This year I won’t be able to go to Gen Con. Though I will be off from nursing school during August, it will be my one break of the year and my wife and I are going on vacation to upstate New York, Niagara Falls and Toronto. I am super excited about that trip as I’ve never been up there. That said, a part of me is still sad I won’t be at Gen Con for the yearly gathering of the tribe. Fortunately for me, there’s This Just In… From Gen Con (TJI).
TJI is a podcast recorded and released daily during the four days of Gen Con which aims to bring the excitement of the con to its listeners. I was a host for the 2011 season and loved every second of it, but this year I go back to being a regular listener while my co-host Rich Rogers teams up with a new set of awesome folks committed to making sure those of us not attending still get to be a part of Gen Con.
Like last year, TJI is being crowdfunded via IndieGoGo. The hosts are committed to doing the show, but the financial support of the community is essential to make it even better. Last year I wrote about why TJI needs to be a financially-funded project and those reasons still stand.
Please drop by the TJI IndieGoGo page and consider backing the show’s 2012 season at any level. I can tell you without a doubt that every little bit helps, and to make it even sweeter, Rich and company have rounded up a great package of rewards to offer as incentives.
Thanks and let’s make it happen for This Just In… From Gen Con!
If there’s one illness in this world I take personal it’s cancer. That shit took my mother and it owes me big for that. Unfortunately, it is a devastating disease that continues to threaten thousands, and it needs to be fought against with tooth and nail.
This here to the right, that’s Kelly Cline. She has just been diagnosed with cervical cancer and she has decided to fight that shit with a positive attitude. I used to wonder how anyone could remain upbeat when confronted with a diagnose of cancer, but I saw that firsthand with my mother. She also put on a smile and said, Let’s do this.
I don’t know Kelly, but my friend Ryan Macklin does, and my friend wants to help his friend in her hour of need. To that end him and some other game designers have put together a collection of roleplaying games to help raise funds that will go towards paying Kelly’s medical bills. They are calling it the Random Kindness Encounter Bundle and it includes 8 roleplaying games and some fiction, along with a chance to unlock a ninth game if the $4000 goal is met by the end of 2011.
Do a mitzvah and get great games in return? You cannot pass that up. I’m not. I know my mom would approve.
Follow the link, help out, get games. That simple. What are you waiting for?
After my last post I am due for some Githyanki Therapy, a practice I am borrowing from my friend Judd Karlman.
Judd has been playing a game of Burning Wheel (which I’ve been wanting to play for a long time) set in the Forgotten Realms (which I love) and not an update of his goes by without me wishing we had Star Trek transporters, so I could go play with him in New York and then come back home to Miami. Judd asked me on G+ if we were to play a BW game in the Realms, where and what I would like to play. My reply to him took me a bit by surprise and it leads me to my therapy post.
Hal Whitewyrm is the character that got away, the one character I really wanted to play and never got the chance to.
Hal Whitewyrm is a half-elf bard living in Highmoon[ref]Yes, this is where my online nickname comes from.[/ref], in Deepingdale, in the area known as the Dalelands. He has somewhere in his heritage a trace of weredragon[ref]In the D&D 3e edition of the campaign setting, they were renamed Song Dragons.[/ref] blood which gives him orange eyes. He’s a joyful fellow who honestly loves adventuring.
Hal is the character I created back in the early 90s, when I first started to get into AD&D in high school. He’s the character I would constantly recreate during class, the one I would write short stories about, the one who was my avatar in the world of high adventure that are the Realms. He was a shallow character concept[ref]He was originally called Daniel Stephaln Whitewyrm–yeah, talk about transposition–which then changed to Daniel Whitewyrm, and eventually to Hal Whitewyrm.[/ref] with cool orange eyes and a weredragon girlfriend who existed mostly in my 5-subject spiral notebook in story after story. And I loved it.
I just never got to play Hal. My D&D group played Basic D&D/Rules Cyclopedia and we had a fairly regular schedule, so, little time to try out new ideas. Then we played less and less, then I moved, etc. Aside from the fact that I used the name as an email address for some time, I have not gone back to this character in over a decade. Which is why I surprised myself when I answered Judd’s question about what character I would play in a Burning Wheel Realms game as follows:
* I’d play the character I’ve carried with me for years, Hal Whitewyrm, a half-elven bard with weredragon blood in his ancestry (weredragons are a race of female-only shapeshifting wyrms from the Moonshaes – see the thread there?). He’s the guy I wrote stories about in my teens yet never got to play. Hal is all about the romantic journey (as in literary genre, not mass market Harlequin titles), facing adventure in a large world, ideally of the legendary danger kind, with fast friends at his side, a love life to look forward to, and death around him to put it all in perspective. Think Aragorn’s journey, but with a bard who also deals with issues of identity.”
Wow, I’d never really put those ideas into words before but yeah, that’s what Hal is all about for me: exploring the high fantasy romantic character arc; less about killing monsters and taking their stuff, more about zero-to-hero who saves the princess and loses friends along the way.
So, what about you? Which is your character that got away? The one you always wanted to play but didn’t? And what’s their story like?
The best four days in gaming have come and gone and I can say that this ranks as one of my top Gen Cons ever. I mean, I’ve only been to five, but still, this was right at the top. It wasn’t perfect, I left with some regrets, and yet I enjoyed it so thoroughly that even now as I write this two weeks later, to think of it puts a smile on my face.
Since I started going to Gen Con Indy, each year I have done it as part of something, never as a regular attendee. Last year I went as an Exhibitor to help out Rogue Games. This year I went back to being Press, as I’d done in 2007-08, but not for my own show/blog. This year I went as part of the team putting together This Just In… From Gen Con, along with my friend and co-host Rich Rogers (you can read about how that happened here). I knew it would be a lot of work, but it provided a great new window through which to view this awesome convention. Rather than go day-by-day, I’m doing thematic recaps.
Despite all the time devoted to the podcast, I did manage to find the opportunity to play a few games and do a few demos on the Exhibitor’s Hall. I ran a game of Lady Blackbird for five people, three of which had never played it. It wasn’t a planned game, just something to that came together when all of us found ourselves standing around without a game to join. It was the most interesting Lady Blackbird session I have played as I was able to put into action a few ideas about that game I had been mulling over for a while (skip the boring setup, force the agendas out in the open, get to the Pirate King!). One of my players, Amanda Valentine, wrote about it on her blog, and I am very happy that she and the entire group had a great experience (Steampunk Jane Austen FTW!). I also played in another game of Lady Blackbird on Sunday evening, and in a game of Shelter in Place, an upcoming zombie LARP game which was laugh-out-loud fun. Rounding it out were a few sessions of Martian Dice, which I bought, and two games of unpublished prototypes: Feed the Birds by Tim Rodriguez, which is really done and needs to be published, and Battletech Deckbuilding Mechfighting Game by Thomas Denagh, which needs tweaking but was actually fun and a great idea in the making.
Lastly, I got to do Sagefight, a one-on-one duel with Ryan Macklin which I won. You can see the entire duel below.
There has been a lot of attention this year on crowdfunding gaming projects, with Kickstarter being the overwhelming choice of crowdfunding swervice provider. For TJI we decided to go with a different service, IndieGoGo, and given there hasn’t been that much talk about this website I wanted to talk about my experience using it.
Both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are crowdfunding sites giving project managers the tools to hold such campaigns. The biggest difference between them is in the manner in which they handle funds contributed: Kickstarter is a pledge-driven site where unless the set goal is met no funds are disbursed to the project creator, while IndieGoGo is a donation-driven site where funds are disbursed immediately to the creator, with a small bonus if the goal is met before the deadline.
The first question I get asked is, why did we go with IndieGoGo? Kickstarter has a lot of brand recognition in gaming circles due to some high profile projects having reach record-setting funds.[ref]Daniel Solis’ Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Happy Birthday, Robot; Jeremy Keller’s Technoir.[/ref] This decision was one Rich and I discussed at length, trust me. In the end we chose IndieGoGo for one big reason: every gaming-related crowdfunding campaign so far has been for a book, ours would be for a media project.
In short, I wasn’t 100% sure that we would be able to meet our funding goal. With Kickstarter, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t get any of the pledged funds, meaning our entire strategy of going for fan support instead of corporate backing would’ve backfired and quite likely TJI would not have happened. With IndieGoGo, even if we didn’t meet our goal, whatever was donated was immediately given to us, so we could count with some funds at least.
Did using IndieGoGo hurt us? Hard to say. I know I had to do a lot more explaining about what IndieGoGo was than had we used Kickstarter (and usually I defaulted to, “It’s another website like Kickstarter.”), though the fact that Graham Walmsley had recently completed successfully a campaign on IndieGoGo for his book, Stealing Cthulhu, meant there was some name recognition out there already. I also don’t know to what extend the way funds are handled by IndieGoGo affected our campaign. I have heard/read comments that people prefer the pledge model to the instant donation, but I have no concrete evidence to support that and no comment was ever said to me to that effect (though I’d love to know if that is the case).
In the end we met our goal and even passed it by 33%. I was pleased as punch, honestly, and humbled that people did believe in us enough to give us their money for a product that is topical and of limited duration (unlike, say, a game book). We set a number of reward levels so there would be something for everyone (a lesson I have learned from seeing other crowdfunding projects), and even so on the first day we had a suggestion to modify one of our levels (Sponsor) to make it more affordable and in the end better for us.
The pattern learned from other campaigns, a lot of action at the beginning and the end with a slow-but-steady stream in the middle, held true. We got our first backer in less than an hour after launching and our first Sponsor on the first day. We picked up our Patron before the first week was over. Along the way we had a good number of backers in the default $10 level and the “deluxe” $50, and right at the end, with two days to go, we picked up three Sponsors, including a local Indy business! We even had one backer upgrade to Sponsor level (see below about upgrading) and then cede that slot to a favorite company.
We also sweetened the rewards by reaching out to friends in the game design community. I first reached out to Jeremy Keller, whose Technoir RPG was just about to close when we launched, and asked if he would be interested in helping us out. Jeremy agreed and we added an exclusive Indianapolis Transmission for Technoir[ref]Though this Transmission is indeed exclusive to our campaign, all Technoir Transmissions are released under Creative Commons licensing, so there will be ways to get it even if you did not participate in our campaign.[/ref] to our $10 reward level. I then reached out to David A. Hill, Jr, whose Guestbook RPG provided the perfect opportunity for a neat exclusive reward given its single-page-character all-you-need format. Rich’s co-host on The Voice of the Revolution, Brennan Taylor, then jumped in with a new adventure for his new sci-fi RPG, Bulldogs!, and a new campaign frame for Mortal Coil. These were all added to the $10 reward level in order to make that level enticing. Lastly, Chris Perrin offered a full PDF copy of his MECHA RPG to all $50 reward level backers, as well as a custom-made setting supplement to the Patron level.
We ended up with 48 backers, broken down by levels as follows:
- Fan of the Show ($5): 4 [one upgraded to Friend]
- Friend of the Show ($10): 26
- Supporter of the Show ($50): 9 [one upgraded to Sponsor]
- Sponsor of the Show ($125): 6/7
- Patron of the Show ($500): 1/1
I have not used Kickstarter so my comparison here is based on what I have seen as a backer of other campaigns.
Overall IndieGoGo was very easy to use and provided good tools to manage the campaign. Setting up the campaign was a matter of filling out a series of blanks over a number of tabs/categories, ensuring I hit all the necessary information. The hardest part was coming up with all the reward levels but that’s gonna be an issue for any campaign regardless of site used, I think. Financial info setup was extremely easy as I was using PayPal as my account; I had also the option of using a bank account but PayPal just made things a lot easier, especially as final funds for the campaign would be divided among three people. This is one of the biggest differences with Kickstarter, which uses only Amazon Payments.[ref]For non-US residents, IndieGoGo is the only option, as Kickstarter also requires a US-based bank account.[/ref]
Once the campaign launched, I had tools to promote it right from the campaign page, including sending out notices to social media, embedding widgets (see the image above), and sending emails. I could also create Updates that would post on the site and go out via email to all backers, as well as a section for Comments, which allowed us a way to interact with our backers more publicly. The dashboard has a little To-Do link that keeps you updated on things to do to promote your campaign when it launches and as it progresses, which I found handy. We also received some help from IndieGoGo via their Twitter account, which both re-tweeted one of our tweets and then featured us as the Twitter Campaign of the Day on July 7th.
The dashboard let me track all funds by backer/reward level and also kept track of all the backer’s info which I could then export to a CSV spreadsheet. Since funds donated are immediately disbursed, I could keep track of all backings as they happened via email. The funds would go into my PayPal account,[ref]E-checks, of which we got one, take a couple days to clear, but that’s a PayPal end-of-things issue, not an IndieGoGo one.[/ref] the fees to IndieGoGo would be automatically paid via PayPal as well, freeing me from having to calculate and remember to pay them. IndieGoGo’s fee is 9% of any funds donated; if you meet your goal before deadline, they give you back 5%, effectively making their fee only 4%. PayPal charges its own fees on all payments as well, which would vary whether the payment was made via PayPal balance or credit card. In general, we got about 90% of the funds donated, the other 10% being fees.
There were two drawbacks that I found dealing with IndieGoGo:
- No Way to Upgrade: Because IndieGoGo deals with actual money disbursed and not pledges, upgrading between reward levels isn’t as easy as with Kickstarter. I offered the option to upgrade by telling people to donate the difference between their current level and the one they wanted to upgrade to, and making a comment about their intent. I had to keep track of that info myself, as the comments were not a field included in the info gathered by the dashboard. Thankfully there were only two upgrades so it was easy. I would like to see IndieGoGo address this. The system can track what you already funded, so it would be a matter of adding the option to add the difference to a higher reward level.[ref]I say this not knowing a fig about what it would take to code this feature, but I am sure it can be done.[/ref] A lot of potential money is left on the table because this option cannot be exploited, and I have seen firsthand how effective it can be in some Kickstarter campaigns.
- No Way to Contact Backers Post-Campaign: Updates do indeed go out via email to all backers, but post-campaign you sometimes need to get in touch with them for info like their shirt sizes, mailing address, etc, which you ideally want to do in private. As a Kickstarter backer, I know that website offers the option of sending out an email with a questionnaire where all this info can be requested. IndieGoGo had no tool for this; actually, it had no tool to email all my backers, period. I had to download the CSV spreadsheet and gather the emails myself, then send out batches of BCC emails to my different groups of backers asking for their info. This was tedious, especially because I know it can be done by the service provider. This is another feature I truly hope they implement as soon as possible.
Overall I was very happy with IndieGoGo when all was said and done, and would probably run another campaign using their service if their particular set of features were the best match for my project.
There were two holes in our reward levels we did not exploit: between the $10 Friend and $50 Supporter levels, and between the $50 Supporter and the $125 Sponsor level. That’s something to keep in mind for the future: don’t leave gaping holes like that open, offer something there as an option.
I was actually very surprised that we did not have more backers at the $10 Friend level. I set that one as default and piled on as many as the rewards as I could on that level because I wanted to make it an affordable and attractive option. In terms of net profit, the $5 was better for us, since with fees and rewards costs taken out the $10 was really netting us about $6-ish, but I also wanted to give something back to the backers. Yes, we did get 26 backers at that level, but I thought we would get a lot more.
We did end up with one Sponsor slot “unsold” which surprised us, given the relatively low price to promote your product to a fairly good number of listeners in a target market.
I would’ve loved to have seen our campaign soar over the set goal like many other ones have, but I wasn’t really expecting it as it goes back to the reason why we went with IndieGoGo in the first place. Rich and I also thought that we would get totally funded within the first week–two weeks tops–but it wasn’t until the end of the third week that we met our goal. Again, this goes back to the reason why we chose IndieGoGo at all.
It will be interesting to see how other non-book gaming-related crowdfunding projects do in the future. I don’t think we set any records or broke new ground here, but we did prove that it is possible to do with the right project.
Final Funding: $2025
IndieGoGo Fees: -$182.25
PayPal Fees: -$78.03
IndieGoGo 5% Bonus: +$101.25
Rewards Expenses: -$683.90[ref]Shirts, stickers, artwork, shipping.[/ref]
Net Total: $1182.07
The Net Total is to be divided between Rich, Ryan and myself (I will keep the percentages private as I’ve not cleared with the other two). I don’t think we would have gotten this kind of funding had we gone with seeking traditional corporate sponsors, even though the work involved in making the show does deserve that kind of backing, if not more. Once funds are divided, both Rich and I are getting more than what Ryan did in previous years[ref]Funny enough, even though Ryan is getting a smaller percentage than Rich and I–I consider it a Licensing Fee for the TJI brand–he’s making almost as much as he made last year with a miniscule fraction of the work involved. That should give you a ballpark idea of how little was being charged for sponsoring TJI.[/ref], which, while it doesn’t cover our entire Gen Con travel & rooming expense, does help significantly.[ref]At least in my case, it accounts for about half of my expenses.[/ref]
Thanks to all our backers, from our hearts. I hope that you will all enjoy this season of This Just In… From Gen Con because I am very much looking forward to bringing it to you.
If there’s any other question you have about our IndieGoGo campaign, please just ask in the comments and I’ll answer it as honestly as I can.
I did it last year, so hey, let’s make it a tradition, shall we? First a look back at gaming in 2010, then gaming resolutions for 2011.
2010 Gaming Moments
With my going back to university this year, gaming took a backseat role in my life (that is, beyond what little gaming I was already doing to begin with). At the start of the year I finished the Lady Blackbird game I had been playing online via Skype (and I’m cheating here since this was included in my 2009 Gaming Moments recap). Then, there was nothing up until Gen Con in August, where I got to play Colonial Gothic and run a game of ICONS, as well as play a fair number of boardgames. After that? Fast forward to late December when I got to play a couple of games of Dragon Age and D&D 4th Edition.
So how did I do on my 2010 Gamer Resolutions?
- Play D&D 4e – Done! With just a couple days left in 2010, but done.
- Play any of the following games: Burning Wheel, Dogs in the Vineyard, Don’t Rest Your Head, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, Colonial Gothic, Ribbon Drive, Savage Worlds – Done. I did say “any” and I got to play Colonial Gothic at Gen Con.
- Run a game for my wife – Fail. This just didn’t happen.
- Play with people face-to-face/find a gaming group – Fail. I got to play face-to-face with people but not forming a group of my own.
- Go to Gen Con – Done.
- Corollary: Game with my Skype group in person and/or continue playing the Star Wars Primetime Adventures game from 2007-08 – Fail. Of the people involved in these groups, I was the only one at Gen Con.
- Work on Ierne – Fail/Done. I didn’t work on Ierne, but I did work on a new game for part of the year.
- Not feel guilty when I game - Work In Progress.
2011 Gamer Resolutions
I’ll shorten the list even more than last year to have an even better chance at accomplishing all.
- Play at least once a month - I know this one’s going to be hard to do because of classes, but I’ll include it to spur me to try. Face-to-face, online, one-shot, whatever.
- Go to Gen Con - I don’t assume making it to Gen Con is a given, so it gets included here so I can strive for it. Hopefully my friends will also make it as well.
- Run a game for my wife - I’m carrying this one over from last year. Hopefully we’ll be in a situation at some point where we can make this happen.
- Write/design game material - Be it Ierne, a new game that I’ve got in mind, gaming-related posts in my own blog, or keeping up the Dragon Age Oracle, I want to make sure I write game stuff during the year regularly, if only to carry me during the lulls in play.
- Not feel guilty when I game - Just like last year, this is a work in progress.
Five resolutions, and fairly general at that, so I have a good chance at achieving them.
Game on, 2011!
“Um, Hi. My name is Daniel and I’m an Escapeoholic.”
Seriously, I am. Let me backtrack a bit.
During Gen Con, some stuff happened that made me face this fact face-against-the-wall-on. It’s not something I did not know, to whatever extent; it’s been a trait of mine for as long as I can remember. I am the kind of person that retreats into his own little, mental world and stays there for extended visits. I am an escapist, and my escape is my hobby (gaming).
Well, to call it a hobby right now would be a misnomer; I let it take over to the point where it began to dominate a huge chunk of my life, with all the repercussions that brings in regards to real-world dealings. I’ve tried to escape my escape at times in the past, but I end up slipping back into bad habits very easily.
As I write this, Gen Con is just about a week and a half away and I cannot wait to board the plane that will take me from Miami to an extended weekend full of gaming goodness in Indianapolis. Seriously, I am stoked. I missed Gen Con last year due to the death of my mother so this year’s con will be making up for two years of Gen Con awesomeness.
This year I will be working alongside my friends at Rogue Games, repping their games at their booth (#1539 ), hopping to get gamers to try out their very excellent games Colonial Gothic, Thousand Suns and the new Shadow, Sword & Spell. Why work with Rogue Games? Two reasons: Richard Iorio asked for volunteers to help him staff the booth and given I always go to Gen Con with an empty schedule, I did not see any issue with lending a hand; in fact, I was thrilled to do so. That is related to the second reason: I have been to Gen Con three times before, as a regular gamer once and as a member of the media twice, and I wanted to experience the con from the side of the vendors. I am a publisher, but my products so far are all electronic, so this is an opportunity to get an education on what it takes to staff a booth at the con which will hopefully pay off in the future once I have physical games to take there for sale. It also relates to a general shift in philosophy in my life, that of helping others; it is the reason why I decided to start studying Nursing at 35, and it also influenced my decision here. By helping Richard, I am able to gain a small personal benefit in terms of a learning experience, but mainly I am able to help him have a more relaxed con experience since he won’t be running the booth by himself as he has done in years past. Win-win situation.
If you want to find me, here are the hours I will be working the Rogue Games booth, arguably the best times to pin me in one place. Know that if you drop by, along with the greetings, I will also talk to you about the awesome games at our booth.
My friend Judd Karlman has been talking both on Twitter and his blog about a new Burning Wheel game he’s started set in the city of Waterdeep, in the Forgotten Realms (FR), arguably the most detailed campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. This, of course, has gotten me thinking about FR as well, and has brought a flood of nostalgia washing upon me, causing me to write this post where I can wax poetic about my love for this world.
Let us travel back to the last years of the Rubik’s-Cube-and-leg-warmers era and to the little island of Puerto Rico. In 1986 I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, or more precisely to Basic D&D. To say that I fell head-over-heels for this game of the imagination would be an understatement. We played the game as much as we could, as much as 8th-graders can manage, as much as was humanly possible at our age. And given we were playing Basic D&D, all our adventures were in the Known World (later to be known as Mystara): we played through B1-9: In Search of Adventure straight through, once, twice, more. The Known World as our world far more than the real world was. But this isn’t a post about the Known World (though I certainly think one will eventually have to be written as well).
A couple years later, we finally got our hands on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) books. Getting RPG books in Puerto Rico during this time was about as difficult and exiting as Indiana Jones finding the lost ark (sans snooty French nemesis), so these were great treasures and the literal keys to even more adventures than before. Problem was, AD&D didn’t come with a built-in setting. There were a couple to choose from: my friend Braulio wandered down the road to Greyhawk, and me, I took the road leading to a brand new land just recently discovered, a placed called the Forgotten Realms.
Gameplaywright has published a book called THE BONES: Us And Our Dice, a collection of articles and essays celebrating those funny-shaped randomizers that every gamer just absolutely seems to love. To celebrate the publication, I suggested to Gameplaywright’s Jeff Tidball and Will Hindmarch that they hold a blog carnival on the topic of dice; after all, it’s a universal topic among gamers, whether wargamers or roleplayers (and even some card gamers as well), so gaming bloggers should certainly have their own stories to tell. They liked the idea and launched the carnival in early June and here I am, on the very last day of the month, and I have yet to add my own post. Tsk, tsk. Let’s fix that now, shall we?
The Gift of Dice
As pretty much any male gamer out there, I wanted a gamer girlfriend. I was totally into games; beyond school, it was about all I thought about, and when I thought about girls, I wanted one at my side with whom I could share this awesome hobby. Alas, awkward teen I was, getting a girlfriend was hard enough as it was, let alone a gamer one (especially in Puerto Rico, where the gaming scene was tiny at the time). I just didn’t know any gals who gamed, though a couple of friends from the local game shop had these mythical women at their side, so I knew it was possible.
Fast forward to college, where by divine intervention I now had a girlfriend. She wasn’t a gamer, but she’d lived in the US for a while and had heard of Dungeons & Dragons once or twice, so I had an in. Once I was sure she wasn’t going to run away the moment I whipped out my books, I revealed the full extent of my geekness and brought games into the equation. She found them interesting enough to give it a try, so during our year-and-a-half together we ended up playing two fairly lengthy campaigns, Star Wars (West End Games) and Cyberpunk 2020. I loved the fact that she gamed with me, and I thought she liked it well enough as well, so in between our two campaigns, I one day said to her, “I should get you your own set of dice.”
“Nah, there’s no need. I’ll just use yours.” I won’t lie, I felt deflated, both because my gift had been turned down, but also because my gift of dice had been turned down. Even though we went on to play another couple-months-long campaign after this exchange, I knew this whole gaming thing was soon to be done with. And it was; after the Cyberpunk 2020 game, she didn’t want to join any other game the group proposed. There was something about that denial of the dice that told me she was not interested in sharing that one part of who I was. Later on this would come up in conversation, and to her it had barely been worthy of remembering. Me? This was seventeen years ago and I still remember.
So what’s the big deal about her not accepting the gift of dice? It isn’t so much about not accepting the gift per se; I had the chance to give her many other gifts to express my affection. It’s the fact that dice represent the most tangible and accessible part of my love for this hobby, and in giving them, I was giving a part of myself. I can give a book, but the book, to a non-gamer, can be a threatening thing, especially the games I mentioned above, both of which are 200+ pages of esoteric rules. But dice? They’re safe, shinny, sparkly. You can treasure them as little keepsakes, roll them for the sheer fun of seeing what number comes up, enjoy their geometrical cuteness. They also hold the promise of the game that may be. In not accepting them, the message I got was, “This is of no further interest to me beyond my relationship with you.”
It is entirely possible (read: 100% possible) that I over-reacted, even if my external reaction was simple, “Ok.” But I was 18, so gimme a break.
Fast forward again about three years. I was living in Miami now and I had a new girlfriend, another non-gamer. She has seen my ample collection of game books and finds them a charming aspect of me. She’s looked through them here and there but simply does not have any interest in trying them out. Until she comes across Vampire: The Masquerade. That called her attention.
After a few conversations where I explained to her the concept of the game, she actually acceded to trying it out, so I put together a game with her and one other of our friends: just two players, all three of us good and trusting friends. It was a hit! She really dug the game, loved her character, and completely got into the shared experience of making a story. And I was as happy as a gamer can be.
After a few sessions I decided to try my hand at the gift of dice once more. The previous experience was still fresh in my mind, but I go on with the idea, for I am both a hopeless romantic and a masochist. This time, however, I did not ask if she wanted her own dice, I simply went to work (I was living the dream, working in a game store at the time), ordered a very special set of dice, and when they came in a few days later, took them home and presented them to her before our next game session.
I got her the special set of Vampire: The Masquerade dice made by White Wolf: ten 10-sided dice in the same green marble color as the core rulebook along with a green dice bag bearing the ankh icon. She loved them. And I was the happiest gamer ever. My girlfriend accepted my gift of dice, and in doing so, to me, she accepted my love of gaming as an integral part of who I was.
She went on to use them all throughout our long chronicle; when we gamed, and my gamer friends pulled out their dice, she would proudly whip her own set out. Even if she did not identify herself as a gamer, she was part of the tribe now. When we later played Changeling: The Dreaming, I also got her the set White Wolf sold for that game. Another gift of dice that was gladly and happily accepted.
It’s been a few years since those chronicles ended and we have not played any other roleplaying games since. That is entirely my own fault, and it’s one of the thing I want to remedy this year, to the point that I made it one of my own Gaming New Year Resolutions. She is now my wife, still not a gamer as I am, but she has her dice, her own set of dice which no one can use, no one can touch. I did not end up with a gamer girlfriend/wife, but I did end up with a wonderful woman who accepted my gift of dice, and thus accepted the gamer that I am.