I love you . . .

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Often, when I’ve heard a celebrity say, “I love you all,” I’d think, “How is that possible? You’ve never even met me.”

But their saying so always gave me a warm feeling, a little boost. So I’ve often written the same, “I love you all,” in my mailings or blog posts.

Today I read a little message that makes me even more confident about telling you, whether we’ve met or not, I love you.

It’s this: If someone who never met you can hate you for your race, or sexuality, or politics, or whatever reason, if they can hate you sight unseen, then surely you and I can love each other sight unseen.

We’re all in this together. And if doing what we can to make one another’s lives better, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Seems Like Forever Ago

These #charactercreationchallenge memories have been popping up on my Facebook timeline this month. And today I suddenly remembered that posting them was a slow, painful climb back from three months of depression so severe that for the first time in my career I couldn’t write at all.

That seems like forever ago. So much has been published since.

The Character Creation Challenge posts that January three years ago led to a Zine Quest project in February that year for D6xD6 Dungeons, followed since by the Bauner Coast campaign setting, several new D6xD6 6-pagers, an anthology of D13 adventures, and 11 Bookmark No HP RPG titles. Along with some YouTube solo play videos and quite a few in-depth blog posts on social subjects.

Next month’s Zine Quest will be a D6xD6 2e. This month I may yet get a Make 100 KS project for a Battle Bookmark in progress. While I continue to chip away at a 21-card adventure deck for the bookmark product line, promised to last year’s Make 100 backers. There’s also a D6xD6 Dungeons Solo book already written that just needs a developmental pass.

So, three months in the abyss, a painful climb out, and three years of productivity since. Three years filled with fun with other gamers and overall joy.

Clinical anxiety and depression will always dog my heels; that’s just the nature of brain chemistry. But the old dog is learning new tricks of self-awareness ala Thomas Covenant, together with balancing some new meds.

And practicing my craft. Writers write. Game designers design. Those things are my connection to the world, and I’m grateful for every single one of you reading these words. For every person who has encouraged that work in whatever way.

Thank you for three years of hope. I wish you the very same, now and in the future.

Sincerely,

—Les

My Gary Con 2024 Events Are Go!

As of today, the five events I submitted to run at Gary Con are officially scheduled! (I’m very happy to see that all are slated for the same table in the same room—GWD-261 in Galewood D—which makes one less thing for me to remember, letting me focus on the fun!)

One note: I’ve intentionally designed Lester Smith Games RPGs for “Show up at the table and we’ll design a character in the first few minutes.” To my mind, character design is part of role-play, players better connect with someone they make, and my character rules are easy enough to do that quickly. The rest of the rules come up naturally during play; over the decades I’ve developed a strategy for jumping right in and learning as we go. And I love gaming with new players and old alike.

(I’ve no D13 RGP events slated this year, but I’ll bring a few of limited premium edition for just in case. And I’m slated to play in a celeb AD&D game Friday night. More news about that soon, I hope.)

Here’s my event schedule, should you wish to sign up for one when registration opens.

Bookmark the Stars: First Contact on Fumalsamakah

Thursday from 13:00 to 16:50

A subspace broadcast is detected from the unsurveyed Beta Piscium system, thought to be uninhabited. Yours is the nearest vessel, making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fame. What mysteries await you near this backwater star?

This expansion of the Bookmark HP RPG is as heavily influenced by the Lensman series and C. J. Cherryh’s Pride of Chanur novels as by Star Trek, so truly alien characters are welcome.

Bookmark Cthulhu: The Gibbering Nightmare

Friday from 12:00 to 15:50

The halls of Arkham Sanitarium are awash with mindless gibbering, and its wards are growing overfilled with new patients each morning. Can you uncover the reasons for this outbreak of madness and bring it to an end?

Not your father’s Lovecraftian setting, Bookmark Cthulhu builds on dread instead of insanity, which I figure is more in keeping with Lovecraft’s actual work. (No insult intended to other RPGs.)

Ghost of a Chance: An Undying Will

Saturday from 12:00 to 15:50

On your deathbed, you revised your will. On the way to file it, your executor was killed. Now a deadbeat relative stands to inherit! Will you exert your will to assert your Will from beyond the grave?

Using the as-yet-unpublished D6xD6 2e Zine Edition! (A February KS “Zine Quest” project. More news about that in a blog post soon.)

Fairytale Fubar: Ghost Wolves of Grimwald

Sunday from 12:00 to 13:50

Queen Goffin has received no emissary with tribute from Duke Grimwald this year. Will you enter Grimwald Forest to discover why? More importantly, will you return as her Champion, her Fool, or not at all?

An experiment with using the Fairytale Fubar card game rules as a three-act role-playing adventure!

Bookmark Supers: Save Our Safes!

Sunday from 14:00 to 16:50

Businesses in Belleview City are being robbed, their doors smashed and safes removed. When the police receive a prediction from your old nemesis Forsyte, they ask for your help. Can you trust Forsyte’s tip?

Last year’s Bookmark Supers! introduced Forsyte, a supervillain who can predict the future and  react to your actions before you act. Just what is she up to this time around?

Some Human Words about AI Arts

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Every new mass-production technology, from earliest agrarianism to computerized milling machines, has caused a tectonic shift in labor. That’s just a fact, however tragic the results have been to human laborers. (I’ll get back to that in a moment.)

But never before has a mass-production technology been used to replace human creativity. The arts are a creative expression uniquely human. Machine art simply scans those creative works and remixes them, passing them off as something new.

Mass production is all fine and good when it relieves humans of tedious labor and creates uniform products easily repaired or replaced. Neither of those ethically applies to art. Art is neither tedious nor easily replaced.

Businesses who treat it as such take a historical disdain for human suffering and lack of responsibility for the newly poor to a new level. They rob the race not only of its livelihoods (which they could ease by retraining their “Human Resources”), but now of its very soul.

The thievery is especially obvious in AI writing, which includes scans of pirated works posted here and there on the Net. The AI learns from works it never paid for.

In my experience, publishers have always been chintzy in terms of writing and illustration, with the excuse that “There are plenty of other creatives out there who would kill for this work.” With unpaid AI art, they and the AI companies who take their money carry this unethical philistinism to a new low.

AI art as a human tool, fine. Not every artist uses paintbrush or writing pen. But the sources drawn from deserve to be paid in turn. We don’t steal paint and ink, for god’s sake!

As beneficial as the Industrial Age has been to humankind in general, it has also made us callous toward suffering that isn’t right under our noses. The wealthier the nose, the further the distance and greater the callousness.

I suppose it shouldn’t be any surprise that the soullessness of that distance has bred a soullessness toward the arts as anything more than a commodity.

It does, however, make us a little less human with each passing moment. A little more like unfeeling machines.