These things are true

Nice is not as good as kind.

Petting a cat or dog is quick way to feel better.

Portion sizes on food labels were written by people who clearly don’t like to eat.

If you love books, you will always buy more than you will ever read.

Han shot first.

Assholery can be a sign of profound sadness. Sometimes.

No one is too busy to return a text.

If you order Domino’s in NYC, you are dead inside.

In the deep dark night, comedy will keep the demons at bay.

Everyone deserves love.

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Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , ,

Spi-Ku

Last week Spider-Man: Far From Home came out. Did I see it? I did! Inspired by the most New York of all super-heroes, I’ve written a few haiku to honor him. No spoilers.

What is his weakness?
Is it the guilt he carries?
One story houses

Swings through the city
It’s pure exhilaration
Who cleans up the webs?

JJ needs one thing
New pictures of Spider-Ham
Great! Now I’m hungry

Spider-Man saves lives
But Peter can’t catch a break
If only they knew

Spidey loves his quips
His foes don’t think he’s funny
Hey, is this mike on?

She falls, you reach out
Eternally towards dark water
Catch her, then the snap

Lots of great gadgets
And you made your own costume
Can you hem my cape?

Spider-Verse is vast
Tragedy follows each one
It makes you heroes

‘Nuff Said

Posted in Poetry, Thoughts | Tagged , , ,

Don’t fill up on bread!

When I was a kid and went out for dinner with my folks, the refrain was always the same, “Don’t fill up on bread!” That’s really hard because bread is delicious and when you add butter, who could resist? Also, bread from a basket tastes much better than bread from home. No idea why, it just is.

Okay, enough about bread.

Recently I played once shot game. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s a single session game, that’s right in the name, and it’s usually done to try out a new system or setting. They are essentially demos. Occasionally they can lead to longer campaigns but usually not. Consider the one shot the amuse-bouche of tabletop gaming.

Returning to the one shot I mentioned, it was for the upcoming, at the time of this writing, Alien RPG. The Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger Alien. This setting is by its very nature designed for a one shot, given how few characters make it through these movies alive. Perfect! What could be easier?

But we didn’t finish the game. Were our characters all slaughtered one by one? Did we set off the self-destruct sequence only to realize we needed to turn it off but missed the failsafe deadline? Space madness? None of the above. We simply ran out of time.

The cruelest fate for a one shot, the sand in the hourglass simply ran out, metaphorically speaking. We remarkably didn’t die, due to smart choices, lucky rolls and a lack of time. There was some post mortem about how it would’ve played out but it was not nearly as a satisfying as actual playing.

Afterwards, as I was walking to the subway, the GM and I discussed the game. Just as an aside, this guy is an excellent GM and runs entertaining games. This is not a character assassination. The game was frustrating for him since we didn’t get to finish. So why was this session, designed to be done in a single sitting, left half eaten?

We filled up on bread. Let me explain. We started our session by individually awakening from hypersleep. We then got dressed, grabbed coffee, checked our various instruments and so on. Did some role-playing. We plotted our course, checked out orders, and began our descent to the planet we were sent to land on.

If this was part of the first session of a campaign, I’d be extremely psyched, the mood and setting was very authentic. The only problem was it took too long. I’d estimate that it took somewhere near an hour and half to do all that. Was it bad? Far from it. Did we need to do it? Probably not.

I say this not as a knock. As games go, it was fun but by the time the entrée arrived, i.e. the Aliens, we didn’t have room to clean our plates. Which was a shame because I wanted to play in this universe, at least as long as I could stay alive in it.

So what’s the solution? Don’t treat a one-shot like a feast, it is not a full meal. It’s street food. Imagine a taco fresh off the cart. Hot, full of flavor and best if you eat it quickly. Goble it down, but if you wait too long, it will get cold and soggy. I realize this is not a perfect analogy but the idea of getting to the good stuff quickly is solid. Set the mood and get started. Personally, I’m a big fan of in media res. Thrust your players right in the middle of the action it will get things going.

When you begin a longer game, it’s great to explore nuanced character moments, take your time to build mood and establish the world. It’s like having a leisurely meal with friends on a sunny, summer day. Order another pitcher of margaritas? Why not, we don’t have to be anywhere.

But if you’re running a one-shot, grab that greasy bag of cheese steaks, slather on a sauce of your choice, chow down and don’t forget the napkins because things might get messy. What am I saying, they will get messy and that’s the best part. Do bold stupid things, when will you ever be here again?

Posted in Gaming, Thoughts | Tagged ,

Good Luck or Bad

What is to be lucky?

For most of us, it means that good things happen to lucky people. If you have an attractive partner or a good job, the response is that person is “Lucky.” Which is a weirdly passive aggressive reaction, as if they were just walking along and met a beautiful person and then offered a high paying job. It discounts the idea of hard work. What if our hypothetical person worked diligently to get that job, suffering setbacks along the way but ultimately achieving success? As for the gorgeous partner, it’s not as random as winning the lottery. You might feel as though you did, but the reasons we couple up are many and varied.

Once, a long time ago I found a pair of sunglasses. Not a fancy pair, just a cheap knock off pair of Ray Ban shades that someone had dropped. The kind you might buy at a street fair. A friend of mine admired them and I told him that I had found them. He looked at me and said, “You’re so lucky!” Now he said it with a hefty dollop of envy. I found that peculiar as it was not as though I had struck oil or found a diamond the size of a grapefruit. Technically speaking, I was fortunate, I did get something for nothing, even if was just pair of off-brand Wayfarers.

Is luck in the eye of the beholder? Is it just a matter of perspective?

Recently, I had some bad luck. I am in-between jobs, not so recent, but a friend of mine told me about an opening at her office. It was very similar to the work I did before, so I was able to secure an interview. My friend sat in on the interview, since I would be working with her and it went well. I really wanted this job, it would pay me almost twice what I was paid at my last job and I would get to work with a friend, a bonus. Unfortunately, management or HR decided they wanted a different set of skills for this position, effectively moving the goal posts. I don’t know if they hadn’t whether or not I would’ve gotten the job but it effectively put me out of the running. Most people would call this bad luck.

But is it? Truth be told, I don’t especially enjoy office work. I love the regular paychecks, health insurance, paid holidays and so on. However, it’s unfulfilling for me on a primal level. You can work all day but still feel as though you’ve accomplished nothing. I’m much happier writing even though it’s yet to bring me any money. Yet.

On the day I got the disappointing news, a rainy day by the way, I was on the cross-town bus, so you know I’m living the dream, and I had an idea for something to write. Not what you’re currently reading, that came later. For something bigger. I’ve been struggling lately to find a larger project to work on. That might sound silly. It’s easy to say, “Just write something longer!” I wish it were that easy. It’s one of the demons I’ve been wrestling with. I think I may have pinned this one down.

So, the question is, am I lucky or unlucky? Would I have had the same epiphany if I did get that job? There is no way to know. Maybe if I had an advanced degree in theoretical quantum physics, I could calculate the odds. Maybe. I don’t actually know how any of that stuff works so it probably is a moot point.

There’s a Taoist story about an old famer whose horse ran away. Everyone said, “That’s terrible”, to which the farmer replies, “We’ll see.” The next day the horse that ran away returned with three wild horses. Everyone said, “That’s wonderful!” The farmer replied again, “We’ll see.” The Farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses but broke his leg. Everyone said, “That’s terrible” and again the famer said, “We’ll see.” The next day, soldiers came to take all the young men from the village to fight in a war but because the son had broken his leg, he was spared. Another round of “That’s terrible” and “We’ll see.”

This story can go on Ad infinitum. Luck isn’t all one thing. Going back to our hypothetical person from the beginning, maybe they have an eye-meltingly beautiful partner but they could be a huge pain in the ass. They might be cruel or extremely jealous or high maintenance. Their high paying job might demand long hours away from the things that make life worth living. Impossible to tell at a glance.

I’ve begun work on my new project, it’s not just flowing, I’m pulling irregular shaped thoughts out of my head and throwing them on to paper, virtual paper but you get the idea. This could be something. I’m excited but I don’t know if anyone else will be.

We’ll see.

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , ,

Yes and roll those dice

I ran two sessions of Numenera for Free RPG Day this past Saturday and rather than using a pre-written adventure, I employed my improv skills to craft these adventures. Here are some thoughts on how to do that at your table.

“Let’s go to that floating castle!”

If you introduce something shiny and intriguing, your player WILL want to investigate it right away. So be prepared or at the very least willing to let them do so. It’s a little unfair to throw a floating castle and expect them not to run heedlessly, or however they run, towards it. If you are saving it for a later session, introduce it then. Don’t tease them.

“Can I do this crazy thing?”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Who remembers that time we all did that super cautious and practical thing and succeeded by observing the rules in a dry, logical manner? No one, that’s who! Everyone will remember the time you lassoed a dinosaur, jumped a canyon and decimated your enemies! Seemingly stupid ideas are the best, let your players try them. However it pans out, it will be more entertaining.

“Can’t we just walk around it?”

You may have planned a sinister, dangerous but not unsolvable puzzle or trap and you know, know in your heart of hearts that there is only one way to resolve it. Until your players look at it and find a flaw. You could say they can’t do that or it won’t work but let it work. It’s better to reward cleverness than punish it.

“I’m not here to kill you.”

I shouldn’t need to clarify this but of course I mean player characters, not players. You should always be a fan of your players, they are the stars of the show. Even so, the dice do not always share that sentiment and characters can shuffle off this mortal coil. Mechanics aside, this need not be the end. Maybe the giant whose castle they invaded wants to know why they did so and has healed them just enough for a chitchat, sans weapons of course. They can awaken on a starship bound for some distant colony or anything else you can think of. This is a story and you can alter the narrative so it continues, in spite of what the dice may say. Think of it as a detour rather than dead-end.

“Does this seem familiar to me?”

If you listen to your players, they will do a lot of your work for you. This is not being lazy. Well, maybe a little lazy, but your players will thank you for it. Planning is important but again, it’s about the players. You might think your narrative is clever, compelling, and exciting but if the PCs are secondary to it, write a book. This is not to say you should let them run roughshod over everything but take your cues from them. Are those the guys who kidnapped my brother? Why yes they are! No is the enemy of fun. In improv, we always say yes and. It works at the gaming table just as well.

Posted in Gaming, Improv | Tagged , ,

New Kaiju

The latest Godzilla movie, Godzilla, King of the Monsters is full of amazing fights between Kaiju, AKA giant monsters. Hoping to continue the trend, studios have announced the following spin-offs.

Godzilla versus Low Self-Esteem- After destroying Tokyo for the umpteenth time the King of the Monsters wrestles with a Kaiku of his own making, the hollowness of a cyclical pattern of destruction that echos over and over again. He seeks the wisdom of Biollante who insists he is not a licensed therapist, which only further alienates Godzilla. They fight, destroying Tokyo again, repeating the pattern of behavior once more.

Gamra versus Greek Life- The flying, flame spouting giant turtle is known as “Friend to All Children” returns to university to get the degree he needs to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a middle school teacher. Unfortunately, he attends a notorious party college and unwisely pledges a frat. Soon he is blowing off classes for keggers, road trips and other things he will later regret. Tragically Gamera fails to graduate, but he does learn that actions have consequences.

Picasso versus Rodin- The debate of Impressionism versus analytic cubism is finally decided in the great galleries of Europe. The outcome is subject to interpretation.

King Kong versus Barneys- The undisputed ruler of Skull Island leads a social media campaign against the famous department store when it is clear that they don’t carry any suits he can just buy off the rack. The hashtag, #DONTSHAMEKONG heavily trends and Barneys is forced to provide Kaiju sized clothing. The fashion show at the end of the movie is not to be missed.

Anguirus verus the Diablo Burrito- Can a mutated Ankylosaurus eat a one thousand pound burrito smothered in Osaka Demon Pepper sauce? I think we all want to know. Look for the cameo from Cooking Channel’s Casey Webb.

King Ghidorah versus That Kid Who Keeps Stealing his Newspaper- Ghidorah is a Kaiju who has not embraced the digital age and still has a physical subscription to the New York Times. However, every morning his paper mysteriously disappears and he suspects neighborhood scamp, Kevin Tanaka. With no proof, he considers destroying the countryside but is worried about lowering property values. With a heavy heart, Ghidorah buys an Amazon Fire because he doesn’t want to spend too much money on something he’s not sold on to begin with.

Mecha-Godzilla and Mecha-Kong versus Self-Determination- The robot versions of these famous monsters debate the morality of being created merely to cause destruction. As gesture of redemption, they write a free app that warns people of imminent Kaiju attacks.

Mothra versus the Glass Ceiling- The giant moth attempts to fly to the top of the tallest building in Tokyo but only makes it halfway. She is further saddened by the realization that she is being paid less than Battra.

Posted in Humor, Thoughts | Tagged , , , ,

Error, Error

There was an error on my last post that I’d like to address.

I have it on good authority that the inertialess drive first appeared in “Triplanetary” published in 1934, not in 1948. I have adjusted my original entry to reflect that.

The good authority is my very learned friend, Adam Dickstein, who writes the excellent blog, Barking Alien. If you want to read about science fiction, tabletop RPGs and muppets, it is the place to be. He also knows an excellent burger when he tastes one.

Please check out his stuff and you’ll be learned as well.

https://barkingalien.blogspot.com/

Posted in Articles | Tagged , ,