(Camera pans down to reveal a planet)

 

 

(Camera zooms into the atmosphere and into a DENSE JUNGLE. We hear the roar of a RANCOR. The Rancor is surrounded by 6 Player Characters).

 

 

The PC’s engage in one round of combat with the Rancor. They do little to no appreciable damage to it, all hope looks lost.

 

(SCREEN WIPE)

 

(Establishing shot- Jabba’s Palace, TATOOINE)

ONE WEEK EARLIER

(INTERIOR – Conference room in Jabba’s Palace. BIB FORTUNA addresses VECTOR SQUAD)

 

Bib explains that he is disappointed that Vector Squad was unable to keep the Imperial Customs Agents from boarding the Millennium Falcon, forcing Han Solo to dump his cargo and enfuriating Jabba the Hutt. Bib goes on to let them know that he deflected everything onto Solo, so Jabba has no idea it was Vector that messed up.

 

That said, Jabba is quite upset and is making life miserable for everyone in the court. Fortunately, Jabba’s birthday is a week away, and Bib has heard tell of a beast that would make the perfect gift: a Rancor from the planet Dathomir. He instructs Vector Squad that they are now tasked with capturing and retrieving a Rancor from Dathomir. They will not take the Outrider, Bib’s ship, but instead take a bulk freighter: the Fortune & Glory. This upsets Dia Ven, Vector’s smuggler, but she deals with it. Bib also bestows upon them a case of six large stun detonators, to bring down the beast easier than their own weapons can.

 

Some members of Vector heard that there was a big space battle over Tatooine recently, and ever since Imperial presence on the planet has been at an all time high. Arthur Madine even spots an Imperial patrol out in the desert.

 

Arriving in Mos Eisley, Vector is stopped by a lone Imperial Stormtrooper, asking if they have any droids. Although Spike tries to lie to the trooper, they finally admit that they have PROXY. The Trooper scan’ Proxy’s memory banks, but PROXY does a good job firewalling off any “sensitive” information. The scan comes back negative for what the trooper was looking for and he lets them proceed.

 

They arrive in Docking Bay 87 to find the Fortune & Glory is essentially unarmed. With resignation they board the ship and take off into orbit.

 

(The Fortune & Glory)

They soon find two Imperial Star Destroyers bearing down on their position. Unsure why this is happening Madine hails one of them. The I.S.D. Avenger responds to clear the area, they are attempting to stop another ship. The Fortune & Glory does as instructed to see the Millennium Falcon blast its way past them and jump into hyperspace.

 

In the three day trip to Dathomir the crew does research on the planet. They find that it is a backwater world, rarely visited due to its incredibly hostile native wildlife. Xavier goes to work on reactivating PROXY’s holoemitters, and somehow trips a melee combat training subroutine. PROXY transforms into the spitting image of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi leaps away and attacks Spike, but the lightsaber he uses was merely holographic. The subroutine ends and the group decides not to mess with PROXY’s programming any time in the near future.

 

The group then gets the alarm that they are nearing Dathomir. As they exit hyperspace they get a proximity alarm. An Imperial Prison Transfer Freighter is in close proximity. Their comm link is opened up, they are hailed by the Prison ship.

 

(Imperial Prisoner Ship)

“You are under arrest by the order of the Emperor, cut your engines and prepare to be boarded.”

 

The group acts too slowly and four TIE Fighters appear and begin to fire at the Fortune & Glory. The engines are damaged and the ship begins to fall into the atmosphere. Vexx Y’danshi goes to work on the engines as Dia Ven tries to slow the descent of the ship. Hurling through the atmosphere, Vexx is unsuccessful in repairing the engine as it explodes, ripping a huge hole in the ship. Vexx is sucked out of the hole, saved only by the safety cord he attached to reach the lower part of the engine.

 

The Fortune & Glory slams into the muddy surface of the planet. It’s a rough landing, but survivable. Even Vexx’s fall was broken by several trees and a muddy landing. Vector quickly gathers what supplies they think they will need as Spike begins to find shelter away from the ship, and none too soon, as an Imperial TIE Bomber comes and finishes off the ship as the group scrambles across the river.

Spike finds a trail, but the group decides to stay off it. Using the repulsorsled from the Fortune & Glory (which they saved before it was bombed), the group makes a makeshift lean-to and gets a night’s rest. PROXY stays active through the night, and Spike helps him watch out during the middle of the night.

 

In the morning the group awakes to see a large sack at the edge of their camp. Madine opens it and finds several large (and tasty) fruits for a breakfast, and under that is a crude map showing their location and the location of an imperial base. PROXY checks his logs to see if he can find the moment this package was dropped off and determines that it was some point right before dawn.

 

The map also has a skull marked on it, likely a danger-spot to avoid. After travelling for a day towards the imperial outpost, Spike determines they are about 2 more days away from the post. 2 days later and the group finds an Imperial prison about 5 miles from their current position.

 

As the group begins to discuss how they are going to steal the Prison ship and get off Dathomir, Dia Ven gets bored and takes some glitterstim. She suddenly gets a voice in her head, “Why are you here?” it asks.

 

Dia Ven explains the situation, and learns the voice belongs to the mysterious benefactor from earlier. The benefactor offers to help the group leave Dathomir if they determine such help is required, but until then will stay anonymous.

 

Proxy, Madine, and Spike recon the prison, and determine a course of action. As soon as they arrive back at the group, a Rancor rips through the trees and we are caught up, time wise with where our adventure began.

 

The Rancor does more serious damage to the group, but Vexx Y’danshi uses one of the stun detonators to bring it down. The detonator makes a huge loud explosion, prompting the Imperials to come and investigate, leaving fewer defenders in the prison itself. Vector squad avoids the Imperials and does an end-around, stealing the prison ship and getting all 50 prisoners on board, before destroying the barracks and hangar preventing them from being able to pursue.

 

They then go back and recover their unconscious Rancor, as Xavier concocts a sedative to keep it asleep for the journey back to Jabba’s Palace.

End of Session 1.

(I’ll update this post when I get some of the character names straightened out)

 

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Risk Legacy is a new version of the classic board game by Hasbro. The core rules are very similar to Risk, anyone who has played Risk should be able to pick up the nuances of Legacy in minutes.

The big change comes in the fact that every game you play impacts all future games you play on the same board. Continents are named, cities are founded, bunkers and ammo shortages scar the territories, and more. This is unique in the world of board games, and I commend them for being so bold as to try it. Before the game starts you place extra value on up to 12 territories, for our game we did 11 territories, spreading them out amongst the world, but West Africa ended up with and extra coin (value sticker) because of how it is such a huge crossroads in the game of Risk.

There are also five factions in the game, and they have their own unique pieces (but that’s just flavor). They DO get unique rules, applied with a sticker to the faction’s card. The thing is, there’s TWO powers to pick from. Once you pick one you tear up the other one, no backsies! For my game of Risk, we let the players decide on the power that their chosen faction got. We ended up with:

Gain 1 extra troop per turn per HQ you own, but it must be placed in your HQ.

If you roll three-of-a-kind on an attack roll and still defeat at least one defender, you auto-win the territory.

If you roll natural 6/6 while defending, that territory can no longer be attacked that turn.

When you use your Manuever, you do not have to have the two territories linked.

When you divide the number of territories by 3 to determine reinforcements for the turn, round up instead of down.

In the first game everyone got a Scar card, that is either a Bunker (+1 to highest die when defending) or an Ammo Shortage (-1 to highest die when defending). These came out when players were making a big push and needed an advantage. These stickers are placed on the territory and are a permanent part of the game from that point forward. West Africa ended up with an Ammo Shortage, meaning the hard to hold territory just got even harder to control.

If you have all your pieces eliminated you are not out of the game… yet. If there is a legal spot to return to the game, you come back on your next turn. Of course, this betrays one of the core changes to the game, the object of the game is now to get four “Red Stars”, not conquer the planet. You get a Red Star for each HQ you control, and you get a Red Star if you want for turning in four cards. Finally you get a Red Star to start the game if you have yet to WIN a game on that board (making it harder for people who have won previously to win again so soon). I assume there are other ways to earn Red Stars but we haven’t found them yet.

What does that mean? “Haven’t found them yet?” Well Risk Legacy includes secret “expansions” right in the box. Sealed envelopes and containers that have conditions that must be met before they are added to the game. “Open when all the Minor Cities have been founded” “Open when a player gains 30 or more troops in one turn and has a Missile” “Open when three Missiles are used on the same combat”. What’s in these? I HAVE NO IDEA. We have yet to find out, but the rulebook does have places where new RULES are stickered in and there are spots on the board for more rules as well (additional Scar types I assume).

At the end of the first game, Nate Birkholz won the game, but all the other players “held on”. That meant that Nate got to choose from a list of things the winner could do, and he chose to “Name a Continent”. He chose Australia and named it “South Butts”. Now, if he ever controls South Butts completely, he gets 3 troops instead of 2, since he named it. Players who held on got to place minor city stickers on any territory they controlled at the end of the game, and name those cities. We ended game one with “Razor,” Paragon City,” “Particle Board Palace,” and “(null).”

The second game was even more fun than the first. With the scars on the board it made gameplay feel a lot different knowing what was defensible and what was not. By the end of this game, Vince D’amelio won, (with the same Faction that Nate won the first game; the one that got an extra Troop per HQ). Vince named South America “Nuevo Mechamerica” and the cities of “I (heart) RNG”, “Saaaaaaand!”, “Millerville,” and “Free Beer”.

Anyway, the game is basically Risk, meaning the randomness of one or two defenders monkeywrenching an attacking horde happens all the time. I love this fact since everyone has likely played Risk, meaning the barrier to entry is super low. We’re two games in, and I am looking forward to playing more. The next game will be with my wife and 9 year old son this weekend. I can’t wait!

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When I first heard about D&D Essentials I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed too soon for a 4.5 edition of D&D and everyone I knew had no problems with 4e, not like we had with 3e.

Then I heard more about it. I heard where the ideas for it came from, it came from the marketing department, and not from R&D. It seemed that D&D was having a sell through problem in stores, because they only carried the latest books and not the “Core” rules. basically their idea of naming the books Players Handbook 2 and 3 backfired and caused stores to stop carrying the essential PHB 1.

Now this would have been great if the books were simply reprinting existing rules, but it looks like R&D got talking with folks in Focus testing and they realized that this was an opportunity to “fix” problems people had with the game.

The first of these were people who didn’t ‘get’ Powers. They wanted their Fighter to swing his sword and do damage. And what do you mean, my Fighter isn’t a top-tier damage dealer? He FIGHTS it’s in his NAME. That means damage.

And thus, the Essential Fighter is a different beast than the PHB one. There are two new build options: The Slayer and Knight. Slayer looks most like a house-ruled variant of Barbarian, and Knight looks like a watered down Paladin. Slayer is not even a Defender, but a top-tier damage dealing Striker. At least Knight keeps with the Defender motif that Fighter got with the original 4e.

As for attacks both use Melee Basic as their attack. For everything. It really is an “I hit the monster with my axe” class now. I swing my sword would be the name of their sole At-Will attack power in normal 4e parlance. The variety and choices come in Stances that each build gets instead of At-Will powers. And as for Daily powers, forget it. They don’t get them. Although they do get Encounter powers at level 1, the Knight’s is a “triggered” power to do an extra [W] on an already confirmed hit, not even a different flavor of attack.

I was appalled at this apparent dumbing down of D&D, but a recent opportunity arose for me to actually PLAY an Essentials character, and I wanted to do so, to see how the class acted in practice rather than on paper/in theory.

My verdict is this: It’s a wholly capable class, and didn’t feel out of place next to a non-Essentials Paladin and Rogue, a Rune Priest and an Invoker. But what it was was boring. I kicked ass as a Defender (Knight build), using my non-mark-yet-kinda-marked power to great effect, and the fact that my Melee Basic was affected by my stance meant my Opportunity Attacks were exceptional, but when we needed to pull out the big guns, I didn’t have anything. And extra [W] once per fight and no Daily to pop on the final encounter. Everyone else had a lot more choices, my spotlight would only come on the monster’s turn when I could get my “free” attacks off on them.

I’ll probably stick with the character, but its nowhere near as interesting as the Avenger, Rogue or Druid I play in other games.

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If you were unaware, I am posting weekly over on MMODesigner.com, it’s a more focused blog talking about what I know best, designing MMO’s.

I’ll keep this blog around for non-MMO related blog posts.

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Recently the “never stops shutting down” problem came BACK to my tablet whenever I ran iTunes, a problem I never had until I upgraded to Windows 7.

I did some research on the net and ONE thing caught my attention. A user suggested plugging the USB cable into a USB port directly on the motherboard. I was plugging mine into the side port on my Tx2z, so I decided to see if plugging it into the back would fix the problem.

It looks like it did. I was able to sync my iPhone to iTunes with no problem, shut down iTunes and successfully shut down the tablet! So if you are having the same problem I am, try plugging your iPod or iPhone into a USB jack that is directly tied to the motherboard. It worked for me! Good luck.

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I am a sucker for new OSes. I bought ME, XP, Vista and now Windows 7 on they day they released. I have -always- done an “upgrade” install, keeping my data and installed programs. I know a lot of people have said you should just do a fresh install, but, seriously, I have never had a problem.

I got Windows 7 for both my home PC and my tablet PC. My home PC is running Vista Ultimate 32 bit and the tablet had Vista Home Premium 64 bit. I installed to my tablet first and had some issues right off the bat of programs running that were causing the install to fail (remember, I am doing an upgrade, not a wipe), eventually I get that remedied and the install to the tablet completes.

I install to my home PC, and I want to upgrade to Ultimate 64 bit at this point, as I want to put more memory in it eventually (have 4GB now). Problem. You can’t use an “upgrade” from Vista Ultimate 32 to Windows 7 Ultimate 64. Grumble. I consign myself to simply sticking to a 32 bit OS for the time being. The first install with that failed at the infamous “62%”, which I read needed a registry edit to get past, but a second try got it installed without crashing, no editing.

Back to the tablet, I immediately have problems with itunes. It just doesn’t seem to want to run, and since this is where I sync my phone to, this is a problem. I can get iTunes to run about 20% of the time. The other 80% it simply refuses to launch, but in the Task Manager you can clearly see it running… and when you “End Task” in the TM, it does nothing. I have never seen a program REFUSE to be forcibly shut down by task manager before. If I go to reboot at this point the tablet will hang on “Shutting down” and never actually shut off.

I did a lot of research on the subject and even asked the twitterverse for advice (advantage to having over 1000 followers!) I tried everything suggested EXCEPT “do a full wipe install”. I simply didn’t want to admit defeat. Finally after a day of trying to get iTunes started so I could sync, I decided that the full install was the last resort. I backed up my data, deauthorized iTunes (once I finally got it running) and did the full install. Everything went smoothly and a reinstall of iTunes messed up some of my settings, but at this point I have not had the problem I did previously. It’s been two days and all signs look good.

On my home PC I have a different problem. Media Player refuses to play MPEG files. It will lock up and sit in Task Manager eating an entire core of my quad-core until I forcibly shut it down (which, thankfully it does). Had this problem for a while now but its pretty minor so it wasn’t until this week I went on the crusade to fix it. In the end there was a corrupted MPEG codec left around from some program that was the issue. Once I deleted the value for it in the registry, Media Player worked fine.

This brings me to my biggest issue I am having with Windows 7. When something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t WORK. It doesn’t error out, it doesn’t crash, it doesn’t hang, it just doesn’t give any feedback at all. On the Media Player problem, if I didn’t know how to end a process in the Task Manager, I’d have no idea how to free up the processing power it was eating up. The iTunes problem was worse as there was NO solution that I could find that fixed the problem without a HD wipe.

For functionality, I must say Windows 7 has some neat bells and whistles, and it definitely feels faster than Vista did on my home PC. For the tablet, I find it hits the HD a LOT and that slows programs load times down to a point that I am looking at a Solid State Drive to improve performance.

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Roll a d20
It tumbles on the table
I pray for a crit

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Sometimes situations arise where your players want to know if they can buy magic items at the beginning or end of an adventure. And sometimes, you just don’t want to roleplay out the “shopping” part and the players hate when they are screwed by being in a town too small to have what they really need.

This skill challenge enables the players to use their social and knowledge skills in procuring the exact items they want, no matter what size town it is. As with all Skill Challenges, role-play helps, so if during any step of this the players are role-playing the “how” of the skill use, then assign a bonus of +1 to +5 to their eventual roll.

Skill Challenge: Buying a Magic Item

You are between adventures, and are looking to procure a specific magic item, buying it at normal price. (This Skill Challenge can also be used to buy Rituals)

Complexity: Varies

Item Level

Successes

Failures

Under APL*

4

3

Equal to APL*

6

3

+1 over APL

8

3

+2 over APL

10

3

+3 or more over APL

12

3

APL = Average Party Level, rounded down

*NOTE: These are included for parties who are buying rituals, do not have access to the Enchant Item ritual, or wish to speed up the process.

Time Taken:

Skill Check Difficulty Class

Party Level

Easy

Moderate

Hard

1st – 3rd

5

10

15

4th – 6th

7

12

17

7th – 9th

8

14

19

10th – 12th

10

16

21

13th – 15th

11

18

23

16th – 18th

13

20

25

19th – 21st

14

22

27

22nd – 24th

16

24

29

25th – 27th

17

26

31

28th – 30th

19

28

33

1 Day

Skills Used:

Arcana – Easy for first attempt, Moderate for subsequent, gives +5 to next Bluff, Diplomacy, or Streetwise roll. If procuring Arcane rituals, non-healing potions, alchemy, or arcane implements, gives 2 successes instead of a bonus.

Bluff – Moderate, failure gives 2 failures

Diplomacy – Moderate

Insight – Moderate, gives +5 to next Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Streetwise roll.

Intimidate – Hard, gives 4 successes, failure gives 2 failures

Religion – Easy for first attempt, Moderate for subsequent, gives +5 to next Bluff, Diplomacy, or Streetwise roll. If procuring Divine rituals, healing potions, or holy implements, gives 2 successes instead of a bonus.

Streetwise – Easy to give a +2 bonus on the next roll. Moderate for a success.

Thievery – Hard, gives 2 successes

Other Conditions:

Village – Number of Successes needed are +2

Town – No Adjustment

City – Start with 4 Successes

Metropolis (Sigil, Waterdeep, City of Brass, etc) – Start with 6 Successes

Disposable Items (Potions, alchemy, etc): One rank easier

Bazaar/Market Day currently underway: Start with 2 successes.

On major caravan or trade route: +1 success

Consequences:

Full Fail – 3 failures before 75% successes: Magic Item not available

Partial Fail – 3 failures after75% successes: Magic Item available, but procured after next adventure (may choose not to purchase it, but if purchased must be paid for immediately, no refunds!)

Success – Magic Item available at book price

Quick Chart:

Metropolis: Anything APL-1, Disposables at APL, are automatic

City: Anything APL-2 or more, Disposables at APL-1, are automatic

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I am running a 4th Edition D&D game and one of the suggestions for 4e is that the players write up “loot lists” for magic items that they desire. With the way buying and selling magic items works in 4e (they are only worth 1/5th their value when you sell them), it makes it very hard for a party to “convert” found magic items into the ones they actually want. A loot list is the solution.

Players can write down the magic items they want and then give it to their DM who should seed the adventure with the items from the lists. Of course, the DM can ignore the list and put whatever he wants in the dungeon instead, but that defeats the point.

One of the other concepts of 4e is the “treasure parcel”. These are “all the loot” of an adventure, split up into 10 digestible parts. An encounter can yield one, two, or no parcels, depending on the DM. The only hard and fast rule is that by the time the characters gain a level, they have earned all 10 parcels of treasure.

Now, in the game I run, I tried to run it this way, but I found that I constantly was losing people’s loot lists and asking them to gimme something “real quick” so I could outfit them. This worked amazingly well, so I adapted that into the current iteration of how I am distributing loot.

The current iteration is this:

There is a list of parcels. For the Magic Items, it is just the level of the magic item. For the money, it’s as the DMG suggests. These are numbered 1 thru 10.

There is a list of Player Characters, and their Magic Items. This list is in an order that was established randomly at the beginning of the campaign.

When treasure is found, I roll a d10 and look up what parcel it is. If it is money/potions, I hand that out as normally. If I roll a magic item, I then consult the list of PCs.

I look at the PC who has the least amount of magic items. If there are multiple PC’s with the same, least, amount then I look at who the highest one on the list is. Eventually, everyone on the list will have the same amount of Magic Items, and I can just use the list as an order of distribution for magic.

I then ask that player to come up with at least THREE items of the LEVEL I rolled on the parcels. This way, I don’t need to track someone’s loot list and they get some insight into the items they might get (the level anyway). Once I have the items from the player, I roll a d3 (or higher if they gave me more), and that determines what item is actually found. This way, it might not be the “Best Spec” item on the list, but it will be the same level as the Best Spec, and it will be something that the player wanted.

I usually inform the other players that they find “A magic item for John” or somesuch, and work out with John on the side what that item ends up being.

Once the parcel is distributed, I cross it off the list. Once all parcels are distributed, I generate 10 new parcels and start the process anew.

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A while back, I was asked to contribute to the third in a series of books on narratives. This book, Third Person, would contain a chapter by yours truly on how we handled storytelling in City of Heroes and City of Villains.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

Product Description
The ever-expanding capacities of computing offer new narrative possibilities for virtual worlds. Yet vast narratives—featuring an ongoing and intricately developed storyline, many characters, and multiple settings—did not originate with, and are not limited to, Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Marvel’s Spiderman, and the complex stories of such television shows as Dr. Who, The Sopranos, and Lost all present vast fictional worlds.

Third Person explores strategies of vast narrative across a variety of media, including video games, television, literature, comic books, tabletop games, and digital art. The contributors—media and television scholars, novelists, comic creators, game designers, and others—investigate such issues as continuity, canonicity, interactivity, fan fiction, technological innovation, and cross-media phenomena.

Chapters examine a range of topics, including storytelling in a multiplayer environment; narrative techniques for a 3,000,000-page novel; continuity (or the impossibility of it) in Doctor Who; managing multiple intertwined narratives in superhero comics; the spatial experience of the Final Fantasy role-playing games; World of Warcraft adventure texts created by designers and fans; and the serial storytelling of The Wire.

Taken together, the multidisciplinary conversations in Third Person, along with Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin’s earlier collections First Person and Second Person, offer essential insights into how fictions are constructed and maintained in very different forms of media at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Contributors: Rafael Alvarez, Richard A. Bartle, Michael Bonesteel, Stanford Carpenter, Monte Cook, Paul Cornell, Anne Cranny-Francis, Sam Ford, Chaim Gingold, A. Scott Glancy, Richard Grossman, Pat Harrigan, Matt Hills, Kenneth Hite, William H. Huber, Adriene Jenik, Henry Jenkins, David Kalat, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Norman M. Klein, Tanya Krzywinska, David Lavery, Robin D. Laws, Sarah Lewison, Henry Lowood, William E. McDonald, Matthew P. Miller, Jason Mittell, Stuart Moulthrop, Kate Orman, Sean O’Sullivan, Lance Parkin, Robert M. Price, Ren Reynolds, Trina Robbins, Ken Rolston, Dave Sim, Greg Stafford, Tamiko Thiel, John Tulloch, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Walter Jon Williams

About the Author
Pat Harrigan is a writer and author of the novel Lost Clusters. He is also the co-editor, with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, of First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004) and Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007), both published by the MIT Press.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies, forthcoming from the MIT Press. He is also the co-editor, with Pat Harrigan, of First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004) and Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007), both published by the MIT Press.

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