Category Archives: JoCoCruiseCrazy

the sky above the port

This guest post is brought to you by Will Hindmarch, writer and designer of such titles as the one he’s about to tell you about…

A-N-N

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

Today is the day. Today I debut Always/Never/Now, an all-in-one RPG adventure of futuristic cyberpunk action and intrigue. It’s 100+ pages in PDF format and available at DriveThruRPG right now for the somewhat remarkable price of FREE.

Additional posts and thoughts on A/N/N can be found at always-never-now.tumblr.com.

A/N/N is developed from adventures and characters my friends and I played years ago — and then brought out of retirement for one more mission in 2011. I retrofitted the adventure I wrote for that reunion and playtested it at conventions like Gen Con, Origins, and PAX until it was sharp enough to share. Then I invited artists Steven Sanders, Noah Bradley, and Craig S Grant to make it more handsome.

And today, at last, it’s ready for you to play.

If you find that you dig A/N/N and you’d like to thank me with dollars, please click the donate button on my website.

—Will Hindmarch

Forever All The Time Always

This guest post comes from Will Hindmarch (@wordwill), a writer, designer, and occasional guest blogger at WWdN.

Twitter is kind of a big deal to me. I (over)use it to stay connected with people that I am not near geographically. I use it to eke out little clarifying thoughts about my day and the way I work. I use it for jokes, for serious contemplative bits of text, for exchanges with people both known and unknown to me so I don’t feel quite so lonely at my desk all day. It helps me refine ideas down to morsels that can be terse, poetic, witty. I’ve been using it like a short-form diary for years. I love Twitter.

So when I finally got my Twitter archive feature activated, I was delighted. I wanted to go back in time and see how I’d changed, see what I’d forgotten, see if I could detect a difference in my writing from 2007 to now. I opened up my archive and dove in, expecting to see myself. In those tens of thousands of tweets, I discovered two things.

First, despite the migration of various comedic bits through my timeline, I haven’t changed that much as a writer.

Second, I needed help.

That’s not sass. I’m not being flip. I got a look at myself in a weird mirror and found lots of my tweeted messages came with tiny memories. Aspects of myself came into alarming focus. Much to my surprise, part of the secret was hidden in my hashtags.

Continue reading Forever All The Time Always

Thank you, guest bloggers!

My inner ear thinks my house is on a boat, and my brain is trying to simultaneously process the incredible week I had on JoCo Cruise Crazy through the exhaustion I earned with all the fun I had. It’s like I got all my mana back, but my hit points are recharging much more slowly.

There will be a full cruise write up when I get myself back to normal and can properly reflect on the week of awesome. Until then, I recommend you visit John Scalzi, who was on the boat and wrote about it at Whatever.

Here are two pictures for your entertainment. First, my badge, so I knew who I was.

Wil Wheaton JoCo Cruise Crazy 3 Badge

And now, the harbor at Saint Maarten:

The harbor at Saint Maarten

I have to take a moment to thank Will, Shane, and Stepto for writing such awesome posts while I was gone. They are so great, I’m leaving their author privileges intact, in the hopes that they drop by from time to time and share awesome stuff with us.

Will Hindmarch and Stepto and Shane Nickerson Are The Best Ever: A Post by the Real Wil Wheaton

INTERNET I AM IN YOU.

So, you guys, I’ve decided to let Will Hindmarch and Stepto and Shane Nickerson stay on at the blog forever and ever because they are so great at blogging. I mean, I’m great at it, too, but together I figure we’re like a great rock-and-roll band like what’s that band that’s made out of robotic lions? We’re like that band. I’ll form the head!

Seriously, these guest bloggers totally blew me away. They’re phenomenal writers, each and every. I think I felt every feel just now as I went back and read all their posts from this week. What generous and wise and funny and did I mention wise fellows these once-guest, now-forever bloggers were. I’m buying them all burritos.

I’m going to go brew the beers now, like you do, and let these guys do some more blogging because, like I promised, they get to blog here with me from now on forever and no take-backs. Okay? Okay. Burritos.

Signed,

Totally the Real Wil Wheaton Totally*

*(Not at all totally or at all)

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: We, Geeks

Will Hindmarch writes and designs stories and games. You can find some of his stories at venues like Amazon and DriveThruFiction. He blogs at wordstudio.net and teaches at the Shared Worlds creative-writing camp—registration’s still open!

A few years ago, I spent a month of blog posts writing about people I admire. On February 11th of that year, I wrote about Wil Wheaton:

… [H]e’s an energetic creator who strives to promote positivity and enthusiasm by creating fun, funny, touching things and spreading them to his friends and fans. He’s always creating—when it’s hard, when it’s tough, when it’s easier not to, he’s always making something new to post, to share, to publish. […] His enthusiasm spreads and warms like good scotch. Let’s get drunk.

One summer night, on a high-rise building in an emerald city, a flock of geeks like us gathered to play. We sat at a handful of tables to play myriad games. I sat at a Fiasco table with Wil and our friend Andrew and a few people I didn’t know very well but I’d admired because Wil had spoken highly of them. We elected to play one of my playsets, “The Zoo,” so I was excited to show off my work and nervous that it would somehow suck.

It totally didn’t suck.

One of those players I didn’t really know was Stepto. He wrote about that game earlier this week. At the time, I felt like Wil had climbed high up a tree for the view and was reaching out to help us climb up, too. I feel like everyone at that table took up Wil’s dare. It was a great fiasco, though we didn’t get to see the whole thing because we spent so much time digging into our characters in the first Act that we, uh, sort of ran out of time to play.

Partway through that first Act of play, people behind me started to sing the happy-birthday song. Wil smiled. They were getting closer. My friend, Lily, was singing in Hebrew. I don’t know what my face was doing but my insides fluttered. The hard candy shell on my heart formed a craquelure. It was my birthday.

I turned around and saw a host of friends—new friends, many of them—gather around, singing. I admit, part of my brain panicked. What was I supposed to do? But a part of my brain also immediately transported through time. I thought of ancient people singing to warm themselves around winter fires. I thought of people trilling together on tall ships swaying in the sea. I thought of packed pubs and bars where people raised their glasses in a chorus of cheers. Not all of us knew each other that night, but we all knew the song—in different tongues, with different memories of birthdays past and absent friends—we all knew the song.

Honestly, I don’t know whose idea that was. I don’t want to know. I like doling out my thanks in equal portions to everyone that night.

I bring it up now, though, because it’s one of my favorite memories of things happening around Wil. I met a lot of those people through Wil. I used to say that Wil’s built something remarkable here at WWdN, but the truth is that I think he’s gathered it—gathered us. So, here’s to this place. Here’s to the refrains we recite among friends. Here’s to singing in the comments section.

Cheers.

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: Goodbye, Farewell, and Thank You for Your Attention

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at Stepto.com.

I was in Vancouver with Rochelle. It’s one of our favorite cities.  We were up to visit Remy  (the puppy I mentioned in the previous post) before we could take him home, and Wil suggested we all have lunch together since we were all in the area with him filming Eureka episodes.  Adia, our “middle” Golden, was the aunt of Remy (likewise Eowyn) so we brought her along on the trip.  Our plan was to visit a dog friendly restaurant since we would have her with us.

We’re all partial to Granville island, both the beer from the brewery, the locale, and the food. Wil, like me, hates cabs but that was the only way for us to get together. We arrived to find the hotel spot that was pet friendly was closed for construction.  We wandered around with Adia.  We ended up finding a place, but they wanted us to tie up Adia outside the patio eating area due to regulations.  We tried to keep her close but she was insistent on being with us so we gave her a long leash lead about 20 feet from where we were in the neighboring park.  Before long she was entangled in her lead with the stimulation of so many nice people around her and seeing us just a few feet away.

I was trying to concentrate on what Wil was saying, while at the same time he was concentrating on Adia trying to tie her long lead in knots to try and just be with us.

Wil was inviting me to perform at w00tstock. I was trying to understand why anyone would ask me to do that. After a bit, none of us could really deal with Adia being so uncomfortable so I took Adia to the car and put her on her travel pillow. She curled up immediately and slept. I returned to the table in the sunny, crisp late-March Vancouver weather.

“I’m going to let my brain reboot for a minute before I answer” I told Wil, about w00tstock.

“Of course.” he said and talked to Rochelle while I processed being invited to perform at  something I had already bought tickets for because I wanted to see it. Before I took care of Adia, who by the way is a healthy and energetic 8 years old today, Wil had asked me “Have Paul and Storm talked to you about w00tstock?” and I thought he meant there was something wrong with my tickets or something. It was his simply seeing if I had been asked to perform.

Several years later a mail arrives in my inbox, “Would you like to guest blog for me while I am gone?” My brain went through the same reboot because I know how big and essentially awesome his blog audience (you guys) is.

We had flatbread pizza that day on Granville island, and the last of the brewery’s Winter ale (outstanding). It was a bright sunny day, and Wil got to meet Adia and I got an invitation to perform on a stage for the first time in my life.

This week Will and Shane and I have had the privilege of you guys reading our stuff.  We chatted in email and tried to time our entries to not be too overwhelming or overlap.  But above it all we wanted to achieve the quality of Wil’s blog.  I read what Will and Shane wrote and I think we hit it, And above all your comments and interaction made us feel welcome.

In just a few hours Wil and Anne will get off a boat, early in the morning and probably slightly hung over.  I can tell you from experience they will walk with shaky legs down a ramp, and stand and sway slightly while customs processes them.  They will probably get on a plane immediately (a fate I wish no enemy, much less a friend in their condition because sea legs are hard to overcome) and they will fly home.

And at the door will be Seamus, and Marlowe, and Riley, Watson, and Luna.

Welcome home brother!  Here’s your blog back! I hope we did it justice!

And to you dear reader, thanks. 

Guest post by Stephen Toulouse: Life is a Series of Dogs

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at Stepto.com.

This is Eowyn, our youngest Golden retriever:

photo

She’s sort of a rescue, we owned her brother Remington and he died at 18 months of a blood disorder. Just a week after that happened our breeder had to take Eowyn away from the family she’d been placed with. My wife Rochelle and I try to alternate between rescues and breeder pups (our oldest Golden, Buddy, is a rescue and going strong at 12 and a half!) and because she was related to Remy we took her in.  Best decision ever.

Point being, though we have a cat, we’re mostly dog people. And here’s why.

Last night Eowyn farted, startled herself, and barked at her own ass for a full minute. I was laughing too hard to get video. I feel like I let you all down, because that shit was hilarious.

(Yes that’s a ribbon in her hair, and yes that’s a skull and crossbones on her collar.  Eowyn is Hard.  Core.)

(Except when she barks at her own ass.  It’s difficult to be hard core when your own orifices surprise you)

Guest Blog by Shane Nickerson: Endgame

Shane Nickerson is a guy who does stuff. He writes every day at nickerblog.com.

So, I never told you the Vegas story and now we’re out of time. Dammit. You would have liked it. It had laughs and drinks and delicious meals and gambling and foibles.

I have no idea what foibles means.

Point is, I’ll leave the Vegas story for another time. Unlike Wil, I didn’t take detailed notes all weekend in my Moleskine. Also, I don’t have a proper picture of three grown men holding giant plastic party drinks at a Let It Ride table because someone in the group (name rhymes with Bil) thought it would be hilarious and insisted on sticking with the bit even when we begged him for the bit to be over. BEGGED! I eventually paid our friend Ryan [drunk amount of] dollars to pound one of the stupid drinks in under a minute. He did. Like I said, there is video.

Also, there was a running Telly Savalas joke that I barely remember.

VEGAS!

Worst recap ever.

If my calendar is right, Wil and the rest of the singing, dancing, sunburned booze hounds aboard JoCo Cruise Crazy are almost home. Alas, my time here is at an end. It’s been fun borrowing Wil’s audience for a week. Will and Stepto and I did our best to keep his chair warm while he was gone. We were the Joan Rivers to Wil’s Johnny Carson. 3 or 4 of you will get that.

Thanks for having me.  This community is amazing. WWdN is an epicenter of creativity and connections, and it has always been one of my favorite places on the Internet.

If you need me, you know where to find me.

TELLY SAVALAS FOREVER!

See? Makes no sense.

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: Flow

Will Hindmarch is a writer, designer, and mooncalf. You can find some of his stories for sale online at Amazon, DriveThruFiction, and other sites. Long ago, in ages past, he wrote things at wordstudio.net.

(Update: Looking back, I feel sort of silly sharing this. To be clear, I don’t think my changing relationship with video games is due to the games or gamers—not really. I’m just musing here, wondering why it is that I can’t dive into games like I used to. I still don’t know what’s up there. So it goes.)

Listen, can I confess something to you? Lately I’ve been having some trouble with video games.

I’m super excited to play some of the games on my to-play list but I don’t know when I’m supposed to do that. The impulse that used to signal me to play video games often gets met by different pastimes right now—for me, at least. By the end of my day, when I might otherwise power up my console, I find myself torn.

  • Music: “The Last Man,” from The Fountain, music by Clint Mansell

It’s a multifaceted problem. For comparison’s sake, consider how I operate at my desk. When I’m there, I’m almost always doing two things at once, whether I’m working or not.

When I’m working on something largely visual, like the layout for a book, I listen to podcasts at the same time. I listen to Wil and friends talk gaming with Gabe Newell and Co. at Valve. I listen to writers talk shop on the Nerdist Writer’s Panel. I listen to Ken Hite and Robin D. Laws talk about stuff. I get to take in know-how and stories at the same time I get to create things. I like that.

When I’m writing, I put on music. I get to absorb music and generate prose at the same time. This helps me escape my environment a little bit and put myself into a headspace that’s a few mental clicks away from the pressures of the blank page.

I often devise a playlist for the project I’m working on. For example, while writing “A Desert is Implicit,” I listened to a playlist I called “Future Desert,” populated with things like the soundtracks from Halo: ODST, Journey, Caprica, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Other playlists, like “Futuristic Operatic,” “Mission Driven,” and “Epic Fantastic” get played for a variety of projects that sort of sync up thematically.

  • Music: “Goodbye Renegade” from Tron: Uprising, music by Joseph Trapanese

These sorts of support structures aren’t necessary, though; they’re luxuries. They give me a chance to do two things once and get more day out of my day. They help work feel more like play.

I say this because it’s important, in my experience, to be able to write without rituals. I don’t need music to write. One way I know the work’s going well is when a playlist runs out and I discover I’ve been writing in silence for an hour. That’s flow.

Continue reading Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: Flow

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: A Mythending Adventure Ends in Fiasco for Munchausen

This guest post is by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at Stepto.com.

If I had to pick three of my new favorite games my gaming circle has introduced me to this past year, it would be Fiasco, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and Mythender. All three of these games involve basic improvisation skills and TERRIFY ME BEYOND ALL BELIEF. They are also terribly fun not just to play but to kibitz as well. (note I’m using the non-dick meaning of kibitz where you don’t constantly interrupt the game.)

The problem is I travel in some circles that involve people who write or perform for a living, so playing Fiasco with Wil, or Munchausen with Pat Rothfoss and Mike Selniker, or Mythender with Ryan Macklin can be mega super daunting. I’ll give you a for-instance: during a Fiasco game, Wil’s character was to meet my friend Eric’s character in a cheap bar. It was not the kind of place Wil’s character would ever go if he didn’t have to. Here’s how Wil opened the scene:

“I sit in the seedy bar, noting with disdain and disgust the rips in the vinyl cover of the dirty booth. With a sigh I slowly stir my cheap blend scotch rocks (the best this place could offer) with my finger watching the oily swirls of the cheap booze and the water. The tumbler is dirty and heavy, made from some poor cloudy looking glass. The smell of greasy beef coming from the kitchen well within view of the dining area is making me sick. I see [Eric’s Character] enter from the side, he looks shabby as always.”*

I mean, that’s how he opened. Eric played up to it perfectly but if you’re playing these games and people who have a lot of fun and a background of creativity and improv are playing with you, it can quickly put you in performance anxiety mode.

Thusly, I have tips for playing these games. These aren’t improv or story telling tips, they are just tips centered around the game experience itself.

#1: Don’t feel like you have to play to win.

Yes, most of these games have a form of scoring. But their structure is far more oriented towards everyone enjoying the game itself. I’ve “lost” many a game of Fiasco but much like losing at Chess I had a great time playing and learned something. I find I can relax my mind in these games quite a bit by simply not caring if I win.

#2: Role playing skills vary widely among people, don’t force yourself to try and play at the level of others.

This is by far the handiest tip I can give you, because it helps me the most. So when someone at the table absolutely knocks a scene or moment out of the park, don’t let that little voice who says “Well, I shouldn’t even speak at this point that was so good” stop you. I’ve played Fiasco games where the best role player or improv person actually didn’t win. It’s not about who can consistently turn their scenes into Shakespeare.

#3: Embrace the absurd or impossible when it’s presented.

This is by far the hardest tip to do. During a session of Munchausen, Pat was explaining how his rudimentary space ship reached the moon when Mike interjected and introduced a game challenge:

“But sir, what I do not understand is how you managed the trip being dead the entire time!”

Had I gotten that challenge I would have locked up and probably pushed back the challenge (you can do that in Munchausen), but it’s such a good challenge the other players would have forced it back on me. Pat took it in stride and wove a quick aside of what it truly means to be dead. I saw a similar scene in Fiasco where one character started off the scene describing the other character standing over their character’s own dead body, bloody knife in hand. This forced the other player to completely change what they were planning and explain how the situation came to be.

This is a hard piece of advice for these games because situations like this can happen often and force you into total and pure improv even if you already felt good about where you wanted to go. Take a moment, think about how you really would explain such a thing, and go for it.

#4: Have fun. It’s perfectly ok to stumble a bit or fail.

The most frustrating thing about these games is when people want to play them but feel they just aren’t good enough. Chances are if you are playing these games you are playing them with friends or, believe me, soon to be friends. If you take a moment to react to dialogue, or feel a story you are telling just isn’t working out, that’s ok. Sometimes there’s great fun in these games to playing in a more minimalist fashion with story telling and instead play the role of kingmaker by using your challenges or points to decide the winner. The point being if you’re going to sit at the table because this looks like fun, no one wants you to feel like this 20 minutes into it:

clip_image001

I hope those tips help. If these games are new to you and you have no idea what I am talking about try watching the episode of TableTop featuring Fiasco!

Stepto

*I exaggerate only slightly. That’s more or less how Wil opened the scene. It was hysterical.