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.

I seem to have a reputation…

Been a while. Things continue to be up and down – one sword event happened, the second got cancelled by lock down. It’s the sensible decision, but I still miss it. I really like sword-fighting, and really like talking to people about sword-fighting. It brings me joy – a recent lesson where I had my teacher to myself had him complaining about the speed of my dagger work, in that I was keeping his sword away most of the time. Needless to say, that night did wonders for my ego. The following week didn’t match things in terms of my skills, but what is consistency? Either way, swords are awesome and more people should try it.

So, that wedding where I as going to dress as a wizard at? Well, that’s coming soon and I still haven’t chosen an outfit yet. It’s my usual paralysis of ideas. On that, I’ve also agreed to speak at it, and that’s another thing to write. There’s no small pressure on it (From me, not from the happy couple) , and not just cause I now seem to have a reputation for speaking at weddings. (I told my wife that and she looked around and said “I don’t know what you mean…”) I recently had the groom refer to me as the ‘Security Wizard’ (to help settle any possible disputes about the seating) and I can’t overstate just how happy that made me.

The writing on my Pheno game is continuing, and slowly gaining speed. This is good, as the con is getting ever closer. I’ve been fiddling with the blurb most of the evening, and while I’m mostly happy with it (Thanks to my wife’s advice) I’m not suite 100% happy with it. I mean, I rarely am with blurbs, but that seems to be the way with my games. The closer we get to the con, the more my brain is (finally) starting to kick into writing gear, which is lovely and MUCH NEEDED.

Getting back to LARP, I’m still having ideas for that Cold War game. Again, I’d like it if I could concentrate on the things I should be writing now, but I’ve met my brain and it doesn’t work that way. So, the idea is a faction/national approach to things, which might make sense. Here’s the ideas:
AMERICANS: The US doesn’t have the history of Britain (At least the white people don’t), or the peoples of Russia, but what they do have is money. So, if there’s a problem they have, they are more than willing to throw money at it, whether it’s R&D or encouraging defectors. If there’s a problem facing them, it’s a good bet the US will try to spend their way out of it.
BRITAIN: The English have a proud heritage, stiff upper lip and all that. They see themselves as a proud and unflappable people, and find solace in their rituals (Tea anyone?) and traditions. This means they have something of en existing magical tradition, and have historical knowledge to back it up. True, most modern folks have no idea it’s there, but that’s what PC’s will soon discover.
RUSSIA: The lands of Mother Russia are vast, and her people are many. They are stubborn, and willing to throw themselves into the fight, albeit sometimes with the threat of death from their own commanders. This means, they have numbers on their side, and will clog the battlefield with their dead. So, you think you’ve stopped one KGB combat team? Good news, more will soon be on the way.

As always, hopefully putting this down somewhere will enable me to move on to the things I should be doing. Also, Fun Fact: every time I try to watch the BBC Tinker, Tailor, I just get lost in listening to Alec Guiness.

Turning to other LARPS, I haven’t managed to make it to Midgard yet. I’m mostly set on a character, that being a member of local law enforcement. Also, a wizard. Now, there’s a temptation to go full bounty hunter Man with No Name, but I’m easily able to put that aside. First off, mysterious loners are dull. You may look cool with your cloak and mask, but you’ll spend the event walking around not doing much. LARP is a social activity, so embrace that. I’m mostly fiddling with various character builds (This one more skills than spells, whereas this one I can sneak attack!) and costume. Yes, costume. Some people build their characters around abilities, I build mine around costume. (I have zero shame about this.) I think I’ve found a tunic I like, I’ve got some bracers I can use and I get to wear my wedding boots again. I’m mostly having issues deciding on accessories and layers of clothing. I want some sort of cloak, because why not, but one that I can get the wand out of the holster (Ooo-er!) with minimal fuss. The quest continues…

Anyhow, the sedative on my brain pills has kicked in, so time for bed. Be seeing you…

Missed it by *that* much!

The universe is an occasionally cruel place, but it does like to keep things interesting, in both the dictionary and Chinese curse definitions of the word.

Case in point tonight. To explain: there’s that time when your body tells you you need to visit a toilet. Fair, albeit irritating. I get that. That it does so when the shuffle on my playlist brings up the Mission Impossible theme*? That’s something else. It does continue to amaze me how that theme tune can make even the most mundane of tasks a nail biting adventure. I must add it to my ‘cleaning the kitchen’ playlist to see what happens…

So, what’s been happening since last time I wrote? Well, my happy pill dosage has gone up another 15 milligrams. I’m still adjusting, though it seems to be knocking me out of a night quicker, which as someone who’s always had trouble dropping off to sleep, well, that’s a good thing. My parents have another cat, which is a thing of great joy. There’s even been some recovery solitude, which has been MUCH NEEDED. Eardrums wise I’ve been binge listening to the Flight Through Entirety and Bondfinger podcasts, and adding to my Espionage music playlist. Board gaming wise, we’ve begun playing Pandemic: Legacy Season 0 and we’ve played through the prologue game. We… did not do well. Mercifully, it’s possible to have multiple goes at it before starting the campaign properly, which we’ll need. There’s some interesting changes to the rules which we’re still getting used to. I’ll keep you posted on how things go, with appropriate spoiler warnings.

Staying with 1960’s espionage, the PDF for The Troubleshooters arrived recently, and from my brief glance through, it’s as delightful as I’d hoped. I’ve not had the time to have a really good look yet, I’m already in love with the “How did you all meet?” mechanic, which while a good Session 0 should deal with, seems to provide a wonderful starting point to build from. However, it’s getting in the way of the events I should be writing, namely Bombshells and Babylon 5. The last Bombshells session ended mid heist (The PC’s were stopping the heist, to be clear) and I’m deep in Babylon 5 research. It was surprisingly difficult to find out when the Minbari made first contact with the Vorlons. (Those are the sorts of things that keep me up at night.) So yes, as enthusiastic as I am about the Troubleshooters, I’m going to try to put it aside till oh, Christmas. Though I will be putting the Steed and Peel Avengers series on my Christmas list, if anyone wants a hint as to what I’m planning.

Anyhow, time for bed. Be seeing you…

*And yes, I made it in time.

“Sometimes it’s hard to like yourself…

I find in that situation it helps to pretend to be a wizard.

I bloody love Tripod. It’s been an exhausting last few days, with my anniversary, a medieval event that I was demoing at and God-Daughters first birthday party and after all that, I am knackered, in myriad ways. Physically, I’ve slept badly and still sore from taking broadsword strikes. Shocking I know, but getting hit with swords hurts. I’m equal parts I should have moved faster and should buy a heavier set of gloves/jacket. Though it was lovely to see two other club members in purple jackets! Mentally, I’m over peopled and haven’t had much time to recover. I’m dealing better than in the past, but I find large scale contact with people very draining and the lack of recovery solitude of late (Thanks COVID!) hasn’t helped my temper and general mental state. If I’ve taken my time responding, or I’ve been short with you, I can only apologize. The brain is a harsh thing.

Therefore, I’ve found myself diving back into gaming. The Cold War idea has mostly been set to the back burner (I did make a playlist, but in my defense the Hymn to Red October slaps, as I believe the kids say?) and I’m slowly getting back into gear on the Babylon 5 game, which is good, as my pitch got accepted for Pheno! I picked up the 3 issue In Valen’s Name comic run recently and between that and the novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows, I’m getting more of a handle on Minbari politics and history. It’s both frustrating and freeing however, looking up historical details and there being nothing, so there’s likely to be a fair whack of ‘Well, here’s my headcanon, so OK?” I’d like to have some details ironed out (First Contact with the Vorlons was when?) for consistency if nothing else. I get that I’ve likely been spoiled by the vast amounts of data on Memory Alpha and Wookiepedia, but at the same time, I’m far less worried about conflicting with things so yay? The Babylon 5 wiki is comprehensive as is the encyclopedia, but there’s still vast areas of the B5 universe left undefined. In any case, I’m trying to write my PC’s, but keep getting distracted with looking up historical details and trying to write “Here’s what you know” documents. The struggle continues.

Turning back to LARP, I’ve been bashing round ideas for a character to play at Midgard, a new LARP that started recently. So, the initial impression was I wanted to play something magical, maybe Druid-esque, something different. At least, different to my usual character type of well meaning idiot nobles. Now, upon the glance over their world details revealed there’s a large desert area which is the homeland of the Dragonkin empire and an idea popped into my head. However, there’s an important question at this point, and I haven’t been able to answer it yet. The question?

Is this a functional character idea, or do I just want to cosplay as Ardeth Bey?

Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I saying that cosplaying as Ardeth Bey is a bad thing. Far from it. Oded Fehr is a treasure, and I will fight any who dispute otherwise. I just want to have a reason for being there, to not fall into my old trap of basing a character around one thing and then being bored when it actually makes it into play. and I want to dress flashy, to avoid mostly red and black garb and to dress in bright fabrics. I’d link to the Brass Coast section from Empire LARP as they’ve been a great source of initial garb ideas, but as their website seems to be down, but here’s the Google Image Search. It’s bright, shiny and distinctive and that’s where my head is at at the moment. Hell, I’ve even spent some time looking at Dragon masks and prosthetics, but I’m being sensible and not purchasing before decisions are made.

So, I’ve things to wrestle with. Good night all. Be seeing you.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mage…

Rich Man, Poor Man, Spellslinger, Thief?

So, remember that wand shoulder holster I mentioned a while back? Thanks to a generous birthday gift, I have one coming to me. And outside of wearing it at an upcoming wedding (I have the bride and grooms approval) and wearing it around the house, I don’t have another use for it, and I find myself looking for one. Regular readers will know my brain can be dangerous at moments like this.

The closest thing to an idea I have is ‘Cold War espionage, but with magic’. I don’t know quite why the idea has gripped me so much, but here we are. I’ve read the first Laundry Files book and enjoyed it, find the Bond films superior to the novels (Whenever I read any of the Fleming novels I wonder how they became so successful, but I’m not in 1950’s England), and utterly adore the Rivers of London series. The BPRD from Hellboy seems a good source of inspiration and I’ve heard good things about the series The Magicians, but haven’t seen it yet. And before anyone says anything, yes I have thought about adding Cthulhu, but I’ll leave the Mythos to it’s own corner for the time being.



This idea, or skeleton of it, doesn’t really fit with any of them. That’s also likely why it’ll end up in my ‘Ideas I love, but can’t get to work’ folder. Still, let’s continue on the creative exercise shall we?

So, let’s brainstorm out the basics and ask a few questions.
We’re saying an alternate universe 60’s. The Atomic Age is replaced by the Magical Age, with the superpowers rushing to harness arcane power to combat and/or guard against their rivals. Not a bad start.
Factions and/or nationalities. If we’re looking at Cold War, then East vs West. So, Russia and it’s satellite states against the Americans and English.
What sort of magic is there? Wand based, point and shoot, something vaguely Latin, or a more time consuming ceremonial sort of dealie? For that matter, where does it come from? Has it always been there, or did someone open a door they shouldn’t have? I like the idea of a recent reawakening, leaving the higher ups scrambling to harness this new weapon.
How much does the general public know? Is there a masquerade, or is copping a Magic Missile in the street an occupational hazard?
What does magic actually do? Offense, defense, can you hook a wizard up to a treadmill and power a city block? Is the magic system freeform, based on Jack Vance, or should I go back through the LARP rules for Mage: the Ascension?

Lastly, what will the PC’s actually do? What’s the point of the whole thing, what story would I be I hoping to tell? It’s an important set of questions and one that a lot of my past campaign ideas have ignored, to their detriment. It’s a mistake I’m trying not to repeat again, and while it seems to be working in the case of Bombshells, I’m under no illusions that I couldn’t make that mistake again.

Above all, what’s the mood of the thing? Bleak and dangerous, with betrayal and danger at every turn? Something like the Bond films, high action and flashy action? Let’s be realistic here – I can try for as much Le Carre as I want, but with my GM’ing style and sensibilities, it’s more likely to be Gandalf, Agent 86. I mean, a few small rewrites and I can see the following scene with two wizards divesting themselves of their magical items. (And as an aside, the suicide wedding ring joke is *chef kiss*)

Outside of that, I’m not great. I mean yes, things are improving. The Iron Maidens have rebooked for Feb next year, Blacktown Medieval Fair is next month and I continue to enjoy rapier. I’ve resubmitted my Babylon 5 freeform to Pheno (Rewatching the show for research will likely produce a flood of emotions) and Cyberpunk 2077 is surprisingly good. I’m not joking – I continue to be surprised at how much I’m enjoying it, and it’s moments of genuine emotional heft. Plus, you know, having Keanu Reeves in your head. I’ve had much the same feelings with the series Transformers: War for Cybertron, which despite not having any of the original voice cast, is still pretty damn good. It’s a grim contrast with the original series, turning what was basically a 23 minute toy commercial into an epic tragedy.

But at the same time, my brain is still far from fine. My temper is closer to the surface than it’s ever been, I’m not sleeping well (I’m on a new medication for that, but it’s still early days) and I’ve fallen of the diet in recent weeks. I find myself missing solitude more, but at the same time I’m wary of too much of it. I’m planning to ask my psych for an boost in my dose or a new set of pills. Therapy on Wednesday. Therapy is good and needed.

Good night all. Be seeing you.

Age and pastiche

So, I’m now 41. The birthday party was wonderful – a friend letting me win at Munchkin as a present and once again hiring a projector for the backyard. The night’s films were the 1973 The Three Musketeers and, what is rapidly becoming tradition for my household, The Mummy, with Brendan Fraser’s commentary track. I consider spreading the gospel of that adaption of the Musketeers something of a mission in my life and hearing it be received with such warmth, even by my sister, who, warmed my heart to a degree I hadn’t thought possible in the week leading up to the event. It’s a film that’s very much my happy place and I’ve long since lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it.

True, my brain before and after the event was kind of falling to pieces, but for that day I was happy, and I’ll take that as a win.

This week in need of a pick me up I was faced with something of a quandry. I’d made up my mind to purchase something from Big Finish Productions, makers of fine audio content. But given their vast back catalogue, what do I buy? Do I pre-order the Ninth Doctor Adventures, get some more Torchwood stories or to dip my toe into the new series UNIT stories?

I settled on the UNIT: Assembled box set, because a story where Osgood meets Jo Jones (Nee Grant) was just what I needed, and it’s as delightful as I could have hoped for. The fact we also get the new UNIT crew meeting Mike Yates and Sgt Benton from the classic series was the icing on the cake. The new characters all have their place (Given it’s the 4th box set, I’m certain there’s background characters I’m supposed to know), the legacy characters all get moments to shine and aren’t just being heeled out for a quick cameo – there’s a lot of love for the show, both eras of it. I will be purchasing more.

The title also got me thinking and we know how dangerous that can be. With that, I present the following. Hopefully the creators who’s work I’m butchering in the name of fun will be kind.

The United Kingdom, beset by alien invasions, has fallen back and back til it can retreat no more. The brave men and women of UNIT are making their final stand against the alien hordes that, time and time again, have tried to overwhelm them. They’ve always won the day before, but today does not seem to be UNIT’s day. Against them, stand near every alien who’s ever looked at Earth and thought it easy pickings. Squat Sontarans, laser rifles raised, march into battle. Auton shop window dummies, gold skinned Axons and massive Yeti blast away at humanity’s last stand. Silurians emerge from the Earth, as Sea Devils have risen from the waves. Cybermen march through the chaos and a massive Krynoid overshadows the battlefield, crushing men and hope beneath it’s every tread. Ogrons lumber along, laughing as they kill, and in the center of it all, Daleks. The children of Skaro move across the field, chanting EXTERMINATE over and over, killing at every turn. This is not war, this is massacre.

They’ve made their last stand today, in a place that just happens to look like a rock quarry in Wales. Captain Mike Yates has made his stand on the right flank, blasting away at an encroaching group of Sontarans. On the left flank, the ever faithful Sgt Benton is providing covering fire as a group of UNIT engineers frantically try to get an Auton jamming device working again. And in the center of things, the Brigadier. Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Battered and bleeding, he clubs away an Ogron, falling to the ground in the process. He clambers painfully to his knees, trying to wipe away the blood and mud on his face. Things aren’t going well.

He looks around, encircled by his foes. They seem to be holding back, as if waiting for a signal to strike. He bows his head, grits his teeth. He has served faithfully and with honour, but today is destined to be his last, And then, he hears it. A brief burst of static from his radio and a voice. The Brig strains to hear it, his ears not quite believing it. “Greyhound One come in, Greyhound One, are you receiving?” A signal, but from where?

There’s a flash of purple energy and a platoon of soldiers teleport onto the field, weapons blazing. Their uniforms bear UNIT markings, but nothing like Lethbridge Stewart has ever seen. Personnel carriers rumble from over the hill, disgorging more UNIT troops than have ever been seen on screen before. Explosions thunder amongst the ranks of the enemy as tanks appear, pintle mounted gunners sowing chaos in the enemy ranks. The skies above crack with a boom and the carrier Valiant appears, launching fighters, it’s weapons blasting away.. Arcane runes blaze in the sky as a portal from another dimension opens, and out marches Brigadier Bambera and her Knight Consort Ancelyn, both clad in armour, leading a cohort of knights bearing swords and laser guns.

The aliens fall back slightly, unsure how to respond to this turn of events. For UNIT have answered the call. From across time and space, from the future and the past, from our world and others, they have come. Because Earth needed them, because the Brig needed them. The men and women of UNIT form ranks and stand to attention, as if daring the alien horde they face to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough.

And Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart stands with all the parade ground poise he can muster, smooths his mustache and hits the call button on his radio. “United Nations Intelligence Taskforce” he says, his voice calm and clear as if Her Majesty was watching. He pauses for a brief moment, and looks at the alien horde. For a second, he almost pities them. “Five rounds rapid!”


Yes, what I’m homaging should be immediately apparent. And they fact I’m torn between laughing and being choked up with emotion as I type this may also be a sign of my mental state. I’m sure there’s parts of it I’d change, or to throw in some jokes about half the monsters looks the same, as if they only have three props, or are blue-screened in. Also, I bloody adore Battlefield and will defend it to the last. I’m hoping that someday Big Finish gives us more Winifred Bambera stories. But I need to hit post and will cope. I next see my therapist in a couple of of weeks and oh boy, I have some things to unpack.

Good night all. Run fast, be kind. Be seeing you.

On age and coping with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy listening, and be seeing you…