It’s only rock and roll.

No. It’s not. Mick Jagger lied. To borrow a line from, I think an English football manager, it’s not life or death, it’s much more important.  I recently mentioned I was curating a playlist about my aging. Well, this is it. I’ve tried to keep this short, and somewhat on topic. I could have just added songs I like, but that would have been a massive list and kinda defeated the point of this. I’ve tried to keep it to a few pertinent observations on each track, though I should warn that requests for more detail I can do.

Culling things wasn’t easy, though keeping it to things on Spotify helped slightly. For starters, that cut the Rollins Band’s All I Want, while a lovely song (at least compared to their usual output), brings back some mighty painful memories of my youth. Of going out into the world being like an untrained puppy, looking for affection or attention, but with no idea whatsoever of how to get it, or deal with it. Ahhh, memories.

Anyhow, here goes.

 

I’m 18 – Alice Cooper. The epitome of teen angst and confusion. It doesn’t get better than this. It’s a notch on my bucket list that I’ve seen Alice perform this twice.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up – The Ramones. A cover of a Tom Waits tune, it hits me where I live, so to speak. That fear of the future, of struggling for an answer to ‘what to do you want to do with your life?’ I hated that question as an adolescent and still do.

My Shit’s Fucked Up – Warren Zevon. What more is there to say? Zevon had a wonderful knack for the macabre and miserable, and he sums it up perfectly here.

Trouble In My Brain – The Sunnyboys. Lead singer and songwriter Jeremy Oxley was a master at songs such as this, and knowing he was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time only adds to it’s poignancy.

Don’t Damn Me – Gun’s and Roses. It’s slightly mortifying to me how swiftly this implanted on my brain from the time I first heard it. “Sometimes I wanna kill, sometimes I wanna die. Sometimes I wanna destroy, sometimes I wanna cry.” Me at 14, and still today, to no small degree.

My Pal – God. Just flat out brilliant. Written when the band were in their teens, it’s just amazing. The footage of them performing it on Countdown (I think – it seems to be live, which that show rarely, if ever, did) is well worth a watch.

I Believe in Miracles – The Ramones. Alas, the album version isn’t on Spotify, so this one (From 1991’s Loco Live) will have to do. It’s a haunting tune about being a fuck up, but still having hope, like a lot of Dee Dee Ramone’s best songs from the later era of the band.

Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night – Iggy Pop. From his most recent album, it’s smooth jazz over Iggy’s reading of the poem. That description may sound odd, but it’s utterly hypnotic.

Midlife Crisis – Faith No More. I’ve just turned 40. How could I possibly leave a song with this title off the list?

Paranoid – Black Sabbath. It’s not the quintessential Sabbath tune for my ears (That’s Black Sabbath or War Pigs for my money), but this sums up how early 20’s me felt about my place in the world. Plus, that riff.

Descent into the Maelstrom – Radio Birdman. It’s not New Race or Aloha Steve and Danno, but for me the surf drums, the barked “2,3,4!” and Rob Younger’s howl all combine into one of the most electrifying openings of any rock song. The recent film about the band is mandatory viewing for those with an interest in music doco’s.

Depression – Black Flag. Short, fast and ugly, Henry Rollins roar has rarely sounded more berserk.

Love Song – The Damned. Sure, it doesn’t match the theme of this playlist, but to me it’s the greatest love song ever written and I will fiercely defend that to the end of my days.

Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden. Haven’t we all had days where we felt like this? RIP Chris Cornell.

Wasted Years – Iron Maiden. This one brings back painful memories of wandering around Melbourne one night in, I think 2001, listening to this on repeat, lost both in body and soul and utterly missing the point of the lyrics. I found where I was staying on the trip after about 2 hours of semi random wandering hoping for a landmark, but didn’t get the point of the song for many years afterwards. Better too late, than not at all eh?

So, I’m 40. Happy Birthday to me! And now, GET THE HELL OF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN PUNK KIDS! 🙂

Be seeing you…

It is late, but I have words.

Couldn’t sleep, had too many words buzzing through my head, so I hope by writing them down, I’ll be able to sleep. It’s been a hell of a week, about which I shall spare you. Instead, I have had… an idea. Long term readers, or people who’ve played my convention games will know how dangerous that can be.

Here we go. YouTube recommended me episodes of the 80’s GI Joe cartoon, and having little else to do on the train, I thought why not? I have observations.
1: This show is pretty damn awful.
2: Were I a drinking man, playing some sort of game where you drink each time someone yell’s “Yo Joe!”, escapes a vehicle wreck or parachutes from an airplane, you would be very drunk pretty damn quickly.
3: Given the resources Cobra must have access to, given the vast amount of underground bases, wacky super weapons and the like they possess, not to mention the sheer amount they must spend on ejector seats, parachutes and other crash proofing technology, why seek world domination through military might? Just do it the (other) American way – buy elections.
“Duke, we’ve just found out that Major Bludd is running for Governor of Boise, Idaho!”
“Right, two can play that game. Scarlett, you and Gung-Ho get started on Shipwreck’s campaign announcement speech. Yo, Joe!”

Yeah, it doesn’t quite have the same spark to it. Anyhow, this sparked something. I have occasional thoughts about trying GM’ing outside of conventions. I had a group of players keen for a Torchwood Sydney game I’d brainstormed with some of them, or that post apocalyptic LARP idea that I thought about dusting off for a few seconds last week. I shut that thought down, reasoning that in the age of isolation what hope is there and also that running a game that had germ warfare and out of control viruses in the current climate wasn’t exactly sensible. I still love the idea of dressing crew in bloodstained koala onesies to act of Drop Bears though. Sorry, back on topic…

Yes, I’m getting to the point here, despite all evidence. We go back a few years now,  to Fair and Balanced. Oh, 2016, remember when we thought that was as bad as it got? Happy times they were… I’m still impressed by how that game’s reputation has spread, having seen several sharp intakes of breath and “YOU?” when it’s mentioned I was responsible for that monster. I’ve resisted writing a sequel, owing to not being able to out crazy reality. I wrote a blurb at one point and may someday make that public – I’m still quite proud of the opening line of “The shining city on the hill is now a strip mall.”

The canon ending of Fair and Balanced was the PC’s, having helped tear the country apart, discovering that Obama was about to announce he was stepping down and returning fair elections to the people. That (generally) took place at some sort of press conference, but I had a thought about amping up the crazy a little. Well, more than a little. The Democrat Party records vault, where Obama’s secret Kenyan birth certificate was kept, is under the Watergate Hotel, for starters.

So, Obama’s giving the big mystery speech, but when the PC’s kick things off his security doesn’t move. Why? Because his lectern transforms into a suit of robot armour and he joins the fight. Maybe he’s secretly a cyborg, who can infect all he touches with socialism, like some sort of Communist Ultron and has an army of Muslim Kenyan ninjas at his command! Of course, there would be something else in the PC’s way, that being the terrible threat of MECHA JOE BIDEN.

I might sketch this out for a 5th anniversary re-run of the game, give people the option for how bat-shit crazy things go. “Do you want it relatively normal, slightly crazy or full Godfrey Ho?” I might not be able to out-crazy reality, but I can give it a damn good go.

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Really, as much of a miserable sod as I can be, it’s not all bad.

I’m the only one in my house not working from home (This is both good and bad mind you), the Iron Maidens and Mac Sabbath have rescheduled concerts, my fencing group has been posting online training videos (And Guy Windsor dropped the price on his solo training course down to $20 US) and most of my RPG groups have gone online. My brain doctor is an essential service, though I’m not sure if I’ll be there in person or over the phone. Tracey and I are enjoying The Witcher, and I would very much like Geralt’s banquet outfit from Episode 4, please? I’ve said it before, and will say again – we don’t need more licensed merchandise, we need licensed tailors outside cinemas. Speaking of my wife, I managed to surprise her last night, though it’s more my choice of music that did it. I grant you, smooth jazz and poetry usually isn’t my jam, but when you add Iggy Pop to the mix, well, you have my attention. It’s nice to know that after almost 14 years I can still surprise her.

I’m planning to run one of my old con games over Discord and had the people I’d contacted responding yes in seconds, so that’s something. If things go well (and I’m honestly not sure how I’ll do), I may run some more in future, so watch this space. Oh, and in-case you feel the need to respond to me in future, replying to an offer with “DIVE!” will certainly be counted as a yes. Clarification of that response is not required.

Also, I got my fencing mask painted. There was a lot of time spent on trying to decide what to have painted on it, but there could be only one person fit to guard my face, so to speak. The gentleman in question is a little older than I am, and has worn many faces over the decades, reinventing himself on a regular basis. I had it narrowed down between a few of his classic looks or a more recent incarnation, but in the end, sand won the day. Sand? Well, not that sand.

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The sand comment had you thinking Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker right?

What can I say, other than I’m a slave to the power of death? I adore Iron Maiden beyond all measure, as long term readers will know, and while I was tempted to get Darth Vader’s helmet or the Radio Birdman logo, I had to go with the esteemed Mr Edward T Head. The photo looks lovely, but this thing is flat out gorgeous in person. Many thanks to Morbid Curiosity Fencing Masks for their stellar (and speedy) work!

In other news, my birthday’s on Sunday, and while there’ll be no celebration (I’m not stupid and violating social distancing) I still plan to enjoy the day. Somehow. Maybe I’ll sleep in. How am I coping with the proximity to the big Four Oh? I’m curating a playlist on Spotify, with the plan being to post it on the day. I am not ashamed of this, though looking at the tracks I’ve chosen there’s some miserable stuff there. Some of it’s about aging, other songs have stuck with me over the years. I’m not sure what this means, but at least I’ve not started a podcast. I do plan on buying another sword to celebrate though. There is no such thing as too many swords. No. Such. Thing.

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And no, this is not what I wear when when I fence.

The brain hasn’t been great of late. It’s odd, as I’m the one in the house who’s going outside and yet I think I’m the one who actually wants to isolate. the temptation to get my hair chopped to Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3 length has surfaced again as well. I had the vague idea of when all this is over booking a hotel room for a few days, taking my laptop and some books and just hiding, emerging only to eat and phone loved ones. My introvert batteries need some serious charging. Yes, I spent most of last Saturday asleep, but I put that down to the sleeping pill I took Friday night than a spike in my depression. Sure, I think I’ve had that as well, but fuck, who isn’t dealing with that right now? I’m planning to try a half dose of the sleeping pill the next time and see what happens. For science!

I leave you with a recent discovery of mine. As covers go, that’s pretty damn fantastic, and extra points for the showmanship.

Be seeing you…

Can’t sleep, so writing.

It’s another night of ‘Oh Gods, I can’t sleep’, or in the words of Lemmy, ‘I should be tired, but all I am is wired’ so here goes.

The brain is a bit wonky. The heat has subsided somewhat, mercifully. Having a tooth pulled on Saturday wasn’t fun, though the dentist staff were bloody lovely, both when I charged in looking like a drowned rat and apologizing profusely for accidentally pulling at my beard. The recovery hasn’t been too bad, thankfully, though the mouth ulcer on the same side of my mouth as the removed tooth was remarkably ill-timed. Also, my wife has let me nap a lot, which is lovely. She’s the best.

Phenomenon submissions have opened, and I hope to have mine done this week, for my Babylon 5 freeform. It’s more than a bit nerve wracking, because I think it’s a solid idea for a game, and I really don’t want to screw it up. I love the B5 universe and while I’m wary of what players could do to it, I really want to see what happens. It’s a problem I have when running games for settings I love, in that I have a vision of that setting and don’t like it when it’s fucked with, so we’ll see what happens there. The game’s set in a time of the show basically untouched by canon, which should help. I’m quietly confident, but it’s pretty different from the last two games I’ve submitted, so I’m not treating it as a lock.

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In Valen’s Name…

Alas, and with much sadness, Good Society was cancelled owing to low ticket sales. I’m more than a bit sad about that one, as I was really looking forward to getting my Firth on. Or, as my wife put it, “It’s a romance game based around manners, that’s exactly your jam.” Politeness is one of my things, to say the least. I joke when queried that ‘You’ve not met my mother, you don’t know the level of polite to which I was raised’, and it’s frequently hilarious when friends meet her and discover just how intensely I mean that. She’s a saint.

 

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If only there had been a pool at the venue…

The prep for Blackpowder and Bloodlines continues, and it’s mostly been flailing. The old standbys of ‘Hey, here’s other character ideas’ and ‘Look at all those beautiful costumes, can you possibly match that standard?’ crawled into my head late last night and refused to leave. It’s not that I haven’t found kit that fits the character idea, it’s just been a spate of overthinking whether it matches the costume brief and of it either being horribly expensive or cheap as shit. (Wish, I’m looking in your direction… And while we’re talking, could you please stop recommending me sex toys?)

There was a few minutes early this morning I was tempted to go ‘Oh hang it all, I’ll just play a musketeer and be young and stupid’, or any of the myriad other ideas I’ve had for the game. I at least know what nation I’m from, so that helps narrow things down a bit. It’s much the same problem I have when game writing, especially a month or two out from the convention, when I get enough ideas for the next 3 conventions. I’m pretty sure that’s where the Ewok game came from though, so sometimes good comes from it.

Sure, I’ve a pile of leather scraps I’ve been tempted to try and turn into a half cape (They were originally purchased for an Orcish war skirt) and that’s an option. My wife’s holding a craft day this weekend, so I could certainly look into it. I should be able to drape it over the back quiver I have and not have it affect my shooting, I hope. In other options, the signet ring I was after is now out of stock in my size and while I’ve found either a vest or jerkin that I think will work, my over thinking and budget concerns has me doubting things. Or do I go for a short sleeve gambeson instead? Stupid brain. Also, said brain continues to insist that the my character idea is dumb and mostly pinched from Aragorn. Stupid anxiety. And I still can’t find a shirt or tunic I like that doesn’t have giant billowy sleeves. Harrumph.

For those who came in late, the character idea is thus: A noble scion who’s next in line for the family fortune, but who’s siblings are getting somewhat aggressive about getting the cash. To the point of sending assassins. Therefore, he’s journeyed to the New World, under the pretext of trophy hunting, slightly incognito (Hence the fancy signet ring that’ll easily identify him to any would-be assassins – what’s the use of a secret if it doesn’t leak?) till things cool down. I’ve a reason to be there, something to do, and something that’ll cause complications. I think that’s a good start.

I should probably start putting all the possible kit for the game in one place (I know I still own the pants I was going to wear, having previously worn them at my wedding), but I should check they still fit properly. Quitting sugar has taken a surprising amount of weight from my waistline, and according to my wife I’m still shrinking.

I’m gonna sign off and try and sleep again. Before you think it’s all angst and horror, there’s some genuinely good news to report: I’m seeing Alice Cooper Saturday night, Faith No More are touring soon and there’s a new Testament album incoming, though I still need to get a ticket to Download. But looming above all things, is an event I’m looking forward to almost as much as my anniversary – it’s under 3 months till Iron Maiden! *air guitar solo*

More to come. Be seeing you.

Plots, plans and play.

So, there’s been a burst of creativity, or attempting to document things more. So, here goes. For those seeking an update, the brain hasn’t been so great, but seems to be on an upward tick. Whether that’s due to the slightly lower temperature, or that I’ve started learning at another sword class (Italian rapier at Drummoyne, for those curious). My Saturday’s are jam packed with stuff, so Tuesday was the only option, and rapier means I can swash my buckle, if you know what I mean…

I also scored a copy of S2 of Britannia from work, which means come payday I’ll be grabbing S1. it looks an interesting show, but I’m a sucker for Roman era Britain, in particular north of the wall. (You can blame Robert E Howard for that) There was a brief thought of trying to write an event in that time period, even before watching the show (My enthusiasm can get the better of me from time to time), but let’s be honest, it’d be little more than an excuse to mention a certain as yet unconquered village in Gaul. *

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The Blackpowder and Bloodlines prep has continued, mostly in my head. The over thinking about props and costume hasn’t stopped, with such important questions as ‘Does that fit the costume brief?’ and ‘Do I want a tomahawk?’ rattling round the head. I’m firming up on my characters back story and why I’ve come to the New World. Also, I had an excuse to re-watch Brotherhood of the Wolf, both for inspiration and cause it’s a beautiful (and utterly bonkers) film. On the other side, if you’re curious about playing the Good Society LARP, then you have till the 8th to buy a ticket – that’s the cut off date to decide if the GM’s will run the event, or even just the NSW session, which my wife is planning to attend (She’s on stage the night of the Brisbane session, so I’ll be flying solo if it runs). So, hurry up and GET YOUR AUSTEN ON PEOPLE**.

We had session 1 of the new Star Wars game last week, and things are starting to come together. I’ve still not quite got my characters personality down pat yet, but it normally takes me a few sessions to properly gel. Our GM has asked us for some background info to work with the module he’s running, so that’ll give me a chance to come up with more links. And it was fun, which is the important thing. Looking forward to the next session.

More to follow. Be seeing you…

*I made a gourd of Getafix’s magic potion the McGuffin in a game a few years ago, and while disturbingly few people got the reference, one person nearly falling off a chair with laughter made it all worthwhile. Thanks Massive Q!
** I have been informed by my wife that I must now actually know something about Jane Austen, in book or movie form. I have also been told that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t count.

What do I want?

A lot of this was drafted in my head as I was trying to sleep last night, so hopefully you’ll forgive me if this is a little incoherent. First off: between the heat and my head, that recent high has dropped somewhat. Natural and soon to pass I hope, but it’s not been great in the brain. To make matters worse, Skindred had to cancel their tour for reasons still unknown. On the bright side, they’ve promised to be back before the end of the year, and will hopefully be here when I don’t have much on, and thus give me something to look forward to in the last half of the year. so there’s a silver lining.

And to the point of why I’m writing. We’re nearing the end of a Changeling: The Lost campaign in which the fate of Paris seems to be in our hands. The city of love (and Death!) is in a lot of trouble. We found ourselves running into a lot of investigative walls, or more than it seemed, and that had me distracted, more so than normal.

After the session my wife, having noticed my distraction, asked me exactly what was it I like doing in RPG’s and I was kinda stumped. I mean, I know why I game, sure. When I discovered gaming it was combat, a stage I imagine most gamer’s go through. There’s a certain joy to finding you have power when before you’ve had none, of being able to write the wrongs, of spending time in a universe where the good guys can actually win. Also, the adolescent power fantasy aspect – being a scrawny and awkward kid when I discovered the hobby, the appeal of being able to be someone mighty and powerful has never quite left me, no matter how old I get. It’s the same sort of thing that’s kept me in love with Iron Maiden all these years, and long may it remain so. (The Dwarf was always my favorite character in Golden Axe)

Nowadays, I’m not so sure. I mean, I know why I do it. There’s the story telling, comradeship and camaraderie and escapism – all very big things. I run games to see people react to an idea I’ve had and run with it in ways I could barely imagine. To entertain, and amuse, for a few hours at a time to take them away from the horrors of the mundane world and to have fun. That means a hell of a lot to me, possibly more than it should. But my attachment to that is probably something I should discuss more with my therapist.

So, what do I get out of playing? I’m not great at talking, power and the spotlight generally unnerves me, my dice curse hampers my effectiveness in combat, and my knack for building characters focused on background rather than mechanics frequently doesn’t help either. I don’t have the patience for long term planning, frequently forget what my character’s abilities are and my innate niceness tends to get in the way of playing any sort of evil or backstabby persona. Sure, there was that stretch of con freeforms in the early 2000’s where I spent half the game under a table screaming at people who came too close, but I’m not sure that counts.

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And need to hear the lamentation of the salads…

So, what’s the appeal? What do I want?* I’m still not sure, so I’m going to do something I rarely do, and look to myself. What I get a real kick out of is helping people. Yes, it’s always been there, but working retail and conventions the last few years has helped that along quite a bit. The feeling I get when asking “How can I help you?” or getting to say something like “I love this thing, how can I convince you to buy it?**” is what I believe is called ‘sparking joy.’

So, games. I’m not great at being the face, though I do like some power in the decision making process. If you want the party to survive I probably shouldn’t be at the front line, or be the tactical lynch pin (Depend on my dice and you’ll likely carry some scars), so what does that leave me? I looked inward, and thought, I’d like to try being the teams heart. the one who patches them up, or who keeps them going., whether through motivation, song or sheer irritation. My two stock characters are ‘well meaning but dumb noble’ or ‘world weary and with terrible luck’, but I think it’s time to experiment.

The gaming table should be a safe space where I can experiment with things that I’m terrible at in real life, like having an ego and putting myself forward for things. There’s two campaigns that are starting soon that I’m hoping to put this process into. One’s a bronze age sword and sorcery campaign and the idea that’s stuck with me the most is a young and cheerful Dwarf, fascinated by new things and who sings a lot, so that’s a decent start, I hope. Regular readers will know ideas aren’t the problem for me, but narrowing them down to the useful ones is the issue. Also follow through. And self deprecation. Moving on…

The other’s a Star Wars campaign set roughly 5 years after the Battle of Endor. We’re a group of not exactly law abiding folk, aboard a ship affectionately known as the Crimson Fucker. In that, I’m playing a retired Clone Trooper, specifically a pilot. Mostly of atmospheric craft, owing to not wanting to step on other player’s toes and so everyone has their thing, but more a support role. I’m planning to play the character like a badass grandpa, and am plotting war stories that I can recite at random moments, ala Kup in Transformers: The Movie.

Hopefully I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this experiment. Be seeing you…

* I think we know what the obvious answer to that is…
**Look, everybody should own Pandemic. It’s the rules.

Another update

So, update time.

I have a floor ticket for Iron Maiden’s Sydney show next year. *throws horns* I’m so damn excited about this it’s not funny. I’ve waxed lyrical many a time about my love for that band and will no doubt do so again, and to be in the pit on this tour, possibly the most over the top one they’ve done stage wise, promises to be a night I’ll never forget.

The lineup for Download next year was also announced, and there’s enough bands I dig to get me there. I’m still waiting for the second run of announcements before buying a ticket and hoping for sideshows. I’d love to see The Hu in a smaller venue, as they’re metal as fuck, but not the thrashing kind, whereas seeing Testament a few years back in a tiny venue nearly melted my face off with awesome. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic at Soundwave, but being that close as they roared through Dark Roots of Earth was fucking amazing. In other shows, Ross the Boss is this Saturday night and Halestorm hit town in a couple of weeks. The Iron Maidens are also back next year, which should prime the pump nicely for the real thing soon after. I’ve had issues with tribute/cover bands in the past, but seeing how much joy they take in playing those songs, I get swept up in it all. Also, they’re really fucking good at it.

In other good news, Niece, Age 11 is DMing a game of her own. She’s been excitedly talking to me about what’s happening in her game, and about talking D&D near her non-nerd friends and their confused reactions. I’m so freaking proud of her. She only has one set of dice, and I had to laugh and say “Oh my sweet summer child, we’ll fix that.” I’ve tried to pass down what GM wisdom I’ve learned from my years at the table, but I don’t need to say much – the kid has her head on straight to a degree that’s scary. Sure, I’ve still given advice and asked questions about her approach, but there’s been moments where I’ve had to stop her and go ‘Save some awesome for the rest of us alright?’ I’m hoping to get her to a con at some point soon, or run for her one of my old games. The next generation is on the way, and I couldn’t be happier.

Sword continues to be a blast. We’re doing quarterstaff and shaska (Cossack cavalry sabre) this term and I’m really enjoying both. And yes, every time I pick up a quarterstaff I get a certain cartoon in my head… Then there’s a problem in not being able to settle down to study one weapon/historical text, when there’s so many I’d love to learn. I haven’t done any sword and shield/buckler, staff has me wanting to do more spear/polearm and how could I say possibly no to learning the cutlass? Well, it’s less a problem and more an issue with too many weapons and not enough time. Where’s a TARDIS when you need it?

Brain however has been rather wonky. There was a massive crash following Pheno. I’d expected it, but not quite to that degree. Conventions can take it out of you, there’s the lack of sleep, nerves and as much fun as GMing is, it’s a lot of work. There’s the panic and tension leading up to the con, the adrenaline and chaos of when it’s happening, and then it’s over and what the fuck do I do now? I’ve been trying to write more concerning the brain goblins and the general weird in my head, but that’s not ready for public consumption. Therapy continues to unpick things, in addition to what rattles around in my head on a regular basis. I’d love to be able to publicly talk, but I’m not comfortable sharing around some of this yet. Working out how I’m dealing with it seems paramount before going public. On the bright side, I’m already planning for next year’s Pheno – a freeform this time.

Speaking of planning ahead, I’m hoping to attend Blackpowder and Bloodlines, a weekend LARP in Victoria next year.It’s a while since I’ve been to a weekender, let alone so lethal seeming a system. I’m a big fan of perma death in LARP – I don’t want it to be easy, but I like knowing the threat of death is there. There’s tentative plans to group up with a couple of others, without which I may not attend. I’d rather have someone I know there, outside of IC links. Getting to make so many IC connections and backstory at pax Europa spoiled me, and I’d love to try to recreate that sort of thing.

And that’s it for the moment. Be well, and be seeing you

Pheno 2019

It’s my 2nd year running at Phenomenon and both years I’ve played 1 game and won a trophy from it. This year I got murdered in a freeform and refused the offer to return to life so I could have a nap. I’m not proud, but I really needed the nap. As much as I want to play more, I’m kinda hoping to continue that streak in years to come.

I ran 10 sessions of Orcish heavy metalers. I’ve told my wife to please remind me not to attempt anything so absurd again. It’s been a blast. Glorious, hilarious, absurd and more than once I’ve near wept with laughter. I’m also sore (Mostly from the laughter, but also some of the puns), over tired and can’t wait to do it again. The experience of the whole thing is lovely, from orgs checking am I ok, to wildly enthusiastic players – there’s a wonderful atmosphere there. How wonderful were my players you ask? One group wrote a setlist. Another put in character autographs on their sheets and I baiscally had to award the one who was writing songs during the game. They were excellent to each other, to say the least.

I can’t thank everyone involved enough. From the orgs, my playtesters, players and my wife, all of whom conrtributed to making my event as fun as it was. I place a lot of emphasis, potentially too much, on are my players having fun, seeing that as a benchmark for success, and I’m certain I got that this year. I walked away from it feeling loved and appreciated, and given the state of my brain the last couple of years, the vocal show of support means a hell of a lot. It was more than a little emotional at times, much like at Sydney cons past when the team would sit down and go “So, what’s the game about? We saw your name and went ‘Yes’.”

The game was inspired by an idea about a Half-Orc Bard wielding a set of bagpipes in a LARP many years ago and evolved to become a full band. It ran in Sydney a few years ago, and I like to think has only improved since then, both in the writing and my GM’ing. It’s one I’m passionate about, both cause it was a lot of fun, and cause I’m rarely as happy as I am at a live gig. Music means a hell of a lot to me, expecially seeing it played live, and I wanted to try to get that across. I can’t say if I succeeded on that front, buy my players all seemed to walk away happy, and I’m more than OK with that.

Selected highlights and quotes follow, all names have been redacted to protect the guilty. Also, things were blurring together about 4 sessions in and I’m having trouble remembering who said what. I took better who played who notes this year, and am hoping to improve further next year.

The group who, when confronted with an open door, would lock it so they could kick it in.

“We’ve got a empty city, great for looters, speaking of which, moving on…”

“We start to play Lightning Struck, followed by Nefarious Deeds for Little Money.”

On that note, naming the bands (pyro setup) baby pseudo dragons Angus and Malcolm. In my defence, they are Young…

“Cause no heavy metal band has thought to do a ballad.”

“When she talks about hugging, she’s talking about crushing to death.”

“How sober are you?”
“What kind of noodles?”

The van’s engine being fed a sandwich, which prompted me to decide the engine was a Flintstone’s esque monster.

“We meet at Legolas’s restaurant.”
“It’s a themed place that shoots skewers of meat at you, if they shoot you you eat free!”

“We announce a surprise show tonight but don’t tell anyone.”

“We are… I forgot the band name already.”

The group who went full Bill and Ted, by managing to convince Elven Nature they were them from the future, and that the show they were about to play would start the apocalypse.

“If there’s anyone pretty/handsome backstage I want to extend my hand to them and say ‘Come with me if you want to rock’.”

“Could probably do something Molotovian with these…”

“…pants around the knees, junk out.”
“Well, I’ve gotta air it out.”

A combination of staging a massive Orc underground festival in the park down the street from the Colusseum, having nicked some of Elven Nature’s pyro and set the rest on flame. That ended up with an impromptu Battle of the Bands happening when I realized there was still an hour of session to go.

“Windscreens? Where we’re going we don’t need windscreens!”

“Are there any plushies for sale?”
“Band plushies?”
“Shark plushies, so we can jump over them!”
(That was the session that managed to start a plushie Sharknado in the center of the audience.)

Picking up a  large batch of recreational chemicals, then turning the on stage fans to face the audience and feeding said chemicals through them. Closely followed by most of the stadium size crowd tripping balls.

*Drummer turns to the keyboard player he was crushing on*
“There is no one I’d rather be in a drunk tank with”
*Mid set onstage making out followed*

Peoples reactions to hearing the names Elven Nature and the Backwoods Boys. Will, your terrible jokes live on.

“I just want to know what it’s like to have sex with a unicorn!”

“The van has memories”
“The van has fucken herpes as well!”

“You’re happy to commit genocide, but fucking a dragon is too far?”

The phrase ‘Good Morning Menzoberranzan: The Freeform!”

“The guys a huge hipster right, so we can get him to set the audience on fire before it’s cool”

“And then ORCHEMIAN RHAPSODY begins”

One player being the most adorably protective Dragon mother ever. That might have been the session where dragons being like scaly fire breathing kittens became canon.

“Fat Bottomed Elves?
Well, I was thinking Another Elf Bites the Dust.”

“Whosoever pulls the axe from the van is the new frontman.”

“I grate some rat jerky over the top.”

“I was thinking ‘Suck my Cock’, but now I think ‘Come so Hard you Black Out’.”
“And what song will you be playing?”

Getting to use the phrase “The stadium looks like 80,000 shampoo commercials come to life”

“Do you owe them child support?”
“Do you owe them a child?”

“I don’t know how I feel about the title ‘License to Fist'”

“Remember the time I told you about feelings?”
“We all have them”
“My teeth are immaculate!”

A cannon being added to a stadium boom gate, thus becoming the canon cannon.

“I’ve been going over the speed limit, but that doesn’t count as speeding.”

“PREPARE YOURSELF FOR 4D10 SONIC DAMAGE. THERE WILL BE NO SAVING THROW.”

“How do they (A Goblin and Elf) do it?”
“Look, I’m not saying there isn’t a size difference, but the heart wants what the heart wants.”
“A stepladder?”

“Don’t kinkshame the chicken!”

“You’re not allowed to smoke in bed.”
“Just means you aren’t using enough lube.”

The arguments over who’s turn it was to drive. Having it be everyone’s turn to drive and have Drive at D4 is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in gaming.

“Suns out, wangs out.”

“That bastard, he steals from us and takes our money!”

“What’s the Elf to Dragon ratio?”
“African or European?”

And that’s about half of the quotes I have written down. To say there was hilarious shenanigans is putting it mildly. I bloody love my players, and would give them all awards if I could. Prize giving is the hardest part of any con for me, even more annoying than naming my characters. I love you all.

I’ve already tentatively submitted for next years con, an idea I’ve had kicking around for a couple of years. Bit of a departure from my normal work, but the last time I tried that my Fox News game happened, so I think that’s a good thing. And hey, it means I have to rewatch all of Babylon 5, so it’s not exactly a hardship.

I’d like to end this with a reading from the Book of Paul (Stanley). “I know life sometimes can get tough, and I know life sometimes can be a drag. But people, we have been given a gift, we have been given a road, and that road’s name is rock and roll.”

Amen. *air guitar solo*

Punching Nazis makes *everything* better

This is a slightly rewritten version of an idea I had recently. Yes, it still exists on Facebook, but I wanted to change a couple of minor things and archive it a little better. So, here goes… While watching The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with my wife recently, I had an idea. You see, while the film isn’t great (Though I adore the ‘No, this isn’t Rachel Weisz’ joke), it drops some curious hints at the O’Connell’s service during the war and that got my brain working.

oconnells

Long time readers will know how dangerous this can be.

So, the OSS/SSR/Delta Green have sent the O’Connell’s on a mission, teaming their talents with that of Professor Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones. No-one’s quite sure how the New York playboy Lamont Cranston was assigned to the mission, but he claims to know the area you’re going to quite well, while transport is being provided by noted barnstormer and ace pilot Cliff Secord. Add some Nazis to punch*, and a suitably horrifying threat (The Nazis are testing a nuke? Well, there’s a nuke, but it’ll accidentally raise Cthulhu/the dinosaurs at the center of the Earth/the Royal Family lizard people**), and there’s a pretty solid pulp adventure in there.

indynazi

That got some interest, with folks saying that Peggy Carter should be involved, given her boyfriend is on ice. Fair call that, both in terms of suitable characters and adding more female PC’s. I was trying to keep the MCU out of it, but I’m not completely averse to mentioning them. That did give me a further idea though, and while I told myself I wouldn’t write sequels anymore, within 10 minutes the idea I had a more than workable epilogue. If you’ll indulge me…

INTERIOR, SSR BRIEFING ROOM. THE PC’S ARE BEING ADDRESSED BY PEGGY CARTER.

‘The United States government, and by extension the free world, thanks you for your recent service. As much as we’d like to give you some time off, we have more work for you. A word of warning, you may think you’ve seen everything, know everything, but let me give you a piece of advice: the universe is a far stranger place than you can possibly imagine.”

SHE CHECKS HER WATCH “We’re just waiting on one more person to arrive and we can start the briefing.”

AS IF ON CUE THERE’S A STRANGE WHEEZING GROANING SOUND. A STRONG WIND WHIS UP IN THE UNDERGROUND BUNKER, PEOPLES HAIR IS RUFFLED AND PAPERS ARE BLOWN OFF DESKS, AS THE TARDIS MATERIALIZES IN THE CENTER OF THE ROOM. THE DOOR OPENS AND OUT STEPS THE 13TH DOCTOR.

“Sorry I’m late, but the helmic regulators a bit knackered and was causing some nasty feedback in the dimensional stabilizer.”

SHE SEEMS TO FULLY GRASP THE CONFUSION IN THE ROOM, NOTHING THE LOOKS OF SHOCK.

“Oh, hello. Nice to meet you all, I’m the Doctor.”

SHE REACHES INTO HER COAT, PRODUCING A PACKET OF TIM TAMS, WHICH SHE OFFERS TO THE GROUP.

“Biscuit?”

END AND ROLL CREDITS.

doctorbiscuit

Now all I need is the time to sit down and write the damn thing…

*I’d be tempted to add the BPRD in there as well somehow, but that might be one crossover too many. Though I ran a 60’s spy game a few years ago where the PC’s were from SHIELD, the IMF, UNCLE, Torchwood and UNIT, I’m sure I could work them in somehow. Besides, young John Hurt for the win, as the kids say.  DON’T TELL ME IF THEY’VE STOPPED SAYING IT LET ME BE CURRENT FOR 10 SECONDS PLEASE.

**Note: actual lizard people, not coded anti semetism. I was gutted when I found that out – I’d thought there were people that thought the Royals were part of an empire of snake shapeshifters secretly ruling the world, and no, turns out it’s just people hating the Jews. Damn bigots, ruining everything.

Keanu Reeves murders (almost) everyone.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARRABELLUM, AKA KEANU REEVES WEARS A SHARP SUIT AND KILLS AN ABSOLUTE FUCKTON OF PEOPLE. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY, IF THEY MAKE ANY MORE OF THESE HE’S GOING TO MURDER A SMALL COUNTRY’S WORTH OF PEOPLE I’M NOT KIDDING.

Look, it doesn’t fit anywhere near as well on a poster, but it’s a far more representative picture of the film.

There’s a small clutch of films that whenever I watch them I have the urge to drop a solid chunk of money on a quality suit, neaten my hair and beard and then, well, walk around I guess? I’ve never gotten that far in the planning stage. Mostly it’s the Bond films, but I think I have to add the Wick saga to that. In RPG terms, It’s not quite Feng Shui: The Movie (That title will forever and always belong to the frankly unbeatable brilliance of Big Trouble in Little China), but if you aren’t using that system to represent this world, you’re doing this wrong. Weapons are shown in almost fetishistic detail, perfect for that game, and there’s some incredible skill on display in their use – while there’s the odd quick cut, for the most part it’s long takes of people messing each other up in increasingly brutal, and occasionally ridiculous ways and the stunt work is frequently jaw dropping in it’s skill and execution.

Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick' in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM.
Told you. That’s damn sharp.

Keanu Reeves returns in the title role as the former hit-man dragged back into the life, and he certainly wears a suit well. I’m not sure I’ve seen one worn with such style since Chow Yun-Fat in The Killer, one of the few films able to match this one for sheer scope of  carnage. Halle Berry isn’t in it as much as you’d expect given her prominence in publicity and Laurence Fishburne appears to be having more fun than you at all times. He has some competition on that front from Mark Dacascos who seems to be enjoying himself so much I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he’d taken the part for free. (A harsher critic could say that being in a big budget film that’s actually seen in cinemas might also be a factor, but I’m not that person.)

There’s the odd burst of ‘Hey, it’s that guy!” with Brooklyn 9-9’s Detective Pimento and Bronn from Game of Thrones appearing. At least I thought it was Bronn, the accent he was using made it difficult to tell without a mid film visit to IMBD and my phone remained firmly turned off during the film. I’m a sucker for a good arming montage (My favorite still being the frankly hilarious one in Schwarzenegger’s Commando) and this one has a doozy, complete with a cheerful nod to Reeve’s past work that I won’t spoil. It’s not quite the equal of John Wick Chapter 2’s, but what’s the point in exactly repeating things?

5c40ae895241470c755abe44-1200
Holy shit, I’m on a horse!

We start with Reeves in serious trouble, and the amount he’s in only increases as the film goes on. Points to the writers for upping the scale of things, as the film moves around sharply, with Wick busily proceeding to chop, stab, shoot and punch his way through an awful lot of New York, with one early kill aided by a copy of Dante’s Inferno. I can picture the writers room high as kites on sugar, “So we’ve just had Wick have a gunfight in a stable, so what if he gets into a gunfight while riding a horse, against people on motorbikes? Oh, and later can he ride a motorbike and get into a sword-fight against a bunch of other people on motorbikes?” I can practically hear the high-fives as I type this.

Our guide to this world and it’s rules and regulations is Winston (Ian McShane), who has a tone and gravitas in his voice that not only will I buy whatever he’s selling, but I’ll buy immediately and thus get the free set of steak knives. For a criminal organization it’s incredibly well structured, with a complex set of rules and guidelines. The near mystical gold coins as payment, bloody thumbprints in lockets to signify favors owed and adjudicators to ensure the laws are held to. It’s the sort of nonsense that you’d expect to find in a game of Dungeons and Dragons and would seem utterly ludicrous but given how seriously everyone takes it, it works.

Winston-John-Wick-3-Blue-Coat-600x800
Also, a very sharp coat there.

The increasing scope across the three films thus far has been slowly allowed to reveal itself, which is, to me, a far more elegant way to do things than a film 1 info dump. Sure, I do occasionally wonder at the sheer scale of things, or smaller questions such as just how many people in New York belong to this group of assassins and how Wick hasn’t yet murdered them all in the previous films. I’m more than aware of New Yorker’s reputation for giving no fucks whatsoever, but I’m fairly sure that were this many bodies dropping on this regular a basis in public places that someone would be saying something, right?

Expanding the scope and mythology of your universe can be tricky. The Empire Strikes Back did it well, the Matrix sequels less so. In fairness, I’m not sure on that – I saw both the Matrix sequels at midnight premieres back in the day and haven’t gone back since. I left them angry. Not as angry as after the second Hobbit film, but that’s a different story. Mostly when I remember those two films I think back to my early to mid 20’s bullshit and how much of a twat I could be and I’m really not proud of that. It took me a long time to work past that and I still quake with shame at some of my actions. I can’t take them back, but at least I can learn from them and hopefully not repeat them. On the bright side, it’s around that time I finally came clean, and became an open and proud Iron Maiden fan, as opposed to treating them as a long time guilty pleasure. So, that’s something good and up the Irons! Getting back on topic…

If you know what you’re in for, you’ll love this. If you don’t want to see Reeves dressed well and murdering a whole lot of people with some incredible skill, then this might not be the film series for you. A 4th film has already been announced, and if it hadn’t been the films end would have all but confirmed that. In any case, I can’t wait for the next one and I’m sorely tempted to go back and see this one again. Possibly while wearing a suit…

4 and a half fancy shotguns out of five.