What’s the time?

That’s right kiddies, it’s time for another instalment of everyone’s favorite program, “Gav talks about his mental health!”

So, what’s been happening to me? *deep intake of breath* BRUCE DICKINSON OF IRON MAIDEN ANSWERED A QUESTION OF MINE. IT WAS A DUMB QUESTION, BUT IT WAS MINE AND HE ANSWERED IT.  Sorry for the shouting, but as a Maiden fan for more than half my life, that meant a lot to me. To explain: Bruce was out here promoting his book and put on a show about it, followed by a Q&A. Everyone who bought a ticket got a signed copy of the book (I HAVE SOMETHING HE TOUCHED) and a bit of paper you put your name and question on, which got put into a tub. Word has it they got shuffled around and chosen randomly, and mine was one of the ones he answered! So, I’ve heard from the man himself: His stage clothes do not have an online store, they are a gift from God. Words can’t quite capture just how happy that made me, but I’m slightly gutted that my wife wasn’t there to see it. (She likes seeing me happy, surprisingly)

I ran 8 sessions of Flash Gordon at Phenomenon and, I like to think, did pretty damn well at it. 8 tables of happy players, and from what I heard, more than a few people excitedly comparing notes post session. I’m happier with some sessions, which always happens, but overall think they went well. Warms the heart and fires the blood it does, which is needed to push through the tired. I felt, well, appreciated running for them, in a way I’ve not felt for a while now. There was communication from the orgs, support and encouragement both online and off, all very useful things for a GM who’s more than a bit nervous at his first interstate con. Didn’t hurt that everyone who sat down at the table understood the sort of event I was running (A cheap BBC 1970’s serial, complete with jokes about crappy props and wobbly sets) and ran with it full pelt. I’m hoping to stay longer next year, to make the post con drinks and lunch afterwards. Also, to book the week off afterwards to sleep. I’m not as young as I once was and it really takes it out of you.

Oh, there were stories. Many stories, some cracking jokes and some truly harrowing puns. Ask me in person and I’ll recite some. But the one I’ll tell here is involves a team called the Dragon Ladies, 4 11-13 year old girls. I’d volunteered to run for them, as I only had 2 other players in that session, and while I normally run for 5, I had 6 PC’s so why not? I was bloody petrified, as it was my first session at the con, and running for children is something I don’t have much experience with. I didn’t have to worry a bit, as within seconds they got it. I’ll try to describe my favorite moment. To set the scene – the PC’s have boarded the first passenger vessel between Earth and Mongo, and things are getting trippy as they move between Earth and Mongo space.
ME: “The stars start to swirl, as the sky dazzles with kaleidoscopic colours. Eruptions of light and colour float through the skies. A strange blue box flies past you.”
DRAGON LADIES, in unison: “TARDIS?”
ME: Followed by a phone booth…
Seeing the looks on their faces was priceless and I’d happily run for them again. It took no small amount of willpower not to give them trophies right there. Speaking of that, I might have found my new schtick – smallgoods. I’d mentioned on the blurb there’d be prized for Biggest Ham and Largest Cheese, and as such, procured ham and cheese to give away. Prizegiving seemed to find this incredibly amusing, as did the winners of said prizes. (I overheard “Let’s make a sandwich” between them as they walked back to their seats) To all who played my humble event, I salute you and look forward to next year.

Alas, post con comes the post con crash, and this one hit hard. I knew something was really up when watching Tick Fucking Tock the day after the con ended and almost weeping. There’s a part in Episode 1 where Paul Livingstone’s playing The Auld Triangle acoustically and I nearly broke. I cry pretty much at the drop of a hat, as anyone who’s known me for more than 10 minutes can testify to, but this wasn’t the regular sort of thing. Emotion has frequently been a boom or bust thing for me, as much as I may hope to regulate it. The little things pile up and all looks bleak, with only the small rays of sunshine to light the way. Some days you’re the windshield, and somedays you’re the bug. Or, to quote my favorite author, gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth…

There’s been other events that have messed with me, that I’m still coming to terms with. So, I had a dentist appointment that didn’t exactly go to plan, and I’m staring down the barrel of some pretty heavy dentistry. Who knew self medicating for depression and stress, combined with the attendant lack of self care and dental hygeine, for the better part of 4 years would be rubbish for your teeth? Explaining that at Sunday dinner with the in-laws wasn’t part of the plan either, but what’s done is done. As a result of that (And to save money to pay the dentist bill) I’ve cut sugar as much as I can out of my life, and that’s a bastard of a thing. Given that it was something of a mood stabilizer for me, seeing that last Tim Tam on the table, sitting there uneaten, taunting me, has made me want to scream “SOMEBODY FUCKING EAT IT OR I’LL KILL YOU ALL” more than once.

I’ve even found myself comparing ingredients on chips to see which has less sugar, something I never thought I’d do. On the bright side, I’ve lost weight to the point my wedding ring is loose at times, so some good has come from this. There’s also the wanting to go out and do stuff again, like using swords and bows! Alas my regular LARP isn’t running at the moment, as I have a shiny new rapier (that I’m fucking rubbish at using) to play with. I’ve had my fill of trying to play anti-heros or scoundrels, and just want to swash my buckle – is that so bad?

Look, it’s rather late, and I really should be sleeping, so I’ll wind this up. Thank you as always dear readers, for your indulgence. I’m going to leave you with some advice, some of the finest advice I can hope to give. 4 simple words, that will improve your lives no end.

LISTEN TO BLACK SABBATH.

Be seeing you…

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ROOOOOOOOTS BLOODY ROOOOOOTS

Max and Iggor Cavalera / Skindred, Sydney Big Top Sep 22 2017.

Sepultura’s album Roots holds a special place in my heart, as what helped expand the visions of what metal could be, sending me down a different path. True, it didn’t eclipse my burgeoning love for all things Iron Maiden, but that passion was both A: in it’s infancy and B: still something of a guilty pleasure for me, a feeling that took me a good few years to openly embrace. Given the nature and ferocity of their split, or rather frontman Max Cavalera’s split from the rest of the band, I’d long figured I’d have had no chance of seeing the songs performed live. True, Max had reunited with Sepultara drummer (and brother) Iggor in 2006 and formed Cavalera Conspiracy, among Max’s numerous other projects, but when it was annouced the two brothers would be touring the Roots album in full, well, I was there. The fact ragga metallers Skindred would be supporting them was less the icing on the cake for me, and more the cake itself. Sure, it did seem a little akward to be keener on the support than the headline, but I figure support bands deserve love all, right?

I trundle my way down to the venue, check in my bag and already curse both the venue’s no steel cap shoe policy and my being raised Lawful Good. *sighs* I make my way to the front early, wanting to be right up there for Skindred, and after an epic wait, the strains of the Imperial March ring out and the band hit stage. Singer Benji Webbe, sunglass clad and impossibly cool, climbs up on the monitors, Under Attack kicks off and my head begins to thrash. They put on an impeccably cheerful set, freely admitting that they’re here to get people warmed up for Max and co, but in no way slacking off because of it. Kill the Power has the audience roaring, Machine (From the then forthcoming new album) howls like a banshee and we end Warning with the now traditional Newport Helicopter. The cheeky gits even leave the stage to a burst of Nobody Does it Better

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Benji Webbe – LORD OF ALL HE SURVEYS.

After putting my shirt back on, I vacate the mosh pit in search of food and drink. And safety – I have what could be charitably called a piss poor tolerance for pain, and I can see the size of the people behind me. Making my way to safety (AKA the upstairs seating), I settle in for the main event. Anticipation builds, the mosh pit grows even more frenzied and the they hit stage. what can I say about Max, other than he looks just like someone who’d give you a quest in a post apolyptic RPG. He grabs the mic, bellows “ARE YOU READY? ROOTS, BLOODY ROOOOOTS” and we’re off. Goddamn, I’d almost forgotten how hard that song hits, and I can barely draw breath. Attitude has the crowd roaring, and Cut Throat is extraordinary, to say nothing of the look of awe on my face at hearing Ratamahatta played live. Things slow down a little mid set , but picks up with a storming Endangered Species and album closer Dictatorshit. I’m lathered in sweat and ragged and 16 year old me can’t believe what he’s just seen. The encore of a medley of early Sepultura goes down a treat, as does covers of Venom’s Black Metal and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, ending with a reprise of Roots, Bloody Roots.


See, I have proof!

Alas, none of my photos of the headliners turned out OK, and I don’t remember who the rest of the band were, though their moves came straight from the ‘Big Book of Metal Stage Moves’, complete with wide stance and head bob. But I can’t bring myself to mock much, given the faces I’ve pulled while playing Guitar Hero over the years.

As we shamble out into the night, battered, only slightly bleeding (Small cur on the finger, nothing to worry about) and very happy, I once again think just how much I love live music. There’s nothing like it.

Long time.

So yeah, been a while.

Stuff.

What’s happening? Not much. Work, gaming, laundry and sleep. The odd concert or show. I’ve a pile of half written reviews and posts that writer’s block has been getting in the way of. My mental health contines to pinball around, but the highs are relatively high, and the lows aren’t as low, which is pretty bloody lovely. Progress is progress.

My latest con game had it’s first playtest recently, and went well. It was a hell of a thing, as my brain and my GM’ing havent felt as if they’ve been working in unison of late, but more on that later. Anyhow, some stuff to do on that one, a few tweaks and adjustments. I’ll likely playtest it again before Pheno, to see how the changes work and get a bit more XP under the belt. It’s been fun to write, which has been a welcome change of late. Productivity in that area is useful, but still somewhat frustrating, as every time I try to write more stuff for the Conan LARP I ran a couple sessions of last year I want to put my fist through my monitor with frustration. Hello writer’s block, my old nemesis.

I’m increasingly of the mind that I should just run one shots every few months and bounce around settings and genres. Given how my ideas range about the shop, trying to stick to one settting after that initial burst of enthusiasm has faded is tricky. I’ve had issues writing sequels to my tabletops in the past, so this might be for the best. Realizing this, oh, a year and a half back might have been fucking useful as well, but better late than never. I enjoyed running Hyborian, it taught me that I can run something, but that I need more help and deadlines. On the bright side, I’m working on something of a freeform nature, of which I won’t reveal large details of (For once) but I’ll say this: I want to run it on a beach and I’ve been browsing Etsy for a tricorn hat. Make of that what you will.

The other big change has been the cancellation of the Star Wars game I’ve been running. Alas Team Fish Nipples is no more. There’s a variety of reasons, but mostly is that’s it’s become something I’m not enjoying. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, and my players certainly seemed to be enjoying things (My main critieria for running games), but I was getting increasingly cranky at them, and they don’t deserve that. I got all inspired by Rogue One, and my players went more in that direction than I was expecting or comfortable with. I don’t blame them at all – it’s my fault for not setting the tone and expectations in the first place, and they deserve no end of thanks from me, as I’ve said previously.  I still want to run for them, as they’re a lot of fun to run for but I don’t know what yet. I’d rather not announce it yet until I have a setting and campaign set up. I certainly have ideas, but I’m experimenting with fully developing them, having a campaign plan, authority figure NPC’s who are happy to see them – shit I haven’t always done before.

So yeah, I’ll try and clear the backlog of pieces, or at least post most often.  Thank you for your patience and indulgence.

 

 

Your Kung Fu’s alright eh? Right mate, carpark!

So, for those of you keeping track of my terrible game ideas, well, I’ve had another one. Prompted in part by an old idea (Wanting to set a Feng Shui game in Australia), reading the blog Ninja’s all the Way Down* and a recent viewing of Hercules Returns (Which none of the cast and crew at the post film Q&A had seen in 25 years), I present you thus:

AUSTRALIAN NINJA: ENTER THE YOBBO.

A 1 session 5 player game that uses the Feng Shui system.

With nothing more than that I’ve already had 4 people I know go “Yep, will play.” I’m not sure what that says about my reputation in local gaming circles, but whatever it is I’m happy about it. Maybe even a little proud.

For those wanting more info, I don’t have any. Well, outside of one character’s equipment list will have ‘Hotted up Ford’ and ‘Complete works of AC/DC’ and I want to stage the final fight on the Harbour Bridge. I’m tempted to add a cliffhanger where a fleet of Kiwi accented pirates sail into Sydney Harbour for no readily apparent reason other than it amused me, but I seem to be on a pointlessly obscure cliffhanger kick at the moment (For example, the cliffhanger/epilogue to my last convention game used Iron Maiden lyrics as flavour text).

Plot? What? I did have an idea of going full Godfrey Ho – take a regular Australian film’s plotline, add ninja’s, and then redub the whole mess. I don’t remember much of Moulin Rogue and I never saw Australia, but I’m fairly certain both could be improved by random ninja attacks, much in the same way there’s no film that couldn’t be improved by having Bill and Ted appear halfway through.**

So yes, that’s another game for the list. I’ll chuck it on the pile and now that it’s out in the public eye and try to get back to the stuff I should be writing first. For example,  I just submitted an idea for Pheno and whilst it’s not been accepted yet, more work on it is a good thing.

Be seeing you…

*Don’t trust me? Read their review of Ninja Terminator.
** There’s films that don’t need to be improved, but that still could be.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold…

Far over, the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep, and caverns old.
We must away, ere break of day,
To find the pale, enchanted gold.

So, given recent faffing about concerning possible new LARP characters, a decision has been made: I’m going Dwarven. I have the beard, a (LARP safe) hammer and find Elves irritating, so how could I not? This leaves a lot of things to work out and/or find  – the name I’m leaving for a while, as I’ve always had trouble with them. For the moment I’m looking at costume and background. Costume wise, I want a lot. This involves digging through reference material and Google Images, which is, as you can imagine, an ardous task*. I have issues with the Hobbit films, but the art direction and costume work is fantastic. Well, mostly – I was never sold on Bifur having an axe stuck in his forehead or Nori’s hairdo**. Their cultural work is gorgeous – there’s a clear difference between each of the races, rather than simply throwing a costume on an actor and telling them to do an accent.

The basic costume concept is pinched from The Hobbit films, mostly Thorin. I love that fur trimmed open robe thing (Stuffed if I know what the actual term for it is) and the general look of his outfit, but I don’t want to copy the thing directly. Lose the armour, drop the fur from the outer robe (Seriously, what is the thing called?) and add a hood for starters. I’ve got jewellery I’m looking at and I’ve almost decided what adornments my beard will have (No, I’m still not letting you put plastic Christmas baubles in it). Also, there needs to be summer and winter weight versions, or adaptability thereof, switching out an outer robe etc. I’m wanting layers, outer robe thing, tunic, belt, maybe a baldric. Oh, the paralysis of options…

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That sleeveless robe thing – what the hell is it called?

As for weaponry, I’ve the hammer and that’ll be it till I can get enough XP to buy shield use. Won’t be the first time I’ve hampered myself combat wise for story purposes, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’d experiment further with two-weapon fighting, but I’m even more rubbish at that. The Hybrid Dwarven sword that Epic Armoury makes is very pretty though… Armour (at first) will be thanks to magic, which means I don’t have to wear the stuff, which is pleasing in the Australian summer. I do want a few things to bulk out the outfit though -bracers and greaves, with maybe extra padding underneath there (Under the rules of the system you have to take an ability to make armour count, otherwise it’s just decoration). Heavy leather most likely – Darkblade make a decent looking and relatively affordable set of gauntlets. It can’t be soon enough, given the amount of smacks to the hands I take.

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See, told you it was pretty didn’t I?

Background wise, he’s a blacksmith, but has the skill to forge magic items. So, wizard abiities, but not the boom spell throwing kind. As for why he’s come to the game area, I’m uncertain, but looking towards wanting to improve his skills, maybe to craft something for the Dragon Throne. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Item creation costs XP so it’ll be a while, but it’s nice to have goals to look forward to. Also, I’ve only got the one weapon proficiency, so it’ll be a few games before can use a shield. I’ve the feeling I’m going to lose more fights than I win, but I’m used to that. The stats I have are wavering between fighter and wizard being the main focus, but wizard seems to be winning. I can’t promise I won’t use a Scots accent (Or what I do that passes for one), but that casts a long shadow over Dwarven kind. (I remember doing a Scots accent when I first played a Dwarf back in high school, way back in the mid 90’s – I blame Games Workshop.) There’s other little things I’ve been comtemplating – fighting style, reactions to other races and even walking. May not sound like much, but a Dwarf’s going to walk differently to an Elf. Heavy boots and a rolling tread.

Which leads us to why he’s come to the game site. I’d like a better excuse than ‘I have a roaving foot’ – the old ‘highborn wanting to marry lowborn’ or vice versa cliche isn’t bad, nor is the ‘exiled for political reasons’ one. I like the idea of being a staunch traditionalist, hectoring any other Dwarves in game to be more Dwarfy. A bit more fussy, more than the steroetypical short Viking/Glasweigan. Enough there to identify as a Dwarf, but more depth than the bottom of a glass, unlike a lot of my previous characters..

Enough for now. More to follow.

*Also, going through YouTube looking for power metal covers of Over the Misty Mountains Cold.
**There’s moments I’m not sure what’s in the water at Weta Workshop. Somethings they do beautifully (Hobbiton), and other things go down like a cup of cold sick (I’m pretty sure that Legolas got more screen time and dialogue than at least three of the Dwarves).

A Questing we shall go! Soonish!

Overkill by Motorhead is a damn near perfect song. It took me a long time to appreciate it (As a teen my main issue was that it wasn’t Stone Dead Forever), but as I’ve been heavily into their back catalogue owing to the recent death of former guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, some critical reappraisal has been due. Philthy’s warp speed double bass drumming, Lemmy’s bass as rhythm guitar and Eddie leaning back into the outro solo, his body almost held up in the air by what’s pouring out of the speakers, it’s enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Anyhow, getting back to LARP related stuff. I’d been toying with the idea of going to Swordcraft Quest (A week long LARP in Victoria) for some time, and having a little extra cash in the pocket from recent convention work, I thought I’d investigate further. A week of gaming, of meeting new people, talking with them in a (possibly) terrible accent, trying to kill them and being killed in return sounds fantastic. Also, camping. Well, there’s a downside to everything. 🙂 Transports tricky though, being in regional Victoria and good incentive for me to get my license. Again. Do I carpool there and train back, or vice versa? Taking the train home does give me the advantage of time to myself, well time with headphones. I’m not a massive fan of crowds, and generally need time to sit in a cave by myself (So to speak), following large events.

The venue the next events at though, Kryal Castle, means there’s both public transport access and dorm room accomodation. Win! Frustration at trying to find more info on the format of the event followed, not helped by their website. I suspect much trawling through Facebook will ensue, or some polite badgering and buying drinks in thanks for friends of mine who’ve gone in previous years. What ensued was my typical mighty enthusiasm followed swiftly by a budget based freakout. What calmed me (Aside from my wife), was the realisation that they run another Quest later in the year, around the school holidays in September. Thankfully, this shouldn’t clash with the Phenomenon convention, which a friend has challenged me to run The Savage Worlds of Flash Gordon at, to which my response was something alone the lines of *twirls mustache* ‘Pathetic Earthlings, who can save you now?’

The September event also gives me more time to plan kit, grow my beard ever mightier, decide what warband to fight with (Or generate a small one of our own, as a housemate is also keen to come play) and prepare. Also time for me to relax, not freak out at the possibilities, and to find out what’s there apart from combat. My wife isn’t a fan of LARP combat (Or as I put it ‘words are her weapons’), while I enjoy a good scrap. Finding an event that indulges both of us, well, that’s the hope.

Now, with the convention further away, I have some cash in my pocket that’s burning hotter than Mustafar. What do I do with it? Armour? Shield? A swooshy cloakBaggy trousers? Whatever I buy, I want to make sure I’m going to use it, and that means actually deciding what character/s I want to take, not coming up with eleventy million terrible ideas, something I’ve long been fantastic at. There is one thing I’m set on though: beard rings*. But which ones? The Mjolnir and Jormangandr ones appeal the most, given my beard is mighty and may well bring about Ragnarok. 🙂 I’m also keen to get a couple of skulls to put in braids in my hair, but that’s more a legacy from my love of Warhammer 40,000.

There’s another more sensible option though – in place of spending large amounts of cash on postage, follow my wife to Spotlight and buy patterns and fabric so she can make it. Saves on postage and I get another chance to brag. “Who made this? My wife did.” A friend has also offered to make me a swooshy purple cloak. I know awesome people.

At the moment though, the main idea is green. Yep, Orcs. That might be owing to seeing this recently, which would (hopefully) help negate the number of crotch shots I take in combat. Yes, I know I should be faster and/or wear a box, but these things still happen. I also need to get my boots resoled, which I’m betting won’t be cheap. Prosthetics and makeup will be involved, but I’ve got time to practise. I’m tempted to go full barbarian in leather and fur, but that orc swashbuckler idea I’ve had kicking around is tempting as well. That would fit more with my less than mighty physique as well. *ponders* Too many ideas and not enough games!

* To those of you who suggest putting plastic baubles in my beard every Christmas, I have a word for you: NO. My beard is not for things bright and cheerful, but shall be adorned only by silver, bronze and the blood of my enemies!**

** Or as my wife knows it, the remnants of my breakfast Milo.

A long overdue thank you.

This is both a shout out to, and thank you to, my Star Wars players. I’ve been running fortnightly, for quite a while now – it’s long surpassed my previous campaign attempts, most of which ended at session 1 when I got writer’s block. And how has it been going? Not well. But a New Hope has arisen…

What started with unbridled enthusiasm and ferocious nostalgia on my part – resulting in us using the old WEG D6 system, had dwindled. After a while the limitations of that system, compared to more modern ones, were laid bare, and we switched over to SAGA Edition, which met with much approval from my players. So, things stumbled on, and there was many a session which left me all but holding my head in my hands. So, I did the thing I should have thought have doing 6 months beforehand – I asked them for feedback. I wanted to make things better. I wanted it to be fun, for both my players and I. It hadn’t been and if swallowing my pride and asking for help got the job done, well it was long past time to do so.

I got feedback, well written, fair feedback. I’d be lying if I said it was easy to read, or fun, but I read it. And tried to apply it, to make change.  We’ve had 3 sessions since then, and it’s been fun. Geunine fun, hopefully as much for them as for me. Sure, there’s been the usual “They did/said WHAT?” moments, but I know my players – that’ll happen. Hell, I encourage that stuff. I mean they tend to solve problems by simply hijacking a vehicle and driving it at full speed (Normally laden with something explosive) at the problem, but I’d expect nothing less from player characters.

So, to my players, thank you for suffering through. I’m sorry I didn’t ask sooner, but I’m glad I finally did. I hope you’re enjoying things. And for any GM’s out there who may panic at what’s happening, just relax, and talk to your players. All hope is not lost. Now, if only I could stop the discussions about how many nipples the Mon Cal has…

The secret to running in a suit is to…

A: have it tailored specially for that purpose or B: wear pants a size or 2 too big. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it worked well enough for me. Yesterday saw the latest Zedtown, a zombie apocalypse Nerf war, with over 2200 people making their way to Sydney Olympic Park to play a giant game of tag.

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The author, looking as blurry and tired as he felt. Also, his selfies are shithouse.

It’s my 6th (I think) event modding (I’ve also played 2) and by far the biggest we’ve seen. Highlights include: players first sight/hearing of The Witch (Yes, she deserves capital letters), seeing the survivors of the fall of Blue Base desperately trying to escape (Spoiler: they didn’t), the Doof Zombie getting players to do the Thriller dance (Which I just missed getting on video), players fleeing in horror and terror from a zombie T-Rex and the sheer joy of responding to players queries with “That information is on a need to know basis citizen, and you don’t need to know.” Also, having someone finally ask “Please can I have a fuel container?” IT TOOK 4 GAMES FOR SOMEONE TO SAY PLEASE WE WERE SO HAPPY. And yes, that player got the fuel. Politeness goes a long way citizens.

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Zombie T-Rex!

It never fails to amuse me seeing how quickly people go from ‘It’s all a fun game’ to ‘This is life or death’ mode, and for a lot of them that’s when the zombies are first released. It’s hilarious when people try to stand and fight at that point. We aren’t trying to kill you that early, though there have been people who’ve purposely gotten bit early to spend more time as a zombie. (Tagging humans earns you upgrades, including tentacles or speeding up respawn times.) Our job as marshalls is to make sure people obey the rules and are having fun, and that’s something we take seriously. We (I) don’t call it the ‘Hi-Vis of Authority’ for nothing!

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My top tips for future Zedtowns:
1: Comfortable shoes. This cannot be stressed enough – you’ll be doing a lot of walking and running.
2: Food and water. Carrying some is sensible (Muesli bars and a water bladder backpack’s a good option), but if you can’t then stake out sources of both ASAP. That also goes for toilets – if you urgently need to go and the nearest toilet is near zombie territory, well, you’ve only yourself to blame.
3: Weapons. Opinions divided on this. I’ve seen people last almost to end of game with nothing more than a backpack full of socks (Clean and rolled up as per the rules mind you, not weighed down with spare change) while others turn up with enough foam darts to supply a small war. That massive automatic rifle will blast many a zombie, but when it runs dry, you’d better be prepared to run. No matter what blasters you carry, practise with them – reload on the run, use washing on the line as target practise, make sure you can clear jams at speed and carry a backup within easy reach. Also, within about a half hour into game there’ll likely be enough darts on the ground to scavenge, so blasters that can be front loaded are a useful backup.
4: Exercise. Rule #1 of the zombie apocalypse is cardio after all. The more Zedtown’s I’ve done the more steps I’ve done, which for someone as grey and over the hill as I am is a good thing. Endurance and reflexes are equally useful – being able to run and dodge will put you in good stead. No matter your firepower, at some point in game there’ll be more zombies than you can shoot. I guarantee it.
5: Costume. The vast majority of players turn up in street clothes, but I’ve seen the likes of aerobics instructors, the Mystery Machine Crew, the aforementioned T-Rex, Mario and Luigi, Jayne Cobb and various militaries. Though we might have to make the dress code clearer thanks to the guy in the day game who was wearing shoes, an afro, puffy jacket and underpants… He wasn’t being creepy about it (That I saw), but we shouldn’t have to state that pants aren’t optional.

Zedtown Tweet

6: Interaction. You only get as much out of the game as you put in, so get out there. Take on missions, form squads with strangers, talk to NPCs and the Mods and above all, enjoy yourself.
7: Don’t mind death. That’s not to say you shouldn’t fear it, but embrace it – very few survive and being a zombie is a big part of the game. (See one of the Warlords in Melbourne ripping through her own faction after she became a zombie) If you’re tagged, don’t grumble – congratulate your slayer (I’ve seen several disputed tags decided with games of rock paper scissors, an approach I heartily encourage), get to Zombie Hub and get back out and hunt some humans!
8: Read the rules. They’re very simple and won’t take you long. This results in you having a better game and us not having to remind you to not bring modded blasters or wear full face masks. We’d appreciate that.

As for future events, GIVE US SOME TIME TO RECOVER FROM THIS ONE WE’RE ONLY HUMAN YOU OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MONSTERS. Ahem. Thank you for your enthusiam, and please watch this space citizen. 🙂

Phenomenon (Doo doo do doodoo)

It’s been a couple of years since I was last at Phenomenon, and many years before that since I’d gone. That was dumb of me. So, I played 6 games and walked away with 2 awards and my wife with 3, which matches our standard trophy hauls. The con has now ended, but it’ll stay with me, for a long time to come. How? Well, let me tell you about my experiences… A warning: this is going to get overly long despite how little I can remember. Anyhow, we were only able to attend from Saturday night, with our first game being William Shakespeare’s “All Vampires Must Die Part II – The Movie”. That should start to explain things. Or not.

We were (mostly) vampires who’s job it was to keep our existence secret, and had done so by claiming we were making a movie. That backfired on us when were forced to actually make the movie, at low cost, in Romania and working with the vampire known as ‘Bloody Ted’. This inspired the exchange that I believe won me an award…
PC: “So, is he a sexy vampire?”
GM: *Hold’s up picture of Max Schreck from Nosferatu*
ME: “I’m sure he’s someones reason to masturbate.”
*Cue the GM and rest of the able looking at me strangely and breaking out in laughs*
I heard the GM repeat that several times throughout the con. I’m very proud.

Next morning was Servants of the King, a swashbuckler which enabled me to deploy my legendary French accent! Granted, the only thing legendary about it is that after about 30 seconds it becomes Londo Mollari. Swords were drawn, there was copious shouting and fun was had by all. I’m selling it pretty damn short, as I had a lot of fun, but I han’t slept well the night week before so things were something of a blur. I can only apologise profusely to the GM and throw myself on his mercy.

The stage was set for The Fall of the House of Atreus, our first freeform and one which played with the Trojan War. I was a young lady who was pretending to be a boy and coping with some pretty fucking horrific PTSD, which the GM team took great delight in reminding me of by every so often whispering things like “You killed us” in my ear as they walked past me. I’ve some experience with playing damanged people, but that took it to new levels. There was chaos, no small amount of bloodshed (Fittingly), and it’s the closest I’ve come going shirtless in game, though I did finally choose to announce my birth gender rather more demurely. It was to my mother after all. Standards darling. Also, I have to give a shout out to the GM, who’s t-shirt the following day read “What would Titus Pullo do?” I loved that show.

Monster Hunters followed, in which we were out of work actors lured to Romania thanks to an incompetent agent and an appearance fee. I’d like to say I chose my character based upon his skills and temperament, but it was mostly cause I recognised it was based on Anthony Stewart Head. We were hired by a village to burn out a hive of vampires, the villagers thinking we were our characters from the show. (Yes, I noted that, asking the other PC’s in character if they’d heard of the Three Amigos or Galaxy Quest, and at one point saying “As a dear late friend of mine would say on bad days, By Grabthar’s Hammer…“) We went oddly well, as all the vampire wanted to do was make a film based on the show and by that stage, it was well paid work. I made sure that I wouldn’t have to say that bloody line again thought, so a win for me!

We move now to Monday morning and Deathless, a Victorian age freeform with monsters, where I was the Dewan (The Earl of Upper Slaughter), a werewolf who was one of Queen Victoria’s advisors. My character portrait was Idris Elba, which also meant I had to stifle the urge to shout about how I’m cancelling the apocalypse. I’ll confess, I lost track of what was happening about 10 minutes in – there was an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a truly terrifying piece of headgear, a player wh’s costume reminded me of Harpo Marx (Which confused me whenever he talked) some scientists (A curse on that Frenchman!) and the not at all cheerful inconvenience of being turned into a Vampire. For starters, I couldn’t talk as well with the teeth. An eclipse and several of the artifacts in the British Museum* (the game’s location) was, I think, was responsible for the change, which thankfully went back to normal, but I’m still blaming the Frenchman. I also deeply regret a fight not breaking out, as I’d hoped to use the exchange “YOU *stab* WILL *stab* BE *stab* POLITE!” Oh well, there’ll be other times. Also, had the game gone on about 5 seconds more I was set to stab Ra in the face. Yes, that Ra. No, not the one from Stargate. What can I say, other than I’m sure there’s something in the book about no acts of necromancy in front of the Queen, who’d just arrived. Standards must be maintained and there’s no excuse for bad manners…

We return to Sunday night now and Red Sisters, Black Skies. This is where it get’s rough. It’s fair to say the game had an effect on me. Actually that’s something of an understatement. I left it a crying emotional wreck, in a state close to having watched the end of The Iron Giant and the 1st 15 minutes of Up. I’ve mostly been GM’ing at cons the last few years, so my mental state in regards to bleed might be out of whack, but I’ve been more affected by it of late. Between this and a recent freeform in Sydney, I kept having to remind myself that it was just a game, that I wasn’t actually crushing on someone, that this would be over the a few hours. And yet, when I think back on it, I’m still choked up. It’s the mark of a really good game, and as good as the Sydney game was (I’m itching for the sequel), I think Sisters was the best freeform I’ll ever play. How do I describe it? It was the Mona Lisa, the Casablanca, the Duck Soup, the Empire Strikes Back, the Wrath of Khan, the City of Death, the 1973 Three Musketeers, I’ll stop now otherwise I’LL KEEP DOING THIS. What I’m trying to say is this, it wasn’t just good, it was fucking magnificent.

We were playing members of the 588th, an all female Russian airforce unit, known as the Night Witches. Between outdated planes, low supplies and the sexism of the rest of the military we had to struggle against, but we had each other and hope that the war would soon be over. The terror of night flights, the hope that comrades would return safely and finding a brief solace in the arms of another. There was comradeship, vodka, the bright light of a birthday celebration and the shattering blows of losing friends. Being reunited with comrades, the terror of mail arrving only to find that family were alive, these things brought a joy I didn’t know I had. I’ve cried in games before, many times. Hell, I’ll cry at the drop of a hat. But these weren’t stage tears, these were great heaping shaking tears, accompanied by sobs of grief and rage that, looking back on things, were mighty scary. I have something of an issue with unexpressed rage, and to give way to that level of emotion scares me more than a bit, but this event demanded nothing less. The fact it was the designer’s first event only made things even more awe-inspiring and I’ve already suggested they bring it to Sydney.

Lieutenant Emilia Turganev, airwoman, assigned to B Section of the 588th Night Bombers Regiment. It was an honour to have been you, even if only for a few hours.

From the first flight, things were tense – we’d been warned that PC death’s weren’t just possible, they would happen. I believe we made it out OK with only 3 deaths, though one of those was our CO (As played by my wife). PC’s killed in action didn’t leave though – they could be interacted with as ghosts, able to be talked to, or staging small flashback sequences. It was eerie as all hell seeing them there, wearing bloody headbands, waiting for someone to come close. There was angst (Having fucked my commanding officer pre game, she’d left me for a younger woman without a word. Kids, as my character sheet said: never fuck your commanding officer!), solace (I found love in the arms of a fellow veteran pilot – she’d been keeping count of how many missions we’d flown), and comradeship with the members of my section. It wasn’t until late game that we took serious damage, and I found out later that the other sections were far worse off than us. It did explain why C section cheered so much when they made it home.

There’d already been tears, many of them, more so as it was announced that we’d be flying during the day, to help cover the final assault on Berlin. It was the final flight, we were determined and no matter the odds, we would see things through. Things got incredibly tense, with the piloting mechanic far crueler than merely rolling dice. Somehow, B section made it back alive, but others didn’t.

And that wasn’t the worst. After having our private hopes read out (Which we’d put down earlier), we went slowly to join the comrades we’d lost, whether going straight over, or staying to take part in squadron reunions. I was howling, and it only got worse when the pilot I was close to decided not to attend the reunions, walking away, but not yet passing on. If it wasn’t for my section leader (Who I’d patched things up with), I’m not sure I’d have made it. Just thinking on this has gotten me shaky, and I completely lost it when she finally crossed over and I got to see her again. She won, the stubborn old cow, finally flying more missions than I did.

And so it ended, and it was back to where we were staying to cry, try to sleep and pet their cat (Who slept on my chest all Sunday night, which meant I slept terribly but it was worth it) to calm down. It’s been a rough few days, but managing to put this down has helped somewhat. Bloody good game. To my sisters, I salute you. *raises glass*

So yeah, that was my Pheno. Do try to come next year. I’m going now to eat ice cream and watch the 1973 Three Musketeers to recover and plot my next event.

*I also managed to avoid making the Bugle’s joke about the British Museum being an active crime scene.

“Fish have nipples right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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