Back to normality. Or as close as I get.

First off, many thanks to those who read and commented on my recent post on mental health. The comments have been much appreciated.It wasn’t easy, but I got that far into it that not writing it would have felt worse. Again, you have my thanks.

Before I forget, I was meaning to post a writeup of a performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf I saw recently, and I’m still struggling to decide how to sum it up, with the closest thing that comes to mind being Apocalypse Now. Before you commence throwing things, let me explain. Both are overly long, begin with things seeming not to be going well, and that feeling of dread and unease only intensifying throughout, wih a last act that’s a cavalcade of WTF. This is possibly why I shouldn’t be reviewing theatre. Though in my defence, Margaret Pomeranz and I both quoted the same piece of Shakespeare* when we reviewed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which I choose as a mark in my favour. I’m also 2 episodes into The 100, which I’m enjoying, though I think I’m between 10-15 years too old for it’s primary audience.

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It was the second session of my D&D game last night, and didn’t go too badly. I’m not as great as I’d like to be at running social encounters and there was a bit of railroading (And I regret it), but the players still seemed to enjoy things and that’s what counts. We learn by doing after all. The Wizard spents more time stealing cheese than doing anything magical, the Rangers are drunks with the Rogue not far behind, the Paladin has a secret identity as a masked vigilante and the Fighter is seemingly keener on theatre tickets than cracking heads. They’re an interesting bunch and I’m really enjoying devising adventures for them. I’ve a few plans for them in motion – they still have no idea who their mysterious benefactor is (I’m attempting to play him like Raymond Reddington crossed with Mr Morden) after all. They’ve also levelled up for the first time, so it’s almost time to UNLEASH THE OWLBEARS!

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Moving on, this will likely be the last update on the post apoc game for a while, as I have to delve back into the Hyborian Age to finish my Sydcon event. Been trying to write factions (Settlers, Scavengers, Ambos etc) and work out background stuff for it, but it’s both getting to the stage where I want to bring other people in and am having the dip in the initial enthusiasm. I love the idea of the settlement police being an in-character faction (Working name: The Boy’s in Blue) and have been trying to come up with Boons and Flaws instead of stats. I’m not proud, but I laughed at the idea of calling the sneak boon ‘Where the Bloody Hell are You?’ patching people up is ‘Band Aid’ and catching and returning thrown weapons had to be ‘Classic Catch’. I’m writing it, I’m allowed to be the only one amused. Trying to put an actual rules system together is one of the things I’m planning on leaving till last, as it’s not something I’ve done before, but there’s ideas I want to make sure I’ve put down incase I forget them. Background and overly purple flavour text? I’ve got that covered. Anyhow, the Hyborian game – 6 PC’s, 4 of them female and (mostly) wearing sensible armour. I’m kinda pleased with that. Pirates, savages, darkest sorcery, bloody combat, Northern barbarians, Southern decadence, the treasure of a long forgotten kingdom and candles that burn with a wierd green flame… It’s been fun to write. 🙂

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What else is up soon? Zedtown’s up in a few couple of weeks and I’m crewing that. I don’t know what role I’ll have yet, but I’m sure I can costume it with minimum effort. Should be a blast. Anyhow, time to return to the days of high adventure!

“I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”
Robert E Howard – Queen of the Black Coast

*Work out which bit and there might be a prize for you!

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Am I OK?

No, I most certainly am not. I’ve been struggling over whether to contribute to the ‘It’s OK to talk’ movement, mostly out of a fear of seeming to jump on a bandwagon, or writing some horrifyingly self-indulgent twaddle. It’s a hell of a thing and I support it with no reservations whatsoever, but contributing myself? It’s one of the joys of having a shithouse sense of self worth that means I’ll write a bunch of stuff then delete it assuming it’s rubbish. Anyway, assuming I haven’t deleted this in a panic, here goes.

These days I prefer speaky Henry to shouty Henry, but the song still means a lot

A few months ago, I had a moment that could be described as a moment of clarity. It was a moment that made me realize with all certainty that I needed to talk to someone. I’d prefer to keep the moment itself private, but needless to say, telling my wife wasn’t easy. She didn’t exactly react well, but was pleased that I’d been able to tell her. It’s been rough. Since the end of a job and workplace I loved in 2013, I’ve been feeling increasingly out of place, as if I don’t know where I fit anymore. The two jobs I’ve managed to hold since then haven’t helped much either, though I did discover I’m not suited for phone based customer service. FUN FACT: If you want to learn to really, really hate humanity, answer phones for a living. Job seeking hasn’t helped either – I’ve been doing the same thing for that long I’ve no real idea of what else I can do. I know, logically, that I can apply what I’ve done to other stuff, but finding somewhere that’s willing to let me do that, that’s been an issue.

My knack for finding bands already split continues.

Moving on, I think a lot of it is to do with my sense of self-worth, or lack of it exactly. I can remember feeling that way, almost as far back as I can remember. I’ve not thought about suicide much since my teens, and how much of that was serious or teenage idiocy I don’t know. I do know I wouldn’t have gone through with it (Mostly out of being an abject coward and out of horror at what situation that would leave my family in.) but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend more time than I should have pondering it, mostly in the ‘how many of you other fuckers can I take with me’ sense. I went to high school with more than a few people that I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. It took  a long time to find people that I felt comfortable with and to feel OK in a crowd. I still find myself needing alone time (Or as I call it, sitting in a cave) after a lot of interaction, and I’m fine with that. Better to have a coping mechanism than burn out.

Bloody brilliant. The first verse get’s me every time.

Anyhow, the lack of self-worth. It’s a constant struggle to feel as if I’m actually helping, to be useful, or even finding validation and worth out of what I do. It’s why having people sit down at one of my events and ask what it’s about, as they’d seen my name and signed up without reading the blurb such a terrifying prospect. It’s flattering don’t get me wrong, but it chills the blood. Something I’d done, hell, just my name has made people want to participate? It’s something that still confuses me, despite the fact that it shouldn’t. Or at least I think it shouldn’t. Somedays I’m not sure. Realizing the sense of achievement in that only works occasionally. Let me put it this way – my wife volunteers with a theatre group that helps refugee kids tell their stories. I write silly games. No matter how hard I try, I can’t balance those two up. I’ve tried, and there’s been moments that have come genuinely close, but I’m still not quite there. Incidentally, if you get the chance their shows are well worth seeing. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be furious at current government policy. But I digress…

A subtle critique of the current administration I thought…

It’s in the last few months that things seem to have changed, there’s been a burst of productivity, and ideas. I’m running 2 regular games, writing for cons, helping write or crew other events and have another couple of projects cooking away and I’ve been bloody loving it. Sure,  keeping bills paid would be more useful in the short term but I haven’t felt so many ideas flowing in a long time. I’ve got a pile of projects on the go, my wife has been incredibly supportive and there’s a bunch of people around me who care and want to play in my events. So, why am I still in the dumps?

If you don’t think Alone With You is one of the greatest pop songs written, then we may have to fight with knives.

If I had an answer to that, then I’d be screaming it from the rooftops. Yes, I’ve been talking to people of late about what’s been going on, and that’s helped a hell of a lot. I’m fairly certain I spent more time discussing my mental health than my future career prospects with the careers counseller I saw recently. It didn’t help my future career prospects as much as others, but it provided a wonderful shot of self esteem and drive, part of which I’m sure has helped inspire me. I think it’s a need to feel useful and as if I’m contributing, something that plauged me during my last bout of unemployment. So, actually forcing myself to write, or to get stuff done around the house, while not as seemingly useful as paying rent, means I’m still doing something that I can point to at the end of the day and say “I’ve done this.”


*screaming air guitar solo*

I’m currently stuck in a “Do I need to hang on this BS’ argument with myself, or to explain it using differet metaphors, I’m stuck somewhere between Star Trek V’s “I need my pain” or to quote Iggy Pop, “If I kick out my demons my angels might leave.” I’m the first person to agree that neither of those sources are valid psychological arguments, though I do feel that “What does God need with a starship?” is one of the great philosophical and theological questions of our time. I’m not sure how to explain the issue, or if I understand it myself, but a large part boiled down to this: do I dare give myself permission to be cheerful and what will happen if  do?  I’ve been used to being miserable for so long, that I’m not sure how to break out of that for more than a brief moment. Gods, I sound like I’m 14 and not 36.

Bless the Shat.

Look, I’m not sure what else I can add. What I can say is this: talk to someone. Doesn’t matter who, but if you need to talk, then talk. It’ll help. Don’t be afraid. It ain’t easy, and it ain’t fun, but it’s worth doing.

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Be seeing you…

How much is too much?

I really want to like Critical Role. It get’s a lot of press, has done wonders for the table top gaming community and Matt Mercer is a fantastic GM who makes my shambling semi organised efforts feel thoroughly inadequate. What I’ve seen of the show I’ve really enjoyed (Viktor the Black Powder Merchant especially) , but the sheer amount of it to catch up on puts me off. 60 plus 3 hour long episodes? That’s a hell of a lot there. I’m starting to understand how people can go “I’m not going to watch Doctor Who, there’s too much to watch to be caught up.” (It’s how I feel about Supernatural and that’s only 11 seasons in) Sure, I feel those people are foolish and wrong and you should watch ALL THE WHO but they’re entitled to their opinion and not to be mocked for it. Much.

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Anyhow, the post 2005 version of the show has been set up with so you don’t have to watch the old stuff, or indeed much of the new show to understand it (Continuity done well, unlike the early 80’s Ian Levine era, but that’s a far, far nerdier rant than this one is going to be), but you’d be depriving yourself of the Sylvester McCoy era and to me that’s akin to calling yourself a heavy metal fan and not owning the first 4 Black Sabbath albums. Well, if you ignore his first year – we don’t talk about Time and the Rani. But Remembrance of the Daleks and The Happiness Patrol should be on any list of classic series Who to watch. I might write one of those if there’s interest?

What I am enjoying is Force Grey: Giant Hunters – they’re only 6 episodes in (At the time of writing) and those are in 25-40 minute chunks, far more digestable. To add to that, the intro is  utterly adorable and fast working it’s way up my list of favorite TV intros (The Top 5 being Doctor Who, Monkey, Cowboy Bebop, Danger Mouse and Babylon 5). Oh, and Matt Mercer still makes me feel like a terrible GM.

Switching topics to the ‘It’s about fucking time’ desk comes the first new Metallica song in about 8 years. It’s far from a classic, but it’s short, fast and furious (A welcome return to the days of Kill Em All) and for those reasons alone is a welcome breath of fresh air in a sea of overly long sludgy epics. Here’s hoping the rest of the album’s like this.

It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind…

So, pondering writing games in licensed settings over the weekened and I returned to my love for Babylon 5. It struck me that I’ve not really had an idea that I felt was well, worthy of the setting. Part of that, well most of it, boils down to my love of the show and not wanting to screw it up. My games tend to be B-movies and I’m OK with that. I could manage something like The Parliament of Dreams or Soul Mates without much trouble, but something like Comes the Inquisitor or  And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place, yeah, that’s not going to happen. Aha, but during a discussion with Wife on the way home, Sunday, I might have cracked. Sure, it’s mostly inspired by the episode Learning Curve and what little I remember from the TV movie The Legend of the Rangers, but here goes.

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So, the Rangers are an organization comprised of Humans and Minbari, but are seen to be opening up their ranks to the other races late in the show. So, what if the PC’s are the first group entirely from them? That would mean the PC’s would be a Narn, Drazi, pak’ma’ra, Gaim and Brakiri. (There was temptation to add a Centauri to conlfict with the Narn, but I agree with my wife that they wouldn’t be interested.) They’re on a shuttle in hyperspace on the way to Minbar for the inaguration. Something goes kaboom, the engines are dead and they begin to drift. After fixing the engines (And finding evidence of sabotage), they limp to Minbar, and have 3 days to spend before the inaguration trying to dodge assassins, members of the MInbari Warrior Caste (Who aren’t trying to kill them, but being dicks) and prove to others that they can be worthy of the rank.

So, not sure if I’ll ever run it, but it was fun to work out the idea.

On those lines, the Star Trek:Bridge Crew game that was being talked about. No, nothings happened with it yet, but I know one thing for certain – if we use a Klingon ship I’m writing them. It’s not that I couldn’t write a Federation or Romulan ship, even a Cardassian or Vulcan, but there’s that whole proud warrior race thing appeals more to my macho idiot side (Yes, I do have one. Try not to laugh). Plus, there’s vast amounts of scenery chewing and seeing if I can make the players sing.

As for the post apoc game, I don’t have any updates, other than the idea for emphasising hostipality (Whether in background or a game mechanic) to reference the theme to Neighbours. I’m not proud.

Ah, nuts.

So, I may have said recently that I was trying not to get involved in another game. Well, I’ve broken that and got involved in another LARP. Cut a long story short,  I’m now part of a group (Well, a duo at the moment) writing another game. The plan is a mix of tavern and day games, to balance between the political and fighty players, but little more has been written. On the bright side, I’ll be busy and I’m a lot better mentally when that happens. If you’re intersted in helping, drop me a comment.

In unrelated news, there’s some wonderful things that make me misty eyed. It took me a long time to get adjusted to the idea of wanting children, mostly due to not having spent much time around them. As my Niece and Godson grew older, that spark began to grow, and flared at the point that I could start introducing them to stuff I loved. Showing Niece The Princess Bride was incredibly nerve wracking, as if she didn’t like it, well, we may not speak ever again. (Spoiler: she spent the rest of the night yelling “I am not left handed!” at me) Even Star Wars was less nerve wracking – we finished showing her Jedi the morning of taking her to The Force Awakens and upon seeing Han she turned to me and asked “Why’s he so old?” Godson has also developed a ferocious Doctor Who obsession in the last year or so and despite him calling The Web of Fear boring and only wanting to watch regeneration episodes (He’s 7, so I havn’t disowned him yet) it’s incredibly heartwarming to see how much he loves the show. This was also somewhat inspired off by the recent Ghostbusters, which made me want daughters to show them an example of strong, awesome female characters.

To get to the point I was trying to make, seeing video of Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons at Wacken Open Air 2016 did that as well. It’s no boast on the band name, as three of Campbell’s kids are band members. Watching them roar through Killed By Death and seeing the look on Campbell’s face… We miss Him and will continue to, but Campbell worked with him for over 30 years – what’s he’s been feeling the past few months I can’t begin to comprehend. Getting back on stage is one thing, but playing those songs again must stir up something pretty primal. We grieve for those we have lost, but celebrate what they gave us.

Brings a tear to the eye doesn’t it?

It’s a belief of mine that everyone has that one great love in their life and whatever that may be is up to the individual. I love a lot of things with possibly far more intensity than I should, but rock and roll trumps them all. There’s something about it that effects me in a way I can’t explain, but it’s triggers, something, that irresistible urge to jump around, throw shapes and flail my hear around like a loon. The adrenachrome hit. One moment of perfect beauty. The Savage Beat. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a wonderful thing. From the Bellrays jazzrock fusion, Skindred’s genre hopping madness, the savage intensity of Testament, Radio Birdman’s well, everything, my beloved Iron Maiden and the sole reason I want to visit New York, the Ramones, I love it. It makes me rage with fury and weep with sadness. It also gives me the beserk energy I need to clean the kitchen. You can keep your booze, your drugs, your beliefs. I have guitars, bass and drums and I’m fine with that. After all, it sure ain’t noise pollution.

Original thought. What?

So, not much has been done on the post apocalypse game the last few days. It’s mostly been brainstorming ideas for factions and trying not to plagarize too much from other systems I’ve been reading about. Sure, being able to say “It’s like X” is useful, but I’d like to be a bit more original.

(If you don’t understand the reference, I can’t help you.)

Anyhow, my D&D players have been deciding on their characters for the upcoming campaign. So far, we have the following:

Half Elven Paladin of Sune – part vigilante, part dating service. Very dashing and swashbuckly.

Shield Dwarf Fighter who’s obsessed with the Waterdhavian theatre scene. I’m happy with this as I now get a chance to pastiche The Talons of Weng-Chiang* at some point.

Dragonborn Druid who’s come to tell people to be nicer to the animals. I’m assuming, with the threat of roasting them alive if they don’t.

Human Rogue, son of a noble house who lives to embarrass his family name and is loving every minute of it.

The last player hasn’t decided on a PC yet, only that it’ll be some form of Arcane caster. Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer is the current front runner.I’m hoping for Wild Mage, but that’s cause the Surge table is one of my favorite things.

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Campaign kick’s off next Monday night, so I should have an adventure written by then. NO pressure…

*The Jago and Litefoot audios are austonding aural accquisitions.

Pondering…

So, my players have been coming up with character ideas for the 5th Ed game, and there’s been some doozys (Paladin of Sune, God of Beauty – part vigilante, part dating consultant). Still haven’t got a plot yet, but I’m waiting till they’ve confirmed their characters before I confirm that.

As for the post apoc game, I’ve another skill tree idea.

BUSHMAN – Basically a D&D Ranger crossed with Les Hiddins. Has a higher chance to find supplies in the wild and knows about the local wildlife. (“Fresh dropbear tracks. When I say run, run…”) Possibly even making friends some of the local critters.

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As for inspiration, there’s numerous sources out there: Nuclear Snail have some fascinating tutorials, though the name strikes fear in my heart*. The games Sunfall:Metro, Wasteland UK and The World Went Dark have some stunning imagery. Given the lack of desert location near me, I’m aiming for a more forestpunk style (Which mixes in with the forests reclaming background I’m bashing out), but the standard levels of dirt, grime and blood will be present.

The world died. Cities fell, and the wilderness reclaimed them. People tried to survive, to carry on, but when their numbers grew too few, it collapsed. Some had hidden underground, in vast shelters built by the government, riding out the chaos in air conditioned splendour. Others unable to pay their way inside suffered and struggled, dying but for want of a few coins. When they emerged, the world had changed. The forests had grown over the cities of man, the once gleaming towers of glass and steel now overgrown with forest, a land filled with scavengers, monsters and other horrors. The animals had, changed, growing larger and more dangerous. The virus that had slaughtered the humans had mutated them and they had grown strong for lack of humanity. Now the wildlife is as much a threat as starvation, disease or raiders.

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Some have surrendered to their darker instincts, plundering the ashes of the old world. Some seek to learn from it, to reconstruct what was, or just to survive. I’m trying to give a number of options for possible PC’s, as large as I can, rather than ‘good guy or bad’ options.

The start: we start at a small settlement. Supplies can be found nearby, and there’s shelter. Possibly a small sporting arena for Blood Bowl or Jugger. What happens next, well, that is another story…

*I hate snails, and slugs for that matter – they scare the living hell out of me. Have since I was a kid.