Monday, October 30, 2017

What is an RPG?

I was going through some old Call of Cthulhu books in preparation of running a session at the upcoming Gamehole Con in Madison (this coming weekend), and came across an interesting document. It was on the back of some scribbled notes for an adventure I had put together. The document is unsigned and undated, and while the erratic use of punctuation and Significant Capitals looks like something I would write (represented uncorrected below), the language is not mine (words like "fiat" and "playgroup"). Here's what it said:
Roleplaying Notes:

A Roleplaying Game is

A social activity in which the players engage in mental competition according to agreed-upon rules, in which the players take on artificial personas which have an effect on that competition.

Social Activity - must include others.
Mental - Relies on communication skills as opposed to physical attributes of the players
Competition - There is a rewards system inherent within the game.
Agreed Upon Rules - Previously determined porscribed activities with the game, in the form of a rulebook or generally agree-upon behavior.
Artificial Personas - Within the game, the player pretends to be someone he is not.
Which have an Effect - That persona affects the nature of the game itself.

A TSR Roleplaying Game is:
An RPG that in addition to the previous definition, has the following elements:
     - One player in plays a co-ordination and storytelling role, known as the dungeon master or moderator.
     - There is a conflict and event resolution system which is a combination of agreed-upon moderator fiat and randomized factors.
     - Playing the game entails willing suspension of disbelief among the players for common experience, the full nature of which is unknown to the individual players at the start of the game.
     - The game is expandable in that it encourages serial, episodic play
     - The game has common rules to the game that may be taken from playgroup to playgroup.
     - The game places the non-moderated personas in heroic, dynamic roles.
     - The game encourages players to interact with the game when in non-social settings.
    - There is no universal requirements as far as components or presetation of TSR Roleplaying Game.

Looking at this (and ignoring the grammatical errors), it still makes sense over the years, but I can't exactly date it. Late 90s? After the WotC purchase? Anyone recognize it?

More later,

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Political Desk The Jeff Recommends

I always feel sorry for people who seek out my personal blog, hoping that I will talk about game design or history and instead find long tracks on local politics and collectible quarters. C'est La Guerre.

Anyway, suming up. Let me point back to this entry at the very beginning, which links to a variety of other voices, some of which are well-considered and some of which are the Seattle Times. Then let me hit up the major points (candidates running unopposed don't get an entry, as usual).

Advisory Votes 16, 17, and 18, which really don't matter - Vote MAINTAINED anyway.

King County Proposition No. 1 Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors, and Vulnerable Populations, which does matter more - Vote APPROVED.

King County Executive - Dow Constantine.
King County Sheriff - Mitzi Johanknecht.

Court of Appeals, Division No.1, District no. 1 - Michael S. Spearman.

Port of Seattle Commissioner  Position No. 1 - Ryan Calkins.
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 - Ahmed Abdi.
Port of Seattle Commission Position No. 4 - Preeti Shridhar.

Mayor, City of Kent - No Recommendation. 
Kent Council Position No. 2 - Satwinder Kaur.
Kent Council Position No 4 - Tye Whitfield.
Kent Council Position No. 6 - Brenda Fincher.

Kent School District No, 415 - Denise Daniels.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Merle Reader (and I had to go look that up).
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No 1 (have you noticed the abundance of commissioners this year?) - Pete DeLeyser

End of Ballot, BUT
Cary Moon for Mayor of Seattle
Manka Dhingra for State Senate, 45th District.
Anyone Other than Dino Rossi for 8th District US House of Representatives.

But then, that last one is for next year.

More later,

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Political Desk: A Miscellany

Si, what's left on the ballot?

Not much, and that which is there we talked about way back in the primary. But let me be a completist.

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Position No. 2, I'm continuing with Merle Reader. And for Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner District No. 1, I still recommend Pete DeLeyser.  But to be honest, the amount of information on the ground is extremely scarce right now.

And I guess that's it, but I will mention a couple things I CANNOT vote for (as a result of, well, not living in the particular jurisdictions).

I mentioned earlier that the City of Seattle has two good candidates for mayor, which can have the tags "Mainstream Democratic" and "Progressive Democratic" only by comparing the two together. Personal preference? The slightly more progressive of the two - Cary Moon.

Across the water, Bellevue and its environs in the 45th District are voting for a State Senator to fill out the one-year term of Andy Hill, who has passed on. Despite being a one year term, there is some serious cash being flung around in the race between Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund and Democrat Manka Dhingra. Both are women of Asian heritage, which is cool but may give some Republicans east of the Cascades cardiacs. This election is important because it can swing the razor-thin margin of GOP control in the senate back to the Dems, and to that end, conservative groups have been running bogus ads about how voting for a Democrat would turn Bellevue into just another Seattle (you know, crowded, young, and successful). Because the State GOP believes that the eastern part of King County is a bunch of rural rubes who would believe that stuff. Needless to say, I would recommend Manka Dhingra, swing the senate back to the donkeys, and then hold their little donkey hooves to the fire to get things done.

And lastly, there is NEXT election. Yeah, they're already running people for 2018. In particular in the US House, 8th District, which was redrawn to be more safely Red. Despite this, there are a lot of folk already running for the position with incumbent Dave Reichert stepping down, and expect a lot of money to flow into this one as well. I would just like to cast my endorsement for SOMEONE OTHER THAN DINO ROSSI, the anointed GOP candidate. The Political Desk cut its eye teeth on the Rossi/Gregroire election many, many moons before most of the rest of you moved here. The resulting lawsuit showed Mr. Rossi's team to be oilier than a Wesson handshake (fun fact - at the time his lawyers shared the same building as Pokemon USA, and they had a tendency to talk in elevators, About their strategy. Loudly.), and, yeah, I will remind folk of it if he chooses to stay in the race.

Yeah, I guess I had a few more things to say. Next up - Summing up.

More later,

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Political Desk - Lighting up a Kent

You know what I really like? An election with candidates that both have strong points. For example, in Seattle itself, former US District Attorney Jenny Durkan is squaring off against local activist Carry Moon. I like Moon, but feel OK with the establishment candidate in this one, because they would both make good mayors. This is the way elections are supposed to work.

I just wanted to get that off my chest, because I am less sanguine about Kent's choices this year. Both candidates. former councilbeings Dana Ralph and Jim Berrios, failed to impress me during the primaries. It is really little things, I will admit, but it got my goat enough at the time to sour me on both candidates.

Back during the primary, I got a robocall from Dana Ralph's campaign toting about her not being a politician, despite a) being a councilperson, and b) running for political office. Both of those kinda make you a politician. (Also making you a politician - campaign contributions). Jim Berrios, on the other hand, in a debate played down that we're going to lose a chunk of municipal cash because in a change in the state sales tax, which sounds like wishful thinking and makes me nervous as well.

So for this year, I give NO RECOMMENDATION. Ultimately, I'm going to have to figure it out, but I don't feel comfortable directing people in one direction or the other, so you're on your own. Hey, it's my blog, I'll do what I want.

More locally still, let's see who we have for the city council: We don't get enough general information on this because, other than the Kent Reporter, there is not a lot of raw data. I almost want to hire a private detective, some hardened gumshoe which the assignment to patrol the bars and paw through the old records to see who has the most parking tickets or the secret support of Old Man Burns who lives up on the hill in his mansion (the one with the hounds). Lacking that, I'll go with recommendations I made for the primary - Satwinder Kaur for Council Position No. 2 and Tye Whitfield for Council Position No. 4. And since I'm in the neighborhood, let me re-recommend Denise Daniels once again for Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 4  (interestingly, Agda Burchard, who came in third in the primary for this position, also endorsed Ms. Daniels/

Now for most of these positions, the statements in the voter's guides are veritably identical - lived in Kent for X number of years, putting citizens first, importance of enough officers on the beat while keeping Kent an affordable place to raise your kids, and of course they are honored to be running. So it was a breath of fresh air to see Russel L. Hanscom, candidate for the Council Position No, 6, to lay out his own opinion. Here's a direct quote from the guide:
Frankly, I'm not really sure I want this job. The pay is crummy, it takes time away from my family, and it's pretty thankless a lot of the time. 
However, my lack of enthusiasm does not diminish my competence or honesty.
I'm writing this statement on August 4 and I'm right in the middle of starting a business. If the business takes off like it's supposed to, between now and November, I sincerely doubt I'll have enough time to be an effective representative for your concerns. 
I honestly don't know what else to say. This is the reality I'm facing today.
And while I can admire the honesty (he said later that he was writing this on a particularly bad day), I'm going to take him at his word and go with Brenda Fincher, and hoping that Mr. Hanscom's new business has taken off.

More later,

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Political Desk - Bottle of Port

Ah, the Port Authority. Always the site of some shenanigans. The past couple years have been more shenaniganny than usual, what with Shell parking a drilling rig here, highly overpaid port CEOs,  runarounds involving a proposed basketball arena, and, oh yes, not paying employees at the airport. I am filled with an incredible desire to cast the dastards out. So let us do this.

So for Position 1, let's go with Ryan Calkins over John Crieghton. Some years I've been cool with Crieghton. This is not one of those years. Ryan's positions sound more in line with what the Port needs to move forward.

For Position 3 I'm in with Ahmed Abdi over Stephanie Bowman, who seems less odious than Creighton, but still asleep at the wheel. Same logic, same recommendation.

Position 4 doesn't have an incumbent to throw out, but I sill recommend Preeti Shridhar over long-time councilman Peter Steinbrueck. Mr. Steinbrueck may make a good member of the port, but I'm feeling my oats right now and recommending new folk.

More later,

The Political Desk - Book of Judges

Usually I put the judgeships later in the list, and give people a good nod to Voting for Judges, which collects endrosements and statements on the candidates, and does a good job for the people of Washington. But there is only one big Judgeship - Court of Appeals, Division No. 1, District No. 1, and it should be an obvious choice, but for one interesting facet.

The incumbent is Michael S. Spearman, who looks good and has a great record and endorsements from all over the legal place. His opponent, though, is Nathan W. S. Choi, and while Mr. Choi may not have the depth of background, experience, and endorsements of Mr. Spearman, he has come up with a surprising amount of financial support. I am making this assumption purely from the plethora of full-color yard signs that have appeared throughout the region, and, much to my surprise, on signboards (ranging from the A-frame types you see in front of coffee houses to constructed wooden ones) that have popped up downtown (where there are not a lot of yards) like dandelions after a rain. Someone has thrown some serious coin in this race.

Nevertheless. Michael S. Spearman is the better candidate, so I am strongly endorsing him.

We have a couple local municipal judge positions down here in Kent as well, but both Karli Kristine Jorgensen and Glenn M. Phillips are running unopposed. Congratulations to both on their successful employee review.

More later,

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Political Desk - Lineman for the County

Let's drill down to the County level, then, and start off with ... another tax discussion!

(Gosh, it's like they don't WANT you to vote).

In this case, there is actually has some teeth to this vote, so pay attention. King County Proposition No. 1, Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors and Vulnerable Populations is pretty much what it says on the tin. The old levy that provides services for these populations is coming to an end, and this is a renewal. Yes, have to vote on the renewal. And it is pretty much universally recommended that we APPROVE this, from the Times to the Stranger. Who am I to argue. Let's do this thing.

Now we finally get to voting for people. Our next County Executive is incumbent Dow Constantine. He's not running unopposed, but his opponent, who is running on the platform of reduced transportation options on the Eastside, may define "niche candidate". Mr. Constantine has done a good job, and should be allowed to continue to do so.

King County Sheriff is on the other hand, as the kids say, problematic. Incumbent John Urquhart has established himself an having a low tolerance for officer malfeasance, has cleaned up the department a lot, and that counts for a great deal, BUT he also has strong questions directed against him about several rape accusations (speaking of malfeasance), retaliation against officers,  AND has been caught on tape tailoring his answers on the campaign trail for his audiences, hoping that they wouldn't compare notes (Bad news - they did). His opponent is long-time officer and current commander Mitzi Johanknecht who is not as hardcore but has a cleaner rap sheet. Is it a toss-up? No way in hell. I'm recommending a vote for Mitzi Johanknecht  and encouraging she continue the strong governance that has served the King County Sheriff's department well and was established by Mr. Urquhart.

More later

The Political Desk - Ship of State

Sadly, I have to lead all this off with a big, fat nothing.

No big state offices up for grabs this year, so this category leads off with very quietly and ineffectively. What's interesting is not what is on this part of the ballot, but what isn't. In particular, this is the first year I can remember when there hasn't been an initiative, proposed by the citizens, promoted/opposed by special interests, enhanced by signature gatherers, on the ballot.

And that is weird, because in off-years like this one, we tend to see an up-swelling of conservative issues coming up for election. And that's good gaming theory - in the off-years, the regular voters show up, who tend to be older, paler, and more conservative. Your latest tax rebellion or bathroom police bill does better when it is not on the same ticket with more attractive lefty candidates and causes. Yet this year? Nada.

There are three Advisory Measures on the ticket. And by advisory it is just that. This is the wreckage of a previous tax-hating initiative that was declared partially unconstitutional, It still requires the state to check over its shoulder when it passes new taxes (with a broad definition of what is a tax). But by the same token, doesn't require the state to DO anything about the results. So you can vote, but no one cares.

Anyway, Advisory Vote No. 16  (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1597) raises taxes on commercial fishing licences to help the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Advisory Vote No. 17  (Engrossed House Bill 2163) closes some loopholes and exemption to help the general fund. And Advisory Vote No. 18  (Engrossed House Bill 2242) is actually a big one, which raises property taxes in order to improve our school systems from criminally underfunded up to merely woefully underfunded. 

And yet it fails to matter as these votes are purely advisory. They may be used for anti-tax mavens to wave and rant about the will of the people, but it is really just a required stamp at this point. I'd go with MAINTAINED on all of these (since I tend to like fish and wildlife and students and am not a fan of loopholes) but it is, as I said, a bad way to lead off the ballot.

More later,

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Political Desk: Here Comes the Election

So, we have an election coming up. And since I've had a bit to say about the primary, it behooves me to follow through and comment on the upcoming votes.

The first and most important thing, of course, is that you vote. In elections such as these, there is usually a reduced voter turnout, so your votes really do count for more than normal. Plus, we're a mail-in ballot state, so it really is not an inconvenience, other than, you know, doing the research and drawing pictures on the back of the forms.

And that's where we help, here at Grubb Street. Not only by offering our own ill-considered opinions, but giving you the links to OTHER PEOPLE'S ill-considered. opinions. Because we want you to get a more opinions than you can shake a stick at (if shaking a stick at opinions is something you are wont to do)..

So, here's the now-bi-weekly Stranger's recommendations, whose staff loads up on drugs before offering their endorsements. And here's the opinions of the Seattle Times, whose staff loads up on the REALLY GOOD drugs before wading in (How good? They've already conceded the 2018 House of Representative seat to three-time loser Dino Rossi). On the more rational end of the spectrum, here's the Progressive Voter's Guide, the Municipal League's input (though you have to wade through their primary listing) and Voting for Judges, which does a very good job of analyzing the judgeship that are up for election (yeah, in Washington State, we elect our judges. It seems to have worked out). The Seattle Weekly has finally returned to talking about politics just in time for it to be transformed from an alt-weekly to a Penny-Saver-style broadsheet. So enjoy them while they're still around. And the blog Crosscut has shown up with its recommendations. And finally here's King County and the State of Washington's Voter's Guides, so you can see the candidates' statements yourself.

So you really don't suffer from a lack of options, here. And if more get added, I will add to this entry. For my own part, I will try to collapse this as much as possible into bite-sized bits.

The ballot arrived this afternoon. So, let's turn over the test papers and begin ....

{UPDATE: The C is for Crank also weighs in on Seattle-based stuff]

Thursday, October 19, 2017

DOW Breaks 23,000!

Well, that crept in on little cat feet. Minimum amount of fanfare, the only mention in the morning paper that it occurred on the 30th anniversary of a Black Friday that pummeled the stock market way back in 1987. I just noticed it by accident, and don't even have much of a rant prepared this time.

Even the standard amount of fear that this, too, will end, seems to be ebbing, or even going fully into abeyance. And indeed, in this part of the universe, our problem seems to be financial success, not ruin. With every thousand points the DOW climbs, I seem to add another 10 minutes to my commute, as the congestion of people heading to jobs seems to get worse. So I'm not saying we could use an economic shudder to the system, but I look at all the red lines on my GPS and think about it, sometimes.

Politically, I'm good with this milestone as well. Anyone who claims that this is the result of the current administration's policies (or lack thereof), is just setting themselves up for the next bit of economic bad news. You can't really blame your predecessor when you've claimed success for yourself. But that reckoning may not come for years.That's cool - I am good with things getting better for a bit longer.

So I've got nothing at the moment. We've got enough on our hands at the moment on the national level. And I am hearing furtive scratchings from the Political Desk in the corner as we near the first week of November.

More later,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Open Call for a Readers' Theater


Despite my best intentions, I have written a play. What's more, I have scheduled a reading of this play for the Seattle Playwrights Studio in Burien, Washington, on the first Monday of December, 2017.

And I need people to read the play. Out loud. In front of an audience.

Here are the details:

The play is called "Human Resources". It's a corporate comedy. Modern, not fantasy, not science fiction. Not my standard sort of fare.

There are four roles, plus someone to read stage directions. I may do the stage directions if I can't find someone for the task.

The characters are:
                Grace - Female, mid-thirties, receptionist, earth mother type.
                Bob - Male, Late forties, sales, bombastic jerk.
                Angela - Female, early forties, executive, angel of death
                Peter - Male, twenties, engineering, poor damned soul.

IMPORTANT: There's no money in this. I'm still trying to figure out how to get paid myself. I may have found a type of writing that pays less well than fantasy adventure stories. I can't even claim this will give you exposure.

The reading will be December 4th, first Monday of the Month, at the Burien Actor's Theater in Burien (that's south of Seattle, west of the airport) at 7 PM. You'll have music stands for the play, and chairs (I don't want anyone except the stage direction guy standing for the duration of the play). Play currently clocks in at an hour and half. Add a fifteen minute intermission. No blocking, no costumes, no big production.

What I need from you:
  •  You read the play in advance. I've watched a couple of these that were cold reads. It did not go well.
  •  We do a table read (maybe) before the performance. Everyone gets comfortable with each other. Get some of the timing down (some characters interrupt each other). We may do this at a restaurant or at the house. I will feed you (which is NOT the same thing as paying you).
  • We show up at 7 at the Burien Actor's Theater (parking is no problem). It will likely be a small crowd. We may outnumber the audience.
  • We read the play and solicit feedback.
  • I tell people you are wonderful on my small scrap of social media. 
Still interested? Here's what I'm looking for.
  • You're in the Seattle area (well, duh). Better yet, you're in the southern part of Seattle, because it’s a schlep to get down there.
  • You've done this before. Actors, readers, streamers, people who have made presentations.Good voices.
  • Did I mention that none of us get paid for this?
If, after all this, you ARE STILL interested, do following:

Send me an email at the address. Tell me what role you want. Send picture if I don't know you personally. I will respond before the end of October.

Hey kids, let's put on a show!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Play: Jane, Unserious

Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill adapted from the novel by Jane Austen, Directed by Amanda Dehnert, September 29 to October 29, 2017, Seattle Rep.

You know how on the Facebooks people admit to all sorts sorts of social crimes and faux pas that they would never confess to in polite society? Here's mine:

I've never read Pride and Prejudice.

Not only that, I don't think I've sat all the way through a movie version of the book,or a fourteen-part presentation of it on Masterpiece Theater. I'm not an Austen fan, though I have no problem with her writings, nor with people who love her works to pieces. That's cool. Put me down as an Austen Ally. Maybe even Austen-Adjacent. But not as someone who goes out of his way to partake of even a bit of Austen.

So I looked upon this production with a jaundiced eye (I had dodged the musical version of Persuasion earlier in the year, but there is only so must Austen one can flee from before one must succumb to the inevitable). My feelings of concern were increased by a scathing review in the Seattle Times, which notes (among other crimes) that they pared the characters in the book down to eight actors (a sister from the novel disappears entirely). Adding to my disquiet was the fact that the Lovely Bride and a friend attended the tech rehearsal, and gave it pretty neutral reviews - "Not for purists" would be the kindest statement.

And they are absolutely right.This is a much more theatrical version of the book, its characters broader, louder, more colorful, and ruder that in the more stuffy, proper Merchant Ivory versions. Beware: here be pratfalls. And double entendres. And cross-talk and very un-British emotions.

You know the story, I know the story. Elizabeth Bennet meets Lord Darcy and finds him to be a complete a-hole. Over time she recognizes that her own attitudes (and bad advice from others) have colored this opinion. Meanwhile Lord Darcy has fallen for this strong-willed, intelligent woman, but the very structure of society prevents the two from just sitting down over coffee and talking about it. She realizes he is an ideal mate after all and hops down from her perch to really fall in love. This is against the background of the Bennet household, where there are four daughters (downsized from five), a distant father, and a mother actively campaigning to get them all married off.

And the actors bringing all this across are really good. Kjestine Anderon is a smart, neurotic Lizzy (The Lovely Bride, who is an Austen fan, noted that the movies always have a beautiful Jane but a still-stunning Elizabeth). Kenajuan Bentley is a perfect Darcy, and you can see the ice flaking off him as he has to come to terms with his affection for Lizzy. He also freestyles, which would not happen in a proper adaptation.

These two are the "sane" ones in the production, and as we move out, they get loopier. Cheyenne Casebier treats Mrs. Bennet (the secret protagonist of the original book) as top sarge in a military campaign to get the girls married off to good connections. Emily Chisholm's Jane is more gob-smacked into silence by Bingley than too polite to confess her attraction, and hilarious at it. Hana Lass's Lydia is a Visigoth of a youngest child, and heel-turns neatly to portray Lady Catherine, Darcy's elite, effete, aunt. Brandon O'Neill takes up three roles - the military bounder Wickham, Bingley's sister as a turbaned lady of fashion, and Mr. Collins, a clergyman melding bits of Jerry Lewis and Austin Powers.

And there are actors in actresses roles, which I thought I would hate to bits. Rajeev Varma melds neatly between Mr. Bennet (giving him some weight and gravitas) and Lizzie's practical friend Charlotte. But Trick Danneker seems to have the best time of the lot, playing both Mr. Bingley as a Labrador retriever and as Mary, the plain Bennet sister, whose appearance often startles the others. I thought this would cheese me off, but actually it works, and both characters are completely sympathetic. He is a secret gem in the cast, which has a lot of good actors.

The stagework also surprises, the open square in the center flanked by the dressing tables, props, and costumes. Actors off-stage watch the proceedings as they unfold. This is the Seattle Rep, so large backdrops fall from the ceiling, as does a disco ball for the dance sequences., Yes, a disco ball. You just can't take this too seriously.

It can be rough going in the first fifteen minutes, dealing with cringe-worthy innuendos and puns that have no place in the stuffy renditions of Austen oeuvre. But once you accept the more frantic tone (and indeed, the Lovely Bride noted, this captured the chaos of a house full of women better than the novel itself), and the raw theatrical nature of it all, it rollicks. Oh my, how it rollicks.

So, the short version? If you're a purist who likes the most correct adaptation possible, stay far away. That is not what Ms. Hamill is serving up here. But as theater, as an adaptation from one media (from several hundred years back) to this one, it is definitely worth the afternoon.

I suppose I have to read the book, now.

More later.