Greetings from a slightly colder than usual 53.5° north latitude. It is not cold enough for the entire day to stay cold, but that is likely not far into the future. However, it is cold enough that bigger gloves or mitts are required for early morning rides. Riding at -5 C without good gloves or mitts is a very painful experience.
Beyond a few rides which I will give an update on below, a number of good listens and views, there was a great gaming experience this week, and two new beers. Let's jump in to the gaming story first.
If you look up role-playing on Wikipedia, the article branches into the various types of role-playing and then provides this definition for role-playing games, or RPGs:
A role-playing game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterisation, and the actions succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, they may improvise freely; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the games. --Wikipedia
The key concept is that the story is created collaboratively. The Game Master needs to be in charge at least to keep the game following within the prescribed rules, but the actual story that is created is the responsibility of everyone involved. As a GM, I think the key is to provide lots of options for the players and to be prepared enough to be flexible if the players do something unexpected. It is important to be prepared but to not let that preparation narrow your options. Having a series of encounters that your players must do in order at a prescribed time is a recipe for either frustrated players or for you to be unable to proceed because you are not prepared.
In our recent session this week, the party needed to travel and I had three potential encounters planned. The first one was with a travelling merchant. I knew there would be nothing exchanged beyond information, but I was hopeful that the players would engage as there was one bit of flavor and information I wanted to get across. The second encounter was completely optional and I tried to describe it in a way that they would not be forced to engage with it. They ended up doing what I hoped they would because I was able to give them a reward that will be useful. To that point in our session, we had two encounters that were engaging and I think memorable. I was struggling though because both encounters went exactly how I thought they would, and that made me feel like I was railroading them. In the parlance of the game designers I follow online, I felt like I was taking away player agency.
This concern of taking away player agency was weighing on me because the third encounter was one that regardless of how the rest of the session had gone I needed the players to have. This encounter was really like a Talking Notice Board that tells the players "You are hereby requested to go do such-and-such and then report over yonder." There is nothing wrong with this of course, as long as the players feel they can do something other than mindlessly follow the orders of the Talking Notice Board.
It might have been a reaction from the players against two encounters that they felt they had to engage with, but their reaction to the Talking Notice Board was one of sarcastic enthusiasm. "Yes, sir, right away sir." "We'll be sure to do that right away, nudge, nudge, wink, wink."
And so they did not report in. They might check in during the next session, but for this week, they completely ignored the "request". They instead went for a drink and a meal and then proceeded to find a room at the fleabag inn instead of the nice place I assumed they would stay at. This resulted in three fabulous role-playing sessions, one with each player. A new ally was found, a super reward was given to the party, and a really touching story was created.
I am really glad my first two encounters went the way they did, but I was prepared for the players to not engage with either. Our collective story would not have suffered if those encounters were ignored, but the world is more alive and the players have more knowledge about how to act and react as a result of both. However, when we look back at the game, we will see that the moments with the player agency at its most free were the ones that will have the most impact on the long-term story we are creating. That required preparation on my part, but in a much different way than the scripted set pieces I created.
The last thing I will say about our game is that in a three hour session I rolled dice exactly zero times. It was completely role-playing and I all I had to do was talk. And laugh, and smile, and have fun.
There were a few good music finds this week. The first album was Lucinda Williams' "Live @ The Fillmore", which was released in 2005, and was a recording from a 2003 concert. (It would be great to see a concert at The Fillmore!) (It would be great to see a show anywhere!). This album was 22 songs over two volumes and was filled with Williams' gravelly singing. Volume 2 was that the better of the two, in my opinion, with great versions of Atonement, Pineola, Righteously, and others. Her voice really shone on Volume 2.
Switching gears completely, the second album was Massenet's opera, Thaïs. I have switched my weekend radio listening recently, and am really enjoying getting back into "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" on CBC. Host Ben Heppner does a great job of helping listeners like me understand the story and the music.
Last up this week was a single called "Who's Gonna Stop Me". This was a collaboration between Portugal, The Man, and Weird Al Yankovich. It was a good song, but I have to admit I probably listened to it much more intently just because of Weird Al's inclusion. I am not saying that it is not a good song, but I do feel I would have given it less of a listen if Weird Al was not part of it.
The other music item this week was a great interview on Tidal with Chuck D. This might have been the first interview I have seen with Chuck D. I enjoyed his stories especially the one about how Jam Master J convinced Chuck D to become a recording artist. The best part though were two quotes that really made me think.
The first quote was Chuck D quoting Bruce Lee.
"I cannot teach you. I can only help you explore yourself." --Chuck D quoting Bruce Lee
The insight in that quote is enormous. The power to change and to grow is in you and you alone. There is no magic potion or methodology or drug or app that can teach you to grow as a person if you do not want to grow.
The second quote was even more powerful, and I think this is something that I can empathize with and work to change, but I think it is impossible for me to really understand it being a white man. All I can do is listen and support.
If you black, it's the side you on versus the side that hates you. --Chuck D
Great stuff from a musical legend.
I closed off a couple segments on the way to Campbell River on my virtual cross-Canada tour. I need to pick up my pace a bit. At this rate, it will take me four years to finish the trek.
Two new beers this week. Both were good, but neither were great. Beer #691 was the Galactic Space Dragon IPA from Odin Brewery Company. This had some good pineapple citrus juiciness, not much hops, quite hazy. Tasty but would have liked more hops. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #692 was the Earl Grey Wheat from Collective Arts. I am a big fan of Collective Arts, so this one was a bit of a disappointment. This could have been a really interesting take on witbier but it was pretty bland. It was refreshing though, just nothing spectacular. (3.0 / 5)
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. It was a quiet week, at least in terms of relevance to a weekly blog. Lots of reading but nothing finished, three new beers, and no new words.
Of more importance than anything else this week, there continues to be significant discussion about racism, injustice, and police violence. There was a really powerful op-ed in the last Saturday's LA Times written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, titled "Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge". The imagery Abdul-Jabbar evokes is staggering. The massive pain and anger caused by not just (just, that's quite the word) a single death, but of generations of systemic racism. The disproportionate impact of COVID on black communities. The concerted efforts to stop black from voting.
Because you realize it’s not just a supposed “black criminal” who is targeted, it’s the whole spectrum of black faces from Yonkers to Yale.
That op-ed is not the only commentary we are receiving. Media organizations here at home are helping communicate that this isn't an issue just for the US to deal with; we have ample problems right here.
CKUA (Disclaimer: I serve on the CKUA Board) is supporting the black and indigenous communities on air. I heard Leeroy Stagger voice his support on his weekly show on Saturday, and on Tuesday CKUA paused their "online presence for the day so that meaningful real-world conversations can take place about race, unity and healing." The commercial radio stations are also contributing to the conversation with sixty second spots highlighting the importance of standing up and confronting racism and injustice and being an ally. (One I heard was unfortunately diminished in impact as it was followed by an ad for a windshield repair firm purporting that they provide an essential services during the pandemic. But it is a start.)
Is it possible that something will finally change? Have these issues finally reached enough minds and hearts to actually affect change. I hope so and will commit to doing more to help in any way I can, even if this isn't something that keeps its momentum.
The three beers I mentioned at the start of this entry are actually a beer and a cider from Collective Arts and a beer from a collaboration of two Alberta breweries.
From Collective Arts, I had their Local Press cider and their Audio / Visual Lager. The cider was crisp and clean cider and very easy drinking. (3.75 / 5) The lager was well put-together but wasn't particularly memorable. (3.25 / 5). Even with that last comment, I want to highlight how good a brewery Collective Arts is. I bought eight singles from Collective Arts at the start of this COVID era and am now finished the lot. I had a few misses, but for the most they were all very solid offerings. My ratings for those eight averaged over 3.6 out of 5, and overall the fourteen beers I have had of theirs average 3.7 out of 5. I would have to download the stats from Untappd and do some proper analysis, but from these numbers I am confident that Collective Arts is one of my top three brewers.
The other beer I tried this week was the Beautiful Apex Hermoso Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout collab between Apex Predator and Ol' Beautiful Brewing. I just couldn't get into this one. I don't think it was badly done, but it just wasn't my thing. (3.0 / 5) I know spicy chocolate is supposed to be a thing, but I have never liked it.