Some Current Projects

I tend to pursue too many projects at once. It's been a problem my whole life. But I'm trying to focus and finish them one-at-a-time recently while still brainstorming about future ones, so here are a handful of projects that I'm currently working on:

A Tool: Lament Configuration

I've used Pinboard for several years to store various links: it's one of very few proprietary online services that I genuinely like using, in part because of how it bucks the trends that many web services follow: there's no feature sunsetting, no “redesigns” that break existing workflows, no ad-driven engagement metrics. That said, I still prefer hosting my own services with my own data if I can, and there are a number of features I've wanted out of a bookmarking service that Pinboard doesn't have, including some slightly fancier tagging systems (e.g. hierarchical tags that can express subset-like relationships) and an alternate way of displaying links with rich content (e.g. preview photos for recipes).

So, I'm working on Lament Configuration, a self-hosted Pinboard-like system. I've got a running test instance at which I'll eventually stabilize and open up to close friends as well, but it's designed as human-scale software so I don't believe I'll ever design it to host more than a small handful of people. I've been working on it with the help of my friend Trevor, and we'll probably put a bow on a “release” some time soon, but I've got several more features that I want to add over time.

Other tools on my backburner: a wiki inspired by Andy Matuschak's notes tentatively called baba-yaga, a Roll20 clone with an emphasis on note-taking and wikis for less-map-focused games tentatively called beholder, a tool for designing and using grid-based shape grammars tentatively called palladio.

A Tabletop Game: Guns & Gasoline

Okay, the original idea for this game was perfunctory and silly, and I've spent far too much time thinking about it considering what it is, but the core idea is: a tabletop game about street racing, gunfights, and saving the day, built specifically around three stats: Fast, Furious, and Family.

Yeah, it's corny, but that's what those movies are all about.

It's gone through at least three major revisions: the original version was a more-intricate-than-necessary Powered-by-the-Apocalypse game. That draft had a few ideas I liked—in particular, it had three different combat movies, Fight Smart, Fight Hard, and Fight For What You Love, each built around a different stat but with different narrative and mechanical consequences—but that draft of game never felt like it was really cohering in the way that I wanted.

The second revision was heavily inspired by a brief perusal of the second edition of 7th Sea, but was still largely Powered-by-the-Apocalypse in its bones: you'd roll to find out how many 'hits' you got, and then trade those for 'outcomes', both stopping bad outcomes and initiating good outcomes. The cool part here was that really high rolls (which were possible through exploding dice) could give you a large number of hits, allowing you to dispatch dozens of enemies in a single conceptual “action”, but the bad part was that listing a half-dozen outcomes to choose from for every roll felt super fiddly and annoying. I might revisit the idea at some point—it's got some cool promise, I think—but I was never satisfied with it for this concept.

The most recent revision is probably closest in its rough shape to Danger Patrol, a probably-never-going-to-be-finalized John Harper playtest draft, although the specific dice mechanic is different, incorporating the theoretically-unbounded-successes of the last version. It has an explicit “threat layout” where you use index cards to indicate what's on the table, like user-visible clocks, and it borrows the split playbook approach of Danger Patrol as well, so your character is created from an Origin (like “the feds” or “the streets”) and a Role (like “tech” or “hitter”). It also involves a lot of dice pool moving and trading: certain abilities let you roll more dice, but they might also let you temporarily move one of your dice to a different pool, or to a teammate's pool, or rearrange your pools on the fly. I still need to playtest, but I've gotten character sheets written and plan to write a lot more over the coming week or so, so it's ready for both personal and public playtesting.

Other games on my backburner: a scifi Dogs in the Vineyard hack tentatively called Wardens of Sirius, an Animal Crossing-inspired daily-life-in-a-village game playable via Slack or Discord tentatively called Yan Tan Tethera, a weird Americana Zelda-style dungeon crawler currently code-named Wenaglia.

A Creative Project: Cocktail Graphics

a diagrammatic recipe for the Last Word cocktail

I started making these diagrammatic cocktail recipes a while back, temporarily lost momentum on them, and have recently started picking them back up. The core idea is that they show you the steps split up so you can see which ingredients are necessary for each step, letting you plan by glancing at the recipe, which would be great for planning when making complicated multi-stage recipes. Unfortunately, this idea isn't terribly useful for cocktails: most of them involve one or two basic steps steps (mix, pour, garnish) so in practice I make these diagrams because they're pretty and fun, not because they make the act of cocktail-making significantly easier.

I'd like to do at least a set of “classic cocktails” (probably starting with the David Embury set) and a set of “personal cocktails”, but once I have a bigger library of vector graphic bottles to pick from I can probably put them together a lot more quickly and easily whenever I get a new idea. We'll see: drawing little vector graphic ingredients is pretty fun. I need to start looking into the best way to get them printed, as well!

Other creative projects on my backburner: a worldbuilding fiction project called Tir-Bhahat, a nearly-finished fantasy novel and drafts of a couple of short stories, and lots more linocut prints than I've done in the past month.