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.

Goals, swashbuckling or otherwise

it’s good to have them right? Motivating, brain focusing and all that.
I have very few in life that can’t be summed up basically as ‘Be creative and have fun’, but I never was one for forward planning in life.

However, in contemplating this Musketeers idea, I think I have one. A big one. I’d want this potential game to feel like a Musketeers film, the 73/4 ones if possible. As we know, my tabletop GM’ing style lends more towards the 93 version, with a dash of the 2011. Also, Porthos is the best thing in 2 out of 3 of those films, but I digress. I’ve been trying to brainstorm story ideas for it this evening, possibly to distract myself from the fact that I was watching King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Not a wise choice on my part. There were the general ones – Spanish spies, English occultists, corrupt French nobles, revolting/rebelling peasants (I loved that film, but haven’t seen in since cinemas) and the Duke of Buckingham attempting to invade France to steal the Queen/sooth his ego. You know, standard stuff.

But I kept coming back to: What would I want to see in a game like this? Dashing heroics, the chance to wear a fancy cloak and hat with a large feather in it, oh yes. Brawls with the Cardinal’s Guards and all that. Vive le France, most certainly. But I I’d want a moment, a big climactic one. Something worth the buildup, stress and chaos. Something that people would talk about in years to come Something a little like this:

It’s big, it’s dumb, every time I see it I get all caught up in the emotion of it and if I could capture even a tenth of it in a game, I’d be happy. Mind you, I also have no idea how I’d pull it off, but I’m the one who has the ideas, not the one who has to work out how to execute them.

I’m finding it’s trickier than normal to get past the opening idea stage. That could be Covid related, as there’s a definite feeling of ‘Why write something you may never run?’ in addition to my usual grumpiness. it could be a brain spike, but I just want something different out of a LARP at the moment. Mostly I’m over tired and missing dressing up and running about. Time for bed.

Be seeing you,.

Best idea, or best worst idea?

For welcome but unknown reasons, the ideas part of my brain continues to work. Case in point yesterday afternoon, the title DEADWOOD AND DRAGONS popped into my head.

Now, before you start, i don’t know what the context is yet. Whether it’s the Deadwood universe with dragons (I’d love to see Al Swearengen facing down a dragon myself), or D&D on the frontier but with guns, I don’t know. I’m all but certain the idea was inspired by a Pathfinder game I’m in where I’m playing a Dwarven gunslinger. I’d initially planned to go twin-flintlock pistol, but the DM was kind/foolish enough to let me take a revolver and the concept of Dwarven Doc Holliday came to mind and so far has refused to leave. (Irritatingly, my copies of both Tombstone and Maverick seem to have vanished at the time of writing.)

So yeah. Another terrible idea. The brain was also toying with a pitch video using clips from Lord of the Rings set to Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, which was more than enough to amuse me and what else should matter?

I’ve already had one person recommend the RPG Spellslingers to run it in and while it’s not bad, it’s not what I’m thinking. I mean, ‘Deadlands but with Orcs’ isn’t a bad way to explain things, but that’s not quite where I’m at either. At this stage, it’s an amusing title and that’s probably be where it should stay.

I mean, there’s the idea of local miners digging too deep and falling into the Underdark, or porting over the D&D races to a western-esque setting, with magic and firearms. As much as the idea amuses me, I’m wary of being racist without intending to (Having Elves as quasi native Americans seems a terrible idea) and that’s likely why this won’t process any further. As previously stated, the older I get the less I’m OK with the whole ‘Orcs as barbarians’ cliche and I’d hate to make that mistake here.

Anyhow, the terrible idea part of my brain seems to be working again, which is A GOOD THING. It was always my favorite part of the convention after party and frequently the only thing I can remember from a lot of conventions unless I’ve made notes. I have a vague idea of once suggesting mashing Delta Green and Get Smart together,

It also means you can expect more bonkers ideas of this nature. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I’ve been having ideas again…

So, my brain started generating ideas again, as it does. The initial ideas was, I’m not sure. It may have started with more thoughts on the Musketeers game that refuses to leave my head (The latest ideas was alignment as a personal code, rather than a D&D esque Lawful, Chaotic etc), but it started to grow.

Part of it stems from no LARP going on at the moment (AFAIK), and part of it stems from my own issues with what’s running in my area. There’s a battle game, which made me realize they aren’t my style and a LARP that has/had torture in it’s rule set and that’s a giant deal breaker for me. I’d started thinking again about a pirate LARP idea I’d done some writing for a while back and then I thought… bigger. Ideas are never my problem, as long term readers of the blog will note.

Cast your minds towards a once landlocked continent, but now sea travel is all the rage. How and why? I dunno, maybe some magic shit happened and storms calmed the fuck down, a portal opened or people just wanted to go on holiday and everywhere landlocked was shut. Or, you know, we add more capatilism and they’ve trashed the continent they live on and need a new one to dump the garbage. Either way, a bunch of the nations of the world are sending ships out onto the big blue wet thing and they’re gonna find stuff. Well, they’re going to try to.

The idea is swashbuckling hijinks, with some trading, possibly being a bit of a dick to the lands you’ve just discovered and making a pile of cash. The early description I had for this is NAUTICAL FANTASY ROGUE TRADER and while it’s unwieldy, that’s not a bad summation. Ideally each nation/ship would have a goal, ranging from ‘Make us rich’ to ‘Find something new and weird’ for example.

Races would likely be the standard fantasy ones – Humans, Elves, Orcs etc, but without the usual cliches. Look, I love cliches (My con games are powered by them), but I’m feeling the need for something different for this. Just because Tolkien did something one way doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it! Is this whole thing possibly an excuse for me to use that swashbuckling Orc idea I’ve had for a while? Quite possibly. AND I REGRET NOTHING ABOUT IT. At some point I’m going to find a LARP where I can play that idea even if I have to write the damn thing.

The two races I have ideas for are:
Elves: They have an industrial, magic punk feel to them. Not evil, but capitalist jerks.

Orcs: Possibly formerly from a landlocked area or just nomadic by nature, they have a a roving foot and can’t bear to be in anyone place for too long.

THE BIG QUESTION; So, what do PC’s actually do each game? Are they ordering ships about, or ar they on deck commanding them? This brings into the further question of where in the game world will the game be set? Obviously, we’d want a central location where everyone can get to each game, as there’s no point saying “Oh, we’re in X next session, but you’ve sailed to Y, so you can’t be there.” That’s bullshit. So, that’s another problem we’d need to solve. I mean, people could crew instead of playing as well, so that’s an option. So long as we warn people in advance, it could work?

Inspirations so far are the board game Seafall, pirate movies and the TV show Black Sails, along with the UK LARP Empire, for it’s trading and national perspective on things and the NZ LARP Teonn(?), for it’s focus on exploration. The latter game started with the nations making landfall on a new island, and IIRC one nation fucked up first contact with the natives so badly they felt the effects for about half the 3 year campaign.

There’s likely to be more thoughts on this (As well as editing of this post), but I really need to go to bed.

Be seeing you…

Fire up the What If? Machine!

What if, and hear me out here, the Cardinal wasn’t the villain?

“Richeliu, wasn’t he the bad guy?”
“No, no, no, quite the opposite. Alexandre Dumas has a lot to answer for. Tiresome man, completely ignored the notes I gave him on his first draft.”
Doctor Who: The Church and the Crown.

Whatever you can say about the real Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richeliu (I’ve a biography of him I should finish reading one of these days) the title and name does conjure quite a distinctive image. You only have to look at some of the men who’ve played him over the years to see to that. The list includes such noted thespians as Peter Capaldi, Vincent Price, Tim Curry, Christoph Waltz and Charlton Heston. That’s no small amount of scenery chewed or moustaches twirled there. Heck, Vincent Price’s Richeliu happens to pet a cat, predating Ernst Stavro Blofeld by many a year.

It’s an image known in popular culture, one that far obscures the real man himself. The name conjures an image of a tall figure, frequently clad in yards of elegant red satin, a scowl or a devilish grin on his lips as he schemes and plots. Sometimes foiled, but rarely beaten, he lurks in the shadows, an ever present foe. He rarely gets his hands dirty personally, preferring to work through agents such as the Comte de Rochefort and Milady DeWinter, or the regiment of his guards whose fierce rivalry with the King’s Musketeers is legendary.

“Enemies? I have no enemies but those of France.”

The image of a man who wants the best for France, but has other methods about doing so, has been somewhat eclipsed by the figure of a Machiavellian chess master gleefully manipulating all around him in a mad lust for power and influence. Heck, in the RPG All for One: Regime Diabolique he was host to a demon! It’s all but expected that he’ll be the villain of the piece, but what if things were changed? Furthermore, in most portrayals of Louis XIII he’s varying shades of naive, arrogant and an overly indulged man-child, and it could be said that the Musketeers blind loyalty to him and loathing of the Cardinal is far from what France needs. That blindly indulging Louis’s whims rather than attempting to moderate him and steer him towards a more sensible path does more damage.to France than a thousand of the Cardinal’s plots ever could.

It takes a good man to prevent a catastrophe, Milady, and a great man to make use of one.”

What if the Cardinal is the one who’s actually working for France and someone else is undermining his efforts? It could be the King’s incompetence, perhaps Captain Treville of the Musketeers (That could really twist the knife), or another figure altogether? They could be Spanish or British agents, perhaps the Duke of Buckingham? I did use the Duke as an antagonist in a series of games a few years back, along with the 2011 film version. Of course, there’s a small group of my players that would immediately shout “It’s the Mole Men!”, but that is another story. ..

“All for One. And more for me.”

To add explanation to all this: I haven’t been able to put that Musketeers game to bed yet and this was the latest iteration of that. I’d been bouncing ideas around trying to think of something that would set this potential game apart, outside of the whole ‘monsters and magic exist’ part of things. And the more that I’ve been musing over this today, the more I like it. That’s not to say that the Cardinal would be a hero, far from it. But I’m really liking the idea that in this incarnation he wouldn’t be the source of all villainy as he is frequently portrayed. The characters may think that, as may many of the Musketeers, but that gives us the chance to carve a new legend, to set the players against new foes. I’d like to think that this will be the last I work on this, but as we’ve seen, there’s clearly some more life in this idea…

Be seeing you…

Still standing by…

Hail and well met dear readers!

What have I been up to? I’ve been continuing playing Jedi: Fallen Order, and while it continues to be frustrating, I find the more I get used to it, the better I am. Yes, you may laugh at how self-evident that is, but you’d be surprised. I’m long past the age where I can pick these things up immediately, and I once shot my own horse in the head in Red Dead Redemption. While I was riding it. As frustrating as it is, it’s scenery is gorgeous – I find myself spending a lot of time just walking around looking at things. The voices are nice (Hello Bra’tac of Chulac, aka Tony Amendola!) and BD-1 is just adorable. I’d put him up against BB–8 in the cutest droid contest any day.


See, just look at the adorable little guy!

Mostly though, It’s been killing time waiting for Star Wars:Squadrons, which arrived Friday night. First impressions are as follows: it’s incredibly pretty, the combat flows well and the plot of the single player campaign, while short, feels wonderfully Star Wars, in that absurd over the top way. I’ve not fired up the multi-player yet, I’m waiting to get a group of friends together for it, but that brings up another dilemma – do we play as Imperial or New Republic? As for that question, there’s only one answer. No matter how much more I played TIE Fighter as a kid, no matter how much I may admire the Empire’s dress sense and think the TIE Interceptor is dead sexy as starfighters go, in my heart I know I’m scum.


Rebel scum. *finger guns*


I’ve wanted to sit in the cockpit of an X:Wing since I was 6 and that desire hasn’t dimmed a bit since that age. If anything, that flame burns brighter than ever before. The brain has not been great of late, but having that to look forward to does brighten things somewhat.Goals and things to look forward to can help a lot. On that not,  my sword group has been invited to a festival next year, which means my goal is to get good enough (And to have enough kit) to bout in public and not suck too much at it. It’s good to have goals. I mean, everything else I wanted to go to this year has been cancelled, so I have to have something to look forward to right? And yes, before you say anything I know planning for a festival is optimistic, but remember that foolishly hopeful streak I have?

In further good things, an English dubbed trailer for Lupin III: The First has arrived, and it looks glorious. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, get to Netflix/a DVD store and watch a film called The Castle of Cagliostro. I’ll wait. You’re done. You’re excited right? If you aren’t, you may not have a pulse. As you may have guessed, this sort of ridiculous action adventure is right up my alley and reminded me that the Troubleshooters RPG I helped kickstart should be out around the end of the year. This film is damn near perfect inspiration for it and I can’t wait.

Speaking of Kickstarter, here’s another I saw recently: it’s a version of The Three Musketeers, but with some welcome twists. There’s some gender swapping,every character is no longer white, extra gay and trimming down of some of Dumas more long-winded bits. (I love the book, but a whole chapter on how Athos gets his equipment?) I’m torn when it comes to adaptions – I can’t always choose between be as faithful as you can to the text, or screw with everything to annoy fanboys.Anyhow, I’ll be throwing them a few bucks.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve continued thinking about the Musketeers game I mentioned in the last post. Those thoughts are detailed below. (And no,for those keeping track, I haven’t ordered The Hat yet.)

FUN FACT: I wrote one of my Musketeers can games almost entirely to use lyrics from Iron Maidens Number of the Beast in the epilogue. There were about as many who got the reference who picked up that the McGuffin was a vial of Getafix’s magic potion in an earlier game. It’s sad to find how many people haven’t read Asterix. These Romans are crazy…

So, a style guide, AKA what sort of things would I want from this game.
Style: Capes, cloaks and fancy outfits ahoy!
Danger: Duels in darkened alleyways, daring escapes from the Cardinal’s Guards and all manner of swashbuckling hijinks.
Romance: Glances across a crowded room, midnight liaisons in secret and risking your life for the woman you’ve just met.
Intrigue: A few words in the right ear can do more damage than a thousand swords.
Horror: Strange cries echo through the woods, foul beasts stalk the sewers and not all the howls in the night are of wolves.
Corruption: It is whispered there are some who traffic with demons to further their ambitions
Ambition: When a man is born with nothing, what will he do to rise above his station? 
Class; The rich hold themselves above the peasantry, but will there come a time when that changes?
Quips: I wouldn’t say Monkey Island insult swordfighting would be used, but a certain flair for snappy dialogue is very in keeping with the source material. 
Swashbuckling: Adventure, excitement and a whole pile of other things Jedi don’t crave.

LOCATIONS:
Musketeer headquarters, aka the Hotel Treville.
The Palais Cardinal.
The Louvre, home of Louis XIII
The Court of Miracles
A local tavern, one frequented by both the King’s Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards.

FACTIONS:
The King’s Musketeers
The Cardinal’s Guards
Nationality (French, Spanish, Italian etc)
The Court of Miracles (Thieves)
The Nobility, though I’d imagine there’s schisms there as well.
Cults (Obviously, that would be hidden)

As for magic, I’m leaving that to Hammer horror-esque ceremonies, You know, a circle of figures in dark robes, an altar, possibly decorated by a pretty young thing in some sort of scanty costume, with a figure at the head of things bearing an overly elaborate knife. Cliches? Yes, but there’s a reason they became cliches. I do adore the idea of duels with sword and wand, I think it’s a bit too Forgotten Realms for this concept. At this stage I’d prefer a more grounded feel.  

And that brings into question the tone of the piece. As said last post, that’s troublesome. Do we aim for the comedy and drama of the 1973 version, or a clockwork punk Renaissance Leverage as the 2011 version seemed to dabble in. Something grim and dark, which we all know I can’t do, or go all out monsters, satanic cults and ateampunk airships. And, not to forget, the Mole Men! (It’s a long story, but feel free to ask me)

As for an actual (out of game) venue, I’ve seen a couple of scout camps that could work. I’d want a good amount of woods, clear areas suitable for combat and buildings that can be marked as different areas. .Plus, showers, hopefully a room with a heater where people’s damp kit can be dried (Better to have it and not need it after all…) and prop storage etc. 

I should really divert my focus back to the Crimson Skies campaign I’m writing. Hopefully this will get this out of my system.

Be seeing you.