All posts by Laura Allean

For all it’s rolling hills and golden fields

Driving through South Dakota is like first meeting a beautiful woman. Sure, she’s easy on the eyes but it won’t take long before the conversation dries up and you realize that as pretty as she may be, she’s just as pretty stupid.
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The Troublesome Business of Death

Not a creative writing assignment but I’m pretty darn proud of this one. An assignment we were given for my English for Informatics class was to create an infograph. At first, I leaned toward doing something about Vonnegut or Bradbury but I decided instead to do a death infographic, specifically the death of 70 of literatures most influential authors. And well, here it is!

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May I Introduce Pip?

This is Pip!

Pip is 29cm (about 11.4in) tall and enjoys hacking things up with her axe.

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You see, for creative writing these last two weeks, we’ve been doing some old school table-top roll playing, specifically the Famine in Far-Go module from the first edition of Gamma World which was release back in 1978. Our professor chose this version of the game in part because, of the location, Far-Go, East Dah-Koh-Tah, better known as Fargo, North Dakota which is only a few hours along the interstate to reach from where we live. He also said he chose it because the rules were at their simplest and even with the simplest version of the game, he did take the educational liberties to remove flying and a few certain aspects just to make the game friendlier for a class of students, some familiar with table-top gaming and some not so much.

Unfortunately, as anyone who’s familiar with RPG’s knows that the whole turn-based playing style can take a little while and we weren’t able to get much play in between the three class periods we gave the game, the first of which was almost entirely dedicated to creating our character.

Which brings me to Pip, my character. Right off the bat, I managed to roll some pretty great stats:

Mental Strength – 16

Intelligence – 13

Dexterity – 9

Physical Strength – 18

Charisma – 12

Constitution – 14

The first day, we also had to spend a good deal of time rolling for our characters mutations, which were quick to alter my characters physical demeanor as they included Radar (though handy as it adds +3 damage to my use of physical weapons, which thrown on top of the +4 I get with such high physical strength, gives my character stellar potential with her axe), which alters the look of my ears and causes me to “blip” all the time, and Shorter. This was a stat we rolls for and unfortunately, I rolled for 29…29 centimeters tall. But thankfully once more with my physical strength, my ability to wield normal sized objects isn’t effected.

My mental mutations started out pretty great though. I rolled for Mass Mind which allows me to link minds with other party members and “borrow” their abilities as well as increasing the strength per person linked, and Light Manipulations which would allow me the occasional use of invisibility for three minutes. But the next two mutations were far more, um, defective. Periodic Amnesia and Seizures. Thankfully, I never wound up being affected by these mutations during play but as far as characterization goes, it’s definitely an interesting combination of characteristics.

 

I won’t prattle on much more about the game as this post would go on forever but I definitely enjoyed it. Probably my favorite homework assignment so far.

HvZ: A Weekend of Information

So this weekend was an interesting one, in part because we really kept the number of missions to a minimum. Our Admin team was only at about 40% with two of them gone for Anime Detour and myself being way too busy with Brighton Beach Memoir performances and striking the set. But we managed to work in two missions which I was very happy to have done because they were missions very based in story.

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The two missions were pretty simple in idea. The first, on Saturday afternoon, only had one zombie turn up so it wasn’t too difficult (we unfortunately lose a lot of players over the weekend because people go home) but we did lose a pretty great human player during. We try to utilize more of town then just our 2 block by 4 block campus and took this mission to a park a few blocks away where 5 journal entries written by a Pharmaceuticorp scientist were hidden, had to be gathered, read, and hopefully the humans from there would be able to figure out who the stories real bad guys are.

 

And if that wasn’t help enough, on Sunday morning, anyone who wanted the details to the last journal entry had to meet us at McDonald’s between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning. It’s been a mission we’ve thrown in most games because usually the Admins end up using it as a meeting but with just myself and one other Admin at the mission, we snacked and waited around with the single human who showed up. Which had me rather impressed but also sort of saddening as she hadn’t been able to make it to the first mission to learn about the first five journal entries, she would have to work doubly hard to figure out who had the other five entries to tie everything together. Thankfully, at 8:58, in walks a second human and one who had been to the Saturday mission. Just under the wire but I let it count.

 

Today, I actually don’t know what’s going on. I plan to recover big time from the play and strike and not getting to sleep for much of the last few weeks.

 

 

HvZ: Opening Stretch

HvZ started at DSU around 2009 but a one of our schools computer game design professors and some students. Since, there has been at least one game run every semester, though the tradition has been one weekend game (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) and a two week game (Wednesday – Wednesday), much like what we’re running this semester. Every game has been different of course. We’ve run specifically winter games and last year, I wrote an iteration of the game that ran in reverse, with the majority of players starting as Zombie and a group of humans coming in to “cure” the virus. We’ve also implemented some features like the shop which was so popular we’ve brought it back almost every game since.

 

Wednesday, the game started at noon as per tradition and we kicked it off with, unfortunately, kind of a shabby mission. We were expecting to see some awful weather on Wednesday. It tends to be just our luck that the weather turns sour as soon as we start HvZ. Even our weekend game was blasted by the weather. Thursday before it started, the temperature had been about 50°F, turned around to a 25°F weekend, and then it was beautiful on Monday again. But Wednesday didn’t turn out to be as bad as they predicted and we’re looking at great weather for most of the rest of the game. Which is awesome because last spring game, we had to cancel the game part way through due to a winter storm that cancelled school for two days.

 

Our Wednesday mission was relatively basic, with the players being asked to cross campus, meet with our Scientist character, and then decide as a group if they wanted to see what was in his mysterious crate or in his pockets (both of which were loaded with stuff) before returning to lunch. The mission was mostly set up just to get some game currency out to the players quickly. The currency is made up of a combination of Mardi Gra beads and plastic coins.

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The beads are great because they hang in trees really well while the coins are easy to scatter on the ground. It’s been a great motivator to keep players outside and active but it also allows them to purchase items like reduced or increased stun timer for the zombie horde, a stun reversal pill (which is real candy so I mean, you can earn free candy by being a zombie) and even a free pass to class if you get enough coins.

 

Thursday was free of any missions and meant to simply let players play which went well and we saw our Patient Zero (what most games call their OZ) create a power zombie who turned quite a few humans within one morning. Last night we had another mission, much more of a traditional mission that we do almost every game, called Smoking with the General. The main idea is for the players to get together (back in the day it used to be a much more influenced event but we’ve sense asked players to keep the partying to a minimum during the mission) and tell stories, figure out a riddle, or work together in some way. So we hid a huge rebus puzzle in envelopes around the area of a statue of one of our schools former Presidents, General Beadle, asked humans to find them, and then figure out the puzzle which contained the details of today’s mission.

 

It went well without a single human death and they managed to solve the puzzle so I would say so far, the game has been a success. Thank god, because I’ve been so busy with our campus’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs going on, I’ve been busy with dress rehearsals and my job so this game has been a bit more pulled together last minute then our usual games. :/

 

Speaking of which, I’m off to another game planning meeting! Mission this afternoon! Will update soon!

 

 

Humans vs Zombies – Some Visual Media

Tis the season for some Humans vs Zombies and to kick off what will likely be a good number of HvZ related posts, I thought I’d share some of the visuals that I’ve created these last few games in order to promote the game and create unique ID cards.
Many games use the lovely source website to keep track of players’ status as human or zombie but our campus has always used a pretty basic Excel spread sheet method in order to run our games which means we make our own ID cards which are given out during our rules meetings.

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These were the cards we used during our game last semester and were geared more towards the story line being that zombies had just kind of arrived and humans were working to eradicate the infection.

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And these were the posters we used. Which seem really boring as just the graphic but finished the looked way neater.

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Each one was cut out to shape and hung with one the awesome 10x Darts attached to the center to look like hunting targets.

This semester, we changed the story up and brought back an entity that used to have a really heavy presence in our games, a pharmaceutical company known as Pharmaceuticorp. Pharmaceuticorp first showed up during games about 3 years ago so many of the players have little or no memory about their previous presence in the games. Here were the posters we used:

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And the ID cards:

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I also made a few extra advertisements from Pharmaceuticorp advertising N-Hance and M-Prove. N-Hance was a vaccine that would have prevented the outbreak had a few folks (our Original Zombies, or Patient Zeros, PZ as we call them) skipped out on the vaccine. M-Prove would later show up as a cure.

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Expect to read a lot more about how my campus runs our game of Humans vs Zombies as our two week game begins tomorrow!

She

She

She is the ink pulsing through her veins,
craving a taste of the pain of humanity,
aching from sorrows never uttered,
scribbling her blood across history.

She is the spring flower piercing through snow
warm sunlight tickling a bare thigh,
blue birds tittering atop budding growth,
an ice cube melting down her clavicle.

She is the stars in night sky laughing,
moonlight glowing against her cheeks,
twilight eyes blinking away lonely years,
dawn just creeping up on a new horizon.

Carmen Gaudin Meets Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Prostitutes whisper from alleyways,
trickling out of apartments and cabarets,
pouring down Montmartre toward the Seine.
Cart wheels clatter against the street,
while shop girls hum to the patter
of tired feet against the cobbled roads.
She’s working her fingers raw with lye
until the cotton between her fingers glows
against the violet of morning.
Curtains of copper curls hide away
the beads of sweat collecting at her nape –
summer beneath the bakery has little charm.

The painter had drank the night away,
drafting a pair of blushing whores in his bed,
before searching Rue des Saules for a café,
where he spied on shoppers strolling by,
heard them passing out demure bonjours.
His legs ached and his eyelids drooped,
and he considered rousing his models,
reclaiming the wool of his mattress.
He dropped a franc and took up his cane,
limping his way toward Saint-Vincent’s
when a splash of copper caught his eye,
through the door of the corner laundry.

“I am Carmen Gaudin,” a quiet voice, shy,
betrayed by the bite of spoiled meat in her eyes,
to which he swore he would change the stars
if she would let him arrest her in oil.
He let daylight tip-toe across the washboard,
set fire to wild tresses snatched by the breeze,
met the mirror and pinned her brown eyes shut.
He spoke very little, she spoke even less,
only hummed a few bars of gospel now and then,
when the hush of the laundry cried too loudly.
Cutting the wood of his brush between his teeth,
he ached to fill every canvas with her.

One of my favorite painters of all time has to be Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Crippled by childhood misfortunes and bad bones, Lautrec stood at just 4′ 6” tall and was forced to walk with a cane. However, unfortunate as his early life may have been, he didn’t let it stop him from pursuing an artistic career and went on to paint some extremely memorable works such as Hangover (The Drinker), At the Moulin de la Galette 1889 and Seated Dancer In Pink Tights. But my very favorite of his paintings is most definitely “The Laundress” which was one of many painting Lautrec did of Carmen Gaudin who inspired this poem.

Deciduous King

He impressed perfection from a distance –
like the memory of a moment over-imagined –
lording over his forest
of choked black walnuts and rotting sycamores.

His trunk stands a skyscraper,
so tall that you could climb to the very top
and pluck the stars from the sky
to tuck into your pocket for when you need its light.

But when you brush the bark,
the beauty sheds away, the more visible the flaws become
until all that’s left
are the knots in the wood and the bark crumbling away –

and an old, scraggly wound
running through the core of the deciduous king,
a markings of revolution
in the seam of lighting that’d deposed him.

Crawling Through Crawl Spaces

These last few days definitely sat heavily on the spectrum of emotionally weighty. It’s been six months since I’ve visited my home town, when I was there for my father’s funeral. My mother and I have always had a terse relationship and I’d lived with my dad from the age of 12 until I left for college at 18. Though I have a few siblings, none of them lived our father for very long and so a large majority of his estate and the responsibilities of organizing it have fallen to mine and my grandparents shoulders. After some convincing, they talked me into spending the second half of my Spring Break sorting through some old belongings of my fathers. And well, the things I uncovered were rather incredible.

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These aren’t even all of the records that I found. Most of them are in great shapes, covers and records and I’m a quite surprised by the variety of music he apparently listened to.

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Look at all that Willie Nelson!

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And a bunch of some interesting old school listen and learn books with records. There were way more of these and a bunch of records that I didn’t even bother to completely sort through in simple sleeves as well as a few really interesting children’s books “Thumbelina,” “The Three Bears” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

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My dad also served in the army during the early 80’s, spending the majority of his time stationed in Germany. He returned with an enormous amount of glass wear. All of them were in some way pretty unique whether size, shape, or design. The top left shot glass is measured in centiliters (2 or 4), the middle bottle is a scotch whiskey bottle that had a fitted plastic nipple for drinking, and the two shot glasses shaped like tiny mugs in the top right picture are so adorably tiny, you can’t not love them. The giant goblet on the far left of the bottom picture above isn’t from Germany I learned after some googling is from an eatery in North Dakota called the Grainery. Apparently the things a collectable worth about $15. Not Antiques Roadshow worthy but pretty neat all the same. Also check out that big green stein next to it. It’s in beautiful shape and was made in Germany. The detail on it is spectacular. I’ll have to take some better pictures of it later on.

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Oh yeah, and there was an antique G.I. Joe doll. According to my grandmother, he and his brother each had one and she insisted they save all the pieces which are quite a marvelous discovery all this time after. Look at him being a teapot. Silly soldier. Also, I think it’s remarkable how well he’s able to stand without support.

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There were a few other really awesome toys stashed away in boxes. The top right is an entire race track from the 60’s with the cutest cars that had changeable plastic frames to race with. The top right is a German-made Audi Quattro remote control car from, my guess at least, the 80’s. I’ve been able to find almost nothing about the toy online but I did find similar like it valued at around $200 dollars. The bottom two pictures might but the most amusing thing I found. It’s “The Princess and the Pea Test Kit,” including 6 different sized marbles to test your ladies royal linage.

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And just a bunch of awesome audio equipment. A turntable, 8track player, tape recorder and the music he recorded with it. I know nothing about any of it but it’s all just, well, really awesome I guess.

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There were also a few random items stashed in photo albums and shoe boxes like the bookmark, German propaganda poster, and drink snack menu from someplace called the “Disco Black-Bear” which was apparently located in Erlangen, Germany, but has since become a Japanese restaurant called Nippon. 

 

Not sure what all of this says about my dad but I guess I’m lucky I got to dig through all of it.