“Toss a coin to your Warden, o valley of plenty.”

Look, a lot of my regular updates are about things going wonky, usually my brain. And yes, that continues. Shocked, gambling, winnings etc. So, as a nice change of pace, I thought I’d make this update about a few things that are going right in my life, or that deserve some celebration. Trying to concentrate on the positive is tricky, but needs to be done from time to time. I’m sure my brain will sabotage it soon, but for now I will embrace it. Or in the words of Kurn, son of Mogh, “This is not a time to worry about stabilizers. It is a time to celebrate, for tomorrow we all may die!”

I could listen to Tony Todd read a phonebook. I suspect I am far from alone in that. *ahem* I also suspect that my relative lack of interest in Star Trek: Discovery can in part be traced to the fact it’s Klingons just aren’t hair metal enough for me.

The first big of good news! I graduated at sword! Having recently demonstrated my skills against different opponents, I have qualified as a Scholar in Single Sword and Sword and Dagger. A 2 minute bout may not seem that long, and a kilo may not seem like much to hold up, but that changes quickly. Very quickly. Having an opponent who prefers longsword come at me no holds barred, no beg your pardons was something of a shock and took some frantic adjusting to – I’m used to a more measured offence from the other rapier fencers in my group, and dirty tricks from my instructor.

Either way, I’m all but certain this is the first sporting trophy/certificate I’ve ever gotten that wasn’t participation based and to say I’m pleased by it is something of an understatement. Having your instructor tell me afterwards that at the start of the term he didn’t think I was going to pass, has me feeling, I want to say, pride? Sure, there’s some shock and astonishment as well, but I’m genuinely proud of the achievement and it’s been a while since I’ve felt that about something I did. Last term was full of that sort of thing – bouting against him halfway through he said he had to reach into the top of his bag of dirty tricks to hit me and I walked away from that lesson flying. My wife has already framed the certificate, another reason I love her so much.

Am I a good fencer? Possibly. If I was good I’d dodge more forearm shots, or not give my opponents the opportunity for them in the first place.
Am I having fun? A resounding HELL YES.

My wife has noted that swords brings me more joy than well, near anything, right now, even more so than gaming. Physical exercise and I have never been friends, but put a sword in my hand and all of a sudden it becomes something I’m willing and eager to do. Maybe things are just more fun with swords? I do know I’d dearly love the chance to tell the likes of Mandy Patinkin, Oliver Platt and Michael York just how happy their work has made me, and that without them I may never have picked up a rapier. My life is better for having done so, and I can’t thank them enough. I have a blade of my own due at the end of January and the anticipation is killing me.

That fight may even best the Duel on the Cliffs as my favourite cinematic fight, because as jaw dropping as the choreography is, and it’s truly amazing, at no point do Inigo or The Man in Black look like they’re actually trying to kill each other. Yes, I’m aware they’re both Flynning, I’ve read the book, but that’s not the point. The point is, I watch the above clip and Michael York genuinely looks like he’s trying to kill Christopher Lee and that make it feel more authentic. Plus it’s one of the few cinematic duels I’ve seen where both participants are exhausted by the end of it and I bloody love that touch. I’d dearly love a comprehensive making of documentary for the films, as I’ve read numerous different accounts of injuries, actors having to double for their stunt doubles or the conversation between Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee that went something like: Then I said to Oliver, ‘Do you remember who taught you how to use a sword?’ He said, ‘You did.’ And I said, ‘Don’t you forget it.’ I want, nay need, the full version of that story.

Going from steel swords to foam, I’ve booked at an upcoming LARP, Path of the Warden. It’s a 3 and a bit day event loosely inspired by The Witcher series, running in SA mid next year and I’m kind of excited. It was a fairly spur of the moment thing – I’ve been waiting for Swordcraft Brisbane to announce dates, this one was running and I need things in the calendar to keep me going, so yeah… There’s a structure to the event that appeals, as my big issue with large events is “What do I actually do?” I’m pretty rubbish at things like making my own fun at large events. That’s why while I’m keen to go something like Swordcraft Quest, I’d prefer to go as a group, as if I go solo it’s likely I’ll get overwhelmed, and spend the entire time nervously wandering round and not actually doing anything. Hence the appeal of Warden. Now comes the frustrating part – what character do I play? The eternal struggle begins again.

There’s three base classes, or Warden Schools – The Ox, who are all big weapon potion make strong smashy smashy, the Raven, who use rune magic to empower their weapons*, and the Serpent, alchemists and healers, more support staff. Of those three, it’s the Ox and Serpent that interest me more. Initially it was just the Serpent, but then Anvil of Crom came up on my playlist and well, long term readers will have some hint as to the effect that song has on me. Actually, a lot of decisions in my life have revolved around when I last heard Anvil of Crom. I’m still a bit saddened I didn’t get to play it during the Zedtown at the SCG, even if only while the crew made our venue check. Just to hear “Between the time the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas” and I could have dropped dead happy. I sorely miss that game, though I doubt it will ever return. Alas.

So, characters. The idea I’m currently running with is ‘the spare to the heir who’s determined to do something good in his life’, which is a minor variation on well meaning and very pretty idiot, basically my stock RPG character. It’s got a decent dramatic hook, potential for growth and lets me dress fancy. One of these may be slightly less important than the other, but a large part of why I LARP is costume, so yeah. The second most prominent idea was ‘unrepentant thief who may discover responsibility and comradeship in a good cause’, I’d like to say inspired by Avon and Villa from Blake’s 7 with a tiny dash of Locke Lamora. Mostly the idea of being introduced to the other PC’s while I’m being unlocked from shackles amuses me greatly. You’re finally awake…

There’s the typical flood of other ideas (Former City Watchmen dragged out of retirement and very much Too Old For This Shit was one. I’d need to re-read the City Watch novels if I chose that one, and oh the horror that research would be), but weeding out the one’s that are going to be fun for me to play in the long term has always been far harder than coming up with the ideas in the first place. I’m pleased that a lot of them aren’t based around a piece of kit or weapon – that’s been the downfall of many a character of mine in the past. Playing an older man who’s near death, who has lost everyone in his life and seeks to do something worthy of remembering has a nice dramatic hook, but when it comes to character bleed I’m a haemophiliac, so that one may not work so well. It’s been more than 5 years and I still get a little emotional hearing Sabaton’s Night Witches. if you read this, thank you Melody.

Other issues include the fact that I’m flying there, so while taking large weapons and heavy armour isn’t impossible, it’s certainly inconvenient. Clearly another vote for Serpent. And yet, as I write this, I’m still tempted to clank it up. The War Factory make a gorgeous looking leather cuirass (The one in their store appears to have recently sold), Make Your Own Medieval have a decent breastplate in their discount section, and the overwhelming options begins again. Sigh. What mostly puts me off is how long it’s been since I’ve regularly worn armour and the faint memories of hauling it around. It’s a good drawback to remember, much like how much less kit is needed to fence rapier rather than say, longsword. Still, I’ve time up the sleeve, thankfully.

Moving along, Glass Onion is a sheer delight and immensely satisfying. If you’ve not seen it, or Knives Out for that matter, run and do not walk to do so. And if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, do so as well. Just don’t watch any trailers – there’s a reveal in the first film you won’t want spoiled. To say it utterly caught my wife and I by surprise when we watched Knives for the first time was something of an understatement. The first things that comes to mind are me nearly falling off the couch laughing during The Fart Song from Bob’s Burgers, or my wife when Kylie Minogue appeared on Galavant. I’m not joking – her jaw dropped in shock and I was genuinely concerned for a second, before she burst out laughing and didn’t stop till the song did.

Every time I watch that show I somehow forget that Timothy Olyphant can sing. Not sure how I can manage that, as he’s a wonderful voice, but that’s my brain for you. Turning to styles of music more my tastes, Skindred and Metallica have both announced new albums and it’s about damn time for both groups. I’m expecting to be disappointed tour dates wise, but new material will help cover that wound. Combine that with the (relatively) recent announcement from Scott Lynch that he’s sent new Gentlemen Bastards material to his editor. By Crom it’s good to have things to look forward to again.

Time for sleep. Night all. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

*Also, I don’t think Explosive Runes is a thing in the setting otherwise I’d be all over that.

“Hello old friend. It’s been a while.”

Pheno. Great Maker, it’s been far too damn long. My throat is sore, the adrenaline is crashing and I’ll like sleep like the dead now that I’m back at home. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed that con. The people, the atmosphere, the spirit, the snacks. The mix of familiar and strange. Friends I hadn’t seen since the before times. If you’ve not tried it, I can’t recommend it enough. They’re a lovely, welcoming bunch of weirdoes and long may they remain so. The appeal of conventions for me is games I wouldn’t get to play in my regular group is a massive part of why I keep coming back. The sheer variety of games on offer, and knowing that I’ll only get to play some, well, it’s the price we pay as GM’s. To say I was a bundle of nerves in the lead up was putting it fucking mildly. I’d had my game idea stuck in my head for what seemed like 5 years, and the brain hasn’t been co-operative at the best of times. Terrified of trying something out of my comfort zone, something in a universe that means so much to me, and terrified in general. A deep delve into obscure lore in a section of a near 30 year old TV show that has next to no existing canon? It’s a risk, right? The game itself was finished the night before (Naughty, I know) and in the lead up I kept telling myself that I’d never do anything this ambitious again.

And you know what happened?

It worked.

HOLY ZARQUON SINGING FISH, IT WORKED. The game worked, my players enjoyed themselves, I had a bunch of them costume (Including several home made Minbari head bones) and even the people who hadn’t seen B5 seemed to enjoy things. I had a couple of players say they were going to dive into the lore afterwards and there are few higher compliments to me. It wasn’t till halfway through the first session till I realized that it was working, and I damn near wept with joy. The first time I saw people in costume for my game my jaw hit the floor, and I was still reeling from a “Hey, I’ve heard people saying lovely things about your game” from a GM who’s Night Sisters freeform broke me into tiny little pieces several years ago. I still have trouble hearing something Russian and not getting choked up with emotion, but I’m certain that someone 5 miles away could whisper “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” during a thunderstorm and I’d start to cry. Hearing someone say they took a week off work to costume for your event, I’m glad they told me after the game as I may have collapsed in shock beforehand.

It wasn’t all me though, far from it. I can’t thank my helpers enough. To my Co-GM and proof readers/wranglers, you know who you are and an entire fleet of drinks can’t come close to thanking you for the help, improv and encouragement. If it wasn’t for them, the game would still be a half written Google Doc. Since I’m giving thanks, no mention of this event could not mention J Michael Straczynski and the late Mira Furlan, without whom my event would not have happened. It’s felt through a lot of the writing process I’ve had Furlan looking over my shoulder, saying “Don’t fuck this up” and yeah, it’s added a tiny amount to the pressure. It’s not for me to say whether or not I measured up to the show, but my players enjoyed themselves and that’s what’s important.

We also did our part to foster the next generation by taking Niece, Age 14 with us and given she’d only ever played D&D, to her to walk away with 3 trophies was quite the achievement. We’re very proud of the tiny lumberjack. I asked her afterwards if she was coming back next year as a GM and got a firm “HELL NO”, so given that I figure she’ll be running games in oh, 2-3 years. To top it all off, our team wound up winning the Diptych award, which means Squadron 40 will soon be engraved on that mighty trophy. Naturally, we have to return next year to defend our accomplishment!


As for what happened in game? Look, a lot of it’s a blur. The first 3 sessions elected a different Chosen One to lead the Council, while the 4th session decided they didn’t need one. It wasn’t a unanimous vote, but enough got it over the line. 10 minutes into the first session the Warrior Caste sent their entire fleet out to look for the Shadows. The second session was closest to the show, being more quiet and contemplative (The two introverts did wonderfully) and in session 3 one of the Council punched Ranger One in the face. The two Council members in Session 4 who went to talk to the Vorlon about exploring Z’Ha’Dum, and their faces at it’s response of “Ill advised. Have been warned.” My favourite quote is still “Valen said the Shadows would return. He didn’t say the Vorlons would return.” and look, they aren’t wrong. Seeing the ways my players took the sheets and ran with them, frequently in areas I hadn’t considered, was a joy. It’s one of the big reasons why I GM. There were a few people who’d queried their approaches with me, and to them I say “If that’s the approach you have from reading the sheet, then go for it.” Who am I to stifle player creativity?

I’m still buzzing on a high from the whole thing, and yes, I’m already planning for next year. Before the con I was thinking about going back to swashbuckling, but with the confidence boost I’m in the early stages of planning another Babylon 5 freeform, this one set in the Centauri Royal Court. No, this isn’t just to see what people do costume wise, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of that. I’m unsure as to the time period, but the current idea is the Emperor is dead, and that’s set the power vacuum to 11. Sure, everyone wants the power of being the Emperor, but no-one wants the giant target on their chest that results from sitting in the big chair. I have a strong feeling I should get a hold of a copy of The Prince for flavour while writing and should prep a bunch of spare characters, as I don’t expect everyone to make it out alive.

It has been a glorious weekend and I am spent. Time for sleep. Be seeing you, my good, dear friends…

I lack self control.

What’s been going on?

I had last week off work, resting and getting stuff done around the house. It’s been, I’ll say, not bad for my brain, and I found a couple of shirts and a tunic I thought I’d lost long ago. Let that be a lesson to me to better organise my wardrobe in future, a lesson I will completely forget by oh, Thursday. Barely sleeping some nights didn’t help things, but I’m willing to accept that my lack of self control and access to Wookiepedia are mostly to blame for that. Looking at pictures from Swordcraft Quest and Weekend Warrior has both made me curse Covid anew and reminded me of how much I miss getting dressed up and trying to thwack someone with a rubber sword. Battle games aren’t my thing, but the longer I go without, the more I want something to get my LARP fix. Sword is back soon, which helps immensely, and we might even be at rapier and cloak this term! I just want to SWASH ALL THE BUCKLES, and yes, I’d be keen to do some sword and bucker at some point. Too many sword styles, and not enough time.

Some friends have floated the idea of going to the next Quest in a convoy, and I’m all for that. Not just cause of the ‘sleeping in campervans rather than tents’ but that certainly helps. I’m not as keen on the Warhammer Fantasy setting as I used to be, and my old Army books are long since sold (Save the 4th Edition Undead book, cause the flavour text in that one is stunning), but there’s enough around that getting back up to speed shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve been bouncing round ideas (Not all of them terrible), and trying to remember what kit I have that I can use. I should probably drag it all out of the cupboard this weekend, if only to help me remember what I’ve got. It feels good to have something to look forward to again.

It’s also taken me back to the stash of game ideas stashed on my Google Drive. My issues with actually finishing things continue to plague me. Ideas, I’m fantastic at. But finishing the bloody things? As frustrating as it is, as as much as I want to try to, I’m coherent enough to know I’m not in the headspace for that right now. It’s also been pointed out my concentration has been dipping of late, and that adds to the frustration. An ADHD test may be in my future, and that’s not a bad thing. At the very least I need to rinse my left ear out with warm water, as the hum in it has been louder than normal the last couple of days and it feels blocked. Tinnitus is no joke kiddies.

There has been other things to look forward to though. Bombshells is still going well and while I’m still shaky as hell on the rules, my players continue to enjoy things, and that, that means a lot. It’s why I run the game, really. Outside that, there’s been jokes about how at my 42nd birthday do I make guests sit through the Hitchhikers TV series? I do have a shiny newly restored copy and since going drinking in a bathrobe and towel (As a dear friend did at his 42nd) isn’t really my thing… On the other hand, The Four Musketeers will be screened, as Three went down so well last year, a fact that still sparks joy. I adore that film beyond all measure, and having a bunch of the people I care about enjoy it as well, it makes me feel all happy inside. If there’s a tie breaker we may just put on The Mummy with Brendan Fraser’s commentary again, which if you’ve not seen, what are you doing with your life? Yes, I talk about that commentary a lot, but only because it’s SO DAMN JOYOUS.

I had planned to write something else, mostly on Australian rock bands you may have not heard of, but again, swinging a sword and my mental woes overtake things. I wanted to talk about how Aloha Steve and Danno changed my life, how Alone With You makes me weep, or how The Supernova That Never Quits is so good a song it almost put me off listening to the rest of the Powder Monkeys discography for fear nothing could be as good. Maybe even my 20 year plus quest to work what the hell Man With Golden Helmet is actually about. I’ll try to make sure that’s my next post. I’ve started making a playlist for it after all!

Be seeing you…

Nostalgia. It’s not all bad.

Getting used to the keyboard on my new laptop is taking longer than I thought. I’m sure in a couple of weeks every second word won’t be twice it’s correctly spelt size, but typing is taking roughly twice as long. Adjustment periods. *sighs* In it’s defense, the keyboard stays attached, which is an improvement.

Moving to good things! My wife and I have started watching Bobs Burgers, and there’s one moment that requires special attention. S3, Episode 17. Roughly 4 minutes in is one of the greatest one liners I think I’ll ever see. I’ve watched it multiple times and it has not brought any less joy. It may even get added to my wife and I’s inside joke roster. It’s a delightful show and well worth your time and not just for Kristen Schaal. And hey, Disney+ also has Burn Notice! Nice.

Staying with TV, I’ve been digging back into Stargate SG-1, partially for nostalgia, but mostly for gaming purposes. A friend is starting up a campaign soon using the new system and going back in to the show has brought back memories. Most are good – Bra’tac continues to be wonderful and Richard Dean Anderson’s snark is top notch. True, the episode where a 15 year old clone of O’Neill gets dropped off at a high school is kind of creepy to 41 year old me, and let’s not get started on the litany of bad decisions the Atlantis crew made. Continuing the game talk, a housemate is starting a lockdown Werewolf: the Forsaken game set in 1980’s Miami (Hence the earlier mention of a Burn Notice re-watch) and I’m tempted to run the Feng Shui adventure from the back of the 2nd Edition book, both to keep my hand in (As my Bombshells game is on lockdown hiatus*) and because I own it and haven’t run it yet. It’s my wife’s rule and it’s cut down my “That looks interesting and is $5” purchases by a sizable amount.

Given my GM style, Feng Shui is very much my style and I’m surprised I’ve not run it earlier. It’s relatively rules light, plays fast and encourages the sorts of over the top action that’s in my GM wheelhouse. Yes, you can run it grim and serious but we both know that’s not how I roll. (Yes, there’s the obvious ‘You roll terribly’ joke to be made. Very observant of you) I never engaged much with the metaplot back in the day, so digging into it has been welcome. I don’t have any further ideas yet, but a housemate’s idea (Taking the titles of HK action movies and basing things off them) is far from a bad one. Besides, there’s time. I don’t have a deadline yet unlike the other projects I should be writing. Attention spans…

(Look, I’d have used the hospital corridor from Hard Boiled, but Chow Yun Fat in a white suit…)

Outside that, things are much as they are. Trying to keep positive, monitor my media intake to help stay that way (I should under no circumstances listen to Spare Parts right now) and focus on the good things. Look at regular tasks with a sense of achievement rather than something too be endured. And I probably should have been asleep an hour ago instead of this.

Good night all. Be seeing you.

*It’s not that I can’t run on Discord, but I need to see my players at a table.. The lack of visual input and response, I can’t deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good thinking 99!”

Hello again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mage…

Rich Man, Poor Man, Spellslinger, Thief?

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night all. Be seeing you.

I bought a cape!

So, been a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“A short life and a merry one says I”

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

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

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

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

Huh.

Hello there… (“General Kenobi.”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#bucketlist

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

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

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