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Stress-Testing and Playtesting

Morning all! Nice, slow Sunday today - aside from having to mow the lawn again. And washing the car, too; Madam Lash is looking a bit grungy (sigh). But First: a News Post!

I'd like to kick off by apologising for last week's posting; there were several typos in it. At the time, I couldn't be bothered to fix them up; I've left them in since as a reminder to myself. This one shall be thoroughly spell-checked, I promise.

So what's been happening in the last week?

Well, for starters, it's been a bit stressful at work. After having two days off to got to Melbourne, the queue of tasks had doubled in size, and my e-mail inbox had, I think, tripled. I've been playing catch-up since, all while juggling priority work and a few instances of "drop what you're doing and work on this new and urgent action item". It didn't help that I had a meeting with our client's senior management team to report on how our department was adhering to contractual requirements. I forgot one of the action items on the list, and although I was able to answer it to their satisfaction at the time, it doesn't leave a pleasant taste in the mouth; I'm going to have to prepare something more thorough for next time.

In the meantime, I've also been stressing about Heavy Gear: Black Talon. You see, since Altin decided to leave, I've been trying to figure out how to remove his character from play in a manner that (a) gives the players something to do and (b) doesn't screw with the whole Black Talon operation too much. Last night was meant to be the next session, and I'd been walloping my head against a brick wall for the past week, trying to find a solution to this vexing conundrum. Last night, I hit upon a solution, and decided to do some prep work so I could have something solid for me players (I even e-mailed them to let them know)- but I'd had a hard week of exercising my thinking muscle under stress, and last night, when I sat down with pen and paper, I just thought, "No. Enough of this bullshit. It's Friday night; you're meant to be relaxing after a week of work, not stressing out and straining your thinking muscle for no good reason. This should be fun, not what it is right now."

So, when everyone rocked over last night, I decided we'd playtest my InSpectres module for Con*Descending instead. That was a fun evening, indeed; a bunch of witty, quick-thinking players improvising like crazy and me trying to keep the pace. I think I need to revise the characters' skills somewhat, although I'm worried that'll make them blend into each other (as the game has only four skills, really). I might also drop the franchise dice down a bit, as the players weren't really using them anyway, and work out some more reasons for Stress rolls. Otherwise, though, it was a very promising playtest, and I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of crazy ideas the Sydney gaming community cam come up with at the con. We all agreed on one thing, though: Big Daddy Matt should NOT, under ANY circumstances, play it, especially after what he did in Nick's Achtung! Wo ist Mein Panzerkampfer? game earlier this year (let's just say that, by the end, there was a Panzerkampfer with a very sore exhaust pipe).

Dan also brought over his server case last night, and it's huge. From the existing motherboard, it looks like it'll handle an ATX mainboard with no problem; the only problem I can see is that the front panel connectors (the part I hate most about building a new PC) have no labels on them (of course). Looks like some more trial and error coming up... Until I get the new parts, I'm looking at the case and wondering how I can modify it. I think I have been reading too much Atomic magazine; I'm thinking of cutting my IMAGinES nom de Net into the removable side panel (with some perspex behind it and a couple of funky blue cold cathode lights) and adding a fan or two (probably with blue LEDs) to it. I'm also trying to figure out where to mount a front fan; the case doesn't seem to have a mounting for one, so I might cut a hole into it somewhere. Thankfully, the top rear panel includes mounts for a pair of 8mm case fans, so that'll help air flow. (For those who're wondering what the heck cold cathode lights and LED fans are, check this out.)

Skipping back a few days, we saw Real Women Have Curves at Fox Studios Cinema Paris on Tuesday night. I managed to worsen my stress that evening, but it had nothing to do with the movie. What happened was, we caught a bus to Moore Park, and when we got off at what we thought was the right stop, we couldn't see Fox Studios. We started walking in what we thought was the right direction, and walked for about half an hour. Of course, I marinated myself in guilt soup for not asking the bus driver whether it in fact was the right stop. Eventually, we stopped at a petrol station and asked directions; we were told we'd gone the wrong way, of course. We managed to catch a taxi back. It turns out we had got off at the right stop; however, if we'd looked left instead of off to the right when we got off the bus, we would've seen Fox Studios right there. (sigh) Anyway, we managed to get there five minutes before start.

The movie was very good; a "local-kid-makes-good" movie set in East L.A. in a family of Mexican-Americans. It has a brain, a lot of heart and a whole lotta body. I don't think it's out until later this year, but if you can catch it when it arrives, do so.

Tomorrow night, we're off to see Nowhere in Africa, which looks to be a very intense film set in nineteen-forties Kenya and focusing on a Jewish family who flee Germany. I'll let you know how it goes.

We pootled off to the Castle Hill Farmer's Markets again yesterday. Mandi couldn't make it; we found out later (when she turned up for gaming) that she was feeling a bit crook. The stand who sold that wonderful sun-dried tomato mustard wasn't there (our guess is that he was at the Easter Show), and somehow, the smoked chook we bought for last night's festivities didn't make it into our shopping baskets. Thankfully, Vickie whipped up some great pasta instead, which we enjoyed with the olive bread from the Markets.

Still no feedback from Marcus about LabLAN, slack bastard. Maybe he's POed about that "confusing and conflicting" bit I put in last week's post. Anyway, hoping I'll hear back from him sometime soonish so I can add the details to the IMAGinewS calendar before the event.

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