Far over the Misty Mountains cold…

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

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

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

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

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

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See, told you it was pretty didn’t I?

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

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

Enough for now. More to follow.

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

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Two more ticks on the list

I love live music. True, there’s a joy to a recording, but for me nothing can beat being there. Being amidst the sweat, split beer (and occasionally blood) is an experience like no other. There’s a joy to it I can’t quite explain- it’s one of those “If you aren’t there you won’t get it” sort of things. Or maybe it’s that I take music as serioously as a heart attack. Anyhow, I got to tick off two entries on the musical bucket list I have last night.

1: Getting to see the Celibate Rifles perform Ocean Shore live. Utterly hypnotic.
2: Holding my wife as the Sunnyboys played Alone With You. There were quite a few tears, mostly mine. I’d spent years thinking I’d never get to see them live, as when they originally split I wasn’t yet in school. Last night they were less a band, more a group of people who genuninely love these songs and were ecstatic to play them infront of an audience. And for those who left after the first encore, you missed The Seeker. The house lights aren’t up, you don’t leave.

Left with a t-shirt and the Rifles latest live album – it seemed rude not to, given one of their guitarists was working at the merch desk.  🙂 Hell of a night.

A Questing we shall go! Soonish!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momentum, or lack of it.

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

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

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

More to follow soon.

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

A long overdue thank you.

This is both a shout out to, and thank you to, my Star Wars players. I’ve been running fortnightly, for quite a while now – it’s long surpassed my previous campaign attempts, most of which ended at session 1 when I got writer’s block. And how has it been going? Not well. But a New Hope has arisen…

What started with unbridled enthusiasm and ferocious nostalgia on my part – resulting in us using the old WEG D6 system, had dwindled. After a while the limitations of that system, compared to more modern ones, were laid bare, and we switched over to SAGA Edition, which met with much approval from my players. So, things stumbled on, and there was many a session which left me all but holding my head in my hands. So, I did the thing I should have thought have doing 6 months beforehand – I asked them for feedback. I wanted to make things better. I wanted it to be fun, for both my players and I. It hadn’t been and if swallowing my pride and asking for help got the job done, well it was long past time to do so.

I got feedback, well written, fair feedback. I’d be lying if I said it was easy to read, or fun, but I read it. And tried to apply it, to make change.  We’ve had 3 sessions since then, and it’s been fun. Geunine fun, hopefully as much for them as for me. Sure, there’s been the usual “They did/said WHAT?” moments, but I know my players – that’ll happen. Hell, I encourage that stuff. I mean they tend to solve problems by simply hijacking a vehicle and driving it at full speed (Normally laden with something explosive) at the problem, but I’d expect nothing less from player characters.

So, to my players, thank you for suffering through. I’m sorry I didn’t ask sooner, but I’m glad I finally did. I hope you’re enjoying things. And for any GM’s out there who may panic at what’s happening, just relax, and talk to your players. All hope is not lost. Now, if only I could stop the discussions about how many nipples the Mon Cal has…

So. The Last Jedi.

NOTE: I’ve tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible, but you’ve been warned.

I laughed.
I cried.
Grins that split my face wide open, and sorrow that shook me to my core.
There were moments that made my heart skip, and threatened to drown it in despair.
Well paced, and yet seeming 20 minutes too long. Though I’m not sure if that’s me or my bladder talking.
An endless string of peril, worthy of Flash Gordon, where there’s barely time to  breathe before danger rears it’s ugly head again.
More questions asked, and precious few answered. Speculation, confirmation and deliberation.
It’s trying to escape the shadow of Empire, and doesn’t quite manage it, but still stands on it’s own.
New characters appear and vanish, with barely a beat skipped.
I don’t know how to feel about it. There wasn’t the elation of New Hope, or the “What the fuck have I just seen?”of Attack of the Clones. I badly want to take Niece, Age 9 and Godson, Age 8, but I’m also dreading the questions I get.

I’m not sure. I’ll need to see it again, maybe more than once to properly state how I feel. Rest assured, when my wife and I get to see it together, I’ll still be as excited.

Malcolm. *sigh*

So, when asked about the late, great, Malcolm Young this week, our (current) Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was unable to name a single AC/DC song. I, like a lot of the Australian part of the internet, got very angry and mocking about this. Given a few days to think about it, I’ve calmed down somewhat, but felt like writing something to properly enunciate my feelings on the matter.

It could be said to be some vestige of my working class eat the rich nature showing through, but it felt… insulting. It’s probably just a PM more into Mahler than Motorhead, or him simply being badly briefed by an advisor, but it feels more, like something resembling disrespect. You claim to represent Australia, but yet can’t name a song from one of our biggest exports? A near institution in this country, a story of working class migrant kids made good (Potentially not popular in the current climate). They’ve been around for more than 40 years, and while you could say they’ve been making the same album every few years, it’s a good one. 🙂


I’m Marxist and proud – Groucho that is!

For all his man of the people, leather jacket on Q&A, ‘Look I ride trains like regular mortals’ image, I can’t imagine Turnbull breaking out the air guitar to the opening of Riff Raff, or getting romantic to the Barry White eat your heart out groove of Let Me Put My Love Into You and that’s possibly a good thing. I think far too much gets put into the ‘I want a PM I can have a beer with’ school of thought and that’s not what I want in a PM. I’m happy with that in a local minister (I’d be happy with anyone with a less punchable face than my current state representative – JUST LOOK AT HIM), but I want a PM who’s studied, calm in a crisis and is busy trying to get Australia to a better place rather than getting shit-faced with Stevo down at the local. Also, a less terrible immigration policy would be fucking lovely. Can you hear me Peter Dutton you heartless cunt?

Ahem. Back to Acca Dacca. First hearing that band was a watershed moment in my life – I was listening to music by that stage and had developed a taste for guitars (I maintain a great love of the opening riff of Dire Straits Money for Nothing, something for which I feel exactly zero shame), but this was something else. I can still remember the feeling of excitement at hearing them play that first song- Who Made Who to be exact, at that riff and the wonders it evoked. I had no conception that music like this even existed. It stirred something in my tiny and barely formed mind, much like my first sight of Robin Wright in The Princess Bride around the same time, that said “This thing, you like this. You’re too young to fully understand why, and that’s OK, but you won’t forget this.” And I haven’t.

You see, rock and roll means something to me. As in, it’s one of the things that get’s me up in the morning, something that courses through my veins like wildfire and reminds me that I’m alive. If not for it, I may well not be here. I know I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am if not for it. Asking am I into rock and roll is like asking is the Pope Catholic? The answer to both is ‘Yes’, but it doesn’t quite get across the seriousness of the devotion. Some find inner peace in the smile of a child, the beauty of a mountain landscape, or a wonderful piece of wordplay. Me? I find what comes closest to inner peace when Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers are plugged into a wall of Marshall stacks.

Musics power to inspire, shatter and move continues to amaze me – if you can listen to the Sunnyboys Alone With You and not have your heart break every time, well you’re stronger than I am. If I only give one thing to any children of mine, I’d want it to be a love of music. I like to think I could deal with a sporty child, one who looked upon my love of Doctor Who with scorn and who didn’t know when to reverse the polarity*, but if they didn’t appreciate the beauty of a well timed power chord at air raid siren volume, well, you know the old joke about spending your kids inheritances…

Malcolm Young – 1953 – 2017. Rock in Peace.

* WHENEVER YOU DAMN WELL CAN.

Am I OK? Part Deux

So, a bit over a year ago I wrote a piece for RUOK? Day, talking about what had been going on with me. My wife recently mentioned she’d be curious about a follow up, so here I am. How am I doing since then? Better. Not great, but a lot better than I was. Let’s begin…

GRAFFITI
Not brilliant, but thanks for asking graffiti near work!

I’m working and happy about that. As jobs go it ain’t glamorous, but there’s been some benefits (that aren’t money):
An increased knowledge of fine art (From looking for jigsaw puzzles of them).
Fitness. I know, try not to be so shocked. I’m doing 20,000 plus steps most days and while Zedtown still leaves me ragged I’m feeling a lot better about myself – numerous people have commented I’ve lost weight.
Something in my arms called, I believe, muscle. It’s new. I kinda like it. My wife’s still adjusting – she put her arm through mine a few months back and recoiled in horror, all but screaming “What the fuck is that? That’s actual muscle, where the hell did that come from?” I’m not trying to overtalk it, the Rock has nothing to fear, but given I’ve had twig like arms  practically all of my 37 years, anything is an improvement.
I’ve been there almost a year, and they seem to want to hang on to me. It’s probably a measure of my nervousness that compliments from them still feel weird, much in the same way that people playing my games without knowing the content is still fucking terrifying. I’m glad to be working though.


As true at 37 as it was at 18.

On the whole, my brain’s a lot brighter. I’m out and about a lot more, though my schedule is still nothing compared to my wifes. I’ve been running a regular Star Wars campaign, and despite a litany of missteps on my part, my players still seem to be enjoying things. My GM’ing style is best described as ‘incredibly easily distracted’ and that frequently shows. Still, the moment in a recent session when they thought Darth Vader was in the same room was wonderful. The tabletop I ran at Sydcon a few weeks ago was well received (It felt great to bust out the terrible French accent again) and the LARP I run (Set in the world of the Conan the Barbarian stories) has a small but dedicated audience. I’m even treading the boards again, of my own free will.

But it isn’t always bright, and I’m sure it’s that way for everyone. There’s days when I can recognise it and take steps to help it, by, for example, skipping past Iron Maiden’s ‘Tears of a Clown’ and listening to The Bugle instead. Some days all is great and I feel I can conquer the world, others where the vast wonders of the universe are a bleak formless mass. The Black Dog still howls and reading the news is increasingly horrifying. There’s days I kick myself for not starting the post apocalypse LARP I’d been writing pre American election, but it felt not so much too close to home, but already hiding in the cupboard ready to leap out and attack when I least expect it, much like certain childhood nightmares involving snails. I hate snails*.


If I have to deal with a Black Dog I’d rather it be this one.

My relationship with my wife has also improved – I’m not always easy to deal with, and I’m still completely shithouse at actually following through on my ideas/self improvement, but that’s the struggle. Well no, it shouldn’t be a struggle, but my knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory continues. There’s frequent temptations to drop back into old habits (I’m a recovering Games Workshop addict and Necromunda is returning soon), but so far the old demons are mostly at bay. But feeling like I’m contributing to bills, and being able to buy Metal Hammer magazine on a regular basis again has brightened my world like the pyro at a Maiden gig. It’s not that I don’t think doing household stuff isn’t contributing (Far from it), but being able to look at something and go “Yes, I can actually buy that” cheers my mood immensely. I believe it’s called pride.

She asked me a couple of months ago what I wanted out of my life and career, was there anything I cared about enough to do, to work for.  What do I want? It’s a dangerous question I grant you, but in that context didn’t so much invoke a cold sweat as a full blown Lovecraftian lurking nightmare. That’s one of the most terrifying questions I’ve been asked, and it’s power to unnerve hasn’t lessened over the decades since I was first asked it. Because I don’t know. Never have. I’ve generally been content to shamble along, stumbling into things as they come – that’s how I got into TV all those years ago. Should I have a plan by now? Fuck, I’m almost 38, so it sure seems like I should. I’ve a long and inglorious history of abandoning things that took effort (I’m not proud), so what would make me actually work?  Should I keep shambling along? What would make me put that effort in? Fuck, can I?


I miss Vir. RIP Stephen Furst.

It’s alway been easy to retreat back into myself. There’s the struggle of being someone who loves physical touch in a family that doesn’t hug, but had no fucking idea how to get it. Making friends took work, and what did I have to offer to others? It took a lot of work in my late 20’s to deal with that (Thanks hon!), and it’s still something I have issues with. It’s again with the terror of thinking inwardly, because when I do I don’t tend to like myself much. I mean, I don’t think I’m a monster, but I looking in the mirror ain’t fun sometimes, not just on the rare occasion my beard get’s trimmed.  There’s days I’m tempted to seriously trim both my hair and beard, but I’m not sure what sort of sign that is – an overdue evolution or a cry for help? Whatever it is, it’ll need to be done in stages as A: my marriage is beard dependent and B: virtually no-one I’m in contact with (Bar family) has seen me with short hair and heads may well explode.


It was this or the bit from Scanners. You know the one I mean…

I haven’t seen the shrink in quite a while, as he wasn’t working for me. I should try to find one that works, as there’s frequently things I’d like to say to people, but am unsure as to how. Commmunication with my wife is improving, that’s what started this after all, but there’s still things I’m nervous about telling her, no matter how much she reassures me that she wants to know what I think. It’s almost as if I want a social media network that doesn’t know anyone I do, so I can vent about people I know, but they don’t. Actually, that strikes me as hellishly unhealthy. Besides, if I can’t let that petty shit go, what hope is there for me?

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The Eternal Struggle.

Anger’s still something I have trouble dealing with. Not in a *tiny issue* “I’ll fucking cut you!” kind of way, but the way that bottles up everything inside and refuses to admit what’s wrong untl it explodes. Anger, while it’s a fine motivating force, can be dangerous. I’m far from a violent man, but over the years I’ve had more than one person joke about taking bets on the body count when I snap, a joke I find a lot less funny now than I did at 16. At a team building event shortly before I left a previous job I regret not saying I wanted to be less angry, because my default response to finding an upreplaced loo roll shouldn’t be to want to find the lazy shit who never replaced it and introduce them to the pointy end of a sword. I’m glad I’m not there anymore. I still have the urge to flip the bird at the building whever I go past.

I still wonder just why I hang on to that stuff – there’s stuff I can remember like it was yesterday in my head, but I’m likely the only person who does. I almost can’t help but carry grudges – thick fetid hatreds, loathings so intense they could power small nations. There’s people I went to high school with who’s graves I hope to piss on and I’m pretty damn sure that’s not healthy. Even more so, given I can’t remember what most of them look like. Sure, not letting go of ancient grudges is a proud family tradition, but some of those traditions should be broken. It’s another reason why I’m so proud I don’t drink, but that’s more of an issue with the predominant culture in this stupid hellpit of a country than anything else.

I’m not sure if I should have posted this. I’ve not slept well the last few days, and that tends to cloud my mood. I’ve been writing and rewriting this for almost a month, deliberating whether to post it. I think posting it’s the better move. So, what’s my situation? Still up and down, but the ups are a lot higher and the downs aren’t as down, which is cause for celebration. Thanks for reading. I’m not sure there was a point to this, but either way I’m glad to get it out there. And remember, if things are rough, then talk to someone. Please. Don’t be afraid to talk.

Be seeing you…

* No really, I loathe them beyond all measure. Them and slugs. The boggle eyed slimy freaks have terrified me since I was a kid and the mere thought of eating them makes me want to heave. We all have our fears.

The secret to running in a suit is to…

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

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

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

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Zombie T-Rex!

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

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

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

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

Phenomenon (Doo doo do doodoo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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