Sundry and Geeky Gloom News

Ten years ago I made a game called Gloom. In 2012 Gloom was featured on an episode of Geek & Sundry’s awesome series TableTop, with Wil Wheaton, Meghan Camarena, Amber Benson, and Michelle Boyd. In 2013, Atlas and I teamed up with Geek & Sundry to produce a special TableTop-themed Gloom expansion, which was given away on International TableTop Day.

TableTopGloomCoverWell, it’s 2014, and International TableTop Day is happening again – on April 5th 2014! Last weekend I had the good fortune to be at the announcement party, and it sounds like Geek & Sundry still has some copies of TableTop Gloom on hand. We only did a limited run on it, so no promises that they’ll have it at any particular ITD event… but they might! So if you missed TableTop Gloom last year, look for a ITD event near you.

One of the highlights of the party was playing the game with Meghan Camarena – better known as Strawburry17 – her brother David, and my friend Satine Phoenix. So I got to play TableTop Gloom with one of the people who played Gloom on TableTop, which was a awesomely palindromic way to end a day. On top of which, we killed Wil Wheaton. Twice.

Strawberry GloomOf course, as long as I’m talking about TableTop Gloom, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a link to the video I made last TableTop Day, with The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis!

I’m working on a few Gloom-related projects that I’m not quite ready to talk about, but there is one interesting thing happening RIGHT NOW. Artist Len Peralta is producing a new series of Geek Trading cards: Geek-A-Week Year Five Two, and I’m in the roster for the set. Looking at it, my first thought was “I want to play Gloom with these cards!” I talked to Len, and if the Kickstarter hits $20,000 I’m going to put together a set of Geek-A-Week Gloom cards using his artwork. To be clear: This won’t be a fully produced expansion on translucent plastic; plastic cards are expensive to produce, especially in a small run. Instead, this will be a single sheet for you to download and print on cardstock, taking eight of Len’s geeks and translating them in guests and characters for Gloom. Since characters are always on the bottom of the stack, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t transparent. But if you’ve ever wanted to tell a terrifying story in which Patrick Rothfuss traps Neil Gaiman on a train just in time for them both to be murdered by The Doubleclicks and Anne Wheaton, help make this Gloom set a reality! Plus, it means that I’ll get to be on a Gloom card, and I’ve got some ideas for that.

GAW GloomI’ve been meaning to write a Gloom Q&A for a while now, but I’ve never gotten around to it. So… what do you want to know about Gloom?


Favorite Things: September 2013

There are far too many things in the world. Books, movies, Kickstarter projects, snacks… How can anyone expect to keep up with them all? A list of all of my favorite things of all time would take more bandwidth and time than I have, but I figured I could start by talking about a few of the things I’m enjoying RIGHT NOW.

ADORABLE KITTENS. OK, these are a perennial favorite… and let’s face it, if you hate adorable kittens, you probably want to avoid the internet. One year ago today, Jenn and I acquired a pair of kittens from the PDX Animal Rescue & Care Fund. While Haggis has already used up two of his nine lives, they are an endless source of heartwarming youtubeable moments. Given how much joy my own rescued animals have given me, I wanted to share Anne Wheaton’s latest activities. She and her husband Wil are currently raising money for the Pasadena Human Society, and she’s put together a calendar for those who support the society. Here’s Wil’s blog about the project; the link to donate to the cause; and Anne’s video about the calendar. For the same cost as a backing a Kickstarter that might never actually happen, you can help dogs & cats who need good homes. And if you’re a PDX local, I recommend checking out the ARCF link above and the Pixie Project!

COMEDY. I’d heard rumors of Joseph Scrimshaw‘s amazing cheese-eating prowess over Twitter, so I attended a few of his panels at DragonCon. At each of those panels, I literally (and I mean literally) laughed so hard it hurt. I picked up his book Comedy of Doom, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to be emotionally prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, anyone who wants to understand the deeper subtext of Superhero Mario Bros, or anyone who, like Joseph, wishes that Sid and Marty Krofft had produced an LSD-infused puppet show called H.P. Love’N’Craft.

GAMES I’VE PLAYED RECENTLY. As I’ve been at conventions, I’ve actually been playing a lot of my own games. Cryptozoic produced a great demo set of The Doom That Came To Atlantic City for GenCon, though they haven’t had a chance to create the minis yet. But as much as I love Doom and Gloom, this is really about OTHER peoples’ work that I’ve enjoyed. I had an opportunity to play Fiasco with game creator Jason Morningstar at GenCon, and if you haven’t yet encountered Fiasco, DO IT NOW. It’s a brilliant collaborative storytelling game that requires no preparation or gamemaster; it’s just a fantastic framework for setting a story in motion. I’ve actually used Fiasco as a tool in other worldbuilding projects, not to design worlds, but do develop details for cities and to see where players will go with particular concepts. Seriously, if you’re not familiar with Fiasco, you should be. Unless, you know, you hate stories. And fun.

Another game I’ve been playing quite a lot lately is Timeline. This is an extremely simple game that’s a cross between a historical trivia quiz and Uno. You have a hand of cards you need to get rid of, each of which is a historical event. There’s one or more cards in the center of the table, which form a timeline. One your turn, you have to place one of your cards in that timeline… and then see if you’re right. Which came first, the electric dishwasher or the electric dryer? What about Alice in Wonderland or the Colt revolver? It’s very simple, but that’s its strength; it takes less than a minute to explain and generally less than ten minutes to play, and it’s something that I’ve been able to play with family members who’d never touch something as complicated and exotic as Gloom. Of course, having compared it to Uno (in that it’s a card game in which you win by getting rid of all your cards), I’m now tempted to make a variant that includes skip/reverse/draw and other action cards…

KICKSTARTER, RPGs, AND KICKSTARTED RPGS. I recently backed a Kickstarter project called Tablets & Titans. Developer Steve Radabaugh is pursuing something that I’ve been interested in for some time: developing a tabletop RPG that is native to iOS and android devices. This isn’t about creating a solo rpg or even a virtual tabletop for playing at long distances, but rather to allow players and gamemasters around a table to be linked through the app and to have the app track and handle the mechanical elements of the game. Radabaugh’s goal is to create a modular system that lets the gamemaster slot in the elements that are relevant to a particular campaign – magic? Modern weaponry? activate the systems you want players to have access to. This isn’t supposed to supplant the imaginative and storytelling aspects of the game; the gamemaster still tells the story, and the app handles the mechanics. I haven’t seen much of Radabaugh’s system , and I don’t honestly know how deep he’s planning to go with it. But I’m definitely interested in seeing more products like this out there. These days I get most of my RPG books in PDF form, and I’ve worked on a number of projects myself where we’ve considered the possibilities of making the system tablet-native from the get go. Tablets & Titans isn’t shooting for the moon. Its goals are humble and at the moment you can get on board for $12. It’s not going to be Shadowrun Returns or Torment: Tides of Numenera, but I’m interested in seeing where it goes, and I’m supporting it.

Six Questions: Anne Wheaton

You may know Anne from her appearance on TableTop. But you SHOULD know Anne from her work with #VandalEyes, which she created along with Bonnie Burton. VandalEyes is a crusade to bring googly eyes to things that need googly eyes. It’s been an inspiration to Jenn and I; here’s one of Jenn’s creations.

But let me let Anne speak for herself…

What’s your story?

At 23 years old, I had already been married, divorced and was living on my own as a single parent with two little boys. I put myself through cosmetology school at night while working as a waitress during the day. It was the hardest time of my life but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It made me a motivated, hard working, independent person. When I was 26, I met a 23 year old named Wil at a New Year’s Eve party a mutual friend of ours was having. We started dating, eventually got married and spent several years working our asses off to keep our family above water while my ex-husband tried his hardest to pull us all under. It is unfortunate that he spent the boys’ childhood doing that but Wil and I raised two fantastic young men out of that situation.

What was the inspiration for #VandalEyes?

As a kid, I would put googly eyes on crafts. I loved how it seemed to bring things to life. I hadn’t done anything with googly eyes in years and was re-introduced to them by Bonnie Burton when she stayed with us while filming an episode of Table Top in December 2011. I was instantly reminded how much I loved them when she put them on a few things around my house so I got my own supply. I came up with #VandalEyes on Twitter before attending a convention in Anaheim in January 2012 because I thought it was a funny way to tag vandalizing things with googly eyes. People always tell me they didn’t get what it meant for a long time until actually saying it out loud. Did I mention I like puns?

What are a few of your favorite #VandalEyes achievements?

The one that made me laugh so hard I had tears down my face was putting quarter sized googly eyes on Levar Burton at San Diego Comicon in 2012. He was so funny about putting these ridiculous eyes on but having a very serious face. On a different note, I am really proud of creating (with the help of my husband because I am the opposite of technology savvy) along with Bonnie Burton. We were posting so many pictures of our own that it seemed to inspire others to do the same. Pictures were constantly being sent to us on Twitter so we decided having a website where all of these pictures could be shared needed to happen. I love clicking on the archive link on the site and seeing page after page of all the pictures posted from all over the world all together. It is hilarious!

If you could vandaleyes anything in the world, what would it be?

The Statue of Liberty with appropriate sized eyes. Now THAT would be a tourist attraction for sure.

You star in an episode of Tabletop, playing Ticket to Ride with Wil, Colin Ferguson, and Amy Dallen. What’s your favorite game?

I love Scrabble. I don’t care about the score, I just love word games. I always play Scrabble when I get together with my girlfriends. It’s our time to visit with each other, have some good food and wine and play a game at our own pace. I’m not a very competitive person. It’s more about spending the time together doing something we all enjoy. I was playing Words with Friends but I had too many games going at once and the pressure to play my turn was too much so I stopped. I’d rather wait and play face to face. Bananagrams and Boggle are fun ones too.

As a Scrabble aficionado, is Words With Friends: The Boardgame a logical way to bring the online audience to the boardgaming world, or a money-grabbing abomination?

It does seem weird to me to make a board game version of Words With Friends but it kind of makes sense. When I first started playing Words With Friends it was really hard to get used to the board because I was so used to the Scrabble board. The generation of people introduced to Scrabble because of playing Words With Friends first must feel the same way about the Scrabble board. I suspect the board game was created to appeal to them which is fine. Scrabble really helped me learn words and learn how to spell when I was a kid. If anything, this is just helping a new generation do the same!

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

In December 2012, I retired from my 17 year career as a hairdresser. Tendinitis in my shoulder and both wrists made it painful and not enjoyable anymore. Plus, I was feeling like I wanted to do something else with my life. We do a lot of fundraising for charities so we decided to start our own charity foundation to fund various projects we have wanted to do for a few years. Within a week of retiring as a hairdresser, I was already working on our first project. It is so fun and so fulfilling to be doing this. We’re keeping each project a secret until it’s completed so this first project will be ready to reveal this upcoming August.

Since our kids are grown and out of the house, this also gives me the opportunity to travel with Wil more. We kind of did things in reverse of most couples. We started out raising kids so we feel like we’re in that honeymoon stage people have when they first get married.Still being relatively young and having the time to spend with our friends and family and have vacations just the two of us has been unbelievably awesome. I always tell people to make your marriage a priority while you’re raising kids because someday those kids will be out of the house. The relationship with your spouse lasts a lifetime so put in the effort!