All I need is an idea…

As a continuation of my previous post, here goes. So, I said there’s no point running something without an idea. Correct? Well, I’m writing this so I say I am. (My wife would be pleased with that.) I’ll try to elaborate a little on that. I might even stay on topic…

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In the past I’ve been guilty of getting too caught up in loving a setting. The swashbucklers I’ve run, Conan and when I’ve run Star Wars especially. I’ve somehow managed to dodge that with Doctor Who, mostly cause that universe is massive and laughs at continuity. Also, there’s that many different eras of the show to play around in, but I’m starting to get sidetracked. I’ve played in a few games over the years where the GM’s love of the setting comes over louder than a Motorhead show. Hell, I’ve been that GM more than once. It’s not a bad thing. but what I’m trying to get at here is I think that more is needed. What sort of story are you telling, what will your PC’s be doing? Do you have a reason for using this setting more than just ‘Well, I think it’s cool’?

Looking back at a lot of my events over the years, I haven’t. That doesn’t mean the games were bad (Though I cringe at a few of them), but the fact a lot of them were convention one-shots rather than campaigns my have helped as well. There’s less worry about world building when you’ve got three hours, though in games past I’ve spent a lot of that side tracked telling stories. I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. It’s something I’m working on with my GM’ing, trying to avoid distractions and keep everyone entertained. For a campaign though, I think more is needed. Normally for a con game I have an idea or an end scenario – badass Ewoks, Orc rockers etc. And in the past when I’ve tried to run campaigns, that’s also been about what I’ve had. I’ve gotten too excited about an idea or a setting, and dove in feet first without stopping to think about what I’m actually going to do.  A framework for things, a plan, authority figure NPC’s who are happy to see the PC’s.

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There’s also been plenty of times when people seem to be having fun and I’ve let them go on far too long, when I should have let them have a couple of minutes and then gently bring them back to the plot. I enjoy seeing people having fun in my events, it’s basically the primary reason I do this, but I’m the first to admit I get a bit too caught up in it from time to time. I love seeing happy people at my table, what can I say?

So, the two settings that have had me keen of late have been Crimson Skies and Torchwood. I’d been discussing the Torchwood game a while back as a short campaign and as previously noted, I’m currently awash in a dose of Crimson Skies nostalgia. So, what ideas do I have for them?

Crimson Skies
Air piracy, whether for or against is still not decided
Being recruited as consultants on Errol Flynn’s latest picture.
Sky Haven, a modern day Tortuga.
High stakes gambling.
A death defying air duel in and around Chicago skyscrapers.
Zeppelins. Some large and heavily armed, some small and speedy, some worthy of Bond villains.

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So, that’s some interesting ideas, but nothing quite enough to base a campaign around. I’ve also had a lot of temptation to hunt down a pilots jacket to wear while I GM. I’ve costumed to GM at cons before, and while I generally cringe seeing GM’s who wear cloaks and what not (Generally cause it’s only used for joke value), I can understand the appeal. It’s like a uniform. Heck, I remember seeing a guy in Dragon magazine years back who GM’d while wearing a referee’s jersey and used a whistle when his players got out of line. That’s a bit too intense for me, but I can understand a want to keep players in line. Getting back to the point…

Torchwood: Sydney
The arc was going to be someone from Torchwood’s past who still bore a grudge. Possibly an alien stuck on Earth who wanted to get away and didn’t care if the planet burned in the process.
A Silurian hive underneath Sydney Harbour.
Time travel to visit an earlier version of Torchwood, possibly located in Razorhurst.
A surprise visit from the Corsair.
Alien hallucinogens being sold as party drugs.
Tensions with the local UNIT branch.
How many local celebrities are actually aliens?
SIDE NOTE: I was also planning to blow up the Ivy Bar at some point, but that’s cause I had to go there once after a team building work event and immediately wanted to set fire to the place. I have never felt so uncomfortable and out of place in a venue and hope never to again.

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Where am I going with this? Not sure. Putting things down helps sort them in my head for one thing. To work out why I want to run something, to have a plan I guess. I’m a better GM for my mistakes, but I still have plenty to learn. That’s not a bad thing, as uncomfortable as it can be to admit.

To any GM’s out there reading this, what approach do you take?

Be seeing you…

Expectations, revelations and… air piracy?

What’s been going on of late? Let me fill you in.

Unsurprisingly, Niece did not take to Babylon 5. According to her, the 1st ep was dull and while there were a couple of bits she liked in Parliament of Dreams, by her face she’d checked out halfway through. A friend on Twitter suggested I try In The Beginning, but that’s both A: full of spoilers and B: I’m not sure she’d manage that right now. With some fairly heavy pancake based bribery I might be able to get another episode or two past her (I’m hoping that will be Signs and Portents), but it won’t be for a while.

To make it worse, I arrived home late on the Friday night, having made my first accidental trip to Woy Woy in about 20 years and walked in on her steadfastly refusing to watch Muppet Treasure Island, as in her words ‘puppets aren’t funny.’ Look, she’s 12, and admitting you’re wrong at that age isn’t easy. She’d convinced herself that she wouldn’t enjoy B5 and she didn’t. But not liking the Muppets? It’s like being a heavy metal fan and not liking Maiden. Or, to put it another way, INCONCEIVABLE!

Going back to B5, watching the early eps again reminded me of the vast amounts of world building in the show, and also of how much I want a cape like G’Kar’s. There’s parts of that show’s wardrobe I’ve long wanted – I’m still tempted to put a tax return into getting the lapels taken off a jacket to look like Sheridan’s S5 wardrobe or a replica of Marcus’s Ranger outfit. Again with the swashbuckling. Cape wise, I’ve wanted one for a long, long time, something like this or maybe one of these. I’ve put them off, by dint of not being in stock, not in Australia or not having events to wear them at. Thanks Covid 19! A friend suggested buying one as a belated birthday present and having just made some extra cash from selling an old Warhammer 40K book, I may well take the plunge. I do enjoy swashing my buckle, if you know what I mean…

Rapier will hopefully be starting again soon on Tuesday nights and while the plan for Saturday class has changed, I’m still hoping to make it back there as well. Before the break, the plan for term 4 in Saturday class was sword and shield followed by sword and buckler and I’m a bit sad to miss that. Maybe next year.

Switching topics, for nostalgia’s sake I fired up Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on the Xbox last night for a couple of hours and gods, I love that game. I’d also finally realized that the voice of the main character is Timothy ‘Lassie from Psych‘ Omundson. I loved the clicky game from the early 2000’s (I still have a bunch of planes for it) and the PC game which I own but don’t have a system that can run. GOG.com, hurry up please? It reminded me of how much I dig the world, both the more slightly more grounded clicky and PC versions and the batshit nuts mecha zeppelins with lightning guns of the Xbox game.

It also reminded me of how much I’d love to play in the universe in RPG terms and while there was a board game version, there’s not been an official RPG. Savage Worlds seems a natural fit, which has the added benefit of me not having to learn a new system. Possibly Spirit of the Century or Atomic Robo, or do I go all out and write a convention freeform? I do enjoy dressing up for that sort of thing… There’s no shortage of anti-heroes and out and out villains, swashbuckling, zeppelins and pulp whackiness. As that feeling started to wave over me, filled with promise and ideas I smacked myself upside the head and reminded myself that I already have a game to write, one that has a deadline. There’s been progress on that, but also a lot of fiddling and research. I’m getting closer to when my head starts to work and the words really start to flow, thankfully.

Still, there’s been a revelation, that should not be a surprise to those who know me.
Ideas, I have them. Out the waazoo. Constantly. My brain and Google Drive is stuffed with ideas and part written concepts.
The drive to actually have them completed? That’s not so much there.
And that’s been the way, for as long as I can remember. Other people harassing me to get stuff done sometimes works, but can lead to resentment. Deadlines help, in some cases. But generally panic. there’s times when things will click and start to work, but it’s the matter of trying to get stuff down on the page that can be a struggle.

The second not a revelation is thus: I can love a setting to bits, but there’s no point in running something in it unless I have an idea for what to do within it. My short lived Conan LARP fell over cause I’m very possessive over the setting, as we’ve previously discussed. I need an idea for it, otherwise it’s just me going “I love this thing, why don’t you love it as much as I do” but without demonstrating why it’s actually fun. That’s been a failing of mine for a long time and while I’m sure I’ll fall victim to it again, at least if I recognize it I can try to guard against it.

More to follow. Be seeing you…

*smouldering glance across a crowded room*

So, Pride and Prejudice is done, I have watched all 6 episodes.

Thoughts follow:
Every time Julia Sawalha was on screen, I kept hoping they’d sneak in Dexter Fletcher somewhere in the background.
I kinda want a spin off of Mr Bennett giving no fucks for any stupidity, in the same way I want one for Foggy and Stick from Daredevil.
Colin Firth has a damn good line in brooding. There were points where I wondering if he was being paid by brood rather than by line. He’s not exactly my type, but I can certainly understand why he’d inspire such a dedicated following.
I am very much looking forward to viewing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, if only to see the fight between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine my wife let slip happens near the end. Lordy, the verbal smack the lady in that scene delivered deserved to be met with a glove slap and words of challenge.
My wife continues to be amused at how much I was heckling the screen at various points. Ordinarily I’m one of those “You talk during a show, you can die alone” kind of people, but I couldn’t help myself getting caught up in it. It also helps that I’m fairly certain my wife can recite it from memory, so I wasn’t interrupting things. And now, my soon to be brother in law (Who hasn’t seen it yet) has no excuse!

In other news, I have my first brain doctor appointment in a couple of months on Wednesday, and by Crom, I’ll have some stuff to talk about. Some good, some bad and some ugly. You know, the usual. The brain has been up and down, but I’m trying to keep it together. I was amused to find that my wife is the only one of the 4 of us in the house that isn’t going to the same psychologist’s practice. I’m in agreement with a housemate that she should go for a few sessions, if only to go “Augh, those fuckers I live with!”*

Operation: Indoctrinate Niece Further into Geekdom (I should have had something that makes an acronym really) is progressing well.
ME: Do you know the price for your next visit?
HER: *sighs* Babylon 5…
I’ve told her it’s OK if she doesn’t like it. It’s not that OK, but it’s OK. I also may have joked last time we saw her that when next we meet it’ll be the dawn of the third age of mankind…  The stories of her D&D campaign continue to be inspiring, notably in her enthusiasm and love for the game, and I’m told her dice collection is growing at great speed. I’m very, very proud.

The plan, as much as I have one, is to show her the first episode (Midnight on the Firing Line) then skip straight to The Parliament of Dreams. Because, while they have their moments, Soul Hunter and Born to the Purple aren’t exactly blockbusters and can be skipped for the moment. If things go well, we can easily go back to them. As for Infection, it’s less bad than I remember, but still not exactly great. Parliament, on the other hand, is where we first meet Lennier and Na’Toth, and it gives up this wonderful moment:

I’ve had that song stuck in my head the better part of the last few weeks, so if I can spread it further I’ll be amused.  Plus, there’s also this just as wonderful moment:

I’m not expecting her to like it, but I can hope, right? I’m also hoping to find time to introduce her properly to the Muppets, likely with Treasure Island. It’s that or show her highlight clips on YouTube, from Miss Piggy’s Karate chops to Waldorf and Statler heckling. Gods, I adore those two.

That’s enough for tonight. I shall return soon, where if you’re unlucky, I’ll tell you about the characters I’m playing in my current RPG sessions

Be seeing you…

*Whether she means the humans or possums she shares a house with is still unclear.

*sigh*

My phone’s battery is draining faster than normal, there’s a small crack in the screen in one corner and it needs a new case. That’s also how I feel at the moment. Tired, easily drained and battered. I dented my head on the flap of a cardboard box this afternoon, something I’d been paranoid about doing for basically all my time at my current workplace. Less about denting my head, but more about taking out an eye. For context, the dent is above my right eyebrow so close, but no cybernetic eye required. On that note, it’s 2020 – where are my easily available cybernetics? R TALSORIAN GAMES, YOU LIED TO ME!

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Stupid bag of flesh I cart around. There’s been random aches, almost as if every day a different part of me has chosen to go wrong. Not to break, but irritate. The flesh is weak. Not to mention what I think is a massive mouth ulcer somewhere near the back of my top jaw. I can’t find a specific spot to numb it, which likely means the cure involves either less stress or a lot of Vegemite toast. Things haven’t been great brain wise the last few days on top of that, and I’m just aching for the week to be over.

There’s been bright spots mind you. Hearing that Godson, Aged 2 and a Half saw Keanu Reeves on the telly and went “Uncle Gavin?” was delightful. I don’t see the resemblance, but I’m flattered all the same. Secondly, my anniversary gift for my wife arrived late last week, and I’m still floored by the result. All praise to Leigh of Pen and Inkcap (Who also took the photo below) for her gorgeous work! I’m already contemplating commissioning further work from her, both involving Londo Mollari dialogue*. Surprise, surprise I know.

Screenshot_2020-06-25 Pen and Inkcap ( pen_and_inkcap) • Instagram photos and videos

Mind you, that also brought about the horrific discovery that Niece, Age 12 hasn’t seen the Muppets and THIS WILL NOT STAND, SO LONG AS THERE IS BREATH IN MY BODY. Alas I didn’t get time to show her Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody but soon. I also continue take great delight in the stories of her D&D campaign, even if they do occasionally make me feel inadequate as a GM. She’s running 5-6 players, everyone with 2 characters and doing stuff like writing epic songs for slain PC’s. Geez kiddo, leave some awesome for the rest of us OK?

I’m also hatching plans with my wife to introduce her to Babylon 5. I think the introduction will be tricky (We don’t get much time with her, the show’s from the mid 90’s and likely very slow for a modern 12 year old), but I think she’ll dig the epic scope of things. What I want for most, even more than her liking the show, is the chance to see it afresh through her eyes. To see her reactions to events, without expectations or spoilers. What does she think of Londo and G’Kar? How will she react to the first sight of a Shadow vessel? Will she squee mightily at Sheridan and Delenn’s romance? I DON’T KNOW. But I really hope I get the chance to find out. If I see her this weekend I’ll try to sound her out about it.

Sleep soon, hopefully. My next brain doctor appointment is in a couple of weeks, and by Crom will I have some things to talk about. It’s good to talk. With what she’s taught me I’m working through my junk better, or at least not being hammered into the ground for quite as long, but I always look forward for the chance to talk with her. Therapy is good, and I recommend it to all, even if you think you don’t need it.

I want Covid to be over, to see other people in person, and at the same time to be alone. I’m reminded of a gag I saw about how quarantine must be great for introverts and how it’s not, cause there’s all these people in my house and they won’t leave. I love my wife dearly, adore my housemates, but I miss having the house to myself. Not for too long, as that does other things to my head, but I miss it.

Be seeing you…

PS: No, we aren’t any further in Pride and Prejudice. Just in case you were wondering.

* I’m torn between “This is like being nibbled to death, by cats!” or “But in purple, I’m stunning!

Pride and S-foils to attack positions!

So, I’m going to start with what I assume you’re all raring to see: a update on my progress through the BBC Pride and Prejudice. Well, we’re through episode 3 and while I haven’t seen any further Doctor Who alumni, Mr Collins later played Cicero in Rome. a show that deserved more airtime damnit. The accent caught my ear, and a quick Google confirmed it. I also can’t help but think that the lady playing Mrs Bennett played Mrs Miggins in Blackadder the Third. She didn’t (I checked), but I can’t help but think it whenever she starts to speak. I really hope I’m not alone in that…

Mr Bennett’s dry gives no fucks attitude is a refreshing contrast, and I’m curious to see how he’s represented in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’m also slightly kicking myself for not comparing Mr Darcy’s time brooding to his time spent speaking – I was half expecting him to make it through all of episode 2 without speaking. Still, Firth broods really well. It’s the sort of brood I’d expect to see on a gargoyle in Gotham City, quality stuff. It takes work and skill to do that sort of thing and the further I get into the show, the more I can understand the cult that built up around the performance.

Moving on, let’s analyze some recent trailers! First off, the announcement trailer for Star Wars: Squadrons, EA’s latest multiplayer game.

I can sum up my initial feelings in two words:

Danger. Zone.


To give some more detail, this is the sort of game I’m after. I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of my teens playing through X:Wing and TIE Fighter and the idea of a modern version of those games has long been a dream of mine. While the Battlefront games (both old and new) had their moments, they didn’t scratch the itch enough for my tastes. The trailer looks mighty spiffy, both sides have female pilots (Representation, fuck yeah!) and we get a quick look at Hera Syndulla and Wedge Antilles. Though TIE Bombers having a beam weapon (as seen at 1:08) – where the hell was that? I’m not as up on Star Wars canon as I used to be, but if someone can explain that I’d appreciate it.

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Cars, sports, beer? Nahhh, this was my Friday nights as a teen.

I’m still not quite sold on multiplayer gaming (Outside of Destiny 2 my biggest stint was playing Battlefield 1942 back in the day) and was very pleased by the inclusion of  a single player campaign, but I’m certainly looking forward to trying to shoot down friends. Mostly, I just want the experience of being in a massive skirmish and not having to be the main character. Let me fly in the Battle of Endor or Jakku and let me go. If friends can heckle me as I get shot down constantly, all the better. Hey, I love the games but I’ve never claimed to actually be good at them.

The mix of ships seems standard, though I eagerly await the complaining about bringing in EU ships, or trying to balance the TIE Defender against everything else. I’m biased – the X:Wing is one of my favorite fictional ships, matched only by the Earth Alliance Starfury and I’m always keen for the chance to sit behind the controls. I may have spent more time playing TIE Fighter and the Empire does have a snappier theme tune, but to lock S-foils in attack position is a childhood dream.

Starfury
It’s just gorgeous and NASA want to adopt the design.

Moving on, we also got the first trailer for the long in development hell Bill and Ted Face the Music.

I don’t know what to think. I have a lot of love for those movies, though I’m the first to admit that parts haven’t aged all at well. The story idea seems strong, at least workable, we don’t see enough of the cast to really get an image, but Reeves and Winter sure look like they never left the roles. Granted, Reeves is more well known these days for murdering his way through most of New York’s underworld in the John Wick movies, so seeing him as the lovable slacker we met him as mostly makes nostalgic for my youth and feel very old.

Mostly, I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping it doesn’t suck, you know? Belated sequels aren’t a good starting point, so I’m hoping this works. Better representation, hopefully giving the princesses and their offspring something to do and telling a good story. Isn’t that too much to ask? I’d just be happy of 2020 gave us some good news, something to enjoy you know? Surely we can get that, can’t we?

Calling from the Funhouse, with my song

I am ‘the excite’, as I was informed the millennials say. (I thought it was the kids, but I’m even more out of touch than I thought.) The news I found today was something of a bolt out of the blue, and to call it a welcome surprise is putting it midly.

Tapes have been found of the last show of the Stooges original lineup, apparently found in a Michigan farmhouse’s basement of all places. The show was at the Goose Lake Festival, August 8 1970, and is a full run through of the album Funhouse from go to whoa. To fans, this is massive. I spent most of the afternoon after getting the news in a state best described as a quivering mass of excitement. A far more eloquent writer than I described it as the ‘Rosetta Stone of punk’, and I can’t dispute that.

There’s been myths for decades about professionally recorded Stooges shows. Yes, there’s the legendary Metallic KO album (The only live album I know of where the singer keeps track of what’s being hurled at the band from the audience), but as performances go it’s far from optimal. There’s been dozens, if not hundreds, of bootlegs and rehearsal tapes issued and most of those from the bands later, more destructive days or from the mid 2000’s reunion. So to find tape like this, let alone in such quality is rare as hen’s teeth.

How can I describe this to non-fans? It’s like finding a copy of  Loves Labours Won, or footage of Frank Oz performing Miss Piggy on Dagobah during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. The band produced some of the most vital and influential music in their/all time and there are bare scraps of footage of them in their prime. One track has been uploaded to streaming services, with the full show to be released on August 7th. I can’t wait.

I have been accused (mostly by myself) of being evangelical about the music I like and on that charge I’m proudly guilty. I can’t help wanting to share this with people – it makes me so happy, so maybe it’ll have the same effect on others, right? Mostly it doesn’t, but from time to time things have worked. I got my wife into the New York Dolls, and she was very nervous when she told me she preferred them to the Ramones. Look, that’s OK, everyone has different opinions. It’s not that OK, but far from a deal breaker. But I can’t help wanting to share the things I love with people in the hope that I can share the love.

Digging around, whether through bargain bins or old interviews can produce amazing things. That’s how I discovered music in my early days. “So, this band said they liked these bands, so I’ll check them out.” That’s how I found about the New York scene centered around CBGB’s, and the Detroit scene of the late 60’s. Things can turn up in unexpected places – Mongolia or Central Australia for two examples. Look, this pandemic has made me realize I miss a lot of things. To go into the street and not worry, to play RPG’s face to face instead of over Discord, fencing practise and I really miss dressing up for LARP. But what I miss most of all is live music. The sweat, the excitement, the shared feeling of joy. Of a group of strangers coming together to share in something they all love.

I got reminded a few weeks back that I should have seen Iron Maiden by now, and they might not be back until 2022. As much as I want people to be safe, and I do, I miss the shared atmosphere of a concert, whether the intimacy of a tiny room or a stadium filled with people. A life without live music, you might as well remove a limb, it’d be less painful.  Stay safe people, and take care of each other. Remember to be kind, even, especially when this is over.

Be seeing you.

“Light the fuse and cue the theme music!”

What am I up to?

Work, puttering about the house, playing Destiny 2 with a dear friend online and I picked up False Values, the latest book in the Rivers of London series, on the weekend. It’s reminded me both that I need to look into the graphic novels and the upcoming RPG. In something I’m sure that both my wife and sister considered looooooong overdue, I sat down with my wife tonight and watched the first episode of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. It was… something. I got very excited at seeing Christopher Benjamin appear, and only made a couple of zombie killing jokes and one connecting Mrs Bennett and Emperor Palpatine. I had thought I understood the appeal of the Firth beforehand, but this is giving me a wider window into things, so to speak.

Firth

I’ve also been binge watching the Mission Impossible films on Netflix. I’d say it’s research for The Troubleshooters and it kind of is, but I need some refuge in absurdity right now, something to take me away from the real world.  Absurd escapades, death defying stunts, self destructing messages, vehicles that explode at the drop of a hat and Tom Cruise doing more running in one film than a Doctor Who companion would do in a decade. Look, they’re good silly escapist fun and that’s what I want in an action movie. That and the good guys win, and in times like this I need all of that I can get. Mind you, John Polson’s Australian ‘acting’ in the second one is beyond awful, though John Woo going full John Woo* directing almost makes up for it.

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As for Troubleshooters, I have ideas ticking away in the back of the head. The Kickstarter funded, and I’m patiently awaiting the book. As for plot, secret Nazi enclaves**, a criminal group planning world domination and a problem to solve in a different glamorous international location (And by that I mean a BBC studio and/or nearby quarry) each week. Look, the source material is based off 1960’s European comics about which I know relatively little. But I like to think I understand the style the designer wrote about and can use that as a base, just with some added Martini. Why yes, I am planning to frame the campaign as an 60’s BBC espionage TV show, what of it?

It’s certainly my preferred flavor of espionage, and very close to my default GM’ing style. I don’t know why I first started making jokes about crap sets, cheap explosions and reusing extras (Though I’m almost certain Doctor Who has a lot to do with it), but it seems to work for me. And more importantly my players seem to enjoy it, and they’re the reason I keep doing this. Yes, I have stories or situations I want to explore, but mostly I want to distract and entertain people for a few hours. And I’m having fun brainstorming plot – I mean, you should have seen my look of joy this afternoon when it clicked for me that I could write an adventure using the line  ‘a dark spectre of espionage hangs over far Hawaii.’ I’m very excited for the game, and am looking forward to stepping back behind the screen again, nerves be damned.

Pheno prep is also coming along OK. It’s Blurbsmas time, the wordiest time of the year, which is the signal for me that I really should be writing. To add to the anticipation, here’s the latest version of the blurb:

“Summoned I come. In Valen’s name I take the place that has been prepared for me. I am Grey. We stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light.”

Valen has disappeared. A Minbari not born of Minbari, who appeared in their hour of greatest need, led them to victory against the Shadows and formed the Grey Council, has gone. And now, the Council is to meet for the first time without his presence.

The Council requires a leader to be chosen from among them to replace him, but who can hope to match his legacy? They had united behind Valen, but with the war won what is to happen now? Some speak of destiny or prophecy, while others look to more practical or personal matters.

This is a time of great change, both for the Minbari people and for the Council. The destiny of the Minbari for the next thousand years is in flux and none among them know what could happen next…

What’s the game again? Choosing the destiny of the Minbari people.
Seriousness: 4
Genre/Setting: The Babylon 5 universe, roughly 1000 years before the TV show begins.
System: Systemless freeform.
Movie Rating: PG, with some adult themes

I’m still fiddling with it, and there’s plenty more to write on the game, but I have time up my sleeve.

Kosh

* Well, as full John Woo as you can get without Chow Yun-Fat
** Takes me back to my favorite ever Get Smart joke: “Because arriving today from our glorious fatherland, South America!”

The 10 Shows challenge

So, a friend challenged me to the latest Facebook fad, ‘Name 10 TV shows that have influenced you.’ I can’t resist the chance to talk about things I love, so here I go.

Doctor Who
“I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.”
How can I not love the show? As Craig Ferguson put it, the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Action, adventure and the most terrifying theme tune that 9 year old me had ever heard, at least before Chocky. I don’t remember a bit about that show, other than I raced to change the channel when it began. I still remember my first encounters with the good Doctor, the end of Ep 2 of The Sontaran Experiment and Ep 1 of The Deadly Assassin, which stuck with me for years, as did my crush on Sophie (Ace) Aldred.

I still prefer the classic series to the new, the cliffhanger format and nostalgia stick with me more. There’s something I adore about crap special effects and the mad ambition to try to do things they clearly didn’t have the time and budget for. That BBC low budget charm has even snuck into how I run RPG’s, as I now have trouble stopping myself from making jokes about crap special effects and reusing extras. I adore it when it’s great and when it’s rubbish, sometimes especially when it’s rubbish.

The Late Show (ABC)
“At Pissweak World, where every week, is Pissweak!”
Ah, Champagne comedy. I adored this show as a teen, and felt like the only one in my age group who knew of it during the first season.There’s moments that have stuck with me for decades – Pete Smith singing Dude Looks Like a Lady, Shitscared, the re-voicing of classic shows Rush and Bluey (The police drama, not the cartoon dog) and the reveal that Shirty, the Slightly Aggressive Bear was being played by Hando from Romper Stomper. My father and I bonded over westerns as a young’un, and my mother and I bonded over watching this. You could say I went from “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to “My orders simple, a shitload of dim sims.”

Yes, some of it has confusing references and parts have aged horribly (There’s a couple of pieces of blackface that even as a kid I thought was ill-advised), but the Play School gag in The Olden Days kills me every time.

The Prisoner
“We want information, information, information.”
This was one of these shows I’d heard about for years, but never seen, a bit like The Aunty Jack Show. Iron Maiden wrote songs about it, it’s been referenced in The Simpsons an it was seen as a landmark event. Upon watching it, it’s even stranger than described, with a finale that allegedly caused the TV channel’s switchboard to melt down from angry viewers calling to ask what the hell they’d just watched.

A secret agent resigns, is drugged and wakes up in a mysterious Village, where everyone is known only by numbers. And he is Number 6…And then shit gets weird. Multiple escape attempts, psychological warfare, super computers and a security system that has a massive balloon that swallows people. It’s an experience and then some.

Danger Mouse
“He’s amazing, he’s fantastic, he’s the greatest secret agent in the world!”
The Thames TV ident that played before this is seared into my brain. The mix of comedy, references to other shows, shattering the Fourth wall and the occasional blizzard of puns, it just makes me so happy. It’s also my wife and I’s longest running dispute, owing to her clearly wrong preference for Roger Ramjet.

I choose to believe this is where my love of spy films came from and going back to the show as a adult led me to get more of the jokes. The new version is well worth watching as well, with Stephen Fry making a wonderful Colonel K.

The Goodies

“Goodies, goodie goodie yum yum…”
Looking back on the show as an adult, I’m surprised we were allowed to watch it, but with the innocence of youth (And some aid from ABC censors) we managed it. There was a couple of years of my childhood where weekday afternoons were this, Monkey and Doctor Who, with Danger Mouse and Banana Man to fill in the gaps. Those were wonderful days.

A reminder: this show once killed a man from laughter.

Babylon 5
“It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind…”
I came to the show somewhat out of order, a friend introducing me to season 1, just as season 5 began to air here. I was trying to suppress questions about what had happened to that character while frantically collecting tapes to fill in the gaps. It was the first show I’d seen with a long running arc, a five year plan of series creator J Michael Straczynski,
who wrote every episode of seasons 3 and 4 and all but one from season 5, a feat to my knowledge no other writer has achieved. Oh, and Neil Gaiman wrote the missing season 5 episode.

There was a reading from the show at my wedding, having made my now-wife watch it while we were dating. The finale hits me with so much emotion I’ve only managed to watch it 3 times. For perfect endings it’s up there with Blake’s 7 and Angel for me. The show is also where I got my love of mandarin collar shirts, which continues to this day.  And I’d put Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas against any actors on TV, then or now.

The Daily Show

“Finally, a guy who says what people who aren’t thinking are thinking.”
A comedy news show that left it’s viewers better informed than some news channels, it also introduced me to the likes of (Former co-host of The Bugle podcast) John Oliver, Stephen Colbert (Who’s speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner has to be seen to believed) and Samantha Bee (Who’s current show Full Frontal is just as glorious).

This made the list for many, many reasons, not just for the time that they got a gospel choir to tell a Fox News higher up to go fuck himself. *chef kiss*

The Young Ones/Bottom

“This calls for a very special blend of psychology and extreme violence.”
The Young Ones
introduced me to Motorhead, and for that reason alone means I have  a lot of love for it. It was filthy, anarchic and frequently shattered both the Fourth Wall and any and all sitcom logic.

It ties with Bottom, which was Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson basically playing fouler versions of Rik and Vyv. It doesn’t rate as quite highly for me, but for the live shows where actors spent seemingly half the show trying to make the other corpse make me giggle far more than they should.

Frontline
“Mike Moore has this network’s support right up until the day we sack him.”
From the team behind The Late Show, this was a ferocious satire of current affairs TV shows that hit screens just as my left wing awakening began. It was filmed and broadcast on a short deadline and was frequently ripped from the headlines.

The team have continued with films like The Castle and The Dish, and shows such as Utopia, but the less said about Funky Squad the better.

Red Dwarf
“It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere.”
The show that made Patrick Stewart think of suing, till he laughed. It’s also responsible for me yelling “Smeg!” at several jobs, with varying levels of confusion and/or horror at what I’ve just yelled. I came into the show in it’s golden years, seasons 3 to 6. It continues to this day, though I’m not up to date with the current run.

3 million years into the future, the last human left alive is a curry and beer swilling slob, a creature who evolved from his cat and a hologram of his dead bunkmate. Equal parts love letter to and parody of sci fi TV, moments from that immediately latched into my skull on first viewing and haven’t left.

So yeah, that’s my 10 shows. Honorable mentions include Leverage, Stargate SG-1, Banana Man, Get Smart, Life on Mars, The Colbert Report and Media Watch. I refuse to challenge any others, but if you want to, go for it.

Be seeing you…

Triggers, and how to deal with them?

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
HL Mencken

As quotes go, that’s one that’s stuck with me for a long time*. Sounds kinda badass doesn’t it? It’s been back in the head the last couple of days. I get that based on that I don’t sound too well, but I’m doing better than my last update. The brain is more high than low, even with today’s “Oh hey, that event you were going to pre-Covid would have started today” reminder. As useful a tool as Facebook can be, sometimes I really want to punch it.

I’m also prepping a playlist for my house’s Christmas party, which is to be apocalypse themed. Yes, it’s bold to assume we’ll be able to host one, and not in the greatest of taste, but we were preparing for it pre-Covid and we’re going through with it! My theming, at the time of writing, is pick your own apocalypse. Was it Biblical, did the robots rise up or kaiju emerge from beneath the waves? Have the Daleks invaded, was the bomb dropped, or were the Stars just Right?  It’s far from complete, and needs more Ragnarok for one thing, but it’s been keeping my brain occupied and that’s been welcome.

Anyhow, I’ve been musing and yes, there is a point to this. I have a few triggers. Make that a lot of triggers. Most of these are inconsequential, such as things reminding me of a song, or a TV show. The board game Operation reminds me of Tripod’s The Hot Dog Man**, while the Phantom of the Opera takes me back to a Wharf Revue skit. Normal stuff, at least relatively normal. But as we’ve seen with recent posts, some of those triggers are more potent than others. The things that will take me from a good day to a miserable one in seconds. The things that shatter my self esteem or leave me near burning with rage.

How I deal with them has been an evolving process. I have a long history of trying to ignore them, or distracting myself with something else unhelpful and thus feeling worse later. If crushing my resentments so deep down they become a tiny diamond was a sport I’d be Olympic level. This had me musing about my snapping point. What could it take for me to break? What’ll be my one bad day, the event that’ll make me go full Howard Beale or William Foster? Do I even have one? Probably not, let’s be honest. I’m not a confrontational man by nature, far more comfortable out of the limelight. I’ve a long list of “20 minutes after” lines, things I wish I’d said stacked away in the back of my brain, from missed opportunities, good jokes, or in one case, possibly crossing swords in the parking lot***.

As I’ve said, I’m not a violent man. I’ve had people jokingly bet about the body count when/if I snap, but the older I get the less funny I find that. There’s been times in the last few years when I’ve come closer to giving in to the impulse and lashing out, mostly verbally. Thankfully, things have gotten in the way, sometimes fear or politeness, or just having nothing to say at the time. There’s plenty of internet flame wars I’ve been tempted to join, but the realization that nothing I add to this will help generally holds me back, no matter how eloquent or impassioned my words may be. Whether it’s joining in on a torches and pitchforks mob, or sticking my nose into a heated discussion, I know that staying out, not inflaming things, is the smarter thing to do. But damn, there’s times when I want to roll in, keyboard blazing and vent my rage upon the irritant with righteous fury. Usually I swallow that and go clean the kitchen. Other times it’s gardening, or murdering racists in Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m sure there’s healthier coping mechanisms, but these work for me.

Whatever the task, I find I need that sense of accomplishment to distract myself, to turn to the closest person nearby and say “I did a thing, please notice this!” I told that to my therapist and she responded that her husband does the same thing. It’s always nice to know you aren’t the only one who does something. I’m debating whether or not to move up my next appointment, but for the moment I’m hanging on. I’ll certainly have something to talk about, that’s for certain.

As always, thank you for continuing to read these. It means a hell of a lot to know I’m not just screaming into the void. I didn’t start these to help people, but if just one person knows they aren’t alone, it’s been worth it. Take care of yourselves, and each other. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better, so please, look out for others. Kindness is punk as fuck.

Be seeing you.

* Don’t judge me. The line “I struggle to understand people who say they’d kill for a religion, but then I remember if Optimus Prime asked me to kill someone they’re a dead man” has been stuck in there for longer.
** “OPERATION? GET FUCKED!
*** The line I wanted to use was “I’d prefer to settle this peacefully and without any bitterness but if you have an alternative method you prefer, such as crossing swords in the parking lot, then I accept the challenge.” I’d still like to use the line someday.

What goes up…

I should have known. Things go well, I talk about it, and the universe corrects that course. I’d been doing well of late, though I’ve probably slept more in the last few days than I should have. There was some not great news, combined with seeing some relics from high school/my early 20’s and well…

IndolentBountifulHuman-size_restricted

That period of my life, I don’t know why it has such a hold over me. It was over 20 years ago, another fact that scares me, but no matter how much I try to put those feelings aside, to tell myself that I’m a better person, that I’ve evolved since then, at the slightest provocation all those feelings race back in with a speed not thought possible. All that angst, fear and rage, it has done a number on me today. I can’t sleep, so here I am. I’m sure what was rattling around in my head was better than what I’m about to write, but here goes anyway.

The past is a hell of a thing. It’s not that I want things to have changed, I can’t pick a sliding doors moment. There’s things that I would have liked to have noticed, or done differently, but who doesn’t have those? I’m trying to admit some of them to myself, but having them, let alone at the strength they seem to be, doesn’t feel right. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those mistakes. Hell, I might not be here at all. That’s mostly hyperbole, given my abject cowardice and fear of what effect it would have on those I leave behind, but the point stands. Why does this plague me so much? I’m sure most of what rolls around my head has long been forgotten by others, so why the hell am I stuck with this?

Looking back I’ve always been depressed, or some shade of it. Finally getting treatment and finding brain doctors I like is one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I strongly urge everyone to give it a shot. No matter how sane and adjusted you think you are, I believe you could benefit from some therapy. Just talking with a neutral third party who only wants to help is wonderful. I have it easy compared to plenty, I’m the first to admit, but today hasn’t been a good one brain wise. Admitting that was terrifying at first, but gets easier the more I do. Don’t be afraid to talk – I’m willing to listen if you need someone to talk to.

I’m a different person from those days of long ago, but underneath that terrified scrawny kid still lurks. I don’t think I peaked in high school, and I’ve long wanted a reunion so I can respond “Get fucked” to the RSVP, but the scars are there.  Showing my wife my Year 12 yearbook picture* with the career listed as ‘undecided**’ and having her say “You’re still undecided.” I know it was meant well, but still hurt. There were things I’d forgotten about (I had a piece about Nirvana in one of them – it was the mid 90’s after all), but that feeling of “Is this all I am” hit me far harder than I would have liked. The strength of that emotion scares me some days.

it could be worse. The guy in my year we thought would be running the Liberal Party by now has had several stints in rehab for alcoholism. I’d be lying if I said I liked him back then, but I hope he’s doing better. The universe can be cruel. A friend once asked a group of us “Did you all hate high school?” and got a resounding “YES”. I’m sure there’s people out there who did enjoy it, but I sure don’t know them.

I’m going to try to sleep again. Hopefully putting this down will calm the brain. Please don’t be too concerned. I’m not at risk of doing something stupid, just not sleeping much.  I’m still planning on self isolating when all this is over, but I’m looking forward to coming back from it.

Take care of each other. Times are rough and the brain is a fragile thing. Be kind.

Be seeing you…

* No, you don’t get to see it.
**Only cause they wouldn’t let me choose Jedi Knight.