All for one…

So, how am I doing? For starters I’m ferociously irritated at how slowly the new WordPress set up runs on my tiny laptop, but thanks to my lovely, talented and above all, patient, wife I hope to master these new features in time.

The brain drugs continue – I’ve had a progress meeting with one of my brain doctors about the situation and we’re sticking with things for now. Yes, there’s some side effects, but they fit in line with with what’s expected. Progress is slow, but continuing. Sword continues to be a blast – further bouting Tuesday night taught me that I’ve a long way to go, but there was one moment when everything clicked and it felt beautiful. Progress is wonderful. It also made a refreshing change from the vicious avian assault I suffered earlier in the evening when eating dinner I was assailed by a pack of seagulls determined to claim my burger for themselves. In future I shall have to eat somewhere more secluded.

Turning to gaming, I’ll be GMing again, or as the kids say, I’m back on my bullshit. I pitched a couple of ideas to one of my groups and Crimson Skies was chosen. Not gonna lie, I still want to run the Torchwood Sydney game (The other one I pitched), but that’s best suited for another group. So, adventures to write, rules to learn, NPC’s to cast and my nerves to clamp down on. As nervous as I am about stepping back behind the screen again, I’m really looking forward to it. Cause as much stress as GM’ing can be, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and in this year of NO FUN, I’ll take any happiness I can get.

Turning back to swords, rapier led me back to something I hadn’t seen in a few years, that being the 1993 Disney adaption of The Three Musketeers. It’d been a few years since I’ve watched it all the way through, though it’s long been a favorite. Yes, as an adaption of the book it’s terrible and takes basically just the names and a couple of plot elements. Characters are impeccably clean, randomly find hats and cloaks and it completely omits how much of a bastard d’Artagnan is in the book. I keep meaning to find an film or TV adaption of the book made in France, as I’m sure numerous have been made. Hell, there was a Russian version done in 2013. But the thing is just so much damn fun that I can’t help but love it.

Kiefer Sutherland makes a decent Athos, and seems to be the only one taking things seriously. I mean yes, he’s no Oliver Reed, but the 73/4 version is the standard against which I hold all other adaptions. It’s difficult to watch Charlie Sheen without thinking of his (not so) private life and it’s said he missed the fencing training owing to being busy filming Hot Shots 2. It shows. Michael Wincott as Rochefort continues the fine tradition of villainous eyepatches that started with Christopher Lee and basically plays the same part as he did in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Chris O’Donnell tries, bless him, and fails, but his d’Artagnan is just wet. I think he’s trying for teen idol, but it doesn’t work. As for the supporting cast, Gabrielle Anwar’s Queen Anne is barely there, and Paul McGann gets a dual role as an adversary of d’Artagnan (With an outrageous accent) and as one of the Cardinal’s guards, hiding under a false mustache.

And now we get to the performances the film is known for. For me, Tim Curry will always be Cardinal Richelieu. Not a clown, a devil or a Transylvanian, but the Cardinal. And really, it’s peak Curry. The smirk is full blast, the evil grin is set to maximum and the way he walks with his robes trailing outwards is *chef kiss* There’s a fine art to chewing the scenery and Curry is a master at it. The glint in his eyes at the line “All for one, and more for me” could bring a tear to the eye. I’m pretty sure this was the first film I saw Curry in and much like your first Doctor being your favorite, it remains my favorite role of his*.



And now we come to Oliver Platt as Porthos. If there’s anyone who’s having more fun than Curry, it’s him. It’s a performance stuffed with so much ham that it could give BRIAN BLESSED a run for his money and I mean that as a compliment. It’s the look of an actor that is stunned to find that he’s getting paid to have so much fun and I’d love to tell the man himself just how much joy it gives me. I’ve no idea what he thinks about the film, but I hope he has fond memories. It’s inspired more than one PC I’ve played over the years and I continue to hope that there will someday be a swashbuckling LARP in my neck of the woods so I can spend the entire time pretending to be Platt in this film.

Yes, I could write more, but sleep beckons. Be seeing you…


*Closely followed by his Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island.

Creativitity and crisis.

it’s funny how those two go together.

How am I? I’m still in the getting used to things phase with my new brain drugs. Getting into a new routine, is starting to come together. The brain is… fuzzy. I’ve noticed the sedative effect quite a bit, not so much on the knock me out level, but there’s been moments when they’ve kicked in and I’m slightly slurring my words and trying not to collapse. Crom only knows what a full strength dose will do to me. It’s been pointed out that my temper has been a bit more hair trigger than normal and while I’m not happy about that, I’m trying to take things in perspective. I’m hoping that’s part of the adjustment period and will smooth out soon.

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Things inside the head… aren’t great, despite what’s going on. Because yes, the petty issues still crop up, the minor frustrations still  irritate and the general malaise of 2020 weighs heavily on me. (My brain has an amazing knack for turning molehills into mountains.) But I keep on reminding myself that, despite all those things, there is good in my life that’s the result of my actions. That I can do good things, and that I am cared about and above all else, worthwhile. Some days that’s easier than others, but I keep trying. Yeah, there’s still things I’d like to change about myself – my no sugar diet has slipped more than a few times in recent months and not just binging on the no sugar added stuff. I’m not proud, but as I’ve said previously, I knew there would be slip ups along the way. Gotta keep trying.

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But there’s also the well, revelation is putting it a bit too high and mighty, that all this has a darker side. That spending all this time with my head in other places is nothing more than a distraction from reality. And yeah, I’ll own up to that good and quick. Look, reality and I, while we get along, we’re never going to be great friends. If looking out the window daydreaming was a sport, I’d be an Olympic champion at it. And the times when I’ve tried to, the brain hasn’t always enjoyed it. Because yes, reality isn’t always a great place to be, let alone in 20 fucking 20. But damnit, I’ll take all the joy I can get right now. I still have the odd thought about becoming a hermit in the woods, but that’s tempered by knowing how that would affect those I care for, and who care about me.


(I haven’t though of that song in well over 20 years till today.)

I’m in a creative spurt, feeling in a good enough place to want to GM a regular game again and by Crom that feels good. Praise from my sword instructors last session had me quipping ‘Woah, tonight’s been great for my ego’ and I’m not joking. I was knackered, but the good kind. I’m not sure how to put it, but rapier may be my weapon of choice, even over longsword. I always thought longsword would be the one, owing to having the most experience with it (and it being the closest thing to a lightsaber), but it seems there’s facets to me I’m still discovering.

It could be the fact that we’re training with steel, or the lovely people in the class or any number of things, but holding one just feels… right. The first sword fight I saw, well the first one that didn’t involve a lightsaber, was the Duel on the Cliffs (Yes, it gets capitals) in The Princess Bride and it may have made even larger an impression on young me than I thought. Plus, rapier allows me to swash my buckle, if you know what I mean, and I’m ALL FOR THAT.

It’s also got me thinking of the next Blackpowder and Bloodlines, assuming it returns (Please?). So, instead of an idiot noble big game hunter, I’ve been brainstorming a grizzled old soldier (Fuck it, the grey in my beard is natural and it’s time to embrace it) or former bodyguard who, in keeping with the theme of our group, has fled the royal court. Perhaps there was some indiscretion on his part, perhaps someone he failed to save, or shouldn’t have slept with (Oh Pax Europa, I hope you run again). Sure, I’d need a stab safe sword and dagger and while Calimacil’s rapiers are stab safe (To my knowledge,  unlike those from Epic Armoury) they’re also not cheap. There’s another bonus to this concept: IT’D BE CLOAK AND FANCY CAVALIER HAT TIME PEOPLE!

To switch topics, I’ve mentioned the Game of Rassilon podcast before, and I wish to sing it’s praises again. A recent episode had me damn near weeping with laughter, that being the live show from last Gallifrey One, Valentine of the Daleks. In place of their usual characters, there was the 2nd Doctor, and his companions, Ian Chesterton, Tegan Jovanka, Craig Owen and his son Alfie, aka Stormageddon, aka Warmageddon, aka the Oncoming Stormageddon. It’s a level of ridiculous that reminds me of my con games and it brings me so much joy.  My highlight from season 1 was Amelia Earheart using percussive maintenance on a small Hadron Collider, but having Stormageddon aged up to a teenager thanks to being near the Doctor regenerating (Albeit with the aid of a lot of story points) was damn close.

I know actual play podcasts aren’t everyone’s thing, but I urge you to give it a shot. (Also, it’s a lot shorter than Critical Role) Secondly, there’s a 2 part arc in the second season where the Doctor and her companions (Along with Staff Sergeant Puppers, a canine member of UNIT and a VERY GOOD BOY) face down a sort of sapient depression and well, it gave me ALL THE FEELS, as the kids say. It was rough to listen to, but handled wonderfully. Were it possible, I would hug them all, but as I can’t I thanked them on Twitter. We do what we can, and thanking people who’s work I love seems a good use for it.

To get serious for a bit, life isn’t easy, nor is admitting you need help. I know I’ve talked about this before, but if you’re going through something, then please, tell someone. Talking may feel like one of the hardest things you can do, but it is worth it. It took me a long time to admit that I had an issue, and longer to start taking steps to deal with it in a worthwhile fashion. Look, I have a lot of regrets. Several lifetimes of them all rattling around the head. But taking that step towards therapy is not one of them. Taking so long to is, but then I remember that I took that step and I don’t feel as bad.

Be seeing you…

Hush now – spoilers.

Not sure how to start this, so here goes. My week started with something wonderful, as I saw a kid pretending a stick was a lightsaber, and humming Duel of the Fates to boot. I managed to stop before grabbing a stick for myself and challenging him, as that would have been well, awkward and inappropriate. I was sorely tempted to congratulate him though. I also started my new meds on Friday.  The brain hasn’t been messed with too much yet, but I’m getting knocked about (metaphorically speaking) trying to wake up in the mornings. Nothing new there. I knew the pills would knock me out, at least that’s one of the side effects listed, but the adjustment period so far has been… interesting. I’m hoping things settle soon.

I bouted for the first time last week at rapier, and while I was far from great, according to the others I’m parrying really well. I just need to remember to attack as well. Mostly I was distracted by that half second of “Fuck me, that parry worked!” and only then does the brain remind me to shove my sword in my opponents face. My footwork also needs work, but I already knew that. Either way, something in my fencing is working well, and I’m really pleased with that. Showing improvement means a lot to me.

On to gaming news: one of the games I play in will be winding up, so I’m getting ready to pitch ideas to the rest of the group. It’s welcome that I’m in that frame of mind to try to run a regular game again, given the brain goblins about how my last couple of attempts have gone. It’s equally lovely that the rest of the group seem OK with me pitching, that they’re willing to have me as GM again. Means a lot.  I’m now back in the position of of ‘I have ideas, I have adventure seeds, but no fucking idea how to convert that into a campaign.’ At the very least, I have a better idea and more planning work done at this point than previously, so that’s something.

I’m also suffering through having two absolutely mind blowing game ideas that I need to keep my trap shut about. I’ve learned from past mistakes, in that in the old times I’d have spilled the beans and either not run them, or had massive demand and then botched them. Keeping in under my hat means I can work on it more, and it’ll hopefully be as good as I imagine it. As for the ideas themselves, one was my wife’s, and ones half mine, half hers I believe. She makes my games better and I can’t thank her enough for that. I’m sure I could set her up as an adventure coach if she wanted.

As for the game’s themselves, I’ll spare you the full scale pitch, but here’s the short versions.

Torchwood Sydney:
Aliens exists, and it’s your job to hunt them down. Some to capture, some to give a stern talking to. You may be wearing a trench coat or have a knack for posing moodily on a rooftop. The plan to run it is as more alien whackiness (The Corsair comes to town, and demands you take them out for drinks!), with the odd bit of alien horror. To put it this way, I’ve no plans to run Countrycide or Children of Earth.

Crimson Skies:
The year is 1937, America is broken apart into smaller nations and you’re part of the nation of Hollywood’s newest militia squadron. Dramatic derring do, swashbuckling in the skies, and you’re on a highway to the danger zone! (I still haven’t found a big band cover of that song, but I should probably watch the film) Also, Errol Flynn will cameo at some point.

The Troubleshooters:
1960’s espionage. It’s our world, but different. How so? Well, last year a joint French and Japanese operation sent a rocket to the moon. The PC’s would be a mix of people, from scoundrels, spies and who knows, who may be working for a mysterious ministry, or for mutual gain. During play, they stumble across a world shattering/conquering conspiracy that they have to thwart! In short, globe trotting action adventure that fits in a BBC studio or parts of England redressed to look foreign.

This will be the one that takes the longest to appear, as the rulebook was only Kickstarted this year and has been Covid delayed.

So, that’s what I’m working on. There’s a common thread, in that I want each of them to be fun. As I’ve stated previously, I like a large element of fun in my events, I don’t really do the grim and intense so much. You know, there’s reasons why I’m not running anything cyberpunk or post apocalyptic…

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Be seeing you…

Expelliamus Mr Bond? How quaint.

Yes, there’s important stuff to talk about, and I’ll get to some of that soon, but I need to talk about something else first. Look at this.

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Do you see it? It’s a fucking shoulder holster for a magic wand, do you not understand how damn cool that is? DO YOU? I haven’t wanted to play a wizard in a LARP so much since, well, ever. And yet the first image in my head wasn’t of a fantasy game, or Harry Potter. No, I first thought espionage. The Cold War, but with magic instead of nukes. Spell duels in darkened alleys, desperate escapes from shadowy forces, high stakes gambling and cocktails in fancy locations – less Potter, more Bond. I’ve been racking my brain to try to work out a setting I could use it in – the closest so far is Urban Arcana, a D20 Modern sourcebook.  The Rivers of London series did come to mind, but doesn’t quite has the feeling I’m going for.

I was reminded of an old idea about a Shadowrun parlour LARP about choosing a team, followed by several rounds of laser tag to simulate runs and that’s an idea I’d still like to do something with someday. My wife and a housemate floated the idea of a spaceship game, where you had to costume both yourself and the area behind you (To represent a starship bridge) and I’d be lying if I wasn’t trying immediately to brainstorm making a Klingon style bridge in my spare room. Enjoy overly macho overacting, me?

Anyhow, back to the holster. My wife giving me approval to buy one to wear at an upcoming wedding (And if my sister is reading this, no, I don’t mean yours) was the icing on the cake. I’m mostly holding off buying one right now as I have several brain doctor appointments upcoming and I’m hoping they make one that’s left hand draw. From looking at it, it seems like I could move the holster to the right side (I use a sword in my right, but write and shoot left handed), but I don’t know for certain yet.

So, to the important stuff. The Torchwood RPG idea I had kicking around has popped into my head again and I’m penning flavour text for it. I’ve also been writing and casting NPC’s for Crimson Skies, and finding that delightful. I’m on the few days between brain drugs right now, and am (slightly) frantically trying to distract myself from said brain right now. It’s entirely possible that’s the reason for this burst of activity, but I don’t care – it’s a burst and I’m trying to channel it into something useful for once. And look, if making the Torchwood team investigate a virtual gaming setup that makes them deal with Tom Baker’s Elf King from the 1st Dungeons and Dragons film is wrong, then I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT.

Look, we all know my brain can be, shall we say, overly enthusiastic at times, so distracting it from worrying about what my new brain pill could do to me, I reckon is a good thing. I can’t change it, so why devote time to worrying about it? After all, things are good – I’m back at sword and thanks to selling some old Warhammer books, have some cash to put towards kit. Life isn’t too bad, all things considered.

And yet, I’m still nervous. Because I don’t know when all this will end and can’t hope to, I’m trying to take it day by day. To look out for an end date is folly, up there with invading Russia in winter, or Palladium Books releasing a book on time. I dunno, I’m just having trouble seeing an end to this. And yet, I have to have hope that it will. Because without hope that things will get better, what is there?

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…

Define ‘interesting?’

Had another brain doctor visit yesterday, and I’m now to be on a new anti-depressant. Hooray for me I guess? This means weaning myself off my current drug, taking a few days to clear it from my system and slowly starting up the new drug, as it’s a higher dose than my current one. This promises to be… interesting. I’m hoping things will work out OK, but I’ve got another doc appointment in a month to see how things are going.

For some reason I was reminded recently of a long held dream/nightmare – to perform Search and Destroy by the Stooges at a karaoke event. The closest I’ve come to doing so was at an engagement party a few years ago*, though I’m not sure if the sound system had the track in question. That was probably a blessing for the rest of the event, as the other people there seemed mostly filled nice, normal, God fearing folk who in no way deserved to be subjected to my atonal howling, let alone what I might possibly do when under the effect of that song. If you can listen to that song and not be moved…

As for what else, the left shoulder has mostly recovered from Sunday’s unexpected cricketing, but the right thigh is pretty sore from sword last night.  My lunges are slowly improving, though I’m still trying to nail my back foot to the floor during them. The legs are complaining about that activity as well. Walking today hasn’t been fun. It felt good though (Something I never thought I’d say), and not just the praise from my instructor and the other students. I’m a sucker for praise at the best of times (Positive affirmation is one hell of a drug) and I seem to be latching onto another source here.  It makes the struggle worthwhile. I enjoy the practice, but knowing I’m getting better means a hell of a lot.

I don’t really have anything else to write, actually yes I do! I recently discovered the Game of Rassilon podcast and I’m almost to the end of season 1. It’s an actual play of a group playing the Doctor Who RPG and it’s delightful. To set things up, an as-yet un-numbered incarnation of the Doctor is traveling through time and space with a late 90’s slacker and Amelia Earhart. Yes, the Amelia Earhart. To say more would spoil, and I learnt my lesson about that**! So yes, it’s well worth a listen and makes me want to run the game.  I suppose I can’t give a higher compliment to it can I?

Be seeing you…

* The night ended well though, with my lovely and talented wife performing Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills for me.
** There were times when I was showing my wife Babylon 5 and I would get slightly over excited about upcoming events/episodes and accidentally spoil things. This went badly, about as badly as when she’d discover that I’d pinched romantic lines from it to use on her. Hey, it worked. I regret nothing! 🙂

FANTASTIC!

How am I? Well, my left shoulders rather sore after some time bowling in the nets at a local park to Godson, Age 11 on Sunday. it was the first time I’d picked up a cricket ball in at least 25 years and I was never very good at it to begin with. The main issue on the day however, was on the rare occasions when I actually managed to hit the stumps, was resisting the urge to loudly yell “Got him yes, piss off you’re out!” in the manner of the 12th Man…  Anyhow, that’s enough about me for now, there’s something far more important to announce!

In these troubled times, in the days of fire and plague that make us wish for the carefree innocent times of 2016, we need things that’ll get us through the day. Minor distractions, upcoming events that as of yet haven’t been cancelled and the tiny bits of good news, things that we can latch on to that give us hope that’ll it’ll get better some day. We may not know when this crisis will end, but there are good things out there in this hellish, perpetually indoor existence. The wonderful, sometimes unexpected things that bring joy, delight and can even make us forget, if only for a little while, that Tony Abbott was once Prime Minister.

*drum roll that soon becomes a rhythm of 4.*

CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS! I REPEAT, CHRISTOPHER ECCELSTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS!

It’s now been near 15 years since his time as the Doctor and to say the news is welcome to me is something of an understatement. Details are still being kept quiet, but we do know that 12 stories over 4 box sets are incoming, with Volume 1 to be released in May 2021. Yes, that seems like a long wait, but Big Finish also recently announced a new companion for the Fourth Doctor, with that series premiering in 2024! Never let it be said that Big Finish don’t plan ahead…

The stories about Eccelston’s time in the role and his leaving after one season were few and mostly centered on conflicts with the production team. He’s spoken recently about the issues he was going through at the time and it gave a lot of nuance to his performance. And that’s not mentioning the stigma and courage it takes to speak up about mental health issues. There was a long stretch when he seemingly refused to do anything with the show, but in recent years has been attending conventions and I’ve seen some lovely video of him greeting other Doctors. I’m incredibly happy for the news and it’s my fervent hope that he’s in a better head space than he was during his time as the Doctor. I want him to be well, as I do everyone in my life. I don’t think that’s too much to ask the universe.

Right, now that’s that out of the way, let’s get back to RPG’s. Work on Crimson Skies has continued, with me unable to get the idea out of my head. I think it’s a positive step in my headspace that I’m even considering sitting behind the GM screen regularly again. After I ended my last campaign I told myself that with the right idea I’d give it another crack, and that I’d learn from previous mistakes. I’m still going to get nervous, and have doubts, because that’s what I do. But I think I can do better. I’ve still been unable to come up with an arc yet, but my wonderful and talented wife assures me that the player characters background she can come up with something. I believe her.

There’s a rule from the upcoming Troubleshooters RPG that I’m planning to adapt, and that’s the plot hook. As part of Session 0, I want to players to meet up (Virtually of course), generate characters and a shared background, while I answer questions. I also want to hear about 2 people from their characters lives*. I don’t need them fully written up with stats etc, just a name, a brief description and how they know the character.  And the plan is to mine that information for all it’s worth, adding them to story hooks, putting them in danger and having them go missing and need to be rescued. You know, things I haven’t done in previous campaigns. It feels like I’m taking a positive step forward with this. Now, to find people who want to play…

More to follow. Be seeing you.

* Yes, Shadowrun does something along those lines as well. But I’m not touching that overly complex and stat heavy system with a 10 ft pole.

Watch how I soar…

So what’s been up with me since last we spoke? Not much, but it’s been good.

I made it back to rapier on Tuesday night, and while my arms aren’t happy with me, my brain is. I never thought I’d say it, but I enjoy the exercise. I despise the idea of gyms, but exercise while actually doing something I’m ok with. Look, it’s good to have fitness goals, and I have some: to be better at swords, last longer in a mosh pit and to be able to keep beating Godson in arm wrestling for a while longer. And, to quote John Rogers, I need to live long enough to piss on a lot of graves.

Speaking of Rogers work, the first table read for the Leverage sequel series happened this week, and I’m not sure how to feel. I love the show and am more than happy to have the characters, well most of them, back but I don’t know how to feel. I mean, it’s 2020 and I keep expecting to have the rug pulled out from under me you know? I guess I’m just nervous that it won’t be as good as the original, and that Timothy Hutton’s absence will cast too long a shadow over things. Still, I’m taking the show’s return as good news and hanging onto that. (There’s also the hope that we’ll get a fresh source book for the RPG.)

Had my latest session with the brain doctor Wednesday and I seem to be making progress. I’ve been modifying my coping mechanisms an I think it’s starting to show results. She also mentioned the Serenity prayer at one point, and for a second all I could think of was Alan Tudyk…

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Yes, I’m extremely proud of that joke. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The Crimson Skies brainstorming has continued. I don’t have an arc idea yet, but I have a vision in my head of someone with a cocktail in one hand and a gun in the other and Miss Phryne Fisher came to mind. Sure, there’s the obvious issues of that series being set around 15 years before the time period I’m writing in, but historical accuracy has always been more of a bug than a feature in my events, as those who’ve played my swashbucklers can attest to. An opening scenario is being bashed around as well. Mostly I’m trying not to overthink my approach to this, as well as my nerves about trying another campaign and running it online.

The brain does like sweating the small stuff, such as what planes will the PC’s start with, what should the squadron be named and what’s their colour scheme? You know, the small stuff that by rights most of which the players should be deciding. Not that I have any of them yet, though there’s been some interest. I should also start compiling all this into a Google Doc – I’ve been jotting down notes on the trip to and from work, but it’s time to start putting some order to things I’m going to take it any further.

Lastly, it’s been a long day but it ended well. The Stooges: Live at Goose Lake was released today. I made it in to Red Eye Records about 5 minutes before closing and got the last copy they had. It is, a wonderful thing and by that I mean it’s messy as all hell, but when everything clicks, it’s incredible.

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.

Revving up the engine…

Postmodern Jukebox don’t appear to have done a version of Kenny Loggins Danger Zone. This is something of a shame, as I reckon it would make a damn near perfect theme tune for this game.  Sure, the main theme to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow works wonderfully and is standing in for the moment, while the country version from Archer is close, but it’s not quite what I’m after.

Well, the adventure seeds I posted seem to have gone over well, with my wife saying she could link at least 4 of them together, based on who the PC’s are. Are they blue bloods who’ve only known the high life, or are they scrappy working class kids who’ve poured every cent they had into aviation? That affects things a surprising amount – throwing rich kids into a society party versus putting working class yobs into it. Think of it like the episode of Brooklyn 99 where the characters go to Captain Holt’s party – if Jake and co knew how to act properly the episode wouldn’t have been anywhere near as funny.  Obviously, I wouldn’t do that every time, but keeping your players on their toes isn’t a bad thing.

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That followed on some chatter with her about the adventure ideas themselves, with me being pleased at how varied they seemed, but still the chance that each could end in flying. I mean, while piloting should be the focus, that shouldn’t be all you’re doing. If every adventure is ‘fly around and shoot something’ that’ll get dull, both to play and run. Yes, you’re at a swanky party now, but there’s every chance that things will go south and you’ll have to hijack an aerotaxi to escape. So, while you may not have expected to need a parachute tonight, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. (Said adventures should also have an appropriately pulp name – Cargo of Doom, Night of Fire, Wings of Honour etc.)

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Moving to character gen, I’d prefer to do that in a Session 0 rather than scattered about. Since the characters are spending so much time together, I’d prefer to get all the players in one place (Or as close as we can given Covid) and hash that out together. Shared backgrounds, establishing bits of history and working out who does what best so people each have their own role to play. But I think a Session 0 for any game is damn near essential.

Now for the tone of the whole thing. Look, it’s not tricky to establish – lighthearted pulp theatrics. Think The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy. There’s danger and action at every turn, and few problems can’t be solved with a solid right hook. Comedy, but not farce, with snappy quips flying back and forth. Plus, who can resist shouting an enemy’s name as they escape? I have fond memories of a Gear Krieg campaign where more than one session ended with one of us yelling “SKORZENY!” at the sky.

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That’s what I don’t have yet: an arc. A recurring nemesis that drives the plot, or a story to wrap the adventures around. I may not really need one, or need one to be immediately introduced, but I like the idea of there being a say, phantom menace. You know, the sort of thing that could lead people into a zone… of danger. (Yes, that joke is what prompted looking for Danger Zone covers) More than that, I want a reason for these adventures to happen, some connecting tissue that can be referenced later, or gives hints as to what’s coming.

What’s next? Ponder a story arc and a villain and re-read the Savage Worlds rules. Follow that with some more research, looking for maps and reference photos, while seeing if there’s enough interest for me to properly write this up and run it. Also, telling myself I don’t have the money to afford one of these to wear while I GM. My tax refund is earmarked towards a new PC, but cosplay has caught my eye more than once over the years.

Be seeing you…

Fly the Crimson Skies!

So yes, my head has still been in the clouds so to speak. I’ve needed the distraction shall we say. I’ve also been meaning to dig out the Crimson Skies Clix planes I have (I think I had all the squadrons bar the Hollywood Knights and some of the Ace packs). I have fond memories of the game, though I remember it had a knack for planes to fly to the center of the board and then desperately try not to crash into each other. I always meant to build a zeppelin for it, or add more terrain. I also never lost the joy of picking up the planes and making “Neeeeeeoooooow, DAKKA DAKKA* noises with them. I grow old, but i refuse to grow up.

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Right, so in the last installment I said I’d be talking about NPC’s and adventure seeds. Thoughts on that follow.

NPC’s. We’re talking quite a few here. The unit’s benefactor, local politicians and business moguls for starters. A squadron needs a base, so that means repair techs (Yes, I’d give one the nickname Ratchet), ground crew and the like. I’d say they wouldn’t need a medic but accidents do happen. They’re in Hollywood, so there’s bar owners, celebrities and journalists, both reputable and muck raking. Any success brings enemies, and the PC’s need a pirate or two who’s surname they can yell at the sky as they escape. We can’t go without mentioning fellow pilots, both on their side and against them, both pirate and civilian. And for flavour, there’s hangers on, family, possible romantic partners and the kid who sells newspapers on the corner of the base. Most of them deserve to be cast, and have quirks and accents. Also, a whole lot of them will be happy to see the PC’s, something I’d had… issues with in past campaigns. I could also do with remembering to keep a list of names close by for random NPC’s. Names are a bit of an Achilles heel of mine.

As for adventures, just because the campaign is set around a squadron of pilots doesn’t every adventure should include flight. True, if you’ve put a bunch of XP into Pilot skills, you want to use them, but surely that’s not all you can do, right? I had an idea of a group loosely inspired by Wraith Squadron (In short, half commando unit, half fighter squadron), but they might work better as antagonists.

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So, adventure seeds:
The press launch, and the first flight of the new squadron. Their benefactor has laid out a solid amount of dough to finance this op and wants results. Said shindig will almost certainly be interrupted by something.
Hollywood isn’t all about flying – it’s also about being seen. Time for a night on the town!
The PC’s are hired to act as consultants on Errol Flynn’s latest picture. Not everyone wants the picture to succeed though, as the notorious pirate that Flynn is portraying is alive and angry about it.
Their exploits have attracted a lot of press attention and a studio is planning a (hilariously inaccurate) movie about them
A society heiress has been kidnapped by pirates! (Actually, she’s fallen in love with one of them and it’s a secret elopement)
Local hot shots have challenged one (or all) of the PC’s to an air race to determine who’s the better pilot. The fact that the race is highly illegal and stupidly dangerous has nothing to do with it.
Pirates! How do the PC’s deal with them – do they try to blast them out of the air, follow them back to their base or pretend to go rogue and infiltrate them?
Local cargo zeppelins have been getting hit hard – how have the pirates been getting a hold of the shipping times?
The bigwigs at Hughes Aviation need some new planes tested.
The neighbours are getting cranky – tensions between nearby states are flaring again. Are the PC’s on bodyguard duty for the peace talks, or are they the diplomats?
The Hollywood Knights see themselves as the protectors of Hollywood and aren’t happy about the new upstarts on the block – how do we mend the fence, so to speak?
A local pirate outfit is suspiciously well supplied – just where are the new planes and munitions coming from?

I’m enjoying this, it’s helping keep the brain ticking over and occupied. As for how long this goes on for, who knows what the future will bring?

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.

From hell’s heart I stab at thee…

So, 2020’s knack for cancelling everything has continued, with Pheno announcing they’ve had to cancel. It’s a good decision, and I can’t blame them at all, but it’s another blow. I’m just hoping Victoria will be OK by November, as my sister’s getting married then. Plus, I’d really like to see Herbert, AKA Nephew again. Sure, he’s a Schnauzer and not a cat (Ordinarily a deal breaker), but he’s growing on me.

A successful RPG campaign, it’s my white whale. The Kirk to my Khan, the Borg to my Picard, the competent film making to my Ed Wood. I’m aware that my skill lies in one-shots, and yet I continue to try. I’m not sure what that makes me, eternally optimistic? I’ve long been somewhat jealous of the GM’s who can keep a campaign going and I’d like to hope that I’m learning from past mistakes. Mostly, it’s an itch I just need to scratch. I love entertaining people around the gaming table, it’s an addiction, and GM’ing provides that.

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So, Crimson Skies. Let’s do some more work on this, as a hypothetical exercise. A creative outlet if you will. I’ve had pulp on the brain of late, sitting down Saturday night and watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Which is under rated IMO) and The Rocketeer (Which is damn near perfect as pulp films go).

What’s the hook for the setting? In short, it’s a pulp setting. The year is 1937 and the once United States has splintered into numerous smaller nations. Disputes over prohibition and a deadly strain of influenza and new nations have risen in it’s place – California is now the nation of Hollywood, while New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have merged to form the Empire State. Cross border travel has slowed, and in place of road or rail air travel is now the preeminent mode of transport. With that, has come a new spin on an old menace – sky piracy!

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The new nations have formed militia squadrons of their own to combat the pirates, with several said to be funded by rich patrons. The nations squabble with each other, while the pirates move between them seeking fortune and glory. The tech level is very much ‘Rule of Cool’, and not just cause there’s zeppelins (Though that helps). It’s very much the golden age of piracy, but with planes. The villains twirl their moustaches dramatically, the good guys are incorruptible stalwarts (or charming rogues)  and smart alec quips are exchanged as often as bullets.

So, here’s a campaign idea: a patron has announced they’re forming a new militia squadron and the PC’s are it. Who their patron is, that’s to be decided. Maybe they’re a rival of Howard Hughes (Who’s said to bankroll the Hollywood Knights, a squadron comprised of the children of the wealthy elite), a politician who’s seeking to help his run for office, or a wealthy dilettante who fancies their own air force. Don’t know yet.

Being Hollywood, there’s all manner of drama among the wealthy. Add a new pirate threat, searching for hidden treasures, testing new planes (I hear Nikola Tesla has been cooking something up) and daredevil hi-jinks. There’s also the temptation to have cameos from other pulp heroes of the era.
“So, who’s the guy we’re flying escort for today??
“Some big shot archeologist, something Jones I think his name was.”

Savage Worlds is the obvious fit rules wise, though I’ll certainly need to brush up on the vehicle and chase rules. I’ve a PDF of the latest edition, though it might be worth it picking up the dead tree version. There may also be some rules I can port over from the Savage Worlds Flash Gordon RPG, especially the Cliffhanger rules. I’ll have to do do some more reading on this.

Next time, thoughts on adventure seeds and NPC’s.

Be seeing you, in the skies…