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Bean and Lentil Chilli

Got in and was hungry as balls. Had a rummage through the cupboards and found some random stuff. The umami paste and beef stock are the only things stopping it from being vegetarian. Maybe replace the beef stock with veg stock, the umami paste with miso paste, and double up the maggi.

Serves 4
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped chilli
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp hot chilli powder (more if you like to taste the heat)
  • 200g puy lentils
  • 400g can kidney beans
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 800ml beef stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp umami paste
  • 2 tsp maggi sauce

Method

  1. Fry onion/celery/garlic for 5-10 mins to soften.
  2. Add chilli and dry spices & stir to infuse.
  3. Add add all the other ingredients and stir through. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 20 mins.
  4. Uncover and give it another 15-20 mins at a fast simmer.

Serve with the usual chilli accoutrements — rice, tortilla, cheese, etc.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

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Prick barriers at both ends

Wasn't a bad year — especially not by the standards of other people's years — but it wasn't a stand-out. It was just there, filling time, an integer rollover for a period largely filled with noop.

I started the year with four books on my slate. I've ended the year with four books on my slate; worse, three of them are the same books. The one that did get released was fucking fantastic, mind. My day-job has got significantly busier, but I'd like to spend more time working on some new technologies rather than doing what amounts to "normal" development work. On a personal level I've not been cooking so much and relying on takeaway more; I've also not been exercising out of fear of my bad ankle or bad knee packing up and fucking myself up worse.

All of that sounds bad, but it isn't. I've got back to writing after almost twelve months of not putting out words. I'm still doing things I enjoy in a good job that I like going to every day. And I may have a beer gut, but I'm still comfortable enough with how I am.

So yeah, filling time, waiting for the integers to roll over while things progress but slowly.

Looking ahead, I mostly just need to keep going. On both work fronts, I know that I can do what's on my stack, it's just a matter of time. And when that's done, I'll have a bit more freedom — on the freelance front, at least — to explore some of the things coming out of my cranial idea-generation device. I just have to keep chipping away, taking the long way round.

I don't make resolutions because I don't keep them. I do, however, know what I want to do; append "by the end of the year" to those without deadlines.
  • Complete/release all the books currently on my slate.
  • Write on at least two new books.
  • Write/release one new thing for myself.
  • Be under 18 stone.
  • Be cycling to work at least three times a week by the end of May.
  • Go on an actual holiday with J. somewhere outside the UK.
And in 2017, I'll come back and see how I did.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Back home from the yearly pilgrimage to my parents' place for χmas. This time it’s been a full year since we’ve seen them last — between them taking a trip to China and various issues with grandparents who are accellerating towards 90, we haven’t had chance to meet up between then and now.

The trains were, as can only be expected, total shit. Our train down was cancelled entirely, and we had to jump on to another company’s train to get into the correct county then begging a lift from my dad. Typical really. The only time I didn’t have trouble with the east coast main line was when it was in public hands. Now they’ve given it to Virgin Trains, a company well known for being unable to run a bath, let alone a functioning rail service. At least York station wasn’t actually underwater at any point…

Anyway. The one thing that I always think about when heading back to Hull is the yawning void outside the windows of the car or train. It’s the kind of deep black that goes on forever, fields with no houses and roads not busy enough for streetlights. If you’re lucky you might see the dots of individual houses or the thin orange of a lit-up road, small enough that they’re miles away, but all that gives is the occasional sense of scale. The East Riding is a flat part of the country, and when you can’t see any lights it’s easy to think of just how far that nothingness might spread, how many miles have no lights in them whatsoever.

You get that in all manner of places, it’s true, but it’s always the ones between York and Hull that I’ll remember, as they’re the ones I’ve spent the most time in. Having seen it in daylight, I know that the world hasn’t put any annoying hills or mountains in the way.

I used to use that dark, back in the day. Long-term readers will remember when I moved back in with my parents in 2003, how I basically spent a year and a half in a massive depressive episode. Across the main road from my grandmother’s house, barely five minutes' walk from my parents, was a big field. People kept horses there, and it had a stand of tress. I used to go to the trees — they blocked out the lights of the road — and use the dark as a place to hide, to smoke, to feel like I was somewhere else. Of course, now I look across the road from my grandmother’s and see a construction site, the field to be replaced by a bunch of new houses. That’s true of so much of the area, yet more faceless new-builds of identical floorplan. Bah.

Outside of that little diversion, it was a family visit like so many others. I finally saw my niece, and saw my nephew for only the second or third time. Took photos of the children, because that’s a form of social contact that doesn’t require actual interaction. Met up with my brother, who is finally about to complete his degree12. Met my grandmothers, one of whom we didn’t think would be here a month ago — Parkinsons can fuck right off — and generally saw people and made ourselves useful. We gave and received gifts because of the time of the year, and all is well with that side of our family.

Small blessings, etc.


  1. He initially went straight into a job with a GNVQ while I was still at university; he got a job a couple of months after I started work at univesity. 

  2. His dissertation involves making a basic ticketing system in fucking Microsoft Access. The only programming is a bit of Visual Basic. And he’s going to get a degree for this, in TYOOL 2016

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.
"Yeah, I'll update Livejournal more because G+ is a terrible place and the RPG communities are full of toxic motherfuckers who take delight in threatening people I like for the crime of designing games they don't like."

The regular update thing is slipping, I know.

Thing is, while things have been happening I keep forgetting about it by the time I sit at a keyboard. That or I have other things on my mind so I don't say much. I'm also not much of one for talking about things that haven't happened just yet, as that's a guaranteed way of screwing them up. At least, every time I've talked about something that's going to happen it's gone wrong. Between that and some stuff that it is not my place to talk about, I've been in read-only mode for a while.

On Monday, I ended up reading back through some of the entries here. Initially tracking birthday posts, then the general stuff in May. Good grief. Unlike previous times, when it's been a symptom of melancholy, this time was an honest assessment, and a way to see how far age (and medication) has taken me from the complete arsehole that I was. I'm not the person I was, and thank fuck for that.

Anyway, have some photos.





Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Erzatz Ramen

Not quite traditional ramen, but when the weather turns against you, go with what you can. This recipe’s an expanded version of one by Jack Monroe. Spoon some whoa fuck dressing over the egg before serving for an extra flavour kick.

It takes 15 minutes and it is warming as hell.

Serves 2
Prep time 3 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 3tbsp maggi liquid seasoning
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 125g (1 pack) shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts (~250g)
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g (2 packs) instant ramen
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach

Method

  1. Bring 120ml of water to a boil in a large pot, and add the stock pots, maggi, and soy. Keep it simmering.
  2. Bring another pan of water to a rolling boil, and add a tablespoon of the soy sauce.
  3. Clean the scallion and finely slice the whites. Set the greens aside. Slice the mushrooms, and cut the chicken into strips.
  4. Set a timer for seven minutes. Add the scallion whites, mushrooms, and chicken to the large pot. Gently add the eggs to the smaller pan and set the timer going.
  5. Slice the scallion greens on the diagonal. Peel and grate the carrot. Roughly chop the spinach.
  6. When the timer shows 4 minutes remaining, add the noodles to the large pot. Stir constantly, so that they cook through despite everything else in the pot.
  7. When the time’s up, remove the eggs and place in a bowl under running cold water.
  8. Divide the ramen and broth between two bowls. Top with the carrot, spinach, and scallion, leaving room for the egg.
  9. Remove the shell of the eggs and cut in half with a sharp knife. Arrange the eggs yolk-side up in the space.

Nom.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

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One year on

One year ago, we heard the depressing result: Scotland had not voted for independence. That defeat was celebrated by racist violence, people throwing Nazi salutes while draped in the Union flag, shouting "Obey Your Queen".

I was already depressed. On the Monday beforehand, our bedroom ceiling had collapsed, scattering debris throughout the bedroom and leaving the air in the flat almost unbreathable. We were living in [personal profile] gominokouhai's hotel and desperately trying to arrange repairs and a way to make our flat liveable again. The defeat left me crushed. The scum still own us.

Naturally, the promises made about extra powers were lies. Who could have guessed that? A fucking two-year-old, that's who. And so Scotland has got a government it didn't vote for who are doing their level best to fuck us.

As I said at the time, the need for change hasn't gone away. If anything, it's stronger now than it was on the 19th September last year. Some form of independence will come, I believe that much, but how and why has to change. We can't have a re-run of last September. We need to make a better, stronger case.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Politics Will Eat Itself

Oddly1, I’ve been keeping an eye on the race for Labour leader. Mostly this is because I’m a bit of a political wonk, but also because it’s proving an interesting example of just how divided the UK’s main left-wing party2 has become.

On the one hand, an actual old-fashioned lefty has thrown his hat into the ring in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. He enjoys massive support from the party’s membership base, but is under serious attack in the media. Oddly, a lot of what they’re running with has parallels with Project Fear, the sadly successful campaign of paranoia and shit-flinging that (along with good old-fashioned bigots) cost Scotland its independence last year. They’ve linked him to everything from 9/11 conspiracy theorisits to George Galloway.

On the other hand, you’ve got three cardboard-cut-out Blairites3. All of whom have pretty much nothing to distinguish themselves beyond being about as right-wing as our current Conservative government.

The thing is, a party leader can shape broad policy, with the support of the party, but they can’t shape policy at a personal level — unless they have a disturbing cult of personality based around a plastic smile and a sociopath’s dead eyes. For all the personal attacks on Corbyn, he’s not going to set the official Labour policy on a track of 9/11 conspiracy theorism. Even if he holds those beliefs dear to his heart he’s not an idiot. Attempting to make them policy would kill the party instantly.

Most senior figures in the Labour party are against Corbyn. Not just the three Blairites4 running against him but the party’s interim leader, and all candidates for leader of the Scottish Labour Party5. And yet, he’s got massive popular support.

The right-wing media establishment6 slings aspersions at the party itself. They can’t decide if Corbyn’s popularity comes from a bunch of their own readers joining the party to make sure the leader is an unelectable leftie or an actual surge of support for the only person in the Labour party to take a stand against the outright evil policies of our current Tory government. They often manage to advance both opinions in the same article, an act of cognitive dissonance that Orwell would have noted as a perfect example of doublethink.

All the forces against Corbyn claim that if he wins, it will tear the party apart. The level of infighting is bordering on all-out war already. Some commentators even predict a split in the Labour party.

As someone born and raised up during a time when the Labour party have been, in order: completely irrelevant, populists who (briefly) presented an actual alternative to a doddering Tory party7, cheerleaders of an illegal and immoral war, snoopers wanting to constantly monitor everyone’s thoughts in the name of “counter-terrorism”, victims of both parties' laissez-faire neoliberal economic policies that directly lead to irresponsible and borderline-illegal banking practices, demonisers of the poor, and an opposition-in-name-only, I can’t help but feel schadenfreude. Frankly, this current infighting is fucking hilarious because it lays bare the intelectual and political vacuum at the heart of the Labour party. On the one side, lifetime voters and members who actually want some level of left-wing policy. On the other, MPs and recent members who want Tory policies with a thin veneer of red paint to give the impression that they give a flaming bag of dogshite about people worse off than they are.

I think Corbyn would make an interesting leader. I’m not about to join Labour to vote for him; I’m a member of the Scottish Green Party because they have actual policies that I agree with. But another centre-left party that would go from being a de jure opposition happily doing nothing to counter Tory policy to joining with the current de facto opposition to actually do something about the Tories' disgusting attacks on everyone who doesn’t already own Hampshire would be nice8.

But yeah. Mostly it’s schadenfreude at members of a party finally waking up and seeing that over the past thirty years they’ve drifted so far to the right that they’re indistinguishable from the government. I’m under no illusions, a Corbyn leadership could only drag the party to the left at a pace that will look glacial to his supporters. But whatever happens, it’s nice to see a large part of the Labour party’s long-term supporter base finally notice just how far they’ve moved to the right. Took them long enough.


  1. Not oddly at all. 

  2. Not left-wing at all 

  3. Pron. “Neo-liberal warmongering scum desperate to carry on the legacy of a failed leader who thought himself the Messiah” 

  4. See previous footnote 

  5. A mostly-forgotten group of spineless patsies whose right-wing slide and increasing irrelevance to both the rest of the Labour party and the people of Scotland mean their branch office is pretty much a broom cupboard. 

  6. Including BBC News, ITN, Sky News, and all newspapers except the Morning Star and the Socialist Worker9. Their degrees of right-wing sympathy vary, but not a one is on the left. 

  7. If they’d stayed like this instead of going full-scum after the September 11 attacks, maybe my opinion of them would be higher. Anyone other than the Tories was an excellent result.10

  8. The Labour party currently talks a great deal about how they oppose what the Tories are doing, then does fuck-all to actually oppose them — abstaining on important votes, for example. Then they go on to say how they opposed the measures, even though to anyone with two brain cells to rub together abstaining is not voting against. 

  9. If you think I’m missing one you’ve obviously not noticed the Grauniad’s ridiculous Shoreditch-Champagne-Socialist bias that has less relation to left-wing values than an editorial in the Daily Heil. 

  10. Nobody could have forseen that the shift towards populism would lead to things like scrapping the student grant, introduction of tuition fees, and introduction of NHS privatisation under PFI. Still better than the Tories would have been. 

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Edinburgh Life

A friend described being an Edinburgh native during the Fringe thusly:

Your flatmate’s throwing a house party but you’ve got to be at work in the morning, it’s two a.m., and he refuses to keep the noise down.

I think he’s being far too charitable. Living in Edinburgh during the two major festivals (the Fringe and the International Festival) is like that for maybe the first week, though you might get to see some decent shows anyway. By the time you’ve had multiple weeks of not getting a seat in your local pub, of having the bus you’re on nearly side-swiped by one of the pack of idiot tourists who don’t understand red lights, of walking into people who take the pavement ten-abreast and stop at random with no thought for the people around them, of having your bus to and from work delayed by people who treat bus drivers as tourist-information points, of screaming mobs wandering the streets at all hours, of fearing for life and sanity every time you have to cross the Royal Mile, of having people demand directions to places that change names just for the Fringe… well, I’m a little less charitable than he is.

Your flatmate threw a house party on Friday night, and invited everyone on Earth. It was fun for the first couple of nights, but they finished off your guest-available booze on Saturday, and by Sunday had polished off your reserves of the good stuff. So many people attended that every room in the flat is heaving with people shouting and screaming at one another to be heard. It’s now Wednesday night into Thursday morning, you’ve had no sleep because to sleep is to have your face covered in crudely-drawn cocks, and you need to be suited-and-booted for a meeting with the CEO at 9a.m. sharp. You’re trying to sleep but can’t get anyone out of your room, let alone get them to shut the fuck up. And then, at three in the morning, someone vomits in your wardrobe all over your work clothes.

That’s the festival and the fringe. While it’s great that the city hosts them, nobody involved seems to remember that the city has residents who live and work here and want nothing to do with it.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Wider Margins

A footnote in yesterday’s post mentioned that one of the many reasons behind the razor-thin margins in the tradgames space is the stagnating price.

RPG books are ridiculously fucking cheap compared to books of similar production values in other areas. The price of the book has not risen in any significant proportion to the increase in costs. Instead, the increase in production price has eaten in to the margins, the amount of money that the publisher gets and uses to pay for writers and artists and game designers.

This has two drivers:

  1. A lot of people who start gaming are in university or younger, and don’t have a significant amount of disposable income.
  2. Old gamers have ossified to the point that they refuse to believe that production costs have increased by anywhere near as much as they have, and believe that a 300-page full-colour glossy hardback rulebook should cost as much as the 200-page black and white softcover that they remember from when they got started.

The target market of trad RPGs thus can’t (point 1) or can but won’t (point 2) pay a reasonable price for the books that they’re getting.

In order to pay people fairly for their labour, publishers need more available cash. One of the ways to do this is to increase prices of the premium end. Full-colour glossy hardbacks should be priced as what they are. Not even commesurate with said books of equivalent publication values in other areas, just enough to reflect the actual cost of making such a book and paying a publisher enough that they can continue putting the books out without ridiculous financial pressure.

Another way is to present rulebooks as they used to be — black and white softcovers, shorter and with less art. These days the market will happily bear them at 6×9 rather than “full” size. Those can be priced at the entry level, giving people enough to play the game without being overwhelming.

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

The Curse of Centralisation

So let’s talk about an elephant in the room: if you want to get involved with new projects and new companies as a freelancer, you have to go to GenCon.

GenCon is the biggest tradgames convention. It is the only one, as far as most of the work goes. And if you don’t go, you don’t exist.

I am a professional writer and game designer. As I may have mentioned, I have eleven years' experience as a professional game designer. That doesn’t count the years I spent beforehand doing fan-work and building up my skills, just the amount of time I’ve been paid for doing the job. I have a million and a half words in print. I have done work for publishers set up by people I’ve worked with at White Wolf/Onyx Path because they know my output even if they’ve not met me in person.

Yet to the wider industry, I don’t exist.

Thing is, I pretty much can’t go to GenCon. Getting there costs more than I make in the industry. It is a financial drain, and no amount of extra work that I’d pick up from being there would push that into the positive. I have other things going on that mean even if I could fund it from gaming work, it probably still won’t happen.

I have tried to get freelance work with people & publishers I haven’t worked with at White Wolf/Onyx Path. I have pointed to my list of publications, I’ve provided references, and I’ve provided writing samples of both published and first-draft work. In return, I’ve been treated like I’m a total n00b, like I’m trying to break in to the industry and don’t know how things really work. Patronised, patted on the head, or just ignored. Because how could someone be in the industry if you haven’t met them at GenCon?

This isn’t just true of freelancers looking to work for other publishers. It’s sometimes true for people in the same company — no matter how many referrals you have from other folks, not having that in-person connection puts you at a significant disadvantage. It’s also true for indie designers and publishers. Not having a presence at GenCon means your game — hell, you as a writer/designer/publisher — don’t exist.

The unstated requirement of GenCon attendance is an issue because it acts as a barrier to the free movement of labour in the industry. Free movement is beneficial to creatives because they get more work, they get more experience with new systems, and they are better-known by people who buy games which in turn means that if they do want to go it alone they have a built-in fan base that people stuck working for one or two publishers don’t have. GenCon creates two classes of RPG pros. Those who have free movement, and those who don’t. In order to be a healthy place to work, the industry needs to do a hell of a lot better.

For people who can go, GenCon is great. For those of us who can’t, it poisons the industry and wider community against us.

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

No Silver Bullets

A small but significant amount of commentary on the shitty situation for freelancers in the industry side of the TRPG industry is along the lines of “Well, just run a Kickstarter or Patreon for the games you want to design”.

This is bad advice. Kickstarter and Patreon are not the tools to free writers from the shackles of the game design industry.1

They are crowdfunding platforms, and crowdfunding works on a bunch of different assumptions. Primarily, if you want to run a successful Kickstarter or make an amount of money that isn’t a joke on Patreon, you need a pretty much constant stream of marketing and self-promotion.

The idea that “quality” will somehow attract money is bullshit; it was proven to be bullshit as soon as nerds started complaining that the only way Microsoft remained in a dominant position despite poor software was “marketing”, like that was some kind of black magic. Well no shit, Sherlock. Of course marketing is how Microsoft remained popular. Without marketing, nobody wants to use your shit.

That is a truism of doing business. “Quality” gets you dick. Marketing gets you popular. Anyone saying otherwise is a liar.

People point to small-press kickstarters and patreons that succeeded. Dungeon World, f'rex. They succeeded because marketing.2

The point of all of this is simple: marketing and self-promotion are not part of the writing and game design toolkit; they’re entirely orthogonal to it. Sometimes you can manage it in the short-term, say, during a KS. Even then, if you’re not good at it you end up promising things you can’t reasonably deliver. That’s not a factor of budgeting as much as it is self-promotion — you need people to get involved with what you’re doing. And so the KS crushes you.

I’ve been part of two Kickstarters so far: W20: Changing Breeds and W20 Book of the Wyrm. In neither case was I the main person on the project. Rich and Rose took point. And yet, it was a full-time job. While the Kickstarters were running, I straight-up could not do any design work. It was absolutely fucking exhausting. I know from that experience that I cannot do that with any regularity; I do not have the skills or the energy to run a successful KS.

Patreon is similar: you need to build the initial following to get enough money per-release (or per-month, but in the trad-games space that’s code for “fund my life”) that doing the work for that release is worth it. And to make enough to recoup the costs of the work involved, you’d need to be in the top 1% of trad-games Patreons. Otherwise, compared to freelancing — even as it is now, even with all the unpaid bullshit — you lose money.

If I had to self-promote to get paid, I’d be out of the industry in a New York second, and I know that I am not unusual in this.

The other factor of crowdfunding is cash. Because of a string of massive delays and total failures, one of the best ways to guarantee funding is to have at least the pre-release text ready to go when you launch. You also need a video and at least some art; text-only kickstarters don’t succeed.

Except that means writing the damn thing happens before you know if you can pay for it. Art-ing the damn thing likewise. As for the video? Sure, count it under “self-promotion” but even if you’re just doing voice-over, if you have the skill to do it as a pro that’s £100-£150 of work you’re doing for free.

Thing is, this whole thing came about because of the amount of work that we as writers & game designers already do for free. By the time you factor in art and video, a kickstarter for a 60-page game — say, if I’d kickstarted BLACK SEVEN — would have left me over £1000 out of pocket with no guarantee of recouping that cash.

Instead, I stuck it on DriveThru, where it has a chance of people noticing it without dedicating a month to doing nothing creative but using skills I don’t have. With the tiny bit of self-promotion I managed, it’s an electrum bestseller (top 3% of products on the site).

TL;DR: Crowdfunding works for people with the skills to crowdfund. Those are separate skills. Most creatives, especially those freelancing, do not have those skills. It is not a silver bullet, and attempts to claim that it is are disingenuous and insulting.


  1. Obviously Kickstarter and Patreon work for a number of people. They are not failures as platforms in any way. I’m talking to the specific experience of trying to use them as a replacement for freelance TRPG design work. 

  2. The impotent rage of grognards is a kind of marketing. 

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

Thinking On

Naturally, a lot of discussion on the issues raised in and around my last post happened elsewhere on social media. Mostly Google+, as that site tends to have the largest gamer population1.

Because I don’t want it locked in a proprietary social network bubble, I’m going to revise and condense a lot of what I posted and what the discussion moved on to here.


  1. As well as some really ardent defenders.2 Despite posts auto-truncating, a random algorithm deciding which posts to display in the first place because gød forbid you’d want to see what the people you followed posted, a UI that’s slow in everything but Chrome3, and a page design that actively hates wide monitors. 

  2. Mention that all the evidence points to G+ dying sooner or later and you get walls-of-text “proving” that it won’t based on some loony’s anecdotal experience that totally ignores how Google treats its services. 

  3. But that’s true of every Google tool. Docs in Firefox and Safari is a laggy sack of shit. 

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

Freelancers, Incentives, and Shit Like That

Yeah, I’ve been keeping up with David Hill, Ryan Macklin, and Michelle Lyons on the current state of the industry for freelance game writers and designers. Might as well weigh in.

Those of you who a) read me on Livejournal and b) I trust can see that I’ve had my own thoughts around this. I’m not making that post public as it’s tied in to my personal feelings of frustration in addition to the broader topic.

Fundamentally though, I agree with the others:

  • Per-word rates do not reflect the work that game designers put in
  • Pay-on-publication leaves writers hanging when publication is delayed
  • Too much work is done in the background (reading, research, probability, systems design) that isn’t compensated at all
  • People above “writer” in the game development chain should be treated (and paid) as consultants rather than just by the wordcount of a given book.
  • If per-word won’t die, the rate needs a serious increase and a secondary revenue stream needs to come in to reflect the non-word related workload.

These issues have been in the back of my mind for quite a while — they’re hard to avoid when you’ve been doing the job for eleven years and have one and a half million words in print — but I’ve not generally talked about this before, even as compensation’s dropped (when I started with WW, we got 3 print comps, now it’s a voucher for a standard-color PoD at cost) and pay rates increased glacially if at all.

I’ve not talked about it because it feels like I’m calling out one publisher because 95% of my work is through them, but I’m really not. I repeat, this is not about any one publisher. It is about the industry as a whole. Freelancers talk. We know what goes on at other publishers, and we know that these problems are endemic across the traditional games space.

The tabletop gaming space operates on razor-thin margins. People say “the market pays what the market can bear”. But y’know what? If the market can’t afford good designers it doesn’t deserve good designers. If your market is shitty it deserves to die. That’s the point of markets, right? Unfortunately, it’s kept alive, artificially buoyed up by people willing to work for peanuts out of love.

If the non-indie side of the tradgames space doesn’t change, it won’t die but it might as well, as it suffers a sudden and significant dearth of talent.

I was somewhat reluctant to write this because I don’t have any solutions, no suggestions for how to make things better.1 Part of the problem-solver’s brain in me feels like a failure for not coming up with something better. Any solution has to be twofold. It needs to ensure that all of the work a designer does is fairly compensated, and it needs to ensure that publishers have the funds available to afford that compensation.


  1. Really, it comes down to a bunch of whining grognards who will spend from now until forever crying about how books aren’t priced the same as they were in nineteen-fuckety-five, rather than being priced equivalent to books of similar size and production values. It’s this sense of entitled bullshit that aritificially deflates prices and keeps margins thinner than a blue Rizla. 

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

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Chipotle Prawn Burritos with Corn Salad

I’m really good at this. You have no idea.

These are clean and crisp and delicious, as close as I’ve gotten to the kind of Mexican food I had in San Diego. Note that a relative lot of it is supermarket-available, because that’s what I had to hand. The salad makes more than you need, stick it in the fridge and scoff it with whatever needs a nice clean-tasting accompaniment.

Makes 4 burritos
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook time 5 mins

Ingredients

  • 350g king prawns (2 packs from Tesco)
  • 3 limes
  • 250g lime & coriander rice (mine was a bag of Tilda)

Marinade

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2tsp chipotle paste (Sainsburys)
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1 clove garlic, ground
  • ½ tsp hot chilli powder

Corn Salad

  • 340g sweetcorn (1 large can)
  • 2 bell peppers (I had 1 red, 1 orange)
  • 3 spring onions
  • Large bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients with the juice of two of the limes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stick the prawns in a bowl, pour the marinade over, stir so the prawns are covered, cover with cling-film, then stick it in the fridge. Don’t touch it for at least two hours.
  3. Make the salad. Chop the peppers into sweetcorn-size pieces. Remove the white inch of the spring onions, then chop into sweetcorn-sized chunks. Add them to a bowl with the sweetcorn and coriander. Season well with salt and the juice of the remaining lime.
  4. Stick a pan over a high heat. Remove the prawns from the marinade and cook for a couple of minutes each side, then remove from the heat.
  5. Cook the rice according to the packet’s instructions.
  6. Give the tortillas a minute in the microwave under a paper towel, to soften.
  7. Assemble: Stick ¼ of the rice on a tortilla. Top with ¼ of the prawns, then a couple of tablespoons of the salad. Fold the sides in and roll bottom-to-top. Leave to rest with the join down for about 30 seconds, then optionally wrap in foil.
  8. Get it down ye. Goes particularly well with chipotle hot sauce.
Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

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Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Burritos

Random experiment with breakfast burritos using whatever I had in the fridge. Holy balls these are good. Make it vegetarian by removing the pancetta, or vegan by leaving out the egg and cheese and splitting 250g steamed basmati rice between each tortilla before topping with veg.

Makes 4 burritos
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook time 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 65g cubed pancetta/bacon
  • 1 white onion, halved and sliced
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 400g (1 can) kidney beans, drained
  • 6 eggs
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 140g baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 50g cheddar/jack cheese
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • Salsa of choice

Method

  1. Fry off the pancetta over a medium-high heat in a little oil, until crispy (3-5 mins)
  2. Add the mushrooms and onion the pan, and cook until the mushrooms are golden, stirring frequently (about 10 mins).
  3. Add the beans to the pan and stir through to warm.
  4. Beat the eggs together in a bowl with the tabasco. Use however much looks right, anywhere from a few drops to a bloody great dash depending on how much you like.
  5. Add the eggs to the pan and stir frequently so that they scramble rather than forming an omlette
  6. Add the spinach a handful at a time; stir each through until wilted.
  7. Give the tortillas a minute in the microwave under a paper towel, to soften.
  8. Take the pan off the heat and stir through the cheese so it melts in the residual heat.
  9. Tilt the pan so that any liquid runs to the bottom, then take the filling from the top. Put ¼ of the mixture on top of a tortilla, top with salsa to taste, then fold the sides in and roll bottom-to-top. Leave to rest with the join down for about 30 seconds, then optionally wrap in foil.
  10. Eat.
Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

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Coincidence of Dates

Today is Sysadmin Appreciation Day.

It's also National Orgasm Day.

Brings a whole new meaning to "100% uptime".

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

We made it out to the Botanic Gardens for the first time in too many years – the weather wasn’t shit and neither of us had a reason not to. Which as these things go is pretty much an excuse to go. They do a late opening on midsummer, so you can stick around until after half ten, when it finally starts looking like twilight.

We’d been on the beach at Yellowcraig earlier in the day where I got a couple of nice photos. It was a lovely day, which helped reinforce that it is actually midsummer. Not like the rest of the summer’s been so far (or since, for that matter).

Beach 1 Beach panorama

Then off to the Botanics for the late opening. Which was good, through the sky had clouded over enough that I didn’t get the shots that I’d hoped for. I did get something to remember the visit by, though. A bug or similar lurking in the upper respiratory that’s had me running a fever and generally buggered. Made it to work on Monday’ but not since. Nipping to the shop round the corner is a chore; doing work when all I can think about is breathing right is a bad idea.

So here I am, desperately trying to get comfortable on a sofa as I can’t sleep with my head down, picking out random memories and random photos to share. Enh. I’ve had worse weeks.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

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It’s a little after midnight[1], which means it’s my birthday. I would say “fucking hell, I’m 34”[2] but if I tell the truth I’d kinda thought I was already 34 last year. Haven’t really marked the years since I turned thirty. A year is a year is a year. Hardly like I’m old enough that I’m counting the days to retirement[3].

But yeah. Thought I’d mark it. In lieu of a real point, some light music.


  1. Well, it isn’t yet. It’s about half ten as I’m writing this, but I’m not going to post it until a bit after midnight.  ↩

  2. A sentiment for which most of my coworkers and co-drinkers will scoff and say “bairn”, but still.  ↩

  3. Common wisdom holds that those of my age and generation won’t ever retire. Our brain-scans will be downloaded into immortal robot bodies, so that we may work forever. According to this wisdom, I’m just forty years off being Bender.  ↩

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.
Half Man Half Biscuit, O2 ABC in Glasgow, 11th of September.

Let me know if going.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth, where comment count unavailable people have commented. Please join them. You can log in there with your Livejournal account.

Unfinished – A Game in 150 Words

I made a new game. It’s called Unfinished, it’s about ghosts, and it’s just 150 words long.

It’s small enough that it fits in a tweet:

I put it up on DriveThruRPG as a Pay What You Want download, so if you like it (or just think I’m mad enough to reward) you can toss me a buck or two. It’s CC-BY licensed, so share it with whoever.

EDIT: Unfinished was just featured on BoingBoing!

Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at my Dreamwidth blog.

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