Don’t Turn Your Back arrives in the mail

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Look at what the friendly delivery-person-from-some-company-not-sure-which dropped off yesterday:

Don't Turn Your Back

It’s the board game version of the rpg Don’t Rest Your Head, a horror game about people trapped in a nightmarish dream world. Readers might remember that I (and a bunch of other terrific authors) contributed to an anthology based on the game, edited by Chuck Wendig, which you can buy directly from the publisher. In my story, I created a type of enemy that has been translated into the board game. You can see the card here.

As soon as I work up the heart to cut the wrapper off the game and open it up, I’ll get to see it in person. If you’re a fan of board games, check it out.

And check out this review for a discussion of game play and the game components themselves.

Randomness for 9/13

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1) Why Salad Is Overrated.

2) Actually, salad is good.

3) Ice-T will has some startling information for you in these (fake) SVU screencaps.

4) Most Heinous Stories of Role-Playing Games Gone Wrong.

5) Picture Yourself as a Stereotypical Man. “Stereotype threat” and academic achievement, or how to erase any statistical difference between whites and blacks / men and women.

6) I love this book design.

7) Classic book covers turned into gifs.

Randomness for 8/26

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1) Wheel of Misfortune. Love this comic. Love. It.

2) Every JRPG ever: Video. Reader, I laughed at them.

3) Exotic polyhedra dice, made of marble, gator jawbones, carbon fiber, and more.

4) Hole Quest: Ryan North live-tweeted the thrilling 40 minutes he was stuck in an empty pool with his dog.

5) 15 Delicious Regional Sandwiches. A chow mein sandwich? I don’t think so.

6) Texts from HP Lovecraft. This made me laugh.

7) Ten tabletop games that you can play as couples. Video.

Deleting Games

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I don’t play a lot of video games for one reason: it’s bad for me when I find a good one.

Frankly, that’s rare. With most games, it’s pretty at first, with some fun puzzles and an interesting setup. Maybe there will be a couple of easy fights (I don’t have a lot of patience with frantic, complicated fights) and the suggestion of a fun story.

Then shit starts to turn into a grind and I lose interest.

An exception was FREEDOM FORCE, and old squad-level superhero game, which had a sense of humor about it and let you pause the action to give the characters instructions. You fought giant ants, dinosaurs, alien invaders, minotaurs, the whole deal. I really enjoyed that game, and my poor wife saw nothing but the back of my head for two weeks. Not much writing got done, either. I finally had to delete the thing and put it away for good.

But I still own games and occasionally buy new ones. I keep hoping I’ll find a big name game that will really hook me, even though they all seem to grind.

Anyway, as a reward for finishing The Great Way, I bought myself the video game version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. We own the card game but never play it because a) it’s hard to read the text on those cards and b) the game has a simple structure but can become really complex. The video game version solved all that, because the cards were huge on the screen and the program kept track of all the little bullshit: how many plusses to damage, now many negatives, how many cards to play, etc.

When I say the structure is simple, I mean it. It’s a cooperative superhero-themed game, and each hero, villain, and environment has its own deck. The villain goes first, then each hero in turn, then the environment, then back to the villain again.

When playing a hero, you play a card from your hand, then use that hero’s power, then draw a new card. The villain and environment, in their turn, just play a card. That’s it. That’s how complicated it is.

However, some cards have an effect and go away, some stay around. Some take damage. Some let you play more cards, or draw more, or use extra powers.

In that sense, like M:TG, the cards are about breaking the games rules.

And I really, really liked playing it. It was absorbing as hell, with a lot of interesting complexity. The video game version turned a cooperative game into a solo one, but whatever, my wife and son didn’t like the game anyway.

When I played, I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t in pain. I just had flow. It was so great that I bought a year-long season pass to get all the new heroes, villains, and environments.

On Tuesday, I played one more game against Lex Luthor Baron Blade, and took him out with The Flash Tachyon, then deleted the game from my wife’s iPad. I lose all the characters and all the variants I’d unlocked, but the truth is I was becoming obsessive about it. I was falling behind on things (not writing this time, but other stuff) and even though each game was not very long–mainly because I know the cards so well I don’t have to think about strategy too much–I kept returning to them again and again. Yeah, it made me forget my numerous discomforts for a short while, but it was also drawing me in in a way I could no longer allow.

So, it’s gone. For now. When the next update is released, I’ll probably download it again to try out the new characters and face the villains, but until then it’ll feel good to recapture some of that time. The older I get, the more precious it is.

It’s a great game, though. If Steam would toss it into the Summer Sale, I’d recommend it to everyone.

Randomness for 6/16

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1) One-bedroom home for sale in Minneapolis: $150K. Every picture is weirder than the one before it.

2) Eight of the best D&D modules of all time. Warning: gallery.

3) I have 227 browser tabs open, and my computer runs fine. Here’s my secret.

4) Things to never order at a fast food restaurant.

5) Beautiful hand-carved skateboards from Mumbai.

6) Like movies and reading screenplays? Simon Barrett’s shooting scripts for the films THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT are online.

7) The worst fucking shoes on the planet: Cowboy sandal boots.

Randomness for 5/28

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1) Darpa successfully tests the first bullet that can be steered after it was fired.

2) Geologists grill up stakes with lava… and ruin them.

3) Richard Prince Selling Other People’s Instagram Shots Without Permission for $100K Whenever I feel cynical about publishing, I think about fine arts and give my oil-painter wife a hug. (Of course, if he was skimming other people’s work from reddit, I wouldn’t be surprised…)

4) Feces rained down on outdoor Sweet 16 party. Dumped from a plane, obviously. Stranger than fiction

5) Nothing about this toy makes sense. Video. Don’t watch that without the sound.

6) Law & Order: Daredevil. Video. Also requires sound.

7) A Kickstarter for a horror video game about a blind woman. Cool.

Randomness for 5/4

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1) An Analysis of the Shift in Color Palettes Used in More Than 50 Years of ‘Avengers’ Comic Book Covers.

2) Pancakebot will print your pancakes in any shape you can draw.

3) Norway is planning to ditch FM radio.

4) Why are board game boxes so big? I assume the transport issue is the difference in weight between 10 games and 16; the fewer games stacked on a palette, the less likely the ones at the bottom will be crushed.

5) The website for the “landscape hotel” where they shot most of the movie EX MACHINA is gorgeous design porn.

6) “My daughter spent this whole week preparing to GM her first D&D game.

7) Every question in every Q&A session ever.

Wow! Now I’m in a completely different place! or grinding in fantasy games

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From PC Gamer: Why too much combat hurts rpgs.

I couldn’t agree more. If I’m playing a game, I’m interested in the world, the supporting characters and the overall story. Fight? Sure. Let’s have some fighting.

But grinding away, room after room, where almost every fight means nothing in terms of the larger story? Boring! The conversations are more interesting.

Admittedly, I have more patience with a first-person shooter than a third-person like Pillars of Eternity, but even so, get to the plot. Get to the plot!

Anyway, interesting article.

Randomness for 4/23

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1) The day Hank Aaron’s bodyguard didn’t shoot.

2) Onlookers mistake fallen construction crane at Dallas Museum of Art as an art installation.

3) Yelp reviews of new-born babies.

4) A person is creating 3d printing templates for every creature in the Monster Manual.

5) The simple brilliance of David Aja. This dude is half of the reason that the Hawkeye comic has been so amazing. I really love the design sense that artists bring to comics now. They’re so much more interesting than they used to be.

6) Why don’t our brains explode when we see movie cuts? (What a sensible way to phrase that question.)

7) Pictures of food that very little kids “can’t eat” and why.