The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: 
He leadeth me beside the still waters. 

Psalm 23. These were the words my parents picked for me at the time of my confirmation. For nearly three decades, I’ve assumed they were chosen as a sort of default verse. “The Psalm of David” for David’s confirmation

He restoreth my soul: 
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Over the past 24 hours, however, I’ve started to wonder if there might have been something more to it. Consciously or subconsciously, I wonder if there was a message there for me. Or perhaps a message for my older self.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; 
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 

In this world of ours, it is so easy to forget to slow down. There is always another project to complete, another chore to work on, another meeting to prepare for. But the song writer has another message for us. It is important for us to sometimes take a break – to lie down by the still waters, to take time to enjoy the green pastures.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: 
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

My life and my cup do run over with blessing. I’m not rich financially, but I live a rich life, surrounded by people I love and who love me, even when I’m deserving of said love. Even so, I, like you, occasionally find myself surrounded by enemies or stumbling through the valley of the shadow of death. But I am not alone.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: 
 And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

May goodness and mercy follow you. I know it follows me – even when I’m too busy to slow down and notice.

The Heart of the Grove – 23 in 2013 #1

In the winter, the trees sleep. In the spring, the seeds find their form.

Seale was a healer in her youth. Or, more specifically, a medic. Or, most specifically, the medic for a well-established mercenary troop. She had served under a number of commanding officers over the years, and eventually became recognized as the one stable feature of the corps. The mercenary life was hard on the warriors, so it should have been no surprise that Seale was often the oldest and most experienced member of any unit, even if she was never officially the leader. It should have been no surprise that she viewed them as her family.

Over the years, Seale had determined that sometimes the best way to keep her charges healthy was to preemptively identify and, if possible, eliminate threats to their well-being. This didn’t mean she charged fool heartedly into combat – that was still a job for younger and more combat savvy men and women. But she did play scout, sometimes without authorization, in non-combat situations.

It was during just one of these unauthorized scouting missions that her life changed forever. Seale was exploring a thick grove of trees. The mercenary troop had been in this region in the past and had suffered a disturbing number of mysterious casualties. At the time, they had been attributed to guerrillas hiding in the foliage, but no one had ever seen one of the aggressors. Seale had her own theory and that was why she had chosen this exploratory effort.

Deep in the grove, she encountered an ancient tree stump. Cautiously, she prodded at the stump with a piece of old wood. To this day, in the quiet moments, she still wonders why she had chosen to do so. Regardless of the reason, the stump exploded into a cloud of spores. Seale cursed and attempted to flee, only to be enveloped by first the cloud and then by darkness.

Seale is now the Heart of the Grove, ruler and defender of the forest. She is now the healer for a new family.

No Look Forward is Complete Without a Look Back

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”- George Santayana

As I sit here pondering how I’m going to spend the next 360+ days, I can’t but help consider how I’ve spent the last. Some highlights for me:

What can I learn from these being my highlights?

I thrived on completing things – but I needed an audience for which to complete them. The projects I haven’t finished are the ones without encouragement or deadlines. This isn’t really new news, but continues to be interesting upon introspection.

Narrative is also very important to me. I was dedicated to Zombies, Run – I got out 3-4 times a week – until I finished the story. The radio option was passable, but didn’t keep me walking. There is a new “Race Mission” option that I haven’t tried yet – and report is that Season Two is on the way. I hope to get back to exercising the Zombies soon – though it will be interesting walking in the cold and the snow.

I’ve also had some real success in the day job due to an embrace of narrative. I’ve put real effort into telling better stories about the underlying truths in our data and I think it has been good for me on both a personal and a professional level. I still want to get better at ending stories, but that’s a set of thoughts to explore at another time.

The gratitude I have to Skinner Co. and the Flash Pulp Mob cannot be expressed in words. They have not only allowed me to share my stories with them, but they regularly encourage me. I have an emotional connection to the Flash Cast and am looking forward to getting back to writing the Doc Azrael chronicles.

Which leads me to my first real challenge of 2013: my PC needs a lot of love. It is still *wrong* from the formatting fiasco early last year and while I was able to make it workable through much of 2012, the lifespan of the misconfiguration is about done. I’ve gotten by for the last few weeks on a combination of portable devices, but I really need to figure out what to do with the desktop. I suspect that means a back-up, re-format and re-build, but I don’t have the confidence to do it myself and I’m feeling “once bitten, twice shy” about paying someone else. I suppose I just need to bite the bullet one way or the other. Until I do, audio work for the Flash Cast or anyone else is going to be complicated.

If you’ve been attention elsewhere, you know I’ve also been working on designing a game with my son. That’s been… interesting. I’m learning a  lot about how he thinks, about collaboration, and about… myself. I want to do this with him, but he doesn’t want to do… well… much. He doesn’t want to write, just brainstorm. Which is fine, as far it goes, I suppose. But game writing is just that… writing. And a lot of it. So I need to take a different tact.

Part of that new direction is a new type of game, a game represented by The Cry of the Oppopanax. A mechanic not inspired by other people – using non-standard ‘dice’. I think I need to write up some rules and some setting and start running it for the boy, maybe others. I think CotO may be something like this blog. Something I’m doing for me and but something I’m doing in public.

One final note. During the end of 2012 and early into 2013, I did several crafting projects. The kids’ costumes for Con on the Cob (I’m particularly proud of the hammers of Kid Thunder). Props for the Sunday school Christmas Pageant (the gifts of the magi). Bottles of miracle dice. And most recently, a wall plaque for the Olivanders wands the family picked up on vacation.

I realized, I really like what I’m calling crafting. It tends to be small scale and relatively inexpensive – which means I can do it more often than room re-designs. It gives me a physical something to look at when it’s done – my focus on crafting story-decks at work scratches that itch somewhat, but physical artifacts are more satisfying. And it’s somehow timeless. If the interwebz crash, if digital technology goes away, I can still make something. Something that might even be values by others. Something with an audience.

Which makes me realize something, something potentially very important. Cry of the Oppoponax essentially came out of a craft project. The challenge was to design a game that fit in a very specific size container – one that you can get at craft stores. The ‘dice’, the letter beads, that I choose for the mechanic, likewise from a craft store. There is something about physical artifacts. I know other game designers have explored this space – games built around specific artifacts, games that create artifacts – see Risk Legacy.

This may be something critical for me to explore in 2013. The fusion of game design, story-telling, and crafting. Many years ago, I postulated small boutique game studios analogous to custom surfboard shops. Maybe I need to dust this idea off, a bit more literally. Games about creating physical artifacts – games that are (unique) physical artifacts.

After all, the world ended in 2012 – maybe it’s time to make something new.