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There are no words to express how happy I am to be back in the Northwest, or how grateful I am, to be around the majority of my family during the holidays (Miss you, Mom and Dad, and your sunshiney holidays!)

Just over five years ago, the Viking and I put together a 5 year plan for promoting his career. We applied for positions to climb the IT corporate ladder, and moved where the job opportunities would take us - first to Western Massachusetts, then two years later, to SE Arizona. 

Through a lot of hard work on his part, and a lot of support on mine (and a lot of tolerance on the part of the Valkyrie, who's put up with cross-country moves, school changes, leaving friends behind and in general a pair of crazy parents) we've come full circle. As soon as we sell the house in Arizona, our last "loose end" will be tied up, and we'll be ready to settle long-term back into life in the NW.

It's been an awesome adventure. we've seen things we never expected to...

We've seen the Naked Cowboy performing in Time Square, and wild tarantulas crossing lone desert highways.

Black bears and javelina have ravaged our garbage cans on opposite corners of the country.

We've explored Central Park, The Atlantic shore and the Chiricahua Desert.

We've weathered Nor'easters and monsoons and that delicate sprinkling of snow in the desert that somehow seems all the more magical for its elusive nature.

We fostered raccoon kits, raised rats, adopted (And re-homed) some awesome puppies, lost family members (Rogue, my cat, and the three rat-girls) and gained another one (Geisha, our new kitty).

Perhaps most importantly, we've made friends on our travels, all across the continent, and through the wonders of the Internets, around the globe.

It's been a grand adventure, but we're very glad to be back home, especially at this time of year.

And, from all of us, to all of you - I offer my traditional holiday wishes...

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In which life gives us lemons (and oranges)...

They say when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. I beg to differ. Lemonade is great, but if you really want to show life, when it gives you lemons, you should make lemon curd... and if it gives you oranges, make marmalade!

So, one of the "staging" items I keep in the house now that it's on the market is a bowl of citrus fruit.
I'm not a big fan of fake fruit - real citrus smells better, is cheaper and can be used up. But since the house has been on the market for a month, and fresh fruit (even citrus) has a finite lifespan, we're always looking for things to do with the fruit when it becomes "not pretty" but is still edible. The first one was used for lemon bundt cake (which turned out awesome) and orange juice, but I was looking for something different to do with this one.

However, I had just bought salad and cooked chicken breast to get me through the next couple of days, and after that we are going to be gone for a week, so it had to be something we could eat up in a couple of days... or that would last until we got back.

I polled some friends online, and the most durable things that seemed to come up were lemon curd and marmalade. So, being a boggan, although I hadn't made either of them before, I decided to make both.

I did some digging for recipes, and found this wonderful site that gave a fool-proof technique for preventing lemon curd from curdling when you made it. I'm all for fool-proof, so I decided to try it. And, since I LOVE lemon curd (and had enough lemons to do so), I decided to make a double batch.

First, I washed all the lemons and squeezed juice for the curd.


And, since I hate to see anything go to waste, I cut up the rinds (discarding only the tips and any icky pieces) and set it aside to use in the marmalade.


(Okay, I squeezed all but ONE lemon, which I saved for wedging to put in my rum and coke later tonight... A girl has to have priorities!)

Once I had enough juice (1 1/3 cups), I cut up 12 TBSPs of butter. The recipe said to use unsalted, but I didn't have any of that, so I just used the salted stuff I had in the fridge. (I'm lucky I had any real butter at all; we usually use a heart-healthy spread, but... the fates were smiling on me and my curd today!)
And, of course, the only thing that makes butter better is... sugar! 2 cups, to be exact.
Now, this is where the recipe I found differs from most traditional lemon curds. Rather than starting with this stuff on the heat already, you just cream the butter and sugar together like you would if you were making cookies or cake batter.
And then you add your eggs (still without heating). 4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks, and cream together again. Because I live in Arizona, when I added the eggs, it turned out more like pancake batter than cookie dough, but your mileage may vary.
After the eggs, sugar and butter is all creamed together, add in the lemon juice, and mix well. THEN, and only then, do you put the mixture into a heavy-bottomed pan (you can use a double-boiler/bain marie, but I didn't have one) and begin to heat it.
LOW AND SLOW is the secret here. You don't want to bring it to a boil, you want to just coax it up to temperature, stirring constantly.
My mixture was creamy white on top and only below did it have the beginnings of the lemon-yellow that the whole mixture would eventually become. The creamy top was kind of frothy, so I switched from a whisk to a wooden spoon, in case I was incorporating too much air into it as I stirred.
As I heated it and stirred, it began to slowly thicken, and the creamy top incorporated into the lemon-yellow. It also became more glossy and translucent as it warmed up.
And, eventually it got to the proper thickness. The way to test is to pull the spoon out and drag your fingertip carefully through the coating. If the trail stays firmly in place, you're ready to go.
Then, I transferred it to a smaller bowl, put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top (to prevent it from forming a skin on top, and put it in the fridge to finish setting up.

Because I'm insane, I was also making the marmalade at the same time I was doing the curd. Basically, I chopped up the lemon rinds that were left over from the curd. (This gave me a great deal of consternation. I somehow felt like I was cooking "garbage", and really had to think about whether I was comfortable with doing this. In the end, however, I realized it was just like separating the eggs and saving the whites for my scramble the next morning rather than throwing them away. The marmalade called for citrus, rind and all, so it would have been silly to throw away perfectly good material that could be incorporated into the recipe.

So, moral conundrum pushed aside, I took the lemon rinds and sliced them thinly, then minced them into small pieces.
Then I sliced the navel and stem end off of the oranges (wow, they were really pretty!)
And then minced them, using the same sort of technique I would use for cutting an onion.
Some of the recipes I found suggested cutting the rind off the orange and either throwing it away or cooking it separately, but to be honest, I didn't have the patience for that. Although a couple of the oranges didn't have nice rinds, so I did pare the pith and rind off and just cut up the flesh into chunks, along with another lemon that had rolled away out of sight on the counter and so didn't get sacrificed to the curd.
I put the minced lemon peels and oranges into a big pot and added just enough water to allow me to stir it. I knew I was going to have to boil off the liquid, so I didn't go crazy with it. You're looking for "thick oatmeal/salsa fresca" texture, not "vegetable soup". Then I eyeballed about equal parts sugar to the amount of fruit I'd added, and put the whole thing on to boil.
Unlke the curd, I did want this to boil, so I put it at medium heat on my gas stove, and stirred it occasionally, rather than constantly.

Proof I really am crazy enough to be cooking two new recipes at the same time...

Eventually, the marmalade started to cook down. The peels got soft and began absorbing the sugar, so they were bitter-sweet, not just bitter.

It took a long time. Probably close to an hour (in which time I did everything from "cream the butter and sugar together" to "put it in the fridge" on the lemon curd.)
Some of the recipes I looked at called for pectin. I didn't have any. So, I didn't use it. Citrus pith and peel has a lot of natural pectin, so I was hoping it would be enough to firm up the marmalade. And if it didn't, well,then I'd have lemon/orange fruit syrup/ice cream topping/cake drizzle instead. Nothing that tastes this good ever would go to waste (just to "waist!")
However, it never did really start to firm, so I did some digging on other recipes (unlike the lemon curd, I was winging this from several different sources) and found a recipe that used gelatin rather than pectin for firming up... I happened to have two packets of flavorless gelatin in the cupboard, so I added those to the mixture and continued to cook it down for another 10-15 minutes.
Since I didn't have canning supplies, the marmalade is going to stay refrigerated, so I thought the gelatin was a good choice. I don't know yet if it has firmed up, but this is what they looked like when I got them ready for the fridge.
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In which we boggan...

Life's been weird (even for me) of late. For those who missed the earlier post, our family is returning to the great Pacific Northwest. Well, that's partly right. Part of our family has already returned there; the Viking arrived in Portland approximately a month ago and began his new job with the City of Gresham about that time. The Valkyrie and I are still down here in Arizona, working on selling the house and trying not to go crazy.

So, the two months before The Viking left were spent with both of us working our fannies off on the house, getting it ready to sell. The month since then has been filled with the Valkyrie and I living on tenterhooks, keeping the house constantly show-ready. Unfortunately, the market being what it is, we've had a grand total of one showing, the week the house went on the market... for the last month? Nothing.

So, as you do with any situation, we've begun to adapt to our new lifestyle. Things remain "could have it show-ready in an hour" tidy, but we're not quite as insanely fastidious as we were when it first started. You just can't live like that, day after day, and not go a little bonkers. One of the things we didn't do much of the first month the house was on the market, was cook. I mean, we cooked, of course - girls have got to eat. But it was a lot of instant meals, a lot of eating out or bringing home something. Nothing that was going to mess up the kitchen or require much in the way of clean up.

Yeah, you can imagine how well that worked, me being a boggan and all.

Today, all that went out the window.

You see, I had this bowl of fruit...
More details on the cooking of both lemon curd and marmalade in the next post...
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(no subject)

Well, I wanted to make sure to share here too, for my friends who don't do Twitter or Facebook (I'm JessHartley on both, by the way).

We're moving back to Oregon!

Pat was offered (and accepted) a position as the Chief Information Officer for the City of Gresham. He starts in about a month, and the Valkyrie and I will be following soon thereafter, depending on how soon we can sell the house.

We're very excited, this is a very good thing for us!

We could use some help, however - We own our own home here in Arizona, and the housing market is rough. We don't know how long it will take to sell the house here, so we will have to rent in Gresham for a while. But, as homeowners for the last 15 years, it's been a while since we've had to worry about the fact that we have pets (1 dog and 3 cats). We're looking for a rental in the downtown Gresham area that will be more concerned with the fact that we have impeccable credit, and awesome employment history and great references than the fact that we have four-footed family members.  If any of you know of someone looking for super-cool dependable and responsible renters, please let us know!

Thanks, and to all our NW friends - see you soon!
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In which we are down to the wire...

Tomorrow voting ends for the Ennies.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the gaming industry's awards, here's some info. Suffice it to say, for those of us who work in RPGs, this is a very big deal.

Because of the particular process the ENnies have chosen (judges choose their top five out of the submitted products, then public vote determines a winner from those five) it really does come down to getting word of mouth out about the products and the awards and encouraging people to vote. And, in a small industry, every single vote counts.

I'd appreciate any help you are able to give, either through your own vote or helping to spread the word. Tomorrow, the voting ends, and you won't have to hear about these again until next year, I promise.

This year, I've been nominated (either singularly or as a part of a writing team) in four different categories:

Best Blog - One Geek to Another - http://tinyurl.com/geekyear for a summary of the past year's episodes
Product of the Year - Geist: The Sin-Eaters - White Wolf's latest World of Darkness game
Best Setting - Goblin Markets - A .pdf supplement for Changeling: The Lost
Best Regalia - Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas - A fiction anthology of horror-themed short stories - Story Descriptions, Samples and Author Bios

Thanks for your support! It's greatly appreciated!

A Year in Geekitude...

(Cross-posted from my blog - my apologies to those who saw it there... I know some of my LJ friends visit, but others are pretty LJ-centric, which is cool too.)

A year ago, there was no such thing as One Geek To Another. Created just after Gen Con 2009, One Geek was started as a way to address etiquette and ethics topics for the geek community, including--but not limited to--the gaming community. My friend, Martin Henley describes it as "If Ms. Manners rolled mad D20s, that would be One Geek to Another..." And I'm pretty darned happy with the description.

Over the past 11 months, I've answered dozens of letters, publicly and privately, and touched on some hard topics, all in the name of smoothing some of the social rough-edges that we geeks are infamous for.

In honor of One Geek To Another being nominated for an ENnie Award in the category of Best Blog (please consider voting, if you haven't already) I thought I'd bring out our first year's worth of topics in one easy-to-scan summary. Each topic contains a hyperlink to that particular episode, and the full list can be accessed through the One Geek To Another entry in the left hand menu.

Feel free to browse our past episodes, and as always, if you have a question for One Geek, or a topic you'd like to see covered, feel free to write OneGeek@jesshartley.com. I'd love to hear from you!

A Year of Geekitude - One Geek To Another, Presented in Chronological Order of Publication

Introduction and Introductions - The Premiere Episode of One Geek To Another addresses proper introduction etiquette and why it's important even in casual settings (like conventions or the gaming table.)

How Do We Split Up The Party? - A reader writes in for advice on how to ask a problematic player to leave their gaming group.

Texting Etiquette - We geeks love our tech, and many are more comfortable communicating via electronic methods than face-to-face. But when and where is texting okay, and what's just not?

Fed Up In The Office - Many workplaces allowing, or encourage, employees to eat at thier work-stations, desks or cubicles. A reader seeks advice on how to deal with a co-worker's odorous lunch choices.

Persistance Versus Annoyance - Where's the line between? Helpful rules, guidelines and tips about how not to be "that guy".

When to Speak Up - Hearing non-geeks insult cosplayers on the street, a reader asks for advice on when to step in and say something on another geek's behalf.

Twitters and Tweets - Arguably one of the hottest social media out there, here's some tips on how to use Twitter in a way that won't drive away your "Tweeps".

Keeping IC and OOC Separate - Relationships between two characters aren't uncommon at the gaming table. A reader writes for advice on handling pressure to take an IC relationship across to Out-of-Character involvement

Stuff and Things - A quick guide on handling other's valued possessions (dice, game books, collectables) with the respect they deserve.

Fair Play - At the game table, one expects the GameMaster/StoryTeller to be a fair and impartial authority, but a reader seeks advice on how to handle it when that expectation isn't met.

The Dope on Soap - The ultimate "shouldn't-need-to-be-said-but-does" topic: Hygiene

Writing Rut - Filled with self-doubt, a reader asks for advice on coming up with original story ideas.

Geeky Dress Codes - Dressing appropriately for the occasion, when the occasion calls for something beyond jeans and t-shirts with movie quotes.

Networking and Cross-promotion - From blogs to businesses, everyone can benefit from good PR. A reader writes for suggestions on how to handle asking for help with publicity from others in the field.

Parenting Etiquette - As more and more gamers are raising families of their own, the issue of how to juggle parental duties and recreational events becomes more challenging to handle.

Crossgender Play - A reader asks for advice on how to handle an antagonistic player at the table whose mean-streak seems to come out only when playing the opposite sex.

Gift Giving Etiquette - In a pre-holiday episode, we discuss the sometimes-touchy topic of presents - who to give to, what to give, and how to avoid the biggest gift-giving No-no's.

Online Gaming Courtesy - Not all games take place around a table. A reader writes in seeking help with dealing with no-shows, late arrivals and other virtual gaming faux pas.

Guest Blog - Author Gloria Weber visits One Geek To Another to discuss the do's and don'ts that will help you get your short story published.

Handling the Progeny - A frustrated reader expresses their unhappiness with encountering young children at gaming trade shows and other industry professional events, and asks for advice on how to deal with the same.

Plugging In - An encounter with a fiesty librarian leads us to ask - where and when is it okay to "plug in" to "public" electric or wifi systems?

Game-stopping Braggarts - Tired of hearing how cool her friends' characters are, a reader writes to ask how to get them to get back to the gaming, rather than talking about it.

How to Fail Gracefully - After an unexpected hiatus, One Geek handles the topic of how to deal with having not dealt well with something.

Dr. Gamer and Ms. Hyde - Sometimes, despite your best efforts, someone brings out the worst in even the most reasonable person. Pushed to the brink of their good graces, a reader writes for advice on dealing with "that person" when the rest of the group just shrugs it off.

Geek Solidarity - LARPers vs. Tabletoppers. Trekies vs. Star Wars fans. Cosplayers vs. Wargamers. And everyone versus Furries. Dealing with perceived hierarchies of social strata in the geek community

Kamakazi Courtesy - There's more to geek recreation than just gaming - here's some tips on proper etiquette for another popular geek-out event: karaoke

No Room At The Con - Faced with choosing a room-mate for an upcoming convention, a reader asks for advice on turning down one offer without hurting anyone's feelings

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In Which we talk about the ENnies (again)...

Voting has opened for the ENnie awards, which is arguably the most prestigious award system in the non-video gaming industry.

What are the ENnies?

Hosted by EN World, the awards are presented at Gen Con, in Indianapolis, in early August.

There is an amazing selection of fantastic nominations this year. One of the coolest things about working in this industry is that every year I have a little broader pool of people that I can call my friends and co-workers whose names I see represented in awards such as these.

I'm thrilled to say that projects I helped write have been nominated again this year - two products I worked on for White Wolf and one for 12 to Midnight. As well, this year for the first time I've been nominated for an independent project, which was a singular and unexpected honor.

How does the Voting Work?

The selection process for the ENnies can be a bit confusing, and I've had folks ask for information on how it works. Here's a quick run-down:

Creators submit their products to the ENnies for consideration. A panel of five judges work their way through all of the submissions, and pick their top five choices in each category (in the case of Product of the Year, ten choices). A month before Gen Con, these nominations are made public. A week later, voting opens to the public. Everyone can vote (one vote per person, regulated by IP address). After 9 days, the votes are tallied, and the winners (gold and silver in each category) are announced at the ENnies Award Ceremony at Gen Con.

When Can I Vote?

Now! Voting opens on July 16th and closes on July 25th. The winners (gold and silver in each category) are announced August 6th at the Award Ceremony at Gen Con Indy.

But how do I support you?

First of all, thanks! I really appreciate the support of my friends, family and those who have read and enjoyed my writing

You can support my projects and me as a writer by voting - it's simple, it's free, and it will take less than a minute (assuming their servers hold up - so far they've been a bit iffy, so don't be surprised if you have to try a few times before getting into the site.)

To support my work in the ENnies this year, click HERE. There's no complicated log-in required, you don't have to give any information.

Voting is simple; use the drop-down menu beside each item you'd like to vote for and give it a rank (1 for best, 2 for next, and so on.) You can vote for as many or few categories as you'd like and for as many or few items in that category as you'd prefer.

My work is represented directly in four categories this year, and tangentially in two others.

Best Blog - One Geek To Another, my geek etiquette and advice blog - this is my first independent product that's received an ENnie nomination, and I'm thrilled. Check out current and back episodes here.

Best Setting - Goblin Markets is a Changeling: The Lost project that I worked on with Ethan Skemp and Alex Scokel for White Wolf. It's a .pdf only project, which makes it even more exciting to see in a non-electronic-only category.


Best Regalia - Regalia is an interesting category that includes all kinds of things that are game related but aren't actual games themselves. This year, a fiction anthology which I contributed to was nominated. Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas contains my ghost story, Stigmatized Property, along with the works of a dozen other very talented writers.

Product of the Year - It's interesting to see a game get nominated for Product of the Year, even when it didn't get nominated in any specific category beyond that. Geist: The Sin-Eaters is a really cool all around game, and it was a pleasure to work on.

Best Website - Pen and Paper Games is not my website. I don't run it, nor am I officially a part of it. But, they (along with Ideology of Madness) were kind enough to syndicate my blog, One Geek to Another, which allowed it to be read by folks it might not have otherwise reached. Because of this, supporting Pen and Paper Games is tangentially supporting my work. 

Fan's Choice Publisher - While the two publishers that I helped write ENnie-nominated products for are not on this list, another publisher that I have written for (and plan to do so again in the future is. Margaret Weiss Productions has treated me very well as a freelancer, and supporting a publisher helps support the writers who they hire to create products.

I hope that you'll take the time to explore all of the categories and products offered, and thank you again for your support. While I won't be at Gen Con this year, I encourage those of you who can attend to do so. It's an amazing adventure and any gamer should get the chance to do so at least once.

Thanks again!

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In which we learn about Game Design by playing Mah Jongg with Little Ol' Ladies...

I'm a gamer. I game. It's what I do.

I prefer RPGs, LARP or tabletop, even online gaming, but with real people playing real characters. I love casual board and card games, silly things that let you stab your buddy in the back while laughing together. Resource building strategy games? I'm so there!

I have my preferences, but like other addicts, when those aren't available, I'll take just about any source to get my fix.

Impromptu hallway rummy game at a con? Sure, I'm in. Playtesting something that's barely put together for a friend? Hit me. I can take it. Pokemon, Flatcrack (aka Magic: The Gathering) or Yugi-oh? Lend me a deck, and I'll do my best to hold my own. Heck, in a pinch, I'll play Candyland with the preschoolers (and I'm not talking those cool Smirk-and-Dagger remakes, I'm talking old-school Gumdrop Mountain and Gramma Nutt stuff here. I just love games.

Now, I live in a remote area of rural Southeaster Arizona. (We joked during the last presidential election that I was qualified to run for Vice President on an International Relations platform, because I could see Mexico from my house.) And sometimes gaming can be pretty hard to come by out here. In fact, where I once played LARP several nights a week, every week, had a regular tabletop session or invited folks over for dinner and games at least once a month, now my most frequent game event is my weekly mah jongg game with ladies who are my parent's age or older. We get together every Tuesday morning, snacks and change-purses in hand, and for several hours, our world is populated with dragons and flowers, soap and winds, and of course, the highly coveted jokers.

Now, playing a four-hundred year old gambling game with great-grandmothers might seem to be about as far from the modern RPG industry as you can get and still claim to be "gaming" but after a year or so of playing with these ladies, I realized that these sessions have taught me a lot about game design and play.

Learning Games Makes You Better At Learning Games - When I was first invited over to play mah jongg (or "mahj" as the ladies call it), they warned me that it was kind of a complicated game, and that it might take me a couple of sessions to really understand it.  To their amazement, I was playing actively (not necessarily winning, but understanding the basic elements and using simple strategy) in a hand or two. By the end of the first session, I was not only understanding the rules but asking for clarifications on the more advanced aspects of the game that some of the ladies who had been playing for months or years hadn't thought to question. The version of mahj we play is the "American Mah Jongg League" version, which uses cards that are published each April by the AMJLA. And, to be honest, while learning to read the cards (which list potential winning hands) can be challenging, the rules aren't that complicated, in my opinion. They're certainly easier than many Euro-games I've played, or the several-volumes that some RPGs require folks to understand before playing.

But I don't think it was just my experience with playing more complicated games that let me learn mahj faster than my partners expected. It was that I had experience in learning how to play games. I didn't feel it necessary to memorize the rules in order, or to try to understand everything 100% before I started playing. I let them handle some of the minutia: when we passed tiles, how many and which direction; how much each winning hand was worth; what order we drew new tiles in.

What I really needed to learn was pretty simple.

  • What did I need to do to win? What was the goal? (The winning hands are delineated on the cards.)
  • What was the flow of game play like? (In this case: draw then discard, taking turns counter-clockwise.)
  • When could I interrupt the flow of game play? (In mahj, if you need a tile that has been discarded and you can put it into play, you can "call" for that tile immediately upon it being discarded, even if it isn't your turn next.)
  • What restrictions were there on winning? (Certain winning hands required that you hadn't "called" for any tiles, but rather than you constructed the hand solely through your own draws.)
  • What invalidated the other basic rules? (Jokers can't be used in a single or pair "set". You can't "call" for a pair, other than to complete the final tile of a winning hand.) 

While rules vary wildly, these are the basic things you need to know to play any game. And you can learn to play any game faster (at least on a basic level) if you focus on learning these particular things, rather than every minute possible rule contingency that may or may not arise in any given game session. By learning /how/ to learn a game, you can learn games much faster than those who haven't learned how to learn.

The same rule applies for teaching games to others as well. Good game teachers (and designers) know when to present the basic rules, how to run a sample game, and when to add in the little nit-picky rules that may be important to the game but don't really affect learning /how/ to play.

Rules Shouldn't Reward Poor Sportsmanship - In mahj, it's possible that your hand becomes "dead". That is to say, due to there only being around 50 winning hands, it's possible that at some point in a particular game, you discover that you've committed yourself to a certain hand, but the tiles you'd need to complete it have already been discarded and are out of play.

One of the house rules I questioned when we started playing was that if you realize you've got a dead hand, you're supposed to say so, and sit out the rest of that game (but still pay the winner at the end). My problem with this was that those who were honest (and admitted they had a dead hand) were penalized, while those who either hadn't noticed their hand was dead - or didn't admit their hand was dead - got to continue playing. And, since a player with a dead hand could theoretically stop another player from winning (by drawing and not discarding vital tiles), it felt like the house rule was rewarding poor sportsmanship (or inattention) while penalizing honesty and attentiveness. It took a pretty extensive conversation with the other players before they realized my point (and yes, I had noticed that one or two of the more sly players did tend to "not notice" that their hands were dead, so they were taking advantage of the loop hole in the rule.)

Rules, whether they're canon rules for the game or house rules, should encourage and reward honesty and attention to the game. Unless they're intentionally designed to promote good-natured "cheating", such as in the case of the hand-size rule in Munchkin, rules shouldn't reward poor sportsmanship: arguing, lying, cheating or the like.

Details Count - When writing rules, clarity counts, as do grammar and punctuation. On the mah jongg rules cards, there are several places where winning hands are detailed, the inclusion or placement of a comma makes a drastic difference in how difficult a win is to achieve. We discussed how to interpret these rules extensively, and at times our conversations about what the rules meant sounded more like an English course than a game session. Ideally, rules should be simple to learn and remember and difficult to misunderstand or misinterpret. Many groups use some form of house rules for most games they play, but even those should be understood to be the same by all the players involved. When winning or losing is at stake, it's important that everyone understands exactly what the rules mean and how they should be interpreted.






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In which we are surprised and pleased...

Wow! Nominations were released this morning for the ENnie awards, and I'm blown away to find that One Geek to Another was nominated for Best Blog! 

For those of you who don't follow my website, One Geek To Another is the blog I started last year just after GenCon. It's an advice and etiquette column for the geek world, and alternates between essay topics (ranging from how and why to make introductions to things like how to handle others geek prized possessions...) and Q&A letters that are sent in. We've dealt with everything from how to handle pressure to take an In Character relationship over to Out of Character, how to talk with non-geeks about your geek hobbies, or this week's topic, how to handle canceling out of a con-room situation. 

For a blog that deals with all aspects of geek culture (movies, music, karaoke, conventions) along with gaming in all its myriad forms to be nominated for a game-focused award along side such great strictly-game focused blogs as Critical Hits, Gnome Stew, Kobold Quarterly, and NewbieDM.com - well, I'm honored and amazed!

Oh, and several other products I worked on were nominated as well - Geist and Goblin Markets for White Wolf and Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas for 12 to Midnight - but my blog was a first for me - my first indie product nomination!

(I blogged more about the ENnie process on my website, for those who are unfamiliar with these awards.)

I haven't been blogging a lot lately - summer here in Arizona feels oppressively sunny and hot, even down here in Bisbee. The monsoons haven't started yet, and I'm on pins and needles both waiting for them and with a thousand myriad other aspects of my life. I'm not good at waiting or not being in control (yeah, I know, big shock for those of you who know me personally!) and it's making me a little crazy.

I've started volunteering at our local library on Thursday mornings. It's just reshelving books and shelf-reading (going through the shelved books and making sure things are in the proper place/order) but it's something they can always use an extra hand with, and it makes me feel productive.

We're also doing a lot of work around the house and yard, anticipating the arrival of the monsoons. We tore down a retaining wall that was falling down out front, and just ordered a pallet of stone bricks to replace it. That should make the front of the house look really nice, especially when we get the flower bed that it was supporting all tidied and mulched and replanted.

But now, I'd better get back to work on Shattered Glass. I've got awesome patrons who are waiting for this story, and I don't want to let them down!

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