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…

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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.

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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.

“Fish have nipples right?”

In the annals of military history, there are legendary units units, tales of whose heroism are told for centuries, even thousands of years after they are gone. The Sacred Band of Thebes, the Varangian Guard, the 101st Airborne, Hogan’s Heroes. Now to add to that noble list of names, *drum roll*  Team Fish Nipples! Yep, that should set the tone for the session, which set a new record for pissing about, distractions and general tomfoolery. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, but there was a lot of me holding my head in hands either in shame or trying not to laugh. Moving on…

First off,  to recap from last session, they were being briefed about their next mission: the extraction of Raith Herajan, an Imperial supply officer. He’d been acting as an informant, but was concerned that Imperial Intelligence were closing in. I was at first unsure as to whether the discussion if he qualified as a double or triple agent was in character, but was told in no uncertain terms that it was. After all, this bunch have a reputation in the Alliance and it sure ain’t for staying on topic. The the rest of the briefing covered such important information as whether the extraction should be subtle or high profile, any contacts on planet that could help them and whether the Mon Cal has nipples. One of my players Googled “Mon Calamari Nipples?’  It’s moments like those that I both love and hate my players.

New identities were issued to them, and I made the mistake of not having made up names for them, which led to my players choosing font based names – Bridget Helvetica is the only one I can remember. (Mercifully no-one chose a name based around Wing Dings.) That was a far more sensible idea than the earlier option of swapping people’s names around – Twee would be Terpfen etc. While the actual Terpfen was keen for that,  he was the only one. They returned to their ship, which had not been messed with by any of the bases other inhabitants (This time…) and took off. There was a clothing change montage on-board ship, as Elshaandru Picu is a high status planet, which lead to Terpfen finally putting on a shirt (The conversation about fish nipples began again), Savani dressing sexy in place of tatty spacer’s clothes (She was rocking that 11 Charisma) and Twee putting on a hat. A very fine hat.

They passed through customs without any trouble, and proceeded to make their way to the 27th Hour club (it being one of those annoying joke names, given the planet has a 26 hour day) to make contact. It’s part of a massive entertainment complex for those with too much money and nowhere to spend it, which had my PC’s interested as they’d been given 5 grand each from the Bacta sales they made (The rest either having gone to High Command’s budget or recovered by the Empire)

After some issues with the code phrase (Twee asked the wrong bartender), they were told to wait, and after a half hour of food and drink  (The 27th Hour has a policy of ‘If yuou stump our bartenders, you drink free’) a neatly dressed Twi’lek man escorted them upstairs to a well appointed waiting room, complete with up to date magazines! Soon after entered Kina Margath, owner of the complex and Rebel agent. Some conversation followed about the mission and target and a plan was formulated, all the while it became increasingly clear that while the PC’s hadn’t heard of Margath, Margath had heard of them – word spreads quickly in Rebel intelligence.

They decided to find Raith at the gaming tables (A lot quicker than I’d expected), so while Twee was Mind Tricking other gamblers at the table to get them to leave, Vallo draped herself over him and whistled the recognition song, which made him both pleased and incredibly nervous. He proceeded to excuse himself, moving quickly once Vallo dropped hints about going up to his room. The Stormtroopers at the door looked at them very strangely, one of them seeming to comment “I thought he preferred fish.” I’m not proud.

Meanwhile Terpfen and Sivani went to rent an air-speeder, taking out the full insurance package on the vehicle, while Twee and Charlie (Who’s both R2 unit and booster seat). went to wait outside. Vallo established her credentials with the target, and prepared to make their exit, jimmying a window, signalling their ride. and taking precautions. By that of course I mean crafting a grenade from the room’s hi-fi (Thanks to the Bomb-Thrower talent) and bracing it against the door.

We ended with Team Escape making their way into the speeder, as the Stormtroopers started hammering at the door, with about to explode! Yes, I do love ending sessions on cliffhangers. I haven’t watched all that Doctor Who for nothing… The real surprise was they made it through most of the plot I’d written – I hadn’t expect them to make contact quite so soon. Still, we should have an explosive start to next session!

But do Dead Men Make More Sequels?

So, a fifth Pirates of the Carribbean film. Once again the Disney company have dragged a hungover Johnny Depp out of bed, dressed and put him on set and let him loose. Is it worth it?

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Well, sort of… They did keep that lovely main theme, so that’s something.  It tries, it really tries to recapture the sense of adventure that made the original film so much fun, and manages some wonderful moments, but doesn’t quite get over the line. Given the time between films 4 and 5 and the well documented issues during shooting (Barnaby…) that’s not really a surprise.

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For starters, we don’t get enough time with the new leads to really care about them, what with one of them being a cut rate Orlando Bloom and the other constantly being chased for witchcraft (In character that is), an element which seemed somewhat out of place for the time period. It reminded me a little of the way science and faith were treated in Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who, but that’s a discussion for another time. I guess some setup to the Carribbean witch trials would have been nice to help set the scene, but that might have meant cutting Depp, and I’m guessing they don’t want to anger their golden goose by limiting his screen time. (Me? I’d have cut it and blamed the Australian Government)

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Mercifully it’s closer to 2 hours in length than 3, which is a welcome relief given how numb my arse was getting halfway through the third film. I’d comment on the fourth, but I genuinely don’t remember enough about it to comment. As for the rest of the cast, a mostly CG Javier Bardem does a fine job (I kept thinking of him as his character from Skyfall), chewing at as much scenery as he can get his hands on, which isn’t much after Depp and Geoffrey Rush are done with it. On the bright side, there’s a small appearance from [NOT REALLY A SPOILER BUT I’M STILL KEEPING IT SECRET SQUIRREL] and one of the villains turned out to be [LOUD SQUEAL OF JOY FROM MY WIFE], which was lovely as I didn’t know they were in the film at all.

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Maybe there were a lot of deleted scenes, or maybe they tried from the outset to make the film shorter,* the stories that came from set don’t make it sound like a functional production. How much of that is down to Depp (Or his dogs) I’m not sure and am trying not to guess at, but I’m pretty sure there’s a far better film lurking in there. (I’m an optimist that way) It could be we’re blase about the supernatural elements, as opposed to the surprise they were in the first film, but the seeming need to go bigger and bigger with each film just hasn’t paid off. For an example; there’s a fight scene near the end that should be amazing (I can see how I’d run it in an RPG), but it swiftly become’s little more than Depp jumping around on a green screen, and while that’s not wholly unwelcome, it get’s old.

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Also, in barely related news, for a film that seems to be trying to wrap up the series, the after credits scene annoyingly hints at further films, and is in no way up to the Marvel standard. Maybe it’s finally time to sink the franchise down to Davey Jones?

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I give it 3 raised cutlasses out of 5.

PS: I also discovered I know someone who doesn’t know who Errol Flynn is. A double bill of Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood is in her future. 🙂

*An approach Peter Jackson could do well to remember.

Zedtown: A Divided City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I did a thing recently.

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

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

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Our… heroes. Scoundrels, vagabonds and mercenaries all!

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

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

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Our Pictish Shaman, shortly before she was stabbed.

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

So, where were we?

So, it’s been a while since I updated on my Star Wars game. Well, strap in readers, cause it’s about to happen! Apologies to my players for any errors, as my note taking wasn’t as good that session.

Our heroes:
Twee Lek – Jawa, aspiring Force user, accompanied by his R2 unit Charlie, who speaks a mix of Binary and Doge.
Terpfen – Mon Calamari, Commando. Has more weapons than shirts.
Varlo Delste – Human, Saboteur by trade, Alderaanian by birth.
Savani Brewynn – Human, Ace Pilot and Occasional Voice of Reason.

When last we left our heroes, they’d hijacked an Imperial Bacta freighter, murdering most of the crew and running. A few calls to some local hospitals and they were in the Bacta selling trade! Terpfen and Varlo went to meet their last buyer, while Twee and Savani went looking for ‘Wizard Crystals’, which didn’t go well. Still, it went better than the meeting, which backfired somewhat when their last contact brought some friends along: a dozen Stormtroopers. Blaster fire was exchanged, as were grenades. Luckily Twee could sense his friends were in danger, arriving as Terpfen was badly wounded and Varlo unconcious. Twee continued to use his parlour trick of twisting troopers helmets around to surprising effect. Just how do they see in those helmets anyhow?

Their intervention was well timed, as Terpfen was almost killed as well. With the last of the troopers dead and the contact fled, it was decided to run as well, with the party taking shelter in the abandoned Rey’s Occult Books, hoping to find some way out of the mess. We returned, and with the party slighty better healed, they prepared. Terpfen did some tactical thinking, and concluded that making their way to the starport through the sewers (Which had a back entrance in the store was the more sensible option. Sure, there did turn out to be a Dianoga (As if I’m going to miss a chance for that!), but between the Stormtroopers they threw to it and my dice rolling, it wasn’t too much trouble.

Outside the spaceport, it was decided the Jawa would sneak in to the control room and unlock their ship (Doing the John McClane again) while the rest would sneak around to the ship itself. Some technical jiggery pokery (And another gun fight) ensued before the players made their escape, arriving back at base with a mostly undamaged super freighter of Bacta and the faint praise of their Commander. We ended with a brief hint at their next mission – an Imperial official who needs to be kidnapped! Based on the 30 second next time preview,  beautiful woman and some sort of high stakes card game may also involved. One of my players had earlier said he’d keen for a heist adventure, so I moved the idea forward a bit. I’m a kind and generous GM like that. 🙂

It’ll be another 3 weeks till we next play, owing to my wife and I’s 7th anniversary holiday and the Scion game we play in being back on. After the chaos of my fuck up with the Bacta/fuel ship, I’m feeling a lot better about the campaign. I think I know where I’m going, I have some important NPC’s to introduce soon and my players seems to be enjoying themselves more. It’s a good feeling.

He’ll save every one of us!

There are very few things I would change about my wedding.

For starters, I wouldn’t change the marriage. It’s been almost 7 years as I write this and it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done, better even than going to a neighbours to watch Return of the Jedi as a young child, or first hearing the likes of Iron Maiden and the Ramones. Wouldn’t change the date. Certainly wouldn’t change the toast I gave. I would change the soundtrack a tad, namely by making sure the DJ’s actually used some of the vast amount of music we gave them, rather than the small snippets they played after our dance, or making sure they played our entrance music and not the cutting the cake music as we walked in. Little things.

What I would change though, assuming my wife wouldn’t hit me for doing so, is arranging to have somewhere, whether as a banner or on the invite, the phrase “ALL CREATURES WILL MAKE MERRY, UNDER PAIN OF DEATH.” You know, to properly set the mood. And hey, were we to use the wedding march and not Anvil of Crom, why not have it played by Brian May? Why am I talking about this? Well, I just saw Flash Gordon on the big screen for the first time.

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Well, Flash Gordon – it’s in the lyrics of the theme tune!

I adore the film far more than I should. It’s a glorious, chaotic mess, one that makes a lot more sense when you realise it’s writer also wrote a lot of the 60’s Batman series. Add to that a lead actor who was dubbed over in post production (though by whom no-one knows), a retro futurist look that embraces 1930’s style special effects, complete with barely disguised action figures falling off spaceships, costuming that has to be seen to be believed (My wife has been trying to get me to cosplay as Vultan for years) and massive sets, all of which are chewed apart by the cast, mostly BRIAN BLESSED, who strides through the film with the air that he can’t quite believe he’s getting paid to have so much fun.  Meanwhile, Max Von Sydow is doing his thing, all suave and menacing in some truly impractical costuming, which is saying something given some of the elaborate nothings the female characters are wearing while Timothy Dalton takes things as seriously as a heart attack, a lone rock of drama awash in a sea of ham, much like Lalla Ward in the Doctor Who serial The Horns of Nimon.

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It’s the moustache that really sells it. That and the cape.

Finding out that it was a friend of mines first time seeing the film, well, that made the night even better. It’s not something you watch, more that you experience. It’s not quite in the same league as say, Big Trouble in Little China, but it’s sure up there. I’m also stunned the cinema didn’t echo with a resounding chorus of “Gordon’s alive?” Yes, you could nitpick the thing – Flash’s pickup technique was kinda creepy and what sort of insane regime executes people in leather hot pants? Dale’s action girl moment during her escape is completely out of character, though the picking up her shoes afterwards was some lovely comic business. And that’s without mentioning that Flash wears a shirt with his own name on it… But I’ve still not seen anything which so beaufitully matches the spirit of it’s source material, with the possible exception of The Rocketeer, also featuring Dalton. Granted, I’ve not read much of the original comics, but it win’s solely for the scene between the feds and gangsters, as both sides look at each other nervously, and then start shooting at the Nazis.

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And what the hell is up with the mirror inside the coffin?

If you’ve not seen the film and this hasn’t made you want to watch it, there might not be any hope for you. Harsh I know, but that sort of thing is how I judge if people are worth spending time with. Now all I need is to find a copy of the Blu-Ray with Blessed’s commentary track…

A recent thought.

I’m faily certain there are acceptable songs to sing to oneself when walking down a badly lit suburban street about 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.

I’m almost certain Penetration by the Stooges isn’t one of those. Luckily I managed to stop myself before the group of people coming the other way down the street were within earshot. At least, if they heard me, they didn’t say anything.