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?

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.