Prep Weekend Post Mortem

I spent most of my weekend in game prep. A good chunk of prep was piecing together what I’d done and what I’d planned to do five years ago. Some of my notes were helpful, some confusing. I ended up sending a timeline to the players that included two game sessions of stuff that we hadn’t gotten to yet because I’d done so much prep for those sessions that I thought we’d actually played them!

Much of the rest of my prep was figuring out (and in some cases retooling) the metaplot. I like the adventure path for setting and encounter details, but the metaplot of Queen Ileosa eating huge bags of stupid-evil for breakfast with a generous dollop of weirdly anti-queer misogyny… just doesn’t work for me. And it wouldn’t work for my players, either. Leaving aside the problematic gender politics, when you have smart players, you need a smarter villan (or set of villains, or in my case, factions of ‘tagonists all with different, complicated, sometimes overlapping, and always ethically complicated agendas).

I had a mini char-gen session with Bryn and Adrienne. Bryn played a social rogue con artist (Renata/Arenzia) in the first iteration of the game, so we spent some time going over the new-to-us unchained rogue mechanics, pricing and selling the treasure that never got sold five years ago, and talking about the long con her character has been running and how it has progressed over the past six months of in-game downtime. She already hates her courtly foil, Lady Melia Arkona, who has set a fasion for wearing gaudy jewelry – lots of it – at court, meaning that “Lady” Renata can’t attend as many functions as she needs to. I suspect Lady Melia is not long for this world.

Adrienne is newish to gaming (she avoided it for years and then fell hard with Bryn’s L5R game), so char gen with her was a little different because she doesn’t have that gamer thing of having grown up steeped in the books and knowing all the possibilities open to her that she’s wanted to play but hasn’t yet had a chance. However, she’s a big fan of the sharks of Same-Z (especially Shumoku). When she jokingly asked if she could have a shark, I took her seriously (my philosophy of GM’ing is that there’s always a way to give a player what they want and still keep things true to the setting — you just have to think creatively). Jigsaw sharks are a thing in this setting and module, so at first I kicked around the idea that she could be a necromancer who only animated dead animals… for ethical reasons?

And then I googled ‘landshark Pathfinder’ and went, “oh right. Bulette!”


Now, also in the setting module, they mention that the local Shoanti tribes (who got booted out of Korvosa by Chelish colonizers about 300 years previous) hunt bulette and bring it to the city to sell. So again, the setting-as-written supports this outrageous idea. Having a Shoanti PC works great for my modified module (because of course part of the story I’m telling is going to be critical of the massacre and displacement of the Shoanti in ways that the real setting materials… aren’t).

So I pitched to Adrienne the idea of a nomad princess with a landshark animal companion (druid, using a hybrid snapping turtle/crocodile template because a real bulette would be so overpowered). She loved it. The bulette is a runt with a hammerhead mutation. His name is Olon Toms (which I’m informed means ‘hungry potato’ in Mongolian?) I suspect he’s going to win a lot of hearts and minds to the Shoanti cause.

Did I say win? I meant eat.


The Moral of the Story is [… Buffering]


Leroy from Fame tells life to talk to the hand.

My grandmother Bettie passed away a few weeks ago. And I’m not doing so well because of it.

In part, this is grief at her passing. She was my last living grandparent (step-grandparents included). I barely knew her growing up, but I got to know her better as an adult. Some of my friends probably remember me bragging about her as my ‘sexy’ grandmother who still wore 4-inch heels into her late 90s and had boyfriends decades her junior. Who wore stylish clothes and jewelry and make-up and had better legs at 97 than I have ever had. I’ll be happy if I inherit my grandmothers’ longevity (my other grandma also lived and was mentally spry into her mid-90s), but I kinda wish I’d gotten their legs too.

Bettie was also a huge reader, even after she started to suffer from macular degeneration (and please GOD let that skip me. I marvel at how well Bettie coped when reading became impossible; I don’t want to have to go through what she went through). She lived long enough to see my first novel published. I think we were both sorry that she wasn’t able to read it (though she liked mysteries, so I’m not sure it would have been her thing!)

But there’s a lot more to my grief than just the loss of my grandma Bettie. See, about ten years ago my other grandmother, Diane, died. I was very close to her. She helped raise me. For a while, she even had co-custody of me. She was also a huge reader, and SHE was a sci-fi buff. We watched Battlestar Galactica (the original), Buck Rogers, Quantum Leap, and Star Trek: TNG together (and she had huge crushes on Scott Bakula and Patrick Stewart, so we had fangirlishness in common, too). She was also a huge romance buff (Betty Neels was her favorite author, and she would bring BAGS of Harlequins and Silhouettes home from the library, devour them, and take them back a week later). And she was a theater and dance buff (Fame was another one of her favorite TV shows, and Gene Anthony Ray was one of her crushes. Yes, my 80 year old grandma totally crushed on a hot young black dancer).

Diane’s death devastated me in the same way losing a parent would devastate you, and it had long-term repercussions in my life that I’m still struggling with. See, she died at kind of a critical turning point in my life. I was completing course work for my PhD and running into the issue of lack of funding for my research and dissertation writing. In order to keep working, I had to take teaching jobs that were 3+ hours’ drive away. That left me with little time and energy for my academic work, and it also left me worrying about future employment as an academic (this was before the current awareness of the adjunct and higher ed teaching crisis really crested). I started to put on weight and sink into depression. I was unhappy with everything – my home space, my relationships, my academic and creative life. Everything.

Around the same time I started having a health issue that I spent a lot of time and money I didn’t have trying to get diagnosed. The doctors decided it was probably a stroke and nothing to do about it but pay my medical bills (turns out it was perfectly harmless scintillating scotoma, but I didn’t discover that until two years, thousands of dollars for uncovered procedures, and a few MRIs later. Thanks healthcare system!)

The pressure of all this ended up being too much for me, and I broke. I didn’t finish my program. I fled my relationship. Hell, I fled Indiana. I slowly started the self-rebuilding process once I got back to California. Got a job in ed-tech, focused on my writing, rebuilt friendships and made new ones, decided I was too broken to even contemplate romantic entanglements, and started doing behavioral therapy for the depression and anxiety.

And things got better. The depression is still around, but most days I manage to wrestle it into submission. I sold a novel, I was writing things I was proud of, I was working too hard at a job I didn’t quite see the point of, but hey, that’s money for rent, which is necessary to someone who is and has always been self-supporting.

A few weeks ago, my grandma Bettie died, and I’m terrified that it’s all going to happen again. I’m behind on writing the sequel to my novel and had to ask my publisher to push the delivery date back. I’m afraid it’s going to be like the dissertation—something I just can’t finish. I’m at the end of my contract for Macmillan, and it feels like the job/funding issue at Indiana University all over again, where I’m constantly off my footing and scrambling for economic/job stability. I honestly don’t know what’s coming next or how I’m going to support myself once my meager savings run out. I feel like ten years later, the wheel has come ’round again, and I’m on the bottom again, and I have fewer resources and energy to endure it than I did the last time. At least I’m single. I can’t imagine trying to muster the energy to put into a relationship on top of all this other stuff.

I feel like posts like this should have some moral. A resolution. If not a happy ending, then at least a valuable lesson. Anything else makes for an unsatisfying story. Right now, I got nuthin’. I’m still in the weeds and not sure how to make meaning out of it.

I’ll update you all if I manage to figure it out.