Another update

So, update time.

I have a floor ticket for Iron Maiden’s Sydney show next year. *throws horns* I’m so damn excited about this it’s not funny. I’ve waxed lyrical many a time about my love for that band and will no doubt do so again, and to be in the pit on this tour, possibly the most over the top one they’ve done stage wise, promises to be a night I’ll never forget.

The lineup for Download next year was also announced, and there’s enough bands I dig to get me there. I’m still waiting for the second run of announcements before buying a ticket and hoping for sideshows. I’d love to see The Hu in a smaller venue, as they’re metal as fuck, but not the thrashing kind, whereas seeing Testament a few years back in a tiny venue nearly melted my face off with awesome. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic at Soundwave, but being that close as they roared through Dark Roots of Earth was fucking amazing. In other shows, Ross the Boss is this Saturday night and Halestorm hit town in a couple of weeks. The Iron Maidens are also back next year, which should prime the pump nicely for the real thing soon after. I’ve had issues with tribute/cover bands in the past, but seeing how much joy they take in playing those songs, I get swept up in it all. Also, they’re really fucking good at it.

In other good news, Niece, Age 11 is DMing a game of her own. She’s been excitedly talking to me about what’s happening in her game, and about talking D&D near her non-nerd friends and their confused reactions. I’m so freaking proud of her. She only has one set of dice, and I had to laugh and say “Oh my sweet summer child, we’ll fix that.” I’ve tried to pass down what GM wisdom I’ve learned from my years at the table, but I don’t need to say much – the kid has her head on straight to a degree that’s scary. Sure, I’ve still given advice and asked questions about her approach, but there’s been moments where I’ve had to stop her and go ‘Save some awesome for the rest of us alright?’ I’m hoping to get her to a con at some point soon, or run for her one of my old games. The next generation is on the way, and I couldn’t be happier.

Sword continues to be a blast. We’re doing quarterstaff and shaska (Cossack cavalry sabre) this term and I’m really enjoying both. And yes, every time I pick up a quarterstaff I get a certain cartoon in my head… Then there’s a problem in not being able to settle down to study one weapon/historical text, when there’s so many I’d love to learn. I haven’t done any sword and shield/buckler, staff has me wanting to do more spear/polearm and how could I say possibly no to learning the cutlass? Well, it’s less a problem and more an issue with too many weapons and not enough time. Where’s a TARDIS when you need it?

Brain however has been rather wonky. There was a massive crash following Pheno. I’d expected it, but not quite to that degree. Conventions can take it out of you, there’s the lack of sleep, nerves and as much fun as GMing is, it’s a lot of work. There’s the panic and tension leading up to the con, the adrenaline and chaos of when it’s happening, and then it’s over and what the fuck do I do now? I’ve been trying to write more concerning the brain goblins and the general weird in my head, but that’s not ready for public consumption. Therapy continues to unpick things, in addition to what rattles around in my head on a regular basis. I’d love to be able to publicly talk, but I’m not comfortable sharing around some of this yet. Working out how I’m dealing with it seems paramount before going public. On the bright side, I’m already planning for next year’s Pheno – a freeform this time.

Speaking of planning ahead, I’m hoping to attend Blackpowder and Bloodlines, a weekend LARP in Victoria next year.It’s a while since I’ve been to a weekender, let alone so lethal seeming a system. I’m a big fan of perma death in LARP – I don’t want it to be easy, but I like knowing the threat of death is there. There’s tentative plans to group up with a couple of others, without which I may not attend. I’d rather have someone I know there, outside of IC links. Getting to make so many IC connections and backstory at pax Europa spoiled me, and I’d love to try to recreate that sort of thing.

And that’s it for the moment. Be well, and be seeing you

At last, we shall have, peace in our time

Pax Europa was a joy. It was also the messiest and most drama filled larp I’ve played in, and I can’t wait to do it again. Set in an alternate steampunk universe in the late 1800’s, the 4 great powers of Europe (Britain, France, Germany and Russia) had come to Sweden for the Nobel Peace Prize, to be chosen by the Swedish hosts. Shenanigans, chaos, several major incidents and a war ensued. What, you were expecting things to go smoothly? THIS. IS. DIPLOMACY!

First off, my fellow players and orgs were lovely. Fucking wonderful. Welcoming, easy to talk to and happy to roll with my shenanigans. Just the sort of players you want. I jave to give an extra shout out to the ones who checked in afterwards and apologized for ruining my characters life. All good people. I knew going in that it wouldn’t nd well, but hadn’t figured just how badly it would end.

The pre game workshops explaining the basic mechanics worked well, with enough time to absorb everything, but not long enough that it felt like it was cutting into game time. True, perhaps a bit more time to work on relationships beforehand could have been used, but that could be down to nerves on my part. The Facebook groups for the various nations worked a treat though.

The ‘Off game’ mechanics (The call ‘off game, intimacy /violence’ is given, and the players work out what’s going to happen before it does. If one side doesn’t give approval, then things move on immediately) worked well and were easily remembered. I’m sorely tempted to use them if I run anything of this nature in future (Properly credited, of course)

The venue itself was lovely – it could possibly have used another room, or the upstairs area, but then we might have needed a few more players to fill things out. Given the tight corridors and doorways I’m glad I decided not to bring a larp sword as part of my costume, as my knife (in a sheath at my lower back) got caught on enough doorways. My decision to forget to eat throughout the game was dumb of me, as by the time of dinner I was UTTERLY RAVENOUS. Possibly a good thing I decided not to shoot the French general who was sitting opposite me, but unknown to me war had been declared so it might have been OK. In character I was also very, very drunk, as my life had been slightly ruined by that stage, but more on that in a bit. Bloody good scones earlier though, worthy of mighty praise they were.

Who was I? Caleb Burton, British adventurer, racounter and writer. I’d come to the symposium to launch my latest book, a lurid tale of my adventures and explorations of Red Martians culture titled ‘Life on the Red Sands.’ I’d already been warned by the British diplomatic section not to start a war, and I only came slightly close to that. My theory on the Red Martians being ancient humans didn’t meet with as much shouting as I was expecting, but the arrival of the Jeddak of Helium (AKA the Martian High King), who’s son I’d been *ahem* involved with earlier certainly shook things up. Talking to the NPC crew member later he’d said virtually everything I said to him made things worse, and I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried. *beams*

IN SHORT:
Presented my findings on the Red Martians, though sadly that didn’t cause as much of a fuss as I expected. Not to worry on that front though.
Almost caused a major international incident with the Jeddak (High King) of the Martian city of Helium.
Patched things up somewhat with my exes, though I owe 1 a hell of a favour.
Didn’t start a war. Yes, I am proud of that.
Got very, very drunk.
Forgot to do almost every other goal I’d set for myself.

OTHER STUFF I REMEMBER.
The exorcism? I’m not sure entirely what that was about, but being asked “You look like a man keen to restore his honour” and I figured why the fuck not? It seems as if the spirit of Imhotep was excised and channeled into a bottle, but I’d lost track of stuff by that stage. Also, the tentacle. Not sure what happened there, but it was a Russian scientist so who knows. (Who was very kind and didn’t stab me in the back. Long story.)

With the High King extremely angry and wanting my works to be erased from history, I was in a bind, and attempted to solve it by A: trying to apologize (Didn’t work) and then B: getting drunk. There was chemical wackiness with the British journalist (recovering from an arm wound from a lightning cannon that was tested on him – it was only meant to stun), the chemicals in question having been stolen, I believe, from the German delegation. Good stuff that.

Seeing people reading from my book (My wife generously donated some of her old romance novels to be re-covered) and shout horrible things I’d written about them was hilarious. Trying to extricate myself from a mess and hearing “Flat chested blonde haired strumpet!” off to my left was both punch the air and brown trousers time.

Finding my publishers had dumped the excess copies of the book (I DON’T REMEMBER WHO DID IT, BUT SOMEONE OWNED UP TO IT LATER) in the Channel and that they were washing up on French beaches was horrifying, but things started to work when with thanks from an ex (A French adventurer), I got them hidden. Fortunately, thanks to the public censorship, the black market price shooting through the roof and a secret print run for the American market, things were starting to look up again. That was around the point at which I found war had been declared by the British and Germans against France, which led to my ecstatic fist pump and cry of “Not my fault!” confusing some of the Russians.

That’s all I remember at the moment. If you’re reading this and I got stuff wrong, please correct me. In my defense, it was a very long trip. Kicking myself for not getting any photos, but looking forward to the professional ones. And the footage one of te players was taking – I think there’s some of the Jeddak and I’s confrontation…

To sum up: diplomacy, flirting, heavy drinking, a couple of minor errors of judgement, some light recreational chemical abuse and drunken self reflection. It was a good, good night. Can’t wait to do it all again. Already having a pile of ideas for what character I’d play next time and how to costume them (You know, the important stuff).

Thanks all. Peace in our time motherfuckers.

I should be writing…

Well, writing things that aren’t this. Good old distractions and brain goblins getting in the way of things, from helping host Niece’s 11th birthday sleep over* to a new term of sword training (Dagger’s a lot of fun) and a trip across the ditch** (Part holiday, part in-laws celebration), followed by a dash up to Cairns to see an old friend who’s had a mighty rough year. He introduced me to Lucifer and I’ve returned the favor with Leverage. I feel that’s a fair trade. He knows Wil Wheaton appears, but that’s about it. *cackles* Reminds me of the Audio Guide to Babylon 5, where one of the hosts partner is watching along (Not having seen the show before) and his theories are kind of adorable. Not as funny as the former co-workers who’s Red Wedding theories were on a different planet, but close. Also, while in NZ I splurged and bought a jacket that makes me feel so awesome I politely request someone please write me a freeform to wear it in.

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And it’s not often I say that!

I’ve had a piece on recent events and brain goblins drafted for about 2 months, but I’m uncertain about hitting post. The past can be a hell of a thing, and there’s no shortage  of regrets and guilt rolling round the old brain. Maybe I’ll post it someday. The worse I feel the closer I get to posting it, but at the same time the closer I get the more I want to tinker with it, which means a longer delay. Self fulfilling prophecy.  I’ve a headshrinker appointment booked for soon, which I’m looking forward to. It’s been too long.

On the good news front, my event got accepted for Phenomenon! Yep, I’ll be back, and even louder than before! I’ve dusted off (AKA rewriting) one of my old con games, It’s a Long Way to the Top, about a young group of Orcs wanting to conquer the world, via the music charts. To sum up in one sentence, D&D meets This is Spinal Tap or Pratchett’s Soul Music, but crossed Dio’s Holy Diver. It’s one of my favorites from the back catalogue, with a few moments still firmly stuck in my brain, the pool table incident especially… To say I’m happy about getting to run this one is something of an understatement, I’d been on tenterhooks for weeks leading up to the news, and air guitaring randomly about the place after getting the news. True, it could be said that game was an excuse for me to froth about how much I love heavy metal, but I’ve never needed an excuse to do that.

So, that’s my brain at the moment. Full of enthusiasm, almost equal amounts of  fear and an irritating level of imposter syndrome. Almost standard operating procedure.

Be seeing you…

* ME:”Night kids, sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
CHILD: “Wait, what?”

** I shouldn’t have been so surprised that there’s a steampunk museum there, but picking up a leather war skirt in a nearby shop, that  was a welcome surprise. I still need a LARP to wear it in mind you.

 

Far over the Misty Mountains cold…

Far over, the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep, and caverns old.
We must away, ere break of day,
To find the pale, enchanted gold.

So, given recent faffing about concerning possible new LARP characters, a decision has been made: I’m going Dwarven. I have the beard, a (LARP safe) hammer and find Elves irritating, so how could I not? This leaves a lot of things to work out and/or find  – the name I’m leaving for a while, as I’ve always had trouble with them. For the moment I’m looking at costume and background. Costume wise, I want a lot. This involves digging through reference material and Google Images, which is, as you can imagine, an ardous task*. I have issues with the Hobbit films, but the art direction and costume work is fantastic. Well, mostly – I was never sold on Bifur having an axe stuck in his forehead or Nori’s hairdo**. Their cultural work is gorgeous – there’s a clear difference between each of the races, rather than simply throwing a costume on an actor and telling them to do an accent.

The basic costume concept is pinched from The Hobbit films, mostly Thorin. I love that fur trimmed open robe thing (Stuffed if I know what the actual term for it is) and the general look of his outfit, but I don’t want to copy the thing directly. Lose the armour, drop the fur from the outer robe (Seriously, what is the thing called?) and add a hood for starters. I’ve got jewellery I’m looking at and I’ve almost decided what adornments my beard will have (No, I’m still not letting you put plastic Christmas baubles in it). Also, there needs to be summer and winter weight versions, or adaptability thereof, switching out an outer robe etc. I’m wanting layers, outer robe thing, tunic, belt, maybe a baldric. Oh, the paralysis of options…

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That sleeveless robe thing – what the hell is it called?

As for weaponry, I’ve the hammer and that’ll be it till I can get enough XP to buy shield use. Won’t be the first time I’ve hampered myself combat wise for story purposes, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’d experiment further with two-weapon fighting, but I’m even more rubbish at that. The Hybrid Dwarven sword that Epic Armoury makes is very pretty though… Armour (at first) will be thanks to magic, which means I don’t have to wear the stuff, which is pleasing in the Australian summer. I do want a few things to bulk out the outfit though -bracers and greaves, with maybe extra padding underneath there (Under the rules of the system you have to take an ability to make armour count, otherwise it’s just decoration). Heavy leather most likely – Darkblade make a decent looking and relatively affordable set of gauntlets. It can’t be soon enough, given the amount of smacks to the hands I take.

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See, told you it was pretty didn’t I?

Background wise, he’s a blacksmith, but has the skill to forge magic items. So, wizard abiities, but not the boom spell throwing kind. As for why he’s come to the game area, I’m uncertain, but looking towards wanting to improve his skills, maybe to craft something for the Dragon Throne. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Item creation costs XP so it’ll be a while, but it’s nice to have goals to look forward to. Also, I’ve only got the one weapon proficiency, so it’ll be a few games before can use a shield. I’ve the feeling I’m going to lose more fights than I win, but I’m used to that. The stats I have are wavering between fighter and wizard being the main focus, but wizard seems to be winning. I can’t promise I won’t use a Scots accent (Or what I do that passes for one), but that casts a long shadow over Dwarven kind. (I remember doing a Scots accent when I first played a Dwarf back in high school, way back in the mid 90’s – I blame Games Workshop.) There’s other little things I’ve been comtemplating – fighting style, reactions to other races and even walking. May not sound like much, but a Dwarf’s going to walk differently to an Elf. Heavy boots and a rolling tread.

Which leads us to why he’s come to the game site. I’d like a better excuse than ‘I have a roaving foot’ – the old ‘highborn wanting to marry lowborn’ or vice versa cliche isn’t bad, nor is the ‘exiled for political reasons’ one. I like the idea of being a staunch traditionalist, hectoring any other Dwarves in game to be more Dwarfy. A bit more fussy, more than the steroetypical short Viking/Glasweigan. Enough there to identify as a Dwarf, but more depth than the bottom of a glass, unlike a lot of my previous characters..

Enough for now. More to follow.

*Also, going through YouTube looking for power metal covers of Over the Misty Mountains Cold.
**There’s moments I’m not sure what’s in the water at Weta Workshop. Somethings they do beautifully (Hobbiton), and other things go down like a cup of cold sick (I’m pretty sure that Legolas got more screen time and dialogue than at least three of the Dwarves).

A Questing we shall go! Soonish!

Overkill by Motorhead is a damn near perfect song. It took me a long time to appreciate it (As a teen my main issue was that it wasn’t Stone Dead Forever), but as I’ve been heavily into their back catalogue owing to the recent death of former guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, some critical reappraisal has been due. Philthy’s warp speed double bass drumming, Lemmy’s bass as rhythm guitar and Eddie leaning back into the outro solo, his body almost held up in the air by what’s pouring out of the speakers, it’s enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Anyhow, getting back to LARP related stuff. I’d been toying with the idea of going to Swordcraft Quest (A week long LARP in Victoria) for some time, and having a little extra cash in the pocket from recent convention work, I thought I’d investigate further. A week of gaming, of meeting new people, talking with them in a (possibly) terrible accent, trying to kill them and being killed in return sounds fantastic. Also, camping. Well, there’s a downside to everything. 🙂 Transports tricky though, being in regional Victoria and good incentive for me to get my license. Again. Do I carpool there and train back, or vice versa? Taking the train home does give me the advantage of time to myself, well time with headphones. I’m not a massive fan of crowds, and generally need time to sit in a cave by myself (So to speak), following large events.

The venue the next events at though, Kryal Castle, means there’s both public transport access and dorm room accomodation. Win! Frustration at trying to find more info on the format of the event followed, not helped by their website. I suspect much trawling through Facebook will ensue, or some polite badgering and buying drinks in thanks for friends of mine who’ve gone in previous years. What ensued was my typical mighty enthusiasm followed swiftly by a budget based freakout. What calmed me (Aside from my wife), was the realisation that they run another Quest later in the year, around the school holidays in September. Thankfully, this shouldn’t clash with the Phenomenon convention, which a friend has challenged me to run The Savage Worlds of Flash Gordon at, to which my response was something alone the lines of *twirls mustache* ‘Pathetic Earthlings, who can save you now?’

The September event also gives me more time to plan kit, grow my beard ever mightier, decide what warband to fight with (Or generate a small one of our own, as a housemate is also keen to come play) and prepare. Also time for me to relax, not freak out at the possibilities, and to find out what’s there apart from combat. My wife isn’t a fan of LARP combat (Or as I put it ‘words are her weapons’), while I enjoy a good scrap. Finding an event that indulges both of us, well, that’s the hope.

Now, with the convention further away, I have some cash in my pocket that’s burning hotter than Mustafar. What do I do with it? Armour? Shield? A swooshy cloakBaggy trousers? Whatever I buy, I want to make sure I’m going to use it, and that means actually deciding what character/s I want to take, not coming up with eleventy million terrible ideas, something I’ve long been fantastic at. There is one thing I’m set on though: beard rings*. But which ones? The Mjolnir and Jormangandr ones appeal the most, given my beard is mighty and may well bring about Ragnarok. 🙂 I’m also keen to get a couple of skulls to put in braids in my hair, but that’s more a legacy from my love of Warhammer 40,000.

There’s another more sensible option though – in place of spending large amounts of cash on postage, follow my wife to Spotlight and buy patterns and fabric so she can make it. Saves on postage and I get another chance to brag. “Who made this? My wife did.” A friend has also offered to make me a swooshy purple cloak. I know awesome people.

At the moment though, the main idea is green. Yep, Orcs. That might be owing to seeing this recently, which would (hopefully) help negate the number of crotch shots I take in combat. Yes, I know I should be faster and/or wear a box, but these things still happen. I also need to get my boots resoled, which I’m betting won’t be cheap. Prosthetics and makeup will be involved, but I’ve got time to practise. I’m tempted to go full barbarian in leather and fur, but that orc swashbuckler idea I’ve had kicking around is tempting as well. That would fit more with my less than mighty physique as well. *ponders* Too many ideas and not enough games!

* To those of you who suggest putting plastic baubles in my beard every Christmas, I have a word for you: NO. My beard is not for things bright and cheerful, but shall be adorned only by silver, bronze and the blood of my enemies!**

** Or as my wife knows it, the remnants of my breakfast Milo.

Momentum, or lack of it.

So, after some months I managed to recently return to my local LARP, Clans of Elgardt,  and things went… eh. Nothing to do with the admins (Who had plot going to get my PC back in to things), the game continues to be fun, but more the feeling that thanks to the break any momentum I had with my character has gone up in smoke. Sure, there’s the part that he didn’t have much motivation to begin with, short of coin and violence (In common with a lot of player characters), but in a world where virtually everyone is some flavour of dodgy (From thief to necromancer and in between), is there a point to trying to be more evil? Honestly, it’s like being in the black metal scene somedays. That’s probably a bit too harsh, but in a setting seemingly awash with evil, playing someone good seems more interesting, more of a challenge. I like that idea of that.

So, the mind turns to new character ideas. As usual, I’m awash in terrible ideas, some of which I shall detail below.
1: Halfling political agitator. (I blame one of my housemates)
2: Noble idiot. Flashily dressed, fancy weapons. While ordinarily my politics lean towards eat the rich*,  I like to think I play well intentioned upper class idiot very well. And I could wear a very swooshy cloak!**
3: Dwarven craftsmen. Well, my beard continues to get more Dwarven daily and while there’s a lot of boom spells being thrown around, I haven’t seen much crafting of items. Find a gap in the market and fill it.
4: Cleric. It’s been years since I’ve played one, though none of the setting’s gods really called out to me.
5: Lawman. More Sam Vimes than Joe Dredd (Adding a dash of Gene Hunt might be a bit too much). I’d like to be able to talk to other PC’s, and not them have just yell “It’s the fuzz!” and run. I’m sure that’ll happen at some point, but I like the idea of the contrast with the rest of the setting. Slightly amused at the idea of giving him a name something like Thorvald Thorvaldson, in gentle homage (If you could call it that) to one of the NSW Police’s finest. That’s the most recent one that’s buzzing through my head, with variations on it (Should he be an Orc or a Human? Or go half and half? Either way, he won’t be an Elf.***) still undecided.

Now, the fact that I bought a new warhammer over the weekend at CanCon (And am looking at armour and a shield) leans more towards the Dwarf or the Lawman, but I’m sure I’ll have a pile more ideas in the next few days.  Mostly I want to make sure that I’ve got a character with personality and who fits with the setting, something I’ve a long history of not doing. I’m easily distracted by a shiny new idea, bit of kit, or weapon, what with my recent interest in learning to use a spear mostly prompted by a re-read of The Illiad.  I’m hoping for a more fleshed out persona, something that’s going to be fun to continue to play for more than one session, unlike a past faction idea called The Butchers, where we fought with cleavers and machetes and carried a bag filled with steak and sausages to try to sell to people, like a pack of hyper violent CMOT Dibblers. Someday I’ll use that idea, but as a one-off.

More to follow soon.

*I consider myself a Marxist and proud of it. Groucho, that is.
** Some LARP for the drama. I LARP for the costume.
*** I didn’t use to hate Elves, then I saw the Hobbit films. Smug pointy eared self important gits, taking valuable screen time that the Sons of Durin richly deserved. Plus, that bit with Legolas running up falling masonry was complete shit.

The secret to running in a suit is to…

A: have it tailored specially for that purpose or B: wear pants a size or 2 too big. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it worked well enough for me. Yesterday saw the latest Zedtown, a zombie apocalypse Nerf war, with over 2200 people making their way to Sydney Olympic Park to play a giant game of tag.

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The author, looking as blurry and tired as he felt. Also, his selfies are shithouse.

It’s my 6th (I think) event modding (I’ve also played 2) and by far the biggest we’ve seen. Highlights include: players first sight/hearing of The Witch (Yes, she deserves capital letters), seeing the survivors of the fall of Blue Base desperately trying to escape (Spoiler: they didn’t), the Doof Zombie getting players to do the Thriller dance (Which I just missed getting on video), players fleeing in horror and terror from a zombie T-Rex and the sheer joy of responding to players queries with “That information is on a need to know basis citizen, and you don’t need to know.” Also, having someone finally ask “Please can I have a fuel container?” IT TOOK 4 GAMES FOR SOMEONE TO SAY PLEASE WE WERE SO HAPPY. And yes, that player got the fuel. Politeness goes a long way citizens.

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Zombie T-Rex!

It never fails to amuse me seeing how quickly people go from ‘It’s all a fun game’ to ‘This is life or death’ mode, and for a lot of them that’s when the zombies are first released. It’s hilarious when people try to stand and fight at that point. We aren’t trying to kill you that early, though there have been people who’ve purposely gotten bit early to spend more time as a zombie. (Tagging humans earns you upgrades, including tentacles or speeding up respawn times.) Our job as marshalls is to make sure people obey the rules and are having fun, and that’s something we take seriously. We (I) don’t call it the ‘Hi-Vis of Authority’ for nothing!

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My top tips for future Zedtowns:
1: Comfortable shoes. This cannot be stressed enough – you’ll be doing a lot of walking and running.
2: Food and water. Carrying some is sensible (Muesli bars and a water bladder backpack’s a good option), but if you can’t then stake out sources of both ASAP. That also goes for toilets – if you urgently need to go and the nearest toilet is near zombie territory, well, you’ve only yourself to blame.
3: Weapons. Opinions divided on this. I’ve seen people last almost to end of game with nothing more than a backpack full of socks (Clean and rolled up as per the rules mind you, not weighed down with spare change) while others turn up with enough foam darts to supply a small war. That massive automatic rifle will blast many a zombie, but when it runs dry, you’d better be prepared to run. No matter what blasters you carry, practise with them – reload on the run, use washing on the line as target practise, make sure you can clear jams at speed and carry a backup within easy reach. Also, within about a half hour into game there’ll likely be enough darts on the ground to scavenge, so blasters that can be front loaded are a useful backup.
4: Exercise. Rule #1 of the zombie apocalypse is cardio after all. The more Zedtown’s I’ve done the more steps I’ve done, which for someone as grey and over the hill as I am is a good thing. Endurance and reflexes are equally useful – being able to run and dodge will put you in good stead. No matter your firepower, at some point in game there’ll be more zombies than you can shoot. I guarantee it.
5: Costume. The vast majority of players turn up in street clothes, but I’ve seen the likes of aerobics instructors, the Mystery Machine Crew, the aforementioned T-Rex, Mario and Luigi, Jayne Cobb and various militaries. Though we might have to make the dress code clearer thanks to the guy in the day game who was wearing shoes, an afro, puffy jacket and underpants… He wasn’t being creepy about it (That I saw), but we shouldn’t have to state that pants aren’t optional.

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6: Interaction. You only get as much out of the game as you put in, so get out there. Take on missions, form squads with strangers, talk to NPCs and the Mods and above all, enjoy yourself.
7: Don’t mind death. That’s not to say you shouldn’t fear it, but embrace it – very few survive and being a zombie is a big part of the game. (See one of the Warlords in Melbourne ripping through her own faction after she became a zombie) If you’re tagged, don’t grumble – congratulate your slayer (I’ve seen several disputed tags decided with games of rock paper scissors, an approach I heartily encourage), get to Zombie Hub and get back out and hunt some humans!
8: Read the rules. They’re very simple and won’t take you long. This results in you having a better game and us not having to remind you to not bring modded blasters or wear full face masks. We’d appreciate that.

As for future events, GIVE US SOME TIME TO RECOVER FROM THIS ONE WE’RE ONLY HUMAN YOU OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MONSTERS. Ahem. Thank you for your enthusiam, and please watch this space citizen. 🙂

Phenomenon (Doo doo do doodoo)

It’s been a couple of years since I was last at Phenomenon, and many years before that since I’d gone. That was dumb of me. So, I played 6 games and walked away with 2 awards and my wife with 3, which matches our standard trophy hauls. The con has now ended, but it’ll stay with me, for a long time to come. How? Well, let me tell you about my experiences… A warning: this is going to get overly long despite how little I can remember. Anyhow, we were only able to attend from Saturday night, with our first game being William Shakespeare’s “All Vampires Must Die Part II – The Movie”. That should start to explain things. Or not.

We were (mostly) vampires who’s job it was to keep our existence secret, and had done so by claiming we were making a movie. That backfired on us when were forced to actually make the movie, at low cost, in Romania and working with the vampire known as ‘Bloody Ted’. This inspired the exchange that I believe won me an award…
PC: “So, is he a sexy vampire?”
GM: *Hold’s up picture of Max Schreck from Nosferatu*
ME: “I’m sure he’s someones reason to masturbate.”
*Cue the GM and rest of the able looking at me strangely and breaking out in laughs*
I heard the GM repeat that several times throughout the con. I’m very proud.

Next morning was Servants of the King, a swashbuckler which enabled me to deploy my legendary French accent! Granted, the only thing legendary about it is that after about 30 seconds it becomes Londo Mollari. Swords were drawn, there was copious shouting and fun was had by all. I’m selling it pretty damn short, as I had a lot of fun, but I han’t slept well the night week before so things were something of a blur. I can only apologise profusely to the GM and throw myself on his mercy.

The stage was set for The Fall of the House of Atreus, our first freeform and one which played with the Trojan War. I was a young lady who was pretending to be a boy and coping with some pretty fucking horrific PTSD, which the GM team took great delight in reminding me of by every so often whispering things like “You killed us” in my ear as they walked past me. I’ve some experience with playing damanged people, but that took it to new levels. There was chaos, no small amount of bloodshed (Fittingly), and it’s the closest I’ve come going shirtless in game, though I did finally choose to announce my birth gender rather more demurely. It was to my mother after all. Standards darling. Also, I have to give a shout out to the GM, who’s t-shirt the following day read “What would Titus Pullo do?” I loved that show.

Monster Hunters followed, in which we were out of work actors lured to Romania thanks to an incompetent agent and an appearance fee. I’d like to say I chose my character based upon his skills and temperament, but it was mostly cause I recognised it was based on Anthony Stewart Head. We were hired by a village to burn out a hive of vampires, the villagers thinking we were our characters from the show. (Yes, I noted that, asking the other PC’s in character if they’d heard of the Three Amigos or Galaxy Quest, and at one point saying “As a dear late friend of mine would say on bad days, By Grabthar’s Hammer…“) We went oddly well, as all the vampire wanted to do was make a film based on the show and by that stage, it was well paid work. I made sure that I wouldn’t have to say that bloody line again thought, so a win for me!

We move now to Monday morning and Deathless, a Victorian age freeform with monsters, where I was the Dewan (The Earl of Upper Slaughter), a werewolf who was one of Queen Victoria’s advisors. My character portrait was Idris Elba, which also meant I had to stifle the urge to shout about how I’m cancelling the apocalypse. I’ll confess, I lost track of what was happening about 10 minutes in – there was an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a truly terrifying piece of headgear, a player wh’s costume reminded me of Harpo Marx (Which confused me whenever he talked) some scientists (A curse on that Frenchman!) and the not at all cheerful inconvenience of being turned into a Vampire. For starters, I couldn’t talk as well with the teeth. An eclipse and several of the artifacts in the British Museum* (the game’s location) was, I think, was responsible for the change, which thankfully went back to normal, but I’m still blaming the Frenchman. I also deeply regret a fight not breaking out, as I’d hoped to use the exchange “YOU *stab* WILL *stab* BE *stab* POLITE!” Oh well, there’ll be other times. Also, had the game gone on about 5 seconds more I was set to stab Ra in the face. Yes, that Ra. No, not the one from Stargate. What can I say, other than I’m sure there’s something in the book about no acts of necromancy in front of the Queen, who’d just arrived. Standards must be maintained and there’s no excuse for bad manners…

We return to Sunday night now and Red Sisters, Black Skies. This is where it get’s rough. It’s fair to say the game had an effect on me. Actually that’s something of an understatement. I left it a crying emotional wreck, in a state close to having watched the end of The Iron Giant and the 1st 15 minutes of Up. I’ve mostly been GM’ing at cons the last few years, so my mental state in regards to bleed might be out of whack, but I’ve been more affected by it of late. Between this and a recent freeform in Sydney, I kept having to remind myself that it was just a game, that I wasn’t actually crushing on someone, that this would be over the a few hours. And yet, when I think back on it, I’m still choked up. It’s the mark of a really good game, and as good as the Sydney game was (I’m itching for the sequel), I think Sisters was the best freeform I’ll ever play. How do I describe it? It was the Mona Lisa, the Casablanca, the Duck Soup, the Empire Strikes Back, the Wrath of Khan, the City of Death, the 1973 Three Musketeers, I’ll stop now otherwise I’LL KEEP DOING THIS. What I’m trying to say is this, it wasn’t just good, it was fucking magnificent.

We were playing members of the 588th, an all female Russian airforce unit, known as the Night Witches. Between outdated planes, low supplies and the sexism of the rest of the military we had to struggle against, but we had each other and hope that the war would soon be over. The terror of night flights, the hope that comrades would return safely and finding a brief solace in the arms of another. There was comradeship, vodka, the bright light of a birthday celebration and the shattering blows of losing friends. Being reunited with comrades, the terror of mail arrving only to find that family were alive, these things brought a joy I didn’t know I had. I’ve cried in games before, many times. Hell, I’ll cry at the drop of a hat. But these weren’t stage tears, these were great heaping shaking tears, accompanied by sobs of grief and rage that, looking back on things, were mighty scary. I have something of an issue with unexpressed rage, and to give way to that level of emotion scares me more than a bit, but this event demanded nothing less. The fact it was the designer’s first event only made things even more awe-inspiring and I’ve already suggested they bring it to Sydney.

Lieutenant Emilia Turganev, airwoman, assigned to B Section of the 588th Night Bombers Regiment. It was an honour to have been you, even if only for a few hours.

From the first flight, things were tense – we’d been warned that PC death’s weren’t just possible, they would happen. I believe we made it out OK with only 3 deaths, though one of those was our CO (As played by my wife). PC’s killed in action didn’t leave though – they could be interacted with as ghosts, able to be talked to, or staging small flashback sequences. It was eerie as all hell seeing them there, wearing bloody headbands, waiting for someone to come close. There was angst (Having fucked my commanding officer pre game, she’d left me for a younger woman without a word. Kids, as my character sheet said: never fuck your commanding officer!), solace (I found love in the arms of a fellow veteran pilot – she’d been keeping count of how many missions we’d flown), and comradeship with the members of my section. It wasn’t until late game that we took serious damage, and I found out later that the other sections were far worse off than us. It did explain why C section cheered so much when they made it home.

There’d already been tears, many of them, more so as it was announced that we’d be flying during the day, to help cover the final assault on Berlin. It was the final flight, we were determined and no matter the odds, we would see things through. Things got incredibly tense, with the piloting mechanic far crueler than merely rolling dice. Somehow, B section made it back alive, but others didn’t.

And that wasn’t the worst. After having our private hopes read out (Which we’d put down earlier), we went slowly to join the comrades we’d lost, whether going straight over, or staying to take part in squadron reunions. I was howling, and it only got worse when the pilot I was close to decided not to attend the reunions, walking away, but not yet passing on. If it wasn’t for my section leader (Who I’d patched things up with), I’m not sure I’d have made it. Just thinking on this has gotten me shaky, and I completely lost it when she finally crossed over and I got to see her again. She won, the stubborn old cow, finally flying more missions than I did.

And so it ended, and it was back to where we were staying to cry, try to sleep and pet their cat (Who slept on my chest all Sunday night, which meant I slept terribly but it was worth it) to calm down. It’s been a rough few days, but managing to put this down has helped somewhat. Bloody good game. To my sisters, I salute you. *raises glass*

So yeah, that was my Pheno. Do try to come next year. I’m going now to eat ice cream and watch the 1973 Three Musketeers to recover and plot my next event.

*I also managed to avoid making the Bugle’s joke about the British Museum being an active crime scene.

Zedtown: A Divided City

Neighbours. Arriving home late last night after a long (Of which I’ll speak more of later) I was confronted by an old nemesis: doof. Up the street were having a party, jumping by the number of cheap and tacky costumes people going to their cars were wearing and the number of empties on my front lawn today and there was doof playing. Or possibly untz. I’m not up with that scene – my preferred form of music is live. Hundreds of years of beautiful music, of the likes of Mozart, Mendelssohn or Motorhead, and people listen to doof. *sigh* Anyhow, it was bloody loud and I was cranky.

Also, I’d had a couple who’d been enthusiastically making out against a car glare angrily at me as I walked past. Don’t know why, but in the brief moment I saw them he did have his hand so far up her skirt he could have brushed her armpits.

Therefor, were I to have access to the following:
A: A time machine.
B: A directional speaker that could focus the sound on one house, or a giant Cone of Silence,
I would have dropped back to around 4AM and put Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ on loop.

Anyhow, enough about petty incidents with neighbours, yesterday was Zedtown, with several hundred people descending on UNSW for a giant game of zombie themed tag. As I was explaining to several onlookers, I grow old, but I refuse to grow up. 🙂 Starting at 9am for setup, with the game set to start at 1, it was a bloody long day, but stupid amounts of fun. Seeing the initial rush of players, all cocky and sure of themselves, and seeing that illusion punctured at the first scream of The Witch, this game dressed as Elsa. Fear is a wonderful thing.

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It was a Cold War themed event, with Red and Blue indulging in all manner of atrocious accents and wacky shenanigans. We were pretty zombie light for a lot of the game, but as far as I know no-one made it to the Evac point at end of game. It’s not uncommon for very few survivors – there was one guy who evacced out of the Mac Uni game, and that was by hiding under the corpses of other players at the final stand (One of which was me).

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It was a playtest for future events, as we had all manner of shiny new toys, such as spawners, upgrade cards and the payload (AKA an iron lung). It wasn’t without issues, mostly owing to the dance festival taking place, the preparations.rehearsals for which took up most of the central clearing near one of the bases, which meant I spent a lot of the game shouting at people not to shoot at/near civilians or for them to move away from the traffic. Yes, you can move through the square calmly, but please don’t race through screaming at the top of your lungs. If anyone has footage of when the Witch first went through there, accompanied by ‘Let It Go’, I’d love to see it – apparently the dancers lost their minds. Also, the parents and grand parents seemed enthralled and really keen about what we were doing – enthusiams wonderful.

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Absurd amounts of fun and I can’t wait for the next one – Melbournes June 24th and the next Sydney game is July 8th, with tickets on sale now! Hopefully I’ll get the chance to play again…

So, I did a thing recently.

So, about a week and a half ago, I ran a LARP event. It went well. I’m very pleased by this.
Sorry, not sure why I’m talking like that. It’s one of those ‘Did I actually do that?’ kind of things. I’d been wanting to do this for about a decade, and to both have it happen and to have people keen for more, well, it’s a hell of a feeling.

There were more than a few nerves on my part and some teething issues (Mostly due to me not reminding people about Fear effects), but it was genuinely heartwarming to see how quickly people got into the spirit of the thing, both in attitudes (Over the top and scenery chewing) and combat (Giant swings that would get you laughed out of any HEMA conference). I’m fine having to explain the details of the setting to people, that I was expecting. But to see players and crew get the atmosphere I was hoping for, well, it made me immensely happy. I was nervous as hell pre-game, but they managed it beautifully.

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Our… heroes. Scoundrels, vagabonds and mercenaries all!

To recap: a group of mercenaries had been hired to recover a lost pay shipment, one that was vitally critical to the Aquilonian settlements along the Pictish Wilderness. There was savage battle, the theft of a dead mans boots (And teeth), glorious overacting and combat worthy of an 80’s sword and sorcery flick. There were moments I’d swear I could hear Manowar playing, and that was just what I wanted.

They seemed to do OK during the first skirmish (From what I heard – I was getting ready to play a captured NPC further down the trail), but the fight near the bridge nearly took them down. It took some very fancy footwork and a skin of wine from Josefina (Wine being part of the healing mechanic) to keep them standing, or stumbling and in the fight. Well, that and a rare moment of mercy from the NPC crew – we needed them alive for the final battle. Slowly making their way through the woods, tense and nervous at the sounds of chanting and drumming, they came across a Shaman in the middle of a ceremony, and battle was joined. The ceremony was interrupted, which meant the giant serpent that slithered up from hell wasn’t exactly under the shaman’s control, which meant the Pictish War Chief soon turned tail and ran. Honestly, good help is hard to find these days.

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Our Pictish Shaman, shortly before she was stabbed.

So, what’s next? We’re planning another one for July 15th, with details of the adventures we’re running to be confirmed soon. Join us, and welcome to the days of high adventure!