Archive for April, 2014


Casualty of War

HE was a hacker with the Syrian Electronic Army. SHE was a pro-Russian radical from Donetsk. Together, they were going to teach America a lesson—by taking out the FedEx-Kinkos at 135th and Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas.

Their target had been skillfully selected to throw intelligence services off the trail. They plotted carefully for entire minutes on their scheme to obtain automatic weapons by attending the gun show at the Overland Park trade center (where, for two days a month, your second amendment rights are unencumbered by background checks or common sense). Their timing was painstakingly planned, after studiously poring through Travelocity for the best airfare from Kiev to Kansas City. The plan was foolproof.

But they hadn’t counted on me. I was at the Overland Park FedEx-Kinkos, checking out paper stocks for a print job related to The Strange Fan Kit. My light infantry instincts, coiled like a spring that had been unused for almost 20 years—because they had been unused for almost 20 years—struck like a 20-year-old viper. The Syrian caught a ream of 32-pound laser paper in the face. He went down, clutching his nose as he squeezed off a random volley of 7.62 (R) rounds.

The Russian shouted something about oligarchs (my Russian is, frankly, a bit rusty) and vaulted the self-serve copier brandishing an AKM that looked suspiciously like it had been recently supplied by the Russian army (despite the fact that it had been purchased at the Overland Park Gun Show Trader event). I ducked behind the Supply Center™, whipping a barrage of unfolded flat-rate boxes, in a variety of convenient sizes, boomerang-like toward my assailant. The paper cuts were too much for her, and down she went.

I got to my feet, ready to inform the FBI and Kinko’s management. But I had underestimated the Syrian’s commitment to the cause of sectarian totalitarianism—and I paid for my hubris with a bullet to first molar (upper right side).

You’ve seen the rest on cable TV, of course, assuming you’re one of the 36% of Americans who actually follow the news. The plot was foiled, America learned no lessons, and the only casualty was my tooth.

At least, that’s what I told Monte when I took time off from work to get a crown put on a broken tooth. I hope he’s not one of the 36%.

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If you follow gaming news, you probably saw the Origins Awards nominations late last week. I’m very pleased that Monte Cook Games’s own Numenera is in the running for Best RPG. (And let me be clear: Credit for this lies in no way with me. The game was almost completely finished before I joined the company.) Congratulations to Monte, Shanna, and Kieran for the recognition of their incredible work.

How do ya like that logo, by the way? Yeah, I designed it.

How do ya like that logo, by the way? Yeah, I designed it. Back in the day.

(Also, congrats to the awesome Jeff Tidball, who’s Eternal Lies, which he ran for us as a campaign lasting more than a year (and about which I wrote in my last post), was also nominated.)

I ran the Origins Awards for five years. (I was the Chairman of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design from 1995-2000.) The process is somewhat different than it was when I was at the helm, but here’s something I often said then and which holds true today: It really is an honor just to be nominated.

In fact, it’s really a bigger honor, and here’s why: The nomination process culls roughly five titles from each category from among the dozens or hundreds of potential candidates. Although not always perfect, this process usually does a pretty good job of identifying the best releases of the category. And these titles are usually the standouts in the field–the games and products that really do stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd.

Beyond that, though, it’s kind of a crap shoot. Among those five releases, there’s rarely a single title that blows the others out of the water. The decision of which is “best” becomes pretty subjective, and easily affected by which has the largest or most vocal following, has better distribution and visibility, or gets an uplift from association with a popular brand. This is not to say these factors overwhelm the issue of quality–just that, when the qualitative differences are slim, other factors become more influential.

And that’s the key: The qualitative differences between the nominees are usually pretty slim, whereas all of the nominees usually stand out in comparison with the rest of the field. Nomination is what really marks a product as superlative. It really is an honor to be nominated.

So congrats to the folk behind Numenera, and Eternal Lies, and 13th Age and Love Letter and FATE and all of the other nominees. It’s an honor to be counted among you!

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