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…

Mistakes were made

Born of nostalgia, some of the worst mistakes. So, how am I? It’s been a while. Well, I’ve my last Brain Care Specialist appointment for the year tomorrow morning, I was a Groomsmen on the weekend at friends wedding, and to top it all off, I made it through my speech without crying, something I did *not* accomplish at the first readthrough of it the night before. Bombshells continues to be delightful – next session they’ll be taking an orphanage worth of children to see one of the PC’s latest movie. There is nothing that can go wrong. I have no idea where Doctor Who is going, but I’m loving the current series. It’s been difficult keeping things spoiler free, as wife hasn’t seen it and I do not want to be the one responsible for spoiling things. Between being wrecked from work and a lacklustre night of sleep, I didn’t make it to sword tonight. I should be asleep, and yet I’m here typing. But what’s the mistake I made that I’m so compelled to write about? Well…

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra popped up on Netflix. I remember seeing it in the cinema, and not thinking much. The sequel was improved, but more on that later. Anyhow, the brain isn’t great, the resistance is low and I hit play. I’ve made worse mistakes in my time (Seeing Max Payne comes to mind), but this stands among them. I remembered it wasn’t great, but only in going back again did it unleash just how bad it is. Let’s begin shall we?

First off, who made the choice to put lips on Snake Eye’s mask? I’d love to know the design process behind that. The Bat-Nipples were strange, but it was the 90’s. It’s not much of an excuse, but it’s something.
Secondly, making a 23 minute toy commercial and trying to make it all gritty and serious, something that’s also plagued the Transformers films. Look, the cartoon was absurd and over the top, what was the harm in trying for that tone? Does everything need to be gritty and serious? Can we not have fun watching a Batman film?
Marlon Wayans ‘acting’, and I use the term loosely, is an acquired taste, one that a notoriously picky eater like myself has refused to acquire. In his defence, I’ve only seen him in two things, this and Dungeons and Dragons, and neither is exactly a showcase for his… talents.
The underwater battle at the end of the film, that wants to be a nautical Return of the Jedi but turns out more like Thunderball.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt spends most of his screen time buried under prosthetics and while he’s going for full ham, it just doesn’t work. Chris Latta left some very big shoes to fill.
Sienna Miller tries, but lacks the accent for the Baroness. And tying her into Duke’s backstory makes things needlessly convoluted and coincidental. So, you’re telling me this grunt’s ex is now being mind controlled by the bad guy, who’s also her brother who the grunt thought he failed to save? That level of coincidence only happens in bad comics, and occasionally in games I run.

The good, and there is… some:
Every time Storm Shadow loses his shirt. Lee Byung-hun isn’t quite my cup of tea, but damn
I spent the time during Brendan Fraser and Kevin J O’Conner’s cameos thinking of a much better Stephen Sommers film I could be watching. Speaking of that film, Arnold Vosloo looks to be having the most fun out of any of the cast in this film, which given that Channing Tatum, Christopher Ecclestone and Sienna Miller (who hadn’t known they made a second one) have nothing positive to say doesn’t seen that hard. Ecclestone does manage to sound Scottish at times though, which is more than Destro ever managed in the cartoon.

Is it bad and should you watch it? Yes and No. It’s not Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen, but I’ve taken shots to the knackers more pleasant than that film. Now, to speak of the sequel… 2013’s GI Joe: Retaliation still isn’t a good film, but it’s a vastly more entertaining one. Jettisoning most of the cast of the first film (The only returning cast being Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Jonathan Pryce (The President/Zartan), Byung-hun and Tatum) and adds The Rock, who A: is aware of what sort of film he’s in and what the audience want, that being him shooting giant guns and showing off his arms. It also mostly discards the gritty tone for a more over the top feel, best illustrated by the sequence that has groups of colour coded ninjas having sword fights while swinging from mountains. Jonathan Pryce spends most of his time chewing the scenery, which nicely makes up for Bruce Willis mostly sleepwalking through it. All in all, it’s just more fun, and that’s what I wanted. I went in hoping for a stupid action movie and I got one.

it is now long past time for sleep. Good night all. Be seeing you….

How do we play this game again?

My last 3 purchases of note have been a (foam) main gauche, a fancy shirt and a leather pauldron. What else is my tax return for but to make me happy? And yes, I have been watching the BBC Musketeers again, how did you know? That’s not the only version I’ve been watching though – I found the 1989 Return of the Musketeers on YouTube and it’s… not great. On the other hand, there’s a 1966 BBC TV adaption that survives and for how I feel about it, well, brace your eardrums and hit play on the following video.

BRIAN BLESSED makes everything better. There are reasons why Porthos is the most entertaining character in near every adaption I’ve seen.

Lockdown seems to be ending soon, partially, which means people I don’t live with can visit my house! And not just to deliver food and goods! This also means Bombshells (The pulp game I’m running) is back on soon and thus I should look over my notes and re-read the game rules again. We ended on a cliff hanger (There are some traditions I’m not willing to mess with), but a refresher never hurt. It’s been some time, but I’m really looking forward to in-person gaming again. Speaking of gaming, last weekend I got to game with people outside my regular circle for the first time in well, a long time. Before the Dark Times. Before the lockdowns… *Ahem* Anyhow, despite the issues I have with online play, it was still a joy. It also reminded me that I tend to game differently in one-shots. I’m quite a nervous man. In that respect I’m like a German vegetarian, I fear the wurst*. But in one-shots, the atmosphere is different. There’s that limited time frame, little to no need to worry about the future, just waiting for the right time to pull a stunt, or in one case, reveal that I was actually a many tentacled alien. (“What, human legs don’t bend like that? That’s a totally normal thing on this planet, that I am from.”) And it got me thinking.

The majority of the games I’ve played in, both tabletop and LARP, have been planned as long term. Some have ended abruptly, others have come to a natural end. Many have been killed by scheduling or just petered out. All things end. But this is more about me. I find that a longer the game goes on, the more I settle in and sit back, so to speak. Going “Yeah, I could do the thing, but there’s always next session.” When the clock isn’t ticking, I find myself just slowing down. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but it does get in the way of actually achieving anything. Much like trying to write things without a deadline, I need that extra shove to actually get things done. Combine that with me trying to work on just one of my half written projects I have rather than spending that time dithering over which one do I pick, I’ve bashed a few pages of notes and ideas into something possibly workable. it’s a beginning at least, and some much needed solace. Productivity has been wonderful for my mental health, despite the bad crash I had this week.

But I’m going into it with a goal – if it does actually happen, I want it to be a short term thing.

Why do I want to cut something short? Surely I should want games to run as long as possible? Well, no, Some background to this: there was a New Zealand LARP, Teonn I think, a few years back that my wife and I crewed for while on holiday. It was based around various nations making landfall on an as yet uncharted island, and I heard that one of the nations screwed up their arrival so badly that the consequences would be hitting them for nearly half the planned 3 year long campaign. I bloody love that. I can’t explain just why it makes me so happy, but it does.

Going into something knowing the clock is ticking and you only have so much time to make your mark on the world, it basically forces me to actually get involved with events, brings me out of my shell. I take risks in one-shots I’d never take in long running campaigns and I like that. I like contributing to games, being part of things, and sometimes I just have to force myself to do so. It makes for better games for everyone at the table, players and GM. And I want that. So, that’s where my thinking is at.

Anyhow, sleep beckons, and who am I to disagree? Good night. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

*You can thank/blame Andy Zaltzman for that joke.

Time is fleeting, and lockdown takes it’s toll

So, what have I been up to?

Not much. Bob’s Burgers continues to be a source of much needed joy. I started playing Far Cry 5 again, because blasting away at a facist theocratic cult seemed like a nice escape from the real world and yeah… Given that, I switched over to Saints Row 3. I also got some texts from Craig Kelly and while I deleted them immediately, I was almost pleased to get them, as I was starting to feel left out. Even so, I have been mature, and not gone on Twitter and called Kelly an incompetent fool who’s a member of a climate denying death cult who’s shackled his career to a career con artist. I may have tweeted him a screencap of one of the Iron Sheik’s more abusive tweets though… I’m not a saint. 

Short, sharp and to the point. #TeamSheik

in good news, there’s a new Iron Maiden album! I’ve only listened to it a few times so far, which means it’s far too early to give a proper review. It brings joy, unsurprisingly, even tinged by some fear, given singer Bruce Dickinson’s recent positive Covid test.  Every time I’ve seen them, it feels as if it could be the last time, but I don’t want it to be. I’m not ready for them to end yet, nor do I think I’ll ever be ready. That band is 5 years older than I am and it’s members have a combined age of over 350, so logically the end is closer than I’d like. I expect when they finally call it a day I’ll feel as if the sun won’t rise again. But that is not today…

*air guitar solo*

There’s change coming to the TARDIS as well, with the announcement that Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall are leaving Doctor Who. This also meant I had my about once a year or so look at a certain Twitter account and yes, it was as horrible as I expected. Said person has also been trying to get a Babylon 5 revival started and it makes my skin crawl to share a fandom with them. There’s disturbingly large parts of Who fandom that’s incredibly toxic, and  it’s that why I carefully curate what parts I involve myself with. That said I’ll really miss 13, not just because the pandemic meant we missed out on so much time with her or how angry she makes chunks of Who fandom. Making the right people angry is delightful. I used to be grumpy and rank the Doctors, whereas now I’m grumpy and I just love them all. Besides, the lockdown message that Whittaker put together was both pure joy and much needed advice and if you don’t like it, then you may not have a soul.

It just fill me with hope, and I need that about now,

My house has been keeping itself busy – we watched the 1932 version of The Mummy recently, and while good fun, I mostly found myself wanting to watch Pyramids of Mars again, which is never a bad thing. I introduced my wife to the first John Wick film and she didn’t hate it, which is what I was hoping for, I guess? There was an air of “What, was that it?” To be fair, the world building only really kicks in in part 2, but it seems like she’ll let me subject her to it. We’ve also watched Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, which was…. hmmm. The first tale wasn’t great, the second was mostly carried salvaged by Peter Woodward’s glorious scenery chewing. We’ve also started Crusade tonight, and were about half way through ep 1 before she needed to sleep, I can report her initial thoughts were “Oh hey, it’s Gary Cole!” and that Daniel Dae Kim is very pretty. She’s not wrong.

The greatest DVD extra ever made. Ever.

In good news, I found a place that has a cavalier hat blank A: at an affordable price and B: that actually has my size! Therefore, treat yo self! I figure, yes, I can wear it at events and at LARP’s, but mostly because it’ll make me happy. Unfortunately, they turned out to be out of stock, but gave me a refund. The search continues… I’ve found a couple of massive ones in leather, here and here, that have me tempted, but might be a bit too much for me, style wise. At least, for now….  There was a motivational quote I found recently that said: People will stare. Make it worth their while. I like that and may adopt it. It’s certainly come to mind when I’ve been gathering firewood while out walking on the weekends. Mind you, the other quote that comes to mind is “If no-one comes from the future to stop you from doing it, then how bad can it be?” We all find motivation in different ways. 

And yes, I continue to miss LARP. I’ve been eyeing off a sword or two, also under the treat yo self rule, but I keep coming back to ask myself, will I actually use them? Yes, I did order a main gauche, but it’s mostly reminded me that the most recent Captain Alatriste book was published in 2011 and still hasn’t been translated into English. Also, I’ve not seen the TV adaption, and while the movie version was beautiful, it’s telling small excerpts from the books instead of telling one book is infuriating. Still, Viggo Mortenson as Alatriste was near perfect casting. But I digress… Buying stuff just to make me happy doesn’t work as well as it used to, I need to have a purpose for my stuff. Yes, I could use a pretty sabre or another cloak, but with no games running at the moment, a short term happy “I have a shiny thing” boost will likely be overtaken by “Another thing I’m not using” sadness. Mind you, I have been eyeing off a fencing jacket, wanting one that’s both A: fitted to me and B: not in regulation HEMA black. It seems a more sensible long term investment and the dark purple it comes in is… wait for it…

If you weren’t expecting that, you’ve not been paying attention!

There’s more I could discuss, but sleep beckons. So yeah, take care of yourselves and each other, and I’ll be seeing you.

Nostalgia. It’s not all bad.

Getting used to the keyboard on my new laptop is taking longer than I thought. I’m sure in a couple of weeks every second word won’t be twice it’s correctly spelt size, but typing is taking roughly twice as long. Adjustment periods. *sighs* In it’s defense, the keyboard stays attached, which is an improvement.

Moving to good things! My wife and I have started watching Bobs Burgers, and there’s one moment that requires special attention. S3, Episode 17. Roughly 4 minutes in is one of the greatest one liners I think I’ll ever see. I’ve watched it multiple times and it has not brought any less joy. It may even get added to my wife and I’s inside joke roster. It’s a delightful show and well worth your time and not just for Kristen Schaal. And hey, Disney+ also has Burn Notice! Nice.

Staying with TV, I’ve been digging back into Stargate SG-1, partially for nostalgia, but mostly for gaming purposes. A friend is starting up a campaign soon using the new system and going back in to the show has brought back memories. Most are good – Bra’tac continues to be wonderful and Richard Dean Anderson’s snark is top notch. True, the episode where a 15 year old clone of O’Neill gets dropped off at a high school is kind of creepy to 41 year old me, and let’s not get started on the litany of bad decisions the Atlantis crew made. Continuing the game talk, a housemate is starting a lockdown Werewolf: the Forsaken game set in 1980’s Miami (Hence the earlier mention of a Burn Notice re-watch) and I’m tempted to run the Feng Shui adventure from the back of the 2nd Edition book, both to keep my hand in (As my Bombshells game is on lockdown hiatus*) and because I own it and haven’t run it yet. It’s my wife’s rule and it’s cut down my “That looks interesting and is $5” purchases by a sizable amount.

Given my GM style, Feng Shui is very much my style and I’m surprised I’ve not run it earlier. It’s relatively rules light, plays fast and encourages the sorts of over the top action that’s in my GM wheelhouse. Yes, you can run it grim and serious but we both know that’s not how I roll. (Yes, there’s the obvious ‘You roll terribly’ joke to be made. Very observant of you) I never engaged much with the metaplot back in the day, so digging into it has been welcome. I don’t have any further ideas yet, but a housemate’s idea (Taking the titles of HK action movies and basing things off them) is far from a bad one. Besides, there’s time. I don’t have a deadline yet unlike the other projects I should be writing. Attention spans…

(Look, I’d have used the hospital corridor from Hard Boiled, but Chow Yun Fat in a white suit…)

Outside that, things are much as they are. Trying to keep positive, monitor my media intake to help stay that way (I should under no circumstances listen to Spare Parts right now) and focus on the good things. Look at regular tasks with a sense of achievement rather than something too be endured. And I probably should have been asleep an hour ago instead of this.

Good night all. Be seeing you.

*It’s not that I can’t run on Discord, but I need to see my players at a table.. The lack of visual input and response, I can’t deal.

And so it goes on.


There may be more typos than normal this entry, as I’m typing on a new laptop and am still getting used to the keyboard. It’s not the quite delicious and non alcoholic rum I’m drinking, no sir.

There’s a new Iron Maiden album incoming! And yet, even such joyous news isn’t enough to lift me from the funk I’m in. I mean, it’s cause for delight as a general thing – there are reasons I describe them as my beloved after all, even when talking about their work of the 1990’s. (I have a soft spot for the Blaze era stuff, as the poor guy had a nigh impossible task. Anyway, Man on the Edge and Futureal are bangers, while the radio edit of The Angel and the Gambler is what the song should have been.) *ahem* Back to the point I was trying to make…. The first single, The Writing on the Wall is more a mid tempo, mid album kind of deal, as opposed to the more full throttle approach of say, 2 Minutes to Midnight or The Wicker Man* (To my ears the best song they’ve written in the last 25 years). I also may have issues with some of the lyrical content and imagery in the video. Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson is on record as being a Brexit supporter, and while this is far from the first time someone whose work I enjoy has some terrible opinions, I can’t put it aside. The last few years have burned away a lot of things from me, such as my taste for dystopia and a lot of my tolerance for… everything. So yeah. Happy with a side of I really didn’t want to know that.

There’s also a quibble or two about the album itself. The giant samurai Eddie on the cover looks fantastic, but seems lacking without a backdrop. That and it’s another double album, like 2015’s The Book of Souls. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with more Maiden, but I’ve never met a double album that couldn’t be a better single album. Much like when CD’s first came in and bands went “Let’s fill all the space!’ instead of perhaps cutting a filler track or two. Use Your Illusion, I’m looking at you… But yet, I like the freedom to go nuts and just release all that music. Sandanista, please come to the lobby courtesy phone. I freely acknowledge the two competing issues and am well aware of my hypocrisy.

There’s also the fact that *checks notes* it was recorded IN EARLY 2019. That’s right, they’ve been sitting on this for TWO FREAKIN YEARS. Yes, these things take time to promote etc and they were on a break in the Legacy of the Beast tour, true, but TWO YEARS? Do you know how that makes me feel? LET ME SHOW YOU, by using a gif from Bob’s Burgers, a delightful show that is well worth your time.

And yet, as angry as I am, like Homer and the sandwich (Even my Simpsons jokes are old enough to drink), I can’t stay mad at them. There’s more important things to be mad about, like anti mask protesters. And yeah, at the time of writing, 4 more weeks of lockdown. *sighs* It’s fine, it’s not as as I didn’t have anything to do during that time. I mean, I could be, but I’m struggling with a lack of motivation at the moment. Yes, there’s things I should be writing, but with no end in sight I’m lacking a deadline and as we well know, I’m terrible without them. *sighs* I keep looking at fancy hats and LARP kit, and while I don’t need them, I’m getting closer to pressing the button and treating myself. Speaking of that, we got a new PC and it can actually run things from this decade. I’m thinking Elite: Dangerous. Why? I know very little about the game and space exploration/trading isn’t quite my jam, but take a look at the list of voice packs available. I can have BRIAN BLESSED, Mira Furlan and Paul Darrow on my ship? I’M IN.

As for lockdown, I’ve taken to going for walks around my local area for a bit of solitude and to collect firewood. I need to remember not to take outdoor naps though. You need to remember the little joys in life, whether that be some peace and quiet, or setting fire to things. We each take joy in different things. Talking is a good thing, as rough as it can be. Therapy continues to help. I urge all out there to try it at least once. I’m trying to take things with positive perspective but the molehills still become mountains too damn quickly. *sighs* I have my first vaccine appointment booked as well. Audio book wise, I finally finished listening to Bloody Rose and am about halfway through Ahsoka. Good listening, though I’ll likely have to go back and listen to them again to catch all the details. Podcast wise, I’m dipping into Hamster with a Blunt Penknife, while The Bugle is a constant source of joy. And puns.

That’s enough for tonight. Take care of yourselves out there. Be seeing you.

*Also, if anyone has an affordable source for red leather trousers close to the ones that Janick Gers is wearing in the video for that song, I’ll make it worth your while.