Huh.

Hello there… (“General Kenobi.”)

Life has not… been wonderful of late. OK, it’s not been too bad, all things considered, but there’s certainly been a desire for distractions of late, given the state of the news. My feet continue to ache (planar facitis is a bastard of a thing) and while I’m trying to treat them, most nights I just get home and collapse. Some days they hurt more than others. I did make a long term decision as well! I’ve been recycling cans and bottles from work and the plan is to put that cash towards a rapier. Long term goal but it’s good to have them. Then comes the tricky decision, of what sort do I buy? Most of the training ones I’ve seen are cup hilt, but the swept hilt is my preferred style. Either way, I think I know what I’ll call her – Milady.

I’ve been re-reading The Cardinals Blades series by Pierre Pevel which can be summed up as Renaissance France, but with Dragons. Outside that, I got a bunch of books on Greek myth on the weekend and have been playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, or as I’ve been calling it This. Is. Spaaarrrrta!

That probably works better if you imagine Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa yelling it.

Anyhow, sailing around, murdering Spartans, seducing people and chatting with Herodotus is tremendous fun. It’s reminded me of wanting to LARP in the setting, but I want to LARP in a lot of settings. I mean, I get the same feeling whenever I watch Rome, but can you blame me?

In times of stress, ask yourself, what would Titus Pullo do?

As with many of my ideas, it’s little more than a vague interest, as opposed to actual plans. We all know that’s how I roll. But what I am set on is wanting to play something that’s not set in something resembling medieval Europe. Something resembling Renaissance Europe may not seem like much of a change, but it’s a start. Baby steps. I just want something different than the regular cliches, you know? I want Orcs that aren’t barbarians, cultures that aren’t based on 19th century racism, and overall, something different. I have trouble articulating exactly what I’m after, but I think I know what I don’t want, if that makes sense.

Articles like this and this were a good start, but it’s the rewrite of The Three Musketeers I helped kickstart that really did something to me. An easy way would have been to change a few peoples genders and keep things as is otherwise. Nope. The updates have gone into why the changes have been made and opened my eyes a bit. I’m a white guy from Sydney, Australia, there’s a lot of other perspectives I miss. It’s good to see from other eyes.

I love the old cliches – fur clad barbarians, noble knights etc. I bloody love REH’s work, but I’m also the first to acknowledge that he’s problematic as fuck. I’m not advocating destroying everything and starting anew, I’m not attacking your favorite game or claiming this is the “One True Way” to run games from now on. What you do in your games is between you and your players and I hope you’re all enjoying themselves.

But it’s had me thinking about my past work and potential future work, and how I can make that more inclusive and welcoming. I’ve been trying to write my con games with a 50/50 male female split and that’s had an immediate effect, I like to think a good one. And I want to keep going with that. Sure, virtually everyone I LARP with it a white person, but the more options we include and inclusive we are, surely the better things will be?

There is, however, the potential for a swashbuckling game to happen soon and I am ALL FOR THIS. I need escapism in my games, especially now, and that style of event also plays in to my knack for choosing characters based on costume rather than anything else. I just want to dress up and look fancy, is that a crime?

#bucketlist

Getting back to the Musketeers ideas, The Cardinals Blades has had me pondering campaign/adventure ideas. So, you’ve the traditional rivalry between the Musketeers and the Cardinals Guards. Add to that the tension between France and Spain, along with the threat of the Black Claw, a secret society bent on ensuring the rule of Dragons. That group has it’s own issues though, with tension between the Spanish and French chapters. That’s a solid start for tensions and intrigue.

I mean, with that we’ve got the possibility for intercepting secret letters, discovering friends and lovers are cultists, desperate struggles against impossible odds and dark ceremonies lit only by moonlight and strange black candles, burning with a weird green flame… I mean, what good is cultists having a ceremony if players aren’t there to burst in dramatically?

As to what’s next? I don’t know. I mean, regardless of interest I’m likely to keep writing this stuff. It’s a much needed creative outlet. But if you’d like to join in the fun and potentially turn this into something?

Fire up the What If? Machine!

What if, and hear me out here, the Cardinal wasn’t the villain?

“Richeliu, wasn’t he the bad guy?”
“No, no, no, quite the opposite. Alexandre Dumas has a lot to answer for. Tiresome man, completely ignored the notes I gave him on his first draft.”
Doctor Who: The Church and the Crown.

Whatever you can say about the real Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richeliu (I’ve a biography of him I should finish reading one of these days) the title and name does conjure quite a distinctive image. You only have to look at some of the men who’ve played him over the years to see to that. The list includes such noted thespians as Peter Capaldi, Vincent Price, Tim Curry, Christoph Waltz and Charlton Heston. That’s no small amount of scenery chewed or moustaches twirled there. Heck, Vincent Price’s Richeliu happens to pet a cat, predating Ernst Stavro Blofeld by many a year.

It’s an image known in popular culture, one that far obscures the real man himself. The name conjures an image of a tall figure, frequently clad in yards of elegant red satin, a scowl or a devilish grin on his lips as he schemes and plots. Sometimes foiled, but rarely beaten, he lurks in the shadows, an ever present foe. He rarely gets his hands dirty personally, preferring to work through agents such as the Comte de Rochefort and Milady DeWinter, or the regiment of his guards whose fierce rivalry with the King’s Musketeers is legendary.

“Enemies? I have no enemies but those of France.”

The image of a man who wants the best for France, but has other methods about doing so, has been somewhat eclipsed by the figure of a Machiavellian chess master gleefully manipulating all around him in a mad lust for power and influence. Heck, in the RPG All for One: Regime Diabolique he was host to a demon! It’s all but expected that he’ll be the villain of the piece, but what if things were changed? Furthermore, in most portrayals of Louis XIII he’s varying shades of naive, arrogant and an overly indulged man-child, and it could be said that the Musketeers blind loyalty to him and loathing of the Cardinal is far from what France needs. That blindly indulging Louis’s whims rather than attempting to moderate him and steer him towards a more sensible path does more damage.to France than a thousand of the Cardinal’s plots ever could.

It takes a good man to prevent a catastrophe, Milady, and a great man to make use of one.”

What if the Cardinal is the one who’s actually working for France and someone else is undermining his efforts? It could be the King’s incompetence, perhaps Captain Treville of the Musketeers (That could really twist the knife), or another figure altogether? They could be Spanish or British agents, perhaps the Duke of Buckingham? I did use the Duke as an antagonist in a series of games a few years back, along with the 2011 film version. Of course, there’s a small group of my players that would immediately shout “It’s the Mole Men!”, but that is another story. ..

“All for One. And more for me.”

To add explanation to all this: I haven’t been able to put that Musketeers game to bed yet and this was the latest iteration of that. I’d been bouncing ideas around trying to think of something that would set this potential game apart, outside of the whole ‘monsters and magic exist’ part of things. And the more that I’ve been musing over this today, the more I like it. That’s not to say that the Cardinal would be a hero, far from it. But I’m really liking the idea that in this incarnation he wouldn’t be the source of all villainy as he is frequently portrayed. The characters may think that, as may many of the Musketeers, but that gives us the chance to carve a new legend, to set the players against new foes. I’d like to think that this will be the last I work on this, but as we’ve seen, there’s clearly some more life in this idea…

Be seeing you…

Some more brainstorming

First off, while I’m starting to get the hang of the new WordPress, the (lack of) speed that it runs on my tiny laptop makes it infuriating to use. About as infuriating as I’m finding Jedi: Fallen Order to be. It’s beautiful to walk around in, but the sheer number of jumping puzzles, instant death encouters and the distance between save points mean a simple hop, skip and a jump can take far longer than I’d hoped for.

Anyhow, to the point of this entry. Headgear has long been a bane of mine, having a large and odd shaped head. Helmets are a nightmare, I continue to be surprised there’s a fencing mask that will fit me and hats are a constant struggle. And then on the weekend, I saw this.

To say I was struck dumb in awe at such a thing is putting it mildly. True, there’s also this, or a gorgeous tricorn or this hat that seems to promise shade for three. But a purple leather cavalier hat is jsut *chef kiss* And here comes the issue, while I have the money, having sold a bunch of old Warhammer gear, I find myself angsting mightily about spending it. It’s been a long time since I felt like I could spend on this sort of thing, and I’ve more than a bit nervous about pulling the trigger. Well, it’s part cost and part “Where will I actually be able to wear this thing?” (Before you say anything, I’m all but certain my sister would murder me for wearing it to her wedding.)

It’s had me thinking again. Sure, the hat is suitable for Blackpowder and Bloodlines, assuming that runs again, but how many other games would be worthy of such a magnificent piece of headgear? And as such, my brain got to working about a Musketeers themed event. As with many of my ideas, this is brainstorming to keep the brain occupied and ticking over and not indication of an event on the way.

At the outset, it’d be very heavily inspired by the RPG’s Honor + Intrigue and All for One: Regime Diabolique, along with the NZ LARP Musketeers. Further ideas may well be mined or inspired by The Cardinals Blades series of novels and various of the cinematic adaptions of The Three Musketeers. I may pinch an idea or two from the Musketeers games I’ve run at cons, mostly the alternate universe parts. For those who didn’t play those games, I mean stuff like when anarchists tried to infect King Louis XIII with lycanthropy, or when the Duke of Buckingham, driven mad by his lust for the Queen, released a Kraken in the Seine river. You know, regular stuff torn directly from the history books.

What would I want out of this? A chance to dress up and swash my buckle of course! Something different from the usual Arthurian high fantasy LARP for another thing. to try to find a gap in the market, so to speak. Mostly, I want the chance to feel like I’m in a Musketeers film and the hope that the rest of the players and crew would feel the same. It’d likely be a weekender rather than a monthly game. As for kit, I’d want thrust safe swords if possible (It continues to delight me just how much of Italian rapier fencing can be boiled down to “Here is my sword point, kindly run onto it.”) and band or cap guns to represent firearms. As for costume, flamboyant hats and fancy cloaks are always a good start.

If you’ll excuse the purple prose, here’s a rough blurb of sorts:

The year is 1637 and Paris is a city in crisis. The nobility dance and make merry, gorging themselves while the peasantry toil and starve. The Kings Musketeers and the Cardinals Guards brawl in the streets, while underneath those streets is said to lurk a Court where miracles, of a sort, are performed and injuries vanish as quickly as an unguarded purse.

France’s enemies besiege her. Spain and England look enviously at French lands, and plot and scheme to conquer her. But those are far from the only threats. Rumours swirl of darksome cults conducting hideous rites, of fearsome beasts lurking in the sewers and of demons manifesting by the light of the full moon.

France is beset by darkness, but it is always darkest before the dawn. What she needs is heroes, men and women willing to risk their lives for love, honour and country.

All for one…


Look, it’s far from my best work. I’m struggling to get across the intended tone of the game, which is far more high action derring do than grim and gritty. But it’s late and I’m trying to get this to a stage where I can hit post and go to bed. I also have no idea what level of magic I’d use, whether NPC only, Hammer Horror style ceremonies for the PC’s to dramatically interrupt or formal wand and sword duels. I may do some further brain storming on this.

But now, to bed. Be seeing you.

Creativitity and crisis.

it’s funny how those two go together.

How am I? I’m still in the getting used to things phase with my new brain drugs. Getting into a new routine, is starting to come together. The brain is… fuzzy. I’ve noticed the sedative effect quite a bit, not so much on the knock me out level, but there’s been moments when they’ve kicked in and I’m slightly slurring my words and trying not to collapse. Crom only knows what a full strength dose will do to me. It’s been pointed out that my temper has been a bit more hair trigger than normal and while I’m not happy about that, I’m trying to take things in perspective. I’m hoping that’s part of the adjustment period and will smooth out soon.

IMG_20200825_131423

Things inside the head… aren’t great, despite what’s going on. Because yes, the petty issues still crop up, the minor frustrations still  irritate and the general malaise of 2020 weighs heavily on me. (My brain has an amazing knack for turning molehills into mountains.) But I keep on reminding myself that, despite all those things, there is good in my life that’s the result of my actions. That I can do good things, and that I am cared about and above all else, worthwhile. Some days that’s easier than others, but I keep trying. Yeah, there’s still things I’d like to change about myself – my no sugar diet has slipped more than a few times in recent months and not just binging on the no sugar added stuff. I’m not proud, but as I’ve said previously, I knew there would be slip ups along the way. Gotta keep trying.

20200901_212716

But there’s also the well, revelation is putting it a bit too high and mighty, that all this has a darker side. That spending all this time with my head in other places is nothing more than a distraction from reality. And yeah, I’ll own up to that good and quick. Look, reality and I, while we get along, we’re never going to be great friends. If looking out the window daydreaming was a sport, I’d be an Olympic champion at it. And the times when I’ve tried to, the brain hasn’t always enjoyed it. Because yes, reality isn’t always a great place to be, let alone in 20 fucking 20. But damnit, I’ll take all the joy I can get right now. I still have the odd thought about becoming a hermit in the woods, but that’s tempered by knowing how that would affect those I care for, and who care about me.


(I haven’t though of that song in well over 20 years till today.)

I’m in a creative spurt, feeling in a good enough place to want to GM a regular game again and by Crom that feels good. Praise from my sword instructors last session had me quipping ‘Woah, tonight’s been great for my ego’ and I’m not joking. I was knackered, but the good kind. I’m not sure how to put it, but rapier may be my weapon of choice, even over longsword. I always thought longsword would be the one, owing to having the most experience with it (and it being the closest thing to a lightsaber), but it seems there’s facets to me I’m still discovering.

It could be the fact that we’re training with steel, or the lovely people in the class or any number of things, but holding one just feels… right. The first sword fight I saw, well the first one that didn’t involve a lightsaber, was the Duel on the Cliffs (Yes, it gets capitals) in The Princess Bride and it may have made even larger an impression on young me than I thought. Plus, rapier allows me to swash my buckle, if you know what I mean, and I’m ALL FOR THAT.

It’s also got me thinking of the next Blackpowder and Bloodlines, assuming it returns (Please?). So, instead of an idiot noble big game hunter, I’ve been brainstorming a grizzled old soldier (Fuck it, the grey in my beard is natural and it’s time to embrace it) or former bodyguard who, in keeping with the theme of our group, has fled the royal court. Perhaps there was some indiscretion on his part, perhaps someone he failed to save, or shouldn’t have slept with (Oh Pax Europa, I hope you run again). Sure, I’d need a stab safe sword and dagger and while Calimacil’s rapiers are stab safe (To my knowledge,  unlike those from Epic Armoury) they’re also not cheap. There’s another bonus to this concept: IT’D BE CLOAK AND FANCY CAVALIER HAT TIME PEOPLE!

To switch topics, I’ve mentioned the Game of Rassilon podcast before, and I wish to sing it’s praises again. A recent episode had me damn near weeping with laughter, that being the live show from last Gallifrey One, Valentine of the Daleks. In place of their usual characters, there was the 2nd Doctor, and his companions, Ian Chesterton, Tegan Jovanka, Craig Owen and his son Alfie, aka Stormageddon, aka Warmageddon, aka the Oncoming Stormageddon. It’s a level of ridiculous that reminds me of my con games and it brings me so much joy.  My highlight from season 1 was Amelia Earheart using percussive maintenance on a small Hadron Collider, but having Stormageddon aged up to a teenager thanks to being near the Doctor regenerating (Albeit with the aid of a lot of story points) was damn close.

I know actual play podcasts aren’t everyone’s thing, but I urge you to give it a shot. (Also, it’s a lot shorter than Critical Role) Secondly, there’s a 2 part arc in the second season where the Doctor and her companions (Along with Staff Sergeant Puppers, a canine member of UNIT and a VERY GOOD BOY) face down a sort of sapient depression and well, it gave me ALL THE FEELS, as the kids say. It was rough to listen to, but handled wonderfully. Were it possible, I would hug them all, but as I can’t I thanked them on Twitter. We do what we can, and thanking people who’s work I love seems a good use for it.

To get serious for a bit, life isn’t easy, nor is admitting you need help. I know I’ve talked about this before, but if you’re going through something, then please, tell someone. Talking may feel like one of the hardest things you can do, but it is worth it. It took me a long time to admit that I had an issue, and longer to start taking steps to deal with it in a worthwhile fashion. Look, I have a lot of regrets. Several lifetimes of them all rattling around the head. But taking that step towards therapy is not one of them. Taking so long to is, but then I remember that I took that step and I don’t feel as bad.

Be seeing you…

Expelliamus Mr Bond? How quaint.

Yes, there’s important stuff to talk about, and I’ll get to some of that soon, but I need to talk about something else first. Look at this.

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Do you see it? It’s a fucking shoulder holster for a magic wand, do you not understand how damn cool that is? DO YOU? I haven’t wanted to play a wizard in a LARP so much since, well, ever. And yet the first image in my head wasn’t of a fantasy game, or Harry Potter. No, I first thought espionage. The Cold War, but with magic instead of nukes. Spell duels in darkened alleys, desperate escapes from shadowy forces, high stakes gambling and cocktails in fancy locations – less Potter, more Bond. I’ve been racking my brain to try to work out a setting I could use it in – the closest so far is Urban Arcana, a D20 Modern sourcebook.  The Rivers of London series did come to mind, but doesn’t quite has the feeling I’m going for.

I was reminded of an old idea about a Shadowrun parlour LARP about choosing a team, followed by several rounds of laser tag to simulate runs and that’s an idea I’d still like to do something with someday. My wife and a housemate floated the idea of a spaceship game, where you had to costume both yourself and the area behind you (To represent a starship bridge) and I’d be lying if I wasn’t trying immediately to brainstorm making a Klingon style bridge in my spare room. Enjoy overly macho overacting, me?

Anyhow, back to the holster. My wife giving me approval to buy one to wear at an upcoming wedding (And if my sister is reading this, no, I don’t mean yours) was the icing on the cake. I’m mostly holding off buying one right now as I have several brain doctor appointments upcoming and I’m hoping they make one that’s left hand draw. From looking at it, it seems like I could move the holster to the right side (I use a sword in my right, but write and shoot left handed), but I don’t know for certain yet.

So, to the important stuff. The Torchwood RPG idea I had kicking around has popped into my head again and I’m penning flavour text for it. I’ve also been writing and casting NPC’s for Crimson Skies, and finding that delightful. I’m on the few days between brain drugs right now, and am (slightly) frantically trying to distract myself from said brain right now. It’s entirely possible that’s the reason for this burst of activity, but I don’t care – it’s a burst and I’m trying to channel it into something useful for once. And look, if making the Torchwood team investigate a virtual gaming setup that makes them deal with Tom Baker’s Elf King from the 1st Dungeons and Dragons film is wrong, then I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT.

Look, we all know my brain can be, shall we say, overly enthusiastic at times, so distracting it from worrying about what my new brain pill could do to me, I reckon is a good thing. I can’t change it, so why devote time to worrying about it? After all, things are good – I’m back at sword and thanks to selling some old Warhammer books, have some cash to put towards kit. Life isn’t too bad, all things considered.

And yet, I’m still nervous. Because I don’t know when all this will end and can’t hope to, I’m trying to take it day by day. To look out for an end date is folly, up there with invading Russia in winter, or Palladium Books releasing a book on time. I dunno, I’m just having trouble seeing an end to this. And yet, I have to have hope that it will. Because without hope that things will get better, what is there?

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…

Expectations, revelations and… air piracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to follow. Be seeing you…

“Light the fuse and cue the theme music!”

What am I up to?

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

Firth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kosh

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

Some early sketches

I miss LARP. The fun of it all, of getting together as a group, the shouting, silliness and shared experiences. The drama, excitement and escapism. Also, the dressing up and trying to thump each other with foam swords. It’s superb fun and more people should do it. Granted, it’s not as if I was doing much of it before lockdown, but there were plans to, and that’s one of the things that’s irritated me the most about the whole thing. Anyhow, the point.

I didn’t plan to write this. A few weeks back I acquired both seasons of Britannia, and had idle thoughts about a LARP in that setting, then set it aside. I’m meant to be writing a game about Minbari politics for Pheno, but a couple of days back my brain misfired, in that wonderful way it does, and I started writing. It’s that wonderful feeling of needing to finish something, and the brain shouting at BRIAN BLESSED volumes “HEY! HERE’S ANOTHER DIFFERENT THING YOU COULD BE DOING!” So, I’m putting it down, to try to get it out of the head. Please don’t take this as an indication that I’m actually working on this. It’s idle work to try to fire up the brain for the thing I should actually be doing, and in all likelihood will soon join the other partially written projects on my Google Drive. Either way, I hope you like it. May it inspire you in your efforts.

THE SETTING.
Britannia. Roman-era Britain, or something resembling it if you look at it upside down with the lights off. The Iron Crown of the High King of the Picts lies in his tomb and none have dared to quest for it for a decade or more. The tribes squabble amongst each other, bickering over lands and resources, while beasts of legend lurk in the forests and fens. All the while, a larger threats lurks, that of invaders from the South, seeking to crush the last vestiges of free land under their iron boots…

Damn, I do love writing flavour text. Almost as much as my wife enjoys interrupting me reciting it. Moving on. I’m not giving it a date, so I can mess with history. As far as I know, Hadrian’s Wall hasn’t been built, Bouddica hasn’t rebelled and the 9th Legion hasn’t marched into oblivion. Well, maybe. I’m not suggesting we go full Xena, but something close. History is a wonderful thing, and can be just as fun when it’s ignored for the sake of drama or fun, as my Musketeers convention games can attest to.

Full Xena

PC’s – PICTISH TRIBES:
North – Forest folk. Seen as secretive and more savage than others. Reputed to favour human sacrifice in their magics. Not completely evil, but there’s a reputation that exists.
East – They have villages along the coast and are known as fisher folk. Explorers, hunters and traders. Or the other idea was basing the visual look of the Seal people from the film The Eagle, and making them head hunters.
West – Consider themselves the most ancient of the tribes, seen as wizards, scholars and famed for their priests skill at divination. Maybe clad in furs and skins, I dunno?
South – Pastoral and friendly. Craftsman and builders, renowned for their skill at the arts. Perhaps they trade with the others the most?

I’d want something in the background to distinguish between the tribes, a favoured colour or style of dress to help make the difference between them obvious. At minimum, I’d make half the tribes have a matriarchal leadership, the others patriarchal (No, I’ve not idea which I’d choose) and abolish gender stereotypes. I’m already rewriting history, so why not make it a little less horrible?

Eagle

IN GAME LOCATIONS:
Holy ground, possibly a Druidic enclave.
Local village
Roman military forward camp
Tribal meeting place, possibly also featuring an arena for combat between tribal champions, an agreed upon way of solving tribal disputes.

MONSTERS/CREATURES:
Romans.  I can see the first contact with a Legion in Testudo going horribly, as this strange iron beast marches towards them. Maybe later they’ll be added as PC’s.
Fay/Elven creatures. Forest folk, selkies and mythical beasts.
Something resembling the Wee Free Men. Thieves of cattle and goods, a nuisance at first, but could grow more dangerous if angered.
Very loose adaptions or hints at the Arthurian and Robin Hood myths.
The Worms of the Earth. Fuck yes REH.
I know very little about British/Pictish mythology, but I’m sure there’s plenty more that I could mine for ideas.

2510659-worms_of_the_earth_

MAGIC – IS IT A THING?:
Sort of. There’s things that are claimed to be magic by the Druids. No-ones exactly sure if it’s real magic, and the Druids aren’t talking.  Such things mostly involve potions, or occasionally shared hallucinogens. Some Druids practice  divination by reading animal entrails and the like. Ceremony and ritual are important, magic in this game doesn’t involve fireballs getting flung about. I see a fiery pre-battle speech giving bonuses and morale being incredibly important. Do you stand against impossible odds and inspire a legend, or do you run and live to fight another day, your honour stained with cowardice?

WEAPONS:
Melee: Swords, daggers, axes (all single handed) and spears are the main weapons, with clubs and staves for the poor or different. Ranged wise, you can choose between bows, javelins and throwing knives/axes. I’m sure there’s companies out there making foam rocks as well, if you’re really cheap. Shields (Ranging from small bucklers to larger oval models) are used by many while armour wise mostly leather is used. Some metal armour, whether forged locally or stolen from Roman invaders could be found, but will be very rare and used only by the high of status or very wealthy. Opinions on armour vary between the tribes, with some regarding it as cowardly, while others will take all the help they can get.

Pict Warrior

COMBAT:
Fast and deadly. I like the idea of a ‘Just before you die’ ability, so you have 10 seconds to be suitable dramatic before you cark it, or something that lets you hold on, but as soon as you stop screaming or chanting you’re dead. Amp up the combat, so to speak, not to movie flashy, but make it big and dramatic so the gods may see you and be entertained. I’m aware of British chariot warfare, but can’t think of a way to make that LARP safe. Well, short of having two people holding hobby horses running in-front of the chariots driver who’s got them on a harness, and by that stage to me it’s less a LARP and more a kink and I’ll just leave that there.

If I was going to be really intense about this, which being a hypothetical I can be, I’d want to set a kit standard and make people buy appropriate looking weapons rather than re-suing medieval style kit. There’s a couple of company’s that make Celtic and Roman style weaponry, and while I’d allow Viking era gear, that would be the latest period that I’d allow. My distaste for overly ornate weaponry still stands, but I’ll refrain from stepping on that soapbox this time.

INFLUENCES:
The films Centurion, The Eagle and the 2004 King Arthur come first to mind, with a heavy dose of Robert E Howard’s Bran Mak Morn stories. The Doctor Who episode The Eaters of Light, the myths from the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch and the Slaine series from 2000AD also should be on the list. As for games in the setting, the only one I’ve seen so far is the UK game Dumnonni Chronicles, which seems a bit more fantasy than this game seems to be, but the kit standard is gorgeous.

Picts Centurion

POSSIBLE PLOT:
As for what will happen, I have no idea yet. The first idea I had was of a famous Gaulish Druid visiting, but can you blame me? Sure, the prospect of players in a continuing game getting hold of some of his magic potion is slightly terrifying (In a game balance sense), but once you’ve drunk it, it’s gone. A short think for more ideas produced things like infighting between the tribes, a wedding or a funeral, religious festivals/conflict, young warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy, games (both combat and bardic) and the threat of the Roman invaders.

*whew* Now that that’s out of the system, hopefully I can get back to Minbari politics. In Valen’s name…

Be seeing you…

A decision!

Brain is up and down, as always. Possible developments that I’m not ready to talk about have happened, and while they’re good, I’m not getting my hopes up yet. No D&D this week, owing to player illness. There’s talk of a pirate themed interlude to give our GM a break, which I’m down for as I dig pirates. Shocking, I know. In other news, there’s new Clone Wars and it looks stunning. The voice actors haven’t missed a step in the 6 years since the show originally ended, and the new animation is flat out gorgeous. No spoilers, but I got all manner of choked up at the end of Episode 2. Yeah, I’m easily emotionally manipulated.

Nodwick #318

So, I’ve chosen a Blackpowder character. I’m going for the big game hunter, from Padrice (psuedo France). I’m keeping the Noble family background I’d previously discussed, as well as the family trouble. Looking at the setting, there’s a mountainous region there, which has produced many of Padrice’s greatest generals. That seems to fit with what I was working on, and my head canon is that they’re seen as hicks by some in the capital, let alone the forest of backstabbing and intrigue that is the Emperor’s Court. I’ll email the admins about it when I have it in a more presentable format, mostly to check that nothing clashes with what they have, or are planning.

This leads to costume. I’m looking at something that will blend into to the forest. A dash of Aragorn, some Bard the Bowman for flavour and a pinch of D&D Ranger to taste. I was thinking a hood over a tunic, but with my giant and odd shaped head, I’d rather try before I buy. Or at least double check the returns policy. Tunic wise, the closest I’ve seen is this and while it’s not historical, it’s both pretty close to what I was thinking, and looks battered. (I also want one in purple, but that’s not for game,  outside of game), but a hooded surcoat is tempting, not just for the profile, but the chance to un-belt it and run, hopefully looking all windswept and interesting, is damn tempting. I do love the chance for some windswept and interesting.

thumb_xge-cloak-of-billowing-wondrous-item-minor-common-while-wearing-64045542

The other option I’ve been kicking around is a long 18th century style waistcoat. That’d give a hint at the noble origins, but one more battered and hard wearing than your typical noble garb. A hidden pocket on the inside wouldn’t hurt either. I’ve a cheap costume vest that can be taken apart for a pattern that should work for either, which means some fabric shopping may be in my future.

Colour wise I’m thinking shades of dark green, but maybe a dark grey for the tunic underneath. I also still want some national colour, that being blue, so I’ll likely wear the sash under the tunic. I’m not planning to carry my rapier through the woods, sticking to the bow and knife but  a tomahawk is tempting. What can I say, I like axes. I’ve a hunting horn, though I’ll need to tie that to something, and the pouches I have should do the trick storage wise. Snacks are essential in a LARP, almost as essential as being excellent to each other and wearing comfortable shoes.

Time to sleep. Be seeing you.

*snores* What?

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and my head is a mess. I’m over tired, and kinda fried. I took the first sleeping pill I got from one of my doctors Friday night and I’m glad I waited till then, as it wiped me out most of Saturday. I’d been looking forward to Saturday night, in which I was going with Godson, Age 10 and his mother to see Alice Cooper, the boy’s first rock show. Well, unless you count the Wiggles gigs he saw as a nipper. Things did not start well, as owing to a spectacular 3-way stuff up between myself, Sydney Buses and Google Maps, things got so cocked up travel wise so we missed the first support act, the MC50, who I’d dearly wanted to see and I raced in to catch Airborne’s final song.

sleeping cat

Fortunately, Alice helped make up for that, with he and his band putting on a cracker of a show. Things kicked off with Feed my Frankenstein, and it was on for young and old. (Also, the makeup of the audience). Alice prowled the stage, as his guitarists hurled themselves around and the drummer had a fine knack for twirling and hurling his sticks around. A hapless young teen was butchered by Jason Voorhees during He’s Back and I’m Eighteen is still one of the most perfect pieces of teen angst ever put to tape, one that hits me as hard at 39 as it did at 18.

The solos, while more than technically proficient, left me a bit cold, as with every twirl or throw of a drumstick I couldn’t help but think ‘Will this be the time he drops one?’ A confetti cannon blasted cash in the air during Billion Dollar Babies, and it wouldn’t be an Alice set with him being murdered somehow, this time by Madame Guillotine. it winds up with a short encore of Department of Youth and School’s Out, with a large section of the audience racing for the gents seconds afterwards, if the queue where I was was any indication. As one fellow in the queue noted “It’s an ageing rock crowd and a prostate issue.”

We made our way outside just as Queen were working through Bohemian Rhapsody next door, and it’s a testament to both the power of that song and Wayne’s World based nostalgia that it immediately summoned an impromptu singalong and air guitar from the crowd. Mercifully, the train ride home was far speedier than getting there, so all ended well. Both Godson and his mother enjoyed the show, which was pleasing. You’ll have to survive without photos, as being up in the nosebleeds meant mine are blurry as hell.

Friday night was spent at the theater with my wife, watching the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It was a Valentine surprise, that I’d worked to keep. I was told a few weeks ago that she had plans, and that I would like them, and despite a couple of offers to let me know, I elected to keep the surprise. I adore that show, for the sheer lunacy and jokes like “Titus Andronicus, the cooking show!” I continue to be glad I managed to avoid being dragged on stage. A glorious night, and well worth catching if you can.

Krustyaudience

Outside that, the LARP angst has continued. Well, less angst and more indecision. The torment of so many options and a deadline creeping up on me. Every-time I think I’ve made a decision, the brain reminds me of other options, in it’s usual distracting fashion. Also, having started to learn rapier has me wanting to carry one, and I hadn’t initially planned on that. Fortunately, I own a LARP one, along with a suitable baldric, so that’s one problem sorted. One the bright side, I’ve submitted to Pheno, so *fingers crossed* Now I just have to endure the wait will late April/early May when I find out if I’m successful.

Be seeing you…