Buy the Toner. Get the Laundry.

I got home from work today (yay, capitalism, yep, I’m working on the 4th even though I’m technically off today, this was the best chance to get work done on-site because nobody was there)…where was I? Oh, I got home from work today with a half dozen tasks I wanted to complete before calling it a day.

  • Buy toner for our printer
  • Cut the edges from my Girl by Moonlight jumpstart booklet so it looks extra snazzy.
  • Save GBM zine creator contracts that were sent my way.
  • Confirm scholarship applications were recieved.
  • Find an editor for a new game ready to go to playtest (can’t announce it yet, but it’s cool).
  • Grab the laundry from the drier and fold it.
  • Reformat laptops that were turned in at work to use as loaners (I knew I wouldn’t finish the work, but I wanted to get them setup in my home office, so when I go in there tomorrow they will visible and ready for me to start)
  • Respond to half a dozen emails that came in between me leaving work and getting home.
  • More? Possibly, but those are the ones I remember.

I got home, showed off the Jumpstart to Karen (see the pic below, it looks cool), pet the pupper, and started working. I did those things (or most of them), but then other things came up as well. I’ve also got to:

  • Create a Discord server for the GBM Zine creators
  • Follow up on the Deathmatch Island limited edition covers.
  • Get GBM Pledge management configured
  • Update the Big Bad Con crowdfunding page.
  • Confirm next steps on a few other projects in development (sorry, can’t talk about those either).
  • Put away the dishes

And as all these interrupt tasks are being interwoven with the original tasks and pushing them back, I keep thinking that I’m forgetting something. So I head down to my office muttering my last two (original) tasks under my breath “Buy the Toner. Get the Laundry. Buy the Toner. Get the Laundry. Buy the Toner. Get the Laundry.” All more or less the same way they said “Save the Cheerleader. Save the World” in season one of Heroes.

I kept saying that under my breath as I setup the laptops (not something I was saying but I had them in hand so it was easy to remember), and as I bought the toner, and as I got the laundry.

In fact, I kept saying both things even after I bought the toner. And then I kept saying both things after I had bought the toner and picked up the laundry. And I told myself I could stop saying them because they were done, but my brain was in a loop and it refused to believe there wasn’t more to do. Because of course there was more to do…just not those things.

I think my brain is so accustomed juggling many things at once, that even when there aren’t a dozen things to do, it cycles through stuff like there is!

Is this how brains work?

Actual Play – Sign (8/5/2016)

SignInstructor: Kathryn Hymes
Players: Spencer Abbe, Michele Royal, Todd Nicholas, Jennifer Martin, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Sign

A game about being understood.

Sign is a difficult game to describe. The play begins with some verbal instructions and everyone is allowed to play. The facilitator explains the background of the game, a Nicaraguan school in the 70s where deaf children were brought to learn lip reading – a project which failed completely but instead because the birthplace of Nicaraguan sign language, which the children developed among themselves when the though the teachers weren’t watching.

In Sign, you play these children and you go through three classroom sessions divided by recess sessions and finally have an “exam” where you must describe your fellow students and how they make you feel. Once the basic outline is given the game becomes completely silent and all communication either comes from the written instruction given by the facilitator or through our own emerging signs. Notably, during two of the classroom periods, each player is tasked to define a sign for one work, so after the first such session the group knows six words, after the second, they know twelve.

One more tool that we had was a marker which we could mark either our hands or note cards with a tally mark when we either did not understand someone or feel like we weren’t being understood. I had a lot of tally marks!

Sign explicitly does not try to reproduce the modern deaf experience or replicate any existing sigh languages. It is, like the title describes, a game about being understood.

The Play is the Thing

Sign is hard. Each of us received a character sheet and though they all had names on them, those names were never used. Our first “assignment” was to sign our name and then everyone else in the class would sign it as well. These were the first words we made.

The characters are complex. They have really rich backgrounds and lots of things that they want that are difficult to communicate. For instance my character liked to read children’s fantasy books to her nephew and wanted to become a young adult author. Karen’s character had a very sick mother and her grandmother took care of her.

Though hard the recess sessions are also fun. We made a fort, we built a castle out of cups, we figured out that most of us were poor, but not all of us were!

The words that had the most use and poignant for us were those that could describe many things: make, hope, and friend.  The words that were very specific like sick were useful for those things we could build out of other words, but they had limited contact. The word deaf wasn’t used at all except that we all realized our teacher wasn’t deaf.

What rocked

Playing the game did feel like being a child. I loved the short sessions of class and recess and the attempts (successful or not) to understand each other.

The marker was an extremely useful tool. I kind of wish I could have that when I’m talking to my mother. I really don’t like having ink on myself so Kate was great about giving us an alternative (I had an index card) to use instead. Thanks Kate!

Though the game is challenging it was never scary. Kate did a great job of preparing us for the game before we started playing and we all got to ask every questions we had. She also make sure that safety was first. If we needed to speak (which didn’t come up) we could pause the game at any time or leave the room to talk to her. I felt really supported the whole time.

As our teacher Kate had some pretty mad glower game. She was good at letting us know we were in trouble or that she disapproved. We even made up a sign for her, which I thought to mean Ms. Bossypants. We made it behind her back. She also wasn’t very good at getting the signs correct. She’d be lazy with them or use the wrong hand or just get them mixed up. Karen’s character really didn’t like that and it was great watching Karen correct her. This was all part of the character of course, Kate didn’t forget our signs but by pretending to she reinforced how important they were.

What could be improved

That is really hard to say. This game is brilliant and I’m so glad I got to play in it. From the prospective of these reports I wish I remembered all the words we made up signs for but since many were never written down, there are some that I only know the sign for (such as our names) and can’t reproduce here. I hope I remember them for a long time.

Narrative Control – Episode 71

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Rich Rogers about a transgressive experience he had playing in a game and review both what he could have done differently and what both GMs and players should watch out for so that they don’t cross over boundaries inadvertently.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Rich Rogers, of Canon Puncture and RPG Crosstalk

Length: 50:27

Show Notes

[00:28] Welcome to the show. This episode is explicit because of the content. Specifically character rape.
[01:17] Welcoming the hosts on board. Discussion of secrets. Sean presents his theory.
[03:37] Lenny’s thoughts on secrets… or is that what we’re really talking about?
[05:53] Eric’s crazy project. Building the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A)

Presentig the situation

[07:42] Bringing Rich onto the show. Rich tells us about the game.
[09:50] A failed carousing roll results in his character being raped. We ask some clarifying questions.
[11:20] Player reacton: laughter and ridicule.
[13:06] After the game reaction from the group: tweets celebrating the game.
[13:54] Rich’s reaction: leaving the game.
[16:12] Our follow up questions. Reponse from the GM. Other experiences with the players.

Breakdown of what went wrong

[16:50] Issue: using lines and veils requires a discussion in advance, not after the fact.
[17:58] Issue: failure stakes never made explicit. Consequences way out of scope. Discussion of narrative authority, who gets it?
[20:33] Suggestion: Speak up when uncomfortable. Consider what is the worst thing that will happen? It is okay to not be okay with something.
[21:56] Issue: players response. Taken seriously and with respect virtually any subject matter can be handled with respect. But the reaction here was ridicule.
[22:39] Issue: deprotoganoizing a PC. A really hot button for Sean.
[23:35] Issue: appropriateness of the content and the player’s reaction. Lenny plays devil’s advocate.
[26:16] Suggestion: When playing online, pay much more attention to what is going on with the other players because of the missing the body language.
[27:27] Suggestion: elaboration on how to respond, halting the game right there and discussing what’s going on in the game.
[28:22] Suggestion: negotiate out of character, don’t work within the narrative.
[29:18] We have to laugh because it is so awful. Sean’s experience watching Brazil unprepared.
[30:23] 30 minutes into a game, hearing this, we’re surprised Rich didn’t just hang up the call.
[32:09] Suggestion: Games can handle very serious, transgressive and controversial issues. First thing to do is to check in with the other player.
[33:55] Recap of suggestions: Call the GM on the carpet or leave the game. Be very clear in skype/online games to communicate intent and check in with each other.
[36:25] Issue: it feels more uncomfortable to object the longer the game goes on and the more the other players buy into it.
[37:21] Issue: recap of he players response. In some ways even more offensive than the GM’s actions.
[39:42] Suggestion: If you bring a new player into a game, evaluate your existing group dynamic before trodding ahead.
[40:35] Suggestion: Response to the players is the same as response to the GM. Call them on their response.
[40:56] Sean is so upset by players teasing each other. It’s bullying.
[42:37] We wish we had more practical advice. We’re angry on Rich’s behalf.
[43:02] Rich is not only upset about what happened in the game, but also about his reaction.
[44:00] Issue: how to deal with players who are teasing you in game?
[46:18] Suggestion: The people watching this going down (a 3rd party) should call people out on this.
[48:07] Closing thoughts. This happens to other people. We’ve heard these stories.

Direct download: NC_Episode_071.mp3

Narrative Control – Episode 70 – Mysteries

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to Austin Smith about both dropping clues to your players, keeping them attached to the outcomes, and introducing a rich setting.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Lenny Balsera, and Eric Fattig
Guest Caller: Austin Smith

Length: 1:01:36

Download: NC_Episode_070.mp3

About Me

My best beard to date. The beard of kings!

I’m Sean Nittner. Gamer. Podcaster. Convention Organizer. Twitch Streamer. Evil Hat Project Manager. Cal Performances System Administrator.

This site is a collection of my gaming projects and actual play reports from all the games I’ve been in from 2008-2018. It is effectively my gaming resume. Check it out.

Other places to find me:

Twitter: @seannittner

Story Games, Burning Wheel Forums, and other gamer havens as, you guessed it, seannittner