Capturing a person in writing is as much a problem of format as philosophy

My stand-in for layout.

How do you define a human being: their traits, their personality what they want, what they need? How do you define them to the point where you might reasonably guess what they do next?

It gets worse: How do you codify such a definition in writing, so that people can read and understand it quickly?

People who are not you?

This has tormented writers for centuries and gamers for decades, and now it torments me. But first we have some announcements:

From our last appearance.

The UnObtanium Bazaar will appear at the London Bridge Renaissance Faire this very weekend.

That’s in Lake Havasu City, right on the river between I-10 and I-40.  I expect to have new (and signed) copies of both Beanstalk and Beyond and Go Action Fun Time Basic Rules for sale along with our bewildering assortment of other treasures out of time.

The Leprecon gaming went well, for what it was. The trick to doing these sort of things on Zoom is to remember you can other programs open at the same time, like Owlbear Rodeo, and by switching back and forth you can see player faces, or the game map, as you need.

I also learned, because somebody shared their screen, that it is possible to have 40+ tabs open in your browser. It’s not efficient, and we’ll make sport of it, but it is possible.

And I am never serving as head of anything for the local cons again. I’ll participate, moderate, or vend, but if I have to sit through a meeting, don’t even ask me.

Before I go off the deep end about character sheets, let me update you on my previous obsession in this space. I did indeed have to move the hot tub outside. It took 1200# pounds of additional sand and a length of wire rope. I plan to soak in it before the night’s end.

Also, I have a fillable PDF version of the Go Action Fun Time Cast treatment.

This took me a week.  Some of this delay was the philosophical problem of distilling a human being into written form. In all honesty, though, I’ve had a system for that for some time. The problem is that nobody else will understand it.

For a role-playing character, I have to take that base information about a person, layer over it with game stats, and then render it in some way that people who are not me can understand it.

Even made-up people are complicated

I learned long ago that forms that make perfect sense to me baffle anyone else. Even so, at some point you have to stop second guessing yourself and do it.

Then you discover that Word is terrible for this application.  I had to do most of it as text boxes – because they will stay where I put them – sort of.  Regular text re-distributes itself every time you hit the space bar.

I played with Canva, the layout program I used to format my cover. This worked much better in terms of putting boxes and shapes where I wanted them. But it doesn’t do tables, and I need tables.

But it exports to PDF, as does Word, and you can mostly copy and paste tables around in Acrobat Distiller (which I pay for monthly), as long as you don’t want to change them.

And the more I gazed upon my share-ware graphics from Canva, the more I hated them. So I ditched that whole approach.

Inkscape actually turned out the better tool for graphics, and also imports/exports into PDF.  I had abandoned it as my means of lettering webcomics. (This was a thing).  But once you update it to this decade it works well for graphics. That would have been my answer, except for fillable forms.

Inkscape graphics (as I used them) distorted the tables by the time they were sent back to PDF and thereby gummed up the Prepare Form function of Distiller. When you have as many text boxes as I do (Skills, Stuff and History of Play are all 5×12+ tables) it is out of the question to do all of them manually.

And we ended up back in Word…

Friends, I ended up back in Word with text boxes everywhere because Word does tables with reasonable rigor, and exports to PDF with a minimum of surprises.  Word Art isn’t anywhere near as cool as what can be done in Inkscape, but this is a character sheet. A little décor catches the eye, but too much makes the thing hard to read.

Prepare Form got 80% of my empty boxes, and you can get a box to add or average other boxes if you want to take the time. It’s not Excel. It will not do complicated Excel things like, say, subtraction, but I can wring some convenience out of it.

Distiller won’t, for some reason import graphics, even though it has tools to do that right on the bar. What it really does is make the buffering circle spin long enough for you to refresh your drink before announcing it cannot import this file type. What file type? Any of them. So I have to do that in Word before I import it.

How players  – who would presumably only have the PDF, will do that I cannot as yet say.

But if you can live with that limitation, the Go Action Fun Time Cast Treatment PDF is ready.

I also have a regular, blank PDF you could print out and fill in by hand if you are an old school gamer, but those guys are all playing D&D clones.

I can’t sell these things. Sites like Drive-thru RPG flatten PDF’s with a broad hammer, and none of that formatting would survive. But you can have one for the low price of getting pasted into my email list.

I was trying for a two page document. It ended up being seven.

Now we know.

The inevitable mess from progress

The dog had different ideas about where things should go.

My house is a mess, but I am not bothered by it the way I would have been in the recent past. Things got done. We just haven’t cleaned up the inevitable mess from progress.

Much of the mess is from the creatures that live with me. With increasing heat, my adult cats found the courage to face the big dog and the tiny kitten that had scared them into the garage and the yard beyond.

My Problem has returned

They have found their way inside, and established that they are bigger than the kitten – and do not want to play. Also, Pippa (the dog) mostly remembers she’s not supposed to chase cats in the house.

Problem is even here helping me xfutkdo right now.

A better photo of Rey’s damn dog

My humble residence has become the party spot for Rey’s gang of friends. Because it is an actual house with a working TV you can play games on, and an actual yard you can smoke in while you pretend to play with the dog.

That leaves the kind of mess you would expect.

Some of that mess is from creating things. Rey creates long,mutant attrocities from old Furbies and a stash of sewing supplies.

You can buy this from her.

No photo description available.
Not one of the pets.

Long time readers (meaning from the start of this year – or four posts ago) may recall that Cheryl and I were on the verge of running a vendor booth at the Las vegas Pirate fest and tpoints beyond. That would have been in April – so it didn’t happen.

But we still have inventory – all over both of our houses, and I hope to have a website to hype by the end of the month.

Verity and Rattletrap in their natural habitat.

Last week I wrote about the truck – which I have named Verity – and how I got what I paid for. I paid more – the radiator cracked in addition to the wonky brakes, but all is relatively right now. She is road worthy, unless you try to stop for fast food. Then you will learn that the windows will not go down.

I’ll care more about that when it stops being 106 at night. (that’s right – as I write this, at nearly 10pm, it remains 106 F outside.)

(Still better than snow, as we say in the valley – but I begin to have my doubts.)

It’s a mess now. Cheryl (my girlfriend) talked her mother into selling the house her mother no longer actually lives in, and the worst outcome came to pass: it sold nearly immediately. This meant a lot of trips to Congress, a lot of moving crumbling cardboard boxes in the heat, and hauling loads to Las vegas and Phoenix in verity and the ressurected trailer I liberated from Cheryl’s mom (who does not have the means or inclination to tow it).

I call the trailer Rattletrap.

A trailer can sit for 20 years and still work if you:

  • Grease the bearings (not complicated, but extremely messy)
  • Replace the tires
  • Replace the wiring and lights.
  • All told about $250 and a bottle of whiskey for the hero who helped me grease the bearings.

It is harder to teach yourself to tow it, especially an old one with a short tongue, but I got it from Congress to Las Vegas to Congress to Phoenix without undue disaster, and it now sits in my yard.

A scene from the last episode.

My game room is covered with Go Action Fun Time game materials and artwork, all being scattered by the dogs and cats. I am trying to get regular episodes going on Discord (that’s Zoom for 20-somethings, being both irreverent and free).

A few lessons from that first session:

  • It was suprisingly painless to make a fill-in PDF for charater sheets. Perhaps my Adobe subscription is worth something after all.
  • I need a table mic. My current system works for me facing my laptop, but that’s not how I run games, particularly with people also playing in person.
  • I might have to look into some dice-rolling bot.
  • It is possible to play You-Tube videos (or other sound sources) such as the unofficial GAFT Theme song (an acquired taste – you were warned!) through discord with the aid of some bot the kids hunted up for me.
  • Discord runs in the background unless you actually disconnect from the session, so your find can come on-line and haunt you for several minutes until you figure this out.
  • The Go Action Fun Time discord general sever can be found here: https://discord.gg/tQrW5a

I’d update the writing – but look at the time: It’s 10:48 pm, and the temperature outside has plummeted to 103.

Now we know.

The Ins and Outs of Recent Events

Things come and things go. Here are some recent ins and outs.

IN:

Rey, from Flagstaff, moving back to Phoenix, and back in with me. A combination of academic and financial misfortunes has driven her from NAU. (Without a scholarship, NAU is 3x the expense of ASU). (You can infer the fate of that scholarship.).

The plan is to attend community college for a while, and take care of the generic core requirements until a clear path emerges.

KIMG1218.JPG

Rey in the new, taller kitchen

OUT:

The false ceiling in my kitchen. While this hid atrocities, it also provided a causeway for vermin and subconsciously annoyed me. So I have taken step 1 in a 50 step process of remodeling the kitchen.

My grandfather, the original owner of this house, had extended the air vent.

KIMG1215.JPG

KIMG1217.JPG

Yes, that is a can of some sort “adapting” the tube to the vent grate. Sometimes innovation is overrated.

That’s all sitting in the yard now.

 

 

IN:

Some Christmas presents: an office chair and a 3D Printer!

KIMG1220.JPG

That’s a Creality Ender 3 FDM (additive) 3D Printer.

It is considered one of the best of the low-end 3D printers, and is a gift from my son, Ben,  who has an earlier model.

I have been thinking on this subject for some time.

We have already spent numerous hours turning plastic filament into garbage, and sometimes silly little sculptures.

This has turned out to be a pain to dial in, which – to be fair – comes with the price point. But I’ve had some fun playing with it so far.

And I actually spent as much time assembling the office chair as I did the printer -so there’s that.

 

OUT:

Excessive caution.

Before I start on this, do not confuse this with some new year’s resolution. In 2005 I made a New Year’s resolution to never make another new year’s resolution, and I ahve kept that. The timing of this announcement is coincidence. The realization dates back a few months ago.

I spent the last few years of my marriage playing not to lose, which is different than winning, and ended up losing the marriage.  (The professional decisions were a net gain, but that’s as much dumb luck as good judgement. I lucked into a good employer.)

I have less to lose as a point of fact. I do not own the house I’m renovating. My nest is supposedly empty. I am consistently solvent and building a little surplus. I can go for it on 4th and 2.

Hence the self-publishing and other projects that aren’t ready to announce yet.

You were warned.

Things I have done so you don’t have to

As usual, I have been busy: travelling, making things, dramatically reducing the amount of vegetation surrounding my house. Since this is supposedly an author blog, let me lead with that news.

I have uploaded Go Action Fun Time to Drive-thru RPG  and now await their approval.

GAFT basic rules cover

Yes – my artwork. If you think you can do better, contact me. 

It is only a PDF for now. That was enough of a maze without trying to reformat for e-pub or mobi.  I now know there are six different formats of PDF. And PDF/A is bad. Well, it’s fine, but the security features will lock up the bots at Drive-Thru. Also, compressed or linked JPEGs and transparencies are bad because Apple is i-fussy. I’m not clear what any of that is, so I don’t have to worry?

You, loyal reader, do not have to wait for Drive-Thru’s blessing to get this product. Contact me directly, and I will hook you up. With a commitment to playtest it for me, it would be free.

dzyecg7v4aagrsv

Bongo at a river-side park in BHC.

I journeyed to Bullhead City on RC Lurie business, so you don’t have to. Bullhead City is a cluster of hills on the banks of the Colorado River, across from Laughlin Nevada – where all the money comes from. On top of each hill is a 55+ trailer park. The exception is along AZ95, the main drag, which is an extended strip mall. You might infer how much I enjoyed my stay.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first stint I stayed at a $40/night motel, where nothing was open after 11pm (I arrived at 10:30pm) and my door didn’t quite lock. They had a fridge and microwave but no coffee. I found coffee in the lobby in the morning, and I survived.

On my return trip, the client put me up in a casino.

Casinos are crappy places to stay when on business. The Avi Casino, south of Laughlin proper,  gave me a room with no fridge, microwave or coffee. It’s like they don’t want you spending time in your room at all.

In fairness, the casino cafe (Feathers – I think) is open 24/7 and I was able to get a decent breakfast and out the door in half an hour.

I had a better time in Las Vegas, as you might imagine. I don’t gamble to speak of, but I drink, and prefer to drink with nerds. For that, Vegas features the Millenium Fandom.

52842239_10214195012215033_5537744747709333504_n

Yes – I have a girlfriend.

True confession: I have never been much for cosplay. Cheryl (my girlfriend)

52762286_1336204509853690_7330878965130723328_n

Cheryl 

 is an actual costumer, though, and views these events as marketing among other things. I now own a pirate shirt, and several other items of clothing I would not otherwise possess.

I’ve done worse things for romance.

 

Closer to home:

I have finally bottled the mead I tossed last summer. It is sweet and fruity and bubbly – like magic unicorn sweet and fruity. I’m mildly disturbed. It’s called Wildflower, and she be recovering from bottle-shock by late April, early May.

 

The internet promised me that replacing my two exterior doors would cost about $800. I’ve had bids from $1800 to $3600. So … that’s a little more. Curiously, the two estimators who quoted me around $1800 took the most measurements and asked the better questions.

It likely come down who provides the better actual door.

There is a 4-6 lead time with door installation.

The tool of choice for removing dandelions from gravel is a pick-ax. A 30 gallon garbage bag stuffed full of decapitated dandelions weighs the better part of 50 lbs. I filled 9 bags.

My arms still hurt.

Now you know.

The lead is beneath the mead

This is the second day in a row here in Phoenix where the high temperature did not exceed 100 deg F. The worst is finally over, and I think I can start thinking in terms of progress rather than damage control.

So there’s some good news in my life:

I finally bottled last year’s mead.

24 bottles of mead on the ... oh never mind.

24 bottles of mead on the … oh never mind.

If you can’t read it, I call the batch “Haboob” – the Arabic term for a dust storm that has somehow replaced the previous term for dust storm in these parts, which was “dust storm”.

Mead made be better for us than we thought, according to this article from Modern Notion.

And I have signed an honest-to-God book deal for a work of fiction. The Beanstalk and Beyond was accepted by New Link Publishers, and imprint Mystic Publishing.  The terms were fairly low-ball, but they’re fairly new at this, as am I. So I have added a page just for that project, and cleaned up this website because we’re back to being an author’s site now.

Yeah – I buried the lead beneath the mead. Before you chide me, I do no have an editorial deadline yet, much less a release date. I’ll start pushing heavy when I have something to push.

Now you know.