“You know where the **** you are?”

Guns N’ Roses, with Cosmic Psychos and The Chats.
Accor Stadium Sydney, November 27th.

This was a day a long time coming, and I don’t just mean the gig, delayed near 2 years owing to Covid. This was something 13 year old me had dearly hoped for and 42 year old also dearly hoped for. As a beardless youth (Yes, back in the dawn of time you could see my chin) Appetite for Destruction was the angriest thing I’d heard, and while it’s long been eclipsed on that front (I hadn’t yet heard Slayer for one thing), side A (Kids, ask your parents what that means) still holds a lot of nostalgic power for me. For all I talk about my punk credentials, at heart I’m a metal guy, and the more over the top the better. Call me what you will, just don’t call me afraid to air guitar.

As for Guns, that early fire soon died away in a chemical, financial and egomaniacal haze. With singer Axl Rose the last remaining of the original group, it didn’t feel like Guns anymore. The bad blood between Axl and everyone else was legendary, the endless squabbling and lawsuits, and the seemingly never ending saga that was the Chinese Democracy album, to quote the song Pretty Tied Up:
Once there was this rock n’ roll band
Rollin’ on the streets
Time went by and it became a joke
.
We just needed more and more fulfilling… uh-huh
Time went by and it all went up in smoke

So, news of guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan’s return in 2016 for the aptly named ‘Not in this Lifetime’ tour was met with joy and nervousness. Could they set aside all that bad blood? Could they recapture the fire they once had, and lost to drugs and egos? Could Axl’s voice hold up? Could Slash’s top hat still stay magically attached to his head? Did Axl ever destroy the white biker jacket he wore in the Paradise City video, or did he pass it on to Lars Ulrich? Inquiring minds want answers!

The choice of supports was baffling, to say the least. To be fair, Guns have a history with Australian rock, covering Rose Tattoo’s Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock And Roll) back in the day. But choosing two of the more aggressively well, Australian, acts out there, despite the Psychos long history and the Chats hot new thing status, still doesn’t match to me, with the last burst of genuine aggression from the 80’s LA glam scene. Still, that’s why I’m not booking gigs I guess.

I enter the venue and embark on a journey to find my seat as the Psychos are early in their set, and Nice Day To Go To The Pub blares out. It’s frequently a thankless task as a support band, but they do their thing with abandon, guitarist John McKeering showing off his… substantial lack of abs during closer David Lee Roth. Next up, The Chats, and I find myself craving a pub schnitty. Coincidence? The venue’s verging on half full by the time they start, and that’s where things get…. Hmmm. Now, the bass sound for the Psychos I’d expected, but the Chat’s sound is even worse, not helped by the bands seeming tendency to play even faster than on disc. In a smaller venue that might work better, but in a half full stadium it turns the gig into a blur. I’m reminded of the difference in the Ramones albums It’s Alive and Loco Live – the former is at full speed, the latter is at ludicrous speed and the worse for it. Mostly it reminds me of my preference for smaller venues – stadium size pyro and staging are a lot of fun – it’s always amazing seeing the giant Eddie emerge at an Iron Maiden gig – but being packed in a tiny room and 3 feet from the stage while jams are kicked out, that’s a feeling like few others for me.

“Who’s keen for the Gunners? Bad news, we’ve a couple more songs.” That line from Chats singer Eamon Sandwith immediately lodged itself in my ‘Greatest Things I’ve Heard on Stage’ List. Off they go, and then comes the rain. And yes, the gig was in November. *sighs* The skies been threatening all afternoon, and now the heavens open. This delays Guns by about 20 minutes or so, waiting for lightning strikes to pass, but the intro tape finally begins, the bass rumble of It’s So Easy starts up and we’re off and running. I am also off and air guitaring, in news that should surprise no-one. There’s Ukrainian flags side stage and Axl has an Aboriginal flag and kangaroo warning sign on his pants. Nice. He also has a fine line in stage jackets, at least two of which I was disappointed to find replicas weren’t available outside the show, not to mention the hat he wore during Paradise City. Cosplayers, do your thing!

Mr Brownstone and Chinese Democracy follow, as does the first cover of the night, Velvet Revolver’s Slither. First impressions are that Duff McKagan has aged very, very well while Axl’s voice has lost a little of it’s youthful power, that scream still remains. I could make a unfair comparison to Vince Neil‘s recent vocal struggles, but that would mean admitting his voice had any power in the first place and that’s a hill I will die on. Voices change for most people and that’s fine- there’s only one Ronnie James Dio after all. Anyhow, we get the first of several indulgent solos (Link Wray’s Rumble, to be precise), till a familiar echo pedal kicks in and we know where the fuck we are, we’re in the jungle baby! I’m pretty sure my grin is a mile wide at this point. On goes the show – Live and Let Die, despite the middle section, cracks like thunder, and the solos (For Slash and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus) during Rocket Queen have me thinking it’s time to quest to the toilet. Any discomfort is forgotten at the intro to You Could Be Mine – I’m curious what the people around me though what was I doing as I raise my arms to the sky in joy, assuming they weren’t looking at the stage AS THEY SHOULD BE. It’s around this time I notice there’s a sizable gap around me – the people a few rows in front are wearing plastic ponchos or dealing with the rain and most of the people behind have retreated under the awning, so I have several rows to myself. It’s as if the universe went “See the mad fucker air guitaring like he’s possessed – just stay the fuck away from him.”



I’ve no idea if anyone was watching me. At the end one of the friends I went with said “You looked like you were having a good time” I’ve not gone thought their footage yet to see if I made the cut, and I’d likely be incredibly embarrassed to see myself. Live music light’s a fire under me like few other things can. There just seemed to be a lot of folks just in their seats watching the show calmly and those who’ve been with me to shows know that is most certainly NOT how I roll. Once again, my bladder desperately tries to get my attention, as Axl hands the mic over to Duff, but another familiar rumble begins and suddenly I’m going nuts to I Wanna Be Your Dog. I seem to be the only one around me doing so. Philistines. A massive Ukrainian flag on the monitor intros Civil War and Slash get’s another solo. I’d rather have heard Out ta Get Me or Don’t Damn Me myself, but let’s be fair here – the man could walk onstage, fart in a kazoo and leave and we’d still likely go ape shit. Sweet Child O’ Mine induces a massive sing along as the place is lit by smart phones and November Rain feels oddly short. Worth it for the solo though.

We’re getting close to the end of the night and I’m feeling punch drunk with joy and exhaustion. No time to rest though, as the intro to AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie has me up and racing around, albeit nervously, as I’d rather not stack it over the chairs. I love the idea of mosh pits, but I know my tolerance for pain and it’s piss poor. Knocking On Heaven’s Door and Nightrain close things out and I mercifully collapse. A short wait and they return, with Coma and the acoustic double bill of Don’t Cry and Patience cooling things, but the couple in front of me tenderly embracing through the former 2 songs warms the heart and makes me wish my wife was there. The selfie I sent her earlier can in no way explain how happy I am. Live music isn’t her thing (with the notable exception of the upcoming tour by K-Pop group Stray Kids), but she does like seeing me happy.

To end things we get Paradise City, and a singalong ensues, before several thousand rather damp people try to find a train home. A group of people at the train station call out for Adam, a call that’s taken up by fellow passengers. Several calls of “I’m Adam and so is my wife!” ensue, along with “ADRIAN!” It’s good humoured, unlike some post gig moments I’ve had over the years. The 1:47am coastal express from Central brings back unpleasant memories. Soon enough it’s my own bed, and trying not to wake my wife.

Many, many thanks to the friends who bought me a ticket all those years ago – hopefully you could tell how much fun I had. Hell of a show. Not without fault, between sound, setlist and an odd choice of supports, but no gig is perfect, with the possible exception of Maiden in 08, and Birdman at the Gaelic – they opened with Do The Pop and my head damn near exploded. But I can’t complain. 13 year old me got to live out a dream, and 42 year old got to look like a fool all in the name of fun. What more can you ask for?

To swash a buckle or two?

Stuff. Feeling over tired and ratty, mostly owing to not being as diligent as I should be in turning the light out, putting the book/device down and going the fuck to sleep. I’ve got tickets to three upcoming shows, Metal Gods, Sunnyboys (on their final tour) and Heilung, each of which promise to be very different shows. I have really missed live music, though I must admit that my anticipation for Heilung is mostly based around how the hell will they actually perform this stuff live? I mean, there’s video, yes, but it’s such a bizarre idea that I’m genuinely curious to see how they’ll pull it off. The current term at sword will either greatly improve my fitness, or kill me. We were going to be doing single sword, but it’s now all bouting exercises, all the time. Based on last week I’ll be spending the few days after class with my sword arm and thighs screaming at me. It’s been fun so far. Hopefully I’ll survive long enough for the sword I’ve ordered to arrive. *fingers crossed*

Feedback came through for my Pheno event and it was… accurate. Thank you for not telling me during the con, as my nerves were so high that anything may have shattered me. I’m not saying the feedback didn’t hurt a bit, but it was true. Look, I’d like to say the reason we hadn’t started the final meeting with 30 minutes was important, but mostly because people seemed to be busily running about getting stuff done and I didn’t want to interrupt that. Not wanting to interrupt fun for actual story has long been an issue with me as a GM. It’s something I’ll have to remember for my next event, of which I’m trying to bash out some basic concepts and give it a few weeks to ferment in the back of my head. I’m hoping that will then leave my head for a bit, so I can get back into prep work for The Troubleshooters, which is woefully overdue from when I first got a group keen on playing. I might pick up a season of two of The Man from UNCLE and Mission Impossible to get the brain going again. Oh, and actually try to learn the game’s system. No matter how simple the system, I always struggle with them. Case in point: I love the idea of Genesys as a system, but I find I hate it’s implementation into Star Wars. The base idea is fine, I like the set of mechanics around success and failure, though it’s too fiddly for me to actually run it. I’m happy to use ideas like that and have, but the implementation of it just makes my brain hurt. Also, it conflicts horribly with the vision of Star Wars in my head, something that’s fast moving action adventure, not having to scroll through 5 pages of Specializations to remember whether you have a thing that will let you roll an extra die on this check. But that’s my take not yours, and I in no way want to shame people for their taste in systems. Unless it’s FATAL, in which case, fuck off.

Speaking of things that refuse to leave my head, here goes. I’d post this in LARPS I Will Never Run, but I still have some hope of actually doing something with it someday. For background: about 10 years ago I ran a tabletop swashbuckler I can sum up as ‘The Three Musketeers, but with monsters.’ It went rather well, being the first con game I’ve run that I felt actually worked, in that it was fun for me to write and run. It used the system Honor + Intrigue, though the idea was inspired by the RPG All For One: Regime Diabolique, a game who’s premise I love, but who’s system I just could not get to grips with. Still, there’s a Savage Worlds conversion should I ever wish to head down that route in future. There were sequels, the first of which taught me that sometimes my references can be too obscure (The McGuffin was a gourd of Getafix’s magic potion, which surprisingly few people got. One player nearly falling off his chair in laughter made up for a lot of that) and a later ’15 years after’ sequel, which introduced gender equality to my events in the form of 3 members of the Queen’s Musketeers (The idea was taken from an All For One supplement). I look back on them fondly, and from time to time have had thoughts of running more. I’ve long contemplated a re-run of the first adventure for my niece’s gaming group, as while I have no issue with them playing nothing but D&D, I do feel that expanding their horizon a little is a good thing. Also, I don’t believe they’ve seen any Musketeers films, and that us something I cannot let pass.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, the LARP’s All For One and Musketeers have been stuck in the back of my head for a while which means yes, I’ve had a Musketeers type LARP ratting round the back of the head for a while. I’ve got a Google Doc with a bunch of ideas that I add to every so often, but I’ve never quite had the nous to try to get it together. The positive feedback from Pheno may have given me some help towards that, but I have more than enough projects on the go at the moment. So, the idea was a traditional Musketeers type game, with dashing swordspeople, fancy garb and all manner of heroics. Intrigue involving the Spanish or English, discreet (and not so discreet) romance, drinking and brawls with the Cardinal’s Guards. To add to that – monsters! Gargoyles lurk amidst the nights of Paris, the forests echo with the howls of werewolves, cultists worship dark gods in horrific ceremonies and those rumours about a crocodile in the sewers are terrifyingly true. Permadeath is a thing, but the risk depends on the event. I envisage the game being a few weekenders rather than an ongoing monthly game, with each event having a risk rating. So, the grand ball would be a low threat of PC deaths, while the final battle against the enemies of France would be all bets are off.

From what I’ve heard about Musketeers, the fact it was a stealth sequel to an earlier game, St Wolfgang’s Vampire Hunters, was something of a surprise. The reveal that Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan were vampires apparently didn’t go over well with everyone. Fair call that. Likely the whole monster angle will be relatively public going in (IE, the players will know, but the PC’s likely won’t), but will be unavailable as PC’s. Yes, that means no PC vampires, wizards, etc.

I’m not sure quite why I want this game to happen so much. Probably cause I’m learning rapier, which has been the majority of my sword-type experience in the last few years, and I’d love to do more of it, albeit without the stabs to the face common to historical rapier. Because I want to wear a cape and a giant hat? Do I need another reason than that? And why the hell am I writing this instead of writing the game itself? Well, I’m mostly writing this to get it out, and thus to hopefully put it out of my head for the time being. I should be concentrating on Bombshells (Who’s last session didn’t go well, but that’s another story) and Troubleshooters, so other ideas taking up valuable brain space has been irritating. Therefore, I take this step.

Anyhow, the plan to have an early night tonight has long gone, but I still have my limits. So, be seeing you…

You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea


Dio: Dreamers Never Die (2022)

I laughed, I air guitared, I wept.

I’ve long tried to explain just how and why heavy metal means so much to me. How these absurd songs performed by (mostly) men in denim and leather* (and occasionally spandex) have given me a reason to get up, to keep going, to light my darkest hours. This is music that took a scrawny, perpetually anxious kid and gave him a sense of purpose, of strength. A feeling of belonging, the sense that someone halfway across the world felt as fucked up and miserable as I did, and put it in a song. For years Black Sabbath’s Paranoid was my theme tune and I still can’t decide if that was a good thing. Still, likely better than Snowblind, eh? To be clear, I had a relatively happy childhood, and love my parents. Don’t take this the wrong way. But depression and anxiety, we’ve known each other a very long time.

Metal became an outlet for my frustrations, a way of venting my fury at well, the world. An outlet for exploring things I denied myself, or didn’t feel comfortable admitting. I’m still coming to terms with a lot of those sorts of issues. It’s been said that my love of tales of rock and roll excess, while not partaking myself, is one of the great hypocrisies of my life and I’d agree with you on that. Control issues, and not being willing to let go? Yeah, that’s me. Despite all that, emotion is something I do at full blast, whether that be attempting to explain Babylon 5 to my mother in law without spoiling how Sleeping in Light breaks me into tiny pieces or the fact that just typing the words Tales of Ba Sing Se has me trying, and failing, not to cry. So, there’s going to be some wild and over the top hyperbole incoming, and I mean every fucking word of it.

I was aware of the works of Ronnie James Dio, mostly as an 80’s throwback. I discovered metal in the 90’s, aka the decade described by comedian and metal fan Andrew O’Neill as ‘when all your favourite bands went shit.’ It was a strange time – Iron Maiden and Judas Priest lost iconic frontmen (happily both returned after a few years), Metallica released the Black album and gained twice as many fans than they lost and to this day I still can’t stand Pantera – not that the band are bad, but every fan of theirs I knew at the time was a violent meathead and the association stuck. Now, I’m not saying every Pantera fan is a violent thick headed fuckwit, but you may have to work to prove you aren’t one. (I have the same problem with Australian flag capes and Southern Cross tattoos.) Singer Phil Anselmo’s far right outbursts over the years haven’t helped things either. It was a time when the more absurd excesses of the 80’s were (mostly) swept under the rug and songs about dragons and wizards were not on the agenda.

So yeah, I was aware of Dio, mostly through the gloriously Dungeons and Dragons-esque video for Holy Diver. It wasn’t until the release of the Black Sabbath compilation The Dio Years that I truly dug into his work and holy crap, it was one of those ‘Where has this been all my life?’ kind of moments, much like my first viewing of Big Trouble in Little China. Yes, these were ridiculous songs about dragons, kings and the power of rock and roll, and that’s exactly my aesthetic. And by Crom, that voice. For someone who claimed to have had no formal vocal training, the power in his voice could shake rooms. The way it lets rip in The Last in Line, or the sheer power in Falling Off the Edge of the World. His delivery of “Look out there’s danger. nowhere to run!” is enough to smash you back against the wall. Therefore, it was quite surprising to discover that his earliest releases were 50’s doo-wop. The man knew of a time before rock and roll…

We get taken through the evolution of his sound, the car crash that nearly killed him and the formation of Elf, who became regular openers for Deep Purple which in turn led to the formation of Rainbow when Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore quit. While massively popular in Europe and Japan, they couldn’t crack America and those cracks only got larger when Blackmore decided to move in a more commercial direction. Hence, the first of several dust ups (A running theme of sorts) when Dio stuck to his guns and quit.

Looking for work and running out of money, he stumbled across Tony Iommi in the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the rest, as they say, is history. The album that resulted, Heaven and Hell, lit a fire under Sabbath who’d spent the previous few years in a cocaine haze, but alas, things fell apart during the mixing of the album Live Evil and Dio was out on his own again. It takes us through the glory days of the 80’s, dust ups with band members (Vivian Campbell is heard, not seen) and the dark days of the 90’s, (There’s no mention of his short lived return to Black Sabbath for 1992’s Dehumanizer nor of his messy exit when he refused to support Ozzy Osbourne) and of his return to glory with the retro metal movement of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Getting to see him with the reunited Sabbath, billed as Heaven and Hell, in 2007 was a bucket list moment, even with the prat a few rows over who kept yelling for Holy Diver. When someone finally managed to explain they were only doing Sabbath songs, the guy started yelling for Paranoid. *sighs*

Alas, we know how the story ends with Dio’s death from cancer in May 2010, and I have zero shame whatsofuckingever in admitting I was weeping at that point. We get to see his final on-camera interview, and given how he’s talking about making another Heaven and Hell record, it’s hard not to feel robbed. Yes, he was 67, but he still had more to give. It wasn’t over, he didn’t get to go out on his terms and that still hurts me.

The film’s a mostly warts and all story of triumph and tragedy, that showcases a man who loved music and was determined to do things his way, no matter the consequences. Someone who loved what he did, no matter how small the venue, and from the video footage we see of some 90’s gigs, the venues were pretty bloody small. Someone who’d anything for a fan, even to the extent of helping talk down a suicidal fan with the offer of a hug. The bonus footage from the cinema screening contained some extra gems, with the story told by Jack Black about Dio overpowering 3 top of the line microphones while recording his part for Tenacious D’s The Pick of Destiny a highlight for me.

If you’re a fan, you’ll be all over this. And if not, what are you doing with your life? Put some headphones on, Fire up Heaven and Hell and you too will know the glory that was Ronnie James Dio.

That he was taken shed a tear,
His legacy remains,
So he will never die.
Be aware that he’s coming for you.
Look out, look out, look out!
Three Inches of Blood – Look Out

* It brought us all together….

“Hello old friend. It’s been a while.”

Pheno. Great Maker, it’s been far too damn long. My throat is sore, the adrenaline is crashing and I’ll like sleep like the dead now that I’m back at home. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed that con. The people, the atmosphere, the spirit, the snacks. The mix of familiar and strange. Friends I hadn’t seen since the before times. If you’ve not tried it, I can’t recommend it enough. They’re a lovely, welcoming bunch of weirdoes and long may they remain so. The appeal of conventions for me is games I wouldn’t get to play in my regular group is a massive part of why I keep coming back. The sheer variety of games on offer, and knowing that I’ll only get to play some, well, it’s the price we pay as GM’s. To say I was a bundle of nerves in the lead up was putting it fucking mildly. I’d had my game idea stuck in my head for what seemed like 5 years, and the brain hasn’t been co-operative at the best of times. Terrified of trying something out of my comfort zone, something in a universe that means so much to me, and terrified in general. A deep delve into obscure lore in a section of a near 30 year old TV show that has next to no existing canon? It’s a risk, right? The game itself was finished the night before (Naughty, I know) and in the lead up I kept telling myself that I’d never do anything this ambitious again.

And you know what happened?

It worked.

HOLY ZARQUON SINGING FISH, IT WORKED. The game worked, my players enjoyed themselves, I had a bunch of them costume (Including several home made Minbari head bones) and even the people who hadn’t seen B5 seemed to enjoy things. I had a couple of players say they were going to dive into the lore afterwards and there are few higher compliments to me. It wasn’t till halfway through the first session till I realized that it was working, and I damn near wept with joy. The first time I saw people in costume for my game my jaw hit the floor, and I was still reeling from a “Hey, I’ve heard people saying lovely things about your game” from a GM who’s Night Sisters freeform broke me into tiny little pieces several years ago. I still have trouble hearing something Russian and not getting choked up with emotion, but I’m certain that someone 5 miles away could whisper “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” during a thunderstorm and I’d start to cry. Hearing someone say they took a week off work to costume for your event, I’m glad they told me after the game as I may have collapsed in shock beforehand.

It wasn’t all me though, far from it. I can’t thank my helpers enough. To my Co-GM and proof readers/wranglers, you know who you are and an entire fleet of drinks can’t come close to thanking you for the help, improv and encouragement. If it wasn’t for them, the game would still be a half written Google Doc. Since I’m giving thanks, no mention of this event could not mention J Michael Straczynski and the late Mira Furlan, without whom my event would not have happened. It’s felt through a lot of the writing process I’ve had Furlan looking over my shoulder, saying “Don’t fuck this up” and yeah, it’s added a tiny amount to the pressure. It’s not for me to say whether or not I measured up to the show, but my players enjoyed themselves and that’s what’s important.

We also did our part to foster the next generation by taking Niece, Age 14 with us and given she’d only ever played D&D, to her to walk away with 3 trophies was quite the achievement. We’re very proud of the tiny lumberjack. I asked her afterwards if she was coming back next year as a GM and got a firm “HELL NO”, so given that I figure she’ll be running games in oh, 2-3 years. To top it all off, our team wound up winning the Diptych award, which means Squadron 40 will soon be engraved on that mighty trophy. Naturally, we have to return next year to defend our accomplishment!


As for what happened in game? Look, a lot of it’s a blur. The first 3 sessions elected a different Chosen One to lead the Council, while the 4th session decided they didn’t need one. It wasn’t a unanimous vote, but enough got it over the line. 10 minutes into the first session the Warrior Caste sent their entire fleet out to look for the Shadows. The second session was closest to the show, being more quiet and contemplative (The two introverts did wonderfully) and in session 3 one of the Council punched Ranger One in the face. The two Council members in Session 4 who went to talk to the Vorlon about exploring Z’Ha’Dum, and their faces at it’s response of “Ill advised. Have been warned.” My favourite quote is still “Valen said the Shadows would return. He didn’t say the Vorlons would return.” and look, they aren’t wrong. Seeing the ways my players took the sheets and ran with them, frequently in areas I hadn’t considered, was a joy. It’s one of the big reasons why I GM. There were a few people who’d queried their approaches with me, and to them I say “If that’s the approach you have from reading the sheet, then go for it.” Who am I to stifle player creativity?

I’m still buzzing on a high from the whole thing, and yes, I’m already planning for next year. Before the con I was thinking about going back to swashbuckling, but with the confidence boost I’m in the early stages of planning another Babylon 5 freeform, this one set in the Centauri Royal Court. No, this isn’t just to see what people do costume wise, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of that. I’m unsure as to the time period, but the current idea is the Emperor is dead, and that’s set the power vacuum to 11. Sure, everyone wants the power of being the Emperor, but no-one wants the giant target on their chest that results from sitting in the big chair. I have a strong feeling I should get a hold of a copy of The Prince for flavour while writing and should prep a bunch of spare characters, as I don’t expect everyone to make it out alive.

It has been a glorious weekend and I am spent. Time for sleep. Be seeing you, my good, dear friends…

*blows dust off* *coughs*

Been a while. I’d like to say I’ve been off doing stuff, having amazing adventures and what not, but I’ve mostly been in a brutal depressive funk. Now, it’s not been all bad. There’s been some delightful stuff in that time – I went to my first live concert in 3 years and holy crap I was feeling out of shape the next day. I wasn’t even going at it that hard. Lawnmower Deth’s Into the Pit has never felt so appropriate.

Speaking of things I’ve badly missed, I spent the long weekend at a LARP, and while there were parts I had issues with (Not in a bad way, more a me being tired and cranky kind of way), spending the Saturday night sitting around a fire and swapping stories while wearing a cloak, I damn near wept. I’d missed that so much. That game has ended now, and will be replaced by a fantasy post apocalypse game. Hmmm. I’m still planning on going, but I’d be lying if I said I was keen on the post-apoc angle. I like escapism in my entertainment, more so in times such as these. I still haven’t found a LARP that’s running near me that will let me buckle my swash to a satisfactory degree, and while I know of two games that are currently running, one’s a battle game and I had a bad first experience at the other that soured me on it. Lest you think I’m warning you off it, I’m told by friends who attend the admin team has almost completely changed, as has the atmosphere, so please don’t let me stop you. I have no interest in stomping on anyone’s fun.

Speaking of rock and roll, some Googling brought about a wonderful blast from the past. I’ve spoken in the past about a Datsun’s gig, where the normally 6 minute Freeze Sucker became a near 15 minute epic. I NOW HAVE VIDEO. Thanks to a kind soul with a YouTube account, 23 year old me is somewhere down at the front, skinny, barely bearded (Yes, it was a long time ago) and flailing around with a grin on his face a mile wide. I kinda lost touch with the Datsuns after that album, as their second one seemed to be writing songs as opposed to a jam session that was recorded, which was my take on their debut. That’s not a bad thing mind you – look at the difference in the Saints from I’m Stranded to Eternally Yours. While Nights in Venice has that full tilt everything’s about to melt down energy, Chris Bailey’s sneer of “It’s all so funny, I can’t laugh” on This Perfect Day is well, perfect and Orstralia deserves to be a national anthem.

Gaming continues to bring joy. Bombshells has added a new player, one of my wife’s work friends, and she’s fitted in seamlessly. Case in point, they were pursuing someone through a crowded park, and she proceeded to grab a picnic basket and hurl it at the fleeing suspect. She then immediately apologised to the couple who’s picnic she interrupted. Her character is Canadian after all. But on the flipside, I have players keen for Troubleshooters, but I keep staring at blank pages. To add to that, my Babylon 5 freeform has been accepted to Pheno in October, and I’m hoping third time’s the charm, both for the convention running and for me actually finishing the damn thing.

Kenobi continues to be wonderful, both to the nostalgia loving parts of my brain (Yes, I do have other parts to my brain, though my wife may disagree with that. To her credit, she continually tries to get me interested in things younger than I am, in the hope I’ll outlive more of them) and the part that is loving watching Ewan McGregor. For all I may mock the overly twirly moments, his lightsaber technique is gorgeous. Also, I hasped with delight at seeing Indira Varma, leading to my wife asking what that was about. At the end of the episode I explained, only to be met with a stern, “Yes, I know who she is, it’s hard not to forget her from Rome“, and while I’m mangling her exact words to remain spoiler free, YOU SHOULD HAVE WATCHED ROME BY NOW. I first met a friend when she was wearing a “What would Titus Pullo do?” shirt. Some of the people who asked were surprised by the sweary response. Can’t please everyone.

That’s enough for tonight. Be seeing you.

The List of the Beast!

What’s that, I hear you say, The Guardian published an ‘Iron Maiden’s 30 Greatest Songs‘ list, I wonder if Gav will have an opinion on that? BY CROM I DO!

If there’s one thing Iron Maiden fans love as much as Iron Maiden, it’s making lists about Iron Maiden. We’re like Doctor Who fans in that respect, though seemingly unlike a lot of so-called Who fans, we actually like Iron Maiden. (Never let it be said I don’t have some spicy opinions.) On first impression it’s a good solid list, with a nice mix of eras and styles. The author clearly knows and loves Maiden and hasn’t just gone for the hits, which add further marks in their favour. I do have some quibbles though, which I’ll address as we go down the list.

30. Burning Ambition. (1980) A nice an obscure B-side straight out of the gate. I’d probably swap it for Prowler or The Ides of March myself. If we need an obscure B-side, why not Sheriff of Huddersfield, or Mission from ‘Arry?

28. Empire of the Clouds. You might think a 18 minute long piano led song about an airship disaster would be the most over the top thing Maiden have done. Oh my sweet summer child, we’re just getting started. And as much as I love the song, I really hope they never try it live.

Fun Fact: The 8th Doctor rescued one of his companions from the R101.

26. Dance of Death. Stuffed with more ham than a BRIAN BLESSED performance, and all the finer for it. Now if only the album cover art wasn’t quite so fucking awful…

25. Sea of Madness. Look, it’s not bad, but I’d swap it for Stranger in a Strange Land in a heartbeat and I stand by that.

23. 22 Acacia Avenue. The lyrics haven’t aged at all well, but the chorus almost saves it. I’d chop it for something from the Blaze Bayley Years, Futureal or Sign of the Cross most likely.

19. Alexander The Great. Really? It’s not the worst of Maiden’s historical epics (Mother Russia, I’m looking in your direction), but rhyming ‘Aegean Sea’ and ‘334 BC’ is both incredibly smart and completely stupid. I’d swap it for Moonchild, which has to rank among Maiden’s finest album openers and if you don’t agree with me on that you’re wrong.

Fun Fact: While Maiden themselves haven’t played the song live, allegedly owing to Adrian Smith not being able to nail the solo again, I have seen the Iron Maiden’s (The worlds only all female Maiden tribute act) play it, and it was glorious. Someday, Covid permitting, I hope to see them again.

18. The Clansman. *deep breath* FRREEEEEEEEEDDDDOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! Possibly the best thing to be inspired by Braveheart (Yes, it’s a short list I know), it’s generally considered the high point of Blaze Bayley’s tenure with the band.

17. Wrathchild. That this song isn’t top 10 is just flat out wrong, like a Clash best of that doesn’t include English Civil War.

16. Flight of Icarus. On their recent tour singer Bruce Dickinson performed this song with two flamethrowers strapped to him. I cannot help but be reminded of WASP’s Blackie Lawless and the incident with the firework codpiece.

15. Wasted Years. The Somewhere in Time album is controversial to say the least, what with the use of synthesisers and the band’s fashion sense, thanks to a load of free football kit, veering away from the traditional leather and spandex. The song is inextricably linked to memories of an unhealthy crush I had as a lad, so while it’s a cracking tune, the air of melancholy in the song is sometimes more than I can bear. I will, however, defend Dickinson’s stage outfit on that tour till my dying day.

Look, it was 1986 OK?


12. Run to the Hills. That opening drum beat and guitar riff is like a massive shot of adrenaline to me, I hear that and I immediately start air-guitaring. Every so often I wonder what my brain activity is like hearing the song.

11. The Wicker Man. Putting this one in-front of Run to the Hills takes balls of, well, iron, but hear me out on this. The 90’s were, to quote comic and die-hard metal fan Andrew O’Neill, ‘when all your favourite bands went shit’ and it’s fair that outside of a few high points Maiden’s output in that decade didn’t stack up to the glory days. I have an immense amount of sympathy for Blaze Bayley (who sang for them between 94 and 99) and consider Futureal more than worthy of inclusion on this list. But when it was announced that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were returning to the fold, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic, But they still needed a statement, something to show the world that Maiden weren’t dead and buried, that the glory days weren’t over. And then we heard this. Hearing this song for me is like first seeing Christopher Eccelston saying “Run” in Rose, this feeling that the thing I love is back, and everything’s going to be be OK.

10. Fear of the Dark. Find me a live version of this where the crowd aren’t singing along at the top of their lungs and I’ll say something nice about Scott Morrison.

8. The Number of the Beast. The song that sparked a thousand moral panics and album burnings, that Big Scream of Dickinson’s (A result of having to sing the opening lines over and over again) was the moment I knew I’d be into this band till my dying day. Hammer horror set to music, from the Vincent Prince sound-alike to the roar of 6-6-6!, this was the song that put them over the top.

7. 2 Minutes to Midnight. Still grimly relevant, it’s a prime burst of blood and thunder, with a chorus that can demolish buildings when deployed properly.

6. Phantom of the Opera. The majority of Maiden’s first two albums (AKA the Di’Anno Years) are shorter, spikier and *whispers* slightly punk influenced. And then there’s Phantom. Epic, grandiose and suitably over the top, it’s almost a prototype for Maiden Phase 2, the Dickinson Years, Part 1. For my money the version on Live After Death is the one to beat, the way Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s guitars intertwine is just perfect.

5. Powerslave. SLAVE TO THE POWER OF DEATH!!! The highlight of the album of the same name, it’s a masterpiece from start to finish. Books could be written about it, from the way it builds from 2:55, the guitar swirling around and the atmosphere building till finally all hell breaks loose. Genius stuff.

4. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. A bold move placing this so high. It’s not undeserving of it’s rank, but maybe if the chorus wasn’t just the song’s title repeated 8 times I might feel more positively inclined towards it.

3. Aces High. I have seen grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song. I have been one of those grown men weeping tears of joy at the intro to this song.

3. The Trooper. Maiden’s music has oft been described as galloping, and there’s no more fitting use of it than on this song, the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

1. Hallowed be thy Name. The story of a condemned man on his way to the gallows has been the soundtrack to every performance review I’ve ever had. The way it builds, from the doom laden intro, to the point at 4:30 when it goes full throttle, to that ending scream of “naaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmeeeee!’ Perfection.

There is plenty more I could add to this, and if you need to kill a couple of hours, ask me in person about it. Alas, it’s time to end the set and get to bed. Be seeing you…

MORE SONGS ABOUT HUMPING AND BOOZE.

How am I?

I’m cranky, furious at the number of unmasked people on my trains and constantly exhausted. My heart goes out to those affected by the recent floods, and to frontline City Rail staff who’ve had to deal with the constant stream of bullshit and stupidity that is Sydney commuters. Therefore, I’m going to write about rock and roll, Australian that is. It occasionally plagues me that I lack technical knowledge of music, that I can’t talk about what effects pedal made that sound, or how that drum kit was miked up. But what I can talk about is how it made me feel. Does that solo spark the need to air guitar? Do I remember the disastrous crush that song is linked to? Do I remember how much of an idiot I must have looked playing air guitar at that show? FUCK YES I DO.

Look, it all starts, like so many things do, with AC/DC. There’s something, primal, elemental, about them, something that almost defies description. There’s a an old joke about how they’ve been making the same album for more than 40 years with a few slight variations, and they aren’t wrong. That sort of bone headed stupidity, a commitment to the single entendre that’s almost endearing, even if parts of it are deeply questionable. They also inspired the greatest one sentence album review I think I’ll ever read, that being MORE SONGS ABOUT HUMPING AND BOOZE. I believe that Phil Mitchell, in Sounds Magazine’s 28 July 1979 issue,* wrote a full review of the album Highway to Hell, but with an opening like that, who needs more? The track Who Made Who (From the album of the same name)  was my introduction, swiftly followed by Live and by then I was hooked. I have fond memories of seeing them on the Stiff Upper Lip tour, and of the crowd largely consisting of middle aged mullet wearing men, and their young mullet wearing sons. Incidentally, that haircut seemed to be coming back these days, which has me wondering if it’s 1988 every time I see one in the wild. 

Radio Birdman’s Aloha Steve and Danno changed my life. I’m not kidding. When I got a copy of their first album, the mighty Radios Appear, I listened to nothing but that cassette for a solid month and probably longer. Truth be told, the tape also had Birdman’s Burn My Eye EP (Which had a radio ad for a show at the end of it I’ve not been able to find since) and a chunk of Grunt! by Newcastle ska band The Porkers, who also covered Steve and Danno with Birdman guitarist Christ Masuak assisting. I can’t explain just how much that song hit me – from the anticipation of the crashing waves, the surf drums and Tek’s command to “Hit it Steve.” And the solo, oh gods that solo. I am a man who needs no inducement to rock out on the air guitar, and I have no shame in admitting that. But the way I air guitar to that solo, it feels less adolescent stupidity and more a life or death.

Initially active from 1974 to 78, they only released two albums (The second,1978’s Living Eyes was released posthumously and is an acquired taste, shall we say) but following a reunion on the mid 90’s for the Big Day Out have continued to play sporadically, releasing a new album, Zeno Beach, in 2006. I will forever remember seeing them at the Gaelic Club in Sydney around that time where they opened with Do The Pop, and blew the roof off the place. They may as well have chucked a grenade in the place for what it did to the crowd. Speaking of live stuff, the Live at Paddington Town Hall album is essential listening. Their influence goes on to this day, with members being involved in the likes of The New Christs, the Visitors, The Hitmen and a myriad of other projects.  

Outine’s The Cicada That Ate Five Dock is either a catchy novelty song or an unmade episode of Torchwood. It reminds me a lot of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, but we’re keeping things Australian. Painters and Dockers formed to help pay off a mate’s parking fines, which is something wonderfully endearing. They also covered Kill, Kill, Kill, from an episode of Get Smart, and those two facts alone are enough to endear them to me. That their first show involved a local arriving at the venue with a machete to complain about the noise followed by 6 police vans showing up just makes it all the funnier to me. That may have helped explain the song You’re Going Home (In The Back Of A Divvy Van), which for me is inextricably linked to the time ABC’s The Late Show staged a protest about a Sale of the Century hostess being sacked and wound up burning the host in effigy outside Channel 9 Melbourne, at which point they were arrested. I can’t find it online, but it’s on the Best Bits Of DVD set.

Moving to bands that have made me cry, we go to The Sunnyboys. The song Alone With You is in my Top 5 pieces of teen angst, along with I’m 18 and My Pal, about which we’ll talk more later. The longing, sadness and hope in that song hits me pretty damn hard. Their heyday was cut short by overwork and singer Jeremy Oxley’s then undiagnosed schizophrenia, but they happily reunited a few years ago. I got to see them a few years back, with the mighty Celibate Rifles supporting, and I openly wept during this song. i believe my wife has a photo of me doing so.

Speaking of the Rifles, they played Ocean Shore at that show, which fulfilled another dream for me. I hopefully still have somewhere a CD of their Roman Beach Party album recorded off a co-workers vintage LP and hearing the pops and crackles as the song begins makes me so happy I can’t put it into words.

My Pal by God, what can I say? “To be a party head, is something I could never do” is one of the great opening lyrics to anything, to say nothing of the fact that the band were too young to step inside the pubs they were playing in at the time. It’s a perfect song and that’s not a tag I hand out lightly. Though I may as well go ahead and do so again, as God bassist Tim Hemensley’s later band the Powder Monkey’s song The Supernova That Never Quits more then deserves the tag. A sober minded and serious analysis of the track by this humble scribe describes it as a nitrous fuelled full throttle rock and roll assault on the senses and that’s putting it fucking mildly. It’s so good a song it almost put me off seeking out more of their stuff, as could anything possibly hope to match up to it?**

It’s late, and I really should take my brain pills and sleep, so I’ll cut things there. I had planned to talk about the Saints and how Nights in Venice sounds like the band are about to melt, You Am I’s cover of the Victims Television Addict and Tim Roger’s frantic cry of “Just because I watch Prisoner, Cop Shop, Fat Cat, Humphrey fucken B!” or that time the Datsuns turned the normally 6 minute long Freeze Sucker into a 15 minute epic and left me feeling about to collapse, but time is against me.

For those wanting to investigate further, the compilations Do The Pop and Tales from the Australian Underground were an incredible help to young me and well worth your time. Radio Birdman’s Radios Appear is perfect and I will fight any who say otherwise. The Lime Spiders Nine Miles High compilation and Live at the Esplanade are more than worthy, as is The First and the Last from the short lived ‘supergroup’ New Race, comprised of members of Radio Birdman, the Stooges and the MC5. it still amuses me that Spotify has two quasi bootleg albums from the tour, but not the official album. When I think of how easy this stuff is to find these days, it makes me happy. Part of me loves the obscure stuff, that feeling of loving a band that only 5 people and a dog have heard of. But I love getting to share that with, or more accurately, at people these days.

Support your local music scene. After all, the government won’t. May you all have something in your lives that brings you as much joy as music does me.

Be seeing you.

*Isn’t the internet fun?
** A problem I also have with The Jam and their song In the City.

I lack self control.

What’s been going on?

I had last week off work, resting and getting stuff done around the house. It’s been, I’ll say, not bad for my brain, and I found a couple of shirts and a tunic I thought I’d lost long ago. Let that be a lesson to me to better organise my wardrobe in future, a lesson I will completely forget by oh, Thursday. Barely sleeping some nights didn’t help things, but I’m willing to accept that my lack of self control and access to Wookiepedia are mostly to blame for that. Looking at pictures from Swordcraft Quest and Weekend Warrior has both made me curse Covid anew and reminded me of how much I miss getting dressed up and trying to thwack someone with a rubber sword. Battle games aren’t my thing, but the longer I go without, the more I want something to get my LARP fix. Sword is back soon, which helps immensely, and we might even be at rapier and cloak this term! I just want to SWASH ALL THE BUCKLES, and yes, I’d be keen to do some sword and bucker at some point. Too many sword styles, and not enough time.

Some friends have floated the idea of going to the next Quest in a convoy, and I’m all for that. Not just cause of the ‘sleeping in campervans rather than tents’ but that certainly helps. I’m not as keen on the Warhammer Fantasy setting as I used to be, and my old Army books are long since sold (Save the 4th Edition Undead book, cause the flavour text in that one is stunning), but there’s enough around that getting back up to speed shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve been bouncing round ideas (Not all of them terrible), and trying to remember what kit I have that I can use. I should probably drag it all out of the cupboard this weekend, if only to help me remember what I’ve got. It feels good to have something to look forward to again.

It’s also taken me back to the stash of game ideas stashed on my Google Drive. My issues with actually finishing things continue to plague me. Ideas, I’m fantastic at. But finishing the bloody things? As frustrating as it is, as as much as I want to try to, I’m coherent enough to know I’m not in the headspace for that right now. It’s also been pointed out my concentration has been dipping of late, and that adds to the frustration. An ADHD test may be in my future, and that’s not a bad thing. At the very least I need to rinse my left ear out with warm water, as the hum in it has been louder than normal the last couple of days and it feels blocked. Tinnitus is no joke kiddies.

There has been other things to look forward to though. Bombshells is still going well and while I’m still shaky as hell on the rules, my players continue to enjoy things, and that, that means a lot. It’s why I run the game, really. Outside that, there’s been jokes about how at my 42nd birthday do I make guests sit through the Hitchhikers TV series? I do have a shiny newly restored copy and since going drinking in a bathrobe and towel (As a dear friend did at his 42nd) isn’t really my thing… On the other hand, The Four Musketeers will be screened, as Three went down so well last year, a fact that still sparks joy. I adore that film beyond all measure, and having a bunch of the people I care about enjoy it as well, it makes me feel all happy inside. If there’s a tie breaker we may just put on The Mummy with Brendan Fraser’s commentary again, which if you’ve not seen, what are you doing with your life? Yes, I talk about that commentary a lot, but only because it’s SO DAMN JOYOUS.

I had planned to write something else, mostly on Australian rock bands you may have not heard of, but again, swinging a sword and my mental woes overtake things. I wanted to talk about how Aloha Steve and Danno changed my life, how Alone With You makes me weep, or how The Supernova That Never Quits is so good a song it almost put me off listening to the rest of the Powder Monkeys discography for fear nothing could be as good. Maybe even my 20 year plus quest to work what the hell Man With Golden Helmet is actually about. I’ll try to make sure that’s my next post. I’ve started making a playlist for it after all!

Be seeing you…

Well, it’s 2022 OK…

So, it’s a new year. I was unsure how to mark the passage of time, but like many things in life, rock and roll did the trick. With many, many apologies to the Stooges:

Now, last year, I was 41
I didn’t have a lot of fun
And now, I’m gonna be 42
I say, “Oh, my” and a “Boo-hoo”
And now, I’m gonna be 42
“Oh, my” and a “Boo-hoo”

Since I last wrote not much has happened. I’ve been to the cinema, twice! I had almost forgotten how much I hate my fellow cinema goers. Spider-Man: No Way Home was as delightful a film as the other patrons at my screening were awful. I was one of about 5 people in my screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which much improved things. I’ll keep my thoughts on that spoiler free, but I can’t help summing it up as “When Ghostbusters (1984) and The Force Awakens love each other very much.” I don’t have as great a connection to the original films, and I really enjoyed the 2016 reboot, but I’m looking forward to more time with the characters from this one. Also, seeing Adam Savage having the best time of his life on the behind the scenes stuff made me think that more behind the scenes promo should be done that way. 

What’s most been at the back (and front) of my mind of late has been my temper. I’ve had a  couple of bad flare ups, and they scared me more than a little. I’ve long taken some measure of pride in my calm and seeing myself go from placid to GRAND FURY in 0.2 seconds wasn’t something I’ll ever be proud of. I can claim that being hungry/angry and overheated played some part in it, but it’s still there inside me, and I don’t like it. I’ve said before that people at my high school would joke about the body count when I snap, and yes, that joke’s a lot less funny now. But the older I get the less I like rage. Some can be useful as a motivational tool, but like nuclear power it’s important to manage it properly and I haven’t always done that. I made sure to apologise to the people in question, and I’ll likely keep doing so for sometime. To say I have an overactive guilt complex is an understatement, and I don’t seem able to shake it. 

How have I been managing this? Well, I bought another cloak and a bandolier…Is that  a good way to manage things? Stuffed if I know. But it’s made me happy and looking forward to the post, so that’s a good thing. Yes, LARP’s have been cancelled again and who the fuck knows when things will be back, but brainstorming a character for one has been a much needed creative outlet the last few days. Brainstorming game ideas in general has been one of the things that’s helped get me through Covid so far. It’s up there with my wife and my fencing group in terms of the solace it’s given me in these times of plague and chaos.  

You’ve made it through my brain fog, so you deserve something good, right? Well, I’ve something balanced for you…

I meant to post this on Christmas Day but got distracted. I’ve had this sitting on a computer for a long time, and I figure now it’s time. For those who came in late: In October 2016 (Yes, the time is important) I ran a convention one-shot called Fair and Balanced, set in a future America where Obama declared himself President for Life. Everyone has health care, no civilian has a military grade firearm and there’s an abortion clinic every few blocks. You know, conservative hell. The PC’s are a team of Fox News anchors, the last vestiges of the conservative resistance, and have come to take their country back!

It was disturbingly well received. I remain very glad that people took it as the over the top parody it was intended as. Having Bill O’Reilly as a PC has aged badly, but the idea itself was a joke that got out of hand rather like the Trump presidency. It’s ruined fewer lives though, and that has to be in it’s favour. Ever since then, I’ve had people request a sequel, both to cheerfully irritate me and because I joked (foolishly) that any sequels would follow the naming conventions of the Fast and the Furious films. For a while there, I was actually planning a sequel. But then the unthinkable happened, the Orange Goblin assumed power and I swiftly realised there was no way I could out crazy reality and that’s a problem with this absurd a concept. Listening to old episodes of The Bugle from 2012 where they joke how Trump dropped out of the presidential race too early made me want to throw my phone into the sun at the memory of it. But yes, I had written a blurb some time in 2017, and for the first time I’m going to open up that tomb of horrors and give it to you. You may want to brace yourselves…  

The shining city on a hill is now a strip mall.

In the chaos following President Obama’s stepping down from power, the Republican Party achieved the impossible dream – they Made America Great Again. The Golden Emperor now rules in Washington, atop a golden throne. They say he rarely leaves the palace, with only his progeny permitted near him, while swarms of supplicants race throughout the palace to enact his every tweet.

They say those who displease him vanish in the night. Rumours swirl of vast factories in the heartlands of America staffed by the sick and formerly unemployed, of re-education camps filled with journalists and dissidents. City streets, once hubs of life and music, are now near anarchy. The boot stamping on a human face has a designer label.

The promise of a better future has come and gone. 
America has been made Great again.
And there’s only one group who can save it from itself…

2 FAIR, 2 BALANCED.
A game for 5 Fox News anchors. 

I feel unclean. Now, before you say anything, I need to say this in all caps: I’M NOT WRITING THIS GAME. If you want to, knock yourself out. I wrote a blurb, and that’s enough for me. Enjoy.

It’s late, and I’ve slept incredibly badly the last couple of nights. Be well, and be seeing you. 

We wear leather! We wear spikes! We rule the night!

Inspiration strikes in strange places. I made an offhand joke about a theme for the Christmas party my house traditionally hosts, then 30 minutes WiFi access later I had 6 and a half hours of music ready to go. At the time of writing It’s been less than a week and that list is over 9 hours now and continues to grow. There’s a lot of power metal in said list and I make zero apologies for that. Obviously, if this became a Christmas party playlist, I’d likely trim some of the heavier, gruntier type material, though I maintain the Finnish singing disco breakdown (Yes, you read that right) in the middle of Ensiferum’s Two of Spades is fucking glorious and I will hear nothing against it and the intro to Grave Digger’s Rebellion, who are a German band singing about Scottish history BTW, makes me want to stand on a mountain in a rainstorm dramatically holding a sword in the air. Yes, there’s a lot of things that make me want to do that – what’s your point?

If the title wasn’t enough, a casual scroll should reveal what the theme is. Was there a reason for this? Not really no. I made a joke, 20 seconds later started compiling songs in my head and the rest was, as they say, history. I just like making playlists. Introducing people to music makes me happy. and I’ve stumbled across a few new bands doing so. My wife has a rule that I’m only allowed to like bands with members younger than I am and that’s trickier than you’d think. Where am I going with this? Well, when compiling this I had an Idea, and dear readers, you should know by now how dangerous those can be. For you amusement/horror (delete as appropriate), I present some early notes on what I’m calling POWER METAL: THE LARP, aka THROUGH THE FIRE AND FLAMES.

The basic idea was to take all those stupid and over the top heavy metal cliches, and turn it into a LARP. I’ve had worse ideas. I’ve had worse ideas that people still ask me for sequels to. I got as far as writing a blurb for Two Fair, Two Balanced a while back. Some day I might even publish it. So, the general theme is heavy mithril, but with everything turned up to 11. I’m seeing it as a one-shot weekender, as there may be too much stuff for a day game, and I want the final showdown to be at night. It’s more dramatic that way, and we get to have a post game debrief/singalong around a bonfire.

Where are we? Some Tolkien-esque land, where HEROES ARE MIGHTY. Elves live in the woods, Dwarves dig holes and adventurers stumble across ancient tombs full of monsters and treasure every day of the week, because WHY NOT? Wizards lurk MYSTERIOUSLY in the corners of taverns, or cast bizarre spells in NOT AT ALL PHALLIC TOWERS. What sort of person crosses an owl with a bear anyway?

How do things start? Well, the EVIL WIZARD OF DOOM has just beat the shit out of OUR MIGHTY HEROES, and after taking time to explain his evil plan to them, teleports the fuck away to his MOUNTAIN FORTRESS OF DOOM to prepare for the ASTRAL ALINGMENT that’ll give him enough power to CONQUER THE WORLD or something. Wizards, am I right? Our heroes must pick themselves up, go forth on quests to FIND OUT STUFF THEY NEED TO KNOW and it ends with a FINAL SHOWDOWN between our heroes and the WIZARD.

Said information gathering quests could include:
Finding an ancient hermit who has MIGHTY ARCANE POWER and requires a quest to teach that to people. That quest might involve baking something for him, I dunno, maybe he’s just lonely?
Infiltrating a cult ceremony. I’m gonna need a bulk lot of cultist robes and masks, as wearing a mask automatically disguises you, until you break role. If it works in bad movies, it works here. Actually, that rule works for almost every game I’ve ever run.
Fighting some sort of massive monster that guards an ANCIENT WEAPON that can help kill the WIZARD.
Can you make your way through the DARK FOREST OF EVIL to find a magical thing without disturbing the DROPBEARS? (Why Dropbears? I was writing a post apoc game before Brexit/Trump and an actual apocalypse got too close for comfort, but the idea of monster crew in cheap as shit koala onesies stained with blood and gore makes me far happier than it should. Also, angry koala noises are FUCKING TERRIFYING)

Some stylistic choice ideas follow:
Enemies attack you one at a time, just like in the movies! Combat is suitably over the top, with giant swings, grunts of effort and all that stuff that would get you killed in an actual sword fight, but looks awesome on VHS in 1986. Really, that’s the entire aesthetic for this thing.
Armour isn’t based on how much of you it covers, but on how cool it looks. There may well be extra spikes, giant pauldrons and all sorts of silliness. This is not a game for subtlety or historical accuracy or ANY OF THAT REALISM. If at least half the players aren’t wearing foam muscle shirts as part of their costumes something is VERY fucking wrong.
Magical attacks are shouted, with a call sign indicating what sort of spell is being cast. For example, “By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, I BIND thee!” Another idea would be to generate spell names using Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards cards beforehand. Perhaps playing air guitar powers magical rituals? I don’t know, I’m making this shit up as I go.

Other influences include:
The video game Brutal Legend. The game itself had it’s issues, but as a love letter to heavy metal, there are few things as mighty.
80’s metal, mainly of the power and thrash variety. For those who have no idea what power metal is, read this. Also, what have you been doing with your life?
The band Manowar, especially the video for Gloves of Metal. Look, there’s a lot about them that has aged badly, or was pretty fucking objectionable even back in the day (I’d say listen to the song Pleasure Slave as an example, but just don’t) and ‘It was the 80’s’ is a piss poor excuse, though I never thought I’d see a music video with worse fight choreography that Motley Crue’s Too Young to Fall in Love. But that full bore commitment to something so utterly stupid as ‘Conan the Barbarian, but with guitars’, I can’t not love that.

Will this event actually happen? Who the fuck knows. We all know how I am with the focus and drive to actually finish things. But the creation process, the bouncing ideas around in my head, that’s brought me great joy, and by Crom, I’ve needed that joy. The relentless march of time, the unending drone of Covid time and a recent casual contact scare (I tested negative, thankfully) has been wearing on me more than normal of late. People keep asking me how I am, and I keep answering *shrugs* “Pandemic well?” I’d love to have another answer, possibly a more positive one, and it ain’t coming. Shit has just gotten more dangerous and now fuckwits don’t have to check into stores? Yeah, great fucking move. I am not a confrontational person, but seeing groups in the Sydney CBD a couple of weeks back wearing ‘Thou shalt not vax me’ t-shirts fucken BOILS MY BLOOD. I know relatively little about Jesus, but I’m pretty fucking sure he’d be pro-vax, with that whole ‘help others’ deal he had. Fuckwits.

I’ve been trying to end this on a positive note, and I should have been asleep long ago. May you and yours be well and happy, and may the things that bring you joy keep doing so. Times are tough and we need to take joy where we can.

Be seeing you…