Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Content Free Since Term 1!

Being on holiday is not conducive to me blogging.

Many exciting things have happened. I will write about 2 of them:

Nocturnum Session One
I ran the first session of a 19-episode Call of Cthulhu campaign for Debbie, Luke and Sam this week. It was a very Old Skool Cthulhu adventure, complete with shotguns. We spent about 5 hours playing, which is actually a pretty long session for us. Our Thursday games tend to be an action packed 2 and a half hours, so this was a double-hit.

The choice of Cthulhu d20 is an interesting one, and one which I am pretty happy with. Fortunately Luke is very familiar with d20, and I've played in enough games to know the basics. It had a couple of distinct advantages over BURPS:

- Hit Points. The characters are 4th level, giving them 4d6 hitpoints to start with. This means that they all start around the upper range of what a classic Cthulhu character would have, with attacks doing similar amounts of damage.

- Healing. With hospital care the characters regained hit points in a matter of days, when classic Cthulhu would have required months of bedrest.

- Leveling Up. At the end of every adventure, the PCs will level up (this is generous - the rulebook recommends every other adventure. However, given that the party is half the size of the usual, twice the advancement seems fair). They will gain improved skills, more HP, feats, stat improvements and such. They'll get tougher as the odds against them get worse.

All this means that the characters might actually survive to see the second half of the campaign. This is a great thing, as too many Cthulhu campaigns go from serious to silly as you churn through characters.

I had a good time running it, we had a few giggles over one or two 'classic' d20isms (such as briefcases - with traps!), and I'm looking forward to next session.

48 Film Competition
I'm super excited about this. We had a meeting yesterday, and it felt good to see that we've learned some stuff from last year. It's also good that there isn't a LARP on the same weekend :)

I am on the editing team, and Debbie is going to be the 2nd AD (extra wrangler and general troubleshooter) and hopefully an actor as well (the two should work together fine). We have bagsied a place to sleep at Norman's, just in case the editing of Saturday's footage needs doing overnight.

It's a great bunch of people, with some awesome talent to draw on. The challenge is to channel all that fantastic creative energy and good will into something that comes across on screen, on time. I am confident and optimistic and excited. I also feel that we all have the fact that we missed the deadline as one of the tools in our utility-belts: we can all dig deep or push a little harder to get things done because we know we have to.


Just for Jenni

Cats. They are the most beautiful and elegant creatures in the world. Sometimes I look at my cat and I really understand why the Egyptians worshipped them. In, like, ancient times.

I don't think they worship them any more, but they should, because cats are so totally Cockney.

Today my cat was walking across the room when it stopped. Then it walked some more. It was so cute!

Later it was sleeping, and I was all, "wow, that's so CUTE!".

Because my cat is cuter than yours.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Queen of a Kingdom of Biscuits and Sleep

Ah, holidays. A fine, fine time. Debbie and I are greatly enjoying the not-being-at-work.

There have been many fun things so far, including:

  • A birthday party, complete with medical drama!
  • Several films and vids.
  • Boardgames and chocolate and visiting family
  • Text messages from Italy and England
  • Some sleeping in
  • A really nice vegetable soup
  • Choosing of birthday presents (toys!)

We have also had time to observe the sleeping patterns of our cat, and have noted that as the weather grows colder, the amount of time she spends not-on-the-bed becomes very, very small. We can go out for the whole day, and return to find the cat in exactly the same position. Now, she may have moved as far as her bowl to eat some biscuits, but the amount of cat hair that she sheds on the bed would suggest that that is the limit of her adventuring.

She also lurks around in the morning and starts trying to push us out of bed at around 8-9am, so she can steal the warm bits of the bed. She will do charming things like lie across our feet, or walk up and down on the pillows (and our heads), or try to squeeze in between us and purr loudly in our ears.

Hmmm, I think this is the most that I have ever blogged about my cat. Yay me!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

First reviews in for Game Chef

Yay! Feedback!

I have posted my 4 reviews on the game chef forums, and have had 2 reviews of my game posted so far. They are here:

Some positive things in there. If nothing else, one reviewer said of my example of play:

"the example of play is friendly (and for once, sounds like an actual example of actual play)"

The other said:

"The example of play isn’t really that helpful. It is funny to read, but it doesn’t really seem to clarify any of the game concepts. "

Hooray for example of play! I think it was Svend's suggestion.

Anyways, I feel like once again I have learned a bunch about how games are put together, and have a sense of accomplishment at having finished a project - even a silly 5 page one like 'We Have the Technology'. Now I just need to file away all these gems of wisdom for next year :)

Oh, and one of my reviewers is in the games club which Morgue started. Small world!

Next project: Kapcon SDC scenario. I shall finish the one I started after K13, then work on a second idea I had a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Power of Positivity

I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to stay positive. It's tiring work being a teacher, and it's possible to get bogged down in all the little stuff, and lose sight of the awesome goodness that is going on around you.

Some concrete examples, and thoughts of late:

*Being asked to video-tape an event like a school concert can be viewed as extra work, which is seldom a welcome thing (especially at the end of a term). On the other hand, you can look at it as an opportunity to see a bunch of students excelling and enjoying themselves in a different context. Popping in to a rehearsal for 5 minutes today was enough to give me a marked boost of enthusiasm for an upcoming concert, and I am now fully committed to and positive about the filming (compared to my prior ambivalence).

*Making positive comments about ideas suggested by students, even when I don't necessarily agree with them, can result in improved rapport with the student in question. Something as simple as saying "that's an interesting take on things," or teasing out more detail with "I like what I'm hearing, take it a step further," acknowledges that the student is trying, and gives them opportunities to keep working and contributing.

*Simple positive reinforcement can be surprisingly effective. Asking "who's going to the awesome concert on Friday?" rather than "who's going to the concert on Friday?" can make a difference. Just one word, if used in the right place, or used repeatedly, can reinforce a message. The same is true of the reverse - using negative language can erode the goodwill and enthusiasm of students. It can be a nasty spiral if I'm having trouble with a class - I am not pleased with their efforts, so I have to tell them off, so they feel bad about themselves or not encouraged, so they lower their effort, so I have to tell them off… Fortunately it works well the other way around, with compliments feeding good behaviour feeding compliments.

I've been noticing this pattern with Kapcon too. The better Kapcon gets, the higher people's expectations rise. The more people expect, the more GMs and organizers deliver. There have been massive advances at Kapcon over the past 6 - 8 years, due to a lot of hard work and some great positive feedback.

Keeping that post-Kapcon buzz going is a challenge, as it naturally dips as people get into the routine of the year. Confusion should be a good boost, as will BOD (which Debbie and I are now planning to fly down for). One of the best things that individuals can do to help promote Kapcon is to tell their friends about it, and to spread the word about all the awesome stuff that goes on at Kapcon. Positive word of mouth is by far the best tool for promoting and building Kapcon.

Improvements are being made year-by-year, thanks to the suggestions of attendees and the injection of fresh volunteer blood every couple of years (the current pattern sees front-people running Kapcon twice, then handing it off to someone else. This is a huge commitment from the front-people, and it has clearly paid off in 2 ways - each person has introduced refinements of the systems each year, and there is a growing support group of people who have run highly successful conventions, who help mentor and guide the new blood).

It's important to look around sometimes and appreciate how much support and how much positive energy there is around - in a school, a social group or an organisation. I've got a lot to be positive about, and a lot to be thankful for. So I say a heart kia ora to my whanau, my friends and my colleagues, and I send positive vibes in a broad spectrum to you all.

Ka pai. Tino pai.

[Yes, I think I have now exhausted my knowledge of Te Reo Maori. Except for a few snippits of a mihi, and the awesome phrase "Kei te kanikani ahau", which means "I am dancing".]

Friday, April 07, 2006

Weather, whether... wether?

I have added a new word to my vocabulary. Apparently a wether is a castrated goat.

Who knew?

Probably a lot of goat farmers and enthusiasts (I didn't want to say goat fanciers, as I have heard terrible stories about Palmerston North...).

I am keenly awaiting reviews of my Game Chef game, even though they will be terrible. I saw a game that I thought was really quite good score 17/50!

I hope I make it into double figures for at least one review, or at least get a positive comment somewhere. Still, even if it's all accurate and derogatory, I shall not let it get me down. I enjoyed the experience, and it has forced me to read other entries, and in doing so I feel like I've learned a lot about game design.

[When your existing knowledge is limited, it's easy to feel like you've learned a lot. It's similar to having a buck in your pocket, and through hard work earning another dollar. You've still only got $2, but you've doubled your wealth!)]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Home Alone

Man, time flies when you're wasting time on the internet. I had plans for tonight, like tidying up and folding laundry and all kinds of chore-doing, but I only got about an hour of useful stuff done.

Then I read blogs and NZRaG and looked at geeky toys (like USB enclosures and laptop hard drives to make a portable hard drive) and read more blogs and 1km1kt and such, and now it's late.

I think I'd better go do the dishes, tidy up some laundry, and look at going to bed. That's not exactly fun, but it ain't getting any earlier...

In fun news, emails about the 48 hour film competition have started bouncing around, and I am all kinds of keen :)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sensory Overload

This weekend was quite something. There was a nice balance of being at home relaxing, and going out and seeing cool stuff.

Lots of Chardonnay. 7 different NZ wines, with blind tasting and analysis (of a very crude kind. Comments like 'it really attacks the gum line' and 'plenty of tang in the sinuses' are not the most refined).

A trip down to Wellington to have lunch, see a brilliant exhibition at the civic gallery, watch V for Vendetta, and then spend a highly pleasant evening at Jenni and Lee's.

The exhibition is by an Australian artist called Patricia Piccinini. It's called 'In Another Life', and it's a mix of photographs (with cute/odd creatures photo-shop'd in), sculptures that were both beautiful and cute and creepy, and odd cute technology stuff like li'l baby trucks. I found it to be a fascinating exhibition, as it was masterfully skilleriffic, beautiful, and combined emotions of comfort, familiarity, the alien, and sadness. Quite moving, and incredibly impressive. Me liked it.

V for Vendetta has leapt into first place of my favourite comic-book adaptations. It is teh awesome.

And the fine company of people who happened to be seeing another film at the same time as us was wonderful, even if some of them did make comments about Jake and Heath using their flatulence for fart-fishing (like dynamite fishing, only you stick your arse in the water).

Wedding photos were lovely.

2 episodes of Miss Marple (at about 1 hour 20 minutes each), plus 4 episodes of Lost (thanks J&L!), with breaks in between for marking (the horror!) and going for a walk. We ate soup, too, which was lovely.

Back in the saddle again. Just 9 more teaching days to go, and on one of those I'll be off on a course!