Watch how I soar…

So what’s been up with me since last we spoke? Not much, but it’s been good.

I made it back to rapier on Tuesday night, and while my arms aren’t happy with me, my brain is. I never thought I’d say it, but I enjoy the exercise. I despise the idea of gyms, but exercise while actually doing something I’m ok with. Look, it’s good to have fitness goals, and I have some: to be better at swords, last longer in a mosh pit and to be able to keep beating Godson in arm wrestling for a while longer. And, to quote John Rogers, I need to live long enough to piss on a lot of graves.

Speaking of Rogers work, the first table read for the Leverage sequel series happened this week, and I’m not sure how to feel. I love the show and am more than happy to have the characters, well most of them, back but I don’t know how to feel. I mean, it’s 2020 and I keep expecting to have the rug pulled out from under me you know? I guess I’m just nervous that it won’t be as good as the original, and that Timothy Hutton’s absence will cast too long a shadow over things. Still, I’m taking the show’s return as good news and hanging onto that. (There’s also the hope that we’ll get a fresh source book for the RPG.)

Had my latest session with the brain doctor Wednesday and I seem to be making progress. I’ve been modifying my coping mechanisms an I think it’s starting to show results. She also mentioned the Serenity prayer at one point, and for a second all I could think of was Alan Tudyk…

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Yes, I’m extremely proud of that joke. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The Crimson Skies brainstorming has continued. I don’t have an arc idea yet, but I have a vision in my head of someone with a cocktail in one hand and a gun in the other and Miss Phryne Fisher came to mind. Sure, there’s the obvious issues of that series being set around 15 years before the time period I’m writing in, but historical accuracy has always been more of a bug than a feature in my events, as those who’ve played my swashbucklers can attest to. An opening scenario is being bashed around as well. Mostly I’m trying not to overthink my approach to this, as well as my nerves about trying another campaign and running it online.

The brain does like sweating the small stuff, such as what planes will the PC’s start with, what should the squadron be named and what’s their colour scheme? You know, the small stuff that by rights most of which the players should be deciding. Not that I have any of them yet, though there’s been some interest. I should also start compiling all this into a Google Doc – I’ve been jotting down notes on the trip to and from work, but it’s time to start putting some order to things I’m going to take it any further.

Lastly, it’s been a long day but it ended well. The Stooges: Live at Goose Lake was released today. I made it in to Red Eye Records about 5 minutes before closing and got the last copy they had. It is, a wonderful thing and by that I mean it’s messy as all hell, but when everything clicks, it’s incredible.

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.

Revving up the engine…

Postmodern Jukebox don’t appear to have done a version of Kenny Loggins Danger Zone. This is something of a shame, as I reckon it would make a damn near perfect theme tune for this game.  Sure, the main theme to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow works wonderfully and is standing in for the moment, while the country version from Archer is close, but it’s not quite what I’m after.

Well, the adventure seeds I posted seem to have gone over well, with my wife saying she could link at least 4 of them together, based on who the PC’s are. Are they blue bloods who’ve only known the high life, or are they scrappy working class kids who’ve poured every cent they had into aviation? That affects things a surprising amount – throwing rich kids into a society party versus putting working class yobs into it. Think of it like the episode of Brooklyn 99 where the characters go to Captain Holt’s party – if Jake and co knew how to act properly the episode wouldn’t have been anywhere near as funny.  Obviously, I wouldn’t do that every time, but keeping your players on their toes isn’t a bad thing.

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That followed on some chatter with her about the adventure ideas themselves, with me being pleased at how varied they seemed, but still the chance that each could end in flying. I mean, while piloting should be the focus, that shouldn’t be all you’re doing. If every adventure is ‘fly around and shoot something’ that’ll get dull, both to play and run. Yes, you’re at a swanky party now, but there’s every chance that things will go south and you’ll have to hijack an aerotaxi to escape. So, while you may not have expected to need a parachute tonight, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. (Said adventures should also have an appropriately pulp name – Cargo of Doom, Night of Fire, Wings of Honour etc.)

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Moving to character gen, I’d prefer to do that in a Session 0 rather than scattered about. Since the characters are spending so much time together, I’d prefer to get all the players in one place (Or as close as we can given Covid) and hash that out together. Shared backgrounds, establishing bits of history and working out who does what best so people each have their own role to play. But I think a Session 0 for any game is damn near essential.

Now for the tone of the whole thing. Look, it’s not tricky to establish – lighthearted pulp theatrics. Think The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy. There’s danger and action at every turn, and few problems can’t be solved with a solid right hook. Comedy, but not farce, with snappy quips flying back and forth. Plus, who can resist shouting an enemy’s name as they escape? I have fond memories of a Gear Krieg campaign where more than one session ended with one of us yelling “SKORZENY!” at the sky.

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That’s what I don’t have yet: an arc. A recurring nemesis that drives the plot, or a story to wrap the adventures around. I may not really need one, or need one to be immediately introduced, but I like the idea of there being a say, phantom menace. You know, the sort of thing that could lead people into a zone… of danger. (Yes, that joke is what prompted looking for Danger Zone covers) More than that, I want a reason for these adventures to happen, some connecting tissue that can be referenced later, or gives hints as to what’s coming.

What’s next? Ponder a story arc and a villain and re-read the Savage Worlds rules. Follow that with some more research, looking for maps and reference photos, while seeing if there’s enough interest for me to properly write this up and run it. Also, telling myself I don’t have the money to afford one of these to wear while I GM. My tax refund is earmarked towards a new PC, but cosplay has caught my eye more than once over the years.

Be seeing you…

Fly the Crimson Skies!

So yes, my head has still been in the clouds so to speak. I’ve needed the distraction shall we say. I’ve also been meaning to dig out the Crimson Skies Clix planes I have (I think I had all the squadrons bar the Hollywood Knights and some of the Ace packs). I have fond memories of the game, though I remember it had a knack for planes to fly to the center of the board and then desperately try not to crash into each other. I always meant to build a zeppelin for it, or add more terrain. I also never lost the joy of picking up the planes and making “Neeeeeeoooooow, DAKKA DAKKA* noises with them. I grow old, but i refuse to grow up.

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Right, so in the last installment I said I’d be talking about NPC’s and adventure seeds. Thoughts on that follow.

NPC’s. We’re talking quite a few here. The unit’s benefactor, local politicians and business moguls for starters. A squadron needs a base, so that means repair techs (Yes, I’d give one the nickname Ratchet), ground crew and the like. I’d say they wouldn’t need a medic but accidents do happen. They’re in Hollywood, so there’s bar owners, celebrities and journalists, both reputable and muck raking. Any success brings enemies, and the PC’s need a pirate or two who’s surname they can yell at the sky as they escape. We can’t go without mentioning fellow pilots, both on their side and against them, both pirate and civilian. And for flavour, there’s hangers on, family, possible romantic partners and the kid who sells newspapers on the corner of the base. Most of them deserve to be cast, and have quirks and accents. Also, a whole lot of them will be happy to see the PC’s, something I’d had… issues with in past campaigns. I could also do with remembering to keep a list of names close by for random NPC’s. Names are a bit of an Achilles heel of mine.

As for adventures, just because the campaign is set around a squadron of pilots doesn’t every adventure should include flight. True, if you’ve put a bunch of XP into Pilot skills, you want to use them, but surely that’s not all you can do, right? I had an idea of a group loosely inspired by Wraith Squadron (In short, half commando unit, half fighter squadron), but they might work better as antagonists.

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So, adventure seeds:
The press launch, and the first flight of the new squadron. Their benefactor has laid out a solid amount of dough to finance this op and wants results. Said shindig will almost certainly be interrupted by something.
Hollywood isn’t all about flying – it’s also about being seen. Time for a night on the town!
The PC’s are hired to act as consultants on Errol Flynn’s latest picture. Not everyone wants the picture to succeed though, as the notorious pirate that Flynn is portraying is alive and angry about it.
Their exploits have attracted a lot of press attention and a studio is planning a (hilariously inaccurate) movie about them
A society heiress has been kidnapped by pirates! (Actually, she’s fallen in love with one of them and it’s a secret elopement)
Local hot shots have challenged one (or all) of the PC’s to an air race to determine who’s the better pilot. The fact that the race is highly illegal and stupidly dangerous has nothing to do with it.
Pirates! How do the PC’s deal with them – do they try to blast them out of the air, follow them back to their base or pretend to go rogue and infiltrate them?
Local cargo zeppelins have been getting hit hard – how have the pirates been getting a hold of the shipping times?
The bigwigs at Hughes Aviation need some new planes tested.
The neighbours are getting cranky – tensions between nearby states are flaring again. Are the PC’s on bodyguard duty for the peace talks, or are they the diplomats?
The Hollywood Knights see themselves as the protectors of Hollywood and aren’t happy about the new upstarts on the block – how do we mend the fence, so to speak?
A local pirate outfit is suspiciously well supplied – just where are the new planes and munitions coming from?

I’m enjoying this, it’s helping keep the brain ticking over and occupied. As for how long this goes on for, who knows what the future will bring?

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.

From hell’s heart I stab at thee…

So, 2020’s knack for cancelling everything has continued, with Pheno announcing they’ve had to cancel. It’s a good decision, and I can’t blame them at all, but it’s another blow. I’m just hoping Victoria will be OK by November, as my sister’s getting married then. Plus, I’d really like to see Herbert, AKA Nephew again. Sure, he’s a Schnauzer and not a cat (Ordinarily a deal breaker), but he’s growing on me.

A successful RPG campaign, it’s my white whale. The Kirk to my Khan, the Borg to my Picard, the competent film making to my Ed Wood. I’m aware that my skill lies in one-shots, and yet I continue to try. I’m not sure what that makes me, eternally optimistic? I’ve long been somewhat jealous of the GM’s who can keep a campaign going and I’d like to hope that I’m learning from past mistakes. Mostly, it’s an itch I just need to scratch. I love entertaining people around the gaming table, it’s an addiction, and GM’ing provides that.

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So, Crimson Skies. Let’s do some more work on this, as a hypothetical exercise. A creative outlet if you will. I’ve had pulp on the brain of late, sitting down Saturday night and watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Which is under rated IMO) and The Rocketeer (Which is damn near perfect as pulp films go).

What’s the hook for the setting? In short, it’s a pulp setting. The year is 1937 and the once United States has splintered into numerous smaller nations. Disputes over prohibition and a deadly strain of influenza and new nations have risen in it’s place – California is now the nation of Hollywood, while New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have merged to form the Empire State. Cross border travel has slowed, and in place of road or rail air travel is now the preeminent mode of transport. With that, has come a new spin on an old menace – sky piracy!

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The new nations have formed militia squadrons of their own to combat the pirates, with several said to be funded by rich patrons. The nations squabble with each other, while the pirates move between them seeking fortune and glory. The tech level is very much ‘Rule of Cool’, and not just cause there’s zeppelins (Though that helps). It’s very much the golden age of piracy, but with planes. The villains twirl their moustaches dramatically, the good guys are incorruptible stalwarts (or charming rogues)  and smart alec quips are exchanged as often as bullets.

So, here’s a campaign idea: a patron has announced they’re forming a new militia squadron and the PC’s are it. Who their patron is, that’s to be decided. Maybe they’re a rival of Howard Hughes (Who’s said to bankroll the Hollywood Knights, a squadron comprised of the children of the wealthy elite), a politician who’s seeking to help his run for office, or a wealthy dilettante who fancies their own air force. Don’t know yet.

Being Hollywood, there’s all manner of drama among the wealthy. Add a new pirate threat, searching for hidden treasures, testing new planes (I hear Nikola Tesla has been cooking something up) and daredevil hi-jinks. There’s also the temptation to have cameos from other pulp heroes of the era.
“So, who’s the guy we’re flying escort for today??
“Some big shot archeologist, something Jones I think his name was.”

Savage Worlds is the obvious fit rules wise, though I’ll certainly need to brush up on the vehicle and chase rules. I’ve a PDF of the latest edition, though it might be worth it picking up the dead tree version. There may also be some rules I can port over from the Savage Worlds Flash Gordon RPG, especially the Cliffhanger rules. I’ll have to do do some more reading on this.

Next time, thoughts on adventure seeds and NPC’s.

Be seeing you, in the skies…

All I need is an idea…

As a continuation of my previous post, here goes. So, I said there’s no point running something without an idea. Correct? Well, I’m writing this so I say I am. (My wife would be pleased with that.) I’ll try to elaborate a little on that. I might even stay on topic…

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In the past I’ve been guilty of getting too caught up in loving a setting. The swashbucklers I’ve run, Conan and when I’ve run Star Wars especially. I’ve somehow managed to dodge that with Doctor Who, mostly cause that universe is massive and laughs at continuity. Also, there’s that many different eras of the show to play around in, but I’m starting to get sidetracked. I’ve played in a few games over the years where the GM’s love of the setting comes over louder than a Motorhead show. Hell, I’ve been that GM more than once. It’s not a bad thing. but what I’m trying to get at here is I think that more is needed. What sort of story are you telling, what will your PC’s be doing? Do you have a reason for using this setting more than just ‘Well, I think it’s cool’?

Looking back at a lot of my events over the years, I haven’t. That doesn’t mean the games were bad (Though I cringe at a few of them), but the fact a lot of them were convention one-shots rather than campaigns my have helped as well. There’s less worry about world building when you’ve got three hours, though in games past I’ve spent a lot of that side tracked telling stories. I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. It’s something I’m working on with my GM’ing, trying to avoid distractions and keep everyone entertained. For a campaign though, I think more is needed. Normally for a con game I have an idea or an end scenario – badass Ewoks, Orc rockers etc. And in the past when I’ve tried to run campaigns, that’s also been about what I’ve had. I’ve gotten too excited about an idea or a setting, and dove in feet first without stopping to think about what I’m actually going to do.  A framework for things, a plan, authority figure NPC’s who are happy to see the PC’s.

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There’s also been plenty of times when people seem to be having fun and I’ve let them go on far too long, when I should have let them have a couple of minutes and then gently bring them back to the plot. I enjoy seeing people having fun in my events, it’s basically the primary reason I do this, but I’m the first to admit I get a bit too caught up in it from time to time. I love seeing happy people at my table, what can I say?

So, the two settings that have had me keen of late have been Crimson Skies and Torchwood. I’d been discussing the Torchwood game a while back as a short campaign and as previously noted, I’m currently awash in a dose of Crimson Skies nostalgia. So, what ideas do I have for them?

Crimson Skies
Air piracy, whether for or against is still not decided
Being recruited as consultants on Errol Flynn’s latest picture.
Sky Haven, a modern day Tortuga.
High stakes gambling.
A death defying air duel in and around Chicago skyscrapers.
Zeppelins. Some large and heavily armed, some small and speedy, some worthy of Bond villains.

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So, that’s some interesting ideas, but nothing quite enough to base a campaign around. I’ve also had a lot of temptation to hunt down a pilots jacket to wear while I GM. I’ve costumed to GM at cons before, and while I generally cringe seeing GM’s who wear cloaks and what not (Generally cause it’s only used for joke value), I can understand the appeal. It’s like a uniform. Heck, I remember seeing a guy in Dragon magazine years back who GM’d while wearing a referee’s jersey and used a whistle when his players got out of line. That’s a bit too intense for me, but I can understand a want to keep players in line. Getting back to the point…

Torchwood: Sydney
The arc was going to be someone from Torchwood’s past who still bore a grudge. Possibly an alien stuck on Earth who wanted to get away and didn’t care if the planet burned in the process.
A Silurian hive underneath Sydney Harbour.
Time travel to visit an earlier version of Torchwood, possibly located in Razorhurst.
A surprise visit from the Corsair.
Alien hallucinogens being sold as party drugs.
Tensions with the local UNIT branch.
How many local celebrities are actually aliens?
SIDE NOTE: I was also planning to blow up the Ivy Bar at some point, but that’s cause I had to go there once after a team building work event and immediately wanted to set fire to the place. I have never felt so uncomfortable and out of place in a venue and hope never to again.

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Where am I going with this? Not sure. Putting things down helps sort them in my head for one thing. To work out why I want to run something, to have a plan I guess. I’m a better GM for my mistakes, but I still have plenty to learn. That’s not a bad thing, as uncomfortable as it can be to admit.

To any GM’s out there reading this, what approach do you take?

Be seeing you…

Expectations, revelations and… air piracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to follow. Be seeing you…

Calling from the Funhouse, with my song

I am ‘the excite’, as I was informed the millennials say. (I thought it was the kids, but I’m even more out of touch than I thought.) The news I found today was something of a bolt out of the blue, and to call it a welcome surprise is putting it midly.

Tapes have been found of the last show of the Stooges original lineup, apparently found in a Michigan farmhouse’s basement of all places. The show was at the Goose Lake Festival, August 8 1970, and is a full run through of the album Funhouse from go to whoa. To fans, this is massive. I spent most of the afternoon after getting the news in a state best described as a quivering mass of excitement. A far more eloquent writer than I described it as the ‘Rosetta Stone of punk’, and I can’t dispute that.

There’s been myths for decades about professionally recorded Stooges shows. Yes, there’s the legendary Metallic KO album (The only live album I know of where the singer keeps track of what’s being hurled at the band from the audience), but as performances go it’s far from optimal. There’s been dozens, if not hundreds, of bootlegs and rehearsal tapes issued and most of those from the bands later, more destructive days or from the mid 2000’s reunion. So to find tape like this, let alone in such quality is rare as hen’s teeth.

How can I describe this to non-fans? It’s like finding a copy of  Loves Labours Won, or footage of Frank Oz performing Miss Piggy on Dagobah during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. The band produced some of the most vital and influential music in their/all time and there are bare scraps of footage of them in their prime. One track has been uploaded to streaming services, with the full show to be released on August 7th. I can’t wait.

I have been accused (mostly by myself) of being evangelical about the music I like and on that charge I’m proudly guilty. I can’t help wanting to share this with people – it makes me so happy, so maybe it’ll have the same effect on others, right? Mostly it doesn’t, but from time to time things have worked. I got my wife into the New York Dolls, and she was very nervous when she told me she preferred them to the Ramones. Look, that’s OK, everyone has different opinions. It’s not that OK, but far from a deal breaker. But I can’t help wanting to share the things I love with people in the hope that I can share the love.

Digging around, whether through bargain bins or old interviews can produce amazing things. That’s how I discovered music in my early days. “So, this band said they liked these bands, so I’ll check them out.” That’s how I found about the New York scene centered around CBGB’s, and the Detroit scene of the late 60’s. Things can turn up in unexpected places – Mongolia or Central Australia for two examples. Look, this pandemic has made me realize I miss a lot of things. To go into the street and not worry, to play RPG’s face to face instead of over Discord, fencing practise and I really miss dressing up for LARP. But what I miss most of all is live music. The sweat, the excitement, the shared feeling of joy. Of a group of strangers coming together to share in something they all love.

I got reminded a few weeks back that I should have seen Iron Maiden by now, and they might not be back until 2022. As much as I want people to be safe, and I do, I miss the shared atmosphere of a concert, whether the intimacy of a tiny room or a stadium filled with people. A life without live music, you might as well remove a limb, it’d be less painful.  Stay safe people, and take care of each other. Remember to be kind, even, especially when this is over.

Be seeing you.

Good news everyone!

good news

Last Thursday (at the time of writing) was my 10th wedding anniversary. I’m very pleased by it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years, but that’s the progress of time. It’s been wonderful and I’m very much looking forward to the next 10 years. Furthermore, my therapist thinks I’m in a good enough place that we can drop back to bi-monthly sessions. I’m hoping this continues. I know the brain has it’s regular ups and downs, but if I can keeps the ups and the downs aren’t so low, I’ll be happy. In other good news: my Minbari freeform was accepted for Phenomenon! I’m both very happy about this and more than a tad nervous. Shocking I know, but I get nervous about things I care about, and I care deeply about both the Babylon 5 universe* and my convention games. Yes, the idea is something, but I want to see what the players will do with it, how they react. That’s one of the things I love most about cons, seeing where different groups of players go in a session.

Getting confirmation also gives me a deadline (Which I work far better with) and means there’s (hopefully) people who want to decide the destiny of the Minbari people a thousand years before the timeline of the TV show. Well, I hope. B5 isn’t that niche, but it’s far from massively prominent these days. Writing it so people who don’t know the show can still play will be tricky, but the plan is to write-up a background sheet to bring any newbies up to speed beforehand. If I had my way, I’d get them to go out and watch the show, but that’s a bit too much of an ask.

So, now I have to actually write the thing. That’s where a lot of my ideas fall down Bit nervous, but the hamsters are starting to run round the wheel a little faster than before. I spent a good chunk of last night going through the B5 Encyclopedia (A gift from my darling wife that sparked this idea off, so you should thank her really) and while it’s fascinating stuff (As we know, I’m a sucker for background detail), there’s not a lot there. I mean there is, but not compared to say, Wookiepedia. On the bright side, this means I get to make it up and not worry about conflicting with anything. On the bad side, it means I get asked questions like “Did Valen fuck?”**

The brain has also been working on Troubleshooters ideas. That’s a lesser priority, given that it’s not for an upcoming convention, and I’m not even thinking of running it till we can see other people again. Yes, technically we can, but I’m not even thinking of doing that yet. Either way, globe trotting adventure that can be set in a 1970’s BBC studio is bubbling away in the background.

Be seeing you…

*How much you say? There was a reading from it at my wedding. *drops mic*
** Spoilers…

*cues up Mission Impossible theme*

Unsurprisingly, another RPG has caught my eye in the last few days. This one’s called The Troubleshooters, and I’ve already backed the Kickstarter as I type. It’s an action adventure RPG set in an alternate universe 1960’s, which is a damn fine way of getting my attention. Look, I’ll give you their elevator pitch:

“Imagine a fantastic world of the 1960s, divided by the cold war, where evil organizations try to take over the world, and superspies and secret agents try to stop them while fighting each other.

Imagine a world where you travel the world like Tintin, unmask heinous villains like Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Gang, unravel mysteries like Nancy Drew, do heists like Carmen Sandiego, stop evil masterminds like Spirou and Fantasio, solve crimes like The Saint, and even catch spies like The Man from UNCLE. That’s the world of The Troubleshooters.

Together, you and your band of troubleshooters help people, and fix the kind of problems that only you can fix.”

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As pitches go, I’m in. I mean, a game that seems to have a ‘letting a villain monologue before you escape’ mechanic built in to the system is a godsend for me, who’s had many a dramatic monologue interrupted by gunfire from PC’s.  Having that sort of thing built in to the system, and indeed the expectations for the game as a whole, sets the tone nicely. It can be tricky at con games wanting to make sure that everyone knows what sort of game that’s about to happen, but thankfully I seem to have enough of a reputation and/or skill as a GM that give or take 10 minutes into a session most everyone has the vibe down.

I’m delighting in the little touches – the character sheets are based around a passport, and one of the Kickstarter upgrades is a pack of passport stickers, as the sheets have space for that. PC’s are very rarely killed, but most often knocked out and put in a cell that can be escaped from at the opportune moment. Though as much as I’d love to get a portrait of myself in the game, the option is far too expensive for me. Alas.

Back to the game. Exotic travel is a big part of things, there’s an evil organization looking to upset the delicate balance between East and West, and last year a French/Japanese atomic rocket reached the moon. Yeah, it’s our 1965 but not quite. (Head canon: All the early eps of Doctor Who have been preserved) That’s not all though – there’s extra European nations,  dark jungles full of strange temples and bizarre bleeding edge tech torn straight from James Bond films or a mad scientists lab. It’s the sort of stuff I love having access to, or letting my players have, in games. I have fond memories of a spy games I ran a few years ago that prompted the line from one player of “I take off my tuxedo to reveal another tuxedo!”

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As for what I’m going to do with it, I’m not sure. I mean, I’ve bought it, so I’ll be running it (That’s my wife’s rule) Campaigns are generally where I fall over in my GM’ing, so there’s some pressure in that aspect. The idea of something heavily inspired by Mission Impossible and/or Leverage is the first thing that’s come to mind. Or, given my GM style and my likely players, Get Smart. I do want players to pick an actor who’s playing their character and stage an intro sequence for the game, as if it’s a TV show. I don’t quite have a handle on the ‘ordinary folks in extraordinary situations’ part of the brief quite yet, which means more research is due. Oh, oh the horror. 🙂 I’m already sorely tempted to run an interlude set in The Village, but can you blame me? I adore a good cliffhanger, so ending a session on “We want information. Information. Information…”  *tingles*

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Look, all this is early brainstorming, given the game is only in the Kickstarter at the moment. I figure the physical book won’t arrive before the end of the year, assuming we’re still here then. Me, stressed over Covid 19? Not at all… But time to plan is a good thing that I’ll need. Yes, I should be writing the Minbari game, but I’ve been planning to have another crack at GM’ing a campaign and I reckon this is the game that’ll take me. *starts humming the Mission Impossible theme*

Be seeing you…

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BARSOOM!

What’s been happening since last I wrote? Well, we had a fire in the kitchen at home, which wasn’t fun. To be clear, meat on the grill caught fire. It was put out speedily without any damage, other than to the meal. Made for some unneeded excitement, that’s for certain. Plus, we got pizza instead! Also, I’m set to make my housemates pancakes tomorrow morning as an isolation treat. I am a good housemate.

So, I’ve had a little more time to dig through the John Carter of Mars RPG. I’m nowhere near through the book, but I’m certainly intrigued, in that first flash of interest kind of way. You know, that feeling when you see a new and shiny thing and the brain has trouble thinking about anything but it. This normally only happens to me about a month out from a convention when I’m madly trying to finish the current game, so it’s nice that things have changed up a little.

To quibble, I’m really not thrilled with the landscape format of the book as it makes reading the PDF fiddly on a tablet. It certainly has me tempted to buy the dead tree version at some point in the future, if only to make reading the damn thing easier. In better news, I found the film’s soundtrack on Spotify and it was a delight to see that at least half the track titles were a reference or pun. For example, A Thern for the Worst, Get Carter, and The Second Biggest Apes I’ve Seen This Month, which I can’t help but hear in Maxwell Smart’s voice. Silly song titles are a fine way to get my attention, and it’s quite lovely music.

Right, back to the book. The books layout and art are lovely, with a good touch of Frank Frazetta and that’s never a bad thing to me. There’s a lot of adaptability in the system, with the combining two attributes and roll under mechanic based more around how you’re trying to do something instead of what. On the bright side, a roll low mechanic suits my dice curse just fine. I dig the Momentum and Threat mechanics, and they remind me of the Bennies from Savage Worlds. Sure, record keeping isn’t exactly my forte. and half the time I mangle systems in the name of fun, but isn’t fun the point?

From what I have read, the feel of the thing is right up my alley. It’s hitting that cinematic swashbuckling decayed civilization thing that I dig pretty damn hard. Emotions are heightened, there’s mad dashes into action, frequently against impossible odds, ancient ruins and strange technologies. Duels of honour, savage hordes, giant apes and fancy airships. That’s pretty much my jam right there.

So, there’s only a few things in the way. The ones that come to mind are:
1: Can I avoid the mistakes of previous campaigns?
2: Can I keep track of everything that’s going on, and not screw up too many details?
3: Can I keep it going for longer than my initial burst of enthusiasm?
4: Most importantly, can I put this to one side while I write my Minbari game?

Council

There’s every chance it’ll be added to the pile of partially written ideas I have stashed away, or maybe set it aside for a future convention game. Based on my schedule, it’ll be Pheno 2022 at the earliest, as it’s Minbari this year, and the cinematic pulp heroes fight Nazi Cthulhu cultists next year. That’s the plan at least, based on the reaction to the idea. Yes, there’s other conventions I could run at, but I’m on a bit of a hiatus from them at the moment.

I dunno. Maybe a few more days and it’ll get out of my system, at least temporarily. It’s not that I don’t want to try GM’ing a regular game again, but A: I don’t have a campaign idea for this yet, B: there’s no way I’m GMing this over voice or video chat and C: I need to get across the system first. The usual issues, you know?

More to follow. Be seeing you.