The universe occasionally aligns nicely. Despite the doom and gloom, there are good things coming out of this year and I’m going to tell you about them!
First: there’s a new AC/DC album coming in November. Yes, there’s the obvious joke about a new album given they’ve been making the same one for over 40 years, but it’s a good album. Given the loss of guitarist Malcolm Young to dementia (May he rock in peace), singer Brian Johnson’s hearing issues and drummer Phil Rudd’s police issues, I’m not sure anyone would have been surprised if Angus Young had called it quits after the Rock or Bust tour. But things appear to have been resolved, medical wonders worked (In the case of Johnson and bassist Cliff Williams) and possibly the most consistent act in rock and roll is back. As for the sound of the album, based on the first single it sounds like AC/DC and that’s enough for me. There’s something wonderfully boneheaded about their sound, and there are few bands that make me air guitar quite as enthusiastically as they do.
Secondly, there’s a new Iron Maiden live album on the way, from their recent Legacy of the Beast tour. Recorded in Mexico City in 2019, it’s a whole show, as opposed to the ‘1 song from each city’ format of recent live albums. Also, the cover art has to rank up there with Dance of Death for the Maiden album with the most rubbish album cover, which given the art for Dance was apparently a test, is saying something.
It’s a bit of a double edged sword for me, as the shows in Oz were meant to take place this year and obviously didn’t. To really twist the knife, I had a floor ticket and they were playing Flight of Icarus again this tour, for the first time in donkey years, and at the tempo on the album! That may not sound like much, BUT IT MATTERS TO ME. *ahem* Further to that, according to singer Bruce Dickinson, they’ve been writing and doing a few things in the studio. A new Maiden album won’t wash away the stench of this year, but it’d make it a bit more bearable. And it has been a good few years since The Book of Souls after all.
Lastly, for the update at least, come a new RPG – The Dee Sanction. Now, while at first glance an RPG about magic use during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, the twist that players are agents of John Dee and Francis Walsingham and are part wizard, part spy is an intriguing one. Also, the whole ‘being forced to work’ aspect of things adds some spice to proceeding. What did get me thinking though, was the idea that this is the sort of thing that Cardinal Richeliu would have in his back pocket and that Louis XIII would hear rumour of and then demand why didn’t he have one? It’s something to ponder as I kick Musketeers ideas around.
it’s good to have them right? Motivating, brain focusing and all that. I have very few in life that can’t be summed up basically as ‘Be creative and have fun’, but I never was one for forward planning in life.
However, in contemplating this Musketeers idea, I think I have one. A big one. I’d want this potential game to feel like a Musketeers film, the 73/4 ones if possible. As we know, my tabletop GM’ing style lends more towards the 93 version, with a dash of the 2011. Also, Porthos is the best thing in 2 out of 3 of those films, but I digress. I’ve been trying to brainstorm story ideas for it this evening, possibly to distract myself from the fact that I was watching King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Not a wise choice on my part. There were the general ones – Spanish spies, English occultists, corrupt French nobles, revolting/rebelling peasants (I loved that film, but haven’t seen in since cinemas) and the Duke of Buckingham attempting to invade France to steal the Queen/sooth his ego. You know, standard stuff.
But I kept coming back to: What would I want to see in a game like this? Dashing heroics, the chance to wear a fancy cloak and hat with a large feather in it, oh yes. Brawls with the Cardinal’s Guards and all that. Vive le France, most certainly. But I I’d want a moment, a big climactic one. Something worth the buildup, stress and chaos. Something that people would talk about in years to come Something a little like this:
It’s big, it’s dumb, every time I see it I get all caught up in the emotion of it and if I could capture even a tenth of it in a game, I’d be happy. Mind you, I also have no idea how I’d pull it off, but I’m the one who has the ideas, not the one who has to work out how to execute them.
I’m finding it’s trickier than normal to get past the opening idea stage. That could be Covid related, as there’s a definite feeling of ‘Why write something you may never run?’ in addition to my usual grumpiness. it could be a brain spike, but I just want something different out of a LARP at the moment. Mostly I’m over tired and missing dressing up and running about. Time for bed.
For welcome but unknown reasons, the ideas part of my brain continues to work. Case in point yesterday afternoon, the title DEADWOOD AND DRAGONS popped into my head.
Now, before you start, i don’t know what the context is yet. Whether it’s the Deadwood universe with dragons (I’d love to see Al Swearengen facing down a dragon myself), or D&D on the frontier but with guns, I don’t know. I’m all but certain the idea was inspired by a Pathfinder game I’m in where I’m playing a Dwarven gunslinger. I’d initially planned to go twin-flintlock pistol, but the DM was kind/foolish enough to let me take a revolver and the concept of Dwarven Doc Holliday came to mind and so far has refused to leave. (Irritatingly, my copies of both Tombstone and Maverick seem to have vanished at the time of writing.)
So yeah. Another terrible idea. The brain was also toying with a pitch video using clips from Lord of the Rings set to Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, which was more than enough to amuse me and what else should matter?
I’ve already had one person recommend the RPG Spellslingers to run it in and while it’s not bad, it’s not what I’m thinking. I mean, ‘Deadlands but with Orcs’ isn’t a bad way to explain things, but that’s not quite where I’m at either. At this stage, it’s an amusing title and that’s probably be where it should stay.
I mean, there’s the idea of local miners digging too deep and falling into the Underdark, or porting over the D&D races to a western-esque setting, with magic and firearms. As much as the idea amuses me, I’m wary of being racist without intending to (Having Elves as quasi native Americans seems a terrible idea) and that’s likely why this won’t process any further. As previously stated, the older I get the less I’m OK with the whole ‘Orcs as barbarians’ cliche and I’d hate to make that mistake here.
Anyhow, the terrible idea part of my brain seems to be working again, which is A GOOD THING. It was always my favorite part of the convention after party and frequently the only thing I can remember from a lot of conventions unless I’ve made notes. I have a vague idea of once suggesting mashing Delta Green and Get Smart together,
It also means you can expect more bonkers ideas of this nature. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
So, my brain started generating ideas again, as it does. The initial ideas was, I’m not sure. It may have started with more thoughts on the Musketeers game that refuses to leave my head (The latest ideas was alignment as a personal code, rather than a D&D esque Lawful, Chaotic etc), but it started to grow.
Part of it stems from no LARP going on at the moment (AFAIK), and part of it stems from my own issues with what’s running in my area. There’s a battle game, which made me realize they aren’t my style and a LARP that has/had torture in it’s rule set and that’s a giant deal breaker for me. I’d started thinking again about a pirate LARP idea I’d done some writing for a while back and then I thought… bigger. Ideas are never my problem, as long term readers of the blog will note.
Cast your minds towards a once landlocked continent, but now sea travel is all the rage. How and why? I dunno, maybe some magic shit happened and storms calmed the fuck down, a portal opened or people just wanted to go on holiday and everywhere landlocked was shut. Or, you know, we add more capatilism and they’ve trashed the continent they live on and need a new one to dump the garbage. Either way, a bunch of the nations of the world are sending ships out onto the big blue wet thing and they’re gonna find stuff. Well, they’re going to try to.
The idea is swashbuckling hijinks, with some trading, possibly being a bit of a dick to the lands you’ve just discovered and making a pile of cash. The early description I had for this is NAUTICAL FANTASY ROGUE TRADER and while it’s unwieldy, that’s not a bad summation. Ideally each nation/ship would have a goal, ranging from ‘Make us rich’ to ‘Find something new and weird’ for example.
Races would likely be the standard fantasy ones – Humans, Elves, Orcs etc, but without the usual cliches. Look, I love cliches (My con games are powered by them), but I’m feeling the need for something different for this. Just because Tolkien did something one way doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it! Is this whole thing possibly an excuse for me to use that swashbuckling Orc idea I’ve had for a while? Quite possibly. AND I REGRET NOTHING ABOUT IT. At some point I’m going to find a LARP where I can play that idea even if I have to write the damn thing.
The two races I have ideas for are: Elves: They have an industrial, magic punk feel to them. Not evil, but capitalist jerks.
Orcs: Possibly formerly from a landlocked area or just nomadic by nature, they have a a roving foot and can’t bear to be in anyone place for too long.
THE BIG QUESTION; So, what do PC’s actually do each game? Are they ordering ships about, or ar they on deck commanding them? This brings into the further question of where in the game world will the game be set? Obviously, we’d want a central location where everyone can get to each game, as there’s no point saying “Oh, we’re in X next session, but you’ve sailed to Y, so you can’t be there.” That’s bullshit. So, that’s another problem we’d need to solve. I mean, people could crew instead of playing as well, so that’s an option. So long as we warn people in advance, it could work?
Inspirations so far are the board game Seafall, pirate movies and the TV show Black Sails, along with the UK LARP Empire, for it’s trading and national perspective on things and the NZ LARP Teonn(?), for it’s focus on exploration. The latter game started with the nations making landfall on a new island, and IIRC one nation fucked up first contact with the natives so badly they felt the effects for about half the 3 year campaign.
There’s likely to be more thoughts on this (As well as editing of this post), but I really need to go to bed.
What if, and hear me out here, the Cardinal wasn’t the villain?
“Richeliu, wasn’t he the bad guy?” “No, no, no, quite the opposite. Alexandre Dumas has a lot to answer for. Tiresome man, completely ignored the notes I gave him on his first draft.” Doctor Who: The Church and the Crown.
Whatever you can say about the real Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richeliu (I’ve a biography of him I should finish reading one of these days) the title and name does conjure quite a distinctive image. You only have to look at some of the men who’ve played him over the years to see to that. The list includes such noted thespians as Peter Capaldi, Vincent Price, Tim Curry, Christoph Waltz and Charlton Heston. That’s no small amount of scenery chewed or moustaches twirled there. Heck, Vincent Price’s Richeliu happens to pet a cat, predating Ernst Stavro Blofeld by many a year.
It’s an image known in popular culture, one that far obscures the real man himself. The name conjures an image of a tall figure, frequently clad in yards of elegant red satin, a scowl or a devilish grin on his lips as he schemes and plots. Sometimes foiled, but rarely beaten, he lurks in the shadows, an ever present foe. He rarely gets his hands dirty personally, preferring to work through agents such as the Comte de Rochefort and Milady DeWinter, or the regiment of his guards whose fierce rivalry with the King’s Musketeers is legendary.
“Enemies? I have no enemies but those of France.”
The image of a man who wants the best for France, but has other methods about doing so, has been somewhat eclipsed by the figure of a Machiavellian chess master gleefully manipulating all around him in a mad lust for power and influence. Heck, in the RPG All for One: Regime Diabolique he was host to a demon! It’s all but expected that he’ll be the villain of the piece, but what if things were changed? Furthermore, in most portrayals of Louis XIII he’s varying shades of naive, arrogant and an overly indulged man-child, and it could be said that the Musketeers blind loyalty to him and loathing of the Cardinal is far from what France needs. That blindly indulging Louis’s whims rather than attempting to moderate him and steer him towards a more sensible path does more damage.to France than a thousand of the Cardinal’s plots ever could.
“It takes a good man to prevent a catastrophe, Milady, and a great man to make use of one.”
What if the Cardinal is the one who’s actually working for France and someone else is undermining his efforts? It could be the King’s incompetence, perhaps Captain Treville of the Musketeers (That could really twist the knife), or another figure altogether? They could be Spanish or British agents, perhaps the Duke of Buckingham? I did use the Duke as an antagonist in a series of games a few years back, along with the 2011 film version. Of course, there’s a small group of my players that would immediately shout “It’s the Mole Men!”, but that is another story. ..
“All for One. And more for me.”
To add explanation to all this: I haven’t been able to put that Musketeers game to bed yet and this was the latest iteration of that. I’d been bouncing ideas around trying to think of something that would set this potential game apart, outside of the whole ‘monsters and magic exist’ part of things. And the more that I’ve been musing over this today, the more I like it. That’s not to say that the Cardinal would be a hero, far from it. But I’m really liking the idea that in this incarnation he wouldn’t be the source of all villainy as he is frequently portrayed. The characters may think that, as may many of the Musketeers, but that gives us the chance to carve a new legend, to set the players against new foes. I’d like to think that this will be the last I work on this, but as we’ve seen, there’s clearly some more life in this idea…
What have I been up to? I’ve been continuing playing Jedi: Fallen Order, and while it continues to be frustrating, I find the more I get used to it, the better I am. Yes, you may laugh at how self-evident that is, but you’d be surprised. I’m long past the age where I can pick these things up immediately, and I once shot my own horse in the head in Red Dead Redemption. While I was riding it. As frustrating as it is, it’s scenery is gorgeous – I find myself spending a lot of time just walking around looking at things. The voices are nice (Hello Bra’tac of Chulac, aka Tony Amendola!) and BD-1 is just adorable. I’d put him up against BB–8 in the cutest droid contest any day.
See, just look at the adorable little guy!
Mostly though, It’s been killing time waiting for Star Wars:Squadrons, which arrived Friday night. First impressions are as follows: it’s incredibly pretty, the combat flows well and the plot of the single player campaign, while short, feels wonderfully Star Wars, in that absurd over the top way. I’ve not fired up the multi-player yet, I’m waiting to get a group of friends together for it, but that brings up another dilemma – do we play as Imperial or New Republic? As for that question, there’s only one answer. No matter how much more I played TIE Fighter as a kid, no matter how much I may admire the Empire’s dress sense and think the TIE Interceptor is dead sexy as starfighters go, in my heart I know I’m scum.
Rebel scum. *finger guns*
I’ve wanted to sit in the cockpit of an X:Wing since I was 6 and that desire hasn’t dimmed a bit since that age. If anything, that flame burns brighter than ever before. The brain has not been great of late, but having that to look forward to does brighten things somewhat.Goals and things to look forward to can help a lot. On that not, my sword group has been invited to a festival next year, which means my goal is to get good enough (And to have enough kit) to bout in public and not suck too much at it. It’s good to have goals. I mean, everything else I wanted to go to this year has been cancelled, so I have to have something to look forward to right? And yes, before you say anything I know planning for a festival is optimistic, but remember that foolishly hopeful streak I have?
In further good things, an English dubbed trailer for Lupin III: The First has arrived, and it looks glorious. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, get to Netflix/a DVD store and watch a film called The Castle of Cagliostro. I’ll wait. You’re done. You’re excited right? If you aren’t, you may not have a pulse. As you may have guessed, this sort of ridiculous action adventure is right up my alley and reminded me that the Troubleshooters RPG I helped kickstart should be out around the end of the year. This film is damn near perfect inspiration for it and I can’t wait.
Speaking of Kickstarter, here’s another I saw recently: it’s a version of The ThreeMusketeers, but with some welcome twists. There’s some gender swapping,every character is no longer white, extra gay and trimming down of some of Dumas more long-winded bits. (I love the book, but a whole chapter on how Athos gets his equipment?) I’m torn when it comes to adaptions – I can’t always choose between be as faithful as you can to the text, or screw with everything to annoy fanboys.Anyhow, I’ll be throwing them a few bucks.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve continued thinking about the Musketeers game I mentioned in the last post. Those thoughts are detailed below. (And no,for those keeping track, I haven’t ordered The Hat yet.)
FUN FACT: I wrote one of my Musketeers can games almost entirely to use lyrics from Iron Maidens Number of the Beast in the epilogue. There were about as many who got the reference who picked up that the McGuffin was a vial of Getafix’s magic potion in an earlier game. It’s sad to find how many people haven’t read Asterix. These Romans are crazy…
So, a style guide, AKA what sort of things would I want from this game. Style: Capes, cloaks and fancy outfits ahoy! Danger: Duels in darkened alleyways, daring escapes from the Cardinal’s Guards and all manner of swashbuckling hijinks. Romance: Glances across a crowded room, midnight liaisons in secret and risking your life for the woman you’ve just met. Intrigue: A few words in the right ear can do more damage than a thousand swords. Horror: Strange cries echo through the woods, foul beasts stalk the sewers and not all the howls in the night are of wolves. Corruption: It is whispered there are some who traffic with demons to further their ambitions Ambition: When a man is born with nothing, what will he do to rise above his station? Class; The rich hold themselves above the peasantry, but will there come a time when that changes? Quips: I wouldn’t say Monkey Island insult swordfighting would be used, but a certain flair for snappy dialogue is very in keeping with the source material. Swashbuckling: Adventure, excitement and a whole pile of other things Jedi don’t crave.
LOCATIONS: Musketeer headquarters, aka the Hotel Treville. The Palais Cardinal. The Louvre, home of Louis XIII The Court of Miracles A local tavern, one frequented by both the King’s Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards.
FACTIONS: The King’s Musketeers The Cardinal’s Guards Nationality (French, Spanish, Italian etc) The Court of Miracles (Thieves) The Nobility, though I’d imagine there’s schisms there as well. Cults (Obviously, that would be hidden)
As for magic, I’m leaving that to Hammer horror-esque ceremonies, You know, a circle of figures in dark robes, an altar, possibly decorated by a pretty young thing in some sort of scanty costume, with a figure at the head of things bearing an overly elaborate knife. Cliches? Yes, but there’s a reason they became cliches. I do adore the idea of duels with sword and wand, I think it’s a bit too Forgotten Realms for this concept. At this stage I’d prefer a more grounded feel.
And that brings into question the tone of the piece. As said last post, that’s troublesome. Do we aim for the comedy and drama of the 1973 version, or a clockwork punk Renaissance Leverage as the 2011 version seemed to dabble in. Something grim and dark, which we all know I can’t do, or go all out monsters, satanic cults and ateampunk airships. And, not to forget, the Mole Men! (It’s a long story, but feel free to ask me)
As for an actual (out of game) venue, I’ve seen a couple of scout camps that could work. I’d want a good amount of woods, clear areas suitable for combat and buildings that can be marked as different areas. .Plus, showers, hopefully a room with a heater where people’s damp kit can be dried (Better to have it and not need it after all…) and prop storage etc.
I should really divert my focus back to the Crimson Skies campaign I’m writing. Hopefully this will get this out of my system.