All for one…

So, how am I doing? For starters I’m ferociously irritated at how slowly the new WordPress set up runs on my tiny laptop, but thanks to my lovely, talented and above all, patient, wife I hope to master these new features in time.

The brain drugs continue – I’ve had a progress meeting with one of my brain doctors about the situation and we’re sticking with things for now. Yes, there’s some side effects, but they fit in line with with what’s expected. Progress is slow, but continuing. Sword continues to be a blast – further bouting Tuesday night taught me that I’ve a long way to go, but there was one moment when everything clicked and it felt beautiful. Progress is wonderful. It also made a refreshing change from the vicious avian assault I suffered earlier in the evening when eating dinner I was assailed by a pack of seagulls determined to claim my burger for themselves. In future I shall have to eat somewhere more secluded.

Turning to gaming, I’ll be GMing again, or as the kids say, I’m back on my bullshit. I pitched a couple of ideas to one of my groups and Crimson Skies was chosen. Not gonna lie, I still want to run the Torchwood Sydney game (The other one I pitched), but that’s best suited for another group. So, adventures to write, rules to learn, NPC’s to cast and my nerves to clamp down on. As nervous as I am about stepping back behind the screen again, I’m really looking forward to it. Cause as much stress as GM’ing can be, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and in this year of NO FUN, I’ll take any happiness I can get.

Turning back to swords, rapier led me back to something I hadn’t seen in a few years, that being the 1993 Disney adaption of The Three Musketeers. It’d been a few years since I’ve watched it all the way through, though it’s long been a favorite. Yes, as an adaption of the book it’s terrible and takes basically just the names and a couple of plot elements. Characters are impeccably clean, randomly find hats and cloaks and it completely omits how much of a bastard d’Artagnan is in the book. I keep meaning to find an film or TV adaption of the book made in France, as I’m sure numerous have been made. Hell, there was a Russian version done in 2013. But the thing is just so much damn fun that I can’t help but love it.

Kiefer Sutherland makes a decent Athos, and seems to be the only one taking things seriously. I mean yes, he’s no Oliver Reed, but the 73/4 version is the standard against which I hold all other adaptions. It’s difficult to watch Charlie Sheen without thinking of his (not so) private life and it’s said he missed the fencing training owing to being busy filming Hot Shots 2. It shows. Michael Wincott as Rochefort continues the fine tradition of villainous eyepatches that started with Christopher Lee and basically plays the same part as he did in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Chris O’Donnell tries, bless him, and fails, but his d’Artagnan is just wet. I think he’s trying for teen idol, but it doesn’t work. As for the supporting cast, Gabrielle Anwar’s Queen Anne is barely there, and Paul McGann gets a dual role as an adversary of d’Artagnan (With an outrageous accent) and as one of the Cardinal’s guards, hiding under a false mustache.

And now we get to the performances the film is known for. For me, Tim Curry will always be Cardinal Richelieu. Not a clown, a devil or a Transylvanian, but the Cardinal. And really, it’s peak Curry. The smirk is full blast, the evil grin is set to maximum and the way he walks with his robes trailing outwards is *chef kiss* There’s a fine art to chewing the scenery and Curry is a master at it. The glint in his eyes at the line “All for one, and more for me” could bring a tear to the eye. I’m pretty sure this was the first film I saw Curry in and much like your first Doctor being your favorite, it remains my favorite role of his*.



And now we come to Oliver Platt as Porthos. If there’s anyone who’s having more fun than Curry, it’s him. It’s a performance stuffed with so much ham that it could give BRIAN BLESSED a run for his money and I mean that as a compliment. It’s the look of an actor that is stunned to find that he’s getting paid to have so much fun and I’d love to tell the man himself just how much joy it gives me. I’ve no idea what he thinks about the film, but I hope he has fond memories. It’s inspired more than one PC I’ve played over the years and I continue to hope that there will someday be a swashbuckling LARP in my neck of the woods so I can spend the entire time pretending to be Platt in this film.

Yes, I could write more, but sleep beckons. Be seeing you…


*Closely followed by his Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island.

Hush now – spoilers.

Not sure how to start this, so here goes. My week started with something wonderful, as I saw a kid pretending a stick was a lightsaber, and humming Duel of the Fates to boot. I managed to stop before grabbing a stick for myself and challenging him, as that would have been well, awkward and inappropriate. I was sorely tempted to congratulate him though. I also started my new meds on Friday.  The brain hasn’t been messed with too much yet, but I’m getting knocked about (metaphorically speaking) trying to wake up in the mornings. Nothing new there. I knew the pills would knock me out, at least that’s one of the side effects listed, but the adjustment period so far has been… interesting. I’m hoping things settle soon.

I bouted for the first time last week at rapier, and while I was far from great, according to the others I’m parrying really well. I just need to remember to attack as well. Mostly I was distracted by that half second of “Fuck me, that parry worked!” and only then does the brain remind me to shove my sword in my opponents face. My footwork also needs work, but I already knew that. Either way, something in my fencing is working well, and I’m really pleased with that. Showing improvement means a lot to me.

On to gaming news: one of the games I play in will be winding up, so I’m getting ready to pitch ideas to the rest of the group. It’s welcome that I’m in that frame of mind to try to run a regular game again, given the brain goblins about how my last couple of attempts have gone. It’s equally lovely that the rest of the group seem OK with me pitching, that they’re willing to have me as GM again. Means a lot.  I’m now back in the position of of ‘I have ideas, I have adventure seeds, but no fucking idea how to convert that into a campaign.’ At the very least, I have a better idea and more planning work done at this point than previously, so that’s something.

I’m also suffering through having two absolutely mind blowing game ideas that I need to keep my trap shut about. I’ve learned from past mistakes, in that in the old times I’d have spilled the beans and either not run them, or had massive demand and then botched them. Keeping in under my hat means I can work on it more, and it’ll hopefully be as good as I imagine it. As for the ideas themselves, one was my wife’s, and ones half mine, half hers I believe. She makes my games better and I can’t thank her enough for that. I’m sure I could set her up as an adventure coach if she wanted.

As for the game’s themselves, I’ll spare you the full scale pitch, but here’s the short versions.

Torchwood Sydney:
Aliens exists, and it’s your job to hunt them down. Some to capture, some to give a stern talking to. You may be wearing a trench coat or have a knack for posing moodily on a rooftop. The plan to run it is as more alien whackiness (The Corsair comes to town, and demands you take them out for drinks!), with the odd bit of alien horror. To put it this way, I’ve no plans to run Countrycide or Children of Earth.

Crimson Skies:
The year is 1937, America is broken apart into smaller nations and you’re part of the nation of Hollywood’s newest militia squadron. Dramatic derring do, swashbuckling in the skies, and you’re on a highway to the danger zone! (I still haven’t found a big band cover of that song, but I should probably watch the film) Also, Errol Flynn will cameo at some point.

The Troubleshooters:
1960’s espionage. It’s our world, but different. How so? Well, last year a joint French and Japanese operation sent a rocket to the moon. The PC’s would be a mix of people, from scoundrels, spies and who knows, who may be working for a mysterious ministry, or for mutual gain. During play, they stumble across a world shattering/conquering conspiracy that they have to thwart! In short, globe trotting action adventure that fits in a BBC studio or parts of England redressed to look foreign.

This will be the one that takes the longest to appear, as the rulebook was only Kickstarted this year and has been Covid delayed.

So, that’s what I’m working on. There’s a common thread, in that I want each of them to be fun. As I’ve stated previously, I like a large element of fun in my events, I don’t really do the grim and intense so much. You know, there’s reasons why I’m not running anything cyberpunk or post apocalyptic…

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Be seeing you…

FANTASTIC!

How am I? Well, my left shoulders rather sore after some time bowling in the nets at a local park to Godson, Age 11 on Sunday. it was the first time I’d picked up a cricket ball in at least 25 years and I was never very good at it to begin with. The main issue on the day however, was on the rare occasions when I actually managed to hit the stumps, was resisting the urge to loudly yell “Got him yes, piss off you’re out!” in the manner of the 12th Man…  Anyhow, that’s enough about me for now, there’s something far more important to announce!

In these troubled times, in the days of fire and plague that make us wish for the carefree innocent times of 2016, we need things that’ll get us through the day. Minor distractions, upcoming events that as of yet haven’t been cancelled and the tiny bits of good news, things that we can latch on to that give us hope that’ll it’ll get better some day. We may not know when this crisis will end, but there are good things out there in this hellish, perpetually indoor existence. The wonderful, sometimes unexpected things that bring joy, delight and can even make us forget, if only for a little while, that Tony Abbott was once Prime Minister.

*drum roll that soon becomes a rhythm of 4.*

CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS! I REPEAT, CHRISTOPHER ECCELSTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS!

It’s now been near 15 years since his time as the Doctor and to say the news is welcome to me is something of an understatement. Details are still being kept quiet, but we do know that 12 stories over 4 box sets are incoming, with Volume 1 to be released in May 2021. Yes, that seems like a long wait, but Big Finish also recently announced a new companion for the Fourth Doctor, with that series premiering in 2024! Never let it be said that Big Finish don’t plan ahead…

The stories about Eccelston’s time in the role and his leaving after one season were few and mostly centered on conflicts with the production team. He’s spoken recently about the issues he was going through at the time and it gave a lot of nuance to his performance. And that’s not mentioning the stigma and courage it takes to speak up about mental health issues. There was a long stretch when he seemingly refused to do anything with the show, but in recent years has been attending conventions and I’ve seen some lovely video of him greeting other Doctors. I’m incredibly happy for the news and it’s my fervent hope that he’s in a better head space than he was during his time as the Doctor. I want him to be well, as I do everyone in my life. I don’t think that’s too much to ask the universe.

Right, now that’s that out of the way, let’s get back to RPG’s. Work on Crimson Skies has continued, with me unable to get the idea out of my head. I think it’s a positive step in my headspace that I’m even considering sitting behind the GM screen regularly again. After I ended my last campaign I told myself that with the right idea I’d give it another crack, and that I’d learn from previous mistakes. I’m still going to get nervous, and have doubts, because that’s what I do. But I think I can do better. I’ve still been unable to come up with an arc yet, but my wonderful and talented wife assures me that the player characters background she can come up with something. I believe her.

There’s a rule from the upcoming Troubleshooters RPG that I’m planning to adapt, and that’s the plot hook. As part of Session 0, I want to players to meet up (Virtually of course), generate characters and a shared background, while I answer questions. I also want to hear about 2 people from their characters lives*. I don’t need them fully written up with stats etc, just a name, a brief description and how they know the character.  And the plan is to mine that information for all it’s worth, adding them to story hooks, putting them in danger and having them go missing and need to be rescued. You know, things I haven’t done in previous campaigns. It feels like I’m taking a positive step forward with this. Now, to find people who want to play…

More to follow. Be seeing you.

* Yes, Shadowrun does something along those lines as well. But I’m not touching that overly complex and stat heavy system with a 10 ft pole.

Watch how I soar…

So what’s been up with me since last we spoke? Not much, but it’s been good.

I made it back to rapier on Tuesday night, and while my arms aren’t happy with me, my brain is. I never thought I’d say it, but I enjoy the exercise. I despise the idea of gyms, but exercise while actually doing something I’m ok with. Look, it’s good to have fitness goals, and I have some: to be better at swords, last longer in a mosh pit and to be able to keep beating Godson in arm wrestling for a while longer. And, to quote John Rogers, I need to live long enough to piss on a lot of graves.

Speaking of Rogers work, the first table read for the Leverage sequel series happened this week, and I’m not sure how to feel. I love the show and am more than happy to have the characters, well most of them, back but I don’t know how to feel. I mean, it’s 2020 and I keep expecting to have the rug pulled out from under me you know? I guess I’m just nervous that it won’t be as good as the original, and that Timothy Hutton’s absence will cast too long a shadow over things. Still, I’m taking the show’s return as good news and hanging onto that. (There’s also the hope that we’ll get a fresh source book for the RPG.)

Had my latest session with the brain doctor Wednesday and I seem to be making progress. I’ve been modifying my coping mechanisms an I think it’s starting to show results. She also mentioned the Serenity prayer at one point, and for a second all I could think of was Alan Tudyk…

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Yes, I’m extremely proud of that joke. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The Crimson Skies brainstorming has continued. I don’t have an arc idea yet, but I have a vision in my head of someone with a cocktail in one hand and a gun in the other and Miss Phryne Fisher came to mind. Sure, there’s the obvious issues of that series being set around 15 years before the time period I’m writing in, but historical accuracy has always been more of a bug than a feature in my events, as those who’ve played my swashbucklers can attest to. An opening scenario is being bashed around as well. Mostly I’m trying not to overthink my approach to this, as well as my nerves about trying another campaign and running it online.

The brain does like sweating the small stuff, such as what planes will the PC’s start with, what should the squadron be named and what’s their colour scheme? You know, the small stuff that by rights most of which the players should be deciding. Not that I have any of them yet, though there’s been some interest. I should also start compiling all this into a Google Doc – I’ve been jotting down notes on the trip to and from work, but it’s time to start putting some order to things I’m going to take it any further.

Lastly, it’s been a long day but it ended well. The Stooges: Live at Goose Lake was released today. I made it in to Red Eye Records about 5 minutes before closing and got the last copy they had. It is, a wonderful thing and by that I mean it’s messy as all hell, but when everything clicks, it’s incredible.

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.

Revving up the engine…

Postmodern Jukebox don’t appear to have done a version of Kenny Loggins Danger Zone. This is something of a shame, as I reckon it would make a damn near perfect theme tune for this game.  Sure, the main theme to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow works wonderfully and is standing in for the moment, while the country version from Archer is close, but it’s not quite what I’m after.

Well, the adventure seeds I posted seem to have gone over well, with my wife saying she could link at least 4 of them together, based on who the PC’s are. Are they blue bloods who’ve only known the high life, or are they scrappy working class kids who’ve poured every cent they had into aviation? That affects things a surprising amount – throwing rich kids into a society party versus putting working class yobs into it. Think of it like the episode of Brooklyn 99 where the characters go to Captain Holt’s party – if Jake and co knew how to act properly the episode wouldn’t have been anywhere near as funny.  Obviously, I wouldn’t do that every time, but keeping your players on their toes isn’t a bad thing.

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That followed on some chatter with her about the adventure ideas themselves, with me being pleased at how varied they seemed, but still the chance that each could end in flying. I mean, while piloting should be the focus, that shouldn’t be all you’re doing. If every adventure is ‘fly around and shoot something’ that’ll get dull, both to play and run. Yes, you’re at a swanky party now, but there’s every chance that things will go south and you’ll have to hijack an aerotaxi to escape. So, while you may not have expected to need a parachute tonight, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. (Said adventures should also have an appropriately pulp name – Cargo of Doom, Night of Fire, Wings of Honour etc.)

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Moving to character gen, I’d prefer to do that in a Session 0 rather than scattered about. Since the characters are spending so much time together, I’d prefer to get all the players in one place (Or as close as we can given Covid) and hash that out together. Shared backgrounds, establishing bits of history and working out who does what best so people each have their own role to play. But I think a Session 0 for any game is damn near essential.

Now for the tone of the whole thing. Look, it’s not tricky to establish – lighthearted pulp theatrics. Think The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy. There’s danger and action at every turn, and few problems can’t be solved with a solid right hook. Comedy, but not farce, with snappy quips flying back and forth. Plus, who can resist shouting an enemy’s name as they escape? I have fond memories of a Gear Krieg campaign where more than one session ended with one of us yelling “SKORZENY!” at the sky.

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That’s what I don’t have yet: an arc. A recurring nemesis that drives the plot, or a story to wrap the adventures around. I may not really need one, or need one to be immediately introduced, but I like the idea of there being a say, phantom menace. You know, the sort of thing that could lead people into a zone… of danger. (Yes, that joke is what prompted looking for Danger Zone covers) More than that, I want a reason for these adventures to happen, some connecting tissue that can be referenced later, or gives hints as to what’s coming.

What’s next? Ponder a story arc and a villain and re-read the Savage Worlds rules. Follow that with some more research, looking for maps and reference photos, while seeing if there’s enough interest for me to properly write this up and run it. Also, telling myself I don’t have the money to afford one of these to wear while I GM. My tax refund is earmarked towards a new PC, but cosplay has caught my eye more than once over the years.

Be seeing you…