Sunday, October 25, 2015

Doing Things Over

It's been a miserable last few days. The wife got back to town (a good thing) but she was sick when she left and worse when she got back. Both kids have been sick (fevers, sore throats, sniffles), which is tough to deal with when you add in the general heat, mosquitos, and throat-drying AC units. Then the baby's getting her canines in which is...well, let's just say she hasn't slept much and neither have I. Oh, yeah...and my boy was pushed off a two meter high platform by another kid at a birthday party (Friday). Fortunately he didn't land on an arm or leg (or head) but flat on his back, knocking his wind out and giving him some soreness, but no other injury. When I was D's age, I broke bones just rolling out of bed...he's a tough kid. But it was pretty scary, and my wife...well, she was a little beside herself by the whole thing. The kid who pushed D just gloated and laughed over my child's stunned form, and while his parents were apologetic later, they weren't even at the party. In the typical fashion of Paraguayan parenting, they'd simply dropped off their kid with his nanny, who was off eating somewhere at the time rather than watching the action.

[I was recently reading an (American) friend's blog decrying our tendency to micro-manage and "hover" too much about our children these days, but I've seen the opposite end of the spectrum down here, and the end result ain't pretty. Clearly some sort of happy medium is desirable]

I'm not sure how much longer we're going to be down here in Paraguay. There's some stuff going on with my wife's work (the reason we're here), and while they want us here and are willing to pay big bucks (well, by our standards) and seem intent on extending our time here, we're fairly anxious to get back. We're getting two weeks in Seattle in November (we'll be there for the Thanksgiving holiday), and we've been spending a lot of time lately talking about all the things we want to do (and eat!) when we're back in town. It's sad just how much there is to miss in Sea-town...and how little there is to miss here. Cost of living, I suppose. Really big chunks of grilled meat. Chipa (which, by the way, I didn't miss at all when I was home in June). Very tasty malbecs. That deliciously rich cordero dish over a bed of risotto that I order at my favorite restaurant every week.

In the final analysis, it's not enough to keep us here. Hell, nothing they have here (food-wise) measures up to Ivar's fish-n-chips with a pint of fresh pulled Pyramid hefeweizen (slice of lemon mandatory). And I don't even LIKE hefeweizen all that much.

The world's best fish n chips. Sorry, England.
No, we ain't staying. Seattle (and the U.S.) has its share of problems, but the "pros" definitely outweigh the "cons." NOW, one might ask if it was worth it for us to come down here at all? Was it good for us? Did it make our lives better to have this experience? If we had it to do over would we have done things differently?

Much as I miss the mountains, much as I would have liked to be in town for the parade after the Super Bowl win, much as I wish I wasn't going to have to look for a new job (ugh) when we get back...I think we made the right decision to come down here. I think it HAS been good for us, for our family. I think it has been very good for me personally...having to deal with all my personal frustration on so many fronts (most of which I have NOT blogged about), has made me a stronger, hopefully better (and nicer) person. I'm glad we came down here.

But I'm anxious to get home, anxious to get back into my house. Anxious to see the beagles again.

Similarly, I find myself considering the things I've done these last few years with my writing and publications. I find myself of the opinion that the B/X game (of which I've blogged so extensively), may in fact be a game that best balances if it ends at "X." That a game that goes behind 14 levels really isn't needed...not just because of the impracticality involved in advancing PCs into levels 20-something, but because the game itself can suffer when stretched to this scale. Certainly, I'm of the opinion that an 8th level halfling, 10th level elf, and 12th level dwarf are decent matches for any of the 14th level human classes in the B/X game...extending human levels out to 36 makes them far less relevant and the suggested "fixes" (allowing demihumans to advance beyond their maximums or using BECMI-style attack/save bonuses) are poor. While my B/X Companion did the job I intended it to do (providing a rulebook for high level play more in line with the original B/X system), there's a part of me that feels (now) like the thing was unnecessary to satisfying B/X play.

Likewise, there are things I'd have changed in The Complete B/X Adventurer, complexities in some of the new classes that I wish I'd streamlined or reconsidered. It's a neat book, with lots of neat ideas, but much of it feels a bit like a vanity project (despite the work I put into it) adding little value.

However, as with this trip to Paraguay, I'm glad that I did these books. Looking back on them after a few years, there's a lot that leaves me unsatisfied (now), but they were good experiences, growing experiences for me. If I hadn't published them, well, I'm not sure I would have ever published anything. Doing the first book showed me what was possible. Doing the second book showed me it wasn't just a "one time" thing.

The current project...let's just call it "Darkness," for the moment...might look like a small one. And at the physical level it is supposed to be a small one; I'm kind of tired of these games looking more like text books for a college course than like instructions for a game. The challenge is communicating everything I need to within the limited space available, giving the player ENOUGH information to make the game work, and work at a high level. And I'm doing it by breaking a bunch of standard D&D paradigms.

Levels, for example. There aren't any. In fact, in the current (25 page) document, I haven't had the need to use the word "level" even once.

[and no, it doesn't have some percentage based skill system like BRP, either. I told you it's a different paradigm]

The concepts found in the book include things that I've been futzing around with in a variety of (unpublished) projects. I'm just trying to pull it all together to make something that's both interesting and sound, with enough detail to catapult one's imagination, and enough system to see you through. As I said before, given the maximum page count, it's going to be tight trying to meet these goals. The game itself is going to need to be tight.

God, it's going to need some serious play-testing.

In other news, both gaming and Paraguayan, Alexis over at the Tao of D&D has been doing some fantastic maps of Paraguay, as a favor (or rather "a present") for Yours Truly. I can't express how flattered I am by this attention. Remember, this is the same guy who kicked me out of his on-line campaign for being an asshole. And, me, a guy who hasn't even gotten around to buying his latest book. Now that I've shit-canned my South American-based FHB in favor of the "Darkness" project, a guy does me a solid with this beautiful hexagonal rendering? Man, I am a jerk.

So, obviously, I will have to return to the SA-project in a different format...probably as a campaign setting supplement for B/X. Because I just can't let good material go to waste. Waste not, want not, right?

[of course, tell that to my other campaign settings sitting on the shelf: Land of Ash, Land of Ice, Goblin Wars, etc.]

Still, it's Alexis, so I'll try to make more than a half-assed effort.

Oh-oh! The baby's awake again! Got to go comfort! Later, gators!


  1. I've read your blog for a bit and I think the key thing for you getting the fuck out of there is so you can actually play some RPGs. you make statements about 5e for example that come from complete ignorance of how it plays at the table. Going to a con and seeing all the stuff people actually have fun playing like DCC, 13th Age and Numenera will help put stuff in perspective.

  2. @ Littlemute:

    Hmm...I HAVE played some 5E (in its play test version) and the way it played "at the table" was not particularly fun. The "free Basic" version of 5E is a incomplete pseudo-game that is unplayable and unteachable without drawing on other sources...certainly not an accessible, entry-level "basic" system for new gamers.

    Whether or not 5E in its finished, hard cover, "advanced" form is good to play or not, I don't think I've written anything terribly ignorant, because I have little to judge it by. I'm certainly curious about it...I know several of the guys from my last group are using 5E and enjoying it.

    I've played many sessions of DCC and my blog posts on that game come from my direct experience with it.

    I've been to cons and seen people enjoying all sorts of games that aren't really to my taste: 4E, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, etc. I've written before that they're welcome to their fun, that they should be encouraged in whatever RPG gets then fired up. I'm not sure how getting out of Paraguay is going to put that any more "in perspective" than it already is.

    But, yes, I AM looking forward to getting back to gaming...that's high on my list of things to do (along with chowing down on some fresh seafood).

  3. We settled that years ago. I don't keep grudges. You do good work here, JB, you're one of the few blogs I read regularly. You just have to accept that respect is way, way more important than a single incident of misunderstanding.

    1. @ Alexis:

      Oh, I do. It is, though, sometimes (sadly) surprising when one finds a high level of maturity around these here internet parts.
      ; )

      Thanks for the kind words...and for reading.

  4. Ivar's is the truth. Our jones for it is so hard core that we hit the airport Ivar's when we land at the start of our visits home, and again before we fly out of Sea-Tac

    I look forward to your South America thing. The southern hemisphere is woefully underrepresented in RPG settings.

    Best of luck in resolving your where to live dilemma.