Well, it’s 2022 OK…

So, it’s a new year. I was unsure how to mark the passage of time, but like many things in life, rock and roll did the trick. With many, many apologies to the Stooges:

Now, last year, I was 41
I didn’t have a lot of fun
And now, I’m gonna be 42
I say, “Oh, my” and a “Boo-hoo”
And now, I’m gonna be 42
“Oh, my” and a “Boo-hoo”

Since I last wrote not much has happened. I’ve been to the cinema, twice! I had almost forgotten how much I hate my fellow cinema goers. Spider-Man: No Way Home was as delightful a film as the other patrons at my screening were awful. I was one of about 5 people in my screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which much improved things. I’ll keep my thoughts on that spoiler free, but I can’t help summing it up as “When Ghostbusters (1984) and The Force Awakens love each other very much.” I don’t have as great a connection to the original films, and I really enjoyed the 2016 reboot, but I’m looking forward to more time with the characters from this one. Also, seeing Adam Savage having the best time of his life on the behind the scenes stuff made me think that more behind the scenes promo should be done that way. 

What’s most been at the back (and front) of my mind of late has been my temper. I’ve had a  couple of bad flare ups, and they scared me more than a little. I’ve long taken some measure of pride in my calm and seeing myself go from placid to GRAND FURY in 0.2 seconds wasn’t something I’ll ever be proud of. I can claim that being hungry/angry and overheated played some part in it, but it’s still there inside me, and I don’t like it. I’ve said before that people at my high school would joke about the body count when I snap, and yes, that joke’s a lot less funny now. But the older I get the less I like rage. Some can be useful as a motivational tool, but like nuclear power it’s important to manage it properly and I haven’t always done that. I made sure to apologise to the people in question, and I’ll likely keep doing so for sometime. To say I have an overactive guilt complex is an understatement, and I don’t seem able to shake it. 

How have I been managing this? Well, I bought another cloak and a bandolier…Is that  a good way to manage things? Stuffed if I know. But it’s made me happy and looking forward to the post, so that’s a good thing. Yes, LARP’s have been cancelled again and who the fuck knows when things will be back, but brainstorming a character for one has been a much needed creative outlet the last few days. Brainstorming game ideas in general has been one of the things that’s helped get me through Covid so far. It’s up there with my wife and my fencing group in terms of the solace it’s given me in these times of plague and chaos.  

You’ve made it through my brain fog, so you deserve something good, right? Well, I’ve something balanced for you…

I meant to post this on Christmas Day but got distracted. I’ve had this sitting on a computer for a long time, and I figure now it’s time. For those who came in late: In October 2016 (Yes, the time is important) I ran a convention one-shot called Fair and Balanced, set in a future America where Obama declared himself President for Life. Everyone has health care, no civilian has a military grade firearm and there’s an abortion clinic every few blocks. You know, conservative hell. The PC’s are a team of Fox News anchors, the last vestiges of the conservative resistance, and have come to take their country back!

It was disturbingly well received. I remain very glad that people took it as the over the top parody it was intended as. Having Bill O’Reilly as a PC has aged badly, but the idea itself was a joke that got out of hand rather like the Trump presidency. It’s ruined fewer lives though, and that has to be in it’s favour. Ever since then, I’ve had people request a sequel, both to cheerfully irritate me and because I joked (foolishly) that any sequels would follow the naming conventions of the Fast and the Furious films. For a while there, I was actually planning a sequel. But then the unthinkable happened, the Orange Goblin assumed power and I swiftly realised there was no way I could out crazy reality and that’s a problem with this absurd a concept. Listening to old episodes of The Bugle from 2012 where they joke how Trump dropped out of the presidential race too early made me want to throw my phone into the sun at the memory of it. But yes, I had written a blurb some time in 2017, and for the first time I’m going to open up that tomb of horrors and give it to you. You may want to brace yourselves…  

The shining city on a hill is now a strip mall.

In the chaos following President Obama’s stepping down from power, the Republican Party achieved the impossible dream – they Made America Great Again. The Golden Emperor now rules in Washington, atop a golden throne. They say he rarely leaves the palace, with only his progeny permitted near him, while swarms of supplicants race throughout the palace to enact his every tweet.

They say those who displease him vanish in the night. Rumours swirl of vast factories in the heartlands of America staffed by the sick and formerly unemployed, of re-education camps filled with journalists and dissidents. City streets, once hubs of life and music, are now near anarchy. The boot stamping on a human face has a designer label.

The promise of a better future has come and gone. 
America has been made Great again.
And there’s only one group who can save it from itself…

2 FAIR, 2 BALANCED.
A game for 5 Fox News anchors. 

I feel unclean. Now, before you say anything, I need to say this in all caps: I’M NOT WRITING THIS GAME. If you want to, knock yourself out. I wrote a blurb, and that’s enough for me. Enjoy.

It’s late, and I’ve slept incredibly badly the last couple of nights. Be well, and be seeing you. 

We wear leather! We wear spikes! We rule the night!

Inspiration strikes in strange places. I made an offhand joke about a theme for the Christmas party my house traditionally hosts, then 30 minutes WiFi access later I had 6 and a half hours of music ready to go. At the time of writing It’s been less than a week and that list is over 9 hours now and continues to grow. There’s a lot of power metal in said list and I make zero apologies for that. Obviously, if this became a Christmas party playlist, I’d likely trim some of the heavier, gruntier type material, though I maintain the Finnish singing disco breakdown (Yes, you read that right) in the middle of Ensiferum’s Two of Spades is fucking glorious and I will hear nothing against it and the intro to Grave Digger’s Rebellion, who are a German band singing about Scottish history BTW, makes me want to stand on a mountain in a rainstorm dramatically holding a sword in the air. Yes, there’s a lot of things that make me want to do that – what’s your point?

If the title wasn’t enough, a casual scroll should reveal what the theme is. Was there a reason for this? Not really no. I made a joke, 20 seconds later started compiling songs in my head and the rest was, as they say, history. I just like making playlists. Introducing people to music makes me happy. and I’ve stumbled across a few new bands doing so. My wife has a rule that I’m only allowed to like bands with members younger than I am and that’s trickier than you’d think. Where am I going with this? Well, when compiling this I had an Idea, and dear readers, you should know by now how dangerous those can be. For you amusement/horror (delete as appropriate), I present some early notes on what I’m calling POWER METAL: THE LARP, aka THROUGH THE FIRE AND FLAMES.

The basic idea was to take all those stupid and over the top heavy metal cliches, and turn it into a LARP. I’ve had worse ideas. I’ve had worse ideas that people still ask me for sequels to. I got as far as writing a blurb for Two Fair, Two Balanced a while back. Some day I might even publish it. So, the general theme is heavy mithril, but with everything turned up to 11. I’m seeing it as a one-shot weekender, as there may be too much stuff for a day game, and I want the final showdown to be at night. It’s more dramatic that way, and we get to have a post game debrief/singalong around a bonfire.

Where are we? Some Tolkien-esque land, where HEROES ARE MIGHTY. Elves live in the woods, Dwarves dig holes and adventurers stumble across ancient tombs full of monsters and treasure every day of the week, because WHY NOT? Wizards lurk MYSTERIOUSLY in the corners of taverns, or cast bizarre spells in NOT AT ALL PHALLIC TOWERS. What sort of person crosses an owl with a bear anyway?

How do things start? Well, the EVIL WIZARD OF DOOM has just beat the shit out of OUR MIGHTY HEROES, and after taking time to explain his evil plan to them, teleports the fuck away to his MOUNTAIN FORTRESS OF DOOM to prepare for the ASTRAL ALINGMENT that’ll give him enough power to CONQUER THE WORLD or something. Wizards, am I right? Our heroes must pick themselves up, go forth on quests to FIND OUT STUFF THEY NEED TO KNOW and it ends with a FINAL SHOWDOWN between our heroes and the WIZARD.

Said information gathering quests could include:
Finding an ancient hermit who has MIGHTY ARCANE POWER and requires a quest to teach that to people. That quest might involve baking something for him, I dunno, maybe he’s just lonely?
Infiltrating a cult ceremony. I’m gonna need a bulk lot of cultist robes and masks, as wearing a mask automatically disguises you, until you break role. If it works in bad movies, it works here. Actually, that rule works for almost every game I’ve ever run.
Fighting some sort of massive monster that guards an ANCIENT WEAPON that can help kill the WIZARD.
Can you make your way through the DARK FOREST OF EVIL to find a magical thing without disturbing the DROPBEARS? (Why Dropbears? I was writing a post apoc game before Brexit/Trump and an actual apocalypse got too close for comfort, but the idea of monster crew in cheap as shit koala onesies stained with blood and gore makes me far happier than it should. Also, angry koala noises are FUCKING TERRIFYING)

Some stylistic choice ideas follow:
Enemies attack you one at a time, just like in the movies! Combat is suitably over the top, with giant swings, grunts of effort and all that stuff that would get you killed in an actual sword fight, but looks awesome on VHS in 1986. Really, that’s the entire aesthetic for this thing.
Armour isn’t based on how much of you it covers, but on how cool it looks. There may well be extra spikes, giant pauldrons and all sorts of silliness. This is not a game for subtlety or historical accuracy or ANY OF THAT REALISM. If at least half the players aren’t wearing foam muscle shirts as part of their costumes something is VERY fucking wrong.
Magical attacks are shouted, with a call sign indicating what sort of spell is being cast. For example, “By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, I BIND thee!” Another idea would be to generate spell names using Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards cards beforehand. Perhaps playing air guitar powers magical rituals? I don’t know, I’m making this shit up as I go.

Other influences include:
The video game Brutal Legend. The game itself had it’s issues, but as a love letter to heavy metal, there are few things as mighty.
80’s metal, mainly of the power and thrash variety. For those who have no idea what power metal is, read this. Also, what have you been doing with your life?
The band Manowar, especially the video for Gloves of Metal. Look, there’s a lot about them that has aged badly, or was pretty fucking objectionable even back in the day (I’d say listen to the song Pleasure Slave as an example, but just don’t) and ‘It was the 80’s’ is a piss poor excuse, though I never thought I’d see a music video with worse fight choreography that Motley Crue’s Too Young to Fall in Love. But that full bore commitment to something so utterly stupid as ‘Conan the Barbarian, but with guitars’, I can’t not love that.

Will this event actually happen? Who the fuck knows. We all know how I am with the focus and drive to actually finish things. But the creation process, the bouncing ideas around in my head, that’s brought me great joy, and by Crom, I’ve needed that joy. The relentless march of time, the unending drone of Covid time and a recent casual contact scare (I tested negative, thankfully) has been wearing on me more than normal of late. People keep asking me how I am, and I keep answering *shrugs* “Pandemic well?” I’d love to have another answer, possibly a more positive one, and it ain’t coming. Shit has just gotten more dangerous and now fuckwits don’t have to check into stores? Yeah, great fucking move. I am not a confrontational person, but seeing groups in the Sydney CBD a couple of weeks back wearing ‘Thou shalt not vax me’ t-shirts fucken BOILS MY BLOOD. I know relatively little about Jesus, but I’m pretty fucking sure he’d be pro-vax, with that whole ‘help others’ deal he had. Fuckwits.

I’ve been trying to end this on a positive note, and I should have been asleep long ago. May you and yours be well and happy, and may the things that bring you joy keep doing so. Times are tough and we need to take joy where we can.

Be seeing you…

Mistakes were made

Born of nostalgia, some of the worst mistakes. So, how am I? It’s been a while. Well, I’ve my last Brain Care Specialist appointment for the year tomorrow morning, I was a Groomsmen on the weekend at friends wedding, and to top it all off, I made it through my speech without crying, something I did *not* accomplish at the first readthrough of it the night before. Bombshells continues to be delightful – next session they’ll be taking an orphanage worth of children to see one of the PC’s latest movie. There is nothing that can go wrong. I have no idea where Doctor Who is going, but I’m loving the current series. It’s been difficult keeping things spoiler free, as wife hasn’t seen it and I do not want to be the one responsible for spoiling things. Between being wrecked from work and a lacklustre night of sleep, I didn’t make it to sword tonight. I should be asleep, and yet I’m here typing. But what’s the mistake I made that I’m so compelled to write about? Well…

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra popped up on Netflix. I remember seeing it in the cinema, and not thinking much. The sequel was improved, but more on that later. Anyhow, the brain isn’t great, the resistance is low and I hit play. I’ve made worse mistakes in my time (Seeing Max Payne comes to mind), but this stands among them. I remembered it wasn’t great, but only in going back again did it unleash just how bad it is. Let’s begin shall we?

First off, who made the choice to put lips on Snake Eye’s mask? I’d love to know the design process behind that. The Bat-Nipples were strange, but it was the 90’s. It’s not much of an excuse, but it’s something.
Secondly, making a 23 minute toy commercial and trying to make it all gritty and serious, something that’s also plagued the Transformers films. Look, the cartoon was absurd and over the top, what was the harm in trying for that tone? Does everything need to be gritty and serious? Can we not have fun watching a Batman film?
Marlon Wayans ‘acting’, and I use the term loosely, is an acquired taste, one that a notoriously picky eater like myself has refused to acquire. In his defence, I’ve only seen him in two things, this and Dungeons and Dragons, and neither is exactly a showcase for his… talents.
The underwater battle at the end of the film, that wants to be a nautical Return of the Jedi but turns out more like Thunderball.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt spends most of his screen time buried under prosthetics and while he’s going for full ham, it just doesn’t work. Chris Latta left some very big shoes to fill.
Sienna Miller tries, but lacks the accent for the Baroness. And tying her into Duke’s backstory makes things needlessly convoluted and coincidental. So, you’re telling me this grunt’s ex is now being mind controlled by the bad guy, who’s also her brother who the grunt thought he failed to save? That level of coincidence only happens in bad comics, and occasionally in games I run.

The good, and there is… some:
Every time Storm Shadow loses his shirt. Lee Byung-hun isn’t quite my cup of tea, but damn
I spent the time during Brendan Fraser and Kevin J O’Conner’s cameos thinking of a much better Stephen Sommers film I could be watching. Speaking of that film, Arnold Vosloo looks to be having the most fun out of any of the cast in this film, which given that Channing Tatum, Christopher Ecclestone and Sienna Miller (who hadn’t known they made a second one) have nothing positive to say doesn’t seen that hard. Ecclestone does manage to sound Scottish at times though, which is more than Destro ever managed in the cartoon.

Is it bad and should you watch it? Yes and No. It’s not Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen, but I’ve taken shots to the knackers more pleasant than that film. Now, to speak of the sequel… 2013’s GI Joe: Retaliation still isn’t a good film, but it’s a vastly more entertaining one. Jettisoning most of the cast of the first film (The only returning cast being Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Jonathan Pryce (The President/Zartan), Byung-hun and Tatum) and adds The Rock, who A: is aware of what sort of film he’s in and what the audience want, that being him shooting giant guns and showing off his arms. It also mostly discards the gritty tone for a more over the top feel, best illustrated by the sequence that has groups of colour coded ninjas having sword fights while swinging from mountains. Jonathan Pryce spends most of his time chewing the scenery, which nicely makes up for Bruce Willis mostly sleepwalking through it. All in all, it’s just more fun, and that’s what I wanted. I went in hoping for a stupid action movie and I got one.

it is now long past time for sleep. Good night all. Be seeing you….

And so it goes on.


There may be more typos than normal this entry, as I’m typing on a new laptop and am still getting used to the keyboard. It’s not the quite delicious and non alcoholic rum I’m drinking, no sir.

There’s a new Iron Maiden album incoming! And yet, even such joyous news isn’t enough to lift me from the funk I’m in. I mean, it’s cause for delight as a general thing – there are reasons I describe them as my beloved after all, even when talking about their work of the 1990’s. (I have a soft spot for the Blaze era stuff, as the poor guy had a nigh impossible task. Anyway, Man on the Edge and Futureal are bangers, while the radio edit of The Angel and the Gambler is what the song should have been.) *ahem* Back to the point I was trying to make…. The first single, The Writing on the Wall is more a mid tempo, mid album kind of deal, as opposed to the more full throttle approach of say, 2 Minutes to Midnight or The Wicker Man* (To my ears the best song they’ve written in the last 25 years). I also may have issues with some of the lyrical content and imagery in the video. Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson is on record as being a Brexit supporter, and while this is far from the first time someone whose work I enjoy has some terrible opinions, I can’t put it aside. The last few years have burned away a lot of things from me, such as my taste for dystopia and a lot of my tolerance for… everything. So yeah. Happy with a side of I really didn’t want to know that.

There’s also a quibble or two about the album itself. The giant samurai Eddie on the cover looks fantastic, but seems lacking without a backdrop. That and it’s another double album, like 2015’s The Book of Souls. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with more Maiden, but I’ve never met a double album that couldn’t be a better single album. Much like when CD’s first came in and bands went “Let’s fill all the space!’ instead of perhaps cutting a filler track or two. Use Your Illusion, I’m looking at you… But yet, I like the freedom to go nuts and just release all that music. Sandanista, please come to the lobby courtesy phone. I freely acknowledge the two competing issues and am well aware of my hypocrisy.

There’s also the fact that *checks notes* it was recorded IN EARLY 2019. That’s right, they’ve been sitting on this for TWO FREAKIN YEARS. Yes, these things take time to promote etc and they were on a break in the Legacy of the Beast tour, true, but TWO YEARS? Do you know how that makes me feel? LET ME SHOW YOU, by using a gif from Bob’s Burgers, a delightful show that is well worth your time.

And yet, as angry as I am, like Homer and the sandwich (Even my Simpsons jokes are old enough to drink), I can’t stay mad at them. There’s more important things to be mad about, like anti mask protesters. And yeah, at the time of writing, 4 more weeks of lockdown. *sighs* It’s fine, it’s not as as I didn’t have anything to do during that time. I mean, I could be, but I’m struggling with a lack of motivation at the moment. Yes, there’s things I should be writing, but with no end in sight I’m lacking a deadline and as we well know, I’m terrible without them. *sighs* I keep looking at fancy hats and LARP kit, and while I don’t need them, I’m getting closer to pressing the button and treating myself. Speaking of that, we got a new PC and it can actually run things from this decade. I’m thinking Elite: Dangerous. Why? I know very little about the game and space exploration/trading isn’t quite my jam, but take a look at the list of voice packs available. I can have BRIAN BLESSED, Mira Furlan and Paul Darrow on my ship? I’M IN.

As for lockdown, I’ve taken to going for walks around my local area for a bit of solitude and to collect firewood. I need to remember not to take outdoor naps though. You need to remember the little joys in life, whether that be some peace and quiet, or setting fire to things. We each take joy in different things. Talking is a good thing, as rough as it can be. Therapy continues to help. I urge all out there to try it at least once. I’m trying to take things with positive perspective but the molehills still become mountains too damn quickly. *sighs* I have my first vaccine appointment booked as well. Audio book wise, I finally finished listening to Bloody Rose and am about halfway through Ahsoka. Good listening, though I’ll likely have to go back and listen to them again to catch all the details. Podcast wise, I’m dipping into Hamster with a Blunt Penknife, while The Bugle is a constant source of joy. And puns.

That’s enough for tonight. Take care of yourselves out there. Be seeing you.

*Also, if anyone has an affordable source for red leather trousers close to the ones that Janick Gers is wearing in the video for that song, I’ll make it worth your while.

Missed it by *that* much!

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

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

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

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

Anyhow, time for bed. Be seeing you…

*And yes, I made it in time.

Clothes maketh the mage…

So, in good news, the wand holster has arrived! It… will take some getting used to. Possibly some leather softener as well. Feels good to wear it though. We have the dress code for the wedding, and I have plans. I’m thinking a grey suit, likely more dark than light, and contemplating a grey cloak over that. Part modern Gandalf, part Dresden Files Warden. I don’t plan to add any more, maybe a fancy ring or two, but outside that relatively low key. I mean, it’s not as if I’d take a wizards staff with me, that would be ridiculous…

As for the suit, when I think grey, my first thoughts are Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Tom Cruise in Collateral. I wouldn’t put myself in that standard, but I’m willing to try. I’m not sure where this burst of wanting to dress flash has come from, but I’m happy to feed it. Possibly all the spy movies I’ve been watching lately – there’s nothing like a Bond movie to make me want to buy a good suit. This just leaves me the choice of do I keep growing my beard out,or keep it short and neat? Decisions, decisions…

Speaking of spies, I found out today that Haley ‘Peggy Carter’ Atwell co-hosts an espionage podcast. As I’ve only just found out about this, heads will have to roll in my spy networks.

There’s one small thing I wanted to add regarding the Noel Clarke news. This is strictly an in character thing, but it’s a grudge I’ve hauled around for some time and it’s this: MARTHA JONES DESERVED BETTER.

I’m not accusing Russell T Davies of racism, but putting the only two black characters on the show together, when they’d barely spoken leading up to it? Martha had Hot Doctor Milligan (Who some of you may know as TV’s Lucifer) and was engaged to him.And then what, Mickey? How, why? I remember reading somewhere that Davies regarded Milligan as a fling, with the only canon mention of the end of the relationship it being in a Torchwood audio. This isn’t a recent grudge of mine, I’ve been carrying that since The End of Time, and will continue to. This is, as they say, a hill I will die on.

Be seeing you…

It was the dawn of the Third Age of… What?

So, the Cold War idea, I’m trying to put it to one side for the moment, in order to concentrate on the event I should be writing. Watching CinemaWins/Sins takes on the Mission Impossible films on my lunch break hasn’t helped that, but a pile of episodes of the Audio Guide to Babylon 5 podcast has. On a slightly spoilery not, I bloody love the habit they have through 1st season of when they hit the spoiler filled part of the podcast one of them will yell “SINCLAIR IS VALEN!”

But yes, to get my head thinking about Babylon 5, I should start rewatching Babylon 5. It’s more a bouncing around important episodes sort of thing rather than from start to finish, but there’s every chance I’ll do that as well. I’ve spoken much in the past about my love for the show – for those newer readers, dialogue from the show was read at my wedding. That should explain things nicely.

Minor diversion: Every so often there’ll be talk of a Babylon 5 reboot and before you start asking JMS about it, he only holds the feature film rights, while Warners holds everything else – books, TV, comics etc, so please, don’t. There’s been a few attempts at getting a feature made over the years, but I feel it works better in the TV format. To me, there’s no way of getting across the scope of the B5 universe in 120 minutes.

While I’m opposed to a remake on general principle, I’m not so biased as to think there aren’t things that couldn’t be improved. There’s chunks of dialogue that could be less “As you know Bob, a thousand years ago”, fight scenes with less ham (Sheridan’s in Ceremonies of Light and Dark comes to mind), and improvements in CG could make the space battles truly jaw dropping. But you know the one thing I really want? For a member of the Minbari Worker Caste to actually get a line of dialogue. It takes till season 2 for Delenn to even admit they exist.

It could be said that I’m trying to rectify that with the game I’m writing, and while that’s not why I’m writing it, it’s certainly a bonus. Anyhow, the rewatch! (Back to the point of this entry) The first ep in the rewatch was Legacies, from season 1, and my overwhelming impression can be boiled down to one word: Neroon. From the first second he appears, his arrogance is in full bloom and it’s so wonderful a performance from John Vickery that the man should never have to pay for a drink in his life. I’d put him up against Robert O’Reilly (Chancellor Gowron from Star Trek: TNG and DS9) in the great villain stakes, but there’s more to him than overacting. Either way, whenever he’s on screen my eye is turned towards him, there’s an real ‘That guys a dick, but I really want to see what he does next’ kind of appeal. What really surprised me was going back and seeing he’s only in 5 episodes, but he casts a very long shadow over them. Yes, one of them is Grey 17 is Missing, but he’s the best part in it, so shut your mouth!

With the show recently getting a hi-def remaster for it’s appearance on streaming service HBO Max, it’s never looked so good. It occasionally pains me that the DVD releases were so bargain basement, but I’m the first to admit I’ve been utterly spoiled by the work the Doctor Who Restoration Team puts in. Between restoring colour from black and white prints, audio clean up to tracking down the newspapers that a Morris Dancer has on his costume, right down to the dates, they set the gold standard for vintage television releases. Hell, the upcoming release of Doctor Who’s 24th season has 24 HOURS OF RAW STUDIO FOOTAGE. As much as I’d love to dig into it, that’s too much even for me.

Speaking of Doctor Who, there was some mighty unpleasant news, with Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) being accused of groping and harassment by 20 women who spoke to the Guardian newspaper. Further allegations have come to light about his behaviour on the set of Doctor Who, with co-star John Barrowman also coming under criticism. Barrowman was spoken to by the production team at the time, and has apologized, while Clarke has denied all allegations. The fact that this shit is still going on, and reports of Clarke’s behaviour date back to the mid 2000’s just makes it all the more horrifying.

It hurts, that we’re still dealing with this attitude, and that I’d heard stories of Barrowman’s behaviour and laughed about it. Hell, it’s mentioned in The Ballad of Russell and Julie, and treated as a lighthearted joke. And yes, while it’s understood that Barrowman’s habit of exposing himself was intended as a prank, I still feel awkward at my laughing about it. Learning from one’s behaviour and changing things when needed is a useful, though at times painfu,l thing.

it was a good night at sword, but now it’s time for sleep. Be seeing you…

“Good thinking 99!”

Hello again!

First off, there’s two things I mean to include in the last post. The first will be right here, the second I’ll get to later. As happens whenever I watch anything Transformers related, I’m reminded of a line I saw on RPG.Net many years ago, that was as true then as it is now.

“I struggle to understand people who say they’d kill for a religion, but then I remember that if Optimus Prime asked me to kill someone they’re a dead man.”

It’s a toss up between Prime and Luke Skywalker as to who was the defining figure of my childhood, but if either of them asked me to do something heinous, then I’d likely do so without question. I mean, if they’ve asked me to, who am I to refuse?

Moving on, thanks to some lovely encouragement from friends (You know who you are!) I have further thoughts on the Cold War magic game idea. I’d like my brain to be concentrating on Minbari politics for my Babylon 5 game, but I’ve met my brain. I like the title A Colder War, even though that was used for a series of freeforms in Sydney many years back. Either way, it’s a placeholder. So, what’s with the idea, why has it gripped me so? I’m not sure. I mean, I like James Bond films and I like wizards, so why not mash the two together? It’s also a relatively modern era game, which would provide a contrast to the fantasy games running in my area.

I have this image that popped into my head of a spy, stolen documents in his briefcase, being tailed through a city. he tries and fails to dodge them, and is chased into a back alley. Steeling himself, he reaches inside his jacket for a weapon, but instead of a gun he draws a wand. Muttering something in quasi-Latin a dark blue glow emanates from the tip of the wand, and he steps out to face his pursuers.

So yes, that’s kind of what sparked this.

And here’s the second thing I meant to include. So, with a lot of magical conspiracy type games, the Cthulhu Mythos looms very large. And while I like the idea of the Mythos, so to speak, I’m of the view that it’s a level of bleak that I’m not prepared to go to. I bloody love the Cthulhu Live: Delta Green sourcebook (It’s chapters on tradecraft and running interrogations are fantastic, if a little disturbing, but the setting is far too horrific for my taste as a GM. I’ve been racking my brain trying to explain where my comfort zone is, and the best example that comes to mind is Ghostbusters. There’s some scares, some laughs and the monster is defeated with maybe some splatter – it’s a style of game I can see myself running. And more importantly, I think it’ll be something that I’m happy to write and run. I lost a *lot* of my taste for dystopia around November 2016 and I’m in no rush to get it back.

With some brainstorming advice from my wife, I think I have a working draft for a pair of prelude games.

GAME 1: THE EAST: Something has been awoken. Could be an earthquake, could be a nuclear test, but something has cracked open that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN. It could be related to Baba Yaga, as that’s the only bit of Russian folklore I know. Mythology is weird. Either way, there’s a tiny government department, established by Stalin to find stuff the Nazis wanted to steal, that’s about to get a whole lot of attention. Sure, most people ignore said department, or would close it, but since Stalin ordered it open they’re too terrified to touch it. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean squat. Either way, magic is coming back and shit’s about to get weird. What do you do?

GAME 2: THE WEST. Reports are sketchy, but something big has happened in Russia. There’s no concrete details, but something strange is most definitely in their neighborhood. There’s a tiny, underfunded and mostly overlooked agency, established during WW2 (That is NOT Delta Green) to look at the odd and unexplained that are about to attract a whole lot of attention. Magic, real freaking magic, has awoken. The United States thought the A-bomb was the biggest weapon they had. Well, not any more.

So yeah, that’s something. What follows is a mix of more questions and brainstorming down with my wife (She who is all wise and makes my games better).

So, something has happened to reawaken magic in the world? My wife’s ideas was a nuclear test has cracked open something, which is a better idea than my thought of *waves in the general direction of an Age of Aquarius sign.* There’s that 60’s nuclear paranoia that runs through a lot of pop culture (Hello, Daleks!) and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of trying to run something inspired by The Prisoner in this setting. Sure, the idea of taking over a scout camp for a weekend and turning into The Village is a tad too insane, or ambitious, but I love the idea.

The big questions rattling round my head are as follows:
What does magic actually do? The thought occurs that boundaries are not so much required, but having a rough idea of what can be done sets a framework for PC’s to work with.
How is it harnessed? Do practitioners shout something Latin-esque and point, do they have to sacrifice something (Blood, life etc) or a Vancian spells per day system?
Magic is coming back, but what about magical beings? Ghosts, goblins, Elves etc? I mean, I hadn’t thought of going full Goblinization ala Shadowrun, but things lurking in the forests adds some flavour at least, and expands the setting somewhat. That may be something for further on down the line – You’ve bartered peace deals between nuclear armed superpowers, but have you ever dealt with a dragon?
I want heroes on both sides – the idea of the Soviets being all the bad guys is off the table. I’m keen for uneasy alliances and people who could be friends facing off. “The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy” and all that. The idea of a large scale game where both sides must unite or be destroyed is calling to me, but who’s to say when the post victory backstabbing will begin?

Time to hit post and go to sleep. Therapy tomorrow. Good night all, be seeing you…

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mage…

Rich Man, Poor Man, Spellslinger, Thief?

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night all. Be seeing you.

On age and coping with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy listening, and be seeing you…