Deserter from the Edition Wars

If you’ve ever talked to me about Dungeons & Dragons, you know I’m not a huge fan of 4th Edition (if you have never talked to me about D&D, the following may or may not upset you). I have mellowed my stance over time and I no longer seethe with a barely contained rage at the desecration of My Game. Because really, nothing was desecrated (I still have all my 3.5 books after all, they didn’t disappear with the new edition) and it wasn’t My Game, it was everyone’s game. The undeniable fact is, many people like playing 4E and at the end of the day that is what matters: people playing a game they like.
The flip-side, of course, is that people are welcome to not play a game they don’t like. And 80% of the time I fall into that camp with regards to 4E. Most of the time it just doesn’t do it for me; I need a broader palette of choice and complexity to run and play the game I want to play. That other twenty percent? Sometimes I do want to just stroll through a dungeon and lay an unholy amount of smack-down on some monsters. For those times, 4E is the perfect platform to enjoy my monster apocalypse.
That said, there is something about the game-play direction of 4E that I have never liked. I won’t bore anyone (including myself) with details, because if you really want that you can find it online. In general, though, I did not like the way the game was simplified. It is possible to simplify something in such a way as to stimulate choice and creativity; I felt (and still feel) that 4E went in the opposite direction from that. The limited choice of character builds (unless/until you get the next book(s)), the focus on combat over role-playing…never been a fan.
All of that is to explain why, when I followed this link about D&D Fifth Edition, it honestly took me about two minutes of re-seething rage to clue in that this was a joke. While I am now calmed down, I have to admit there is a little part of me scared that this “joke” is the start of a viral marketing campaign for an actual D&D product. OR, that WotC looks at this and goes, “Hmmmm…”. Either way, this “evolution” was probable enough for me to have several moments of spine-chilling dread.  And if you think that WotC can’t turn an RPG into a card game, you obviously haven’t looked at Gamma World too closely.
As my final shot in the Edition Wars, I have this comment to make: when I heard that WotC was going to release “Basic D&D” my first thought was, “So, isn’t that just the D&D Miniatures game?”
And now I am officially deserting from the D&D Edition Wars. I just don’t have the energy to waste on it anymore. I’m a gamer because I play games. If you are a gamer you also play games. To generate an artificial ghetto-ization of certain gamers because they play a game I don’t like is pointless, because it misses the point of the hobby. The gaming hobby has always been inclusive, welcoming anyone that wanted to play. Tacking on the addendum, “…except for you [insert game name here] players, because [insert game name here] suxxors!” is a bit like crouching in a leaky life-raft and refusing to let certain people bail because they use a boot instead of a bucket.
Didn’t like that comparison? Hmm, okay. Let’s put it in religious terms (because that won’t piss anybody off): sectarian squabbling can kill a religion. Introducing exclusion to gaming because you want to argue your interpretation of dogma is pointless and harmful.
I am a gamer. And I welcome all my gaming brethren and sistren to my table. I may decline to play a game I don’t like, but out of courtesy I extend the same right to all of you. And while I welcome spirited discussions on gaming and game design, I will enter into these discussions without judgment or partisanship.
And now, linkage:
– If you live here in Edmonton and have ever had questions/concerns/total WTF moments about our urban planning, The Charrette is the site for you.
– If you are a fan of Monte Cook, Malhavoc Press and/or Ptolus (and if you aren’t why are you on my site?), this is the sale for you!  Happy 10th Anniversary, Malhavoc Press!
– For those of you saddened by the lack of an Apocalypse this past weekend, fear not!  Apparently that was a test…
– Do you live in Edmonton and suffer from a disturbing lack of balloon animals for your next celebratory function?  You need a visit from The Balloon Fairies!
Game on!

A Line in the Sand

As I write this, I have eaten my last bite of take-out food; my last crunchy nacho, my last corn chip, my last store-bought chocolatey confection. As Picard said: “The Line must be drawn here! This far, no further!” So today begins a shift in my eating and exercise habits.
Those of you that have read my blogs over the years are aware that I have had an on-again/off-again relationship with fitness. That’s fine. But going forward it is time to turn that relationship back on, and then break the switch. Letting my health slide is no longer acceptable; too many things I want to do, too many people that I plan to keep gaming with, and one in particular I wish to grow old with.  So enough talk of past failures in will…
…and on to the future. So what can a geek do to recede that advancing waistline? Here are a few things I’m trying:
  1. Tracking my food and exercise. The best way I’ve found to make sure I stay on track is to keep track of what I am eating, and how often I exercise. The key is to track both honestly. If you miss a workout or eat that Snickers bar you thought no one knew about (I saw what you did!), log that. That gap in your log or the extra calories at your end-of-day tally may be just what you need to push you. Plus, sometimes we have bad eating habits we don’t even think about, and they only become obvious when we see the pattern on the page. Currently I am using the website (thanks to my friend Devin, @Doctor_Teeth on Twitter) to track both my meals and my workouts. After some initial questions it is a very easy site to use, doing all the math for you; all you have to do is enter the info. I highly recommend.
  2. A combination of Weight and Interval Training. I have used weight training to great effect before, so I am planning to stay with it. Since I have a set of free weights here at home, it is sort of a no-brainer. Not only do I remove the excuse “I don’t have time to go to the gym” because my gym is right here, weight training also gives me a tangible way to increase my workout progress. After all, it doesn’t get much simpler than, “Last week I lifted x. This week I am lifting x+5lbs”. Interval training is essentially compressed cardio: after a warm-up period you do your cardio as hard as you can for a set but short period of time, usually 1-2 minutes. Then you drop to about half-effort for another period, or interval (get it, interval training? Eh? Eh?) equal to or shorter than the full effort interval. Repeat for about 15-20 minutes, then warm down. It is perfect for me, because if I’m not playing a game or sport of some kind, I can not stand extended cardio work. So it allows me to focus on maximum effort in a short period of time.
  3. Dropping the junk food. As a gamer this is probably the hardest step. After all, what is a game table without delicious, crunchy nachos, Hawkin’s Cheezies, or those delicious two-bite brownies that you can scarf down in one bite…sorry, had to wipe some drool off the keyboard. But it is probably the most necessary step; junk food, and the processed food industry in general, are bad on many levels (and I’ll have a blog post just about junk food at a later date). So to keep the crunch I like when I game, I am switching over to snap peas and carrots. For the sweet, a handful or two of raisins or an piece of fruit. I have been switched over to diet sodas for a while, so no calories there. But there are good reasons to get off even the diet stuff, so I’ll work on that as well. Story short, it is all about exchanging the bad habits for good ones. If it were done when ’tis done, ’twere best it were done quickly. (Thanks, Shakespeare!)
There you are, three general strategies for my fitness future. Future blog posts will talk about the tactics inside the strategies, and I’ll let you know how I am progressing. In the meantime, maybe this is the time to give your own geek health an overhaul. Why not come on the journey with me?  If you sign-up on, go ahead and friend me.
Here are some low-calorie and fat-free links that taste delicious:
–  Want a quick, ten-minute primer to show people on D&D and role-playing?  Show them Enter the Dragon, and let the learning begin!
– If you are a huge fan of Wendy and Richard Pini’s ElfQuest, here is the archive of everything.  Enjoy, and remember to walk away from your computer once in a while.
-Gamers have dice, often many dice.  Why not store those dice in an awesome dice bag?  Dragon Chow has you covered.  And they are Canadian, so there’s that. 🙂
– If you love anime/manga and you plan to be in Calgary this weekend, you need to spend some time at Otafest.  Strap on that tentacle and go find yourself a school girl!
– I recently discovered another wonderfully geeky blog, Hyde and Geek. Geek blogs, unite!

Until next time my geeklings!

Aurora Awards: Why Canadian SF&F Matters

Welcome back after my unplanned hiatus! I won’t bore with the details; instead I’ll sum it up with, “Funny old thing, life. Eh?” and then get on with the writing. Suffice to say I will be posting more regularly, at least until The Next Thing.
I received word a few weeks ago that I am on the ballot for the Aurora Awards, for my work starting and chairing The Pure Spec Festival (specifically the 2010 event). I couldn’t talk about it then because the official announcement wasn’t made until yesterday, and until then I was bound by the Geek Code of Conduct to keep it to myself. But the word was given yesterday, and so I am no longer bound in silence.
You may ask yourself, “What are the Aurora Awards?” For the long form answer, just follow the link above and it will take you to their page. Short answer, for those that can’t be bothered with all that linking, is that the Auroras are meant to honour the best in Canadian sci-fi and fantasy literature, media and fandom. You may wonder if Canada has enough going on in that regard that we actually need an award just for us. To partially answer that you can follow this link to the list of works eligible for nomination this year. To answer it further, Google (or Bing or whatever) “Canadian Sci-fi Convention” and you will get a sense of just how active the sci-fi and fantasy communities are in our Home and Native Land.
There is something equal parts special and hard to define regarding Canadian sci-fi. The component that I have most often noticed is a through-thread of hope. Canadian sci-fi and fantasy is hopeful. Hope for the future, hope in people, for the individual to do the right thing, to be their best. All Canadian sf&f has hope as an integral part of its structure. And while that isn’t necessarily lacking in sci-fi from other lands, it is sometimes in short supply.
That isn’t to say Canadian works can’t be dark, morbid, horrifying or bleak. Charles de Lint has written some wonderful books that are very dark in tone; yes, I’m looking at you Angel of Darkness. Guy Gavriel Kay’s work has had moments that made me weep with frustration and sadness; there is a point in the third Fionavar Tapestry book that I know will make me cry. But how could you have and appreciate hope if you didn’t have to fight through despair and darkness first?
So for me, what the Aurora Awards celebrate is hope. That Canadian sci-fi and fandom can make a mark, be seen/heard and make a difference. Personally, I think that is something worth celebrating and supporting. I hope you do, too. If so, please take a moment on the Aurora Awards site to vote before the October 15 deadline this year. And thank-you in advance, from all the nominees.
Usually I’d have a bunch of links for you, but today I’ll just include the list of 2011 Aurora Award Nominees. Do yourself a favour and check out their work; you won’t be sorry.
Professional Awards
Best English Novel
Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell, Great Plains Publications
Destiny’s Blood by Marie Bilodeau, Dragon Moon Press
Stealing Home by Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
Watch, by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
Best English Short Story
The Burden of Fire by Hayden Trenholm, Neo-Opsis #19
Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle by Suzanne Church, Tesseracts Fourteen, EDGE
The Envoy by Al Onia, Warrior Wisewoman 3, Norilana Books
Touch the Sky, They Say by Matt Moore, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, November
Your Beating Heart by M. G. Gillett, Rigor Amortis, Absolute Xpress
Best English Poem / Song
The ABCs of the End of the World by Carolyn Clink, A Verdant Green, The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box
Let the Night In by Sandra Kasturi, Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, EDGE
Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence by Colleen Anderson, Witches & Pagans #21
The Transformed Man by Robert J. Sawyer, Tesseracts Fourteen, EDGE
Waiting for the Harrowing by Helen Marshall, ChiZine 45
Best English Graphic Novel
Goblins, Tarol Hunt,
Looking For Group, Vol. 3 by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza
Stargazer, Volume 1 by Von Allan, Von Allan Studio
Tomboy Tara, Emily Ragozzino,
Best English Related Work
Chimerascope, Douglas Smith (collection), ChiZine Publications
The Dragon and the Stars, edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi, DAW
Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, edited by Nancy Kilpatrick, EDGE
On Spec, edited by Diane Walton, Copper Pig Writers Society
Tesseracts Fourteen, edited by John Robert Colombo and Brett Alexander Savory, EDGE
Best Artist (Professional and Amateur)
(An example of each artist’s work is listed below but they are to be judged on the body of work they have produced in the award year)
Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, “Brekky” cover art, On Spec Fall
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Christina Molendyk, Girls of Geekdom Calendar for Argent Dawn Photography
Dan O’Driscoll, cover art for Stealing Home
Aaron Paquette, “A New Season” cover art, On Spec Spring
Fan/ Amateur Awards
Best Fan Publications
No award will be given out in this category due insufficient eligible nominees
Best Fan Filk
Dave Clement and Tom Jeffers of Dandelion Wine for “Face on Mars” CD
Karen Linsley; concert as SFContario Guest of Honour
Phil Mills, for “Time Traveller” (song writing)
Best Fan Organizational
Andrew Gurudata, organizing the Constellation Awards
Brent M. Jans, chair of Pure Speculation (Edmonton)
Liana Kerzner, chair of Futurecon (Toronto)
Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi, chairs of Toronto SpecFic Colloquium (Toronto)
Alex Von Thorn, chair of SFContario (Toronto)
Best Fan Other
Tom Jeffers, Fundraising, FilKONtario
John and Linda Ross Mansfield, Conception of the Aurora Nominee pins
Lloyd Penney, Articles, columns and letters of comment – fanzines