Later On, We'll Conspire

12/25/01: Merry Christmas! As I write this, I'm up late watching for Santa! In Sjohnese, that means I'm finishing up the cranberry sauce, pumpkin custard, and eggnog for tomorrow (all three are better if they're chilled in the fridge, and making the custard ahead of time leaves the oven free). And, of course, I'm wasting time on the computer making fonts (next week's freebie, a stencil-font I'm building to use in Points in Space 2), and fiddling with games and such. Sandra is fast asleep, and soon I'll be joining her. In the meantime, two unexpected items of gamestuff-related news:

The last pre-Christmas package that came in turned out to be my contributors' copies of The Best of Pyramid, Volume 2, from Steve Jackson Games. Not only does it have the revised Unlimited Mana in it (finally in a book after all these years), they threw in Pawnshop as well. Current Pyramid editor Steven Marsh even takes a line in his introduction to express astonishment that Unlimited Mana is still the #1 top-rated Pyramid article! What can I say? I'm a little amazed, too, but Umana is a nice little piece (a little idea that gives big results), and a lot of folks still use it (myself included). Anyway, that was fun to see, and it's especially good of SJ Games to use the current, expanded version of the article. Thumbs-up!

In the "didn't see that coming" department, I've accidentally contributed to the look of Glorantha (the ever-nifty world of RuneQuest and Hero Wars), albeit in a tiny, indirect way. The Unspoken Word, a UK magazine dedicated to Glorantha in general and Hero Wars in particular, has been licensed by Issaries Inc, to produce a troll sourcebook for the game, and they decided that Thunder Thighs, a fun freeware favorite from the fontworks (that came out accidentally; I swear) was Just The Font for the book's headers! It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would use my fonts in a book of some kind (I mean, except me), so that was an unexpected Christmas present!

The apartment smells so, so good . . . baked pumpkin and spices, the tree, the cranberry sauce. And it's nice and warm. And my eyes are closing. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Jolly Tidings

12/22/01: Christmas is almost here, and not a Blue Room has been stirring (not even my mouse). I've been quiet for a couple of different reasons . . . Last weekend, I caught a nasty flu bug which had me out of commission for a couple of days, and then when I was at the outer edge of the illness, I decided the computer had been a little on the sickly side, too, lately, so I wiped the hard drive and rebuilt it from the ground up (which is a pretty scary process if you're a quasi-technophobe like I am). I did slip on an extra page about Sculpey runestones before all that happened, and never mentioned it here, but apart from that, the Blue Room has been quiet.

In the meantime, Christmas has been happening! Sandra and I have been shopping, the apartment smells of real pine (we were worried, briefly, that we'd have no tree at all, when friends of Sandra's surprised us with the gift of a real one), and there's cranberries in the fridge ready to be sauced. Once again, there are blinking lights around, and while it's been a strange season, what with one thing or another, we're finally settled in for the holiday weekend, ready to sing carols and sip warm beverages and do a lot of cheerful sighing (and of course, pop popcorn for strings and bake some pretzels, which we do every year).

And in healthy-eating-land, Sandra became (quite possibly) the first person to smuggle fresh green salad into a movie theater the other night for Fellowship of the Ring, instead of the more usual bag of Twizzlers or box of Raisinets. There's more to the story than that, of course, but it's an interesting footnote for the history books, I think. Great movie, too.

And the Free Font of the Week is back, too! And there's more Sparks on the way (watch this space!), I'm catching up with my deadlines again, and life is just plain keen.

Warm and Cozy

12/11/01: The original plan was to describe the whole trip when we got back, but it was such a fully-packed couple of days - far beyond anything I could have expected - that all I can really do is sum it up! The most important part, the wedding itself, was worth a hundred plane trips . . . Dan looked eight feet tall in that tux (he's really just under seven feet, I think; Dan's a big guy) sort of like the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith would look if it could grin and play a Halfling. Becca looked great in her dress, and the whole thing had a note of fun to it that elevated it beyond just a happy occasion to a really memorable one. Very amusing little priest they had. Yoda-esque.

As an added bonus, we got to spend a little time on Sunday hanging out with both bride and groom, hearing tales of birdseed gone awry and sharing memories of all kinds. Beyond all the wedding stuff, we got to see my father again, hang out with our good friends Tim Driscoll and Chris Reid, even visit Game Parlor again (a gameshop up in the shadow of the D.C. area that's always worth a look). Late Friday night, I even ran an impromptu game of (dead serious) Call of Cthulhu, but using Pokethulhu rules, which is just Wrong (worked fine, though). And on Saturday before the wedding, I got to hook up with a bunch of chums I hadn't seen in years. And there was junk-shop browsing and late-night talks and so many good things I can't even list them without getting long-winded.

So, it was a great trip, and many thanks are owed to dear old Pop for making it possible. If not for him, I would have been taking a bus or hitchhiking to get to the wedding, and Sandra wouldn't have been able to take that much time off! The whole thing felt like Christmas a few weeks early. Cheers.

Love is in the Air

12/05/01: But that's inevitable when Sandra and I take a plane trip! My Pop back in Virginia is flying us back east in the morning, so we can be there to witness our good friend Dan Jasman's wedding. So, love is in the air, on the ground, and will soon be dancing around and noshing wedding cake (I'll do extra dancing and less cake, myself, natch).

And then there's the kind of love that's expressed in the form of a fan-based gaming award (for "clumsiest segue, the winner is ..."), and little Risus took one of those today, at the RPGnet "Buzzies." Keen!

I'll post sappy recollections of the wedding when we get back Monday night, and until then, enjoy this year's Sparks Scrapbook as the Free Font of the Week!

Like a Runestone Cowboy

12/02/01: When I became a D&D junkie in high school, my love of runes and glyphs appeared immediately. I loved the special glyphs in the Greyhawk boxed set, in particular, and then the cipher-alphabets in the Forgotten Realms. I liked runes so much I wrote a random rune-generating table (the results were hideous, but it took me thousands of die-rolls to realize it)!

As soon as I discovered fontmaking, I knew, without question, at some point I'd get around to doing a fantasy "cipherbet" of my own, and when it came time to develop Uresia: Grave of Heaven for Guardians of Order, I had the excuse I'd been waiting for! The Temphis Runes were born: not just one rune font (those are as common as dirt), but a coordinated family, to give player-handouts and props a surer sense of reality. And not just runes, but also a history for the runes, and even the sometimes-contradictory interpretations of their magic. It's a fun new thing from Cumberland Games, and I'm pleased as punch to announce its release! You might notice that this week's free font is related, too!

I Love this Part

11/28/01: Since the official arrival of the Christmas Season last Friday, Austin has slowly stepped up to the bat, and colored lights have been appearing in windows, fresh trees at the supermarket, and appropriate music at the stores. Best of all, today was cold. One of the tricky things about getting into the spirit in Texas, when I'm from a much more northern area, is waiting for the cold weather; it's here now! We may even have some flurries tomorrow.

Once Austin gets warmed up (or properly chilled) it gets it real good. I'm looking forward to wandering neighborhood's light-gazing with Sandra, and to putting up our own tree (we're getting a real one, this year), and enjoying Zilker park's festivities, and more. We went out to the post office tonight, and the wind was so bracing and icy I got an immediate burst of seasonal cheer. I have learned to love the heat, it's true, but the cold is still special!

On the work-front, I've got an amusing project coming near to a close that I can talk about, now: The Temphis Runes. It's a fantasy alphabet (8 fonts in distinctive visual styles, from calligraphy to "sans-serif" regularity) complete with magical background and historical notes. The kicker is that it's a font-oriented mini-supplement to Uresia: Grave of Heaven, my upcoming worldbook from Guardians of Order, making this the first time I've ever been allowed to publish supplementary material for any of my freelance work (let alone a few months before the book itself is out)! It'll work just as well for non-Uresia games, of course! More on that very soon.

Hug a Puritan

11/22/01: Because without them, the apartment wouldn't smell this good. I've got the pumpkin custard baked, now, and it's cooling . . . and man it smells good. Sugar-free cranberry sauce too, of course - that's done and in the fridge. That leaves the string beans and turkey and low-fat gravy for tomorrow. Even diabetics can feast! Besides, if the turkey is moist, the gravy is just gravy, so to speak.

And of course, there'll be plenty of non-puritan hugging here today, because I have something very, very special to be thankful for: Exactly four years ago, today, Sandra and I got married. And if you think I was sappy about her then . . . Sandra and I have the kind of friendship I never really dreamed possible, and a love so intense it hurts just to really think about it. It's so much that if we ever do that thing where we just stare into one another's eyes and really let ourselves feel all of it at once, it's almost unbearably beautiful. Then we get all misty and rub noses or something, and people in the background start doing that pantomime-hurling thing. We're shameless, sure, but she's so cute!

Anyway, have a good holiday. Eat well, enjoy the brisk weather (even if you enjoy it from the indoors with a hot mug of something-or-other in hand), and be thankful. From terrorism to tornadoes, life's been a little crazy lately . . . But it's still a life, and I live in a state of amazement at just how good even a bad day can be, when we take the time to appreciate what a miracle it is just to experience it. Hope this finds you well, and thank you for dropping by!

Lights Out!

11/16/01: One of the tornadoes that hit Austin yesterday touched down right near our place, and fortunately we were nowhere near home at the time. The footbridge near our building that we walk every day was half-shattered; there's still an enormous uprooted tree sprawled across it (and well beyond it), and the grounds are littered with window screens, boughs, and assorted rubbish. The winds picked up and turned over an 18-wheeler on the highway just on the other side of the shopping center we're behind, and the whole city was flooded pretty badly. The death toll is currently reckoned at a half-dozen, which isn't "bad" as tornadoes go, but it sure isn't good.

I was writing at the Little City coffeehouse on Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown; one of the staff shouted an announcement that a tornado had touched down and was heading right for us. "If anyone hears something that sounds like a rushing train," he said, "we'll all herd into the kitchen; it's deeper into the building." I phoned Sandra on the cell and made sure she headed downstairs (she works a few flights above ground level, and has a window facing the direction the storm was coming from) which she did. The storms came, and trees were whipped around and roads were flooded. It was all a mess, and scary - thank goodness for the cell phones, which held up pretty good. Also, thank goodness I had chosen to work downtown that day, so Sandra and I were only a couple of blocks apart.

Sandra got out of work, and we were both snuggling up and sharing a coffee when the power grid failed, and downtown Austin - still choked with sheets of rain, floodwaters and a confused jumble of hurried traffic - went dark. With the stoplights out, cars just sort of improvised, and the Little City staff got out candles and we sat and watched the storms. Sandra and I needed to get supper, though, so we headed out, crossing streets as best we could, keeping an eye on cars to keep from getting squished (we were basically invisible in the rain and darkness). We knew South Austin, where we live, had been hit hardest, so we caught a bus heading north, found that the campus area still had power, and ducked into the Dobie Mall to wait it out. Around us, familiar awnings and signs were torn down and scattered along the street. Inside, we watched The Man Who Wasn't There and forgot about it all for a while.

Phone lines and net services were down for a while, and the Blue Room with it - but we're home and warm and doing fine here on the next night, and hope this finds you just as well. Life's been far too interesting lately . . .


11/12/01: Busy weekend! One of Sandra's coworkers had a couple of extra passes to Saturday's Longhorns game, so we got our first close-up taste of the intensity of college football fandom. The game was very one-sided (a final score is 59/Zero isn't a "titanic struggle" by any definition) but my favorite part of team sports is watching the crowd, anyway! 80,000 or so showed up to form a massive wall of supporting orange, and it was fun. The view of Austin was great, too!

That night, we got together with some new gaming friends, doing our first night of dice-bouncing with people we'll be playing D&D with in a couple of upcoming campaigns. The game of choice was Talisman 2nd Edition, a long-time favorite. Appropriately, one of the DMs took the crown and ruled the world, which everybody felt was a good sign!

And, in the Big News from Cumberland department, Fief is done! This is an important experiment - the first CG&D title written by somebody that isn't me! Fief is an electronic revival and revision of an underground gaming classic by Lisa Steele. My contributions to this edition are mostly production (I did the page layout, the little watercolor mountain ranges and things) and index. It's an incredible work of gamer-focused research; check it out and download the free version!


11/03/01: Too busy for a detailed update right now, but I just wanted to pop in and say a quick hello, let everybody know that there's a new weekly font up, and to say that today was fun. The powwow was a hoot (we danced with representatives of over 50 tribes in a, erm, big dance of some kind); Chuy's was a hoot (as always), the weather was great, and I survived the surreal, mind-bending strangeness of Sandra and Amy doing a well-harmonized duet of Dancing Queen.

All Souls, All the Time

11/02/01: Well, what a Friday. It was, as those of you close to the southern border know, the dia de los muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead ("All Souls Day," but spun out as a jolly, macabre wake of sorts, a culture-wide celebration of those no longer with us). That's a big deal in Austin, and Sandra and I were out checking out the celebration and joining in, enjoying music and art and hoo-hah. But, we wouldn't have gone nearly as headlong into the celebration if not for Amy "Rogue" Miles, a dear friend of mind visiting for the spooky holidays. Long-time Blue Room readers will remember Amy as the bizarre webmistress of an incredible homepage, and as my "spirit-sister;" she's family, without the formality of blood relation.

Anyway, to make a very, very long story short, it's been a fun week, and today was the best so far. Sandra and I smooched and made like newlyweds as we usually do, and Amy prowled the celebration snapping photos of folks in skeletal costumes and generating enough energy for an additional two parties (considering we were all stuffed on Mongolian Barbecue, this had an extra dimension of the miraculous). By the end of the day, I was in a hot tub with all my clothes on, the proud owner of a small plastic fez.

And now, as the dead return to the Mictlán, I'm going to do a similar trick with sleep. Tomorrow it's the 10th Annual Austin Powwow (and possibly the Celtic festival), so sleep will be handy. Peace and good cheer.


10/26/01: The folks at warned us that there would be brief, all-but-invisible service interruption in the wee hours, a couple of days ago, as they moved their hardware across town. Didn't quite work out that way! Eek. So, if you've dropped by, lately, only to see a 404, that's the skinny - just a little tech-snag as the ISP shifted on the map.

Whenever you do finally see this, there'll be a toasty new Font of the Week waiting for you! Wander into the Fontworks itself, too, if you haven't lately. The new Sparks set isn't the only "Halloweeny" font around here. I'm a big fan of going bump in the night.

I Hope Not; She's Too Cute!

10/20/01: Every topic has a website or a dozen or a hundred, but some topics are lucky enough to have definitive websites. The Internet Movie Database for raw film data, for example, or Demian Katz' page for gamebooks and pick-a-paths. Some folks pick a topic and just do it so thoroughly it brings tears to the eyes.

For fonts, that site is the work of Luc Devroye. Luc doesn't just list every site relating to fonts, font-design, and typography. He describes them, compares them, and keeps his descriptions up-to-date. I don't know where he gets the energy or time, but every time I visit there, I'm grateful.

Tonight, though, I got a special and unusual treat, so I'll share. Luc's description of the Cumberland Fontworks (you can find it on the Original Fonts/Many Fonts page of his site) mentions lots of my Weeklies, including Marshmallow, drawn by Sandra Ross, my cute Newfie wife. Of this font, Luc says:

Marshmallow (2001, officially by "Sandra Rossi[sic]", but this has to be an imaginary person)

I'll be the first to admit that Sandra often seems too good to be true [this is the part where I do the dreamy sigh!] but I've had four incredible years (and change) to be convinced that I'm not dreaming (complete with the requisite pinches). Thank goodness! [Note: Luc emailed that he'd fix it quick, so if you can no longer find the reference on his page, maybe I just imagined it all along . . .]

It's Now the Mash!

10/17/01: The notion for the newest Sparks set, Monster Cinema, is the result of Sandra and I wandering one of those seasonal "costume superstores" that set up in unused lots in shopping centers - an acre of gaudy capes, plastic teeth, sweaty latex masks, and a hundred variations on everything from Little French Maid outfits to classic movie-horror characters like the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster. In addition to the usual fun of playing with giant plastic cutlery with built-in sound effects, I had a nagging thought: I want a Frankenstein Spark!

So I got Sparkmeister Smith on the horn, and the first Sparks "holiday special" was born. If you click on the correct picture, you'll also find a little something extra! Boo!

Autumn Rambling

10/11/01: Life persists in being weird. The other day, Sandra and I were noshing at our favorite middle-eastern restaurant downtown (partly we wanted to make a point of supporting the place in a troubled time; partly we just craved the shawerma) and the whole time some kook is driving up and down Congress Avenue in a black van painted with "God Hates America" slogans and shouting on a loudspeaker. It's prime-time for kooks, lately.

The food was great, and cheap (it's always both) and black vans aside, Sandra and I had a good day. Really, life in general has been good on the days when we remember to avoid reading the news. Saturday, we did one of our marathon city-hikes, ending up everywhere from a church arts-and-crafts show (I got a cool little pumpkin button-topper made of Sculpey) to our regular haunts up by the campus, covering maybe 9-10 miles of ground, all told.

Cumberland Games is lurching back to life in a serious way over the next few weeks, after a summertime of (busily working) slumber. Fief, the CG&D edition of Pokethulhu, and at least one new Sparks set (probably two) will appear in fairly rapid succession. One of the Sparks sets is 99% done, and Fief is entirely done; it's just going through post-production spiffery. Points in Space 2 will go into playtest as soon as I settle down to type it all in (the one drawback to writing everything longhand, first), and Fly From Evil is starting to take solid shape for its second playtest pass, too.

In the flashback department (part I): Somebody posted a review of Digital Web 2.0 on RPGnet recently. It felt strange reading that (I wrote the Administration section and parts of Sectors and Avatars, way-back-when).

In the flashback department (part II): The character-creation gathering for the new D&D campaign I'm joining as a player is this weekend, and it feels funky and fun to be playing D&D again after all these years. Much more important, the group I'm hooking up with are a cool bunch of folks, so I'm sure my enthusiasm for the campaign will just be getting warmed up when my nostalgic "Hey! I'm playing D&D!" buzz wears off (I give that about two weeks).

In the brings-tears-to-my-eyes department, my good friend Dan Jasman (he's "Rutherford" in my old Dragon 'toon; he's about seventy feet taller in real life) is getting married soon. I really can't express how happy I am about that.

Okay. Rambling for sure, now; I'm gettin' sappy! More soon. And how about those GIDFA auctions? Pretty cool!

Cooling Down

10/03/01: Cold fronts have been draping down across the continent, even reaching as far as sunny Austin ... and the effects have been welcome, to say the least. I always get a special buzz when the seasons change, and it's been a needed lift. A week ago, when the first of the cooling started to hit, Sandra and I did a six-mile walk just to stay out in it a little longer!

Steve Jackson Games contacted me the other day with an email I'd been hoping to see: a request to use the current, definitive version of Unlimited Mana in the upcoming second volume of their Best of Pyramid collections. I had been concerned (and even, at one point, told by an SJ Games staffer) that they'd use the older version from the magazine archive. Fortunately, they either had a change of heart or the staffer in question was just confused. Either way, it'll be good to see Umana in a book, now. Many thanks are owed to Craig Roth, who's been keeping the article available to the public via the web.

Amusing items to browse two: I've added a link to yet another wordfill on the Crossword page, and Risus fan Darrel Miller has written a very curious Risus solitaire, starring a Sparks character from the Watch the Skies! set. Revel in its oddness.

GIDFA Awakens

9/29/01: Go immediately to GIDFA; it's finally up and running, and there are many fascinating lots up for bid, including several unique items! My own donations are:

Every bit of support helps! If any of these items go unsold I'll be all ashamed, so don't let me down. Thanks, very much, just for taking the time to give it a look.

Distraction and Relief

9/22/01: If you're in the mood for something light, I've got a new puzzle up on the Crossword Page called A Gamer's Bookshelf. It's an old-fashioned "WordFill:" no trivia, no cryptic clues. Just fit the words into the grid - it's a fun way to relax. I did one of these a while ago with a Star Trek theme, but this new one is even simpler, really, since the Star Trek one had a gimmick where the word list wasn't included!

I've been busy at work on the final stages of producing Fief, and I've added a "teaser graphic" to the Fief page showing what some of the final pages of the book look like. Watch that space for a lot more information about Fief (including a big downloadable sample of it) coming soon.

And of course, playful puzzles and work are two ways to keep our spirits up . . . But there are still people fighting to recover New York City and the Pentagon from the wreckage. If you're a gamer, one very worthy project you should know about is the Gaming Industry Disaster Fund Auction, an organized effort on the part of pretty much everybody in the game biz to auction off items to provide money for the relief effort. They're still getting everything up to speed, so bookmark the site and visit often for updates. If you're in the industry at all, please join us in donating auctionable items!

Dark Days

9/16/01: The day of the attack, I turned the television on right about the time the second plane hit. Most stations weren't even news at that point. By the time I wandered into some news, two minutes later, they were showing the replay. It had just dawned on the country that the first plane couldn't have been an accident. For the rest of the morning, I watched things happen and felt very helpless and very scared. Neither feeling has gone away, though like everyone else, I'm doing my best to put them in the background to continue functioning. It works most of the time, but I've been dreaming more than sleeping.

Sandra and I had things to occupy us this past weekend, at least . . . We had to go down to San Antonio to the INS office, to do the final stage of Sandra's permanent residency. Now that that's done, we're finally free of INS hassles for several years to come, ending a complicated and overlong process. So, that kept us busy, and it was good to be on the road a little (or anywhere away from a television). On the way back, we stopped to tour a cavern - something Sandra had never done before! - and marveled at calcite draperies and stalactites and things. Also an enormous pile of 5,000-year old bat guano which we found very comforting.

But, throughout the country, people are coping with things a little differently than road trips and bat droppings. There's an enormous racist backlash against anyone even apparently middle-eastern, which makes me every bit as queasy as the endlessly-repeated footage of the collapsing World Trade Center. It wasn't too long ago when this country was putting third-generation descendants of Japanese immigrants in concentration camps out of the same kind of helpless rage. It's a horrible irony considering what most folks from the middle-east come to America to escape from.

But of course, that's what terrorism does, and this has been a very, very successful attack. The United States is currently jumping through every hoop the terrorists have set up for us to jump through, from dread to paranoia to divisiveness to war.

My hope is that whatever comes of this comes and goes quickly, so that we can properly mourn the dead, and bury the hatred, as well. Godspeed, indeed. The end can't come quickly enough.

A Maze of Words

9/10/01: That's a phrase that seems to apply to most of my projects this week, since I'm working both on solitaire adventures (a favorite vice of mine) and the index for Fief. I've had my experiences with solitaires before (see Ring of Thieves if you need a good read for a train trip) but this is my first foray into large-scale indexing. As with anything else I do, I'm being a harshly self-critical perfectionist, so it's (a) going to cause my head to explode and (b) be a very worthy index when it's done. I hope!

Work has been wreaking havoc with my sleeping schedule again, so I'm wandering in a zombie-like haze this morning. The initial upload of this week's free font was missing a hyphen, for example (I don't mean the webpage ... the font itself had no hyphen! eek!) and I dread to think of what kind of spelling errors I'm making in this very sentence (by the time you read it, hopefully I'll have fixed them).

Warped diurnal cycle aside, I had a great weekend with my sweetie; we wandered our favorite craft-store and explored a new neighborhood and rode a lot of buses. We also saw Thomas In Love at the Dobie Theater ... a funky, fascinating little French science-fiction film about an agoraphobe's search for companionship, told entirely from the perspective of his computer monitor. Kept our attention from the gratuitous opening to the leaves-you-wondering ending. A worthy flick to catch if it comes your way.

I've entirely lost track of what I was leading up to. It probably wasn't important. I'm either going to go out walking or fall asleep in the attempt, now. Hope this finds you well and awake!

Type Casting, Part II

9/02/01: I was so pleased by hearing from an Apostrophic Lab member that, this time around, the weekly font is both here and there! I did a simple little "grungy poster" version of their cool, come-one come-all font family, Futurex. Typesource by Proxy even named it "font of the moment" the other day when I handed it over to the Lab. Fun with type!

Type Casting

8/29/01: I got a pleasant surprise last night, when one of the fontmakers from the utterly excellent Apostrophic Lab emailed me about my weekly font. As if that wasn't flattering enough, she let me know that TypeOasis, a font site I was shamefully unaware of, has picked up the torch of the recently-lost True Type Resource by bringing us Typesource by Proxy, which includes regular news of Cumberland font releases, right next to the output of real font foundries like the Chankstore and (sigh, swoon) Letterhead. Eek! I've always been semi-embarassed by my junky little hand-drawn fonts, but now I'm downright self-conscious about them! It's strange (but nice) being given such an unexpected mark of legitimacy as a fonthound.

I'm on firmer ground thinking of myself as a game designer, of course, and specifically, the designer of Risus, the game that launched a thousand (or, at least, more than a dozen) bizarre fanpages. One of those, David Masad's Page, has recently added a new wrinkle: Risus used as the basis for tabletop wargaming. Oh, such inspired strangeness!

Gnats to You, Too, Brother

8/20/01: We got back from Dallas on Friday night, beating the arrival of a fresh wave of rain delays by catching an early flight. We had a nice time wandering around new neighborhoods in Dallas (and in browsing at the world's largest Half-Price Books location); it's always good to stretch the legs on a different street, now and again.

The weather, though, wasn't very cooperative: Dallas was a lot more humid than Austin ever gets, and the "Dallas Random Encounter Table" would read something like this:

... and so on. So, while Sandra spent time in her class, I wandered from place to place, writing, drawing, browsing, and inhaling gnats. It was fun riding trains again, though (Austin only has buses)! One of the things I doodled in my wanderings was an old pencil-puzzle maze like the ones I used to draw constantly in High School. I'm not sure why the mood struck me, but I put it on the Crossword page (near the bottom) anyway, since it's been ages since I've posted a new puzzle of any kind. I really need to make another crossword soon ...

Ghostbusters to Ghost Dog

8/14/01: If you've been dropping by here for a long time, you know that a lot of the articles that make the Blue Room such an eclectic library of stuff are articles that had a rough time finding a safe home in print. Unlimited Mana was rejected by one editor before being picked up by another; Medieval Demographics Made Easy was rejected by some, then accepted by others who vanished; a lot of the Star Trek stuff was written for book publication just before the publisher coughed up a lung and died, and so on. It is, then, with a mixture of cheerful fanfare and wistful sighs that I add another work to that company, with Flickering Lights, a short history of RPGs based on feature films. This piece was originally penned for inclusion in a print magazine, at the request of the editor. But, when that editor pulled up stakes, and a colleague hinted that the magazine was having to struggle to pay writers, I opted on the side of caution. With regrets, I pulled the article, and (with no regrets at all) gave it a home here. I'd rather not get paid for something people read for free than not get paid for something people pay good money to see, if that makes any sense. Here's hoping things at the magazine get better (it's a tough industry to make ends meet in) and here's hoping you enjoy Flickering Lights!

Good News

8/12/01: They say that no news is good news, and so it logically follows that I have good news today! Nothing earth-shattering, anyway. The usual new font, the usual new Risus link (a Star Wars adaptation, this time, by a chap named Darrel D. Miller), the usual fun weekend with Sandra, now at an end as the work-week returns. I'm still laying out timelines and other bits on Fief, working hard to get it finished by Wednesday, when Sandra and I are taking a brief trip to Dallas.

We used up the last of our prepaid passes to the Paramount Theater this past Friday, giving the old 1973 adaptation of Chandler's The Long Goodbye a look, and it was odd. Chandler purists dislike it because it's anything but reverential to Chandler. I like irreverence (a lot), so I was backed into a corner and had to dislike it for being just a really confused, muddy, slow movie with random squeaks of tinny humor. Still, it was kind of cool  seeing Elliot Gould as Marlowe; he was a pleasant surprise. While the story  was updated to the 1970s, Marlowe wasn't, which was a nice touch and a good idea, even if it was wasted in context.

Star Wars keeps cropping up, this week. In addition to the arrival of the Risus page for it, I've been fiddling with some Star Wars things for Wizards of the Coast, and there were a couple of strange Star Wars links with the film: the screenplay was by Leigh Brackett, who made The Empire Strikes Back such a standout feature, and the soundtrack (really, just one song played over and over) was by John Williams, arguably the single most important creative force in the Star Wars movies (he gets my vote, anyway!)

Sneaky Weekend

8/06/01: Well, I guess I really am a bad influence, after all! I got Sandra to engage in one of the vices of my youth this past weekend, when we paid to see one movie, but stuck around (and snuck around) for two. Sandra was keen to see The Princess Diaries, and I wanted to catch Planet of the Apes, so we caught a matinee of one and then slipped away for the other. If we hadn't been hungry at that point, we might have wandered into a third! I used to spend whole Saturdays that way back in Havelock, North Carolina (where I finished - or rather failed to finish - high school), and Sandra's heard those stories along with all my others, but I was pleasantly surprised when she suggested we give it a try this time around!

We got a kick out of both films. The Princess Diaries now joins Scent of a Woman in the "films featuring cool limo drivers in supporting roles" file. Both films were formula affairs elevated by strong character performances. Lots of amusing Apes (and nary an interesting human, really) in Apes, and several good comic roles (including Julie Andrews doing a startling impression of Glenn Close) in Diaries. Sunday afternoon, we curled up and watched Pulp Fiction again at home, just to see Tim Roth outside of his impressive and oh-so-angry Ape guise.

On the work side, Fief is just about ready for final proofing and indexing, and I'm beginning work on some of my article-scale stuff, which includes something I've been itching to write again for a good long time! More on that later. In the meantime, there's also been a new 'thulhu added recently, and this week's font is decidedly Peanutty.

Onward and Upward!

7/25/01: Life has been cheerful and blissfully free of annoying health-scares for the past week, so I'll do a work-related update, instead: It's beginning to look like I'm officially semi-retired as an RPG industry freelancer, as of right about now.

What I mean by that is that I'm not currently considering any book contracts. I'll be writing magazine articles, still (I've got one in an upcoming Games Unplugged, and the WotC magazines have approached me to do some stuff that sounds like fun) but the rest of my time belongs to Cumberland Games - to completing my work on Fief, Points in Space 2, Fly From Evil, two commercial Risus projects, the "designer's cut" of Pokethulhu, and more Sparks sets. 

For a while, I was in serious contract negotiation with Green Knight (publishers of Chaosium's classic King Arthur Pendragon RPG, one of the all-time greats) for a book they invited me to do, but the contract wasn't right for me, and every other book offer I've been given in the past several months has been turned down, cold, with no negotiations at all. I won't be writing any more book-length projects until Fly From Evil goes back into playtest. After that, I can't really say. This could mean that my current Big Eyes, Small Mouth book (a fantasy worldbook with the inimitable David Pulver editing) is my last professional book written for another publisher! If so, it's a pretty fun way to wave goodbye to that side of my career!

Anyway, I can't predict the future and wouldn't want to if I could, but I'm putting Cumberland on the front burner until Fly From Evil has a shot at making it. Wish me luck! Here's hoping this finds you all well.

Back in the Saddle

7/17/01: Many apologies for the long delay since my last post here; while I was busy getting over whatever the heck was causing all those pains, I was also busy with a shoulderload of work, and I'm just now digging my way into the sunlight again! Many thanks to those who wrote expressing concern about my health; you helped make a scary time go a little easier.

The rest of the thanks, of course, goes to Sandra, who not only kept me sane and healthy, she also gave me a great birthday weekend a couple of days ago. I'm now officially old (as in, no longer a "twentysomething") so I've stocked up on Geritol and I'll be complaining sourly about "young people" from now on. [Hack, wheeeze.]

In addition to our usual wanderings-about-town, Sandra surprised me with a little boat trip to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. We'd seen the bats fly before, from the riverbank, but it's a whole new experience from a boat! The boats run every night and are usually crowded, but since the boat company had its two big boats booked for private parties, Sandra and I were taken out as a couple in a cute little boat with a canvas top and given our own private tour! It was an incredible stroke of luck, basically, that depended on the boat-owners taking only a few reservations and the other party failing to show up!

And a bonus bit of news: Apparently, my name was mentioned on National Public Radio recently. Why? Blue Room visitor  Randall Orndorff wrote in email: "I listen to 'What do you know?' sometimes, a radio show on NPR.  They have a quiz in which they take one audience member and some who phones in and ask them stupid questions. One of the prizes this week for said quiz was a free copy of Pokethulhu . . ." It's a weird world we live in.

Clean Bill of Health

7/09/01: Or the next best thing, anyway. Like the other docs, my regular doc was stumped, and I'm still in a little pain ... but it's been getting steadily fainter, and I expect I'll be right as rain by mid-week. More importantly, while nobody seems to know exactly what's going on with all the neck and chest pain, the consensus seems to be that it probably isn't heart-related (which makes sense ... apart from the whole diabetic thing, I've been living the healthiest years of my life, lately, active and much leaner than before). So, I can "relax" and get back to work.

And here's a bonus font for this week: If you liked the "art" in the Risus PDF, you can now download a TrueType font containing all the illustrations, to put to whatever twisted use you desire, on the Risus page. Goofy fun!


7/08/01: It's been a mixed bag of a weekend. I'm finishing up the pre-playtest work on my Big Eyes, Small Mouth foray into traditional swords-and-sorcery, and gearing up for some possible D&D projects . . . So I thought it would be fun to throw together an adventure, and run it one week as a D&D game, and the next as a BESM game, with two different groups. Friday was the first round, as D&D.

And it was a very good time! But I wasn't feeling too hot on the inside. Friday morning, I woke up with severe pain in the neck and chest, and difficulty breathing. I soldiered through the game without a hitch, but when I woke up Saturday just as bad, I was scared, and I ended up spending a lot of the day being poked at and X-Rayed and EKG'ed and whatnot, with Sandra keeping me in good spirits. The bottom line: The doctors aren't sure what's up. As per usual, I don't quite fit the standard flowcharts and molds, and as per less-usual, it's not a good thing.

Today I felt crummy but noticeably better - good painkillers and heat on the neck seem to be helping, and tomorrow I dive into the final week of this round of work on the BESM book, culminating in the BESM version of the adventure this coming Friday. But every time I think about it, the pain gets worse . . . This is the usual relationship between work, stress and me, taken to an uncomfortably physical level. Ah, well. Soon, I'll have a fun book to show for it, anyway! Somewhere in the middle of all this, I need to fit in another doctor-visit tomorrow. If you've got a couple of fingers free, cross 'em for me.

Stress or no, it feels good to be on the homestretch (again), and I've got the usual new free font and other little updates scattered around the site. Recently-added Risus tidbits include Risus in Dutch, a new Risus game world by Scott Dunlop, and some features added to Hollis McCray's Risus software. Now I just need to get through the week! Party on.

Old Movies

7/03/01: I've been having songs from Tommy (the LP, that is) stuck in my head, on and off, for years, and I'd been listening to it again recently (reminded to by Almost Famous) . . . So when the Paramount downtown decided to throw the Ken Russell film adaptation into the mix, Sandra and I trotted off to see it (it costs a lot less than seeing a new movie, too, which never hurts)!

Oh my. It sure was a Ken Russell movie, wasn't it? Oliver Reed was particularly upsetting as the stepfather. Even spitting and frothing as Vulcan in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, he never looked like that. Yikes. And in Munchausen, of course, he didn't try to sing (in Tommy, even Jack Nicholson sings). Very over-the-top on all points. Very much an assault on the senses, but a bit of warped fun, if only for the tingling numbness that follows. I think Sandra liked it more than I did, though I suspect Roger Daltrey is a factor, there! It makes The Wall seem subtle and plot-driven.

Oddly enough, Tina Turner just seemed to fit right in.

Just as oddly, there were a large number of blind people at the movie. It never occurred to me that Russell's Tommy might be some kind of cult hit with the visually-impaired, although it makes a weird kind of sense in retrospect. Besides, somebody has to like it, I guess, and fans of The Who have no real reason to. There was a volunteer organization present providing verbal descriptions of the film whispered to those who couldn't see it. What a job. Those of you who've seen Ken Russell movies know what I mean.

My biggest movie recommendation right now, though, is that anyone fond of adventure films should go rent a copy of Never Cry Wolf. I hadn't seen the movie for years, but I had always remembered it as my favorite explorer picture from childhood (I caught it three times at the theater, courtesy of the dollar matinee at the mall I used to frequent). Sometimes, seeing a movie I loved as a kid is a big, nostalgia-shattering mistake, but not so Never Cry Wolf. Sandra and I watched it the other day and it's better than I remembered it. Just a really, really good movie. Puts me in the mood to go scare some mice.

And last night, we caught the re-release of Once Upon a Time in China up by the campus, so lots of old movies, these days!

On the games-and-toys front, there's some more fonts around! Specifically, yet another weekly font, and a fresh update to the Sparks Free-for-All. I've been meaning to get around to adding figures from Sunburned & Rusty and Critters to the free set, and finally made a little time for it, yesterday! Now the freebie Sparks set is as big as most of the commercial ones! Not bad.

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