On age and coping with it.

So, I’m charging at speed to 41. And to cope with this, I’m making a playlist. Unlike last year’s, I’m trying to be cheerful! It seemed a sensible thing to do, to wallow in songs that bring me joy. (Yes, I do have some) Not misery, bleakness or rage, but that full tilt Bill and Ted, air guitaring like a mad thing kind of joy. The sort of songs that I tell stories about. Actually, stuff it – you’re getting some now. Strap in.

The Ramones, Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio feature prominently. Why? Because the Ramones are the finest rock and roll band known to mankind, a fact once acknowledged by no less than Lemmy Kilmister, who was something of an authority of the subject. Rockaway Beach is a *perfect* pop song and that it didn’t sell millions is a stain on humanity.

For some years now I’ve tried to put into words just what rock and roll feels to me, exactly why it matters. I was reminded by my therapist recently about how people exist on a scale, so X amount of people feel really invested in New York rock circa 1976, compared to Y number of people who care about, I dunno, rugby league or something. I’m butchering it no doubt, but there’s the general gist that people have different levels of intensity. It’s good to be reminded that not everyone feels as intensely about things. There are Doctor Who making of documentaries I’ve watched more than the show for starters. So yes, I’m very into rock and roll and you may not be. And that’s OK. I mean, you’re wrong, but you’re allowed to be, much like it’s allowed that there are people who aren’t in tears at the mere mention of the Tale of Iroh. (I am not one of those people) Anyhow, I think I can answer it, and it’s Rockaway Beach. Just listen, it’s all there.

I can still remember clear as day the first time I heard Iron Maidens The Number of the Beast and my exhilaration at that big scream (A product of their singer having spent umpteen hours singing the opening again and again before the producer liked one enough) has not faded one bit in the years since. As for Dio, he specialized in songs that sound like games of Dungeons and Dragons, alternating with songs about the glory of rock and roll. Whether with Rainbow, Black Sabbath or his solo group, that voice is incredible. You should know Holy Diver, but try Kill the King, written when Rainbow realized they needed something fast to open shows with.

The playlist itself. First off, the Damned’s Love Song is *the* greatest love song ever written. The Sunnyboys and the Ramones (Whose I Wanna be your Boyfriend played at my wedding) come damn close, but no cigar. HammerFall’s Hearts on Fire is up there on the list, but I mostly remember the video for it which featured the band up against the Swedish national women’s curling team. Delightful.

The interplay of Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain’s guitars make the New York Dolls Jet Boy essential listening. Balance that against fellow New Yorkers the Dictators, whose Two Tub Man has a spoken word intro matched only by Manowar’s Black Arrows for sheer hilarity.  There are reasons why Handsome Dick Manitoba (AKA the Handsomest Man in Rock and Roll) was listed as secret weapon in the liner notes for their first album. As for unkind accusations about the song Master Race Rock, have they read the lyrics? Besides, half the band are Jewish.

Probot (an early 2000’s project of Dave Grohl) produced Shake Your Blood, which is the greatest Motorhead song not written by Motorhead. As for the Head, I couldn’t not have Ace of Spades and We Are The Road Crew. Lemmy is as close to universally adored as you can be in heavy music circles and despite his continual insistence that Motorhead were a rock and roll band, it’s nigh impossible to go to a metal show and not see at least 1 Motorhead shirt. Books could, and should be written about Overkill, but the last word on that should be about drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor. As Lemmy told it “He hit everything on the kit in about 2 beats and Larry turned to me and said ‘What a horrible little cunt, he’s perfect.”

There’s only the one TV theme here, but it’s Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts Tank. If the next words in your head aren’t “OK everybody, I think it’s time we blow this scene” are you even alive? Only the theme tune to Monkey comes close and I’m willing to accept no small amount of childhood nostalgia is a factor there.

Dub War’s Strike It blew my mind as a teenager – the mix of jazz, reggae, hip hop and metal stunned me. Though they split far too young, their spirit lives on in singer Benji Webbe’s current act Skindred, who are one of the most ridiculously entertaining live bands I’ve seen. There’s not many support acts who’d enter to the Imperial March and leave to a burst of Nobody Does It Better. The bass in the opening of Under Attack hits like a hammer and the chant of ‘Rock and roll, save my soul’ in Machine speaks to me in a way no religion has ever managed to.

You want some brevity? There’s Napalm Deaths You Suffer, which has the distinction of being the shortest song ever recorded, at roughly 1.13 seconds long. They had something to say and they said it. No mess, no fuss, no fucking about.

Yes, Stairway to Heaven is there, but it’s Dread not Led Zeppelin. What is this you ask? They cover Zeppelin tunes in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator on vocals. It’s so stupid an idea it works.

You want riffs? I got em by the truckload. Heaven and Hell’s (AKA Dio era Black Sabbath) Mob Rules is a stand out, with Tony Iommi’s guitar ripping out and Ronnie James Dio’s voice soaring overhead in full sword and sorcery mode. It is one of the highlights of my life that I saw that line up live. For a more meat and potatoes rock and roll, there’s AC/DC’s Riff Raff and TNT, coupled with Airborne’s Back in the Game, whose single minded focus on being AC/DC: The Next Generation has to deserve some sort of award. Breadfan by Budgie is bonkers and has an acoustic interlude that would have fit on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but holy shit that opening riff is amazing. Metallica’s cover is far from bad either and is where I’d wager most of you know it from.

The stomping late 70s glam drum sound of Iron Maidens Running Free and the spiky aggression of Wrathchild stand against the blood and thunder of the Bruce Dickinson era – the opening drumming on Where Eagles Dare is fucking incredible (I’ve heard it described as a drum kit being thrown down the stairs) and the old school gallop of Death or Glory is positively infectious, in a good way. When they performed Flight of Icarus on their recent tour, they let Dickinson wield a pair of flamethrowers on stage, something so absurd and glorious it’s matched only by the mid 80’s Dio tour where he fought a dragon with an electric sword. I told you he wrote songs that sounded like Dungeons and Dragons, but did you believe me?

Turning to Detroit, we have the MC5’s mission statement Kick Out The Jams, one of the finest live albums out there. You can hear the Stooges evolve from the fuzz tone stoner rock of I Wanna be Your Dog to the hallucinogenic freak out that is 1970 and the full tilt everything’s about to explode feel of Search and Destroy. Someday I’ll sing that at a karaoke event. Be afraid, be very afraid, and not just cause I sing like Dave Lister plays guitar.

Sonic’s Rendevous Band’s immortal City Slang is a song unique in that every version I’ve heard has different lyrics. Radio Birdman’s Aloha Steve and Danno has one of the greatest solos ever put to tape and the Lime Spiders Slave Girl has a groove to it that’s rarely matched. Go for the original and not the Goo Goo Dolls cover. The Bellray’s maximum rock and soul was a revelation to me and it’s a gospel I will happily preach.

I could continue, and if you ask me in person I will, but I really should sleep. I’ll leave you with one last note: Yes, the Cantina Song is one there, because WHY NOT?

Happy listening, and be seeing you…

I bought a cape!

So, been a while.

It’s not that I’ve not been wanting to write, it’s just the times when my brain has been the most fertile is when I’ve been trying to drift off to sleep, so going to the laptop isn’t always the most sensible thing to do. I should know by now that I’ll never remember things, so I should just get up and write them down regardless.

So, let’s look at what’s been going on, in three easily marked segments.

I’m still alive. Look, it’s not that it was a risk, but there’s days it feels good to state. I’m not in danger or having suicidal thoughts or anything of that ilk, but yes, I’m still here.

I managed to make it down to my sisters wedding, and the speech I gave went well. How well? I spent the rest of the night and a lot of the recovery BBQ the day after fending off compliments on it, to the extent I started to want to say ‘Yes, thanks, the compliments are lovely, but I’m not one of the two people you should really be paying attention to at this function.’ Praise is lovely and does wonders for my ego, but there’s a point when it becomes too much. Introvert life and all that. Yes, I’m aware I’m still talking about the thing, but I put a large part of that down to relief at how well the thing went. Weddings are a lot of stress even without Covid and I wanted to be as little stress as possible. Also, we got to see Nephew again, who is a VERY GOOD BOY.

If you’ve seen my wife since then she has shown you the video she took of it, but for those who haven’t I can sum things up thusly:
At no point do I swear, yell ‘By Crom, Ymir and Set!’ or threaten people that if they didn’t pay attention I’d drench this wedding in the blood of it’s guests. Also, despite near every part of my brain screaming at me to, I made the toast to the bride and groom, and not ‘And if you would charge your glasses and… RELEASE THE KRAKEN!‘ My sister is the sensible one out of of the two of us, and she would not have appreciated that.

The pulp game I’m running is going well. I’m still having ideas, casting NPC’s and looking forward to sessions. Most importantly of all, my players seem to be enjoying things. Hell, I’m having thoughts about picking up the Torchwood idea I had a while back for one of my other groups. It’s a little thing, but having the creative part of my brain working again brings so much joy.

I bought a cape. It has purple lining. All three of us who study rapier of a Tuesday bought one. It may have been a way of signalling that we want to learn rapier and cloak, but buying something that makes me happy is something I have no shame about. I still haven’t been able to find a pirate/cavalier hat I like enough that’s in my size. The quest continues…

There’s a new Rivers of London novella out now, and it is paining me to have put it on my birthday wish list rather than having it now. Also, I’m really looking forward to introducing Niece, Almost 13 to the series. Speaking of Niece, I recently added The Court Jester to the list of movies we have to show her, as I really want to see her reaction to the ‘vessel with the pestle’ scene. She adored The Mummy which we recently showed her, so we should be able to get her in front of it without too much bribery, which will likely be required for more Babylon 5.

Every time I book time away from my brain doctor my brain falls to pieces. Guess why I’m mentioning that?

Between falling off the no sugar diet and the new happy pills I’ve put back on most of the weight I’d lost. The days have seemed bleaker at times, and that’s when I’ve traditionally reached for sugar, so yeah. I’m trying to minimize the intake when I do fall off the wagon, but I’m still not happy with it.

I’m heading towards 41 at a terrifying speed. 40 didn’t seem much (Outside of the playlist I made), but I seem to be heading towards… something. Whether mid life crisis, plain old crisis, or something else I’ve no idea.

Having an appointment with a new doctor and working out that my Achilles tendons my be somewhat fucked. Ow. Combined with all the other minor aches and the already existing plantar fasciitis and being on my feet all day for work and well, yeah.

Talking to the new doctor about my brain was raw. They’re doctors, it’s part of the job (And for that I will always respect them), but that first “Here’s my brain” moment is always terrifying.She seemed delighted by the idea of RPG’s though.

The latest Classic Doctor Who box set is out nw in the UK, but JBHiFi says my pre-order will arrive in late May.

The Iron Maidens had to delay their gig again. I completely understand why, but I’m really missing gigs. The sweat, the stench of spilt beer, the exhilaration, the sheer joy that live music brings me, I miss it so damn much.

I worked out that a couple of Sundays back is the first time I’ve been alone in my house, in a minimum 6 months, and likely since the start of Covid. Gods, I’d missed it. I didn’t do anything strange with the time, just relaxed in the silence. And ran around Viking era Britain murdering people. Getting to pet cats in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a delight.

I’m still getting angry quicker than I’d like. There will always be things to work on I guess?


So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you and yours are well and remain so. Be seeing you…

“A short life and a merry one says I”

Well, session 2 of Crimson Skies was on Thursday and it went… OK. I had something of an attack of nerves through the session, but managed to keep things relatively on track. Anyhow, my PC’s were entered into an air race by their patron, though he’d neglected to mention that till the morning of the race itself. Some of the other contestants didn’t say much, they made friends with one and an enemy of another, with mockery so delightful it’s ensured his return as a recurring problem. The race itself went well, and Savage Worlds chase mechanic is wonderful, with the 3 PC’s having the podium to themselves. I hadn’t been certain on the PC’s winning, but true to form my dice crippled the opposition. The session ended with them going out for dinner and drinks with Errol Flynn, and there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong there.

I’ve been continuing thoughts on 7th Sea. I’m still short of a definitive character idea, but ideas continue to flow. Less character ideas, and more bits of costume that I could build a character around. Listening again to The Lies of Locke Lamora has certainly turned my ideas to a more rougish bent (As well as being tempted to buy a pair of throwing hatchets to conceal inside a coat), and near as I can tell that’s part of the campaigns themes. I also picked up S4 of Black Sails, and while I’m continuing to enjoy the show, the sense of impending doom grows ever stronger the closer I get to it’s end.

As for ostume, hopefully you can see my problem? There’s a nice coat, or perhaps this? I’m certainly planning on buying a pair of these, as they’re useful for pirate events and The Hobbits Hoedown, should that ever run again. Perhaps a pauldron much like the ones in the recent BBC Musketeers TV show? I am settled on one thing thought – I want a minimum of black and red in my outfit. I can’t think to any reason why, other than wanting some variety. Blues, maybe green, something different than the stereotype. I can certainly kit myself out in black and scarlet from kit I already own, but I’m feeling the need for something different for this game.

Right. It’s late and the sedative on my meds has kcked in. Night all. sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the moring

Well, that went well…

Stupid burning hell pit of a country. Summer. *Sweats heavily*

Outside of the heat, things have been, improving. The first session of Crimson Skies went pretty well. By well, I mean I have some homework on the vehicle and chase rules, but we all knew that would happen. 3 out of the 5 PC’s (2 were absent owing to illness) have been introduced to the press and shot down some pirates. Things with the pirates went better than with the press. In any case, they all survived, I only had a couple of “Whoops, let me rewind that” moments and the PC’s captured 3 pirates and their planes. Also, I remembered to make notes about it, even down to the captured pirates names.

Above all, I’m feeling good about it. I have players (bless them) that seem keen and engaged with the approach I’m bringing to things, and I have ideas. And not just ideas, but actual working ideas that I’m putting into future adventures. It seems as if I’m learning from past mistakes and this is… new? Welcome? I’m not claiming victory or anything yet, but I think I might have a shot at this not falling apart like past campaigns I’ve tried. Having my wife advising me is also helping to an immense degree – I can’t give her enough praise for her help. I’m at that delightful stage where I have enough plots to start seeding that I’m having to pick and choose, and there’s a couple of them that it’s almost causing physical pain to keep under my hat. And because I’m a generous GM, I’ll drop a 2 word hint at one: Zeppelin Casino.

Turning back to LARP, the 7th Sea game that’s incoming. I’m still racking my brain to think of seafaring PC’s, and nothings coming. It’s confusing, as seafaring swashbuckling is very much my jam – but there’s this block that I can’t get past. I have an idea, add water and then it stops. Is this some sort of RPG Maturity/mid life crisis, I don’t fuckin’ know. I seem to have hit the stage where it’s not enough to play something, but I need to have goals and plans. That dressing fancy is not enough for me any more. Huh.

The two most developed PC’s (Yes, one of them was in my last post but I’ve had more thoughts on it since then)

1: Ussuran (Think Dark Ages Rus) – Merchant and former soldier who discovered that commerce is far safer than mercenary work. A bit Herger the Joyous, some BRIAN BLESSED and a pinch of Londo Mollari, cause that’s every accent I do. I have a rough speech pattern in my head for the character, but can’t stick the accent to save my life. This amused my wife no end earlier this evenings a bit more
2: Montaigne (France) or Vodacce (Italy) – Lazy gentleman by day, by night burglar by discreet appointment. Less ‘steal from the rich and give to the poor’ and more ‘You need your wife’s necklace, that you lost in a card game, back from Baron Reinhardt’s vault? Sure, but it’ll cost you.’ (Part of this PC was me remembering I have a set of LARP Thieves Tools I’ve not used in a game yet.)

Perfectly servicable characters yes, but again, I don’t know if they’ll fit the campaign. Must talk with the orgs.

And that’s me for the night. I need a shower and some sleep. Be seeing you…

Harrumph

Back at work and back in pain. Feet hurt again, and there was a fistful of splinters in my hands. Same old, same old.

My wife and I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender tonight, and there were feels. Many, many feels. It’s a kids show yes, but it doesn’t pull it’s punches. I’m also slightly embarrassed that it took me so long to spot Mark Hamill in the voice cast – my wife was amused at how often I’d check the credits when I recognized a voice. We’re taking a break before starting Legend of Korra, to clear the minds and so we (hopefully) stop crying at Uncle Iroh memes. It’s currently too soon for that, and may be that way for some time. I’m not sure whats next on the viewing list – Veep’s the top of the list at the moment. I’ve been meaning to finish Black Sails and rewatch The Prisoner, but those are for when my wife is away.



Bad, but not unexpected news: Blackpowder and Bloodlines has cancelled again. I can’t blame them for it, it’s the right thing to do, but I’m still a bit down about it. Having something to look forward to helps keep me going brain wise. *sighs* I’m not expecting the Iron Maidens (scheduled for late April) to make it down either, but hopefully things will clear up in time for Gun’s and Roses (A ticket being a Christmas gift from some dear friends) in December. I badly miss live music, but I’m hanging on.


In good news though, a new LARP is in the works where I am, a swashbuckling one at that. So, you’d think that my ideas are full of swashbuckling wackiness, right? Well, they haven’t been. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a fair chunk of my ideas have been along those lines, but none of those various duellists, scoundrels and pirates have started to progress into actual playable character ideas. I mean, It’s only been two days so when I say developed I mean a handful of sentences, but from terrible ideas wonderful things can grow. A lot of my con games for instance…

So, for context here’s the two most developed ideas I have.
1: Merchant trader caught between the old ways of his people (Looting and pillaging) and the new ways (Commerce). I had an idea that he runs an old ways experience for tourists.
2: Former mercenary turned merchant captain, who’s cheerful, polite and if you screw him over he’ll split your skull in twain and spit on you, smiling all the while.
Both seem playable, and I certainly have ideas on how to costume them (That’s how I roll, as I’m sure you’ll know by now) but I’m still short of long term goals. Again, it’s early days and I’ve plenty of reading on the setting to come as well, but I don’t want to rush into things.

Time for sleep. Be seeing you…

2020, 24 Hours to go…

Sedation would have been fucking lovely… So, been a while since last we spoke. Or I typed. You know what I mean. Hasn’t been great, but hasn’t been as rough as some years past. The usual Christmas chaos and hassle, nerves and regret. Another year gone, mercifully. I continue to be glad that no-one I know is Covid affected, and my heart breaks for those who’ve lost friends and loved ones.

Work has been, well work. Had a couple of Sundays working retail at one of our stores and swiftly gained a reputation as being a D&D person. Guilty as charged. Having people go “I’m looking to get into it” or “Friends play and I thought I’d try” and getting to look them square in the eye and say “Welcome to the tribe” just well, brings joy. The money didn’t hurt either – it’s my sword fund. Only issue is, what sort do I buy? I mean, the LARP blades I’ve been after are in stock (A Calimacil Agrippa rapier and Lucrezia dagger), but given the fragile state of things (Thanks Northern Beaches, thanks a bundle), who knows whether LARP will be back And so, I turn to steel. That both cuts down and opens up my options. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent this much on one thing and I don’t want to grab the first thing I see – I want to make a sensible choice.



I’m pretty sure going to Wonder Woman 84 was my first cinema trip all year (This was last year that is) and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite have the same zing as the first one. My wife saw a comment that said it was, and I may be misquoting here ‘just like a Russell T Davies Doctor Who‘ and I’m damned if I don’t agree with that. It was a fun film, don’t get me wrong, but lacking. Fingers crossed that Patty Jenkins Rogue Squadron film don’t fall over thanks to executive meddling. I also saw in the New Year by watching Clue for the first time and that film is utterly delightful. I’m quite curious as to whether anyone’s run it as a LARP.



Gaming wise, I’m almost ready to start the Crimson Skies game for my home group.I’ll keep it plot free, as some of my players read this, but I’ve a rough plan, a few antagonists and an Emergency NPC Names list that may be populated by the names of 1970’s Doctor Who production crew. If it’s good enough for Leverage, it’s good enough for me. Played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate today for the first time, and we won thanks to my dice rolling. I know, I’m stunned myself. I also got to play Rumble at Castle Tentakill, one of the stand alone expansions for Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards and it is very much my kind of stupid. How stupid? This stupid:


Video gaming wise, my progress on Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has slowed, owing to the Christmas season and the fact that I got Valhalla yesterday. This should shock no-one, as by now we should all remember that
A: Vikings are awesome. I’m a sucker for any culture that can be summed up as ‘Proud Warrior Race Guys.’ There are reasons my favorite Star Trek episodes are about the Klingons.
B: It appeals to the Iron Maiden worshipping, D&D Barbarian playing, Robert E Howard reading side of me. And let’s face it, that’s a big part of me.
C: It’s just gorgeous to wander round in. Odyssey is a beautiful game and talking with Herodotus at the Hot Gates gave me chill, but journeying the frozen North is stunning. Standing high on a mountain, looking out and seeing the Northern Lights in the sky, I damn near wept with joy.
D: The soundtrack. Good grief it’s gorgeous. I’m listening to it as I type and am struggling not to get swept up in it. And that’s before I get to the singing and storytelling when you’re out sailing.

Time for sleep. There’s new Doctor Who tomorrow after all. Be seeing you.

WITNESS ME

I am once again licensed to drive. You have been warned.

Outside of that, I’m an exhausted and battered feeling wreck. My emotions are on edge and raw, my brain doctor has increased my dosage by half (45 milligrams up from 30) and although I think I’ve stumbled upon a combination of innersoles that make my feet hurt less, they’re in no way fully healed yet. I managed to badly burn my left middle finger about a week and a half ago, and to add insult to injury, it’s kept me from sword. Also, the special manuka honey band aids I’ve been wearing leave an aroma on my finger and have made me worry about whether that smell is honey or rotting flesh more than once.

As for those pesky emotions, in the past two days I’ve been moved to tears twice, the first by a TV show, the second a piece of music (from a TV show). I often wonder about people who aren’t moved by music, and how hollow their lives must be. Then I remember that it’s OK, because I’m sure there’s things they’re moved by, things that I’m not. Well, I hope they have things that do that for them, it’d be a bleak and cheerless life without them.

There’s also been a lot of ‘Looks at thing, thinks thing would be perfect to a #LARP, then remembers it’s 2020.’ Also, finding a cavalier hat I like in my size isn’t easy. So, I’ve got ideas for if/when Blackpowder and Bloodlines returns and a few “Hey, I could build a character around that piece of kit.” *sigh* Yes, I know games are running, but there’s nothing I’m keen on playing, for reasons I’ve discussed in previous entries. Tabletopgames will have to keep me busy and distracted for the time being.

Now, the pieces that have ripped my heart out. The music in question is Wander My Friends, from the 2000’s era Battlestar Galactica. I could attempt to talk about it, to try to explain why it makes me feel the way it does, to try to capture it’s essence, but it’s easier for me to just play it.

Beautiful isn’t it? I don’t understand a word of the Gaelic, but I almost don’t need to. I sometimes wonder if music holds too great a spell over me, but then I remember how much fun listening to Iron Maiden is and move on with my life. Also, if Netflix do go ahead with the Conan the Barbarian TV show they’re planning, I want Bear McCreary to score it.

As for the TV show: Avatar, The Last Airbender. Season 2, Episode 15, The Tales of Ba Sing Se. If you’ve not seen it, all you know is to brace yourself. If you have seen it, you’ll understand. *Cries again*

It’s not been all tears though. Some good news has happened. Niece, Age 12, has agreed to let me GM a game for her and some friends. I’m going back into my catalogue of games, to look for something special to me and that will work (hopefully) for them. It’ll likely be their first non D&D experience, so there’s some pressure there. What game of mine would work best for this? Three words come to mind – All For One…

It’s my first swashbuckler, and the first game I ran that felt like it really worked and that both players aand GM had equal amounts of fun. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a decade since I ran it. I’m old. In any case, I’ll be hoping to take advantage of a lot of experience since then. Other changes include:
1: Making it an even split 50/50 male and female PC’s. My games have improved since making them less of a sausage fest, in both the stories I can tell, and the stories other people tell about them.
2: Also, because female musketeers are, let’s face it, one of the least historically inaccurate things about my games.
3: Trying to make things flow better. A large chunk of the middle of the module was ‘Ride somewhere, find some information, then ride back.’ At the very least, i want to make the ride back more dramatic.

I’m a bit nervous about it, as I want it to go well. Both in terms of helping to foster the next generation, and for wanting them to have fun. You know, typical GM problems.

That’s enough for tonight. Be seeing you.

By Crom, Ymir and Set!

So Netflix, I hear you’re preparing a Conan the Barbarian TV series. In news that will surprise no-one who knows me, I have thoughts about this.

First off, I bet you’re thinking something like “Oh yeah, I know Conan. I saw the first Arnie film back in the day. Big guy, wears a furry nappy, I know all I need to know.”

Right?

WRONG.

Discard everything you think you know. from any of the previous adaptions, whether that be the Arnie films, Jason Momoa’s far from bad but still not great 2011 movie or any of the TV adaptions, both animated and live action. For the purposes of starting afresh there’s only one thing worth keeping from previous adaptions and we’ll get to that later.

First, it seems you have the rights to the stories and not just the character. This is A Good Thing. Read them. All of them, yes even The Vale of Lost Women. (It’s OK, you can leave that one till last) Now, there’s something of a warning I have to give, and some context to. To put it bluntly, to modern eyes the stories can be pretty damn racist. Howard was writing these tales in early 1930’s Texas and while he grew less racist over time, he’s still pretty damn racist. So yes, by all means, please do file off that stuff.

“KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen- eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”

The Nemedian Chronicles


They bound around Conan’s life, from his early days as a thief in Zamora, a barbarian youth newly arrived in civilized lands, to his later years as as King of Aquilonia, the mightiest kingdom in the west. The first of the Conan tales, The Phoenix on the Sword (Itself a rewrite of an unsold Kull tale, By this Axe I Rule!“) takes place while Conan is King of Aquilonia. The first thing we seem him doing is altering a map – this already strikes him as far from the monosyballic brute the stereotype see’s him as. Use this – we can see his enemies develop, drop hints at future stories and flesh out the gaps. Just don’t give us an origin story please – he’s a guy who wanders the world seeking adventure, a penniless thief and vagabond, who embarks on many a perilous adventure in search of fortune and glory, and winds up a wise and respected king of a nation.

I’ve long dreamed of seeing The Hour of the Dragon or Rogues in the House on screen, so please don’t take that hope away from me. Hell, you could get a season or two’s worth of episodes out of Dragon alone. There’s moments that are practically made for the screen – massive swirling battles, deadly intrigue and high adventure. There’s excerpts from these stories that don’t just raise the hairs on the back of my neck, they fire the blood in my veins and remind me I’m alive.

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

Queen of the Black Coast.


We’ve spent a fair bit of time talking about the stories, but what of Conan himself? There’s a lot of misconceptions about the big guy. For starters, his parents weren’t murdered in front of him. Yes, he was born on a battlefield, but that’s where it stops. To my knowledge Howard never detailed his parents, though I’m sure I read somewhere in one of his letters that Conan did venture home briefly in his later years. The earlier tales show him as a youth, unused to civilized ways (The Tower of the Elephant is a prime example of this), and he evolves somewhat over the course of the stories, but he remains at heart, the same general character – ferocious, intelligent and not to be messed with. He can be a firm friend and ally, but get between him and something he wants, be that a woman or a priceless treasure, and he’ll cut you down with barely a second thought. Of course, if it comes down ot the woman or the treasure, he’ll go for the woman every time. He’s remarkably easy come, easy go in this regard – see The Black Stranger and Jewels of Gwahlur for examples of this.

But who will play him? I’m going to assume that you’re sticking with the bouncing between time periods approach, so you’ll need an actor who can convincingly play that. Conan’s people, the Cimmerians, are based on Irish/Celtic myth, so please don’t choose another Austrian. Furthermore, while he should have muscle and a lot of it, he doesn’t have the physique of a modern body builder. Think of him as closer to a heavyweight boxer. I don’t have an actor in mind, as there’s no-one who matches the Conan I see in my head when I read the stories. I’m hoping for an unknown myself.

Now remember when we talked earlier about the one thing that deserved to be kept from previous adaptions? Well, I can sum it up in three simple words: ANVIL OF CROM. It is generally acknowledged that Basil Poledouris’s score to Conan the Barbarian is damn near perfect and about the only thing Conan fans will agree on. I mean, just listen to it – there’s the opening booming of drums, Mako’s epic narration and then, it just blows the bloody doors off. It’s the sort of music that makes me want to stand on top of a windswept mountain holding a sword aloft, the sort of image you’d find airbrushed on vans back in the 70’s. To me it is perfect and I will not hear a bad word against it.

At the same time, I know whoever is composing the score will want to put their own spin on things, and I encourage that. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they do, but be aware whoever gets the ship will have some mighty big shoes to fill.

I think my passion for the material shows. I love this stuff, it means a hell of a lot to me, so believe me when I say this: please don’t screw this up. And you know, if you need a consultant, I work cheap. 🙂

Huh.

Hello there… (“General Kenobi.”)

Life has not… been wonderful of late. OK, it’s not been too bad, all things considered, but there’s certainly been a desire for distractions of late, given the state of the news. My feet continue to ache (planar facitis is a bastard of a thing) and while I’m trying to treat them, most nights I just get home and collapse. Some days they hurt more than others. I did make a long term decision as well! I’ve been recycling cans and bottles from work and the plan is to put that cash towards a rapier. Long term goal but it’s good to have them. Then comes the tricky decision, of what sort do I buy? Most of the training ones I’ve seen are cup hilt, but the swept hilt is my preferred style. Either way, I think I know what I’ll call her – Milady.

I’ve been re-reading The Cardinals Blades series by Pierre Pevel which can be summed up as Renaissance France, but with Dragons. Outside that, I got a bunch of books on Greek myth on the weekend and have been playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, or as I’ve been calling it This. Is. Spaaarrrrta!

That probably works better if you imagine Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa yelling it.

Anyhow, sailing around, murdering Spartans, seducing people and chatting with Herodotus is tremendous fun. It’s reminded me of wanting to LARP in the setting, but I want to LARP in a lot of settings. I mean, I get the same feeling whenever I watch Rome, but can you blame me?

In times of stress, ask yourself, what would Titus Pullo do?

As with many of my ideas, it’s little more than a vague interest, as opposed to actual plans. We all know that’s how I roll. But what I am set on is wanting to play something that’s not set in something resembling medieval Europe. Something resembling Renaissance Europe may not seem like much of a change, but it’s a start. Baby steps. I just want something different than the regular cliches, you know? I want Orcs that aren’t barbarians, cultures that aren’t based on 19th century racism, and overall, something different. I have trouble articulating exactly what I’m after, but I think I know what I don’t want, if that makes sense.

Articles like this and this were a good start, but it’s the rewrite of The Three Musketeers I helped kickstart that really did something to me. An easy way would have been to change a few peoples genders and keep things as is otherwise. Nope. The updates have gone into why the changes have been made and opened my eyes a bit. I’m a white guy from Sydney, Australia, there’s a lot of other perspectives I miss. It’s good to see from other eyes.

I love the old cliches – fur clad barbarians, noble knights etc. I bloody love REH’s work, but I’m also the first to acknowledge that he’s problematic as fuck. I’m not advocating destroying everything and starting anew, I’m not attacking your favorite game or claiming this is the “One True Way” to run games from now on. What you do in your games is between you and your players and I hope you’re all enjoying themselves.

But it’s had me thinking about my past work and potential future work, and how I can make that more inclusive and welcoming. I’ve been trying to write my con games with a 50/50 male female split and that’s had an immediate effect, I like to think a good one. And I want to keep going with that. Sure, virtually everyone I LARP with it a white person, but the more options we include and inclusive we are, surely the better things will be?

There is, however, the potential for a swashbuckling game to happen soon and I am ALL FOR THIS. I need escapism in my games, especially now, and that style of event also plays in to my knack for choosing characters based on costume rather than anything else. I just want to dress up and look fancy, is that a crime?

#bucketlist

Getting back to the Musketeers ideas, The Cardinals Blades has had me pondering campaign/adventure ideas. So, you’ve the traditional rivalry between the Musketeers and the Cardinals Guards. Add to that the tension between France and Spain, along with the threat of the Black Claw, a secret society bent on ensuring the rule of Dragons. That group has it’s own issues though, with tension between the Spanish and French chapters. That’s a solid start for tensions and intrigue.

I mean, with that we’ve got the possibility for intercepting secret letters, discovering friends and lovers are cultists, desperate struggles against impossible odds and dark ceremonies lit only by moonlight and strange black candles, burning with a weird green flame… I mean, what good is cultists having a ceremony if players aren’t there to burst in dramatically?

As to what’s next? I don’t know. I mean, regardless of interest I’m likely to keep writing this stuff. It’s a much needed creative outlet. But if you’d like to join in the fun and potentially turn this into something?

Some good news, for a change.

The universe occasionally aligns nicely. Despite the doom and gloom, there are good things coming out of this year and I’m going to tell you about them!

First: there’s a new AC/DC album coming in November. Yes, there’s the obvious joke about a new album given they’ve been making the same one for over 40 years, but it’s a good album. Given the loss of guitarist Malcolm Young to dementia (May he rock in peace), singer Brian Johnson’s hearing issues and drummer Phil Rudd’s police issues, I’m not sure anyone would have been surprised if Angus Young had called it quits after the Rock or Bust tour. But things appear to have been resolved, medical wonders worked (In the case of Johnson and bassist Cliff Williams) and possibly the most consistent act in rock and roll is back. As for the sound of the album, based on the first single it sounds like AC/DC and that’s enough for me. There’s something wonderfully boneheaded about their sound, and there are few bands that make me air guitar quite as enthusiastically as they do.

Secondly, there’s a new Iron Maiden live album on the way, from their recent Legacy of the Beast tour. Recorded in Mexico City in 2019, it’s a whole show, as opposed to the ‘1 song from each city’ format of recent live albums. Also, the cover art has to rank up there with Dance of Death for the Maiden album with the most rubbish album cover, which given the art for Dance was apparently a test, is saying something.

It’s a bit of a double edged sword for me, as the shows in Oz were meant to take place this year and obviously didn’t. To really twist the knife, I had a floor ticket and they were playing Flight of Icarus again this tour, for the first time in donkey years, and at the tempo on the album! That may not sound like much, BUT IT MATTERS TO ME. *ahem* Further to that, according to singer Bruce Dickinson, they’ve been writing and doing a few things in the studio. A new Maiden album won’t wash away the stench of this year, but it’d make it a bit more bearable. And it has been a good few years since The Book of Souls after all.

Lastly, for the update at least, come a new RPG – The Dee Sanction. Now, while at first glance an RPG about magic use during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, the twist that players are agents of John Dee and Francis Walsingham and are part wizard, part spy is an intriguing one. Also, the whole ‘being forced to work’ aspect of things adds some spice to proceeding. What did get me thinking though, was the idea that this is the sort of thing that Cardinal Richeliu would have in his back pocket and that Louis XIII would hear rumour of and then demand why didn’t he have one? It’s something to ponder as I kick Musketeers ideas around.

Be seeing you.