stuck all over me and more needles than I care to remember poking into me drawing blood for testing, and the funny oxygen-mask over my face, and the works. All this after an unpleasant evening of (unrelated) food-poisoning, no less! Yow. And it turns out it most likely wasn't any kind of heart-attack (this time), but that I am a serious big-time Type II Diabetic, and that there may be some heart-related complications (since I'm just finding out that my heart has been trying to pump syrup for the past couple of months). Eww. Ick. Bleah.
It seems that, like a lot of diabetics, I "bumped along at borderline for years" (the way my Doc put it) before crossing the line, probably due to stress (I've had a bit of that, over the past year), so that means I get to start exercising more regularly, sleeping like a normal human being, eating fewer Starburst fruit chews & piles of bacon and things, and de-stressing. It also means lots of medications and trips to cardiologists and whatnot (maybe a dietician at some point, too). The upshot of the upshot is that new recipes in Gourmand Bleu are likely to be good for you, from now on! Anyone with tasty healthy-chow ideas out there, please drop me an email (recommendations for appropriate cookbooks are welcome, too)!
To add the appropriate dose of irony, check out the latest Out of the Box, Kenneth Hite's swell gaming-biz column over at Mania. The crack I made about heart-attack and stroke wasn't meant to be foreshadowing. Gah! Anyway, the rest of it is about fun gaming stuff, so it's more interesting reading than this. :)
Ah, well. Live and learn, I guess. The lesson being that I could have avoided this, or at least "bumped along" for many more years, if I had been taking better care of myself. If you have a family history or other risk factors, take heed! Saying "pass" to that third doughnut is worth it, believe me. Thanks to Sandra, my panicking-and-abject-terror is being kept to a reasonable minimum, and I'm trying to take it one step at a time. Sugar-free beverage, anyone? Bleachh.
7/1/99 (again): I went ahead and tossed up the new crossword while I was in here!