Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Damnit. Now I need to be temporarily interested in comic books again.

Quick summary of DC's announcement that in September they will be restarting all of their 52 titles at issue #1 and that many of their heroes will be at least partially reimagined. Also that they will digitally distribute these issues on the same day as the physical releases.

Of course, by the "temporarily" in the title, I mean, "probably for just the month of September." It won’t take me long to realize that I don’t need new superhero stories every month. I have decades worth of them stored in boxes on my bookshelf. I think this is the main problem that DC (and Marvel for that matter) are facing. I love the hell out of some Batman, but I’m not sure that I need that many more Batman stories. These companies need to find new ways to milk their old properties without the cost of monthly publication in any format.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 1 of a D&D 3-Shot

In the last few years, my wife and I find ourselves with less free time in general and less free time in common with our friends than we had in college and soon after. Gone (or at least, hard to obtain) are the days when we could bust out the Dungeons and Dragons books, roll up some characters, plan to meet twice a week, and play giant, open-ended campaigns that took years to complete. The all-night play sessions are out as well. We just can't pull any of that off anymore, but we still like the game and the time spent with friends.

The cool thing about those play sessions was the characters. Bringing a wizard from first to twelfth level gives you a deep understanding of who they are, and what makes them tick. You get this organically from repeated experiences. Whole sessions can go by without important plot advancement, just characters practicing being themselves. This is much of what makes roleplaying games cool. You have time to get really invested in the progress of a character.

I am still part of a friend group that get together for roleplaying games, but the play sessions tend to be false starts and one-shots (game sessions where you play disposable characters through a short string of fights agains monsters and then never play with them again after that one time). These are fun, but only in that we are hanging out and drinking beer. You can't get into the characters all that much, and the action has no real purpose. It's something to do, but it doesn't get to the core fun of what keeps me buying Dungeons and Dragons books well into my adult life. I can't swing full campaigns, and one-shot just don't satisfy.

Two days ago my wife and I sent out text messages to a bunch of friends. "Show up @ our place @ noon. D&D 3-shot". About half of the people who we invited showed up and got down to making characters. We agreed to play three times only with this group, and that this campaign would have a closed ending. This was going to be a campaign about plot. The characters would stick around for a little while, so there was some investment in them, but we couldn't spend hours just developing them. They had something to do and they had to get it done quickly. And therein we have the advantage of finite campaigns, they don't have the time for sidetracking or developing characters more than needed. They're satisfying the way that video roleplaying games are. The players get to complete the quest. They don't have to get it done in one night, but they need to get it done.

Afte one session, I'm really excited about where this is going. We have four characters who, while not fully developed, are at least united by a common goal. They have already found some pretty exciting success in moving towards that goal, and, since they are already one third of the way through the plot, they can already see a little bit of what reaching that goal will entail. When the evening ended we knew we'd be coming back for more in a few weeks, so there'll be some anticipation for next time, with the added bonus that next time has to be important. We get to care a little about these characters without having to block out every Thursday evening from not until a billion years from now. I like this 3-shot thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gahhhh! Summer! Ugh!

I have been on summer vacation for three days now and have already heard four different people tell me that the three months that take place during the hottest part of the year are the part of the teaching profession that they envy most. Whenever anyone realizes that I am somewhere close to the beginning of this long, forced vacation (at some jobs the call it a furlough) they start demanding that I provide a list of exciting things that I have planned to fill the empty hours. When I say, "No plans," they fix me with accusing gazes and wax poetic about how nice it must be. I'm sorry, people, they don't make summer camp for adults. When I was a kid my friends had summer break with me. Now my friends work and fix me with withering gazes. One day I'll have children and then I'll be back to having plans that other people think are exciting.

So here, this is what I mean when I say, "No plans."

This summer, like every summer, I'm going to read as many books as I can. I'm going to play my way through a couple of video games that I never got to beat. I'm going to finish recording the demos for the two bands in which I play (then I'll use those demos to get to play more local shows in bars and warehouses and people's basements). I'm going to watch as many horror movies as I can stomach. I'm going to putter around my house, painting here, fixing there, tidying as much as I can. I'm going to cook my wife dinner as often as she wants. I'm going to get together with some friends and play Dungeons and Dragons at last once. I might do some yoga. I might do some pushups. I might drink some beers. My step-brother died a few days ago, so I'm going to continue being sad and angry about that for a while. Then I'll move on and just have nice memories. I'm going to go over the curriculum plans for the classes I teach and make them more effective at meeting important educational goals and more engaging for my students. Lastly I'm going to do my damnedest to keep as much loud, angry music blaring from as many speakers in my house at a time as I can.

It's not a bad way to spend three months with no plans.