Wildsea and Brancalonihack

So Wildsea is… wild. It’s essentially a FitD game but with the multi-playbook character building of Spire. The setting is bonkers, the character types are bewildering and fun, and the best thing is that the mechanics are flexible enough to accommodate all types of characters.

For example, my character is a gau “char.” In normal people language, that means it is a fungus-humanoid and the ship’s cook. A lot of my character’s personal contribution to the game is cooking, and its personal quest is to be a kind of Darwin-meets-Julia Child, wandering the world and documenting recipes and cooking methods for all the ingredients one can imagine. So far, this character has hit a few personal milestones, taking one step toward proving itself a capable crewmember during a battle, documenting a new recipe for mushrooms learned in a small settlement named Three Masks. Since our ship is essentially a hollowed-out giant centipede that’s kind of still alive, the contributions during battle were culinary: my character fed it certain herbs to trigger certain reactions, and fed it halluciongenic spores (my character’s sweat, essentially) to trigger other reactions.

Cooking is not typically a major action in an RPG. It’s something that’s typically handwaved. But the rules in Wildsea, and the equipment/assets system, are built to accommodate it mechanically and even to allow it occasional spotlight. This is very cool. We’re only a couple of sessions in, so we’re getting the hang of it, but so far I’m enjoying it. For this game, I’m tracking our group’s adventures on a kind of map I’m making and editing in Wonderdraft. It’s not an in-world chart, since the setting actually morphs and changes continually, but it’s sort of a pictorial record of our travels. So far, this is the tiny bit of the map that’s been filled in:

My other game group is playing a Black Hack game inspired by thespaghetti-fantasy Brancalonia setting. It’s not exactly Brancalonia, I don’t think, but it draws heavily upon aspects of it. It’s a picaresque, and our characters are definitely picaros. In this one, I’m playing the normal human type, whose companions include a demon who fled hell and an animated marionette with a bad attitude. Our characters are on a quest to uncover [?riches] in a lost vineyard somewhere, though my goofy inventor character’s main quest is to avoid getting re-conscripted into the Imperial army or forced to do any form of work. Oh, and he definitely wants to catch Tall Hat Man, a rogue who picked his pocket of card game winnings in session 2. Three sessions in, there’s already a cast of NPCs, including a few whom we absolutely love to hate and others that we’re starting to realize are best avoided whenever possible. 

Also, there’s a social resource management aspect to the game. We have a laundry score, for how clean or filthy our clothing is, and the score needs to be refreshed sometimes with clothes-washing… which requires soap, which isn’t free. One can go about dirty, of course, but it affects reaction and social rolls. It’s not quite social Torchbearer, but it is an amusing stat to have to track and manage. One PC in our group bought soap and has been renting out the use of it to the other PCs. (Yes, our game has spontaneously developed “soaplord”-ism.) 

For this game, I’m not making maps, because our GM has already made lovely region maps for us, but I have been writing the session logs on Discord. 

The Brancalonihack game is supposed to run for a limited number of sessions. There’s a set quest, and we’re on it, and it will end at some point specific.

(I’m not sure if it’ll be my turn to run something again then, or someone else’s, but I am starting to think about what I want to run when my turn comes up.)

Sam Gendel Transcription Done

Well, I spent the last week (yes, it took me a week) transcribing Sam Gendel’s solo on Lonnie’s Lament in this live performance with “Tiki” Pasillas and Fabiano do Nascimento:

You can find a link for the PDF on my brand new Transcriptions page. I figured I might as well have a page that indexes these, assuming I’m going to do more. (And I do plan on doing at least some more of them.) 

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to trying to transcribe improvisations. Other than one hurried study of a Charlie Rouse solo I did in undergrad for a lesson, this is my first attempt at transcribing improvised music. I ended up doing it all by ear (no saxophone in hand), mostly directly off Youtube (but for a few tough sections, with the help of the Transcribe app, which is handy for marking beats and measures and figuring out what’s going on in difficult bits). That said, I don’t know if I’ll be memorizing or practicing this solo all that much. I suspect Henry Threadgill is right that too much of that can crowd out your own voice, though I’m sure a moderate amount of doesn’t hurt. For me, the bigger benefit is really seeing how other people skin the cat, and learning from their solutions, rather than collecting licks I can deploy in my own solos.  

Incidentally, the toughest measures to write down were measures 45-47 of the solo, which isn’t surprising: that’s the most hectic and florid bit of the solo. What did surprise me was that it was not the pitches but the rhythms that were hard to figure out in that section. (I’m still not 100% confident I’ve got them right, so if anyone has feedback, feel free to offer it.) I should also note that the ties are intended primarily as phrasing markings, though they roughly follow Gendel’s articulations too. It’s hard to be sure, since he’s playing very softly and legato throughout, but I think those markings are correct too. The quarter-tone tuning markings are exaggerations and guesses, too, definitely not meant to be taken literally; I could as easily have written “lip down” on some notes and called it a day.  

One more thing: I’m pretty sure they are just using the original chord changes, but if they’d changed them subtly, I can’t tell. I don’t really have such a great ear for harmony, but at least going by the bass line that do Nascimento is playing, this seems right. Again, feedback is welcome.    

I didn’t transcribe the improvised coda at the end, even though I think it’s very striking. Maybe I’ll come back to it sometime. For now, I’m happy with what I have accomplished with it, and I’m ready to try something else. 

Practice Log: 11–17 February 2024 (Sunday–Saturday)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series 2024 Practice Log

This is my regularly updated practice log, mostly for accountability with my saxophone practice. Below you can see my practice for the week. If you’d like to check it out, here’s my goal list of tunes for the year. 

This week, it seems I’m concluding my work on “Misty”—I think I “have” the tune, as I “got” Lonnie’s Lament last week. Maybe when I finish transcribing one Lonnie’s Lament solo, I’ll do the same for a version of Misty—maybe one of Stan Getz’s, like this one. As far as picking other tunes, I was tempted by Anthropology or Ornithology, but finally I decided that I’m easing myself back into playing, so I went with Up Jumped Spring, a tune I’ve learned in the past but half-forgotten. 

Below, you can see a log of my practice sessions for the week.

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Lunar New Year 2024

Happy Lunar New Year! Above is some ddeok guk I made for the holiday, because I felt that maybe we should have some Korean food this Lunar New Year holiday. My wife was so happy with it she had seconds and thirds! And I had to tinker to make a decent vegetarian version of the meal, so that was flattering!

Trailing behind the whole new year hustle as I do—often I’m teaching a winter class from late December to mid-January, and it doesn’t feel like a new year starts until that’s done—I tend to count new years off the Lunar Calendar. This year, I’m trying to get a little more of a sense of forward motion, though I suppose what I really mean is that I’d like to carry on with the sense of forward motion I started to develop in 2023. Continue reading

Practice Log: 4–10 February 2024 (Sunday–Saturday)

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 2024 Practice Log

This is my regularly updated practice log, mostly for accountability with my saxophone practice. Below you can see my practice for the week. If you’d like to check it out, here’s my goal list of tunes for the year. 

This week, it seems I’m working on two tunes: “Lonnie’s Lament” and “Misty.” There are reference examples I’m working off and listening to linked from the list of goal tunes. 

Below, you can see a log of my practice sessions for the week.

Continue reading