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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good thinking 99!”

Hello again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mage…

Rich Man, Poor Man, Spellslinger, Thief?

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night all. Be seeing you.

I bought a cape!

So, been a while.

It’s not that I’ve not been wanting to write, it’s just the times when my brain has been the most fertile is when I’ve been trying to drift off to sleep, so going to the laptop isn’t always the most sensible thing to do. I should know by now that I’ll never remember things, so I should just get up and write them down regardless.

So, let’s look at what’s been going on, in three easily marked segments.

I’m still alive. Look, it’s not that it was a risk, but there’s days it feels good to state. I’m not in danger or having suicidal thoughts or anything of that ilk, but yes, I’m still here.

I managed to make it down to my sisters wedding, and the speech I gave went well. How well? I spent the rest of the night and a lot of the recovery BBQ the day after fending off compliments on it, to the extent I started to want to say ‘Yes, thanks, the compliments are lovely, but I’m not one of the two people you should really be paying attention to at this function.’ Praise is lovely and does wonders for my ego, but there’s a point when it becomes too much. Introvert life and all that. Yes, I’m aware I’m still talking about the thing, but I put a large part of that down to relief at how well the thing went. Weddings are a lot of stress even without Covid and I wanted to be as little stress as possible. Also, we got to see Nephew again, who is a VERY GOOD BOY.

If you’ve seen my wife since then she has shown you the video she took of it, but for those who haven’t I can sum things up thusly:
At no point do I swear, yell ‘By Crom, Ymir and Set!’ or threaten people that if they didn’t pay attention I’d drench this wedding in the blood of it’s guests. Also, despite near every part of my brain screaming at me to, I made the toast to the bride and groom, and not ‘And if you would charge your glasses and… RELEASE THE KRAKEN!‘ My sister is the sensible one out of of the two of us, and she would not have appreciated that.

The pulp game I’m running is going well. I’m still having ideas, casting NPC’s and looking forward to sessions. Most importantly of all, my players seem to be enjoying things. Hell, I’m having thoughts about picking up the Torchwood idea I had a while back for one of my other groups. It’s a little thing, but having the creative part of my brain working again brings so much joy.

I bought a cape. It has purple lining. All three of us who study rapier of a Tuesday bought one. It may have been a way of signalling that we want to learn rapier and cloak, but buying something that makes me happy is something I have no shame about. I still haven’t been able to find a pirate/cavalier hat I like enough that’s in my size. The quest continues…

There’s a new Rivers of London novella out now, and it is paining me to have put it on my birthday wish list rather than having it now. Also, I’m really looking forward to introducing Niece, Almost 13 to the series. Speaking of Niece, I recently added The Court Jester to the list of movies we have to show her, as I really want to see her reaction to the ‘vessel with the pestle’ scene. She adored The Mummy which we recently showed her, so we should be able to get her in front of it without too much bribery, which will likely be required for more Babylon 5.

Every time I book time away from my brain doctor my brain falls to pieces. Guess why I’m mentioning that?

Between falling off the no sugar diet and the new happy pills I’ve put back on most of the weight I’d lost. The days have seemed bleaker at times, and that’s when I’ve traditionally reached for sugar, so yeah. I’m trying to minimize the intake when I do fall off the wagon, but I’m still not happy with it.

I’m heading towards 41 at a terrifying speed. 40 didn’t seem much (Outside of the playlist I made), but I seem to be heading towards… something. Whether mid life crisis, plain old crisis, or something else I’ve no idea.

Having an appointment with a new doctor and working out that my Achilles tendons my be somewhat fucked. Ow. Combined with all the other minor aches and the already existing plantar fasciitis and being on my feet all day for work and well, yeah.

Talking to the new doctor about my brain was raw. They’re doctors, it’s part of the job (And for that I will always respect them), but that first “Here’s my brain” moment is always terrifying.She seemed delighted by the idea of RPG’s though.

The latest Classic Doctor Who box set is out nw in the UK, but JBHiFi says my pre-order will arrive in late May.

The Iron Maidens had to delay their gig again. I completely understand why, but I’m really missing gigs. The sweat, the stench of spilt beer, the exhilaration, the sheer joy that live music brings me, I miss it so damn much.

I worked out that a couple of Sundays back is the first time I’ve been alone in my house, in a minimum 6 months, and likely since the start of Covid. Gods, I’d missed it. I didn’t do anything strange with the time, just relaxed in the silence. And ran around Viking era Britain murdering people. Getting to pet cats in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a delight.

I’m still getting angry quicker than I’d like. There will always be things to work on I guess?


So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you and yours are well and remain so. Be seeing you…

“A short life and a merry one says I”

Well, session 2 of Crimson Skies was on Thursday and it went… OK. I had something of an attack of nerves through the session, but managed to keep things relatively on track. Anyhow, my PC’s were entered into an air race by their patron, though he’d neglected to mention that till the morning of the race itself. Some of the other contestants didn’t say much, they made friends with one and an enemy of another, with mockery so delightful it’s ensured his return as a recurring problem. The race itself went well, and Savage Worlds chase mechanic is wonderful, with the 3 PC’s having the podium to themselves. I hadn’t been certain on the PC’s winning, but true to form my dice crippled the opposition. The session ended with them going out for dinner and drinks with Errol Flynn, and there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong there.

I’ve been continuing thoughts on 7th Sea. I’m still short of a definitive character idea, but ideas continue to flow. Less character ideas, and more bits of costume that I could build a character around. Listening again to The Lies of Locke Lamora has certainly turned my ideas to a more rougish bent (As well as being tempted to buy a pair of throwing hatchets to conceal inside a coat), and near as I can tell that’s part of the campaigns themes. I also picked up S4 of Black Sails, and while I’m continuing to enjoy the show, the sense of impending doom grows ever stronger the closer I get to it’s end.

As for ostume, hopefully you can see my problem? There’s a nice coat, or perhaps this? I’m certainly planning on buying a pair of these, as they’re useful for pirate events and The Hobbits Hoedown, should that ever run again. Perhaps a pauldron much like the ones in the recent BBC Musketeers TV show? I am settled on one thing thought – I want a minimum of black and red in my outfit. I can’t think to any reason why, other than wanting some variety. Blues, maybe green, something different than the stereotype. I can certainly kit myself out in black and scarlet from kit I already own, but I’m feeling the need for something different for this game.

Right. It’s late and the sedative on my meds has kcked in. Night all. sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the moring

Harrumph

Back at work and back in pain. Feet hurt again, and there was a fistful of splinters in my hands. Same old, same old.

My wife and I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender tonight, and there were feels. Many, many feels. It’s a kids show yes, but it doesn’t pull it’s punches. I’m also slightly embarrassed that it took me so long to spot Mark Hamill in the voice cast – my wife was amused at how often I’d check the credits when I recognized a voice. We’re taking a break before starting Legend of Korra, to clear the minds and so we (hopefully) stop crying at Uncle Iroh memes. It’s currently too soon for that, and may be that way for some time. I’m not sure whats next on the viewing list – Veep’s the top of the list at the moment. I’ve been meaning to finish Black Sails and rewatch The Prisoner, but those are for when my wife is away.



Bad, but not unexpected news: Blackpowder and Bloodlines has cancelled again. I can’t blame them for it, it’s the right thing to do, but I’m still a bit down about it. Having something to look forward to helps keep me going brain wise. *sighs* I’m not expecting the Iron Maidens (scheduled for late April) to make it down either, but hopefully things will clear up in time for Gun’s and Roses (A ticket being a Christmas gift from some dear friends) in December. I badly miss live music, but I’m hanging on.


In good news though, a new LARP is in the works where I am, a swashbuckling one at that. So, you’d think that my ideas are full of swashbuckling wackiness, right? Well, they haven’t been. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a fair chunk of my ideas have been along those lines, but none of those various duellists, scoundrels and pirates have started to progress into actual playable character ideas. I mean, It’s only been two days so when I say developed I mean a handful of sentences, but from terrible ideas wonderful things can grow. A lot of my con games for instance…

So, for context here’s the two most developed ideas I have.
1: Merchant trader caught between the old ways of his people (Looting and pillaging) and the new ways (Commerce). I had an idea that he runs an old ways experience for tourists.
2: Former mercenary turned merchant captain, who’s cheerful, polite and if you screw him over he’ll split your skull in twain and spit on you, smiling all the while.
Both seem playable, and I certainly have ideas on how to costume them (That’s how I roll, as I’m sure you’ll know by now) but I’m still short of long term goals. Again, it’s early days and I’ve plenty of reading on the setting to come as well, but I don’t want to rush into things.

Time for sleep. Be seeing you…

2020, 24 Hours to go…

Sedation would have been fucking lovely… So, been a while since last we spoke. Or I typed. You know what I mean. Hasn’t been great, but hasn’t been as rough as some years past. The usual Christmas chaos and hassle, nerves and regret. Another year gone, mercifully. I continue to be glad that no-one I know is Covid affected, and my heart breaks for those who’ve lost friends and loved ones.

Work has been, well work. Had a couple of Sundays working retail at one of our stores and swiftly gained a reputation as being a D&D person. Guilty as charged. Having people go “I’m looking to get into it” or “Friends play and I thought I’d try” and getting to look them square in the eye and say “Welcome to the tribe” just well, brings joy. The money didn’t hurt either – it’s my sword fund. Only issue is, what sort do I buy? I mean, the LARP blades I’ve been after are in stock (A Calimacil Agrippa rapier and Lucrezia dagger), but given the fragile state of things (Thanks Northern Beaches, thanks a bundle), who knows whether LARP will be back And so, I turn to steel. That both cuts down and opens up my options. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent this much on one thing and I don’t want to grab the first thing I see – I want to make a sensible choice.



I’m pretty sure going to Wonder Woman 84 was my first cinema trip all year (This was last year that is) and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite have the same zing as the first one. My wife saw a comment that said it was, and I may be misquoting here ‘just like a Russell T Davies Doctor Who‘ and I’m damned if I don’t agree with that. It was a fun film, don’t get me wrong, but lacking. Fingers crossed that Patty Jenkins Rogue Squadron film don’t fall over thanks to executive meddling. I also saw in the New Year by watching Clue for the first time and that film is utterly delightful. I’m quite curious as to whether anyone’s run it as a LARP.



Gaming wise, I’m almost ready to start the Crimson Skies game for my home group.I’ll keep it plot free, as some of my players read this, but I’ve a rough plan, a few antagonists and an Emergency NPC Names list that may be populated by the names of 1970’s Doctor Who production crew. If it’s good enough for Leverage, it’s good enough for me. Played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate today for the first time, and we won thanks to my dice rolling. I know, I’m stunned myself. I also got to play Rumble at Castle Tentakill, one of the stand alone expansions for Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards and it is very much my kind of stupid. How stupid? This stupid:


Video gaming wise, my progress on Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has slowed, owing to the Christmas season and the fact that I got Valhalla yesterday. This should shock no-one, as by now we should all remember that
A: Vikings are awesome. I’m a sucker for any culture that can be summed up as ‘Proud Warrior Race Guys.’ There are reasons my favorite Star Trek episodes are about the Klingons.
B: It appeals to the Iron Maiden worshipping, D&D Barbarian playing, Robert E Howard reading side of me. And let’s face it, that’s a big part of me.
C: It’s just gorgeous to wander round in. Odyssey is a beautiful game and talking with Herodotus at the Hot Gates gave me chill, but journeying the frozen North is stunning. Standing high on a mountain, looking out and seeing the Northern Lights in the sky, I damn near wept with joy.
D: The soundtrack. Good grief it’s gorgeous. I’m listening to it as I type and am struggling not to get swept up in it. And that’s before I get to the singing and storytelling when you’re out sailing.

Time for sleep. There’s new Doctor Who tomorrow after all. Be seeing you.

By Crom, Ymir and Set!

So Netflix, I hear you’re preparing a Conan the Barbarian TV series. In news that will surprise no-one who knows me, I have thoughts about this.

First off, I bet you’re thinking something like “Oh yeah, I know Conan. I saw the first Arnie film back in the day. Big guy, wears a furry nappy, I know all I need to know.”

Right?

WRONG.

Discard everything you think you know. from any of the previous adaptions, whether that be the Arnie films, Jason Momoa’s far from bad but still not great 2011 movie or any of the TV adaptions, both animated and live action. For the purposes of starting afresh there’s only one thing worth keeping from previous adaptions and we’ll get to that later.

First, it seems you have the rights to the stories and not just the character. This is A Good Thing. Read them. All of them, yes even The Vale of Lost Women. (It’s OK, you can leave that one till last) Now, there’s something of a warning I have to give, and some context to. To put it bluntly, to modern eyes the stories can be pretty damn racist. Howard was writing these tales in early 1930’s Texas and while he grew less racist over time, he’s still pretty damn racist. So yes, by all means, please do file off that stuff.

“KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen- eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”

The Nemedian Chronicles


They bound around Conan’s life, from his early days as a thief in Zamora, a barbarian youth newly arrived in civilized lands, to his later years as as King of Aquilonia, the mightiest kingdom in the west. The first of the Conan tales, The Phoenix on the Sword (Itself a rewrite of an unsold Kull tale, By this Axe I Rule!“) takes place while Conan is King of Aquilonia. The first thing we seem him doing is altering a map – this already strikes him as far from the monosyballic brute the stereotype see’s him as. Use this – we can see his enemies develop, drop hints at future stories and flesh out the gaps. Just don’t give us an origin story please – he’s a guy who wanders the world seeking adventure, a penniless thief and vagabond, who embarks on many a perilous adventure in search of fortune and glory, and winds up a wise and respected king of a nation.

I’ve long dreamed of seeing The Hour of the Dragon or Rogues in the House on screen, so please don’t take that hope away from me. Hell, you could get a season or two’s worth of episodes out of Dragon alone. There’s moments that are practically made for the screen – massive swirling battles, deadly intrigue and high adventure. There’s excerpts from these stories that don’t just raise the hairs on the back of my neck, they fire the blood in my veins and remind me I’m alive.

“I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

Queen of the Black Coast.


We’ve spent a fair bit of time talking about the stories, but what of Conan himself? There’s a lot of misconceptions about the big guy. For starters, his parents weren’t murdered in front of him. Yes, he was born on a battlefield, but that’s where it stops. To my knowledge Howard never detailed his parents, though I’m sure I read somewhere in one of his letters that Conan did venture home briefly in his later years. The earlier tales show him as a youth, unused to civilized ways (The Tower of the Elephant is a prime example of this), and he evolves somewhat over the course of the stories, but he remains at heart, the same general character – ferocious, intelligent and not to be messed with. He can be a firm friend and ally, but get between him and something he wants, be that a woman or a priceless treasure, and he’ll cut you down with barely a second thought. Of course, if it comes down ot the woman or the treasure, he’ll go for the woman every time. He’s remarkably easy come, easy go in this regard – see The Black Stranger and Jewels of Gwahlur for examples of this.

But who will play him? I’m going to assume that you’re sticking with the bouncing between time periods approach, so you’ll need an actor who can convincingly play that. Conan’s people, the Cimmerians, are based on Irish/Celtic myth, so please don’t choose another Austrian. Furthermore, while he should have muscle and a lot of it, he doesn’t have the physique of a modern body builder. Think of him as closer to a heavyweight boxer. I don’t have an actor in mind, as there’s no-one who matches the Conan I see in my head when I read the stories. I’m hoping for an unknown myself.

Now remember when we talked earlier about the one thing that deserved to be kept from previous adaptions? Well, I can sum it up in three simple words: ANVIL OF CROM. It is generally acknowledged that Basil Poledouris’s score to Conan the Barbarian is damn near perfect and about the only thing Conan fans will agree on. I mean, just listen to it – there’s the opening booming of drums, Mako’s epic narration and then, it just blows the bloody doors off. It’s the sort of music that makes me want to stand on top of a windswept mountain holding a sword aloft, the sort of image you’d find airbrushed on vans back in the 70’s. To me it is perfect and I will not hear a bad word against it.

At the same time, I know whoever is composing the score will want to put their own spin on things, and I encourage that. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they do, but be aware whoever gets the ship will have some mighty big shoes to fill.

I think my passion for the material shows. I love this stuff, it means a hell of a lot to me, so believe me when I say this: please don’t screw this up. And you know, if you need a consultant, I work cheap. 🙂

Huh.

Hello there… (“General Kenobi.”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#bucketlist

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

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

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

Some good news, for a change.

The universe occasionally aligns nicely. Despite the doom and gloom, there are good things coming out of this year and I’m going to tell you about them!

First: there’s a new AC/DC album coming in November. Yes, there’s the obvious joke about a new album given they’ve been making the same one for over 40 years, but it’s a good album. Given the loss of guitarist Malcolm Young to dementia (May he rock in peace), singer Brian Johnson’s hearing issues and drummer Phil Rudd’s police issues, I’m not sure anyone would have been surprised if Angus Young had called it quits after the Rock or Bust tour. But things appear to have been resolved, medical wonders worked (In the case of Johnson and bassist Cliff Williams) and possibly the most consistent act in rock and roll is back. As for the sound of the album, based on the first single it sounds like AC/DC and that’s enough for me. There’s something wonderfully boneheaded about their sound, and there are few bands that make me air guitar quite as enthusiastically as they do.

Secondly, there’s a new Iron Maiden live album on the way, from their recent Legacy of the Beast tour. Recorded in Mexico City in 2019, it’s a whole show, as opposed to the ‘1 song from each city’ format of recent live albums. Also, the cover art has to rank up there with Dance of Death for the Maiden album with the most rubbish album cover, which given the art for Dance was apparently a test, is saying something.

It’s a bit of a double edged sword for me, as the shows in Oz were meant to take place this year and obviously didn’t. To really twist the knife, I had a floor ticket and they were playing Flight of Icarus again this tour, for the first time in donkey years, and at the tempo on the album! That may not sound like much, BUT IT MATTERS TO ME. *ahem* Further to that, according to singer Bruce Dickinson, they’ve been writing and doing a few things in the studio. A new Maiden album won’t wash away the stench of this year, but it’d make it a bit more bearable. And it has been a good few years since The Book of Souls after all.

Lastly, for the update at least, come a new RPG – The Dee Sanction. Now, while at first glance an RPG about magic use during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, the twist that players are agents of John Dee and Francis Walsingham and are part wizard, part spy is an intriguing one. Also, the whole ‘being forced to work’ aspect of things adds some spice to proceeding. What did get me thinking though, was the idea that this is the sort of thing that Cardinal Richeliu would have in his back pocket and that Louis XIII would hear rumour of and then demand why didn’t he have one? It’s something to ponder as I kick Musketeers ideas around.

Be seeing you.