Summary for the month of March 2019

Here’s a summary of activity for the month of March 2019.

I’ve been having a crisis of faith lately. I have sat down at my computer, thinking I’d stream something, and haven’t. I feel like there’s no point. I’ve been streaming, and trying to build something here on the blog, and had a Patron campaign at Patreon, and a Subscribe option on Bandcamp, a voice and chat server on Discord, and some other things … and I’ve been streaming for years now, off and on.

In the last month, and I’m not sure really how to talk about this, but when the Critical Role crowdfunding effort went off like epic fireworks, I started to feel even more depressed and discouraged than normal. It’s not jealousy, per se, as I think it’s awesome for them, and their success is deservedly phenomenal; but, I look at what I’ve been trying to do, without success, and have just felt like I’ve been wasting my time all this time, time time time.

Then another thing. I suppose everyone has their Star Trek captain, or Doctor Who, right? The one they think of first, and is probably the one they started to watch originally. Well, some day, maybe already, people will probably start talking about their first Streamer in the same way, maybe?

For the record, “my” captain is probably Janeway or Cisco, “my” Doctor used to be Peter Davidson, and remained so by just a hair for a very long time, out of nostalgia over how I liked his acting so much, though Tom Baker was both delightful and my “first”, until his comments about a female Doctor finally tipped it to David Tennant.

My first streamer was Ara_gaming. Ara_gaming was the reason I started to watch Twitch. I followed her to Twitch from the Sony Landmark actual play through videos. Ara_gaming is the reason I started streaming on Twitch. Her advice was “just start!” and I did. So, tongue-in-cheek, I blame Ara_gaming for everything.

The other day, Ara showed up in Echoics’ stream, another of the first couple of streamers I watched, after years of absence from Twitch, as a guest. That was cool to see, and definitely cool after so long. I’m happy that things ending for her own stream career was for the best, and that she and Echoics are still in contact. It was nifty to see her again, and remember those early days.

But, I started to think about how little has changed for me as a streamer over the years since I started. I’m a Twitch Affiliate, but I never gained any ongoing patronage or subscribers or even a regular audience in any of these or related places. I’ve met people online and in person, I’ve had people get to know me and hang out irregularly, and all that’s super cool. But, still, most of the time, I’ve streamed with no one watching. And, as I watch my own archived videos, I’ve never gotten to the point where my own views are not significantly the majority.

My attempts to stream games, and whatnot, is a kind of art project. There’s also the annual music anthology I put together as well … and so forth. It’s good to have something to be busy with that’s fun and creative, even silly. Part of my streaming is about this idea I got, kinda modified from something someone I know said about writing book reviews. There’s a guy I know that reads, no, really, a shit ton, and he writes some kind of review for every one of them. Even if it is just a few lines. He said his rule is that if it is worth the time to read the thing, it’s worth writing some kind of review about it. He’s a damned machine, but it’s an idea that I’ve tried to use. So streaming, for me, is about how if I’m going to play games, I need to have some kind of creative output about that. Playing and grinding in a game, video or tabletop, without something to say or show for it is something I try to avoid by making streams or something at least.

But, at what point does it not make sense to put out the energy to plan and do and post these things publicly anymore if there’s no audience?

When I was in high school theatre, the teacher used to talk about how sports can be played without an audience, because the scores still matter and get recorded and have an effect on the season. But, for theatre, if there’s no audience, it’s not still a thing. I suppose theatre without an audience is just a rehearsal, really. And, in essence, I’ve been in open rehearsals as a streamer for years now. Maybe I should accept that there’s no audience and the show will never open.

Adam Koebel, in a recent stream, said something that kinda struck me hard. He said, “Content is a magical thing. As long as people will watch it, it’s worth doing.”

So, I’ve been okay with not having an audience, because it was part of an overall project. I had a reason to stream even if no one was watching. I had a reason to tweet, even if no one was listening. I had a reason to blog, even if no one was reading.

But, maybe I’ve been wrong about that. Maybe I should accept that whatever I’m doing is simply not of interest to other people, and doing it publicly is just wasted effort. I … think I’ve found the core problem with my streaming strategy. Actually, to be honest, this equally calls into question all of my strategies for anything and, moreover, my life choices. But, maybe that’s a little much to fully contemplate at the moment, all at once. And, it’s pretty much way too late in the game for me to change my entire life now, though I can mix things up and rearrange the deck chairs …

So, I’ve realized this month that I’ve lost the faith. I’ve given up each time I’ve sat down to start streaming. I’ve just not done it, though I could have, again, and once more, tried to keep to the project. I’ve got ideas I meant to do for streams, including continuing with video games, Illimat, and Gloomhaven, and starting up new series of Invisible Sun and Weave, and maybe other stuff. But, again, I’ve sat down to do them and ended up not doing them.

Welp. Okay then. I don’t know that I’m done streaming, but I think I’m done thinking of myself as a streamer. My first stream was back in September 2014, and my latest stream was almost a month ago. I’ve had ups and downs, and periods of streaming every day and periods of not being able to stream for various reasons. I don’t know that I won’t stream again, but I think I’m done with the project. Any bits or subs I had never reached over or near $75, so Twitch will end up keeping all of it; and eventually I’d imagine they might remove me from the Affiliate program, but who knows? (Their ways are mysterious!) I’ve shut down my patronage campaign. I’ve removed the option to subscribe to the anthology. I temporarily killed my social media accounts, but ended up keeping them active-ish. I’m going to stop posting, as I’ve been wont to do, monthly calls for submissions, or the other monthly reminders about my overall project. I don’t know if I’ll downgrade my Internet connectivity, but if I’m not streaming I sure don’t need all that bandwidth anymore.

I’m sad, tired, and disappointed, to be honest. But, okay, after this month, I guess I can accept now that the overall project is at least dormant, if not dead. The project is dead, long live the project! Nah, if it still moves, it’s probably just undead, trying to eat my brain.

Thanks to anyone that has read, watched, or soever, over the years. Thanks, if you’re not just me re-reading this for any mistakes, to you for reading this. I hate the “I’m leaving” trope, but this is, in fact, the summary of my last month. And, there it is.

Posts on the blog this last month

Here’s videos and streams

That player starts talking

You may be playing the wrong game, at the wrong table, with the wrong group if …

Everyone rolls initiative, starts taking turns in order, and you’re next. The DM turns to you, saying your character’s name, to put the focus on your chance to play … and then that other player starts talking, asking questions about their character’s equipment or spells, and begins to tell the DM what their character is doing … again.

Letter from Dr Marhaba to Tom Ovenbird, &al.

Greetings Mr Ovenbird, Greetings!

Please convey my regards to Misters Turner and Glizzard, and thank you for the story of their recent adventures. I’m sorry to hear they have suffered wounds, but am greatly gratified they are in recovery with good prospects for full recovery.

Dangerous as the our worlds are, they are made safer and better by our mutual support of each other becoming our better selves. Do let me know if there’s something I can help with using my resources to aid their progress; but I have arranged for a case of supplies to be sent as soon as possible with items that may be useful in that regard.

I read your notes about the music Turner and Glizzard discovered to a colleague who suggested something interesting. Apparently, my colleague was reminded of some ancient materials recovered from research on the long lost Serpent Kingdoms. There were recovered several examples of musical notation from those ancient days, which have been reconstructed as best as we are able. I’m of course not suggesting that the music you found was from that ancient period, but we were reminded of these reconstructions. I have included a sample being sent by my colleague, which you may enjoy and consider.

Who knows what layers of ancient past might be hiding under the surface of the estuary, just waiting to be discovered. We know that the ancient Serpent Kingdoms covered much of our world, and maybe farther, so finds both of direct artifacts and also lingering influence on subsequent eras are to be found everywhere.

When you mention the broken urn, I wanted to share two practices I’ve used to repair similar artifacts to some success. The first practice has proven useful for preserving the original appearance while displaying the historical damage, but in a way that conserves the efficacy of any effect of magic within, often allowing me to not only preserve the item but to engage in a process of repairing the magical function of those artifacts as well. In this technique, use pure gold to fill and repair crack and defects in the object, which is highly malleable and also allows magic to function. Another property of pure gold is to mellow ill effects from any maleficent magics in the original, possibly creating a much more useful artifact than the original even.

The second, as is true of so many broken things, contemplates that breaks are never fully healed, even in hearts as in urns, but that we can grow larger than our breaks. One can sometimes create surprising new artifacts using the materials from older objects by embedding the older material in new, when the older artifacts are not repairable or to be preserved as examples as they are for research.

I will send some material we’ve used successfully at the University to do this. You’ll be interested to know that this material is actually derived from mud! You may be able to create new supplies from the mud in your own estuary, so I’ll also include instructions on the preparation of more.

News of your Ms Frembas will be welcome when there is some to share.

I have recently received a crate, which I have not had a chance to investigate, from another new correspondent, Take, a small fellow who appears to have recently taken up with a newly unified tribal cohort of Goblins and is seeking out ancient forgotten places with the help of their rather amazingly well preserved oral histories, that stretch far beyond what history even those at this University know. I understand there is, as I write this, a remarkable Goblin Market being built to traffic in the arts, crafts and artifacts from those adventures and more. Sounds like a place of wondrous surprises.

Truly, much amazing news and discoveries are being made by all in many quarters, and I am honored and delighted to be able to play a part in those, applying what resources I have available to me, even if only remotely, whilst I make my own progress here.

Signed & sealed,
Hujambo Marhaba

OOC

(This is an in-character letter sent, with an OOC post-script, back in 2017, to someone playing a solitaire game using the Index Card RPG (ICRPG) rules, as a kind of meta-game correspondence play. Unfortunately, there was only one previous letter exchanged and no others, though I did come up with a draft idea of ICRPG Field Research activity, and so this didn’t develop much further, but there’s a lot about this kind of meta-game play, especially for solitaire, that appeals to me. Adding a series of correspondence to an existing game, that links different tables and players across time and space seems pretty awesome, and potentially wildly interesting.)

I know the work of Bach is not the same, and separated by much time, but as I listened to the music you linked, I was reminded of and ended up listening again to several reconstructions of ancient music, including the Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal and Ensemble De Organographia, who I got to hear in person a few years ago, playing at Marylhurst in PDX.

Thinking of that in ICRPG terms, I thought there might be threads of musical magic patterns that survive in subsequent compositions that are preserved from even more ancient works from the Serpent Kingdoms.

Consider what a reasonable but not awkwardly extravagant care package from Marhaba, a well funded adventurer at a magical University might include, and that might be send to Turner and Glizzard; perhaps roll a few times on the ICRPG loot tables, or just grab a few ideas; but something no doubt useful to them will arrive shortly or along with this letter. Something like this care package might be similar to one of many supply crates Marhaba would have on hand, prepared to take on an extended dig, for example, with health and wellness supplies, but perhaps with one or two additional gifts added to it, that may prove useful.

When talking about using gold to fill cracks, I’m of course thinking of Kintsugi, an exemplar from Japan of Wabi Sabi.

Also, when talking about creating something bigger than the original, I’m reminded of the Japanese art Dorodango, of making “shiny dumpling” mud balls, a kind of magical process!

That last, shiny mud balls, I can really imagine being a high art in Grung (from D&D) or Torton (ICRPG) / Tortle (D&D) cultures, and may be something of interest for filling out the culture of some non human settlements in the estuary area. Like finding glass balls from old fishing nets on the beach …

I’ve been on a kick thinking about Myconids, Grung, Torton/Tortle as fun “bioforms” for a swampy/wetlands area of play. I can’t shake ideas of Frog and Toad and Wind in the Willows when I think of adventures in a estuary. And, I’ve gone way off on a tangent now. But, I’ve always been very interested in non-human, even non-humanoid, characters, for a game. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of something set in a place similar to the D&D Chult, in the Snout of Omgar, with Tortle, Grung, and idek Kobolds, Myconids and Vegepygmies?!

Welp. I finally managed to record a bit of a new series for the forthcoming ICRPG Ghost Mountain setting, in Runehammer’s ICRPG Worlds, or rather, inspired by what I imagine that setting will be like. The first moments of that posted just now on youtube!

I spent way more time pulling together preparations for that than I thought I would need, but I think it turned out okay. I wanted to do something leading up to an actual Ghost Mountain adventure, as soon as the ICRPG Worlds book is out, whenever it is finished.

It has been getting darker and drearier here as the cold creeps in and the rain begins lasting weeks at a time, and I’ve not been keeping up with regular game streaming lately. I’ve been struggling a bit with that, but I do what I can.

This weekend is PAX Unplugged in Philly, so I’ve been watching streams from there. Last night was Dice Camera Action, a fun series, and tonight is Acquisitions Incorporated. Then tomorrow is The C Team. Those are all D&D live shows. Don’t know if you’ve ever watched any of that kind of thing, but I watch a few of them. Some day, I think it would be fun to be part of a live stream roleplaying game like those!

Anyhow, hope all is well with you and yours!

Thanks!

How to play ICRPG Field Research

Here is a draft from back in 2017 for a little experimental adventure using the Index Card RPG (ICRPG) effort system to do field research, especially for a solitaire adventure but, really, there’s nothing that couldn’t be used in general at your table.

This is the “brief discussion of proper sampling techniques and methods of recording observations” mentioned in Dr Marhaba’s previous letter. I’ve only really worked up structure here, and left most of the details free for your imagination in play. Let me know if you’ve comments, questions, or suggestions, if you use this.

ICRPG Field Research

Determine the maximum number of days in the season
– For example, 2d10+9 days total.

Target for each day is equal to the day number, modified by any momentum you’d like to apply, as below. In part, this represents the increasing difficulty of finding something not yet observed through the season.

Maximum effort that can be applied to tasks each day is equal to the day number x 10.

Work together, with equipment and technique, to gain effort faster; possible equipment or techniques might be things like magnifying glass, spyglass, tent blind, camouflaged clothing, sneaking to a new vantage point, having someone flush the area, trying to observe something that got away last time (as in Easy on repeat attempts), &c.

Locate

Beat target to locate a specimen or observation
– bank tokens equal to the difference above the target
– banked tokens can be used to boost other rolls as desired throughout the trial, an indicator of momentum

d6 which element is the specimen or observation found related to
– earth, air, fire, water, spirit, magic

d4 what is the specimen or observation rarity
– common, uncommon, rare, unique

Observe

d4 timer to indicate how long one has to observe the specimen or observation to get something significant

Rolls on basic effort against target to gather effort against rarity x 10 until the timer runs out
– bank tokens equal to the difference above the target
– banked tokens can be used to boost other rolls as desired throughout the trial, an indicator of momentum

Sample

d4 timer to indicate how long one has to gather a specimen to get something significant

Rolls on basic effort against target to gather effort against rarity x 10 until the timer runs out
– bank tokens equal to the difference above the target
– banked tokens can be used to boost other rolls as desired throughout the trial, an indicator of momentum

Field Notes

On successful observation create field notes

1 Description
– Facts
– Impressions
2 Illustration
3 Store sample for transport, if gathered
4 Reflection

Conclusion

Repeat until your season is complete. How many and how rare were your observations and samples for the season? What leads did you find for future research from those observations and samples? Who do you communicate your findings to and what do they do with them or say in reply?

Summary for the month of February 2019

Here’s a summary of activity for the month of February 2019.

Still streaming irregularly, but I did a bunch of Gloomhaven and Illimat sessions, as well as a couple of video games I got to check out. I’ve soured a bit on Illimat, which I’ve posted about a bit already; but I’ll keep posting and playing it when I feel up to it. Gloomhaven is still fun, and there’s lots left to do. For Gloomhaven, I may be doing something with the other team, Villainous Mercenaries, soon, and I’ve been thinking I’d change up the plan a bit so they, or the other party, Heroic Misfits, aren’t completely sidelined whilst the other is playing.

Also, I may have gone a bit crazy and summoned a Black Cube. I don’t know for sure if my conjuration will take effect, but there’s that. There’s a bunch of other things I’d love to play too, like Weave: Storytelling Redefined and Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom and Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game and … and … Oh my! Anyone got some lucky lottery numbers or know someone on the inside?

NeXT Invisible Borg Sun Cube

I’ve been thinking for a long time about ways to enable audience interaction in my gaming. I’ve gone back and forth on how that would be implemented and what it would do or not do. I settled on something that I’m going to try out, and we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know if anyone will jump in and make stuff happen when I’m streaming, but I wanted to have a way and have thought about it ahead of time.

Will you bestow a boon or cast a curse?

What I settled on was a way for people to “bestow a boon” or “cast a curse” via the Streamlabs overlay. that appears on the video as I’m streaming, for loyalty points that are automatically accumulated just by watching or by using cheers with bits, sold by Twitch for about 1¢ each. That way no one is left out, and everyone has a way to participate if they want; but also makes these interactions have a reasonable cost that will help to avoid antisocial things such as spamming and sniping. These are ways for people watching to create effects using the game mechanics and become part of the action as I play tabletop board and roleplaying games.

For 250 loyalty points or 2,500 bits, you can bestow a boon or beneficial effect on a character in game. For 1,000 loyalty points or 10,000 bits, you can cast a curse that creates an ill effect in game. Primarily for tabletop games, and what kind of boon or effect may be possible will depend on the game being played, but you can send your mystical or malevolent powers through the aethers!

Cool! It’ll be fun to see how it goes!

Rigaroga is a technologist lost in the wilderness, having adventures in geekery and nerdy mishegoss. Odd Order is a place for Rigaroga, friends, and acquaintances to gather online.

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Posts on the blog this last month

Here’s videos and streams

Washing the dishes or vacuuming another room

You may be playing the wrong game, at the wrong table, with the wrong group if …

You get up for just a moment, to do a thing, from playing a scheduled game via virtual tabletop and by the time it comes back around to your turn again you realize you’re in the middle of washing the dishes or vacuuming another room, and it takes so long for you to get back to your computer that the other players think you’ve been talking with your mic muted and don’t realize it … and this happens every week.