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<![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - JessHartley]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/9844-JessHartley Pen and Paper Games hosts a very powerful, but easy to seach and join database of players and game masters in the United States and Canada. Our forums are also a great place to find the most recent news, product releases, tips, and rpg discussion. en Tue, 25 Oct 2016 10:18:16 GMT vBulletin 60 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/pnpg_style/misc/rss.jpg <![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - JessHartley]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/9844-JessHartley In Which We Find Inspiration... http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/774-In-Which-We-Find-Inspiration Tue, 06 Oct 2009 14:39:24 GMT In a recent letter from one of my readers, I was asked about how to deal with a specific form of writer's block. Not the inability to write anything, in this case, but being stymied partway into a project because you suddenly realize that the story feels familiar. In an instant, you've gone from energized about your latest work to double-checking every aspect of it against any book, movie or song you've ever heard.

The letter from "Stuck in a Rut" (amd my response) will be coming out in an upcoming episode of One Geek to Another, but answering their question put me to thinking about inspiration - where we find it, how we handle it, and what to do when it temporarily runs dry.

"Where do you get your inspiration?" is a common question for folks to ask writers. An easier one to answer would be "Where /don't/ you get your inspiration?" For people who are bit by the writing bug, inspiration can be found anywhere. In news reports, in overheard cell phone conversations, movies, books, songs, people we've met, things we've done, things we've heard of other folks doing... Anything is fair story-fodder for a writer.

"Stuck in a Rut" was worried about their work being too derivative of other pieces, which brings us to the "how we handle it" part of inspiration.

Recently, I was at a writer's meeting with 50+ other creative folk. The afternoon speaker was talking about music as inspiration, and she played several pieces for us, leading us through a free-flow exercise on writing what the music inspired. It was really interesting, as we discussed our results, to see how different our inspirations from the same piece of music were.

In a piece that spoke clearly to me of a shoemaker tapping away on a project, others heard elephants walking or soldiers marching or dozens of other themes. Perhaps even more interesting was that when the music did inspire similar stories (a certain piece with a Carribean sound spoke to a lot of us of a tropical setting, for example) our stories were still very different. I heard a child swimming through sparkling waters, chasing bold tropical fish. Another person at my table heard a sub-surface wedding between merfolk, with all the entailing festivities, and a third heard a wedding on a beach, with the bride and groom entering at sunset between blazing torches.

The point this exercise really made to me was that each person's interpretation of a theme was so different as to make it an entirely different story. Boy meets girl may be one of the oldest themes in the world, but that doesn't mean that there aren't still an endless number of potential explorations of that theme still to be told. It's how you tell the story, what elements you include, where your emphasis is, and your own personal style and narrative that make a story unique.

However, even for those of us who feel like we're constantly inundated with ideas for new projects, occasionally you'll run into a time when the proverbial font doth run dry. So, what can you do to prime the pump again? Immerse yourself in inspiration. Read, watch movies, listen to music. Go for a walk, either out among people or in natural settings. Or, if you're a boggan like me, do something productive but mindless - washing dishes, painting a wall, washing your car, cleaning and organizing a closet. You may find yourself struck with inspiration mid-project - but even if you don't, you've still accomplished something useful.

Or, if you're looking for something fun (and funny) check out a "Plot Generator", like the Horror Plot Generator that just went live on Flames Rising. While you're unlikely to find the complete plot of your latest best seller there, it's a fun way to get the creative juices flowing and who knows, maybe you will find elements of your next great story there. I mean, the world needs more tales of immortal man-eating bats who work for the government and live in garbage dumps but have a weakness for friendly puppies, right? (Sorry, folks, that one's mine...) ]]>
JessHartley http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/774-In-Which-We-Find-Inspiration
In Which We Have A Busy Week... http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/708-In-Which-We-Have-A-Busy-Week Wed, 16 Sep 2009 00:19:39 GMT Wow, this has been an exciting week for me! Crazy busy (hey, this is becoming habit) so I'm going to touch lightly on what I can.

Tinker's Damn (Steampunk Card Game)
Monday, I sent off the prototype of Tinker's Damn for review by my first game company. This is thrilling, not just because the game is finally ready to show others, but because I wowed the owner/lead game designer enough with the inquiry letter to lead him to ask to see the prototype. I know that (like being published as a writer) the journey between "game creation" and "seeing your work on a gamestore shelf" is a long and arduous one, but it feels good to be taking the first baby steps, at least.
And, at the suggestion of just about everyone I've talked to in the industry, I picked up a copy of [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Game-Inventors-Guidebook-Brian-Tinsman/dp/0873495527"]Brian Tinsman's The Game Inventor's Guidebook[/ame] and read it this week. What a great resource. I know now why it's so highly recommended for aspiring game creators of all sorts.

Goblin Markets Debuts (and Chart Tops)
Goblin Markets, the long-awaited (well, by me anyway) addition to the Changeling: The Lost game line finally debuted. This .pdf only product was the brainchild of noted White Wolf developer/author Ethan Skemp, and he was kind enough to let some of the rest of us play in his field-o-dreams as well.

It's been very well recieved, hitting number one on DriveThruRPG's Top Ten list within hours of its release, and holding onto that place for several days now. More information, including full color cover art, links to reviews (and a link to purchase the .pdf) can be found here.

Visit with Jeff Mariotte and Family

Despite being seemingly cursed to be out of town or otherwise booked into concrete responsibilities during every booksigning the man has had in the last two years, I finally got the chance to hang out with Jeff Marriotte and his family on Monday of Labor Day weekend. For a time, it seemed that the fates had cursed us to not meet up again, as his well pump was struck by lightning the night before, resulting in no water pressure at their home, but thanks to some dedicated (and no doubt expensive, so go buy tons of his awesome work*!) well fixer people, we were all able to get together and play some games, eat some cake (to celebrate Jeff's birthday) and talk writing.

* - Believe me, you want to do this anyway... Jeff's not only awesome and amazing, he's a fantastic (and prolific) writer who's produced both media-tie in (CSI, Spiderman, Supernatural, Buffy, Angel, Charmed, and much much more) and original (The Slab, Witch Seasons) novels, but also comics (he did the Obama comic! How awesome is that?) and a CSI DVD Game!

One Geek to Another (Geek Advice/Etiquette Column)
On Thursday, One Geek to Another was syndicated on its first remote site. Pen and Paper Games, a site dedicated to connecting gamers with games. Pen and Paper, which has a membership of just under 10 thousand folks, now hosts One Geek as a feature in its forums, where it's reaching a whole new audience. I'm very grateful to Robert from PNPG for supporting my work and providing it to his members.

Big Iron Vault, a quarterly gamer lifestyle magazine, will also be posting reprints of One Geek articles. Check out their free pdf of their current issue. Beautiful stuff, and features include an homage to Dave Arneson, DM advice on dealing with difficult players, and an exploration of descent myths and their role in RPGs.

In a similar note, I'm in discussion with several other game sites about similar syndication. If things go well, One Geek to Another should be available at a half-dozen different gaming-focused sites by the end of fall. I'm very interested in reaching out to the not-necessarily-gaming-focused geek world as well, so if you visit a geek-site that uses columns by various authors, I would love it if you would write me and let me know about it.

Or (even better) drop them a note and let them know you'd like to see One Geek to Another on their site.

My newest One Geek to Another Article, "Persistence versus Annoyance" went live this morning. New articles post every Monday morning to help you start off your week right, and can always be found on the front page of this site.

Lone Shark Games
In other news, I just finished some work for Lone Shark Games, one of the coolest game creation/event coordination companies I've ever had the good fortune to encounter. My project involved helping out with creating games for a new advertising campaign for a major food manufacturer - the project rolls out in a few weeks, and I'll be free to say more then, but - Wow! What a different scope, creating games that may be played by families across the globe, most of whom wouldn't consider themselves "gamers" at all.

I'm also working on a blog post that features an interview with Lone Shark President, Mike Selinker, where we discuss the company's recent AMAZING game/event that they created for Wizards of the Coast for the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle earlier in the month. It should be posted later this week, and I'll post here when it goes up.

Margaret Weis Productions
You may have heard me mention working on a project for Margaret Weis Producations just before GenCon. While no formal announcement about my project has been made yet, there's a new Supernatural supplement - Supernatural: The Hunt Begins - available for free download from DrivethruRPG. The Hunt Begins, written by Cam Banks and Jamie Chambers, is a great introduction to the Supernatural RPG. According to the site info: "This quickstart package contains introductory rules, four pregenerated hunter characters, and Of Wolf & Man, a Supernatural scenario based on the legend of the Beast of Bray Road. Grab some players, some dice, and hit the highway. Silver bullets optional."

(And while I can't really talk about my own project for Supernatural yet* , I would like to point readers to the Margaret Weis Productions website, where there's some very shiny cover art posted.)

*- Who would have thought there was anything more rabid than White Wolf's NDA weasels? There is! Any sort of big media company's licensing/NDA wolverines!

Pulp Gamer Podcast
I have had the good fortune to be a part of the last couple of Pulp Gamer "Out of Character" podcasts, which have just been a rollicking good time. (Seriously - and how often do you get to use that term? Rollicking good times are something to be treasured!) Check out Pulp Gamer's site, where they feature not only Out of Character, but a plethora of awesome podcasts, including Game Kennel, Seminars of the GAMA Trade Show, The d6 Generation, and a ton of other paper-game focused 'casts. They're great guys and have top notch production values. Give Out of Character a listen, to hear how much fun we were having, then listen to the rest of their shows - they're well worth your time.

RinCon Games
Many of you may have heard the super-cool news about this year's RinCon Games. One of the guests is going to be the geek-tastic Wil Wheaton (actor, writer, and all around super-geek!). There will be a plethora of other really cool guests, like James Earnest (Founder of aforementioned Lone Shark Games, and creator of CheapAss Games), Shane Hensley (creator of Deadlands and lead designer on City of Heroes/Villains), John Wick (creator of Houses of the Blooded, as well as a plethora of other awesome games),

I was just suckered into convinced to run a tabletop game of Changeling: The Lost for RinCon, so I will be running The Rose-Bride's Plight from 6pm to 10pm on Friday night. There are still seats available in the game, so if you're coming to the convention, come play with me!


Wow... That's a lot of "touching lightly"... And that's not even mentioning karaoke on Saturday night (Hanky Panky for the win!), or the podcast I recorded with the guys at the Podge Cast on Sunday morning, or the several hours worth of conversations I've been having with Mind Storm Labs, or the editing I just finished up for Witch Girls Adventures, or the Authors' Copies Book Sale that I've got going to try to raise funds for /another/ can't-talk-about-it-yet-but-boy-will-it-be-awesome independent project.

JessHartley http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/708-In-Which-We-Have-A-Busy-Week
Talking to Sharks... http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/707-Talking-to-Sharks Wed, 16 Sep 2009 00:08:18 GMT Recently, I've had the pleasure of doing some game-creation work for Lone Shark Games, a fantastic collective of game-makers, event planners and all around fun-makers.
You may have encountered their work at Gen Con's Guardian 6 events or Puzzle Hunts.
Or, if you work for a cool enough company, it's possible they may have organized or invented games for one of your events.
You may have played "[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Playroom-Entertainment-Unspeakable-Words-Game/dp/B000UC8BPE"]Unspeakable Words[/ame]", or "CowPoker", or "Harrow" or "Key Largo", all which Lone Shark folk had a hand in creating.
You may have even read their work in Games Magazine (which I've been an avid reader of since my teen years) or in one of the publications they've done on poker, or in Hobby Games: The Best 100, which all three of the core Lone Sharks (Founder James Ernest, President Mike Selinker and Creative Director Teeuwynn Woodruff) contributed to.
Or maybe you've heard about the Wired magazine hunt for reporter Evan Ratliff - a "non-alternate reality game" where Evan hid himself among the 307 million other people in the US and dared the internet to find him. (The hunt showed up on CNN, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NPR, the Miami Herald, the Seattle Times, Wired.com and a plethora of other mainstream media sources.) Evan was finally caught in New Orleans on September 8th, but during his 25 day "disappearance", Lone Shark coordinated the clues to find him, with Teeuwynn leading the hunt, editor Nick Thompson providing info and Mike making up puzzling clues in the background.
Chances are, if you're reading my blog, you have likely encountered Lone Shark in one way or another, whether you know it or not.
But, if you were present at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle this year, you had a chance to encounter Lone Shark at what might just be their best and brightest.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Selinker about games, gaming and the amazing party/game/event that Lone Shark created for Wizards of the Coast at this year's PAX.

JH: Can you tell me a little about how you came into gaming as a profession?
MS: I was a punk kid who flipped open a Games magazine and said, "I can do that." So I sent in a puzzle, and they published it. So I flipped open a Dragon magazine and said, "I can do that." So I sent in a puzzle to them, and they published it. And then they published an adventure of mine, and it all steamrolled from there.

JH: Tell me about Lone Shark?
MS: Lone Shark Games is a company I formed with Cheapass Games designer James Ernest immediately after I left Wizards of the Coast, where I'd been a game inventor and creative director for eight years. I formed Lone Shark so that I could do all the projects I wanted to do, and with all the people I wanted to work with. Teeuwynn Woodruff came on as our creative director, and we now have a client base that includes Microsoft, Sony, Disney, and many others. We make card and board games, alternate reality games, large-scale game events, puzzles, advertising games, and lord knows what else. We're a one-stop shopping center for companies that need something fun for their fans.

JH: I've heard about an innovative game that Lone Shark created for PAX. Can you tell me about that?
MS: Yeah, we finally got to work with Wizards again, and it was a blast. Wizards marketer Mark Jessup and the event company Starfish theorized a two-day Magic: The Gathering puzzle event leading up to a blowout party, and came to us for help.
Teeuwynn, Magic rules manager Mark Gottlieb, and I created puzzles for all five mana colors, with heated lava stones for the red station, necromantic body-part assembly for the black station, and so on. You needed a full set of mana symbols to get into the party at Seattle's Trinity Nightclub.
When you got inside, you saw a "hedron," an 12-foot-tall floating octahedral obelisk covered with incomprehensible runes. You got a scavenger hunt form, and a UV handstamp. Then you went around collecting bits of Magic art in the scavenger hunt.
For the next stage, we had some wordplay games, where players texted in answers to make the final five explorers. So far, all pretty standard stuff for us.
But then it got crazy. We turned off the house lights, bathing the room in black light. Suddenly, your handstamps lit up like roman candles, revealing the code key to the hedron. The shocked house realized that for an hour and a half, they'd been wearing the answer to the puzzle all along.
One group finally cracked the code, commanding the hedron to open. The top elevated off the hedron, and the winner climbed up to retrieve $1,000 origamied into the shape of a black lotus. It was awesome.

JH: What was your primary goal for the PAX game?
MS: We wanted to blow everyone away. I think we created the biggest spectacle a PAX party had ever seen. (Well, not quite the same type of spectacle as the White Wolf party that immediately followed.)

JH: What was your biggest fear for the PAX game?
MS: We risked a lot on this one. There were at least five ways the thing could have gone horribly wrong. First, the requirement of doing five puzzle stations to get in could have stopped everyone who wanted to come from coming. Second, the live text-messaging of answers could have created a logjam of answers, or stalled completely. Third, the UV handstamps could have revealed themselves early, or been indistinct. Fourth, the coded message on the hedron could have been way too hard, or solved instantly by more than one person. Fifth, the hedron could have failed to open. But everything worked.

JH: What surprised you about reality of the game versus your plans?
MS: Actually, the only thing I was really worried about was that people wouldn't come, and there were lines around the block. Once Wil Wheaton walked in the door and said, "Oh my god, Mike, did you guys make this?" I was sure it all would work.

There you go, folks - Proof again that Wil Wheaton is the hub of the geek world. I'd like to thank Mike for taking the time to chat with me about this amazing event, and encourage anyone who enjoys games to seek out Lone Shark events and activities - they're amazing.

JessHartley http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/707-Talking-to-Sharks