Yes, Baby Otters Are Excited To See You

Scenes from the Arinn Dembo Memorial Otter Sanctuary and Grumpypants Recovery Centre.

I love how their little voices are essentially the same sound that a squeaky toy from the pet store makes.

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Homeworld Remastered


Quite a few people have been talking lately about the remastered edition of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 which have been released by Gearbox Software.  The new version of Homeworld is apparently not exactly like the original in terms of gameplay, but I have heard a lot of good things about the graphics and it was great to see that Gearbox had gone to the trouble to properly credit Martin Cirulis and me separately for our joint work on the Narrative Design for the project. A gamer friend of mine actually sent me this .png via Twitter to show me the credits for the game.

Homeworld holds a special place in my heart because it was the first professional game project that I worked on. I have always worked best in background fiction and world-building, in creating factions, races and characters that have emotional impact. To this day, I still have people come up to me at conferences and conventions to say how much they loved Homeworld, and I’m quite pleased with my small contribution to that project.

As I noted in my talk at the Full Indie Summit in 2014, it’s not hard to see how a small contribution to narrative design can have a big impact. While writing the background fiction for Homeworld, I made up a new word, “kiith”, to describe the kin groups that serve as the major social and political unit of Hiigaran society. If you google that word today, you’ll find over 82,000 hits for it, and almost every one leads to a fan-created page–wikis, guilds, community forums, reviews and blogs, you name it.

It’s a crude but effective illustration of my point about the way Lore functions as a feature in game design. The purpose of background fiction in Narrative Design is to provide a springboard for the player’s imagination! A good Narrative Designer can give players a much greater level of emotional engagement with the games they play. And a solid relationship between Narrative Design and Campaign Design, or core Gameplay Design, can create a really rich experience for the player.

Ideally, you draw people into a world that feels genuinely alive. That’s what I’m shooting for with every game.



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Norwescon Panels: Worldwide Dead!


A page from the illustrated edition of Kwaidan, by Lafcadio Hearn–my first exposure to “J-horror”, long before the wave of more recent Japanese ghost movies hit the shores of North America.

Thursday, April 2, 2015 -

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm


Not every ghost is an American Civil War soldier or Victorian spinster. The cultures and folklore of unquiet dead from around the world bring a spirit all their own to horror.

Nathan Crowder (M), Pat MacEwen, Jude-Marie Green, Arinn Dembo, Jeremy Zimmerman

I like to do a little preparation before I attend a convention, and give myself a refresher on the topics that my peers and I will be talking about. It’s just more fun if you can bring some cool ideas and resources to the table.

My thoughts on this topic will definitely swirl around a bit. I tend to interpret it as the opportunity to talk about non-British, non-European, and non-white American ghosts…basically, Ghosts of Colour.

This is an exciting topic for me, because I’m actually not very moved by the stereotypical Victorian ghost story. M.R. James never scared me as much I’d hoped he would, and it’s rare that movies in that tradition really get to me–The Woman in Black being a rare exception.

I grew up with multicultural ghosts in the Southwest, and I always found them easier to understand and even to fear. Even the white children of ranchers were taught about La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, when I was growing up…the Native or Hispanic woman who was said to walk the wastes eternally mourning her lost children and the man she had loved–a man who also betrayed her.

In my 20’s I first started getting very interested in Japanese ghost stories and folklore, after reading the translations of Lafcadio Hearn, in particular Kwaidan (which was also made into a fantastic movie by one of my favorite Japanese directors, Masaki Kobayashi).


My question to you: do you have a favorite Ghost of Colour? Or even just a favorite ghost story, legendary haunt or evil spirit from somewhere other than England or North America?

What book, story, movie, folktale or legend would you add to a list of Worldwide Dead?


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Kerb Stomp Episode Three


The Kerberos biweekly podcast continues with Episode 3, in which we discuss the latest industry news, our progress on Kaiju-a-Gogo, the guest appearance by Martin and Chris on the Space Game Junkies Podcast, my upcoming panels at Norwescon, and all our other pop culture hijinx.

Please do follow the Podcast if you are into Internet Radio, and if you’d like to ask a question that is answered on the show, leave me a comment here, on Facebook, or on this thread on the Kerberos forums.


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World’s Oldest Cheese

I never lose my passion for archaeology, no matter how many years pass. I still get excited about new discoveries. In this case, a major step forward for the Archaeology of Cheese–a wheel of cheese 3,600 years old, recovered from a Bronze Age tomb in China.

To relate this to a work context…I’m quite certain that a wealthy Hiver would love to own this as a conversation piece.

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Irons in the Fire – Puppetland Tales!

There’s a lot of work to be done in my little world. I thought it might interest people to know what I’m writing on any given day and week.

Some of you might recall that my name came up last November in connection with a Kickstarter campaign to re-print Puppetland, a highly original role-playing game from the 1990’s.  I’ve always like John Tynes, the creator of the game, and I’ve had good experiences in the past contributing to his RPG milieus. When his collaborator Shane Ivey was canvassing for writers to produce new content for the game, I pitched a few ideas for Tales, the playable scenarios for this game.

Thanks to the Kickstarter’s stretch goals, I’m writing three Tales for Puppetland this month, and having great fun with it. I always do a little research and brainstorming when I’m working with a new universe, and Puppetland research is just a gas.

My scenarios, “The Box”, “Pretty Polly” and “The Bottler”, are all based on the classic icons and structure of the 19th century Punch and Judy shows. Most of the characters I’m working with are classic puppet archetypes from the 18th and 19th centuries.

One of the resources I’m using for inspiration is the website of the International Puppetry Museum in Pasadena, which has beautiful colour photos and descriptions of the many exotic puppets in their collection. Their collection includes amazing works of art from all over the globe, including wonderful shadow puppets from different cultures in Asia, marionettes and hand puppets from every continent, and even a collection of vintage puppet stages backdrops and boxes from shows featuring puppets performing Shakespeare and other classics.

Definitely recommend that anyone who loves puppets and stagecraft should check it out.





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Nerds of a Feather on The Pit


Interesting review of Sword of the Stars: The Pit and Endless Dungeon at the Nerds of a Feather Fanzine today! This writer vastly prefers the roguelike spin-offs to the 4X games that were the originals.

I mostly wrote off Sword of the Stars and Endless Space, but I’m particularly happy I took a chance on these two games. I absolutely recommend them to anyone who’s into sci-fi andRogue-likes. I titled this as “versus” as if these two were competing, and perhaps they are, but it’s us, the people who play the games, who win here.

Needless to say I never argue with taste: some people like Sword of the Stars better, some people prefer The Pit, but in either case I’m just glad to entertain you. Thanks for playing! :)


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Kerb Stomp


My company has a new podcast, which we post twice-monthly. The first episode was a little rough, but the second one has been released and our quality has already improved greatly.

Audience interaction is part of the fun of doing a company podcast, so if you have any questions for the Kerb Stomp crew or about my work for Kerberos specifically, please pass them along. We’ll answer them in the next episode!

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Gateway to Elsewhere (1954)


Hilarious old science fiction book cover shared by Saladin Ahmed on his Twitter feed today. This is from the Ace paperback edition of “Gateway to Elsewhere” by “Murray Leinster” which was a nom de plume for William Fitzgerald Jenkins.

This novel was first serialized in Startling magazine in 1952, and this paperback edition was published in 1954. The artist is Harry Barton.

The way the artist has captured the bewildered white boy and the giant, balatantly dark-skinned djinn both gazing fixedly at the Orientalist fantasy of female sexuality?

Yeah. That is pure comedy gold. And captures the spirit of the novel rather well, actually.

According to Saladin Ahmed, he’s teaching this novel in a class called “Arabs and Muslims in SF/F”, so if you’ve ever wondered why he sometimes seems angry or depressed…there might be a reason.

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John Lee Hooker – 1970

Every once in a while I find a treasure on the Internet at random, like finding a beautiful shell on the beach. Today it’s archival footage of blue giant John Lee Hooker, playing live in the year that I was born – 1970.


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