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Miscellaneous geekery

ALL HAIL WHITE DOT: MST3K season 13 premiere

Tonight I got to do something really fun: I attended the livestream of MST3K’s season 13 premiere, Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, as part of their soft launch of the new Gizmoplex. This screening for Kickstarter backers was the first time I’ve ever watched an MST3K livestream, and it was a hoot.

I rarely get to watch MST3K with anyone else. My wife and kiddo aren’t into MST3K, and outside of a few episodes during college — when I was introduced to the show — I’ve mainly watched it as a solo experience. Being “there” with thousands of other MSTies and feeling that connection was awesome.

We’ve got movie sign!

The episode was superb (as was the movie itself; here’s my Letterboxd review), and after some technical difficulties the rest of the stream went great.

My other favorite onscreen message was “We really did test this”

But the breakout star of this whole launch experience was the white dot. (Or egg. Or ellipse. But dot really does sound best.)

Nothing NSFW in the livestream chat, it’s just pixelated to placate my inner privacy fetishist

While they were fixing the projector, several thousand MSTies spent a lot of time looking at the white dot. The livestream chat — already about as legible as a page from a novel taped to a whirring drill bit — was on fire with dot references, and that stayed true throughout the episode and on into the post-episode chat.

The most-voted viewer question was about whether the dot would be returning in future episodes. I sincerely hope it will.

DOT IS LOVE. DOT IS LIFE.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery RPG community Tabletop RPGs

11 years, 175 projects: Kickstarter noodling

Back in 2016, after 5 years of backing Kickstarter projects, I wrote one of my favorite Yore posts — a personal sniff test for what I back and why (or why not). I missed the golden opportunity to do a 10-year version of that post, but today I’m writing the 11-year version instead.

Kickstarter projects I’ve backed from 2011 to 2021 (look at that correlation between the pandemic and backing stuff that works well from home)

Kickstarter has changed a lot in the past six years. I still primarily use it for preordering RPG stuff, so that’s generally the lens through which I view it — and the RPG community and industry has also changed a lot in the past six years. Those changes have affected how, whether, and when I back stuff on Kickstarter. (Here’s my Kickstarter profile.)

Notes on data neepery

The chart above doesn’t quite match my full list of backed projects (184), since I don’t count projects I backed for $1 unless I later upped my pledge, and there are a couple other uncounted oddballs. It’s also a bit fuzzy in some places; for example, I count most dice projects as “RPG,” because I tend to buy dice to use during play, but not all dice projects. “Other” also isn’t a super-useful category, but it reflects my approach to Kickstarter: I rarely go there planning to back anything but RPGs or board games, but comics and movies/TV have a small but significant throughline so they get their own buckets. But for getting a big-picture view, this chart is more than accurate enough.

It was also a pain to create, because at some point Kickstarter stopped foregrounding when a project funded. It used to be on the main page for each project; now you have to scroll through updates until the funding date appears. In my cynical view, this is because seeing projects which funded years ago but still haven’t delivered could scare potential backers — and revenue — away from other projects.

By the numbers

Of the 175 projects that made the cut to be included in my chart, 62 are things I wish I hadn’t backed for one reason or another. That includes a few projects that never panned out (though I don’t believe their creators intended them to be scams), and a few campaigns that were run quite poorly — but the bulk of those 62 are projects I wasn’t excited about anymore once they arrived.

With success defined as 1) the project delivers and 2) I’m excited when it does, my success rate is about 65%. That’s quite a bit lower than my success rate for purchasing RPG products at retail, which is probably closer to 90%, but it’s about the same as my success rate with board games. I’m generally an enthusiastic person when it comes to RPG stuff; I want to be excited about new games. But this tells me I should back 2/3 as many RPG projects in 2022. Of course, picking the right 2/3 is the real trick!

Revisiting my 2016 sniff test

The star of my 2016 list is the maxim that still applies with the most force in 2022: Have your shit mostly done. I stand by everything I said about this one in 2016:

This mainly applies to gaming books, and comes back to skin in the game. If all you have is an idea, whoopdedoo. I have lots of ideas, everyone has lots of ideas, fuck your idea. Write the damned book. If you can’t invest capital, invest time and energy and then start the KS. I make rare exceptions to this rule for people/companies whose work already lines my shelves; I know they’ll deliver.

Past Martin, 2016

Here are the maxims from my full 2016 list, with 2022 notes:

  • No board/card games: This remains my initial position when I run into a board game project that looks like fun. I consider an unplayed board game a failure on my part (unlike unplayed RPGs), but my track record has improved — and these days, so many major publishers use Kickstarter that I’m generally just preordering a game I would have preordered somewhere else in the past.
  • No FC0B: I’ve softened on this one for zines, since the investment is usually ~$10 and it’s a great way for new creators to get into publishing. But outside of that, this one holds up.
  • No at-cost fulfillment: No longer a factor. Shipping is such a fuckfest, especially during the pandemic, that I don’t care how a project plans to do fulfillment (unless they appear to have no plan for it at all). By all means, farm out your shipping and/or production and charge me for it later.
  • No spreadsheets: The only exception I can recall making is for Car Wars 6th Edition, because that project was understandably massive (and worth it). So this one has held up well for me.
  • No paid autographs: I can’t remember the last time I even saw a paid autograph option in a project, so this is largely irrelevant these days.
  • There must be a print option: It’s complicated. In 2016 I barely used RPG PDFs, but in 2022 I use them almost exclusively (and have for several years). If I’m going to preorder something, though, it’s almost always because I’m excited about it enough to give it shelf space, and/or the use case for it benefits from print (RPG modules, for example). I don’t get excited about preordering PDFs. And just to finish muddying the waters, I can’t remember the last time I saw a PDF-only RPG project.
  • Have your shit mostly done: 100%. I’ve taken chances on this front a couple times in the past five years, and they were mistakes. “Fuck your idea” is still a useful maxim.
  • Have actual risks and challenges: Kickstarter is such a known quantity now that I never even read this section anymore. I can generally tell whether a project is risky just from reading the rest of the project page.
  • Limited clutter: This is part of my holistic risk assessment, so it still holds true. Like some of my other 2016 guidelines, though, it seems to also be a lesson most creators have learned; I rarely see cruft in projects anymore.
  • Some sort of sample: Still true, but these days it’s basically universal for any project I’d even consider backing — so it’s kind of a non-issue.

2022 sniff test additions

As Kickstarter and the RPG and board game industries have changed, I’ve added to my sniff test.

Back sure things, unless they’re inexpensive

This is a corollary to “No FC0B,” I guess? I don’t need your game, so unless it’s inexpensive (e.g., zines) I’m not taking a flyer on your ability to produce it. So why not just wait for eventual publication, since I’m mainly backing sure things? Because I enjoy contributing to a project’s success and supporting creators, I like Kickstarter exclusives, and preordering is a convenience for me. Which brings me to…

Kickstarter is 100% a store for preordering stuff

Kickstarter itself has stepped further and further back from this over the years, insisting that it’s not a store, but it’s more of a store for preorders now than ever before. These days, I bet the list of established publishers who don’t use Kickstarter to sell preorders and generate hype for projects they’re already planning to publish is shorter than the list who of those who do.

Almost nothing is urgent

I can’t possibly play all the RPGs I already own in my lifetime, and I have enough board games. This means I don’t worry too much about how soon a project will deliver — although I do care if your timeline sounds reasonable, and isn’t more than about 12-18 months out. It also means that if I’m on the fence about backing something, I just won’t back it.

Follow people, don’t browse

I follow folks on Kickstarter who have similar tastes, make cool stuff, and/or consistently back projects I like, and by default I “follow” creators I’ve backed before. That’s where 85% of my backed projects originate. (The remaining 15% is 5% Twitter, 5% BoardGameGeek, and 5% occasional browsing/random emails from Kickstarter.) In 2016, Google+ was my filter, but I’ve never successfully replaced G+ in my life, so now I use Kickstarter’s own tools to accomplish something similar.

I don’t know if Kickstarter’s heyday is behind us, but nowadays it just feels like infrastructure: useful, but rarely exciting. My crystal ball says Kickstarter’s recent stumbles, including their response to unionization and the whole weak-ass blockchain thing, and the rise of itch.io and Gamefound (and probably other sites I’m not even aware of), certainly haven’t helped. And despite Kickstarter being — in my experience — a more solid source of projects I actually like when they arrive than it used to be, the bloom is off the rose. Kickstarter isn’t a cool new thing anymore. Instead, it’s just a part of the process; it’s one more store I visit.

And that’s not a bad thing. As a store, it’s generally worked out pretty well for me over the past few years. But will I care enough about Kickstarter as A Thing in five years to write a version of this post in 2027? I wouldn’t take that bet.

But hey, what the hell do I know — I’m the guy who gets 1/3 of his RPG Kickstarter purchases wrong despite 30+ years of figuring out what I like as a gamer.

Categories
Miniatures Miscellaneous geekery RPG community Tabletop RPGs Warhammer 40k

“There are no goodies in the Warhammer 40,000 universe,” so fuck off, fascists

Warhammer Community has posted a fantastic statement about the satirical, non-aspirational nature of the Imperium of Man in the 40k universe, and about 40k in general. Here’s a salient snippet:

The Imperium of Man stands as a cautionary tale of what could happen should the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia set in. Like so many aspects of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man is satirical.

Games Workshop. November 19, 2021

All of my dedicated 40k pages here include a similar note, because alt-right, fascist, and Nazi fucks sometimes gravitate towards 40k, and I don’t want my enjoyment of this hobby to be associated with them in any way — or for them to think the 40k hobby is a welcoming space for them.

The core of GW’s statement closes with this:

If you come to a Games Workshop event or store and behave to the contrary, including wearing the symbols of real-world hate groups, you will be asked to leave. We won’t let you participate. We don’t want your money. We don’t want you in the Warhammer community.

Games Workshop. November 19, 2021

That goes for Yore, as well. If you’re part of a hate group, think antifa are the baddies, think “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” are acceptable “responses” to Black Lives Matter, or are just a racist, transphobic, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted piece of shit: Yore is not for you, you are explicitly not welcome here, and you can fuck right off.

Everyone else, Yore is for you. Thank you for reading it, and happy gaming, reading, and painting.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is incredible

Dune (2021) became available on HBO Max on October 21 (at least here on the west coast), but we saved it for date night on October 23. Today, the 29th, marks my fifth viewing!

I screenshotted my Letterboxd profile to commemorate viewing no.5 and Dune‘s domination of my “Recent Activity” bar

This is also:

  • The first time I’ve watched the same film five times in one week, and within eight days of release
  • The fastest a movie has ever made it onto my GOAT nickels list (composed only of movies I rate 5/5 stars and have seen 5+ times)
  • The third time I’ve watched a movie five times in the same year, following Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 and Midsommar in 2019

Villeneuve has said that there’s no director’s cut: “The Director’s Cut is what people are watching in theatres right now. There will be no other cut.” But I’m crossing my fingers that the handful of short (2-5 minutes) featurettes on HBO Max hint at a feature-length making-of documentary, because I would fucking love to see some behind-the-scenes action.

For now, though, I’m looking forward to a sixth viewing. In a lifetime of movie-watching, across nearly 2,700 films, I count Dune among my all-time favorites.

Categories
Life Miscellaneous geekery

My bonsai tree, Hulkling

Back in 2009, when we still lived in Utah, I fulfilled a longtime dream by buying a bonsai tree. I named him Elkhorn, after the dwarf from the D&D cartoon.

Elkhorn in April 2009 (Utah); if memory serves, he was a Dwarf Hawaiian Umbrella

I’ve never had a green thumb — quite the opposite, really — so I put my heart into trying to do everything right with Elkhorn. Despite my best efforts, he died in 2011.

We were buds (no pun intended), and I felt terrible that he’d died under my care. It wasn’t until this year — 10 years later! — that I felt ready to try again with a new tree.

This little Chinese Elm arrived on the 13th, packed so well by Eastern Leaf that not only was he upright, intact, and unperturbed by the journey, his soil was still thoroughly moist after several days in transit. I’m still trying to decide which is his front view, but it feels like it’s probably this first one.

The likely front view (Seattle)

I’m not sure if the broken-off root or branch in the foreground is a mistake or part of a bonsai style I just learned about, where dead wood is created intentionally for aesthetic reasons (jin is a bare branch, shari is a stripped portion of trunk). Given the wire scars on the trunk, my layperson’s guess is that it’s a growth/pruning mistake, but I don’t mind it.

Here’s the other view, the one I was initially drawn to before I’d given them both due consideration.

The view I initially thought was the front view (still deciding!)

After sleeping on it, and casting a wide net for possible names, I decided to name him Hulkling.

I like Hulkling as a character (I have a slabbed Hulkling cover, Young Avengers #9, hung on the wall); he’s smaller than Hulk, and working in a size joke is traditional; he’s a prominent gay character; he’s impulsive but easygoing; and he has an inner grace to him that I feel is reflected in this little tree’s sinuous shape.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Fight for racial justice and LGBTQ rights

Since I’m not returning to hobby blogging for some time, I wanted to make sure the top post here was useful. Want to support Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and related causes? Here are some ways you can help.

This Carrd is packed with actionable items for supporting racial justice: links to organizations that need your financial help, protest resources, and petitions.

  • If you can’t protest, donate
  • If you can’t donate, sign petitions
  • Contact your city council and other local officials

Here are a few specific recommendations, in case you’re not sure where to start:

  • Find your local bail fund and donate to it. Here’s a list of mutual aid funds throughout the US. Donate to LGBTQ Freedom Fund, which bails out LGBTQ folks.
  • Find your local Black Lives Matter chapter and make a donation.
  • Donate to The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, and The Okra Project, which hires Black trans folks to feed Black trans folks.
  • Want to go national? Split your donation among multiple bail funds. Here’s a tool for doing that. Or donate to a national organization fighting for racial justice and progressive causes, like the NAACP, GLAD, or ACLU.
  • Find out who your city council members are and contact them. There’s probably an online tool for your city; here’s the one for Seattle. Not sure what to say? Demand that they disband the police department and drop all charges against protesters.

Whatever you do, do something. Start small. Build momentum. And then keep going.

Black Lives Matter.

Trans rights are human rights.

Love is love.

Every Confederate monument should be torn down.

Fuck Trump.

Fuck bigotry.

Abolish the police.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Black Lives Matter

I’ve been largely quiet here about news and the state of the world because this isn’t that sort of blog. It is, generally, my hobby outlet. I want it to be a place readers can come to find — again, generally — posts about RPGs, miniatures, Gunpla, comics, books, and all the other geeky joys in my life.

But as this pandemic stretches on, with over 100,000 Americans dead; with my country’s national response bungled and actively opposed by the racist, misogynistic, venal buffoon that ~40% of the electorate variously loves, supports, or tolerates; as centuries of systemic, endemic American racism are laid bare — again, always again — by the murder of George Floyd by racist cops, and by the subsequent response from white supremacists, Republicans, militarized police departments, and the national disgrace that is the current administration; this doesn’t feel like the time to blog about miniatures.

Black Lives Matter.

Trump is a piece of shit. How anyone can in good conscience support him is a complete fucking mystery.

If you support Trump, or if your first response to the phrase “Black lives matter” is “all lives matter,” you are not welcome here on Yore as a reader or commenter.

I’ve made a donation to Black Lives Matter. If you have the means, I encourage you to do the same — or to donate to the ACLU, local causes, or other organizations fighting for progressive causes and against injustice.

I’m taking this week off from posting here on Yore, maybe longer. Stay safe out there.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Yore is back in business

I’ve overhauled many blogs many times over the years, and this time around I embraced WordPress’ emphasis on customization without coding and installed the excellent default theme, Twenty Twenty. This saved me hours of hunting for themes (which often turn out to be expensive, crappy, or both) and more hours tweaking their code.

But an overhaul always entails work, so I did some:

  • Current-gen WordPress is built around using “blocks,” and the Twenty Twenty theme offers some neat options for combining blocks on pages; I played around a bit with those.
  • As a result, the about me page is now a little personal history of the 21 years I’ve spent writing about, and creating stuff for, RPGs on the internet. My published work page is slicker, and I’ve updated a gaggle of out-of-date links.
  • A bunch of stuff no one used is sort of tucked away now, like the list of posts by category (it’s in the footer) and the complete list of post tags (here, and in the footer). My blogroll kept shrinking as I took the hobby’s bad actors and their apologists off of it, so I scuttled that months ago; it won’t be coming back.
  • All the sidebar links to popular posts on the blog went away, and I liked those — so I brought them back on a dedicated page accessible from the top menu.
  • The main page is back to being the blog, not my CV. I’ve pulled back from the RPG industry (though not from the hobby!), making the CV stuff less important on the site — and I want to focus on starting to blog again, which this should help with.
  • I’m kind of digging Twenty Twenty’s default colors, although I never would have imagined that taupe background/black text, fuchsia links, and a white header/footer would look good! Every time I fiddle with them in the customizer, the results look worse; the default is probably here to stay.
  • I updated the site’s favicon to match the snazzy new logo.

This new theme is also much more mobile-friendly than the old one, which is awesome. Mobile users account for about 35-40% of Yore’s traffic and my previous two-column newspaper-like theme from 2012 was less than ideal on mobile.

Honestly these types of blog maintenance posts are never all that exciting — but another thing I’m embracing, thanks to the shake-up of migrating from G+ to Twitter a year ago, is just kind of dashing off my thoughts, not worrying overmuch about getting every detail perfect, and being myself. This sort of post is part of that.

Categories
Life Miscellaneous geekery

New template, mucking about a bit

After nuking all my Judges Guild posts — along with, in the past year, much of my personal fandom for the old-school corner of the RPG industry — it felt like it was time for a change around here.

Having recently spent a couple happy hours scrolling through five years of archives on the excellent Warpstone Pile miniatures blog, I was drawn to the clean, no-nonsense presentation — and the author’s persistence in staying the course over many years, even during periods where they didn’t post often. I’ve been blogging in some form, mainly about RPGs, since 2005. I enjoy doing it, and it’s not time to toss out the baby with the bathwater quite yet.

So I switched blog templates and started juggling things around. I think I set up the redirect for the old “/yore” link to the blog properly, and didn’t manage to break anything else — but I know things will look funky for a bit.

My previous theme had a skinny main/reading column, so all of my pre-2020 photos are sized for that narrow bar. They look weird now.

But overall this feels like a breath of fresh air and a much-needed change.