Games night and comicking day

Friday was games night at one of my friends’ place. First up we had a quick game of Draftosaurus. I actually managed to win this one, with a big collection of diverse dinosaurs in one pen that got me a lot of points.

After that we played a new game: Awkward Guests. It’s a bit like Cluedo, only done right, without the superfluous dice rolling and moving around a game board. And there are hundreds of clue cards, which can be combined in multiple ways to construct many different crimes to solve. The piecing together of clues is clever and fun, and it really requires some thought to play effectively and hopefully pin down the murderer correctly and first.

After that we played a game of 7 Wonders, an old favourite online, but with physical cards, which is something we haven’t done for many years. And then we split into two groups of 3 players each and I played Quacks of Quedlinburg – I don’t remember what the other group of 3 played.

I didn’t win any of the other games, but had fun, so that’s all that matters!

Today (Saturday) I did my 2.5k run early, and then spent much of the day writing and making new Darths & Droids comics. I need to get a few queued up before the trip to Orange that I’m taking with my wife and Scully from Tuesday.

I’m also trying to use up all our vegetables before we leave. I was talking with my wife about how to divide them up into dinners, and we decided tonight to make mushroom and zucchini risotto. Tomorrow will be mushroom and spinach pizza, and Monday will be spinach and potato dhal.

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1980s roleplaying night redux, and a wet Saturday

Friday night I ran my 1980s kids adventure roleplaying adventure again, for my second subgroup of friends. It was the same adventure, but it proceeded very differently! Here’s a summary, courtesy of one of my friends who described what the second group (made of five players) did, for the benefit of those in the first group (to compare notes):

The B team went to gawk at whatever was happening at the lighthouse. We saw the dead body of the lighthouse keeper, who appeared to have been drowned for some time and then partially eaten. Mutterings in the crowd talked about this being similar to events 25 years ago. The lighthouse keeper’s dog came and befriended one of us.

We went to the back of the lighthouse, observing that it appeared to have been struck by lightning. We opened a window and took a look around inside. We didn’t see much at that time, but later when the police had left and closed the door we re-entered through the window and looked around the house itself. We read the logbooks and discovered that bad things happened to the lighthouse keepers every 25 years after a storm on June 1.

Back in town, we found out (I forget how, might have been from the fortune teller) that there was a shipwreck 100 years ago. We held a seance with the fortune teller and found out that the captain of that ship blamed the lighthouse keeper for the wreck and deaths of everyone, and somehow this translated into killing the lighthouse keeper every 25 years.

We were then transported to the past (one possible explanation, anyway), and managed to keep the light lit and avert the shipwreck. We were returned back to the present and found that the lighthouse keeper was alive and well after all. We returned his dog to him and got ice cream.

After he posted this on our group chat I mentioned that the first team’s adventure started the same way, but diverged at the word “opened”. Instead, the first group smashed the window with a slingshot(!), and then proceeded to climb through the broken window.

Both groups found a wet patch on the floor of the lighthouse tower (presumably where the lighthouse keeper’s body was found), but no clues as to how he died or who did it. The A team left and decided to check out the library to find out what happened 25 years ago. They found news stories from 1957 (25 years before the current date in 1982) saying the lighthouse keeper then was found dead under mysterious circumstances after a storm on the same date – and that 2 days later his dog was found dead. They continued looking back every 25 years, finding similar occurrences in 1932 and 1907. But in 1882, on the same date, was a storm that resulted in the wreck of the Warona, a cargo clipper. All hands were lost, except the cabin boy, one James Winchester. They used a phone book to look up any Winchesters in town, and discovered only one, living in the local nursing home.

The A team went to visit Mr Thomas Winchester, and discovered that he was the son of James Winchester. He told them the story of the wreck of the Warona, and that his father had told him how the lighthouse light had gone out as the ship was trying to reach safe harbour during the storm. They expected it to be relit, but it wasn’t, and without guidance the ship was wrecked on the headland. James suspected the lighthouse keeper was cowardly and didn’t bother to relight the lamp, thus causing the wreck.

The A team decided the logical thing to do was to go to Shipwreck Cove and try diving to take a look at the wreck. There they encountered a creepy ghost/kelp/thing that scared them. As they fled the scene, a storm whipped up and in a flash of lightning they were transported to the lighthouse in 1882.

From here the stories converged again. Both teams found the light out – and also that the lighthouse keeper had fallen down the stairs and was lying with a broken leg, unable to climb up to relight the lamp. (So it wasn’t his fault after all!) They relit the light and saved the ship.

The A team concluded their version of the adventure by going back to the nursing home to tell Thomas Winchester what happened, only to find that they had no records of a Winchester ever having lived there.

So, it was very interesting running this adventure twice with two different groups, and seeing the different choices they took through it!

Today, Saturday, the weather closed in. We have rain forecast every day for the next week again. Not too much here in Sydney, but further north parts of the state are getting hammered with hundreds of millimetres of rain again. These are the regions that have already suffered three major flooding events this year, and the ground there is still saturated, so even moderate rainfall is likely to trigger flooding again.

My wife and I took Scully for a lunchtime walk during a break in the rain, but it started up again halfway home and we got pretty wet, even with umbrellas. Scully was soaking, so we gave her a bath straight away.

We’ve also been planning a short trip. We’re going to take a drive out to Orange to stay for a few days in a couple of weeks. We found a hotel that has dog-friendly rooms so we can take Scully. We’re really looking forward to it! But today I spent some time going through all my Outschool classes and notifying parents and students that I’ll be taking a week off from teaching the classes.

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1980s games night and Saturday

Last night I ran the 1980s kids adventure roleplaying game that I’ve been working on. I had four players, playing 11-year-old kids in 1982. I don’t want to reveal any details of the adventure yet, because I have a second subgroup of friends who will be playing the same adventure next Friday during virtual games night. We all want to see if they handle the adventure differently, and compare notes afterwards. So suffice to say that the evening and the game went really well!

Today I went on a long walk with my wife and Scully to the distant Italian bakery. It rained a bit while we were out, and Scully got pretty wet, but fortunately it wasn’t too cold. They had the banoffee croissant special again, which is just so amazingly good that I can’t pass it up any time I see it there.

I spent most of my at-home time today working on new Darths & Droids comic scripts. I had a bit of writer’s block, alas, and broke it up with that long walk, and a 2.5k run. The run was a bit slow, since I was full of banoffee croissant! Tonight for dinner I made okonomiyaki.

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A late storm

The weather forecast for today was ominous: heavy rain beginning from around 8 am, totalling 10-25 mm. But it didn’t turn out that way. There was not a cloud in the sky when I took Scully out for a morning walk. And it remained bright and sunny all morning.

I took her out again for a walk and to get some lunch at midday, and it was still very sunny, and warm. Although it’s still winter, we got up to 22°C. But as we walked home, I could see dark clouds building up on the horizon. The cold front came through after 1 pm, and the temperature dropped rapidly to 12°C. But the rain was localised, and it didn’t start where I am until a couple of hours later, while other parts of the city were getting hammered. Now it’s raining steadily, and the temperature has dropped further to just 7°C, which is really cold for Sydney.

Besides watching the weather, today I worked on material for Friday’s roleplaying game. I used DALL-E to make an invitation image to advertise the game to my friends.

Agate Beach banner

I shared this with them. I also made a map of Agate Beach, the tiny west coast US town where the adventure is set. It’s a real town in Oregon, and I’m basing the game map on the real map, but with some modifications. I’ve also got some new ideas for how the adventure will flow.

And this evening I began the first three classes on this week’s new ethics topic: Friendship. One question I ask: Is it important that friends be of a similar age to each other? It’s interesting hearing kids discuss this. They’re 10-12 years old, and they can’t even imagine having a friend as old as 14 or 15!

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What did I do today?

Let’s see. I picked up the groceries this morning. I went for a run. I drove out to pick up my wife and Scully when they got caught in the rain on the way home from the dog groomer.

Oh, I prepared character sheets for the players in the roleplaying game that I’m going to run next week. I made a sheet template and then filled it in with stats, skills, advantages, flows, equipment, and character sketches that the players had chosen. They got to adjust some skill scores, which just took a few minutes. So they’re all ready to play.

And tonight we’re in the middle of online games. (I’m typing as we play 7 Wonders.) We played some Jump Drive to start, and I won a couple of games. I came second in a game of Bärenpark. And I’ve just lost badly in 7 Wonders.

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A day of assembling comics

Today I spent time making comics out of the photos I took yesterday. I only made five, and wrote annotations for them, as I had some other things to do. So there’s still a whole lot more to assemble, but that five will last for the coming week.

Last night at board games night, we played three games of Werewords, then a new game called Fantastic Factories.

This is a tableau building game where you roll dice, collect resources (energy and ingots), and use them to build various factories and industrial things that allow you to cascade into producing more resources and other stuff, and also collect points. In the building phase, everyone rolls their handful of dice simultaneously, and decides how to spend them – each die can be used to draw an extra card, or rolls form 1-3 can be used to gain energy, while rolls from 4-6 can be used to gain ingots. The thing is that you gain energy equal to the die roll (so 1-3 for each die), but for ingots you gain just 1, no matter what number is showing on the die.

Two of us got this wrong (since it was our first game). One friend of mine was taking 4-6 ingots for each die, and so gaining a huge advantage. My mistake was the exact opposite: taking only 1 energy for each die showing 1-3, rather than 1-3 energy. So I was handicapping myself. (It was possible to do this because everyone plays their dice rolls at the same time, so nobody is really watching what anyone else is doing to check on them.) Another player made a different rules error. In the end we joked that the winner would be the only person who didn’t realise they’d been playing illegally the whole time. But you kind of expect this thing on a first learning game. It was fun, and will be worth another play, now that we all know the rules!

After that we played an old favourite: Ra. We played this a lot back in the day, when we all used to work at the same company. Unfortunately, I had an utterly shambolic game. It’s an auction game played over 3 rounds, scoring points for collecting sets of various tiles that you win in the auctions. You start with 10 points (since it’s possible, though unlikely, to score negative points in a round), and then normally you’d expect to score around 5-15 additional points per round. In the first round I scored 2. In the second round I scored -2. That’s right: minus two. In the last round I scored 9 points, but I finished squarely in last place with a total of 19, behind people with total scores ranging from the 30s to 50s. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bad game of that! Lucky I play for the social interaction!

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A day of writing comics

My break from producing new Irregular Webcomic! strips is almost over… so I got stuck into writing a new batch of comics today. I just finished, in the middle of the evening – phew! That’s actually faster than a lot of other times, when it can take two or three days to write a batch of scripts. Tomorrow I’ll try to photograph them all and then have the weekend to assemble them.

Apart from that I didn’t do much else. I took Scully for a walk at lunch time and got some fish & chips to eat. We went down to the ferry wharf to enjoy the waterfront a bit while I ate.

Oh, I’m finally organising a date to play the 1980s “kids with bikes” roleplaying game adventure that I’ve written. I’ve recruited several of my friends, and we’ve decided to do it twice, in two separate sessions with different players. One group will play face-to-face at a games night which I’ll be hosting at my place, and then a week later the other group will play online using Zoom. After both groups have played the adventure, they can compare notes and see how they fared compared to each other. I’ve been sitting on this adventure for a long time, so I’m very keen to finally run it.

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Games night and walky day

Friday night was online games night, so I didn’t have time for a blog entry. We played a bunch of the usual suspects. I tried a very different strategy in Splendor this time, after losing badly last time. Last time I concentrated on buying as many cheap cards as possible to build up my power to purchase things without having to collect lots of gems – but by the time I was ready to get rolling and buy lots of point-scoring cards, the game had ended. Someone told me that that wasn’t a great strategy – you have to start buying more expensive cards earlier. So this time I started buying some of the second-tier cards as soon as I could, saving up lots of games to do so. Only at one point I ran into the rule (that I’d never noticed before) that you have to discard down to 10 gems at the end of your turn. So I wasted a whole turn grabbing extra gems that I then just had to throw away! Anyway, the result was just as bad as last time I played. I was just getting into a groove and planned to purchase some valuable point-scoring cards in my next two turns… and the game ended! I never got those turns, and came last, again.

The other main thing I did on Friday was attend the Standards Australia meeting on photography, which is a follow-up to the ISO meeting I attended in Cologne back in June. I had to present a report on that meeting, which is really the main part of the local meeting, bringing all the Australian experts up to date. It was the first face-to-face meeting we’ve had since COVID began, so it was good to catch up with people again. And we have a new project manager at Standards Australia (who ran our last meeting via Zoom), so it was nice to meet her for the first time.

I slept in a bit this morning. I needed some catching up on sleep, as a neighbour has a baby which has been crying a lot at night recently. I worked mostly on comics today, but took a break early in the afternoon to go on a long walk with my wife and Scully, over to the good bakery. We just had some small pastries for afternoon tea – I had a cheese danish.

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Editing comics

I’m currently reading a book on editing comics that I got from Kickstarter: Filth & Grammar by Shelly Bond. The book is all about what a comics editor does.

One main part is about what a comics editor should look for when giving feedback/requests to the author/artists. One thing it really emphasises is that every page of a comic should have around 3 or 4 bolded words to indicate speech stresses. If a page comes in with no words bolded, send it back and tell them to bold some.

I’ve long noticed that comics seem to do this – have multiple bolded words on each page. But I always thought the propensity of bolded emphasis words in comics was way too overdone. I find it distracting and annoying. I wonder who in the comics industry decided that comics had to have bold-emphasised words on every single page.

In other news, I got an invitation for DALL-E today, and I’ve been playing with it a bit, generating some artwork. Not too much because it’s easy to burn through your 50 free credits and have to start paying money to keep using it.

It also came with some free credit to try using GPT-3 text generation. I gave it this prompt:

Write the rules for a Euro-style board game based on medieval monks brewing beer.

And here’s what GPT-3 produced:

1. The game is played with two to four players.

2. Each player has a monastery, and starts the game with two brewmasters and two workers.

3. The game is played over six rounds. In each round, the players take turns performing one of the following actions:

a. Collecting ingredients: The player rolls two dice. They may choose to collect either the number of hops or barley indicated by the dice. If they choose to collect hops, they take that number of hops from the supply. If they choose to collect barley, they take that number of barley from the supply.

b. Brewing beer: The player spends one hop and one barley to brew one barrel of beer. The player may choose to brew either ale or lager.

c. Selling beer: The player may sell up to three barrels of beer. They may sell either ale or lager, but not both at the same time. They receive three gold pieces for each barrel of ale sold, and four gold pieces for each barrel of lager sold.

4. At the end of each round, the players check to see if they have enough beer to satisfy their workers. If they do not, they must pay one gold piece for each worker that is not satisfied.

5. The game ends after six rounds. The player with the most gold pieces wins the game.

Wow. That’s almost a sensible game. There are some obvious issues, but you could certainly start from this and tweak it into a playable game.

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A Zoom and a tunnel

Friday night was virtual board games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write up a blog entry. I picked up groceries, taught some online classes, and started working on a new online class for Outschool. I’m planning to run some Dungeons & Dragons or other roleplaying games for kids. D&D classes are very popular on there. I think a lot of kids these days are getting exposure to D&D online when they don’t have local groups to play with—or maybe some are getting an extra fix—and Outschool is a perfect platform for them to find adult DMs with experience running games for kids.

During games night, we played Sushi Go Party!, which I won, amazingly. And 6 Nimmt, Splendor, and Jump Drive, all of which I lost badly, unsurprisingly. We also tried a new game: VektoRace, which is an analogue car racing board game in which you use distance templates to move car tokens around a race track. It seemed an odd thing to port to an online version, but seemed to work okay. I took an early lead and the other players struggled to catch me, and we decided to quit after a bit more than 1 lap of the 3 in the race as it wasn’t particularly interesting. It’d probably be more fun with actual miniatures and a table.

Today I went to visit my mother, who lives up north, an hour’s drive away. While on my recent trip to Europe, my wife and I visited my aunt, my mother’s sister, in her nursing home in Germany. In the past year or so, we’ve had Zoom calls with her and several members of our family (organised by one of my cousins), but my mother has never been in on the call, because she’s not computer savvy and panicked when I suggested she set up Zoom on her computer. So when we saw my aunt in person, I asked if she’d like me to set up a call with her sister (my mother), and she sounded very enthusiastic about that. SO when we got home from Europe, I phoned my mother to see if we could visit and take a laptop and do all of the Zoom setup for her, so she could talk to her sister. She thought that sounded great, so I emailed the nursing home in Germany ands et up a call.

Today was the day, so my wife and I drove up to have an afternoon tea with my mother and then set up the Zoom call. It was scheduled for 5pm here, which was 9am in Germany. I took a laptop, and connected it to her WiFi (after struggling to find the password, before finding it written on the bottom of the modem), and ran the Zoom from there. It worked well and my mother and aunt had a rather emotional chat for a while, not having spoken to one another for many years, since the last time my aunt had visited Australia. My aunt tires quickly, so we didn’t stay on too long.

I knew we’d be leaving my mother’s around 6pm, so we decided to have dinner somewhere on the way home. Before we left, I found a nice restaurant in northern Sydney, just off the freeway exit and before the long slog through the suburbs back home. As we approached the freeway exit, we were nicely 10 minutes before our reservation – perfect timing.

But I hadn’t counted on NorthConnex. This is a new tunnel extending from the freeway, under multiple suburbs, bypassing a notoriously slow surface road. This was the first time I’ve driven back into Sydney from the north since the tunnel opened. We were approaching our exit, so naturally I moved to the extreme left lane (remember, we drive on the left in Australia). But then suddenly I was in unfamiliar territory, and wondering what the “NCX” written on the roadway meant… and before I knew it we were in the tunnel.

This is a 9-kilometre tunnel, with no exits. There was no way back. So we missed our dinner reservation, because by the time we exited and drove back it would have been half an hour or more later. And we paid a toll for the privilege. And we ended up far from home and had to take another tolled motorway to get home. So that was a bit of a debacle. We ended up stopping near home and grabbing something at an Indian restaurant for dinner. A place we hadn’t tried before which… was a bit substandard, and not somewhere we’d go again.

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