Dice over Discord

So, what have I, and my brain, been doing since last I wrote? Not much. Work. Bought a new pair of headphones and the S26 Doctor Who set. 3 versions of Battlefield to watch, a new cut of The Curse of Fenric and an enormous pile of supplemental material (Scripts and production paperwork!) to make my way through! I don’t know why I adore making of material so much, but it certainly brings joy and then some. Tracey and I watched Detective Pikachu tonight and while it was enjoyable, I can’t help but wonder how Bill Nighy got involved (Outside of the obvious fact that the man has bills to pay), and I suspect I’d get a lot more of the jokes and background details if I knew anything about Pokemon.

Thanks to a subscriber deal I also picked up the PDF of the John Carter of Mars RPG for free, and it’s very, very pretty. I haven’t had time to delve into it yet beyonf the opening pages, but upon hearing about it my wife all but demanded to play a Thark, as in her words “I want green babies!” For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, just imagine the following picture tinier and cuter:

I don’t know if I’ll ever run it, despite my wife’s “You buy it, you run it” policy. I need to dig into it more beforehand to see if I can think of adventure ideas. I know comparatively little about the setting, mostly what the film gave us, the glorious beautifully designed mess that it is. I wasn’t a fan of the prologue, feeling it took too long to get us to Mars, but oh, once it did… Making Dejah Thoris more than a damsel in distress was a sensible decision and getting to see/hear the likes of Willem Defoe and James Purefoy chewing scenery as only they can is a delight. Plus a mini Rome reunion with Ciaran Hinds!

Staying on gaming, I ran Destination Mongo, my Flash Gordon adventure, for some friends over Discord yesterday. While fun was had, or certainly seemed to, I’m still not fully sold on voice chat gaming. I was hoping for video, but my tiny laptop couldn’t hack it sadly. It’s not that it’s bad, and I certainly feel I could have been a better GM, but it really makes me miss the communal feeling of a group around a table. Yes, it meant that friends from far away could join in the fun and that’s wonderful, but only hearing people’s voices means I miss a lot of visual cues. Also, they can’t see it when I’m distracted writing down funny lines from them, some of which are below.

“Everybody follow me! After you…”
“Did you learn cooking in the Jackie Chan kitchen?”
“Stop talking and hit something!”
“I will happily let you use that skill for violence.”

I’ll certainly do more of it, if only in the hope of getting better, but also to scratch the itch. If this is all the gaming I’m going to be doing for the forseeable future, then I’d like to get better at it. We had one of our regular games last week with 1 player on video, and it helped an immense amount in focus and reactions. I’m trying not to worry about when lockdown ends and take it day by day, but there are times when the uncertainty does weigh heavy on me.

To end on another emotional note, it was the 9th anniversary of the death of Elisabeth Sladen last week, and a tribute was put online. Written by former Who producer Russell T Davies, it’s a wonderful tribute to both Sladen the actor and Sarah Jane the character. And yes, I couldn’t help but hope for a few words from Tom Baker or Jodie Whittaker, but my head-canon (along with a lot of Twitter) is that given the Doctor is referred to as he throughout, that no-one noticed the 13th Doctor up the back.

You will cry. I certainly did.

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you.

Some early sketches

I miss LARP. The fun of it all, of getting together as a group, the shouting, silliness and shared experiences. The drama, excitement and escapism. Also, the dressing up and trying to thump each other with foam swords. It’s superb fun and more people should do it. Granted, it’s not as if I was doing much of it before lockdown, but there were plans to, and that’s one of the things that’s irritated me the most about the whole thing. Anyhow, the point.

I didn’t plan to write this. A few weeks back I acquired both seasons of Britannia, and had idle thoughts about a LARP in that setting, then set it aside. I’m meant to be writing a game about Minbari politics for Pheno, but a couple of days back my brain misfired, in that wonderful way it does, and I started writing. It’s that wonderful feeling of needing to finish something, and the brain shouting at BRIAN BLESSED volumes “HEY! HERE’S ANOTHER DIFFERENT THING YOU COULD BE DOING!” So, I’m putting it down, to try to get it out of the head. Please don’t take this as an indication that I’m actually working on this. It’s idle work to try to fire up the brain for the thing I should actually be doing, and in all likelihood will soon join the other partially written projects on my Google Drive. Either way, I hope you like it. May it inspire you in your efforts.

Britannia. Roman-era Britain, or something resembling it if you look at it upside down with the lights off. The Iron Crown of the High King of the Picts lies in his tomb and none have dared to quest for it for a decade or more. The tribes squabble amongst each other, bickering over lands and resources, while beasts of legend lurk in the forests and fens. All the while, a larger threats lurks, that of invaders from the South, seeking to crush the last vestiges of free land under their iron boots…

Damn, I do love writing flavour text. Almost as much as my wife enjoys interrupting me reciting it. Moving on. I’m not giving it a date, so I can mess with history. As far as I know, Hadrian’s Wall hasn’t been built, Bouddica hasn’t rebelled and the 9th Legion hasn’t marched into oblivion. Well, maybe. I’m not suggesting we go full Xena, but something close. History is a wonderful thing, and can be just as fun when it’s ignored for the sake of drama or fun, as my Musketeers convention games can attest to.

Full Xena

North – Forest folk. Seen as secretive and more savage than others. Reputed to favour human sacrifice in their magics. Not completely evil, but there’s a reputation that exists.
East – They have villages along the coast and are known as fisher folk. Explorers, hunters and traders. Or the other idea was basing the visual look of the Seal people from the film The Eagle, and making them head hunters.
West – Consider themselves the most ancient of the tribes, seen as wizards, scholars and famed for their priests skill at divination. Maybe clad in furs and skins, I dunno?
South – Pastoral and friendly. Craftsman and builders, renowned for their skill at the arts. Perhaps they trade with the others the most?

I’d want something in the background to distinguish between the tribes, a favoured colour or style of dress to help make the difference between them obvious. At minimum, I’d make half the tribes have a matriarchal leadership, the others patriarchal (No, I’ve not idea which I’d choose) and abolish gender stereotypes. I’m already rewriting history, so why not make it a little less horrible?


Holy ground, possibly a Druidic enclave.
Local village
Roman military forward camp
Tribal meeting place, possibly also featuring an arena for combat between tribal champions, an agreed upon way of solving tribal disputes.

Romans.  I can see the first contact with a Legion in Testudo going horribly, as this strange iron beast marches towards them. Maybe later they’ll be added as PC’s.
Fay/Elven creatures. Forest folk, selkies and mythical beasts.
Something resembling the Wee Free Men. Thieves of cattle and goods, a nuisance at first, but could grow more dangerous if angered.
Very loose adaptions or hints at the Arthurian and Robin Hood myths.
The Worms of the Earth. Fuck yes REH.
I know very little about British/Pictish mythology, but I’m sure there’s plenty more that I could mine for ideas.


Sort of. There’s things that are claimed to be magic by the Druids. No-ones exactly sure if it’s real magic, and the Druids aren’t talking.  Such things mostly involve potions, or occasionally shared hallucinogens. Some Druids practice  divination by reading animal entrails and the like. Ceremony and ritual are important, magic in this game doesn’t involve fireballs getting flung about. I see a fiery pre-battle speech giving bonuses and morale being incredibly important. Do you stand against impossible odds and inspire a legend, or do you run and live to fight another day, your honour stained with cowardice?

Melee: Swords, daggers, axes (all single handed) and spears are the main weapons, with clubs and staves for the poor or different. Ranged wise, you can choose between bows, javelins and throwing knives/axes. I’m sure there’s companies out there making foam rocks as well, if you’re really cheap. Shields (Ranging from small bucklers to larger oval models) are used by many while armour wise mostly leather is used. Some metal armour, whether forged locally or stolen from Roman invaders could be found, but will be very rare and used only by the high of status or very wealthy. Opinions on armour vary between the tribes, with some regarding it as cowardly, while others will take all the help they can get.

Pict Warrior

Fast and deadly. I like the idea of a ‘Just before you die’ ability, so you have 10 seconds to be suitable dramatic before you cark it, or something that lets you hold on, but as soon as you stop screaming or chanting you’re dead. Amp up the combat, so to speak, not to movie flashy, but make it big and dramatic so the gods may see you and be entertained. I’m aware of British chariot warfare, but can’t think of a way to make that LARP safe. Well, short of having two people holding hobby horses running in-front of the chariots driver who’s got them on a harness, and by that stage to me it’s less a LARP and more a kink and I’ll just leave that there.

If I was going to be really intense about this, which being a hypothetical I can be, I’d want to set a kit standard and make people buy appropriate looking weapons rather than re-suing medieval style kit. There’s a couple of company’s that make Celtic and Roman style weaponry, and while I’d allow Viking era gear, that would be the latest period that I’d allow. My distaste for overly ornate weaponry still stands, but I’ll refrain from stepping on that soapbox this time.

The films Centurion, The Eagle and the 2004 King Arthur come first to mind, with a heavy dose of Robert E Howard’s Bran Mak Morn stories. The Doctor Who episode The Eaters of Light, the myths from the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch and the Slaine series from 2000AD also should be on the list. As for games in the setting, the only one I’ve seen so far is the UK game Dumnonni Chronicles, which seems a bit more fantasy than this game seems to be, but the kit standard is gorgeous.

Picts Centurion

As for what will happen, I have no idea yet. The first idea I had was of a famous Gaulish Druid visiting, but can you blame me? Sure, the prospect of players in a continuing game getting hold of some of his magic potion is slightly terrifying (In a game balance sense), but once you’ve drunk it, it’s gone. A short think for more ideas produced things like infighting between the tribes, a wedding or a funeral, religious festivals/conflict, young warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy, games (both combat and bardic) and the threat of the Roman invaders.

*whew* Now that that’s out of the system, hopefully I can get back to Minbari politics. In Valen’s name…

Be seeing you…

Addendum: Clothes maketh the man

Bit of a short update that I meant to add to the last entry. My wife and I are currently watching Good Omens, having recently finished season 1 of The Witcher. We enjoyed the show, but I can’t argue with my wife’s reaction at the end of the season, which I will sum up here: “WHAT? The whole things been a prelude?” The cast do their jobs well, especially the children, and Henry Cavill has quite the talent for conveying a lot with a look and an annoyed grunt. (And is quite the Warhammer 40K nerd) If I had to pick, I’m really not a fan of the amount of reverse grip nonsense in the sword work. I’m still not sure where that trend started, but I think The Force Unleashed? Look, it’s pretty, and works well for the show, but even as a novice historical fencer it bugs the hell out of me.

Witcher grunt

As for Omens we’re 4 episodes in at the time of writing and it’s beautifully Pratchett in feel. It’s been a long time since either of us have read the book, though I’ll likely go through it when we’re done with the show. I didn’t want to be constantly going “But this was different in the book!” all the way through it. I’m sure there are changes, but I’m content to wait to re-discover them. It should come as no surprise that I’d like a lot of Crowley’s costume in my wardrobe, though I couldn’t hope to match David Tennant’s swagger in a million years. Or the scarves, though that’s more for my rather long and scrawny neck. And yes, Aziriphale’s coat is lovely, but I really don’t think that colour is me.


Staying with costumes, another few photos from the new production of Dune have been released, and well, they’re quite pretty. I can’t help but think back to the rubber(?) stillsuits from the Lynch movie and wonder how uncomfortable they must have been to wear. I’ve a making of the film book around here somewhere, I must dig it out at some point.

Be seeing you.

No news, actually some news.


Not much has happened since last entry. Picked up some new scars (A few minor scalds from hot bacon fat while cooking my wife breakfast), turned 40 (As did Iron Maiden’s first album!), had a wonderful little backyard birthday party with just my household, and felt loved and cared for. Work has been nothing less than flat out, as given that we supply jigsaw puzzles among other things, we think we’re an essential industry. Thanks ScoMo. *sigh*

Things… aren’t good brain wise. I spent a lot of the long weekend asleep, or trying to sleep, and while there’s an element of recovering from the working week, it ain’t all that. It’s not that I feel bleaker than normal, more running on fumes. An early morning not quite anxiety attack today didn’t help either. Well, less attack and more I was an idiot and took a quick look at the news after peeing. Someday I’ll stop myself from doing that, but not today. I’m also kicking myself slightly for not getting up and writing down what was in my head at the time, as I’m all but certain it was more gripping than this. At least it felt that way, but the line between crushing boredom and high drama is very thin around 4:15am.


How am I coping with conditions at the moment? I don’t know. I’m the only one in my house going outside on a regular basis, so little has changed for me. Sure, I’m trying to avoid people, not make trips I don’t need to and wash my hands more, I’m not ignoring things.  Sure, the trains have been great, the term ‘Reverse Olympics’ comes to mind (Kids, ask your parents), but that’s not exactly something I should be cheering about. As for at home, I’m as introverted as my wife is extroverted, so I’m OK seeking less attention and would be happy for a lock down (Well, for a short time), while she’s climbing up the walls with the limited contact with people she’s having. Alas, the other 3 of us in the house aren’t enough. We’re doing what we can in the meantime, and hopefully cabin fever can be kept at bay.

I’m kinda looking forward to booking a hotel room when this is done and having sometime to myself. At least, I like the idea of that. As with many of my ideas, I’m not sure if I should actually go through with it, but I’m certainly thinking about it. I should use it to write my Pheno freeform, but that’s suffering writers block. It’s time to break out the B5 20th Anniversary Blu-rays and soak them in, that should help kick start something. Assuming I don’t start crying when I realize just how many of the cast have died. Or maybe I’ll just wear a cloak when I take the bins out. It’s been too long since we’ve reminded the street we’re nerds, and that should change. In other rubbish news, the very friendly cat up the street’s humans are leaving soon and I’m really going to miss her.

There are bright spots though. Whilst the attempt to run one of my old games didn’t work, one of my players volunteered to run the scenario  from the back of the new Alien RPG. Good fun was had, and I spent a lot of it desperately trying not to metagame. And yes, I would up dead. Switching universes, a friend of mine was looking for lines to practice her calligraphy on, and I decided to ask for an excerpt from possibly my favorite Babylon 5 exchange. It turned out better than I could have hoped for. It’s a piece I turn to frequently for solace in times such as these. The artist in question can be found here, and I cannot recommend her work highly enough.


And I can’t end without talking about another part of my childhood passing, with the death of Tim Brooke-Taylor. The Goodies was a massively important part of my childhood, and helped shape, I like to think, a good part of my sense of humour. The out-poring of love for him I saw was heartwarming, as owing to the repeats in the 80’s there’s a massive chunk of my generation that you only have to hint at a giant kitten or a black pudding to reduce them to floods of laughter and wonderful memories. Heck, that episode killed a man from laughter. Getting to see them live was a highlight and I’m gutted I didn’t get a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me.

I know I’m of the age where the icons of my childhood are set to pass (I know I’m going to be inconsolable for at least a week when Tom Baker goes), and they’ve been doing so on a regular basis for the last 20 years or so, but knowing that Coronavirus took him, and not natural causes hurts that bit more. I’ve been very lucky that this is the first time that corona has affected me in any way, and I’m still hoping that it will remain so. My heart goes out to all affected, and I hope that things will improve swiftly. I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s my hope that the spirit of kindness that’s been blossoming continues on. Hopelessly idealistic I know, but some days I can’t help myself.

Be seeing you…

It’s only rock and roll.

No. It’s not. Mick Jagger lied. To borrow a line from, I think an English football manager, it’s not life or death, it’s much more important.  I recently mentioned I was curating a playlist about my aging. Well, this is it. I’ve tried to keep this short, and somewhat on topic. I could have just added songs I like, but that would have been a massive list and kinda defeated the point of this. I’ve tried to keep it to a few pertinent observations on each track, though I should warn that requests for more detail I can do.

Culling things wasn’t easy, though keeping it to things on Spotify helped slightly. For starters, that cut the Rollins Band’s All I Want, while a lovely song (at least compared to their usual output), brings back some mighty painful memories of my youth. Of going out into the world being like an untrained puppy, looking for affection or attention, but with no idea whatsoever of how to get it, or deal with it. Ahhh, memories.

Anyhow, here goes.


I’m 18 – Alice Cooper. The epitome of teen angst and confusion. It doesn’t get better than this. It’s a notch on my bucket list that I’ve seen Alice perform this twice.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up – The Ramones. A cover of a Tom Waits tune, it hits me where I live, so to speak. That fear of the future, of struggling for an answer to ‘what to do you want to do with your life?’ I hated that question as an adolescent and still do.

My Shit’s Fucked Up – Warren Zevon. What more is there to say? Zevon had a wonderful knack for the macabre and miserable, and he sums it up perfectly here.

Trouble In My Brain – The Sunnyboys. Lead singer and songwriter Jeremy Oxley was a master at songs such as this, and knowing he was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time only adds to it’s poignancy.

Don’t Damn Me – Gun’s and Roses. It’s slightly mortifying to me how swiftly this implanted on my brain from the time I first heard it. “Sometimes I wanna kill, sometimes I wanna die. Sometimes I wanna destroy, sometimes I wanna cry.” Me at 14, and still today, to no small degree.

My Pal – God. Just flat out brilliant. Written when the band were in their teens, it’s just amazing. The footage of them performing it on Countdown (I think – it seems to be live, which that show rarely, if ever, did) is well worth a watch.

I Believe in Miracles – The Ramones. Alas, the album version isn’t on Spotify, so this one (From 1991’s Loco Live) will have to do. It’s a haunting tune about being a fuck up, but still having hope, like a lot of Dee Dee Ramone’s best songs from the later era of the band.

Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night – Iggy Pop. From his most recent album, it’s smooth jazz over Iggy’s reading of the poem. That description may sound odd, but it’s utterly hypnotic.

Midlife Crisis – Faith No More. I’ve just turned 40. How could I possibly leave a song with this title off the list?

Paranoid – Black Sabbath. It’s not the quintessential Sabbath tune for my ears (That’s Black Sabbath or War Pigs for my money), but this sums up how early 20’s me felt about my place in the world. Plus, that riff.

Descent into the Maelstrom – Radio Birdman. It’s not New Race or Aloha Steve and Danno, but for me the surf drums, the barked “2,3,4!” and Rob Younger’s howl all combine into one of the most electrifying openings of any rock song. The recent film about the band is mandatory viewing for those with an interest in music doco’s.

Depression – Black Flag. Short, fast and ugly, Henry Rollins roar has rarely sounded more berserk.

Love Song – The Damned. Sure, it doesn’t match the theme of this playlist, but to me it’s the greatest love song ever written and I will fiercely defend that to the end of my days.

Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden. Haven’t we all had days where we felt like this? RIP Chris Cornell.

Wasted Years – Iron Maiden. This one brings back painful memories of wandering around Melbourne one night in, I think 2001, listening to this on repeat, lost both in body and soul and utterly missing the point of the lyrics. I found where I was staying on the trip after about 2 hours of semi random wandering hoping for a landmark, but didn’t get the point of the song for many years afterwards. Better too late, than not at all eh?

So, I’m 40. Happy Birthday to me! And now, GET THE HELL OF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN PUNK KIDS! 🙂

Be seeing you…

It is late, but I have words.

Couldn’t sleep, had too many words buzzing through my head, so I hope by writing them down, I’ll be able to sleep. It’s been a hell of a week, about which I shall spare you. Instead, I have had… an idea. Long term readers, or people who’ve played my convention games will know how dangerous that can be.

Here we go. YouTube recommended me episodes of the 80’s GI Joe cartoon, and having little else to do on the train, I thought why not? I have observations.
1: This show is pretty damn awful.
2: Were I a drinking man, playing some sort of game where you drink each time someone yell’s “Yo Joe!”, escapes a vehicle wreck or parachutes from an airplane, you would be very drunk pretty damn quickly.
3: Given the resources Cobra must have access to, given the vast amount of underground bases, wacky super weapons and the like they possess, not to mention the sheer amount they must spend on ejector seats, parachutes and other crash proofing technology, why seek world domination through military might? Just do it the (other) American way – buy elections.
“Duke, we’ve just found out that Major Bludd is running for Governor of Boise, Idaho!”
“Right, two can play that game. Scarlett, you and Gung-Ho get started on Shipwreck’s campaign announcement speech. Yo, Joe!”

Yeah, it doesn’t quite have the same spark to it. Anyhow, this sparked something. I have occasional thoughts about trying GM’ing outside of conventions. I had a group of players keen for a Torchwood Sydney game I’d brainstormed with some of them, or that post apocalyptic LARP idea that I thought about dusting off for a few seconds last week. I shut that thought down, reasoning that in the age of isolation what hope is there and also that running a game that had germ warfare and out of control viruses in the current climate wasn’t exactly sensible. I still love the idea of dressing crew in bloodstained koala onesies to act of Drop Bears though. Sorry, back on topic…

Yes, I’m getting to the point here, despite all evidence. We go back a few years now,  to Fair and Balanced. Oh, 2016, remember when we thought that was as bad as it got? Happy times they were… I’m still impressed by how that game’s reputation has spread, having seen several sharp intakes of breath and “YOU?” when it’s mentioned I was responsible for that monster. I’ve resisted writing a sequel, owing to not being able to out crazy reality. I wrote a blurb at one point and may someday make that public – I’m still quite proud of the opening line of “The shining city on the hill is now a strip mall.”

The canon ending of Fair and Balanced was the PC’s, having helped tear the country apart, discovering that Obama was about to announce he was stepping down and returning fair elections to the people. That (generally) took place at some sort of press conference, but I had a thought about amping up the crazy a little. Well, more than a little. The Democrat Party records vault, where Obama’s secret Kenyan birth certificate was kept, is under the Watergate Hotel, for starters.

So, Obama’s giving the big mystery speech, but when the PC’s kick things off his security doesn’t move. Why? Because his lectern transforms into a suit of robot armour and he joins the fight. Maybe he’s secretly a cyborg, who can infect all he touches with socialism, like some sort of Communist Ultron and has an army of Muslim Kenyan ninjas at his command! Of course, there would be something else in the PC’s way, that being the terrible threat of MECHA JOE BIDEN.

I might sketch this out for a 5th anniversary re-run of the game, give people the option for how bat-shit crazy things go. “Do you want it relatively normal, slightly crazy or full Godfrey Ho?” I might not be able to out-crazy reality, but I can give it a damn good go.

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you.