This blog has lain fallow of late: I've been blogging over at benlehman.wordpress.com , but this looked fun: seven topics. Comment and I will give you seven topics of your own.
1. Your Amber game.
Run by amberite
, Blood Lines is a pretty cool Amber game which, using some odd canon tweaks, manages to both exist within a (mostly) canonical timeline and provide the PCs with a fresh, new multiverse that they are the unqualified masters of. This is a pretty cool tightrope to walk, and so far it's worked out wonderfully. It is also neat for me because the primary concern of the players (and thus a lot of the characters) seems to be about exploration of this universe with a hefty side-dose of thematic content, rather than gaining marginal advantage. Often in Amber people pursue stuff because it gives their character a leg up on the others, in this case, we are pretty much of equal mind that we do things because we think that they're cool and interesting. So basically a lot of it is we get together and geek out about philosophy of infinite worlds, and so on.
One of the interesting things about the game is that it is, for me, resurrecting a play style which I haven't done since college, featuring both long sessions with a lot of in-character play and also the intentional building of a "fandom" of material around the game (for instance I've been designing the board games played in the worlds that my character spends a lot of his time in, and also invented a genre of poetry for one of the worlds... another player has been carefully crafting a cross-over universe with "My Little Pony," several people have been making soundtracks, etc.) It's more fun than I remember, for I think several reasons: the quality of play is generally higher, I think; we're less bashful about explicitly getting players on the same page with each other; I'm only doing this with one game, not several; there's no sense that this is universally "the right way" to play but rather that we're playing this way because it is interesting. So that's been a cool experience. I imagine in a year or so I will start to be able to process it into game design.
2. A game design thing you're into right now.
I'm in the middle of writing an essay for anyway called something like "in praise of the non-fiction: roleplaying as memoir." The thesis is basically that the primary constituent of the role-playing experience is not the fictional content of play, but they players and their interactions. This is referenced in Forge theory but, due to the structure and concerns of that theory, isn't really explored beyond "don't be a dick" in Ron's formulation and "being a dick means different things in different contexts" in Meg's. I'm beginning to look at it as a wholly positive thing, and trying to craft games as group experiences in communication, reflection, and self-expression rather than as fiction generators.My John Woolman game
is a first stab at expressing this theory in terms of game design. The fiction generated by it is, specifically in some instances, not dramatic. It is specifically quite day-to-day. But the hope is that the game will allow players some opportunity of understanding and communicating about slavery, politics, grace, forgiveness, and atonement.
3. What's good to eat in Portland?
JC Rice Noodle has the best chow fun I've ever had. Including in China.
4. A history thing you've recently discovered.John Woolman
mentioned above is pretty amazing. He nearly single-handedly, in the 18th century, convinced a major US denomination (the Quakers) to not only liberate their slaves, not only pay them back wages, but to become major political supporters of abolition as well as material supporters of the underground railroad and similar movements. Some astonishing things about Woolman: he managed this through individually convincing slave owners that slavery was wrong, rather than by force of arms or force of law; he got right the question of slave's wages, something which eludes mainstream America to this day
; he raised the point that not only slaves, but also slave owners, were diminished by the institution of slavery, something which eludes many to this day; he was, by all accounts, an amazing and decent person to everyone he met.
Knowing that people this good can exist in the world somehow gives me comfort. Even though I know I will never be able to do that much good, I feel better for a world where it is possible to be that good.
5. A thought on recent politics.
Just talking with Jake about this: It is amazing to me the degree to which changing one's mind
has become a hallmark of insincerity in American politics. To be clear: I believe that insincerity in politicians is a serious problem, and that the structure of our system (with primary and general elections) makes insincerity a worse problem than it would be otherwise. But the idea that someone changing their mind is somehow indicative of insincerity is bizarre: in fact, it seems to be the opposite of true. A person who changes their mind on important issues may be sincere or insincere. But someone who, despite changes in facts and situations, never changes their mind, is clearly and irrefutably
insincere, because no human actually works like that.
6. The last awesome thing you've baked/cooked.
I've been making a lot of pasta with boiled cauliflower sauce. It's really easy, tasty, and provides a huge amount of vegetables in with your cheap starches.
1 large head cauliflower
1 tin anchovies or anchovy paste to taste
Red pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
scant 1/4 cup olive oil
half bunch flat-leafed (Italian) parsley, chopped
1 lb pasta, ideally shaped pasta such as penne
parm cheese to taste on the side.
Boil water. Remove stems and leaves from cauliflower and chop in half. Boil 20-35 minutes, until very tender when pricked.
Meanwhile, put olive oil, anchovies, and red pepper in a skillet under lowest possible heat. Mash anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon and stir infrequently until they have wholly dissolved into the oil. Turn heat to medium low, add garlic. Cook on low heat until the garlic is pale gold, then reduce hit to minimum.
When cauliflower is done, remove from water, add to skillet. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the cauliflower as fine as possible, stirring with anchovy-oil mixture. If a finer texture is needed, add a cup of pasta water and boil it off. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, add pasta to water. Cook until done.
Mix pasta, mashed cauliflower, and parsley in pan. Serve hot, with cheese on the side.
7. Any good manga you've been reading?
Nope, sadly. :(