It’s been a while since I was able to give an update here about what I’ve been working on. That’s probably because I’ve been busy working and traveling! Here are some of the highlights:

  • I was a guest down at Escapist Expo in Durham, North Carolina, and had the pleasure of being on the ‘You Game Like A Girl’ panel there with my compatriots in feminist discourse, Anja Keister, Iris Explosion and Stella Chuu. (The panel video is up online here to check out!) Along with the fantastic ZP Keister, they did their amazing D20 Burlesque show for the Escapist crowd, and I got the opportunity to hang with the gentlemen of Evil Hat Productions, Rob Donoghue and Fred Hicks, as well as Daniel Solis. We played games, we had fun, and it was an honest to goodness blast. I really recommend Escapist if you are a fan of their site, if you’re a fan of a nicely sized convention with great people, and if you’re a fan of a friendly city for a visit.
  • I attended New York Comic Con and did some reporting on it for Tor.com – you can see my coverage of the Marvel Television panel, the Dracula Screening and the Cosplay over at Tor. I also got a chance to see the Defiance panel and ask the cast my question, plus got a great chance to see the Welcome to Night Vale panel. Had a fantastic blast, with much thanks to my friend Justin Reyes for helping me with my camera gear. I also was a convert to the Pokemon nation that weekend – Pokemon X for me! It’s my new relaxation helper. Highlights were getting a chance to shake hands with Kelly Sue DeConnick, the Marvel writer of Captain Marvel and the Avengers. I’m a huge fan of her work and her constant contribution to the discourse about women in the geek world.
  • Not long after I was on the road again to head to GeekGirlCon out in Seattle. It was an absolute pleasure to meet up with folks out there. I had the pleasure of being on panels about creating safe spaces at conventions with brilliant folks like Jennifer Stuller, burlesque performer and organizer Jo Jo Stilletto, fiction writer and safe space advocate K.T. Bradford, pop culture scholar Rob Salkowitz. The second panel was about Female Characters in Video Game Design and was sat by some fantastic folks like Kimberly Voll, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Anita Sarkeesian. It was my honest pleasure to be a part of both, as they gave me a chance to talk about my two favorite things – how to create convention space for all and how women are represented in video games. Later I got the chance to do a panel/workshop on LARP 101 and then presented the Nordic game LIMBO to a crew of players. (I’ll have a full write-up of that shortly). It seemed the game really touched everyone very deeply. I was floored by how well people did with the material and how deeply they threw themselves into the roleplay. Overall it was an incredible weekend – I found the entire community to be welcoming and fantastic, and I was loathe to miss the whole Sunday program to fly home. But family vacation in Orlando called!
  • Shortly thereafter I was out at Dystopia Rising‘s big season ender for New Jersey known as DeathCon! Every October we throw a big four-day zombie apocalypse adventure and this year all the stops were pulled out, folks. My shift with fellow storyteller Liam Neery created a cacophony of in-game screams as we unleashed terrifying raiders on the fictional town of Hayven, and madness and fun was had by all. As a player I enjoyed myself a great deal, but it was my pleasure getting a chance to once again rain storyteller heck down on the player base. Special shout out to the Unholy Sideshow and D20 Burlesque for performing at the game- it was overall a hell of a weekend.

So now I’m back in the workflow of things, my traveling having been completed for the season. Well, almost. Because next week is… Metatopia! I’m very excited to say that I’ll not only be attending Metatopia but I’ll be sitting on a couple of panels, as well as running a few playtests. I’m planning on doing a playtest for my RPG Wanderlust plus doing a run of my freeform game Service as well. It did well being tested on my NYU Game Center friends, now let’s see how it holds up against other gamers. This Metatopia has so much on the schedule that I’m excited to just get a chance to sit in on panels and talk to people. It’s going to be pretty packed. So check me out at the following:

  • Friday 11AM – Translating Tabletop to LARP
  • Friday 2PM – How to Manage Adult Content
  • Friday 3PM-5PM WANDERLUST RPG Discussion
  • Saturday 4PM – Inclusivity: Inviting Women to the Table

And after that… well, it’s just work time. The con season will officially be over until February, when Dreamation 2014 has me plotting LARP fun. Until then, I’ve got some projects to do – including all the stuff to prepare for my thesis at the Game Center. There’s going to be a full article on here about that very shortly, so stay tuned!

So the travel season is over, and I’m glad to be home. In truth, traveling is fantastic but it does take away from work time. I have lots of projects coming up in the near future and I’m excited to buckle down and get to work. Meanwhile, my bleary-eyed self is getting to bed so I can get up for class tomorrow. And so it continues!

The sun is shining. The air is humid in Brooklyn and I’m not in class. It’s summer in New York City.

And there’s work to be done!

The end of the NYU semester came and went with a bang. It was a real hustle to get through the end of the second semester, but I came away with a lot of amazing lessons I learned, not only about game design but about working with others, my own process of dealing with stress, and about myself in general. It was a process of self discovery as well as academia, and as hokey as it sounds it made a profound impact on how I want to work going forward. It was a breakneck pace of work that ended and then-

A break. Summer vacation. It’s meant to give you a chance to kick back and relax… right?

For most people past a certain age, summer vacation is no longer the bucolic months of adventure and fun that it is when you’re young enough not to work. For me, I haven’t had a real summer vacation in years. This is the closest I’ve had and yet I’m freelancing. And boy, has it been busy. Here’s been what I’m up to:

  • Phoenix Outlaw Productions, my company, is ramping up it’s creation process. Things were slowed due to many factors including graduate school and, honestly, the learning curve of a new company. Now I’m putting boots to ground on wrapping up Wanderlust, my tabletop RPG, and have begun organizing the schedule of projects we want to release. Stay tuned for way more information about that in the days to come.
  • June 1st wrapped creation of Wild City, a setting for the upcoming release of the Chronos Theatrical LARP System for Eschaton Media, co-written alongside Josh Harrison. Josh and I had worked on the core book of Chronos as well, so I’m excited to see the release going so well. You can learn more about it on Eschaton Media’s Chronos Facebook group right now.
  • I’m working with my fellow Team Awesome folks to get Octavia ready for submission for IndieCade. More information about that to come.
  • I was asked to come aboard the extremely successful Kickstarter for Trigger Happy by Caias Ward to write a stretch goal scenario, which I’m working on. It’s going to be about a kidnapped kid and what you’re willing to do to kick butt to get that kid back. Stay tuned for more information.
  • I’m working on the translation of the Heroine RPG into a LARP! I’m very excited for this project, as Josh Jordan’s game about girls on their adventures has been a person ‘I heart it so much’ project since I saw it on Kickstarter. I’m so excited to be a part of seeing it come to LARP.
  • I’ve been creative consultant to Michael Consoli on his video game Against the Wall and we’ve been meeting up

And speaking of LARPS – DEXCON. Oh my gosh, DexCon.

For those that don’t know, the Double Exposure conventions in Morristown New Jersey rock. Seriously, they do. I’ve been a regular at these conventions since 2006 and have enjoyed some of my best gaming experiences there. It’s no wonder that the work these good folks are doing is being recognized by the Diana Jones Awards with a nomination this year. I enjoy the hell out of all three of their conventions – Dreamation, DexCon and Metatopia – and would not miss one for the world. That said, I also enjoy the heck out of running LARPs and panels at their conventions and this year is no exception. My DexCon project plate looks like this:

  • The Unofficial Dresden Files LARP: We at Phoenix Outlaw Productions are proud to be wrapping up our first chronicle of our Unofficial Dresden Files LARP, started way back two years ago. The project has been very important to me and I’m so pleased to see us come to the end of the four game series with “Final Frost” this summer. After this, we’ll be going into another phase of the project, in which players will have dedicated characters in an ongoing chronicle setting. We’ve also wrapped up our latest version of the rules iteration, based of course on the wonderful Fate Core rules system, and based on iteration done at each of the conventions thanks to experience and great feedback from players. Saturday Night at DexCon, we head back to the Dresdenverse and we’ll see who survives the chronicle’s climax.
  • Battlestar Galactica LARP: At Dreamation I teamed with Mike Maleki of Last Minute Productions to come up with an idea for a Battlestar Galactica LARP. We were approached thereafter by Double Exposure to run this event as a signature LARP for the convention this summer. And so, “Straight On Til Morning: Tales of the Rising Star” was born. We’ve brought together our two teams to create a large game set aboard the Rising Star, a medical ship in the BSG universe. We’ve developed a brand new system inspired by more freeform LARP techniques to make this game an intense roleplay experience for folks. Come aboard and give it a spin on Friday night!
  • Night’s Black Agent Tournament – The LARP: It’s no secret I’m a huge Night’s Black Agent fan. Well, John Adamus has been involved in writing for the Night’s Black Agent tournaments for the incredible Kenneth Hite for a while now. Therefore when Pelgrane Press wanted to incorporate LARP into their tournament’s first round, we got the call! Myself, John Adamus and Josh Harrison have been working at building the first Night’s Black Agent LARP, where you can play a secret agent out to battle the vampire conspiracy threat! This will be the first round of the NBA Tournament – survive into the second round and see your team to victory.

Those are the three LARPs we’ve been working hard on for DexCon. Aside from that, I am also pleased to say I’ll be reprising two panels from the last convention: Women in Game Design and Let’s Talk LARP, a round table discussion with LARP designers. I’m also really humbled to be asked to a Wednesday night reading for authors at the convention. I’ve been asked to read from my recently published short story from The Lost Anthology by Galileo Press. And somewhere in there, I promise, I will eat a thing and sleep. Somewhere.

With all this going on, I’m also preparing for my upcoming convention schedule at GenCon, WyrdCon, PaxPrime and more, but that’s what I like to call ‘After July 4th Shoshana’s Problem’ (July 4th weekend being DexCon).

For now, I’m also reminding myself of the importance of balancing some summer fun with all this work- including attending great conferences like the recent Games for Change conference in New York, spending time with great people at Dystopia Rising (including at the new Pennsylvania game – congratulations to the staff there for an amazing first event!), and getting to see Neil Gaiman speak at Brooklyn Academy of Music the other night about his new book, Ocean At the End of the Lane (read it if you haven’t! It’s brilliant!).

That’s summer vacation, folks, and with that I’m off to get back into work, with a cup of tea and a lot of typing to go. More updates to come!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I rode out Hurricane Sandy in Jersey City with some amazing gamer friends of mine. Yet all I could think about while we waited two and a half hours on line for gas, or when sitting in the dark by candlelight playing Munchkin, was that I needed to escape. Not because I don’t love my friends (though I got cabin fever something wicked). No, I needed to get down to Morristown NJ for the second annual Double Exposure game design and playtest convention, Metatopia.

Metatopia as a convention is near and dear to my heart. I cut my teeth on running LARPs and tabletop events at the other two Double Exposure conventions, Dreamation and Dexcon. I also got my first taste of pitching and developing a new RPG idea by attending the indie gaming roundtables hosted at those two conventions, where green folks interested in creating a new roleplaying game could come and pitch their ideas to a table of industry professionals. I was blessed in that time to have folks like Rob Donoghue (Evil Hat Productions) and brilliant editor John Adamus give me advice at these conventions that drove me towards taking game design seriously as a career option for my future. So when the convention’s director Vinny mentioned an entire game design convention, strictly for the sake of bringing game designers together to share information and feedback on developing games, I was excited as hell. Last year’s Metatopia helped me develop my game, Wanderlust, into something approaching a coherent document. GenCon and the First Exposure Playtest hall, run by the Double Exposure folks, gave me the next step. And then came this year’s Metatopia. Here are the convention highlights:

  • Wanderlust Focus Groups: So as I may have mentioned, there was a wee problem of being trapped in Jersey City during the hurricane. That meant that I did not get to go home to Brooklyn and get ANY of my play test material (or business cards, or, y’know, clothes!) going into this convention. Instead of presenting a working playtest, I instead presented two focus groups on my game. One hour focused on the game mechanics and the second on the game world setting and character types. I was blessed to have folks like John Adamus, Michael Consoli, Caius Ward and the amazing Darren Watts sit in to give me feedback (there was a final gentleman at the table whose name I did not catch). I was excited to find that the changes I made after the GenCon focus group seemed to work better and with the feedback from these talks I’m now ready to go into testing to get this game out the door! I also came across a very good saying about my game, it seems: “The act of discovery isn’t gentle or easy.” Take that as you will…
  • Hey, I hear you like panels, so I put some panels on your panels: Who needs breaks? Or food? I’ve got panels to go to! The schedule for Metatopia was jam packed with great games to playtest, but the highlight for me was the amazing panel track. Darren Watts worked very closely with the Double Exposure organizers to put together panels on everything from How to Cultivate A Fan Community to The Care and Feeding of Artists to How Not to Be A Jerk In Your Games. I was delighted to be on three panels as a speaker, including Women in Game Design, Sexism in Gaming, and a long talk on LARP. I attended numerous panels with folks like Brennan Taylor (Galileo Games), Kenneth Hite (Pelgrane Press), John Stavropolous (NerdNYC), Amanda Valentine (Editor Extraordinaire for numerous companies), and Jason Morningstar (Bully Pulpit Games, writer of Fiasco). My favorite panels included the Evil Hat Productions panel, the panel about dealing with artists, an intense panel on how to pitch your game and John Adamus’s writing panel. There were so many I didn’t get to go to, but there’s only so many hours in the day!
  • Pro Tip: Don’t Ever Walk in Late! My most amazing moment of the weekend came on the heels of an epic zonk-out by me on Saturday afternoon. I was rocking a cold so I took a nap, only to wake up late for the RPG Development Panel. I shook a leg downstairs to slip in late to a room full of some of the best folks in the industry up in front of the room: Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue from Evil Hat, Darren Watts, Jason Morningstar, Cam Banks from Margaret Weiss and the illustrious Kenneth Hite. I got to my seat just as another designer was finishing up pitching and talking about his game. When nobody else raised my hand, Rob decided to toss me to the lions to ask me about how Wanderlust was doing! After mumbling something about just waking up from a nap (I’m so articulate when sleepy) I brought up the pitch I’d worked on at Mr. Hite’s panel earlier that day and tossed it at the panel – and it went great! I got to thank Rob later for tossing me in front of that truck, but it was worth every second.
  • State of LARP Address: It was my privilege to sit on a panel of four to talk to a room full of people about LARP. Considering that I want LARP to be the focus of my academic career at the NYU Game Center, I was glad to get the opportunity to discuss my passion in a serious discussion. What I discovered is that… well, there’s a lot to talk about. I also discovered that while opinions may vary on aspects of the hobby, there are universals across different kinds of LARP that we could all come together about. I was also super excited to hear that Jason Morningstar is developing a LARP version of Fiasco! I can’t wait to give it a shot. I also got the opportunity to speak with William White, one of the authors of Immersive Gameplay, and share some personal insights into the best practices when running and playing a LARP.
  • Women in Gaming? We Have Those! Two other great panels that happened at Metatopia this year came about as a result of some work between myself and Avonelle Wing, one of Double Exposure’s organizers. She and I got into this five hour discussion over the state of women in the gaming industry, both on the professional end and within the community, as well as about female representations in game content and art. We then made sure there would be two panels talking about the problems we saw. One, Women in Gaming, brought together myself, Avonelle, and two amazing women, Amanda Valentine and El Wood. We tackled issues of subconscious bias, confronting sexism, cultivating a female-friendly community, and the duty of women to support one another, without ever once dealing in man-bashing language. I felt a particular thrill when I was able to say to the audience, “First of all, I don’t believe feminism is a dirty word” and got a round of applause. Thank you, Metatopia, for engaging in a great debate about women’s issues and letting me be part of the discussion.
  • Above All, Metatopia Is About The People: The best part about coming to Metatopia had to be the people I got to spend time with. while many folks might spend their time at a convention like Metatopia focusing on the formal aspects of the play testing (because that’s what we’re there for!) or trying to network like mad, I found that I genuinely enjoyed just spending time with and getting to know folks from around the gaming community. I really enjoyed shooting the breeze with plenty of people who I previously had felt too shy to approach. This convention really taught me that, despite my shyness and the intimidation I may have felt to approach some people because of their fame in the indie community, as soon as I relaxed, people were open, friendly and genuine. I was also humbled by how supportive tons of folks have been in regards to my game and my company, Phoenix Outlaw Productions, lending advice, ideas, critique and encouragement while I bring this company and my RPG from dream to reality. If I had to thank everyone it’d take all day, but I can’t imagine not saying a special thanks to Rob Donoghue, John Adamus, Fred Hicks and Brian Engard for being so awesome.

On the heels of Metatopia, I’ve got a bunch of killer notes to update for Wanderlust and preparation for play testing to begin. I’ve also got the name Metatopia going around at the NYU Game Center, because how can these two amazing forces of game design and play testing not come together for more awesomeness in the future? I also obviously cannot wait for next year. Considering the last two years, I want to pledge to myself that come next Metatopia, I’ll be able to talk about the process of finishing and publishing Wanderlust and then going on to the next game on my mind! But if I want to do that, I gotta get to work. Once more, I want to say thanks to the great folks who made Metatopia this year what it was, and I can’t wait until next time!