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.

Achieving a long-term dream tests my Buddhist resolve

I have wanted a functioning hot tub for a long time.  I have one now, and that has created some strange complications.  Most of this post will be about that. But first – some announcements:

Unobtanium Bazaar will appear in a limited form at –

And then appear in the full form at London Bridge Renaissance Fest:

AND then Las Vegas Pirate Fest – which is kind of our homecoming event:

Note the new time/space coordinates.

I have 10 8 proof copies of the Go Action Fun Time Core Rules (1E Deluxe) in my possession. There are some color errors on the cover, and I will have to correct those before I go to a larger print run.

An actual printed book!

Meanwhile, you can get one of these copies, signed, and potentially highly collectable years from now, from me, for the low-low price of convincing me that you will playtest this system as an Executive Producer (that’s what we call game masters).

I am also going to try to run some episodes over Discord every other Tuesday night.

I’d run them on weekends, but I am not reliably in town on weekends. For example, I am posting this from Las Vegas.

One more fact I learned this week that I don’t want to bury in the hot tub saga: You cannot buy a 2nd party window motor for a Subaru Forester. It has to come from Subaru, who will only sell you the full assembly for the better part of $300. A similar part for my 2001 Dodge Dakota costs between $50-70.

The New Hot Tub

I have always enjoyed hot tubs, but I became obsessed with them, at least at a background level, as my back began to lock up from arthritis. There have been some attempts to create one with humble means in the past.

This was better than standing dry in the yard, but…

One of the benefits of my current job, compared to my 25 years in live event production, is that I am not expected to load and unload trucks on a daily basis. Consequently, my back has improved.  I still feel stiff and sore from time to time, but it is no longer the daily menace it was in my final years of full-time show-biz. 

At the same time, from a change in both occupation and marital status, my disposable income has increased. Perversely, my need for a hot tub has decreased in proportion to my ability to acquire one.

If you read the last post, you know I got one anyway.

Some of the delay was the fantasy that I could resuscitate the extant hot tub on the property I now occupy. The more I looked into this, the more expensive this became. It had sat idle for some ten years before copper thieves took the wires and made it inoperable for another ten years. For the cost of replacing everything that would need to be replaced, I could install a new in-ground hot tub.

I’m doing well, but not that well, particularly since I do not actually own the property.

So, I looked into an above-ground solution, and found, to my delight, that inflatable hot tubs – which used to be a joke – are actually somewhat respectable. Someone, Coleman perhaps, figured out that if you take the same plastic they use for inflatable rafts, you can create a reasonably durable hot tub at a third of the price of a fiberglass one.

So I bought one of those for about $600 all in. So far. It took three weeks to ship.

Still this one.

Fine. I needed to fill in the old hot tub anyway. I had gravel at hand to do most of the work, and then level it off with sand to get a level surface.  Forty wheelbarrows of gavel and 22 bags of sand later, I thought I had accomplished the deed.

One project led to another, and in that process I had my garage door and my back gate open when I went inside to do some other damn thing. Thieves rushed in helped themselves to some low-hanging fruit: my bike, and some tools.  It gets worse: I took two trips to come back with all the sand, and on my second trip, the thieves, likely the same ones, discovered I had dummy locked the back gate, and helped themselves to my propane tanks and my propane firepit. They also took the lock.

This will test your Buddhist resolve to not get worked up over possessions. But I have new locks now.

The hot tub arrives, and I manage to secure it before any porch pirates come for it.

I set up my new treasure in the back yard, and there’s a problem. The Intex hot tub has to be on the same level and immediately adjacent to the heat/pump/control unit. Because there are no hoses – only ports.

But it also now occurs to me that there is nothing except a four foot fence and new locks that would prevent yard pirates from making off with the pump.

However, I currently have an empty bedroom.

And that’s where it sits, until some refugee has need for that bedroom.

There are several advantages to the indoor hot tub: cheaper to heat, simple to keep clean, controlled access. But I cannot turn away the inevitable refugee explaining that I know you have no place to go, but right now I can climb into my hot tub naked…

So the day is coming when the hot tub goes outside. The level problem can be solved with another thousand pounds of sand. I’m not sure about securing the pump, but I have time to figure that out.

Meanwhile, I enjoy the tub, but I am not yet convinced it was worth the struggle. The money – sure – it has seemed thus far a good purchase. But I feel like a found a good strategy to fight the war before last.

A grab bag of uncomfortable truths

I have some small observations to share, but first a reminder that I am still the Gaming Coordinator for Leprecon 47, and if you want to run a game – now only late Sunday afternoon – I am the guy to contact.

Also Las Vegas Pirate Fest has changed both date and venue:

May be an image of map and text that says 'PIRATE_FEST FEST IRATE Pirate, Steampunk, Faerie, Renaissance Family Friendly Festival April 17t Cg Ranch Park PirateFestLV.com'
At press-time their website had not been updated to these new coordinates

I will be there as part of UnObtanium. This means it will not be overlapping the London Bridge Ren Faire, which we will also be at. There was a plan involving time travel – but now we don’t have to…

Uncomfortable Truths in no particular order:

The team that gets the fewest DUI’s the week prior almost always wins the Superbowl.

I am not going to rehabilitate the derelict hot tub in my yard for less than the cost of a new one.

Relatedly – I am not a long-term resident at this address. (I am technically still house-sitting).

So I bought a portable hot tub with my year-end bonus.

This one.

I am walking proof that you can carry COVID without running fever.

Operation Warp Speed may be the Trump administration’s greatest achievement, and might have gotten him re-elected if he hadn’t buried it with administrative neglect of the rest of the pandemic, and compounded that with political malfeasance.

BUT-BUT-BUT

If a Democratic President had done this the Republicans would be comparing it to socialism.

The drive back and forth to Las Vegas does not improve with repetition.

The cohort that won’t wear a mask because they won’t live in fear is the same cohort that are afraid to go into a library without a gun because homeless people.

I remember now why I try to avoid serving on non-profit committees -particularly for local cons. I’d be more specific, but this is still a going concern, and I do have some sense of organizational loyalty.

You can’t convince anyone into anything long term. They have to get there themselves. Even if you martial  all of your powers of logic and charm, the decision will always be temporary. Sales-folk get away with this, because they only need the spell to last until you pay.

For anything longer term, all you can do is make your case, and hope they are ready to take that path.

This is the first thing of any length I have written in seven days.

But I’m caught up on a lot of other things.

And I have a hot tub coming.

Now we know.