Fire up the What If? Machine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All for One. And more for me.”

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

Be seeing you…

Still standing by…

Hail and well met dear readers!

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


See, just look at the adorable little guy!

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


Rebel scum. *finger guns*


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be seeing you.

Some more brainstorming

First off, while I’m starting to get the hang of the new WordPress, the (lack of) speed that it runs on my tiny laptop makes it infuriating to use. About as infuriating as I’m finding Jedi: Fallen Order to be. It’s beautiful to walk around in, but the sheer number of jumping puzzles, instant death encouters and the distance between save points mean a simple hop, skip and a jump can take far longer than I’d hoped for.

Anyhow, to the point of this entry. Headgear has long been a bane of mine, having a large and odd shaped head. Helmets are a nightmare, I continue to be surprised there’s a fencing mask that will fit me and hats are a constant struggle. And then on the weekend, I saw this.

To say I was struck dumb in awe at such a thing is putting it mildly. True, there’s also this, or a gorgeous tricorn or this hat that seems to promise shade for three. But a purple leather cavalier hat is jsut *chef kiss* And here comes the issue, while I have the money, having sold a bunch of old Warhammer gear, I find myself angsting mightily about spending it. It’s been a long time since I felt like I could spend on this sort of thing, and I’ve more than a bit nervous about pulling the trigger. Well, it’s part cost and part “Where will I actually be able to wear this thing?” (Before you say anything, I’m all but certain my sister would murder me for wearing it to her wedding.)

It’s had me thinking again. Sure, the hat is suitable for Blackpowder and Bloodlines, assuming that runs again, but how many other games would be worthy of such a magnificent piece of headgear? And as such, my brain got to working about a Musketeers themed event. As with many of my ideas, this is brainstorming to keep the brain occupied and ticking over and not indication of an event on the way.

At the outset, it’d be very heavily inspired by the RPG’s Honor + Intrigue and All for One: Regime Diabolique, along with the NZ LARP Musketeers. Further ideas may well be mined or inspired by The Cardinals Blades series of novels and various of the cinematic adaptions of The Three Musketeers. I may pinch an idea or two from the Musketeers games I’ve run at cons, mostly the alternate universe parts. For those who didn’t play those games, I mean stuff like when anarchists tried to infect King Louis XIII with lycanthropy, or when the Duke of Buckingham, driven mad by his lust for the Queen, released a Kraken in the Seine river. You know, regular stuff torn directly from the history books.

What would I want out of this? A chance to dress up and swash my buckle of course! Something different from the usual Arthurian high fantasy LARP for another thing. to try to find a gap in the market, so to speak. Mostly, I want the chance to feel like I’m in a Musketeers film and the hope that the rest of the players and crew would feel the same. It’d likely be a weekender rather than a monthly game. As for kit, I’d want thrust safe swords if possible (It continues to delight me just how much of Italian rapier fencing can be boiled down to “Here is my sword point, kindly run onto it.”) and band or cap guns to represent firearms. As for costume, flamboyant hats and fancy cloaks are always a good start.

If you’ll excuse the purple prose, here’s a rough blurb of sorts:

The year is 1637 and Paris is a city in crisis. The nobility dance and make merry, gorging themselves while the peasantry toil and starve. The Kings Musketeers and the Cardinals Guards brawl in the streets, while underneath those streets is said to lurk a Court where miracles, of a sort, are performed and injuries vanish as quickly as an unguarded purse.

France’s enemies besiege her. Spain and England look enviously at French lands, and plot and scheme to conquer her. But those are far from the only threats. Rumours swirl of darksome cults conducting hideous rites, of fearsome beasts lurking in the sewers and of demons manifesting by the light of the full moon.

France is beset by darkness, but it is always darkest before the dawn. What she needs is heroes, men and women willing to risk their lives for love, honour and country.

All for one…


Look, it’s far from my best work. I’m struggling to get across the intended tone of the game, which is far more high action derring do than grim and gritty. But it’s late and I’m trying to get this to a stage where I can hit post and go to bed. I also have no idea what level of magic I’d use, whether NPC only, Hammer Horror style ceremonies for the PC’s to dramatically interrupt or formal wand and sword duels. I may do some further brain storming on this.

But now, to bed. Be seeing you.

All for one…

So, how am I doing? For starters I’m ferociously irritated at how slowly the new WordPress set up runs on my tiny laptop, but thanks to my lovely, talented and above all, patient, wife I hope to master these new features in time.

The brain drugs continue – I’ve had a progress meeting with one of my brain doctors about the situation and we’re sticking with things for now. Yes, there’s some side effects, but they fit in line with with what’s expected. Progress is slow, but continuing. Sword continues to be a blast – further bouting Tuesday night taught me that I’ve a long way to go, but there was one moment when everything clicked and it felt beautiful. Progress is wonderful. It also made a refreshing change from the vicious avian assault I suffered earlier in the evening when eating dinner I was assailed by a pack of seagulls determined to claim my burger for themselves. In future I shall have to eat somewhere more secluded.

Turning to gaming, I’ll be GMing again, or as the kids say, I’m back on my bullshit. I pitched a couple of ideas to one of my groups and Crimson Skies was chosen. Not gonna lie, I still want to run the Torchwood Sydney game (The other one I pitched), but that’s best suited for another group. So, adventures to write, rules to learn, NPC’s to cast and my nerves to clamp down on. As nervous as I am about stepping back behind the screen again, I’m really looking forward to it. Cause as much stress as GM’ing can be, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and in this year of NO FUN, I’ll take any happiness I can get.

Turning back to swords, rapier led me back to something I hadn’t seen in a few years, that being the 1993 Disney adaption of The Three Musketeers. It’d been a few years since I’ve watched it all the way through, though it’s long been a favorite. Yes, as an adaption of the book it’s terrible and takes basically just the names and a couple of plot elements. Characters are impeccably clean, randomly find hats and cloaks and it completely omits how much of a bastard d’Artagnan is in the book. I keep meaning to find an film or TV adaption of the book made in France, as I’m sure numerous have been made. Hell, there was a Russian version done in 2013. But the thing is just so much damn fun that I can’t help but love it.

Kiefer Sutherland makes a decent Athos, and seems to be the only one taking things seriously. I mean yes, he’s no Oliver Reed, but the 73/4 version is the standard against which I hold all other adaptions. It’s difficult to watch Charlie Sheen without thinking of his (not so) private life and it’s said he missed the fencing training owing to being busy filming Hot Shots 2. It shows. Michael Wincott as Rochefort continues the fine tradition of villainous eyepatches that started with Christopher Lee and basically plays the same part as he did in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Chris O’Donnell tries, bless him, and fails, but his d’Artagnan is just wet. I think he’s trying for teen idol, but it doesn’t work. As for the supporting cast, Gabrielle Anwar’s Queen Anne is barely there, and Paul McGann gets a dual role as an adversary of d’Artagnan (With an outrageous accent) and as one of the Cardinal’s guards, hiding under a false mustache.

And now we get to the performances the film is known for. For me, Tim Curry will always be Cardinal Richelieu. Not a clown, a devil or a Transylvanian, but the Cardinal. And really, it’s peak Curry. The smirk is full blast, the evil grin is set to maximum and the way he walks with his robes trailing outwards is *chef kiss* There’s a fine art to chewing the scenery and Curry is a master at it. The glint in his eyes at the line “All for one, and more for me” could bring a tear to the eye. I’m pretty sure this was the first film I saw Curry in and much like your first Doctor being your favorite, it remains my favorite role of his*.



And now we come to Oliver Platt as Porthos. If there’s anyone who’s having more fun than Curry, it’s him. It’s a performance stuffed with so much ham that it could give BRIAN BLESSED a run for his money and I mean that as a compliment. It’s the look of an actor that is stunned to find that he’s getting paid to have so much fun and I’d love to tell the man himself just how much joy it gives me. I’ve no idea what he thinks about the film, but I hope he has fond memories. It’s inspired more than one PC I’ve played over the years and I continue to hope that there will someday be a swashbuckling LARP in my neck of the woods so I can spend the entire time pretending to be Platt in this film.

Yes, I could write more, but sleep beckons. Be seeing you…


*Closely followed by his Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island.

Creativitity and crisis.

it’s funny how those two go together.

How am I? I’m still in the getting used to things phase with my new brain drugs. Getting into a new routine, is starting to come together. The brain is… fuzzy. I’ve noticed the sedative effect quite a bit, not so much on the knock me out level, but there’s been moments when they’ve kicked in and I’m slightly slurring my words and trying not to collapse. Crom only knows what a full strength dose will do to me. It’s been pointed out that my temper has been a bit more hair trigger than normal and while I’m not happy about that, I’m trying to take things in perspective. I’m hoping that’s part of the adjustment period and will smooth out soon.

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Things inside the head… aren’t great, despite what’s going on. Because yes, the petty issues still crop up, the minor frustrations still  irritate and the general malaise of 2020 weighs heavily on me. (My brain has an amazing knack for turning molehills into mountains.) But I keep on reminding myself that, despite all those things, there is good in my life that’s the result of my actions. That I can do good things, and that I am cared about and above all else, worthwhile. Some days that’s easier than others, but I keep trying. Yeah, there’s still things I’d like to change about myself – my no sugar diet has slipped more than a few times in recent months and not just binging on the no sugar added stuff. I’m not proud, but as I’ve said previously, I knew there would be slip ups along the way. Gotta keep trying.

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But there’s also the well, revelation is putting it a bit too high and mighty, that all this has a darker side. That spending all this time with my head in other places is nothing more than a distraction from reality. And yeah, I’ll own up to that good and quick. Look, reality and I, while we get along, we’re never going to be great friends. If looking out the window daydreaming was a sport, I’d be an Olympic champion at it. And the times when I’ve tried to, the brain hasn’t always enjoyed it. Because yes, reality isn’t always a great place to be, let alone in 20 fucking 20. But damnit, I’ll take all the joy I can get right now. I still have the odd thought about becoming a hermit in the woods, but that’s tempered by knowing how that would affect those I care for, and who care about me.


(I haven’t though of that song in well over 20 years till today.)

I’m in a creative spurt, feeling in a good enough place to want to GM a regular game again and by Crom that feels good. Praise from my sword instructors last session had me quipping ‘Woah, tonight’s been great for my ego’ and I’m not joking. I was knackered, but the good kind. I’m not sure how to put it, but rapier may be my weapon of choice, even over longsword. I always thought longsword would be the one, owing to having the most experience with it (and it being the closest thing to a lightsaber), but it seems there’s facets to me I’m still discovering.

It could be the fact that we’re training with steel, or the lovely people in the class or any number of things, but holding one just feels… right. The first sword fight I saw, well the first one that didn’t involve a lightsaber, was the Duel on the Cliffs (Yes, it gets capitals) in The Princess Bride and it may have made even larger an impression on young me than I thought. Plus, rapier allows me to swash my buckle, if you know what I mean, and I’m ALL FOR THAT.

It’s also got me thinking of the next Blackpowder and Bloodlines, assuming it returns (Please?). So, instead of an idiot noble big game hunter, I’ve been brainstorming a grizzled old soldier (Fuck it, the grey in my beard is natural and it’s time to embrace it) or former bodyguard who, in keeping with the theme of our group, has fled the royal court. Perhaps there was some indiscretion on his part, perhaps someone he failed to save, or shouldn’t have slept with (Oh Pax Europa, I hope you run again). Sure, I’d need a stab safe sword and dagger and while Calimacil’s rapiers are stab safe (To my knowledge,  unlike those from Epic Armoury) they’re also not cheap. There’s another bonus to this concept: IT’D BE CLOAK AND FANCY CAVALIER HAT TIME PEOPLE!

To switch topics, I’ve mentioned the Game of Rassilon podcast before, and I wish to sing it’s praises again. A recent episode had me damn near weeping with laughter, that being the live show from last Gallifrey One, Valentine of the Daleks. In place of their usual characters, there was the 2nd Doctor, and his companions, Ian Chesterton, Tegan Jovanka, Craig Owen and his son Alfie, aka Stormageddon, aka Warmageddon, aka the Oncoming Stormageddon. It’s a level of ridiculous that reminds me of my con games and it brings me so much joy.  My highlight from season 1 was Amelia Earheart using percussive maintenance on a small Hadron Collider, but having Stormageddon aged up to a teenager thanks to being near the Doctor regenerating (Albeit with the aid of a lot of story points) was damn close.

I know actual play podcasts aren’t everyone’s thing, but I urge you to give it a shot. (Also, it’s a lot shorter than Critical Role) Secondly, there’s a 2 part arc in the second season where the Doctor and her companions (Along with Staff Sergeant Puppers, a canine member of UNIT and a VERY GOOD BOY) face down a sort of sapient depression and well, it gave me ALL THE FEELS, as the kids say. It was rough to listen to, but handled wonderfully. Were it possible, I would hug them all, but as I can’t I thanked them on Twitter. We do what we can, and thanking people who’s work I love seems a good use for it.

To get serious for a bit, life isn’t easy, nor is admitting you need help. I know I’ve talked about this before, but if you’re going through something, then please, tell someone. Talking may feel like one of the hardest things you can do, but it is worth it. It took me a long time to admit that I had an issue, and longer to start taking steps to deal with it in a worthwhile fashion. Look, I have a lot of regrets. Several lifetimes of them all rattling around the head. But taking that step towards therapy is not one of them. Taking so long to is, but then I remember that I took that step and I don’t feel as bad.

Be seeing you…

Hush now – spoilers.

Not sure how to start this, so here goes. My week started with something wonderful, as I saw a kid pretending a stick was a lightsaber, and humming Duel of the Fates to boot. I managed to stop before grabbing a stick for myself and challenging him, as that would have been well, awkward and inappropriate. I was sorely tempted to congratulate him though. I also started my new meds on Friday.  The brain hasn’t been messed with too much yet, but I’m getting knocked about (metaphorically speaking) trying to wake up in the mornings. Nothing new there. I knew the pills would knock me out, at least that’s one of the side effects listed, but the adjustment period so far has been… interesting. I’m hoping things settle soon.

I bouted for the first time last week at rapier, and while I was far from great, according to the others I’m parrying really well. I just need to remember to attack as well. Mostly I was distracted by that half second of “Fuck me, that parry worked!” and only then does the brain remind me to shove my sword in my opponents face. My footwork also needs work, but I already knew that. Either way, something in my fencing is working well, and I’m really pleased with that. Showing improvement means a lot to me.

On to gaming news: one of the games I play in will be winding up, so I’m getting ready to pitch ideas to the rest of the group. It’s welcome that I’m in that frame of mind to try to run a regular game again, given the brain goblins about how my last couple of attempts have gone. It’s equally lovely that the rest of the group seem OK with me pitching, that they’re willing to have me as GM again. Means a lot.  I’m now back in the position of of ‘I have ideas, I have adventure seeds, but no fucking idea how to convert that into a campaign.’ At the very least, I have a better idea and more planning work done at this point than previously, so that’s something.

I’m also suffering through having two absolutely mind blowing game ideas that I need to keep my trap shut about. I’ve learned from past mistakes, in that in the old times I’d have spilled the beans and either not run them, or had massive demand and then botched them. Keeping in under my hat means I can work on it more, and it’ll hopefully be as good as I imagine it. As for the ideas themselves, one was my wife’s, and ones half mine, half hers I believe. She makes my games better and I can’t thank her enough for that. I’m sure I could set her up as an adventure coach if she wanted.

As for the game’s themselves, I’ll spare you the full scale pitch, but here’s the short versions.

Torchwood Sydney:
Aliens exists, and it’s your job to hunt them down. Some to capture, some to give a stern talking to. You may be wearing a trench coat or have a knack for posing moodily on a rooftop. The plan to run it is as more alien whackiness (The Corsair comes to town, and demands you take them out for drinks!), with the odd bit of alien horror. To put it this way, I’ve no plans to run Countrycide or Children of Earth.

Crimson Skies:
The year is 1937, America is broken apart into smaller nations and you’re part of the nation of Hollywood’s newest militia squadron. Dramatic derring do, swashbuckling in the skies, and you’re on a highway to the danger zone! (I still haven’t found a big band cover of that song, but I should probably watch the film) Also, Errol Flynn will cameo at some point.

The Troubleshooters:
1960’s espionage. It’s our world, but different. How so? Well, last year a joint French and Japanese operation sent a rocket to the moon. The PC’s would be a mix of people, from scoundrels, spies and who knows, who may be working for a mysterious ministry, or for mutual gain. During play, they stumble across a world shattering/conquering conspiracy that they have to thwart! In short, globe trotting action adventure that fits in a BBC studio or parts of England redressed to look foreign.

This will be the one that takes the longest to appear, as the rulebook was only Kickstarted this year and has been Covid delayed.

So, that’s what I’m working on. There’s a common thread, in that I want each of them to be fun. As I’ve stated previously, I like a large element of fun in my events, I don’t really do the grim and intense so much. You know, there’s reasons why I’m not running anything cyberpunk or post apocalyptic…

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Be seeing you…

Expelliamus Mr Bond? How quaint.

Yes, there’s important stuff to talk about, and I’ll get to some of that soon, but I need to talk about something else first. Look at this.

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Do you see it? It’s a fucking shoulder holster for a magic wand, do you not understand how damn cool that is? DO YOU? I haven’t wanted to play a wizard in a LARP so much since, well, ever. And yet the first image in my head wasn’t of a fantasy game, or Harry Potter. No, I first thought espionage. The Cold War, but with magic instead of nukes. Spell duels in darkened alleys, desperate escapes from shadowy forces, high stakes gambling and cocktails in fancy locations – less Potter, more Bond. I’ve been racking my brain to try to work out a setting I could use it in – the closest so far is Urban Arcana, a D20 Modern sourcebook.  The Rivers of London series did come to mind, but doesn’t quite has the feeling I’m going for.

I was reminded of an old idea about a Shadowrun parlour LARP about choosing a team, followed by several rounds of laser tag to simulate runs and that’s an idea I’d still like to do something with someday. My wife and a housemate floated the idea of a spaceship game, where you had to costume both yourself and the area behind you (To represent a starship bridge) and I’d be lying if I wasn’t trying immediately to brainstorm making a Klingon style bridge in my spare room. Enjoy overly macho overacting, me?

Anyhow, back to the holster. My wife giving me approval to buy one to wear at an upcoming wedding (And if my sister is reading this, no, I don’t mean yours) was the icing on the cake. I’m mostly holding off buying one right now as I have several brain doctor appointments upcoming and I’m hoping they make one that’s left hand draw. From looking at it, it seems like I could move the holster to the right side (I use a sword in my right, but write and shoot left handed), but I don’t know for certain yet.

So, to the important stuff. The Torchwood RPG idea I had kicking around has popped into my head again and I’m penning flavour text for it. I’ve also been writing and casting NPC’s for Crimson Skies, and finding that delightful. I’m on the few days between brain drugs right now, and am (slightly) frantically trying to distract myself from said brain right now. It’s entirely possible that’s the reason for this burst of activity, but I don’t care – it’s a burst and I’m trying to channel it into something useful for once. And look, if making the Torchwood team investigate a virtual gaming setup that makes them deal with Tom Baker’s Elf King from the 1st Dungeons and Dragons film is wrong, then I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT.

Look, we all know my brain can be, shall we say, overly enthusiastic at times, so distracting it from worrying about what my new brain pill could do to me, I reckon is a good thing. I can’t change it, so why devote time to worrying about it? After all, things are good – I’m back at sword and thanks to selling some old Warhammer books, have some cash to put towards kit. Life isn’t too bad, all things considered.

And yet, I’m still nervous. Because I don’t know when all this will end and can’t hope to, I’m trying to take it day by day. To look out for an end date is folly, up there with invading Russia in winter, or Palladium Books releasing a book on time. I dunno, I’m just having trouble seeing an end to this. And yet, I have to have hope that it will. Because without hope that things will get better, what is there?

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…

Define ‘interesting?’

Had another brain doctor visit yesterday, and I’m now to be on a new anti-depressant. Hooray for me I guess? This means weaning myself off my current drug, taking a few days to clear it from my system and slowly starting up the new drug, as it’s a higher dose than my current one. This promises to be… interesting. I’m hoping things will work out OK, but I’ve got another doc appointment in a month to see how things are going.

For some reason I was reminded recently of a long held dream/nightmare – to perform Search and Destroy by the Stooges at a karaoke event. The closest I’ve come to doing so was at an engagement party a few years ago*, though I’m not sure if the sound system had the track in question. That was probably a blessing for the rest of the event, as the other people there seemed mostly filled nice, normal, God fearing folk who in no way deserved to be subjected to my atonal howling, let alone what I might possibly do when under the effect of that song. If you can listen to that song and not be moved…

As for what else, the left shoulder has mostly recovered from Sunday’s unexpected cricketing, but the right thigh is pretty sore from sword last night.  My lunges are slowly improving, though I’m still trying to nail my back foot to the floor during them. The legs are complaining about that activity as well. Walking today hasn’t been fun. It felt good though (Something I never thought I’d say), and not just the praise from my instructor and the other students. I’m a sucker for praise at the best of times (Positive affirmation is one hell of a drug) and I seem to be latching onto another source here.  It makes the struggle worthwhile. I enjoy the practice, but knowing I’m getting better means a hell of a lot.

I don’t really have anything else to write, actually yes I do! I recently discovered the Game of Rassilon podcast and I’m almost to the end of season 1. It’s an actual play of a group playing the Doctor Who RPG and it’s delightful. To set things up, an as-yet un-numbered incarnation of the Doctor is traveling through time and space with a late 90’s slacker and Amelia Earhart. Yes, the Amelia Earhart. To say more would spoil, and I learnt my lesson about that**! So yes, it’s well worth a listen and makes me want to run the game.  I suppose I can’t give a higher compliment to it can I?

Be seeing you…

* The night ended well though, with my lovely and talented wife performing Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills for me.
** There were times when I was showing my wife Babylon 5 and I would get slightly over excited about upcoming events/episodes and accidentally spoil things. This went badly, about as badly as when she’d discover that I’d pinched romantic lines from it to use on her. Hey, it worked. I regret nothing! 🙂

FANTASTIC!

How am I? Well, my left shoulders rather sore after some time bowling in the nets at a local park to Godson, Age 11 on Sunday. it was the first time I’d picked up a cricket ball in at least 25 years and I was never very good at it to begin with. The main issue on the day however, was on the rare occasions when I actually managed to hit the stumps, was resisting the urge to loudly yell “Got him yes, piss off you’re out!” in the manner of the 12th Man…  Anyhow, that’s enough about me for now, there’s something far more important to announce!

In these troubled times, in the days of fire and plague that make us wish for the carefree innocent times of 2016, we need things that’ll get us through the day. Minor distractions, upcoming events that as of yet haven’t been cancelled and the tiny bits of good news, things that we can latch on to that give us hope that’ll it’ll get better some day. We may not know when this crisis will end, but there are good things out there in this hellish, perpetually indoor existence. The wonderful, sometimes unexpected things that bring joy, delight and can even make us forget, if only for a little while, that Tony Abbott was once Prime Minister.

*drum roll that soon becomes a rhythm of 4.*

CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS! I REPEAT, CHRISTOPHER ECCELSTON IS DOING BIG FINISH AUDIOS!

It’s now been near 15 years since his time as the Doctor and to say the news is welcome to me is something of an understatement. Details are still being kept quiet, but we do know that 12 stories over 4 box sets are incoming, with Volume 1 to be released in May 2021. Yes, that seems like a long wait, but Big Finish also recently announced a new companion for the Fourth Doctor, with that series premiering in 2024! Never let it be said that Big Finish don’t plan ahead…

The stories about Eccelston’s time in the role and his leaving after one season were few and mostly centered on conflicts with the production team. He’s spoken recently about the issues he was going through at the time and it gave a lot of nuance to his performance. And that’s not mentioning the stigma and courage it takes to speak up about mental health issues. There was a long stretch when he seemingly refused to do anything with the show, but in recent years has been attending conventions and I’ve seen some lovely video of him greeting other Doctors. I’m incredibly happy for the news and it’s my fervent hope that he’s in a better head space than he was during his time as the Doctor. I want him to be well, as I do everyone in my life. I don’t think that’s too much to ask the universe.

Right, now that’s that out of the way, let’s get back to RPG’s. Work on Crimson Skies has continued, with me unable to get the idea out of my head. I think it’s a positive step in my headspace that I’m even considering sitting behind the GM screen regularly again. After I ended my last campaign I told myself that with the right idea I’d give it another crack, and that I’d learn from previous mistakes. I’m still going to get nervous, and have doubts, because that’s what I do. But I think I can do better. I’ve still been unable to come up with an arc yet, but my wonderful and talented wife assures me that the player characters background she can come up with something. I believe her.

There’s a rule from the upcoming Troubleshooters RPG that I’m planning to adapt, and that’s the plot hook. As part of Session 0, I want to players to meet up (Virtually of course), generate characters and a shared background, while I answer questions. I also want to hear about 2 people from their characters lives*. I don’t need them fully written up with stats etc, just a name, a brief description and how they know the character.  And the plan is to mine that information for all it’s worth, adding them to story hooks, putting them in danger and having them go missing and need to be rescued. You know, things I haven’t done in previous campaigns. It feels like I’m taking a positive step forward with this. Now, to find people who want to play…

More to follow. Be seeing you.

* Yes, Shadowrun does something along those lines as well. But I’m not touching that overly complex and stat heavy system with a 10 ft pole.

Watch how I soar…

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

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

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

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

Leaf

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

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

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

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

Time for sleep. Be seeing you.