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The Map is not the Territory - Part 2 (map trivia)

The Disoriented Ranger - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 19:31
Yes, already the second post. I need to get my jive back and for that, it helps to work this keyboard as hard as possible ... Anyway, Part 1 left lots of question marks and some of that needs to be resolved. Not sure if a third post will become necessary (yes, it will). For now, we take a deep dive into maps and what they do. [source]Clarifications for Part 1
If you haven't read that, this will get you up to speed. I'll start by quoting something I wrote on g+ to illustrate part of the idea:"... imagine yourself in the middle of a forest without a map. What are your options, what is it you can do to get around, etc., etc. ... Now imagine yourself with a map. What would change? What is it you can do now? How does the map relate to what is surrounding you? Your options change, but not as much as one would actually think. As a matter of fact, if you don't know where you are or how to work a map, it might end up being useless to have a map, right? And now imagine the players having a map without the characters having one ... that's the discrepancy I'm talking about."I'm not talking about how maps lead you from point A to point B. What I'm talking about is what maps do for the game, what they should do for the game and what they can do for it.
There's a little detour in the post about how damage can be handled way more abstract than it is done in D&D by leaving the notion behind that every aspect of a creature needs to be quantifiable. The principle is the same as with maps: you can cut the fat by answering the question which aspects of a creature you really need to allow a meaningful interaction with the characters.
Contrary to common practice I believe that you can get away with scratching the notion of hit points (among other things). The reason for this is the same reason why we are talking about maps here, it's about how the system translates the interactions with the narrative environment surrounding the characters. There is a lot to this, but the basic idea is that characters more or less are expected to experience the world around them as we do ours. That's how we relate to what they experience and that's what we base our decisions on what they can do or what their chances are to succeed.
So, characters in a forest would mostly see what's directly surrounding them. They may have a notion where they are or where North is or how to find that out. However, since the narrative environment is not so much a virtual space as it is an emerging pattern, we can get away with just creating enough content to create a credible sphere of continuity (that is: basically being ahead of the players at least a couple of steps).
Which means, in a way, that a monster having hit points is equivalent to having an idea where all the trees are in a forest, while all we might need is the idea that the hit points/the trees are there and how that interacts with the characters. The idea is to show that while maps are useful and have their place, there's also a divide between maps depicting spaces and role-playing games creating patterns.
This is where Part 2 starts ...
Problematic Maps
There's a great article over at Tor about how problematic Tolkien's maps of Middle Earth are and it is an interesting read for that alone, so check it out. The main take away here (for this post, at least) is that Tolkien would have been better off without the map. Why? Because the story doesn't need it and the internal logic of the map (or lack thereof) actually hurts the story (or will after you've read that article ...).
As a matter of fact, if Tolkien had left it at just describing the journey of the fellowship of the ring, it would have produced a huge range of maps made by publishers, artists or fans and some of them are bound to get it right while staying true to the source. As it is, the map that does nothing for the story but codifies what Middle Earth looks like, warts and all.See the problem? [source]It's not a problem, I hear you thinking. Well, role playing has it's very own and very similar problems with maps. Although somewhat reversed. Check out, for instance, the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Or rather, every published D&D setting from AD&D 2e onwards, to be honest, but let's look at the Realms. The short of it is, it's full.
So full, in fact, that there's almost no room left for a DMs own stuff. Of course, that's also (and to a huge degree) due to the texts accompanying those maps: cultures, sigils, names, seasons, religions, stories, non-player characters, politics, world events ... lots and lots and lots of stuff there, ready for the taking. Or taking away creative wiggle room.
Just like with Tolkien above, though, it's the maps that make it worse. They codify the texts while creating the illusion of completeness and putting all of the described locations into context. It creates a restricted space where just the texts would have left enough room for interpretation for all using it.
The thing with maps is, they try to fill the gaps and the empty spaces and while resorting to generalizations out of sheer necessity, it still occupies everything. Text alone doesn't do that.
Maps vs. Reality
Maps just don't do reality. Full stop. They heighten certain aspects of an area. It's more of an interpretation cut towards certain needs, but never the complete thing. Can't be. If a map would depict every aspect of reality ... it would be reality. Maps are the tip of the iceberg or the proverbial tail of the elephant. They show aspects of reality, sure enough, just not the whole. I can't stress enough how crucial this is when talking about fictional maps. Because if maps never show the real thing, what does that mean if all you have is the map?
Keep that question in mind, I will come back to it.
Examples. I wrote a post a couple of years back after I had visited a real-life dungeon in Oppenheim and you can read it here. The main takeaways are: it's chaotic and multilayered with small tunnels for messenger dogs, with underground weather and sealed tunnels. There is not one straight tunnel. As far as maps go, it is impossible to map. Here, have a picture:
This is a very small portion of the dungeon under Oppenheim.This place grew all over the place, like a fungus. That's how dungeons are more often than not. It's not how dungeons are usually depicted in role-playing games ... Which offers a nice transition to how problematic maps get if they are too concrete in what they depict. There are some beautiful 3d maps out there and if you get a chance to use them at the table, it'll add a lot to the gaming experience

And that's already where the problem is. The random nature of the game does not guaranty that the group will end up in a specific location at any given time (unless you force it ...). It's (again) the problem of fixed space versus emerging pattern.

You want a little bit more crass example? There's another post I wrote as a follow-up to the Oppenheim post where I tackle spelunking (it's here) and it's coming to some very similar conclusions about caves: they are chaotic and very difficult to navigate, even more difficult to map. Here is a picture of what a map for a real-life cave looks like:

Open in new tab and check the post for more details on that one ...It's the closest you can get and (I think) a great example of what maps can do respectively what the limitations are. Here is another dimension to this: it has no purpose other than depicting what is there in a way that makes it possible to navigate it.

In other words, no one thinks "I need a place for my Ogre to live ..." or, to circle back to Tolkien, "We need mountain ranges around Mordor ...". It shows there's always nature before purpose, random before potential. It needs a lot of chaos before a pattern can emerge from it. Check the names they gave the areas they found in that cave map above. Meaning after the fact.

If nothing else, considering all this can give games and maps authenticity.

Finally: the map is not the territory?

No, well, yes! But we are not quite there yet. I think I managed to circle the problem this time around though: maps are always about what they depict and never the full picture. Where gaming material is (often) lacking, is when the map lacks context on the one hand, while occupying too much space on the other.

Maps offer great chances but are not an end unto themselves.

Where to go from that? Well, I guess we need to talk about procedural creation and player maps for a bit. Maybe an excursion to computer games is in order as well. The third (and final, I'm pretty sure) part of this series will conclude with an example how we can produce that abundance of material in our games that is needed to give maps authenticity and depth.

As always, comments, questions, and ideas are very welcome. You can also read on in Part 3!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Map is not the Territory - Part 1 (basic thoughts)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 19:21
Time to post. Turned out to be a long one. Actually, long enough to warrant a second post (which might end up being just as long). I'll try something difficult here: the idea is to formulate a theory how fictional realities (our gaming worlds) need a different approach to mapping for DMs and how understanding why things work as they do helps forming new concepts for your own games. I'll be slaughtering some holy cows here, so let's get to it.
This post was partly inspired by the post The formless Wilderness by +Gabor Lux.

It's also very much about the thoughts behind the design for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs (just in case anyone way wondering ...)
What you see is not what you get ...
Here is the problem: it is impossible to simulate reality in every detail. And even if it were possible, it's also impossible to experience reality in its entirety. In our games, it's the interplay between the illusion of detail and the shared belief of interconnectedness that make the magic happen. Reality is what we agree upon, as are the rules we use.
Following that train of thought further, we'll come to the conclusion that one goal of proper game-design is to offer a compromise in rules that produces something exceptional beyond the sum of its parts. We tend to forget that the individual group always is the factor x in every game. I think we tend to forget this because when we talk rules, we all talk about the same offer, not so much about the compromise that ends up being the individual game. Nonetheless, the compromise is what you get.
There's almost my punchline for the introduction. However, let's push harder. The sum of its parts, suspension of disbelief, all that gets you only so far in explaining how to do your job as a DM or how to write rules yourself. There are, of course, always the rules that are established and are known to work. The "tried and true" type of rules. But what is very often lacking with those type of rules is the explanation why they work. And this is a big problem, in my opinion.
We are told to take these things at face value, without being able to look "under the hood" and see the machinations or how they connect to the game. Rulebooks more often than not explain to you how a game works, but not why it works and if you don't know why it works, you cannot make informed decisions when doing it yourself. Or transcend beyond that, making something new, maybe something better.
Maps are a good and easy example for that, as they are a collection of signifiers for an area that are more on the interpreting side than the reproducing side. It always needs points of reference to make maps useful. Hence, maps need something to be mapped, to begin with, and their usefulness is only in reference to what they depict. So, what you see on a map is not what you get in the game. However, if you just have the map, what, actually, do you end up with in the game? And what should DM-maps look like if they are derived from a gaming environment?
GPS fail, because maps are not always reliable [source]A roll is a roll is a roll ...
However we decide to determine chance in our games, the most common denominator will be that they are all oracles. Easy as that. You ask what's going to happen, chance tells you how it's going down. However, while the extent of complexity we end up using in our games is totally up to taste, the one thing you'll find in all those systems is that they aim for credibility. The results should genuinely mirror our interpretation of possible results (or at least something we can agree upon), maybe even expand our horizon in that regard.
In a way, the oracle you choose is the method with which the players explore and experience the world surrounding their characters. It helps them mapping what they discover. And that is important, as it informs their decisions. Each feedback they get offers information about the possibilities of their next decisions.
It's why games need to be "balanced" because we want to be able to extrapolate what will happen from what happened or learn from our mistakes, which is only possible if the results of the oracles are relatable. In that sense, balance doesn't mean that all encounters are "fair" challenges but rather that players will (should) be able to assess the chances their characters have facing a certain challenge, at least over time.
Right? [source]The way I see it, the rules work as sensors for the players, their ten-foot pole, and the more leeway the rules give them, the better are the decisions they end up with. It's easy to see how that can be true for players. With DMs, it's a bit harder to see. However, if we stay with the idea of the system-as-oracle, we can come to the conclusion that systems or rules can provide context beyond the scope of a DMs individual capability. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article about divination that brings some of that home for me:"Divination can be seen as a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand."In a way, the DM also asks the rules how the world manifests as the characters explore it. Sure, you can decide if it is a rainy day or not instead of leaving it to chance, especially if it seems convenient (and although it's something we frown upon when players do it!). However, I found that using a form of divination for decisions is not only liberating, it also offers outcomes beyond what I could come up with on my own.
The famous D&D Random Encounter Reaction Table is a great example here. The chance that a monster is happy to encounter the group is as high as outright hatred. But happens if that orc is happy to see you? It changes the flow of the game significantly. It has merit. What's more, it also offers a spectrum players in turn can rely on: not all encounters need to be hostile and depending on how characters approach encounters, they might, for instance, be able to reason with a monster. Or trick it.
While the Random Encounter Reaction Table forces a DM to find reason in the behaviour of a monster, it also offers reason for the players to work with. The monster that wants to kill you instead of fleeing or parleying, must have reason to do so. It's a pattern fixed in the rules and players may draw conclusions from that about their surroundings.
Your basic Random Encounter Table works like that, too, in that it not only gives you a random encounter, but also shows the entirety of all common encounters for a certain area. It's a relatable pattern. However, it's important to know why it works to utilize it properly.
Threat assessment and reliable information ... [source]Priorities and observation
If rules are sensors for players than they meet half way with the DMs imagination what the world looks and works like. Combat is an easy example here, as it (usually) takes a close look at what happens in a fight and what the consequences are. Most role playing games will not only offer (more or less) complex combat sub-systems, but also a shit-load of stuff associated with that, like monster manuals and what not.
And yet, while most systems will get along just fine, you'll also see the limits of those systems fairly easy: characters are very often so much more complex than their monster counterparts, and very much for the reasons stated above. It's mostly based on the misconception that it is not only possible but also necessary to simulate the gaming environment with an aspiration towards realism. The idea is, I think, rooted in the believe that for cause and effect to be reliable, they need to be fully realised.
That is, for a monster to be hurt it needs to have (some sort of) hit points to begin with. The strange thing is that while it still renders an incomplete picture of that fictionl environment the characters interact with, it still, in a way, gives too much of the world away.
Much like with maps, what good does it a DM or player to know how much hit points exactly a monster has? While you think there might be an obvious answer to that question (that is: to know when it's dead), I'd like to challenge the reasoning here. Think about it, all the characters know is that they damaged the opponent to some degree, and all the DM needs to know is how the opposition reacts to that damage. The idea that something has points that need depleting to come to an result has led (as we all well know) to lots of games ending up being slaughter fests.
What it seems vs. what it is ... [source] I'd say it should be enough to know how tough an enemy is in the different stages of mutilation and how that manifests in an reaction during the fight. For obvious reasons it's still a good idea to have some sort of health system for characters. But that's just it: priorities and observation. What is important in the game and what will be observated (as in: what manifests and why).
It's the same way with maps. They give a wrong sense of completion and give too much away while being incomplete. It's misleading, just like the hit points for monsters are.
So, the map is not the territory?

I'm not against nice maps or monster manuals. It's good inspiration and most games actually rely on monster manuals to give DMs options. They work, they are fun, I'm all for it. I also think we cn push a little harder in our designs and see where it gets us. This includes the games we play as well as the games we write. For that we need a proper understanding what the hell we are actually doing when playing role playing games. But how to achieve that?
Experience and trial and error. We do not have the luxury of a billion dollar industry with the pocket money to finance research like the computer gaming industry has, so this comes down to enthusiasts doing their thing. The thing is, it costs time and it might not work. Nonetheless, it's work that needs doing (I think). This is such an attempt and if you check this blog on a regular basis, you'll know that it isn't the first time my ideas wander in directions like this. IHere's me hoping that I'm going somewhere with this and not just re-formulate old ideas ...
Anyway, so much for part 1. Part 2 will tackle concrete forms of mapping as they are used in gaming, some concepts that are used for maps outside of gaming and some ideas what can be done (or has been done and what I was thinking ...).
Holy cow up for slaughter next time: dungeon levels ...

No promises, but I try to be better with the blog updates in the future. It's just that (other than work draining the life out of me, as usual), well, it's just that I feel like when you do this long enough, topics seem to broaden, getting more and more complex to a point where writing a blog doesn't do it anymore. Or you keep repeating yourself. Or you reduce blogging to shouting personal opinions into the own echo chamber. Or (worst case scenario) you think people care enough about your personality to get away with politics ... Anyway, I'll post when I think I got something to share and that might be less often.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stitch Tension in Amigurumi: an investigation

Planet June - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:38
Link easily to this page in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/stitchtension

Today, I’d like to dispel a common amigurumi myth…

In amigurumi, as with all crochet, you should always be keeping tension on the yarn to keep your stitches compact and regular. But I often hear misinformation that you should be ‘crocheting tightly’ to make amigurumi, and that’s not true at all!

The tightness of amigurumi stitches refers to the tension of the small stiff stitches of the fabric you produce, not to the tension in your hands while you crochet.

Showing is better than telling, so allow me to demonstrate, via a new crochet investigation, how to make perfect amigurumi stitches without hurting your hands!

Experiment 1: Effect of Hook Size

I crocheted the same sample amigurumi cup shape 3 times with different sized hooks and the same worsted weight yarn each time. I crocheted the same way as I would when making a scarf or anything else – I kept my tension even, but didn’t try to pull my stitches tightly or pull back on the yarn after pulling up each loop.

I used my standard amigurumi E hook (3.5mm), and, to show the effects of changing hook sizes, I tried a larger H hook (5mm) and a smaller C hook (2.75mm).

You can see that the stitches are neat and even in all three samples and, as you may expect, using a larger hook results in a larger finished piece that’s both taller and wider than the same piece crocheted with a smaller hook.

See how the smaller hook samples can stack inside the larger ones? There’s quite a size difference!

What you can’t tell from a photo is how stiff the fabric of each sample is. With the H hook, the fabric is too floppy to hold its shape well. With the E hook, the fabric is much firmer and holds its shape much better. With the C hook, the piece is even firmer and feels very solid.

I simulated the effect of adding stuffing by gently stretching out each piece between my fingers, so you can see the gaps between the stitches:

As you can see, the H hook fabric is far too open for an amigurumi; the gaps between the stitches are very noticeable. With the E hook, the stitches have smaller holes between them, so the stuffing would be far less visible. And, with the C hook, the gaps between stitches are almost invisible.

So here’s the result of changing hook size: a smaller hook gives a smaller and firmer crocheted piece, with tighter stitches and smaller gaps between the stitches.

These are the properties we want for amigurumi fabric! A stiff, sturdy fabric that holds its shape and has tiny gaps between the stitches is exactly what we need for crocheting a 3-dimensional sculpture.

Choosing the Right Hook Size
The C hook was the smallest hook I could manage with this specific yarn (Caron Simply Soft, a light worsted weight yarn), and I had to stop and undo a stitch a few times, when my hook hadn’t grabbed all the plies of the yarn. I wouldn’t recommend using a hook quite this small, as it’s annoying to have to undo your work whenever you realise you have a snag in your stitches from splitting the yarn with the small hook.

My Recommendation: In practice, with a light worsted weight yarn like this, I might go down to a D hook for the best balance of small, tight stitches and not splitting the yarn as I crochet. For the heavier worsted weight yarns, I still recommend an E hook for most amigurumi.

(See my Worsted Weight Yarn Comparison for more about the differences between different yarns that are all labelled as worsted weight!) Experiment 2: Effect of ‘Crocheting Tightly’

Now, part two of this investigation. I returned to my standard E hook and tried crocheting the same sample piece yet again, but this time I followed the misunderstood advice of ‘crocheting tightly’. I held the yarn tightly and pulled back on it against my hook each time I formed a loop, so each loop was tight around the hook and as small as possible.

Both these samples were crocheted with the same hook. As you can see, the ‘tight’ piece is smaller and firmer than the normally-tensioned piece, but at what cost?

When you crochet with too-tight tension, your stitches are so small that it’s hard to work back into them, and that’s what happened in this case: it was an effort to force my hook into each stitch. My yarn-holding hand began to cramp from pulling the yarn so tightly, and I didn’t enjoy the process of crocheting at all. Even finishing this small piece was very hard work.

Yes, the tight piece is definitely smaller (and therefore ‘better’ for amigurumi) but crocheting it was a horrible experience!

The Tension Exception
In amigurumi, chains and slip stitches should not be crocheted with your usual tension. These stitches need to be crocheted with an extra-relaxed tension (or a larger hook), or they’ll be too small to work back into.

See my tutorial Chains and Slip Stitches in Amigurumi for more on this. Experiment 3: Comparing Smaller Hook and Tighter Tension

Now, let’s compare the small (C hook) sample from Experiment 1 with the extra tight tension sample (E hook) from Experiment 2:

Can this be right? They look almost identical!

Yes, comparing the two pieces, they look and feel almost exactly the same – the size and shape are the same, the stiffness of the fabric is the same, the gaps between stitches are the same.

The only difference? The sample on the left was crocheted comfortably with a small hook, and the sample on the right was crocheted extra-tightly, at great discomfort, with a larger hook.

Conclusions

As these experiments have shown, there’s absolutely no advantage to changing the way you crochet when you make amigurumi by working extra-tightly (and you may actually hurt your hands, wrists and arms by doing so!)

The goal with amigurumi is to maintain tension (down and backwards) on the yarn that’s balanced by your hook pulling up and forwards. This control allows you to form neat, consistent stitches.

You should never feel you have to force your hook into every stitch and/or pull your stitches as tightly as possible. This not only distorts your fabric but can also lead to hand and wrist fatigue and repetitive stress disorders.

The secret to making good-looking amigurumi without making your hands hurt is simple:

  • Select an appropriately small hook and crochet the same way as you usually do.
  • The perfect hook for your yarn is the smallest size you can manage without starting to have problems from splitting your yarn because the hook is too small to consistently grab all the plies.

The result: neat tight stitches, with no pain!

If you ever experience discomfort when making amigurumi, I encourage you to relax that death grip on your hook and yarn, and try crocheting with a slightly smaller hook instead. Your hands will love the difference and, I hope, you’ll enjoy the amigurumi-making process more.

Have you fallen for the amigurumi myth of ‘crocheting tightly’? Please leave a message in the comments and share your experiences…

Categories: Crochet Life

attempting advanced origami

Planet June - Tue, 01/23/2018 - 14:00

Last year didn’t leave me with much time for ‘fun’ crafts, so I’m trying to pick that up again this year, and make time to make things just for the fun of it!

I received a pack of origami papers for Christmas, so I thought I’d try to learn more origami skills by picking a far more challenging pattern than I’ve attempted before. I chose to try a Cape Dwarf Chameleon (now I won’t be able to see real chameleons in my garden any more!) using a pattern by Quentin Trollip that’s rated as 4 out of 6 (advanced intermediate) on the origami difficulty scale.

Advanced intermediate is far beyond how I’d rate my origami skills, but there’s only one way to improve, and that’s to try something that’s out of your comfort zone! Although I’ve made lots of origami before, I usually stick to basic models with folds that you can understand with only wordless diagrams, so I was really jumping in at the deep end here.

At almost every step, I had to stop and google what each fold and instruction meant. Swivel fold? Inside reverse fold? Rabbit ear?! All new to me.

I found it difficult to understand all the new folds and spent ages staring at diagrams to try to see how one step could possibly lead to the next. But, finally, I figured out all the folds and, after a few hours, I had a finished model. It’s far from perfect, but if you squint you can just about recognise it as a chameleon!

For comparison, here’s the perfect original from Quentin Origami:


Haha, my attempt doesn’t look much like this!

Still, this is not a failure. I’ve learnt a lot from this project – persevering through learning so many new folds, and ending up with something close to what I was trying to make (although clearly a beginner-level attempt, with many mistakes).

So I thought I’d share it with you as an example of how there’s a learning process with every craft, and your first attempts may not look anywhere near perfect, but they’re a necessary step on the road to mastery, and nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve also discovered that I prefer to make modular origami – simple folded units that combine to form a more complex result – vs trying to achieve the entire shape with a single sheet of paper. There’s a lot of dexterity and artistry needed to make advanced origami look good, but I prefer to keep my paper folding at an easy relaxing level. You don’t need to aim for mastery in order to enjoy a craft!

If you’d like to try some origami or paper-folding too, I have a few designs you may enjoy, such as these:

See all my papercraft tutorials at PlanetJune Papercraft – I can promise they are far more beginner-friendly than an origami chameleon!

Categories: Crochet Life

knit camel vest

Planet June - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:10

This is sweater #12 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8, #9, #10, and #11, if you’d like to see my progress.)

What could I do for my 12th sweater project that I haven’t already done?! I started thinking this would have to be a spectacular finale to the project, and that put so much pressure on me, I couldn’t get started! So I decided to step back and just make something I wanted to make, as I did for all the others.

Now, you could argue that a vest is not really a sweater, but all it’s missing is the sleeves (and I definitely know how to knit sleeves by now) so I don’t think this is cheating – I could have added sleeves if I had more yarn, and I had plenty to learn from designing and knitting this vest, which was really the point of my whole project.

I had about 500m of deliciously soft baby camel yarn left over from my amigurumi Camel (I’d bought 5 hanks to take advantage of a wholesale discount price – it was far too expensive to justify buying 100% baby camel yarn for a toy at retail price). I’d hoped to think of some way to use this extremely warm yarn to make something useful, but the low yardage was going to be a challenge, so I decided it’d have to be a fairly close-fitting vest, and I’d do some calculations on the fly to make sure I could use as much of the yarn as possible without running out.

To keep it interesting and build my skills, I chose an all-over textured stitch pattern instead of plain stockinette.

Instead of joining a new ball of yarn at the end of a row, I used the Russian join to minimise wasted yarn (and had to consult my own book for the instructions – it’s been a long time since I’ve used this join and I couldn’t quite remember how to do it!)

And my plan worked, eventually! It took some re-knitting: I started my textured stitch pattern in a way that caused the whole bottom border to flip up (a fact that didn’t reveal itself in my swatch or until I was way past the point of wanting to unravel it all and restart). I kept going and then unravelled from the bottom cast-on edge up until the point where I could fix the problem (and also to recover some yarn to use for a more substantial neckband than I’d budgeted for – I didn’t like the look of the narrow one I tried first), then I reknitted the bottom border and added the neckband.

I added a new tool to my knitting toolkit: an interchangeable crochet hook (size E/3.5mm) for picking up stitches. Being a left-hander, but a right-handed knitter, I’ve found that picking up stitches along an edge (as a way to start e.g. a button band or armhole edging) with a needle is too challenging for me. Until now, I’d been picking up a few stitches at a time with a normal crochet hook, then dropping them off the hook and picking them up on the needle, but this was slow and fiddly.

Now, I can just unscrew the needle tip from the cable, screw on the hook, pick up all the stitches with ease and slide them onto the cable as I go, and then switch back to the needle tip to begin knitting! The interchangeable hook has been a brilliant addition to my interchangeable needle collection.

In the end, I used 99% of my yarn (woohoo!) to complete the vest, and I’m happy with the result – it’s extremely soft and very warm without being bulky. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually wear – either in style or colour – but this extra-warm layer is turning out to be very useful, and it’s the natural colour of the baby camels who donated their yarn so that I could knit this vest, so that’s pretty cool!

Skills I learnt in this project:

  • Working an all-over texture throughout a piece (I really like the result of the stitch pattern I used – I think it looks like a yummy waffle).
  • Garter stitch… I know, it’s the most basic stitch, and yet I’ve actually never knitted anything in garter stitch until I decided to use garter edgings on this vest. I haven’t been a big fan of the look of garter, although I’m willing to change my mind on that point, because I love how flat my edgings are compared with stockinette! There are definite benefits to not being an anti-garter stitch snob.
  • Decreasing in pattern for the V-neck (note to self: if I was doing it again, I’d have left two stitches of stockinette at the edge instead of one: one for the selvedge and one to make a neat border at the base of the edging).
  • Weighing the work so far and adapting the design on the fly to account for the lack of yarn.
  • Picking up stitches around an armhole.
  • Making an armhole edging.
  • Making a buttonhole in garter stitch.

I was hoping to find some colourful buttons (maybe turquoise or dark purple) to contrast with the yarn colour, but there wasn’t anything in the right size and colour in the button shop, so I went with this dusty pink. I think it looks okay, although I may make some polymer clay buttons and swap them at some point. But, for now, it’s finished.

And, with that, my 12 sweater project is complete. Isn’t that amazing?!

I have a lot to say about the experience of the project and where I’ll go from here, but I’ll save those thoughts for a wrap-up post…

Categories: Crochet Life

Lion Cub and Family crochet patterns

Planet June - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 15:00

After having the privilege of watching packs of lions in the wild at Kruger Park, I thought my Lion and Lioness pattern would be adorable with a little Lion Cub pattern to complete the family. And after making the cubs, I think I was right…

What do you think?

My new Lion Cub pattern complements my existing Lion & Lioness pattern perfectly, and is also a sweet standalone pattern in its own right.

Lion Cub is very fast to crochet, at only 5″ long, so you can whip up a few realistic baby lions in no time! They’re sure to charm with their big cub paws and cute little faces.

You can buy the adorable Lion Cub pattern alone, or get a great deal when you buy the whole Lion Family multipack together!

Note: If you’ve already bought the Lion and Lioness pattern, you don’t have to miss out on this deal! Just buy the Lion Cub, then email me with 1) your Lion Cub order number and 2) the order number (or date) from when you bought Lion & Lioness, and I’ll send you a coupon for $2 off your next order of $5 or more. (The coupon will remain valid for a whole year, so don’t worry if there’s nothing else you want to buy right now!)

Handy Links:

Categories: Crochet Life

2017: year in review

Planet June - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 14:00

2017 has been very far from the year I was expecting; when I started another year in South Africa, I didn’t dare to dream that I’d be back home in Canada by the end of the year. And yet, here I am – yay! ♥

An Unexpected Turn of Events

Things seem to have a habit of going in different directions than I’d anticipated, but at least the advantage of keeping my business small is that, without anyone else on the PlanetJune team, I can easily change plans and switch directions on the fly, to adapt to circumstances.

  • I invested a big chunk of time towards the end of 2016 in updating my Commissions system, but then decided that it was time for it to be retired (and, a few months later, I don’t regret that decision at all).
  • With a goal to concentrate on my YouTube channel in 2017, I invested financially in new video recording equipment and editing software, but a minor-but-ugly thumb injury that’s only just healing now has meant I haven’t been able to make even one new crochet video all year. (I’ve managed to keep making patterns through a combination of careful hand positioning and photoshopping, but neither of those are practical for videos!)
  • And, of course, the big one: I didn’t start the year expecting I’d be planning and coordinating another move halfway around the world, and have to simultaneously plan how to bolster my business to weather the storm of having no office/studio or equipment for 3 months, so no way to produce new patterns…
2017 Achievements

Wearing my web developer hat, I’ve completed some dull-but-necessary tech projects:

  • Added a privacy policy page to comply with privacy and disclosure requirements.
  • Converted PlanetJune to HTTPS (so you can tell I’m 100% trustworthy by the green padlock in your browser’s address bar).
  • Added credit card processing in my shop (finally!) so you aren’t required to use PayPal any more.
  • Updated my shop to also allow payment in Canadian dollars, and to prepare for the sales taxes I’m going to need to start collecting from Canadians from today onwards.

Wearing my designer hat, I’ve been splitting myself in two this year, and squirrelling away half my new designs so I’ll have some new releases to get PlanetJune through the lean winter months while I can’t create new patterns! Despite that, I’ve had some strong pattern releases this year and made some good decisions that have helped PlanetJune to keep growing.

I’ve always said that quality is more important than quantity, so I’m not disappointed in my 10 new patterns (plus one re-release) this year – especially as so many of my latest patterns include multiple designs. Count up all the different options here and you’ll see I actually have 25 new pieces you can crochet – that’s not a bad number at all!

And, despite my thumb injury, I added a few new helpful crochet tutorials:

Planning for the move hasn’t left much time for creative pursuits this year, but I always try to keep some time free for crafting and personal development:

I’m still knitting sweaters, I’ve played around a bit with needlefelting, and I’ve also started to teach myself Japanese (although I’ve let that slide a bit over the last couple of months – my brain has been fully occupied with more pressing matters!)

Lessons Learnt

Although this year has been anything but easy, I got through it and now I’m at the point where I’ve accomplished the move, and have the next 3 months of PlanetJune designs ready to publish! All this has proved to me that I can still be strong when I need to be, and that simplifying things is the key to dealing with major challenges. I’ll try to remember these lessons when things get overwhelming in future:

  • Don’t be afraid to make big decisions if they’ll bring you closer to your dream job/life/situation.
  • Know that even the best plans need to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Keep moving forwards, even if you’re sometimes moving at a crawl.

I think these wise words can apply to anything you’re trying to do – especially a goal that feels like it may be a bit too ambitious or unattainable.

Looking Forward

It’s tempting to think that, now my move home is complete, I should be able to plunge right back into working hard for PlanetJune, to make up for lost time and get business booming, but the reality of a sustainable one-person business is that you have to balance building the business with caring for the person behind the business.

Although I haven’t talked much about this since it happened, I’ve struggled with my health for the past 3.5 years since the trauma of my home invasion experience. It profoundly affected me, and the PTSD hasn’t gone away.

I hope that now I’m back in Canada, my life will start to stabilise and I can concentrate on rebuilding myself. I think the distance will help me to finally recover from the mental trauma and give me enough energy to also start to rebuild my physical strength after being a virtual prisoner in my own home for years. It’s only been a few weeks and I’m already feeling much better, so I’m confident I can achieve this in the coming year.

You may have also noticed the absence of local wildlife posts since my bad experience – I couldn’t even find the courage to go into my garden alone without bringing on panic attacks, so sitting peacefully in nature with my camera is something I’ve sorely missed, apart from on our occasional holidays to safer places. But now (and especially once winter is over) I’ll be able to get back outside and enjoy nature again!

As for PlanetJune, I still absolutely love what I do here – designing new patterns, developing new techniques, and teaching people how to make beautiful things. I’m very motivated to keep doing all that, and I don’t need to set any specific goals to know that’s how I want to spend my time and earn my living.

I don’t know what the coming year will hold and how much time and energy I’ll have available for all the ideas I have for PlanetJune. As I can’t predict the shape of my life this year, I’m going to keep my business plans very simple and free from anything even remotely resembling a deadline. My overall goal is to work to the best of my ability with the time available to me, to explore, design and create new patterns and supporting tutorials.

For 2018, I want to dial way back on the excitement and build a strong foundation for the future, both personally and professionally. My wishes for this year are for peace, calm, and quiet strength. I wish those things for you too, and a very Happy New Year!

Categories: Crochet Life

My AthensCon Activities

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 20:19
Here are snaps from the AthensCon site detailing my activities for the convention December 2 & 3.

There might be another panel; and if there is I will update this post.

Happy Gaming All!




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Attending AthensCon Dec. 2 &3

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 11:02
I am a special guest for AthensCon, December 2 & 3, a convention which last year had 15,000 attendees.  My duties/events include (besides having fun and eating gyros):


Running a two-hour RPG workshop:  The Genius of Original Dungeons & Dragons:  Leaping Outside the Box of Design History.
Participating in a large panel discussion on board game design.
DMing two sessions of my redesigned Lake Level from Castle El Raja Key, a level Gary Gygax cut his teeth on during the play-tests of D&D in 1973 and which was later incorporated into Castle Greyhawk as the "Black Reservoir." I have greatly expanded it to two maps with the commensurate encounters and added a back history and living depth to it.  Should be a riot! 

Here's the link to my appearance:  http://www.athenscon.gr/en/guests/item/robert-j-kuntz

See you there?  C'mon, everyone likes gyros with gaming!  :)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dave Arneson's True Genius Published

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Sun, 04/16/2017 - 03:46
Hot off the press and already steamrolling ahead!



What is Dave Arneson’s True Genius??
Well...  It kinda starts below...

...and then by leaps and bounds...
Breaks the sound barrier of game design history by 2,000 years...
Join us in a giant step into the past that re-opens a future doorway David L. Arneson created and gifted to us!
###
From the award-winning game designer and author Robert J. Kuntz
Available From:  threelinestudio.com


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Breaking News!

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Mon, 12/19/2016 - 00:01

Breaking News From Archeology Today!
NYC, in the year 2376...


Today archeologists from the Smithownisan Institute of Japan unearthed what is thought to be the last vestiges of a long defunct U.S. political party once called the Democrats.
Dr. Kumwatmae expounded upon the find:  "It's an exciting artifact that we are studying around the clock.  We believe these Democrats, in their dying days, resorted to baby worship by sacrificing millions of them upon the altar of a mysterious pseudo-religion that we can only now identify as something having to do with 'Planning'.  We strongly believe that this symbol may very well be a link to that religion, although my colleague at the dig, Dr. Cumwatmyte, still insists that the representative image is more likely an expression of some hidden angst that was on the rise among their kind and that lead to their untimely demise about 250 years ago."
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Project I'm Writing and Laying Out at the Same Time

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Sun, 12/18/2016 - 20:18
The material dates from 1974 and, oh boy, has it been updated! Cool adventure in the future folks!

More to come!




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dave Arneson's True Genius Cover FINISHED!

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 16:37



This is a highly reduced resolution JPEG of the cover for Dave Arneson's True Genius that my wife, Nathalie (with some specific help from myself on the graphics end, i.e., the concept lettering for the blackboard), finished today.  Nathalie is very excellent at layout (and many other things, she always surprises)!

Nat has proceeded to laying out the text.  Meanwhile I am plugging away on 2 maps for 2 separate adventures as well as laying out TLS's first PDF product!

We are getting excited here!  I hope you are too!

Enjoy!

Rob & Nat


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

BoardGameGeek Composite Rating for El Raja Key Archive: So Far So Good!

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 17:22



Initial reactions from buyers at BGG of El Raja Key Archive is at a composite 9.5 out of 10.

LINK:  https://www.boardgamegeek.com/rpgitem/212609/el-raja-key-archive

Not blowing our horn too much here, but we expected very high ratings for this product.

Almost 3 years steady production time went into finishing the project and it also launched a new adventure book line with it.  Its nearly 1,100 hi-res scanned files date back to 1971 and are a roadmap to pre-D&D, early D&D, ancient Greyhawk material, World of Kalibruhn, early TSR and so much more, spanning 48 years of my design history through the original artifacts that were auctioned 2005-2015 but, with foresight, were preserved for the gamers, collectors and historians through hundreds of hours of scanning work over that time.

There has never been an item of this sort produced and made available for the public in the history of RPGs.

TLB Games is currently running a Holiday Sale for ERKA (see link at the right side bar).  Get yours before Santa heads back to the North Pole!


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

My Interview at the Multiverse Blog

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 17:22
"Chillin' after the interview"

Timothy Connolly and I had a week-long give-and-take resulting in an interview that should be of special interest to TSR/D&D historians and serious designers.

LINK:  http://multiverse.world/blog/2016/11/30/qa-robert-j-kuntz/
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

TLB Games Holiday Specials

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 21:15

Holiday Sale Special!!!
Check out our specials for El Raja Key Archive and Sunken City Adventure!

https://www.tlbgames.com/
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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