Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Damn. Makes you think. Maybe I'll leave work early today. :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This is My Manifesto

No, I'm not about to spout my political beliefs - just my gaming beliefs.

Even then, I'm not sure how firm those beliefs are. I experience an internal design revolution every time I read a new game. But for a long time I've been tinkering with game design, and this is the best I've come up with so far.

Nerd Glows On (an anagram of Gonen's World) is the "gaming imprint" of Pharaoh Publishing USA. Nerd books will be smaller than Pharaoh books (5.5x8.5, as opposed to 6x9) and I'll always price them as low as createspace will let me. The official Nerd Glows On site is right here. Much thanks to Ryan Ashmore for helping me get it all set up.

I still find it astounding that it's cheaper for me to make a book via createspace than it is for me to print, fold, and staple even a single copy. I've done the math.

I don't intend to market this book - there are so many great RPGs out there that I don't have the time, knowledge, or desire to go out and make myself known, hanging out at conventions, casually posting on message boards so there's a link in the sig line, etc. I made this book for me and my friends, and if someone out there stumbles on it and wants to give me some feedback or even play it, great. But in the end, having this book in my hands is reward in itself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville...

A month or so ago I read the Renaissance-era travelogue The Travels of Sir John Mandeville as a follow-up to the first travelogue I'd ever read.

Mandeville's work, in its day, was more popular than Marco Polo's travelogues, although I found myself occasionally doubting my narrator. There's good reason for this, of course - the writer was probably not a knight, and he may or may not have actually visited many of the places he claims to.

But then again...there's a touch of reality to parts of this. Particularly when he travels the far east, and describes China, parts of India, and other exotic locales. Mandeville seems somewhat confused by the Buddha, but he then goes on to opine that these Buddhists (he does not call them by name) must be very special and loved by God, because they are so good and peaceful. He says even though they are not Christians, he feels sure they are destined for a place in heaven.

That's hardly the whole point of Mandeville's book, but it's the main point I took away from it. So often, even today, we hear that folks of earlier generations must be forgiven for their racism - "that's just the way we were raised," they say.

But in an era not known for tolerance, a time of xenophobia, religious persecution, and more-or-less constant warfare, I'm deeply impressed that Mandeville - whoever he was - would go out of his way to make that observation. I wonder how it was taken by his contemporaries? He's proof that racism and intolerance aren't a necessity when you were "raised that way," because he probably was.

As an avid player of tabletop roleplaying games, I'm always looking for the RPG applications of the books I read. Mandeville's travelogue serves as the perfect sourcebook for any Warhammeresque historical setting. In fact, many of the legends he relates - such as the man who was so in love with his dead wife he had sex with her corpse, the result of which was a headless apparition that flew about the town terrorizing people, or a valley in India where he saw a gateway to Hell shaped like a giant's head - would make great kernels for full adventures.

Mandeville also has a sort of dry sense of humor from time to time, and he's not above a little braggadocio. He's able to travel through Muslim lands because he's good buddies with the Sultan, apparently. Not only the Sultan, but many other kings and potentates with whom Mandeville visits, reportedly beg him to do things like marry their daughters and take over parts of their domains, but Mandeville always modestly refuses, professing his Christian faith.

No need to order a copy of this book if you're interested. Project Guttenberg has it right here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Funeral Train & Other Stories on Kindle

Colin Lee Campbell's Funeral Train & Other Stories is now available in a Kindle edition, which is readable by pretty much all the other e-readers, too. As the publisher of this book I was hesitant. I love books so much that I hate e-books pretty much by definition - they're just not "real" books in my opinion. But it's the words that count, at the end of the day, not the paper, and e-everything is here to stay. My personal focus will always be on print, and my Nerd Glows On line of games will NEVER get digital versions. I'll ride a print-biased wave of eccentricity, nostalgia and spite into the grave when it comes to my game books. But fiction and poetry from Pharaoh Publishing USA will all get e-book versions from now on. It's just the way it is, and never let it be said that I'm a Luddite. Well, I am, but just on weekends...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Attack of the Man-Purse!

First of all, let me just say this: It's European!

A few months ago I bought a man's hand bag. I carry a lot around with me throughout the day and this way I don't lose anything (when I can find it in the purse, that is). I joke about the name - this is modeled after an ammo pouch and is rugged and manly. People say not to call it a man-purse, but I'm with George Carlin who said, "if you can't say the word, don't carry the fucking bag!" It's not big enough to be a satchel (won't hold 8.5x11" paper w/out folding). It's too small for most game rulebooks (except for Burning Wheel and other 5.5x8.5" books). It's too small for my laptop. That means it's good for holding all the little accessories I need/want to get through my day. That pretty much makes it a purse. And I'm OK with that.

What's in my man-purse today? Let's keys. Scout Book and blue ballpoint pen. A camera. My e-cigarette kit (charger, battery, juice). My wallet/checkbook. A compact men's personal grooming kit (handy for eliminating stray nose hairs or dirty fingernails at work). Two pieces of nicotine gum for emergencies. Five ibuprofen tablets. This book. An external hard drive with a bunch of music on it. A Swiss Army knife that has come in handy about a BILLION times.

I really hate to have things in my pockets (I've lost a bit of weight lately, nothing to brag about, but it's made my pants fall down a lot!), so this has been a real quality of life improvement.

Now, for the important question: why am I blogging about my purse?

Hmm. That's a good one.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wax Houses, Pt. 2: Vinyl Renassiance

Now for the next installment in my quest for cool old records. This time, I stay close to home, and only venture across the state line to Vinyl Renaissance. This entry is specifically about the Overland Park, Kansas location, not the 39th Street location. That one, I've been to many times. I'd never been to the OP store.

One thing I'll say, downtown Overland Park is pretty. I didn't expect it. Go out there at lunch time on a weekday and you will see a wide variety of people with one thing in common: disposable income. Luckily, that day, I was one of 'em. I found the whole place rather pleasant in spite of myself.

Since the 39th and State Line area is so widely considered to be so hip, I figured that location would top the OP store. Wrong! In some ways this one seems like the "HQ," though I have no clue how all that works. They do repair work on turntables and accessories at this location, apparently upstairs.

A long, loft-style room holds many treasures. I was asked to leave my man-purse at the counter, which annoyed me. I wonder, if I had been a girl, I would have been asked to leave my purse. It's not big enough to smuggle out an LP in. But whatever. Rules is rules.

I bypassed a tempting copy of Lou Reed's Rock and Roll Animal in favor of hitting the soundtracks section and was well rewarded. I found the soundtracks for the original Clash of the Titans, Mark Knopfler's beautiful score for The Princess Bride, and - still sealed in the original packaging - the one for Quest for Fire. This one's great, because there is no dialogue in that movie, so the soundtrack has a strong narrative quality - great for background music when I was writing the other night.

This location is actually closer to my office than the 39th street one, so it may see a little more action from me in the future. I didn't even stop at the rock or jazz sections, and stopped looking in soundtracks when I ran out of spending money. So I will definitely explore it more in the future. 

One thing I can say about both Vinyl Renaissance locations: they don't sell crap. I've never picked up a record from them that had so much as a skip on it. Their prices are reasonable (many stores automatically mark up collector's items to inflate their perceived value). They also have a deal where - if you save your receipts - 20 percent of everything you purchase goes to new equipment or accessories. So if I spend $100, I've got $20 toward a new turntable. That's a good deal.