Thursday, December 01, 2016

A Personal Thank You to the CW.



Labels are bad. All of my life I have resisted the tendency prevalent in our society to judge or define a person by race, gender, sexual preference, weight, or other such narrow criteria. Maybe it's because I am, "that crippled man." Oh, no one calls me this aloud. But, this judgment does exist. It is assumed (and often rightly so) that I am unable to do certain things. But, right or wrong, prejudging my capabilities based on the label that society has given me robs me of my power.

Growing up, I loved reading comic books. I still do. The thing about comics is that often the heroes in the stories lead double lives. There is a juxtaposition between the seemingly helpless secret identity and the ultra-powerful hero identity. People judge each side based on appearance: one is seen as incapable and the other is seen as infallible. But these two sides are the same person. The lesson here is that appearances are deceiving. There is more to a person than what you can see.

Comics showed us that the book worm who was bullied in gym class was also the hero praised on the evening news. Comics showed us aliens from other worlds who just wanted to fit in and get the attention of the cute person next to them, even as we were feeling alien in our own skins and suffering from the same personal crisis.

Comics, at least the ones that I read as a kid, had so much to teach us about transcending the labels placed on us by society and living together (all together) as heroes. And it's how I have tried to live my life. And it's a message that I think is especially important to remember today, as I think about our broken world.

Of course, kids don't read comics so much anymore. It's all video games now, and I don't get that video games are shaping children the same way that comics did for me. In fact, from what I have heard and seen in video game chat communities, the opposite is happening. I miss the comics. Our world needs these positive heroic ideas.

Thankfully, these stories aren't gone. If someone had told the kid that I was reading comic books back in 1977 that he would be watching his favorite superhero stories on the television screen four nights a week, I am certain that he would not have been able to believe it. But, it's really happening. The stories on the CW television line-up are the comics of my youth. They carry the same positive messages of right and wrong and heroism, of inclusion and acceptance, of ignoring labels and judging on merit.

Right now Supergirl is sharing the most intelligent, engaging, heartwarming, and non-judgemental, treatment of a homosexual relationship that I have ever seen on television. It's this very real story line that makes Supergirl my most anticipated show each week. Sure, I am a comic book nerd and the fantastic spectacle of super heroes, powers, and villains reaches that boy inside, but it's the other stuff that reaches the man.

I am watching this show with my daughter. She gets it. She understands that people aren't to be judged by any preconceived notion or measure. That people are to be experienced, and their value gauged solely on the breadth of that experience. I am proud of her for that. And, I am proud of and thankful to the CW for giving us these amazingly thoughtful and important stories. Especially now when our world needs them the most.

Regards,


Jeff

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tiny Epic Quest



I have invested in a lot of board game Kickstarters and people have asked me what this is all about, so I thought it might be cool to take a moment to explain.

Kickstarter is a funding source for entrepreneurs. Board game designers have grabbed onto this source to see their dreams made into reality, but almost any product or idea that you can imagine can have its start on Kickstarter.

It works like this: people see a cool idea for some new product and they "purchase" the product in advance. But, this isn't a "pre-order;" this is an investment. This product hasn't been produced yet. In fact there is no guarantee that it ever will be.

Ideally, if the funding goal of the campaign is met, you are then billed for the amount of your pledge, and the production of the product that you have invested in can begin. Expect to wait upwards of a year, sometimes more for your investment to pay off.

If the funding goal isn't met, the campaign is put to bed, and your credit card isn't charged. But, what if the campaign is successfully funded, and you are charged, but something goes wrong?

I pledged for something called "pencil dice." They are pencils that you can roll across the table to get a random number, because they also work like dice. It seemed like a cool idea for a novelty product, and it was a minor investment. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the designer didn't do his homework, and the poor guy is getting sued for infringing on another designer's idea.

Oops.

I don't think that the Pencil Dice designer meant to do anything wrong, but he used the campaign money to make a product, and now he is being sued. He isn't in a position to repay the money. It's gone. He is being stopped legally from distributing the product, and backers are angry. I believe I read somewhere that the poor man is even getting death threats (over pencils.)

Don't be like that.

If you invest in a Kickstarter you must be prepared (as with any investment) to lose your money. I do not expect to ever receive my "Pencil Dice" pencils. However, what I describe is the exception, not the rule.

The other side of this coin is: product quality. What if you invest in something and the final product just isn't as good as you thought that it would be? That's a much more common problem, especially with board games. I have invested in more than a few games that I thought would be awesome, but turned out to be nothing of the sort. A few that were just plain bad. Fortunately, I have gotten much better at making wise investments.

Take "Tiny Epic Quest" for example. Tiny Epic Quest is the fifth game in the "Tiny Epic" line of games by Scott Almes. The first, "Tiny Epic Kingdoms" was pretty good, but not great, I don't own it anymore. However, each game has been better than the last, and Scott Almes has proven himself to be an accomplished and innovative game designer. The third game in the Tiny Epic line: Tiny Epic Galaxies is fantastic and has a permanent home on my game shelf. Tiny Epic Quest looks to be better still!!

I am not the only one who has noticed. Upon its launch, the Tiny Epic Quest Kickstarter made nearly $250,000 of its $15,000 goal! (That was on its first day!)



I am one of the investors.

Why?

(1) A proven game designer with a strong history of delivering on backer investments.

(2) A track record of great games that just keep getting better.

(3) A fantastic game design that creates the impression that it might feel like: "The Legend of Zelda: the Board Game!"

(4) A low price point that most anyone can afford!

To my friends who are curious about this whole Kickstarter thing, who have been considering making an investment, but have been concerned about the risk: take a look at Tiny Epic Quest. This is: A wise investment. Zero risk. Guaranteed reward. Reasonable price point.

You can't lose.

The campaign concludes funding near the end of November, and backers will be billed at that time. The game is scheduled for release in August of 2017, but it has been my experience that Scott Almes company: Gamelyn Games will deliver early. Gamelyn are pros at this whole Kickstarter thing.

Want to be on the ground floor of an awesome new game for you and your family? You can't go wrong with: Tiny Epic Quest!



Click the link below to go to the Tiny Epic Quest Kickstarter Page:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/coe/tiny-epic-quest-introducing-itemeeplestm


Regards,


Jeff

Monday, September 26, 2016

Harm ...

I am one of those people, maybe you are too, who avoids the subject of politics. It's something I don't really want to talk about at all. So, this might be my one and only exception, but I think as an American there really might be something wrong if you aren't worried about our country right now.

American politics are complex and confusing. Understanding the machinations of processes and procedures that create real value and virtue in this system is beyond my scope. I don't think I am alone there. That's why I tend to avoid discussions involving politics. I don't think anyone knows what's really going on ... not really. If we could really understand it, we could change it. Right?

Instead, I feel like politics has become its own religion. There is Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Democratic, Republican. Your political affiliation is something you believe in, and that becomes bigger than the "facts" because the "facts" are too big to fathom. They are for me anyway. So it becomes easier to place your faith in a broader idea.

And that's why I don't like to talk about politics. Like religion, once a person has invested their faith in something, reason looses ground, and challenges to faith can result in violent blow-back. Such exchanges are almost never productive.

The thing is, I understand this. I do this myself. I don't know anything about politics, or political policy, or the way things work. I draw vague conclusions of my own based on a simple cynical viewpoint: that money is the real power in the world, and that special interest groups make policy.

It seems like true reform is impossible given the political quagmire of greed and corruption that has had 240 years to learn how to protect itself. I don't believe the United States is capable of impactful political solutions. Each step forward seems to carry with it stipulations and addendums that push things an equal number of steps back. That's how the checks and balances work.

Maybe I am completely off-base. I haven't studied the issues. But, I am an intelligent man and my "impressions" are drawn based upon 50 years of life experience, so they aren't completely born of ignorance. I can't imagine I am the only one feeling a bit hopeless.

I do know this: the internet has changed the world. Global relations matter. We are growing more and more into a world community. We cannot afford to embrace isolationist view points no matter how appealing they may seem (depending on your faith.) And while the American political machine may be so contrived as to resist any meaningful change, the President of the United States is still the face of our country.

The way the world views this nation can be greatly damaged over the next four years. That damage will hurt us as a nation, and what hurts this nation will hurt its people. I don't like to talk politics. I know how strongly people cling to their faith, but I am going to make this plea, just this once.

I fear one choice will do more harm than that choice will do good. That harm could destroy our credibility as a nation. That harm could lead to global war. That harm could alienate what few world alliances we have left. That harm terrifies me.

Please do not vote for Donald Trump. He will harm this country.

I guess that's all I wanted to say.

Regards,


Jeff

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Star Map for Space Opera Games



I was looking all over the web for a good generic star map to adapt to my upcoming Machinations of the Space Princess campaign. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything that I liked. My favorite thing was actually the board for the Firefly board game. The design is clean. I liked the way things were laid out, and the way the sections were broken up. The grid was designed for board game use, but I think it will work great for an RPG.

Problem is ... My campaign isn't set in the Firefly universe. What I really wanted was a copy of the game board without the writing so that I could add my own unique names for the locations. Unfortunately, such a thing does not exist. So, I took it upon myself to attempt to create something. What I ended up with isn't bad, and since I put the work in, I thought that it might be nice to share.

If you want a map to customize with your own planet names for use in your Space Opera game, maybe you will like this one.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/42632600/Machinverse.PDF

Click the image above to get a full resolution PDF. Hopefully, someone besides me will also find it useful!

Regards,


Jeff


Saturday, July 02, 2016

Machinations of the Space Princess

Art by Satine Phoenix from Machinations of the Space Princess

I am preparing to step back into GM'ing shoes soon (after a fairly long hiatus) and the consensus of those in my group was that they wanted to try something Space Opera. I thought briefly of using Five by Five. It's my game, and I like it. And it can do Space Opera just fine. But, I also like bringing the myriad works of others to the table. I love games. I love reading all the different systems. I love tinkering with rules. I just love everything about this hobby.

I set out with what I thought would be a simple task: Find a game system that is easily accessible, that will do Space Opera to the satisfaction of myself and my players. And while I did indeed find a lot of systems, finding the gem among those, proved to be more challenging than I first imagined.

I got it in my head that I wanted to use a d20 based system. The familiar D&D framework would require no special tutelage or preparation from anyone at the table and play could begin at full speed from the first die roll. And so, began my search. First I looked at Stars Without Number and White Star. Both are excellent games. Both are grounded in the simplicity of the old-school, which I like very much. For the kind of game I want to play, I really liked White Star. I loved the implied setting created through the class/race choices and the bestiary. It seemed ideal.

Unfortunately, my group balked at the choice. Not to take anything away from White Star, it is an excellent game. And, if the number of third party supplementary materials is any indication, it is warmly embraced by the community at large. But it is in matter of fact, very old school. This is the game's intention, and as I said this simplicity and clean design appeals to me. But I found that many of the old school aspects, (that for many - if not all - of White Star's audience are the very things that make the game so attractive,) were a bit "too" old school for me.

Some things that D&D used to do ... those things were abandoned for a reason. My first game was 1st Edition AD&D. I will be turning 51 in a couple of weeks. I have been active in this hobby for over 35 years. I am "old-school" as much as anyone. But, playing something just because that's how it used to be played ... I guess it's like those Civil War re-creationists. There is an enjoyment in experiencing things as they were experienced in another age. But, I think there is a better way to play.

My players wanted more options, more utility. So I extended my search, and there I found the flip-side of this rather unwieldy coin. I looked at D20 Future as well as a handful of "universal" systems. I had forgotten (or should I say, blocked out) just how overwhelmingly cumbersome D&D 3.5 and its offshoots really are. I know that these games too, are incredibly popular. But, for me, the rules are too much work.

When 3.5 was released, I loved it. I really did. I remember. So, maybe I am getting old. But as I looked at D20 Modern and D20 Future and considered trying to juggle all the little fiddly moving parts both during play and between sessions ... my head hurt. I mean it. Looking over the rules gave me a headache. Surely, I could find a game that was simple enough for me to run, but rich enough to engage my players?

Enter: Machinations of the Space Princess. This game has been sitting on my hard drive since I bought it over 2 years ago. I remember reading it back then and thinking that it looked, "pretty good." It's interesting what a few years and several hours of "comparison shopping" can do for ones perspective.

Let me start by saying that I think that the game's promotional tag-line, "Sexy, sleazy, swords and sci-fi!" isn't doing the game any favors. Nor is the title's intentional similarity with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is a game that seems to be all about creeping your players out and killing their characters as horribly as possible.

About Lamentations: LotFP is a solid game. Its systems are really clean and functional. LotFP re-imagines old-school in the right way. Keeping what works, tweaking what doesn't, and leaving all the baggage of the last 30-odd years behind. These are the things about Lamentations that Machinations draws upon. It's not "weird science fiction." It's not "sleazy science fiction" either. Sure, it can do "Barbarella" but aside from the occasional silly-fun one-off, who would want to?

The game has some pretty strong reviews, so what do I know? But on RPGNow, Machinations has 4 reviews and White Star has 17. I think that's a damned shame, and I think it's a matter of "image." I went to White Star first because I had this preconceived notion in my mind that it would do the type of space game that I wanted to play. Machinations didn't really occur to me. Even though I had read it, that was 2 years ago. I still judged the book by its cover.

Speaking of which, the artwork of Satine Phoenix is wonderful and I share a small sample above. But, that's not what I mean. I am speaking of the "flavor" implied by the packaging and presentation of Machinations. It screams: gonzo-punk-pulp-sci-sleaze. And for most, that's not going to come to the top of the stack when considering something to play for a long term space opera campaign. That's more something you throw in once, just for fun ... for a laugh. At least, that's how I saw it. That's how I thought about it.

I was wrong. And if you harbor a similar impression about Machinations of the Space Princess based upon its promotional slant, then you would be wrong too. Machinations is greater than its hype! As I re-read this game with an eye towards running a fun, familiar, versatile Space Opera game that will engage both myself and my players, I am falling in love. Beneath the sleazy veneer of gonzo-snark rests a solid game that might well be the best D20 Space Opera implementation available. It's certainly the right one for me.

Like LotFP character classes are specialized. The "Killer" for example is the only class that gets base to hit bonus improvements through level advancement. Clean, simple, focused with laser precision. That's what LotFP does. That's what this game takes as its foundation. Like LotFP the game uses a simple d6 skill system. But here skills have been expanded and evolved to cover not simply "skills" but also what in other systems might have been class abilities or feats. These things are all brought together under one system. It's elegant. It's smart. It works.

Then there are the racial traits. Rather than pick a single race, players can select traits from a myriad of different races, mixing and matching to create the alien race of their dreams. It's enough crunchy goodness to keep my "option hungry" players busy for hours, but adds almost no complexity or overhead to the game play. It's not only really smart, it's really fun to read.

That's where the "gonzo" vernacular does serve this game well. It's a damned fun read. I enjoyed leafing through its pages. Gone was my "D20 headache." Machinations had me smiling, laughing ... I even clapped my hands once.

This isn't a review of Machinations of the Space Princess. I am not a game reviewer. I am a game enthusiast. I love the hobby and I sometimes sit down and write about my excitement. Machinations of the Space Princess has me excited. It's a solid, seriously joyful Space Opera RPG that under the hood does everything right. Don't be fooled by the sexy negligee and the flash. This Princess is the real deal. I'm only sorry it took me two years to give her a chance.

(I just spent the better part of two days formatting a form fillable character sheet for MotSP. I thought it might be nice to share it HERE.  Also, if anyone out there is playing this game, I would love to hear about your experiences.)


Regards,


Jeff

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

G+ Community for Dreams and Dragons Games

I just started a G+ Community for my Dreams and Dragons game designs. This will be a place where I will talk about games I am working on, and also on free RPG's in general, as well as anything role-playing that strikes my interest. I invite everyone to come join in the discussion.

Thanks!!

Jeff

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Krosmaster Quest - Huge Disappointment



About a month ago I finally received my pre-ordered copy of Krosmaster Quest. With great excitement I set about punching out the cardboard pieces and assembling components. About 7 hours later I had all the little decorative bits of landscape and other sundries together and ready to go. I put the game on the shelf (now in 2 boxes, because it wouldn't all go back into the original) with plans to take it out and play as soon as I was able.

Well, I pulled out the game today in the hopes that my nephew Dominic and I might be able to give the game a test run. Dominic is here visiting his grandma (my sister) over memorial day weekend and it seemed like a bit of questing was in order.

After almost an hour of trying to get my bearings on the basic game (and failing) I decided to go ahead and walk with Dominic through the tutorials. These can sometimes be useful, but often aren't a lot of fun. These tutorials were neither.

Krosmaster Quest is boring. The dice mechanics are awful. The rule book is a slog of nonsensical garbage. The iconography is indecipherable. This game has so far been the greatest disappointment that I have had since entering the board gaming hobby.

We "played" (struggled through) two painful tutorial missions and I lost Dominic completely. It was fine. I was done. We were no closer to understanding how the flow of the game is actually supposed to work. I now understood exactly three of the icons on the player cards, and only two icons on the dice were actually explained even though dice are chiefly (and poorly) used for the basic combat that these tutorials were meant to explain.

I'm a gamer. I play games. Heck, I write games. I couldn't work with this mess. It was terrible. (Okay, done ranting.) But ... look at the picture ... doesn't the game look cool? (It's not.)

Regards,


Jeff


Friday, May 27, 2016

20+ Years of RPG's (Cover Gallery)

This is an updated cover gallery to celebrate the release of Hero DxD!

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this update for me is the inclusion of "Free Space." I found this hard copy predecessor to Xerospace in a stack of old papers. This has never existed online before. The original was produced on an old Tandy 286 PC in Word Perfect 2.0 (I believe.) I recreated the hard copy here as closely to the original as I could. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past as much as I do!

I have also updated the PDF of Five by Five with some added material that had previously only been available in the printed version. And, I have included as many of my old RPG projects as I could find in the interest of making this latest gallery as complete as possible. It's interesting for me to look at the different things I have worked on some good, and some not so good and to see them all together here.

Every game here is in my drop box and can be downloaded for free by clicking on the images in the gallery below.

Enjoy!!


https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/42632600/FSRPG.PDF










https://www.dropbox.com/s/96xqkcvn5sz4aw9/EZ_Supers.pdf?dl=0

















https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/42632600/Duel_Blade.pdf




























It's just too cool that someone translated my game into French!






Five_by_Five_Edu.pdf



https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/42632600/HeroDxD.pdf



I hope you enjoy perusing this cover gallery as much as I enjoyed putting it together. It seems like quite the collection when thrown all together like this. I hope my next 20 years are just as lucrative.


Regards,



Jeff


Friday, May 20, 2016

New Free RPG: Hero DxD


I have been sitting on this one for too long. It's time I got this one out to the community and start working on other things. Hope you like it.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/42632600/Five_by_Five_Edu.pdf
Click on the cover image above to download the game in PDF format.

Hero DxD is a new superhero themed RPG written by Jeff Moore and illustrated by Darrel Miller. DxD uses an updated version of the Five By Five game mechanics. It introduces a new system for variable task difficulty and adds character Ability Scores that are custom made for superhero role-play.

Regards,


Jeff Moore

(I realized shortly after posting this that I had uploaded the wrong version to dropbox. It's corrected now. You should have version 1.2 with a 2016 copyright.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Above and Below





I am an RPG gamer and game designer. I love this hobby with the greatest of passion. That said, it's not always a simple matter to maintain a reasonable level of participation in this hobby. I have turned to board games to scratch that itch. Some recent board game releases have really stepped up to the plate for me in that regard. There's the newest edition of Runebound, Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game, and ... Above and Below.

Above and Below is nothing short of a miracle. Ryan Laukat is an inspiration. The one man driving force behind Red Raven Games, he designs, develops, writes, illustrates and publishes everything himself. He is a gaming Renaissance Man. And his games are incredible. And for me the crowning achievement of his gaming legacy is: Above and Below.

The video that I have embedded above does a wonderful job of covering the game. Video game reviewer Gregory Cornell does some amazing stuff himself in this video review, so I will let his video speak for itself, and for: Above and Below.

Regards,

Jeff

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sharing the Love for the Lone Wolf Adventure Game



Firstly, a tip of the hat to fellow blogspotter Anthony Simeone over at Once More Unto the Breach for bringing the Lone Wolf Adventure Game to my attention. I have been out of circulation for awhile and stepping back in to find Lone Wolf waiting for me, was a pleasant surprise.

Back in the 80's Lone Wolf was a series of "Choose Your Own Adventure" style books, but unlike most this book had a combat system, and character creation. It was a little solo RPG. What's even cooler is that the books built upon each other forming an epic campaign. Lone Wolf was really an awesome undertaking and there has never been anything else quite like it.

Apparently, a few years ago Mongoose Publishing built an RPG around the original Lone Wolf books and game system. Now this system is super simplistic and originally designed to be playable solo. That said, evolving the system to a full blown RPG while maintaining it's original systems more or less in tact, proved not only possible, but has resulted in a pretty nice little old school style game system.

Mongoose is no longer publishing the game, and I haven't done the research to find out why. What I do know is that Cubicle 7 has picked up the license, done some work to further streamline Mongoose's original product, added some stunning new artwork, and is now releasing a really attractive boxed set called simply, the Lone Wolf Adventure Game.

Joe Dever the author of the original Lone Wolf books is working hand in hand with the Cubicle 7 team to ensure this RPG maintains the flavor of the Lone Wolf franchise both in setting and system. I am holding the results in my hands and they are glorious.

The system at it's simplest requires that you track only a character's Combat Skill and Endurance. On top of this, there are "Disciplines" which are like special skills, talents, and abilities that you can apply to certain tasks. Combat measures the difference in combat skill between opponents and uses a single die roll to report loses for both sides. It reminds me a bit of Tunnels and Trolls, but I like this better.

It's not all perfect unfortunately. The simplicity of the system sees a lot of duplication and crossover in the small set of example characters, and the way the three books are laid out, it can be difficult sometimes to find the information that you need. I like the boxed set, but maybe a single hardcover source book would be better. I'd like to see this in the future.

The limitation of character variety has already been addressed with a new player book, Heroes of Magnamund: Expanded Character Handbook. The print copy is available for pre-order and the PDF is available now. It's loaded with character options that completely open up the system. This too, looks to be based on a product originally produced by Mongoose. It's actually a bit overwhelming in comparison to the core product, but probably a must have if you wish to make a go at using the Lone Wolf Adventure Game as part of a campaign at your gaming table.

I am using the base system (without all the extras) in a play-by-post game with some friends right now, and I must say the system with it's roots in "choose your own adventure" style solo-play is perfect for the play by post environment. Those looking to run something online who don't want to get bogged down in the rules minutia of other table top RPGs should really give Lone Wolf a look.


Regards,


Jeff

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Should I still be here?

I haven't posted anything here for quite some time. I haven't been working on any RPG projects. I've lost focus and run out of steam. On top of everything else, it seems like "Blogger" as a forum is dying out as well. I have quite the history here. I like it here. But, I've been away for a long time.

So, today I am sitting here and considering my options. I was thinking I wanted to start writing ... start creating again. Can I do that? Is this still the right place? I do like it here. I find Google+ to be way too busy. I am not comfortable browsing there. I prefer "Blogger" in almost every way. And anything that I post here will be automatically cross-posted to Google+ to reach that potentially larger audience so maybe this is still a good place to be. (Assuming the site isn't a heartbeat away from shutting down, which is a concern.)

And then there's me. Am I up to doing this? I would venture that I might win the gold medal for turbulent life changes over the past year. I became a full-time single dad when the mother of my (now 11) year old daughter passed away. I moved to a small town in Kansas to be closer to the support of family, and I just lost the job that I had held for the past 16 years. I am lost, alone, and a bit overwhelmed. So, I've been absent. And my game design pursuits have been non-existent.

I tried passing the torch to another writer, a friend of mine whom I thought might be able to keep one of my more promising creative projects going. But, this hasn't worked out like I had hoped. And things have just stalled. I want to get things moving again. Maybe if I revive my blog, I can prime my creative spirit enough to build some momentum. That would be the hope. So, I find myself here asking the question, "Should I still be here?"

I am going to try to pick up where I left off ... maybe some of that wonderful community that supported me before is still here. If you haven't all moved on then this could work out. I still have one RPG project in development, and I believe that it's potentially my best work. But, it's only half realized. It needs a lot of work to become something great.

Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Whether I "should" be here or not ... this is still my place to create and it's time to get back to it.


Jeff


In Memory of my friend, Robert Briggs – January 4, 1961 ~ February 13, 2011

Five years ago today my good friend Robert Briggs passed away. He was a young 50 years old (the age that I am now.) His passing was a shock and a tragedy, and hit me harder than any single event that I can remember in my adult life. Yet, for myself at least, something good did come from it. For this I am thankful and I am sure Robert would have been happy.

Five years ago I had become so ensconced in my private little world and my personal problems that I had lost all contact with some of the best friends that I had ever made. Robert Briggs was one of those friends. It is sad that it took something as tragic as Robert's passing to wake me up and shake me out of my funk, but it did.

In the years following to today, I have reconnected with past friends and mended friendships that mean more to me than anything in the world. I have Robert to thank for doing that for me. He introduced me to this family in life and brought me back home to them in death. His impact on my life is beyond measure. His is a truly magical spirit.

I wrote some thoughts about Robert upon his death and posted them here originally 5 years ago. I thought it would be fitting to share them with everyone again today.

<< Originally posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 >>



I want to take a moment to speak out on behalf of one of the lowest ranked tiers on the modern world's tree of social hierarchy: the gamer geek.

I am a gamer geek. On the ladder of social acceptability, I fall pretty close to the bottom. It's not a place I necessarily chose to be. But I reside there happily now, and with some pride.

It happens like this:

From the moment a child enters school they learn to cluster into small social groups. The athletic, strong, and bold children tend to tower over the intelligent introspective children at an early age. On the playground which is a school age child's greatest venue for social interaction, it is he who runs fastest, climbs highest, and kicks the ball the hardest who earns accolades and respect.

The value of things like books and reading has not yet really been recognised. It is not part of the playground social experience and so if a child wants to fit in and grow strong socially, he abandons such things in pursuit of the more physical activities and the social acceptance that goes along with them.

I didn't make that transition. It was never in me to be an athlete. The sad thing is, patterns learned early in life, are hard to unlearn, and once delegated the role of social misfit, that role and the stigmas associated with it tend to stick with a person. And so, I became a social outcast. I had very few friends and grew accustomed to the idea, that for me, this is the way my life would remain.

That is until something special happened to me in high school. I was 15 years old and I was introduced to a game called, Dungeons and Dragons. I joined forces with a few other kids … kids like me, who had been outcasts, who weren't the fastest, strongest, boldest, children on the playground. And if it weren't for this game, we might have remained strangers. Even if we weren't the popular kids on the playground, society had taught us to want to become that, and that meant staying away from the other geeks in hopes of drawing the mercy and attention of the popular kids.

But, this game … it gave us a reason to be together, and the playground … it existed too, in our imaginations. In this game, we could be strong and fast and bold. We created a playground in our minds and we were its heroes. And for the first time in my life, I made friends … real friends. Friendships that survive to this day, 30 years later.

I mention all of this for a reason. I link posts to my gaming blog (this blog) to my Facebook page. So, it's quite possible that someone reading this may be unfamiliar with how a person might come to be a gamer geek. Those of us who lived it, know it's no mystery. It's just a small group of friends united by their uncommon imaginations and the joy found in using their minds to participate in the sports that other “physical” athletes practice with their bodies. Perhaps if more people perceived gamers for what they really are, athletes of mental prowess, the societal preconceptions regarding our ilk might become a bit more friendly.

Anyway … before I forget why I started this post, let me continue. My first and best social interactions began at the gaming table. As an adult when I moved to Tulsa (where I still live twenty five years later) I didn't know anyone and I needed to find some friends. I looked to the one community where I had felt welcome before. The gamer community.

It started in a comic book store, “World of Comics” (Gamer geeks and comic book collector geeks share a lot of crossover. It's all about exercising the imagination to become the best mental athletes that we can. I want to enter “Doctor Who Trivia” in the Olympics.) The owner of the store and I had chatted about gaming a bit (as I was prone to spending my pay checks on gaming books) and one day he approached me about “running” a game at his store. (In role-playing games, one player serves as a sort of auteur /director sort of like the way Charlie Chaplin made films. He presents a scene and allows the other players of the game to react to it, contributing the way the character they have chosen to represent might react or respond within the scene. It's a sort of storytellers brainstorming session lead by a single director.) When Doug (the owner of the comic shop) asked me to run a game, he was asking me to be that “director.”

I agreed, and actually found myself in the back room of Doug's store the rest of that afternoon jotting down notes and forming ideas for some possible scenes and scenarios with which to challenge some players that very evening. And we played that night. The game wasn't Dungeons and Dragons but another of its ilk called Champions. Where Dungeons and Dragons is a game of telling stories about Knights and Wizards in days of yore, Champions was about the heroic battles of superheroes in a modern day metropolis (we were playing in a comic book store after all.)

That first game consisted of myself and Douglas Goodsell who owns World of Comics along with a few of Doug's customers, none of whom I had met before. They were Robert Briggs, Robert Ohlde, and Roland Vogt. So, it was me, the director/referee (called a GM or Game Master) and the four players, Robert, Robert, Roland, and Doug. It was a nice little group and we had a great time. We had such a great time in fact, that each player invited a friend to play the next time, and our little group doubled in size. That's when I met Robert Brigg's best friend, David Crockett. (Yes his name's Davy Crockett … don't make fun, he doesn't like it, and I will hurt you.)

We played in the back of the comic store with 8 or so players for awhile, and it was a great beginning to a new chapter of gamer geekdom social climbing in my life. Doug as a responsible store owner really couldn't in good conscience deny any of his customers who inquired, the opportunity to play. In short order, the group had grown to 25 players and I had to slam on the breaks. There were just too many people to play the game, but despite this, everyone seemed to have a good time hanging around and chatting. Still the game degraded and collapsed under its own weight.

Some of the first and best friends I made in Tulsa, came from that group. In fact, desperate to keep playing, Doug and Robert and David and myself concocted a scheme to play and keep our group smaller and more manageable. Doug really couldn't tell the folks at his store that they couldn't play in his game … but we knew from our past experience that once you said yes, it opened the flood gates to gaming oblivion. So we conspired to meet secretly to game, in a top secret, undisclosed location, the game that no one could know about.

We drove to Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, and gamed in the back room of my sister's house. No one knew where we were, or what we were doing. We had dropped off the geek radar. We were Ninja Gamer Geeks. And the small group of Doug, Robert, Dave, and Jeff had great fun. Unfortunately, Robert, bless his generous outgoing boisterous little heart just could not keep a secret. And word of the Ninja gamers got out pretty quickly. 

Doug at that point dropped out, because he just didn't feel right about running a store and denying access to the gaming group to the various customers that all counted him as a friend. David, Robert and I kept playing. And despite the tiny size of our group we remained exclusive. Not because we were “snooty” or anything, just because the experience at the comic store made us gun shy. At least at first, then after that, it was just habit.

Our little group met once a week for fifteen years, we added a member or two here or there, then I allowed my life to pull me away from the game and for the last five years I haven't played. Although Dave and Robert (with my brother Chris) continued to play.

On February 13 of this year, Robert Briggs passed away in his sleep. I am so incredibly shaken by the sadness of this event, that I can't begin to express it. All I can do, is tell you here about how we met, about the kindred spirit I found in a fellow gamer geek, and about the love and camaraderie two long time friends were able to form from across the gaming table.

I saw so much of myself in Robert. A gamer like me, not an athlete, not one of the popular kids, but a kid like me who dreamed and imagined and lived a world of grand adventure within the limitless confines of his imagination … a mental athlete of the highest degree. At the memorial service, they didn't ask people to come forward, and give testimony. I wish that they had. I feel that I need that. I am going to do that here.

I remember that Robert never walked into a room … he bounded, like Tigger on Winney the Pooh. He shared a lot in common with that lovable character, the exuberance and enthusiasm. I can almost hear him declairing, “That's what Robert's do best!”

He was a gamer geek and he loved to game. But, unlike the rest of us gamer geeks who were well aware of our lowly status as social outcasts, Robert had no such preconceptions. And in his case, this ignorance was truly bliss. We worked together in the same company. (He recommended me for my job there, and I work there to this day.) He would come to work on Monday morning after a weekend gaming session and bounce around the office telling everyone about the dragon we had slain (or as was more likely in a game in which Robert was playing, the dragon we befriended.)

And … I was … ashamed. I didn't feel comfortable telling everyone about gaming. Men were meant to talk about football, and pro-wrestling, and the stock-market, or some shit … I don't know … but, not gaming … not in public … at work! Didn't he know people would laugh at him?

But, I was wrong. I was very wrong … People didn't laugh at Robert, they embraced him. They embraced him because he was open and honest and genuine, more than any person they were ever likely to meet in their lifetimes. And they all loved him. Everyone who knew Robert loved him almost as much as I did. Because genuine people are rare and they must be cherished.

Robert lived his life as nobly as he played the characters in our games. He was as brave as any knight, and as magical as any wizard. If I believed in an afterlife and a place called heaven, then I think that each heaven would have to be custom made for the spirit who dwells within it, and if that's true, then I know that brave sir Robert is up there somewhere casting magical spells, and befriending dragons even as I write this.

Robert you are loved, and there will always be a place for you at my game table.


Jeff