Books and games for vacation

Part of the fun for vacation prep, for me, is figuring out what video games and books to take along. Here’s my current lineup:

Switch

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2
  • Octopath Traveler

Well, what are you going to play in Japan besides Japanese RPGs? Okay, granted, that’s most of what I play anyway. I’ve started XC2 and have heard good things about it. I mean, it has the Nopon, who are super-cute.

On the other hand, it has Pyra, who cannot possibly be anatomically correct.

Well, at least there are shirtless men too?

Octopath Traveler is, I’m told, super crunchy. I don’t know if I’ll get around to playing it, but it’ll be good to have on hand if I’m feeling retro.

3DS

  • Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
  • Bravely Second: End Layer
  • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
I dig the aesthetic of SMT4

That’s a lot of colons, a lot of RPGs, and a lot of remakes. I still have a backlog of portable games, as you can see. 3DS and Vita seem to be continuing to wind down, and that’s okay with me because games are coming to Switch. Faster than I can play them, it seems. In any case, I’d love to finish Radiant Historia.

Books

  • Necrotech by KC Alexander
  • Medusa’s Touch by Emily Byrne
  • Mixed Signals by Alyssa Cole
  • Masked Possession by Alana Delacroix
  • Pure Sacrifice by Jami Gold
  • Inouye by JC Hay
  • Dangerous Promise by Megan Hart
  • You Only Love Twice by Bec McMaster
  • An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair
  • Scardust by Suzanne van Rooyen
  • Psion by Joan Vinge

This is mostly science fiction romance with some paranormal romance and some science fiction. I will probably pick up a few historicals as well. Because between planes and trains, who doesn’t want to read? I doubt I’ll read all of them but I’d like to make a dent in my TBR.

Consumptive habits and creation

Like many people, I look at a lot of websites and consume a great deal of content. On a typical day, I visit most of the following:

  • ESPN and ESPN FC (soccer) for headlines about baseball, soccer, tennis, and Olympic sports. Most days this doesn’t take too much time unless something like the Women’s World Cup is going on. Then I read every single article, even ones about Thailand games. I don’t know who any of those Thai ladies are but I find them inspiring.
  • The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, for sabermetric data and Yankees talk. Did you know that baseball has numbers that are statistically significant and that Nate Silver started his projections with baseball? I am terrible at ProbStat myself but love to see the science and methodology behind all these projections.
  • RPGamer for news on upcoming and current role-playing video games.
  • Shopping websites for clothing sales. This can take two minutes or longer if I’m being picky about new socks or pajamas.
  • The New York Times, which I’ve subscribed to for years and is still my major news curator. I’m told this makes me old-fashioned.
  • SPL Overdrive, the Seattle Public Library’s ebook-lending engine. How close am I to items I have on hold? What’s new this week?
  • Facebook if my brother, a community I follow, or a few close friends have posted something.
  • My feedbin. This is the biggest time suck of all. I have a ton of clothing blogs, Cliff Mass’s weather blog, many writers’ blogs on their books and on writing, and some blogs of personal friends.

That’s just the web content I consume. Add some video games, a ton of music, and plenty of books, and I feel like a giant ravening maw that I shove stuff into. So many wonderful things, so little time and energy, especially because I work full time as a computer programmer. The desire to consume wars with the desire to create. If I am not making things up, just consuming them, I am unsatisfied. I can make web applications, I can write words, I can try to write music, I can work on creating roleplaying games. Which one I do is a daily question. I’m on a writing fiction kick right now, with a little bit of roleplaying games.

Tan Tan Bo Puking, by Takashi Murakami

Tan Tan Bo, by Takashi Murakami (2001) is one way I try to explain my creative urge and process.

I’ve been trying to devote about an hour on weekdays to creation. Weekends are variable, because sometimes I’m not in town or am doing tons of social things. I’m still working on balancing creation and consumption and subcategories of both. Left unchecked, I binge on one or the other and end up feeling empty or uninspired. Perhaps someday I can expand the hours I can create things in.

RPGs and the tour bus

I’ve changed how I run tabletop games over the past thirteen years. I used to define everything about the world, leaving the characters fairly constrained in an approach referred to by M. Joseph Young as trailblazing. My partner John has referred to trailblazing before as ‘the tour bus’. The GM drives you to Plot Point 1, points out some stuff, and entertains the PCs with a canned scene while they act the peanut gallery and do their quirks/traits at each other. Sometimes there’s a scripted fight. Then back onto the tour bus for the next destination.

I eventually realized that I find it exhausting to author the story. I like building a world, but I’ll leave gaps and such that I’ll want the players to fill in out of game because it’s tiring to figure out etiquette systems of fourteen different countries. Also, during the game, other people will often have better ideas than I do about what and who is in the world and what they want. I mostly learned this from having co-GMs. A game is a big thing to put on just one person. I like to think that I know some of my weaknesses and can find people to shore them up to contribute to a richer game.

What I value most in the games I’ve been involved in is the PC’s interactions and relationships with each other. The environment that I make when I run a game is to facilitate and complicate these. All the giant machines, crystal owls, mathemagicians, foreign spies, and elemental rituals are there to define the characters and how they see each other. It’s about what they do in their environment. For me it’s more interesting when the character goals and values do not completely overlap the original GM plot. The character Lorenzo of Logos had concrete goals he started with: recover a stolen statue from a thief, investigate and discredit a secret society, fend off his mother’s matchmaking. He discarded, changed, or attained more of these during the course of the game: have another PC actually confront her sister about her shady blood magic cult, buy as many diamonds as possible, stop one country from invading another, create the ultimate sympathetic-magic guitar solo. Some of these ideas and events I had a hand in, others were completely proposed by the PCs. They took me in directions I’d never think to go myself, and I think there’s much value in that.

Whenever I run a game now, I talk to the participants beforehand about this more hands-off approach. It definitely should be explicit that I’m not asking them to play any specific characters or themes, that there is nothing they are ‘supposed’ to do. This is a jam session, and I’ll help keep the time and drop a few hooks, but it shouldn’t just be my story.