Welcome to the Club(house) [#Blaugust2022]

Blaugust, as envisioned by Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut, is a festival of blogging, a celebration of content creation of the written word variety, and a community-building activity for people participating in a medium that many consider to be dying or already dead. Although Blaugust awards are granted for established blogs who put out at least five posts during the month of August, I’ve set my sights on the Rainbow Diamond award, and am planning a post per day for the entire month.

Hot Topics – Write at least one blog post based on the Blaugust Prompt List. Some years ago we had this whole “topic web ring” sort of thing that was a giant mess. However it did produce a pretty solid list of topical prompts, and my hope is that someone participating in this event will find them useful.

Tell us about some community that you are part of and why it interests you or how it impacts you?

from the Blaugust Prompt List

This year, I’ve been having a pretty epic personal crisis of community. I suspect it’s a thing that has been a long time coming, but I haven’t had the slightest idea of what to do about it. I wasn’t great at making friends and maintaining connections during the years it was supposed to be easy – I’m completely flummoxed about how I’m supposed to do it as an adult. Add in a chronic illness and global pandemic, and it feels outrageously overwhelming.

Back in March, I put out a rather mopey and maudlin sort of post about it. I had initially just intended to explain why I was stepping away from World of Warcraft, but as I was trying to organize my thoughts, I realized there was no good way to separate the action from my feelings about it. And hooboy, was I deep in my feelings at the time. For some folks, emotions are fuel, and they can channel them so very productively, but that’s not me. I had to take some time, really process what it all meant, and what – if anything – I should be doing about it.

Eventually, I settled on the idea of creating yet another Discord community. I started brainstorming what I wanted that to look like back in May, and sat down and really started putting the pieces together in June. I spent far more time on it than it probably needed, but it wasn’t until the beginning of July that I was ready to actually open it up. For the first week or so, it was just me and a handful of folks who agreed to help me test some things out and give feedback on the organization of it all, and in mid-July, I opened it up to the general public, starting – of course – with people I was already regularly interacting with.

I have been working on a community-style Discord for people to have a place with oodles of voice channels for any kind of social stuff they want to do.  Most of the Discords I'm currently in are single activity focused, and it's left me with a whole bunch of folks I like spread out all over the place with very little intermixing, so that's why I decided to do this.  Everyone here is welcome to join, and invites are open, so you can bring your friends.  There's not much happening there right now, but I'm hoping to get the place more active within the next few weeks.  Much like myself, it's a work in progress.

Building a community has to be a labor of love, or no one would ever do it. In a way, it sort of feels a bit like cheating to start out the way that I have done here – by pulling in folks from other existing communities that I already know somewhat and feel safe around. It’s been a bit of a crisis of conscience deciding where and how to advertise that I’ve cobbled together this space – I simultaneously don’t want to put people on the spot by sending personal invitations, but I also don’t always feel like it’s appropriate to plug a community in a different community, even if the purposes don’t entirely overlap.

We’ve had a few scheduled events, and a few impromptu ones. Some days, the text chats are active, and some other they’ve been fallow. At this point, it’s hard to tell how much of this is because my friends want to support me, and how much of it is that what I’ve cobbled together is actually meeting a need for some people.

So, I’m trying to let it happen as organically as I can now. If it is, in actuality, the kind of place I aspire for it to be, people will tell their friends, and those people will tell their friends, and it will grow in time. While I don’t expect we’re going to see another period where businesses are shut down, and people are being asked to stay home as much as possible, I do expect we’re fast approaching another point where that would be the most prudent course of action, and I admit that that is part of why I have pushed myself to actually do this now.

It seems like everyone is feeling a little lost and lonely in the world right now. There’s nothing I can really do to fix any of the immense problems we’re all facing every day, but I can carve out a little space, and leave the light on for anyone who needs a place to settle their mind for a few hours.

If this all sounds like something you want or need in your life, click the picture above to join in.

Social Isolation Together – Playing Magic: The Gathering in Tabletop Simulator

This post is part of a new series that I plan to keep up as long as we’re still seeing recommendations to socially isolate in the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This one is less for me, and more for my husband, who is the extrovert in our relationship and the one who is often out multiple times a week to play Magic: The Gathering with his friends. I’m not much of a MTG player, although I am the primary deck builder in our house.

There are tons of mods in the Steam workshop related to Magic: The Gathering, but it’s absolutely possible not only to download absolutely zero of those and still play, but to actually import decks you own into Tabletop Simulator to get as close to the in-person game play experience as possible.

Once you’ve gathered up your decks, or pulled up your online decklists from a site like MTGVault, TCGPlayer, or exported from an app like ManaBox (which I highly recommend), you’ll want to pull up Frogtown.me and under My Decks, you’ll choose “New Deck”.

The site will randomly name the deck for you, but you can change that by going to Actions > Change Name. Once you’re happy with your deck name, it’s time to add your cards.

If you have a deck list already, it’s as easy as going to Actions > Bulk Import, and then you copy and paste the deck list into the pop up. This process is pretty smooth – I’ve only run into issues with cards like Aetherflux Reservoir, where deck lists will tend to use the grapheme that Frogtown doesn’t recognize. It’s easy enough to edit the list in box before searching, but if you forget, an error will pop up that something needs your attention.

If you don’t have a pre-built deck list, you can enter cards individually via the search. As of this writing, you can’t add cards from the most recently released set just yet, but everything else seems to easy enough to work with.

Your total card count will be listed right next to the name of your deck, so you can easily see if you missed something.

If you are playing the EDH or Commander variant of Magic, you’ll want to look for your commander card, hover over it, and then use the highlighted button as shown to move it to your sideboard. That will make it spawn on a separate stack in Tabletop Simulator, so you won’t need to hunt for it in your deck every time you play.

Once you have your deck all put together and appropriately named, all that’s left is to get it exported so you can use it in Tabletop Simulator. Simply go to Actions > Export to Tabletop Simulator, and give it a minute to do it’s magic. Then you will be able to go to Actions > Download Tabletop Simulator Deck, and save your file.

For me, it’s easiest to set the download path right to its final destination. I think this should be pretty standard, but if you tweaked install locations or moved stuff around, or even if you are on an earlier version of Windows than Windows 10, your saved objects might live somewhere else. For most of us, the command path below is exactly where you want your new deck.

Finally, you can create a table in Tabletop Simulator and spawn your deck. Any table will do for your basic two player game, but if you’re planning to play with more people, you’ll want a larger table, and there are quite a few really nice custom tables on the Steam workshop.

Click on the objects button at the top, and open up your saved objects. Your new deck should be there, or, if you’re like me, many many decks will be there. Find the one you want, click on it and then click on spawn.

Depending on whether or not you used the sideboard feature, and whether or not your deck can potentially create tokens, you will get one, two or three stacks of cards. For my Sporemageddon deck, I get my 99 card main deck, my single card “sideboard” containing my commander, and a third stack which contains one copy of the tokens made my by deck. Tabletop Simulator makes it easy to create more of a card you already have by simply using CTRL-C and CTRL-V cut and paste shortcuts. If you find yourself playing on someone else’s table, you’ll need to be promoted in order to be able to spawn your deck.

I snagged this screenshot of a friend’s table while in spectator mode.

If you’re interested in trying out the Commander format, but don’t have decks built, I might have spent an afternoon making copies of all of the pre-constructed commander decks to be used in Tabletop Simulator. You can download them here, and just put them into your saved objects folder like you would a deck you made yourself.

This should give you almost everything you need to start playing Magic: The Gathering in Tabletop Simulator. Chances are good if you own Tabletop Simulator, you already have some folks to play with, but …

Now personally, I’m not much of a Magic: The Gathering player, but if you wander on over to my husband’s Twitch stream, or poke him on Twitter, he could probably be persuaded to play a game or two with you.

Social Isolation Together Discord

It’s really rough around the edges, but I’ve started working on a Social Isolation Together Discord to help bring people together who are looking for people to game with. At the moment, it’s mostly pretty generalized text channels, but hopefully, as people join we’ll be able to get more specific.

Feel free to pop by using this link, and don’t mind our dust – we’re still under construction.

Social Isolation Together – Throwing a Watch Party

This post is part of a new series that I plan to keep up as long as we’re still seeing recommendations to socially isolate in the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater, but I do miss the experience of getting together with friends to watch a movie or a few episodes of a TV show. Obviously, that’s not a thing we’re doing during social isolation, but there are multiple technologies that will allow us to do just that while not leaving the house.

Facebook Watch Party: Probably the most restrictive of the services out there, but it might be nice if you want to show off your collection of cute cat videos to all of your friends. Whatever you’re watching has to be on Facebook, and you can only invite other Facebook users. If you want to learn more about how it all works, check the FAQ here.

Netflix Party: If you (and all of your friends) have an active Netflix subscription, and use Chrome as a web browser, you could throw a Netflix Party. Just get everyone to download the browser extension and you’re well on your way to having a watch party of anything available on Netflix.

Twoseven: For me, I think the winner as far as functionality goes is Twoseven. It does require users to set up an account, and install an extension on either Chrome or Firefox, but it makes a whole lot more content available. Free users have a bunch of options to source video to watch, and a $3 a month Patron pledge adds Hulu and Disney+ to your options list. If you’re hosting a watch party from a paid service, your guests must have their own log-ins, but they’re not required to be Patrons to watch Hulu or Disney+.

Please note: there are reports of Amazon not working for all users at this time, so be aware of this if you’re interested in an Amazon watch party.

Have you participated in or hosted a watch party? What service did you use? Feel free to answer in the comments, or take this topic and run with it in a post of your own.

Social Isolation Together – Missing MMOs

This post is part of a new series that I plan to keep up as long as we’re still seeing recommendations to socially isolate in the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Square Enix has put Final Fantasy XIV Online Complete on sale through 4/29/20.

I have to keep reminding myself that I didn’t much care for Final Fantasy XIV when I did a trial of it … oh … a very very long time ago. Because I’m tempted. I’m sorely tempted. There’s so much game there for the measly $36 they want for it with this sale, and I know a lot of people who are currently playing.

I think I might be starting to feel the impact of social isolation as we’re heading into week four, because I am really really craving some MMO time. Not any specific MMO, even, although I would probably default to World of Warcraft because I know I’ll have scrolling guild chat pretty much any time I wanted to log on.

That said, my Elder Scrolls Online guild did say they’d welcome me back if I decided to start playing again, so WoW isn’t my only option. I’ve also been keeping Guild Wars 2 up to date, although I don’t know if I know anyone who’s playing that at the moment.

Hell, I even considered re-downloading RIFT, and I swore I’d never go back to that.

If you are also dealing with social isolation and shelter-in-place orders, are you using gaming, specifically online multiplayer gaming, to ease the frustration of being denied face-to-face socializing? If you are, what are you playing and how is it helping you?

Feel free to answer in the comments, or take this topic and run with it in a post of your own.