02 September 2019

What Do You Know? It's September.

I made myself an Instagram account. My initial thought was to post gaming-related photos there. I've recently gone back to painting miniatures, so I figured I could post those there. I've also volunteered to help organize a tabletop game club at my kids' high school, and I reckon there might be some good photo ops there, too.

I used to game a lot. Then we had kids and, well, the gaming went by the wayside for a little while. Before we moved to Montreal, we played every other week or so. I ran games for a while, and my friend JZ stepped in to run a game when I got GM fatigue. Moving here made for a pretty big disruption, but we're back on schedule. JZ runs his game on Roll20, and I've started a Call of Cthulhu game at work with my Narrative team.

All that said, I miss running games at home. Outside of work, I don't have many local friends or acquaintances (yet). Networking isn't always easy. I'm hoping the school club introduces me to some new folks.

I created this program back home (in the US) called Dungeon Scouts. I was a Girl Scout leader and I would run workshops to introduce girls to D&D. I planned to bring DS with me to Montreal, but by the time I got here, the Girl Guides were already wrapping up their year. I expect they'll start up again soon.

There's definite value in Dungeon Scouts. There's also the unknown elements. Being a man (oftentimes the only one) in the Girl Scouts of America was... interesting. In the beginning there was a feeling of, "Who is this guy?" from other leaders. It quickly faded, though. I was fully accepted into the organization, which is what gave me the impetus to start Dungeon Scouts in the first place.

Now that I'm in Montreal, there are a few things that give me pause.

1.) I don't know anyone in the Girl Guides here (though I have been in touch with one of the ladies in charge, and should probably drop her a line if I'm serious about starting the program here).
2.) French. I do not speak it. I'm picking it up a bit at a time, but I'm not even close to being "there" when it comes to communicating. I don't know how French Girl Guides Quebec is liable to be.
3.) Montreal. This place... it's unlike anywhere I've ever lived. It's an island. The roads are horrible. Parking (especially in the city) is sparse or non-existent. Driving anywhere requires a significant investment of time.
4.) Speaking of time, I don't know how much of that I have. I'm still getting used to living here. I have a routine of sorts, and it's sort of intimidating when I think about breaking it.
5.) Something else I haven't thought of yet.

Excuses, excuses. I know.

The way I see it right now, I'll forge ahead with the school club for now. I'll see how that goes and then decide from there what I want to do. There's no time limit, right?

Oh, I need to get more Dungeon Scouts patches made. I suppose I'll contact the manufacturer and get an estimate on costs. I'll have them shipped to my friend (and partner in crime) JZ. He's a really good dude and, dammit, I miss him every single day.

Enough pontificating. Maybe I'll paint some stuff.

28 August 2019

Almost September

Why do I always find myself back here when September rolls around? I know it's still August, nearly a year since Carbine shut down and about six months since I started my job at Ubisoft Montreal.

I've been very quiet on the social media. I guess I was never particularly noisy. I don't (usually) like to brag, and I'm not one who's ever felt comfortable airing his grievances or personal issues to a gallery of veritable strangers (anyone who actually knows me is excluded). There's enough negativity in the world. I don't need to add to it, regardless of the theoretical cartharsis it might provide.

So... Montreal. We found a nice, quiet place to rent. It's not too far from the office, though the traffic here adds 30 minutes to just about any commute. Parking is nothing like California (where half the urban landscape seems to be taken up by parking lots). Lots of people ride bicycles in the summer, and many of them appear to be suicidal.

It doesn't feel like home here. I don't know if it ever will. Is it the psychological impact of living in another country, surrounded by people who don't always speak your language? Could be. I often comment to friends that, with my first industry job (at EA Mythic in Virginia), I couldn't wait to get out of California. Having returned there to work at Carbine for six years, I think I realized that California--for all its expense, drought, earthquakes, and fires--is my home.

Regardless of how I feel, this is where I'll be for the foreseeable future. I love working for Ubisoft. The project is a lot of fun so far. The people are amazing. My work matters and I feel like I belong. I don't know how long I'll be here, so I'm trying to take it one day at a time. I don't always succeed.

So that's it for now. Maybe more later, if I remember this blog still exists. For now, I'm relatively safe and sound. The family is well. The cats and dog are still sleeping, eating, and pooping. What more can a man ask for?

11 September 2018

What To Do When You (Suddenly) Have Lots of Free Time

It's been less than a week since Carbine shut down. I can't say I've been particularly productive. I've been listing old RPG items on eBay, hoping to raise enough money to pay for my hobbies once all this other crap gets sorted out.

One thing I need to do is work on my knowledge of Roll20, the virtual tabletop that I'll likely be using to run games... eventually.

I also need to get a freelance project to work on, add some more doubloons to me olde coffers.

Eh... it's not so much being bored, though that is part of it. It's more about not seeing the people I'm so used to seeing on a daily basis. I don't exactly live around the corner from the Carbine office, either. I should see someone of those folks tomorrow, though. We'll see how that pans out.

07 September 2018

Rest in Peace, Carbine Studios

I haven't posted here in almost exactly four years.

Blogging has always been something of an on-again, off-again thing with me. I'll go steady for days, weeks, months, and then... I'll stop. No reasons cited. I guess my attention shifts. Maybe I'll pay better attention this time around.

The game studio I've worked for over the past 6+ years, Carbine, was shut down yesterday. I've been in the computer games industry for over eleven years now. This makes for my third layoff. Being honest, I have trouble considering 38 Studios' implosion as a proper layoff. Maybe we'll say that I've been laid off twice as well as completely vandalized once.

I don't take it personally. There's no bad guys. It's a fact of life and folks like me accept it. There's a dream, of course, that you'll find the perfect product or the perfect team and make a perfect career out of it. That happens, but it's not common. The fact I survived at Carbine for six years and through two other layoffs is something of a minor miracle.

The first layoff I was swept up in was at EA Mythic. I was a designer on Warhammer Online. The game wasn't doing well, and in the end they cut just about everyone (including me). It was right before Thanksgiving. There was a severance package that would keep us afloat for two months, but I came to see that as a lit fuse rather than a safety net. It wasn't going to take long for it to burn away.

I went home that day, told my wife the news, and then I sat and cried. My family and I were across the country from our starting point in California. I didn't know what I was going to do. I had no idea if I'd find a job in time. Christmas was two months away. I was terrified.

I was also a relative freshman in the industry. I had a pretty good list of freelance writing credits to my name, but only 2 years and 5 months of hands-on computer game development. Not only that, but writing jobs were (and still are) hard to find. Recruiters weren't going out of their way to send me messages about openings at their companies.

It ended up working out for me when 38 Studios made me an offer just before Christmas. It was a good offer and their future looked bright... but that's another story, and probably one I've told before. Even if I'd known the outcome ahead of time, I still would've taken the job. I learned a lot from that experience and grew as a designer and writer.

I know I'm going to survive this, but there are so many others who don't have that comfort. At least, not yet.

20 September 2014

Losing Players

It's never easy to lose a player, much less two of them. My group is getting smaller by two members who are moving on to a job opportunity in another state. Tonight is the last game we'll be playing together (for the foreseeable future) before they begin their road trip next week. Their absence will be noted and felt going forward, and we'll all miss their participation and contributions. Both of them have been excellent additions to our game, not to mention friends of the highest caliber.

That said, the group--a 5th edition D&D party--will be losing its barbarian and bard, leaving behind a cleric, paladin, thief, and warlock to contend with all the threats and nasties they'll face in the future. I'm mulling over the idea of keeping the group at four players, or trying to recruit one more. I suppose I'll talk to everyone about it and see where they stand once the dust settles.

I've had plenty of groups explode in my time gaming, but I can definitely feel this one more acutely because we're all friends and we've known each other (and gamed together) for over two years now.

Anyway, that's about it. I've got a game to prep for, so I'd better stop with the whining.

16 September 2014

Lords of Nal Hutta

A few months after I started at Carbine, I received an email from FFG asking if I'd be interested in contributing to their new Star Wars RPG, Edge of the Empire. I jumped at the opportunity to do so, and I'm glad I did. That first project was relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but it started the freelance ball rolling for me after a couple years' worth of downtime.

That project, Lords of Nal Hutta, has just been announced, and it should be on store shelves sometime later this year. Though it's not the first FFG Star Wars product to be released with my name in the credits, it is the first one I ever worked on. This feels like some sort of milestone for me, and I'm so happy to have had the opportunity.

In other news, Cubicle 7's Lone Wolf Adventure Game Kickstarter has been funded, and I'll be doing my best to bring the world of Magnamund to life. As a kid, I enjoyed the heck out of the Lone Wolf books. They took the "Choose Your Own Adventure" formula and turned it into something dynamic and exciting. For a kid who didn't get to play RPGs very often, they were a godsend.

Keep an eye out for more Star Wars and Lone Wolf news, and I'll see you a little later!

01 September 2014

#RPGaDay: Day Thirty-One - Favorite RPG of all Time

Not your typical fantasy setting.
This is something of a tough question for me to answer, but when I consider all the games I've run over the past twenty-eight years, I can narrow it down to a handful of settings and systems. I'm going to focus on settings, rather than mechanics, though, to answer this question. The setting, in my opinion, has always been more important than system mechanics. Well, unless the system mechanics are utterly terrible and/or impossible to use. Anyway.

After playing AD&D for a long while, I grew tired of the traditional D&D tropes. I focused more on science fiction and horror settings rather than anything even remotely fantasy-oriented. I was also, for a time, totally done with class-based/level-based systems. I absolutely abhorred them. I even modified my Cyberpunk games to omit the Roles (ie, classes) that, to me, restricted the character creation process.

I don't know when I first heard of Dark Sun, but it was late in the game. It was well after the 2nd edition had been released, I know that. For some reason, I found a used copy of the 2nd edition Dark Sun boxed set on a used shelf and bought it. I took it home, started reading, and suddenly my hatred of class- and level-based systems was a thing of the past. It was a game I had to run.

Our old stomping grounds. Man, I miss this place.
I started a Dark Sun game not long after that. I tested a few things out using my wife as a guinea pig (ask her about the fight with the ankheg sometime) before I really got into it. About the only thing I couldn't stand in 2nd edition AD&D was the psionics rules. Luckily, no one wanted to be a psionicist, and the only thing I had to worry about in that regard were wild talents.

In any case, the players seemed love the game. It went on for a long while, and we managed to finish it off with a bang. I don't remember the highest character level in that crew, but I think they got to around 7th or 8th level. I tried to bring it back once 3.0 came out, but there was something about that edition that got under my skin. 3.5 fixed most of those issues for me, but I never tried to run Dark Sun again with any system.

I realize there's a bunch of stuff out there that adapts Dark Sun to 3.5. Now that 5th edition is here, I'm thinking I might have a go of adapting it to Dark Sun on my own. I'll probably wait until all the core books have been released, so I've got some time. If I ever get around to this little project, I'll be sure to let you guys know about it. However, if the freelance train gets rolling here pretty soon, I probably won't have time for it. Such is life,

Brom's art really sold the world of Athas.
In closing, Dark Sun was the setting that brought me back to fantasy RPGs. If not for Dark Sun, I might never have looked into Midnight, a setting that runs a very close second to Dark Sun insofar as my favorite fantasy worlds go. You also know that I'm a huge fan of the Star Wars RPGs that have been released, as well as The One Ring and Cyberpunk 2020. Like I said, this wasn't an easy decision to make.

I guess this wraps up #RPGaDay, given that August is over and September is here. I'm sort of surprised I stuck with it (though I was late on a couple of occasions). Feel free to follow me or my blog. You can even find me on Twitter @BarrierPeaks. I can't guarantee I'll update daily, but I'll do my best to keep this thing alive.