A recent thought.

I’m faily certain there are acceptable songs to sing to oneself when walking down a badly lit suburban street about 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.

I’m almost certain Penetration by the Stooges isn’t one of those. Luckily I managed to stop myself before the group of people coming the other way down the street were within earshot. At least, if they heard me, they didn’t say anything.

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You know where you are? You’re in the dungeon baby!

Se, between writing for An Age Undreamed Of (The working title for the Conan game), work, my Star Wars game (Which I’ve been taking notes for and will update you on) and a few vists from the Black Dog, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied. Naturally, when I’m trying to write something, brain will try to write something else.So, having seen the card game Welcome to the Dungeon a few weeks ago, brain immediately thought of the Guns and Rose’s song followed by “That’s a good idea for a con one-shot.” Over the next few hours it evolved into a game show esque concept and I mentally filed the idea away. Bad move. It stuck. So, in order to get it out of my system, here’s a rough edit of the opening credits of Welcome to the Dungeon!

[OPENING ECHO PEDAL GUITAR BIT OF SONG] Camera swoops down through a huge mountain range, taking us to the entrance to DUNGEON STADIUM, a massive pair of bronze and iron doors in the side of the mountain. They open and the camera enters, revealing the stadium, a massive complex filled with traps and monsters flanked by rows of audience members cheering wildly and waving giant foam weapons excitedly.

[VOCALS KICK IN]
Welcome to the dungeon, we got the fun and games
We got everything you want, honey we know the names.
[SHOTS OF OUR HOSTS]
We are the people who can find, whatever you may need
[LOVING SHOTS OF ADVENTURERS GEAR – COILS OF ROPE, GLEAMING WEAPONS, HEALING POTIONS ETC]

If you got the money honey, we got your disease
[SHOTS OF ADVENTURERS BEING TURNED TO STONE, CONVULSING ETC. REAL JOHN HURT MOMENT TYPE STUFF]
Welcome to the dungeon, we take it day by day,
If you want it you’re gonna bleed, but that’s the price you pay.
[SHOTS OF COMBAT – BLOOD SPURTING, LIMBS SEVERING, THAT SORT OF THING]
Cause when you’re high you never, ever want to come down, suck down, suck down…
[ADVENTURERS FALLING FROM LEDGES, BEING GRABBED BY MONSTERS, FALLING INTO PIT TRAPS ETC]
[GUITAR SOLO]
[SHOTS OF SWIRLING AND MESSY MELEE COMBATS]
You know where you are? You’re in the dungeon baby, you’re gonna die!
[PAN AROUND SHOT OF BAND OF ADVENTURERS, ADVANCING MONSTERS ON ALL SIDES]
[AS SONG STARTS TO COME TO AN END, CAMERA MOVES BACK THROUGH DUNGEON STADIUM, GETTING FASTER AND FASTER, WITH THE FINAL SHOT OF THE DOORS SLAMMING CLOSED ON “It’s gonna bring you down huh!”

NPC’s:
OUR HOSTS: Let’s call them BOB and DAVE for the moment.
The IN DUNGEON CORRESPONDENT, a Valkyrie who’se constantly unhappy about the skimpy and impractical armour she’s forced to wear for the show.
THE SAGE: Who tells the audience what’s in the room the Adventurers are about to enter and the week’s themed Dungeon Rooms.
THE THIEF: Pops up from time to time to try to steal from the party and exchange terrible dad jokes wih OUR HOSTS.

So, the game itself. It’s currently a rather lethal game show, sort of The Running Man crossed with The Crystal Maze. I should also watch some Takeshi’s Castle and It’s a Knockout while I’m at it I guess. Sure, there’s the needing two GM’s (And I know two people who’d be magnificent at it) and I still can’t decide what GM’s would have to wear between the horrible neon suits you can find at Lowes or wizards robes made of fabric that’s cheaper than dirt.

Lastly, what system do I run it with? Or, for that matter, do I run it as a freeform, or even a LARP? *ponders* I should sleep now. G’night all!

Gimme Danger (2016)

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It’s one of the greatest opening lines in the history of rock and roll, delivered by a frontman perpetually on the edge of destruction and a band one step away from the abyss. The Stooges were there at the burth of punk and influence no small amount in the following decades. There’s been a lot written about thems over the years (From the Velvets to the Voidoids and Please Kill Me are both amazing reads, both for fans of the band and the American punk scene), but now longtime Stooge fan Jim Jarmusch has finished the doco he’s been working on for the least 8 or so years. Does it cut the mustard? Yep, but not without a few reservations.

First off, lightning strikes on the train network meant I missed the opening 25 mins. Not happy, but what can you do? What I saw I really enjoyed, but I left wanting more – details are glossed over or sometimes frustratingly short. I get it, you only have so much time, and with Iggy Pop now one of only two surviving band members, well, you take what can get. Fortunately, there’s a good amount of footage with the Asheton brothers (Ron and Scott) and saxophonist Steve McKay, but the bulk of the film is narrated by Pop and James Williamson, who’s post band career as an exec at Sony bringing much laughter from the audience.

It’s an oddly bloodless film – for all of the stories of debauchery, chemical indulgence and general bad behaviour concerning the band there’s precious little of it in the film. Sure, I’m happy that that’s not the sole content of the film*, but it struck me as somewhat sanitised, like an episode of Behind the Music. It’s almost too much a fan of it’s subject to be objective – treating them as the single greatest thing before and since sliced bread. I mean, I adore the Stooges, but they aren’t the Ramones.** There’s no mention of Pop’s solo career and a tiny mention of the Asheton’s various post Stooges bands, until the groups ‘reunification’ (As Pop calls it) in the early 2000’s for one of Pop’s solo albums, followed by a more formal reunion, ending with the death of the Asheton brothers, Ron in 2009 and Scott in 2014. Tragedy and triumph in equal measure.

On a side note, while the Golden Age cinema is lovely (From the little time I spent there), it really didn’t feel… me. It was dark, with pretty people having conversations over expensive looking cocktails. (The place I’ve felt most uncomfortable was still the Ivy Bar in Sydney, which I spent about an hour in after a work function and immediately wanted to burn to the ground and salt the Earth so nothing would grow there again. But I digress…) There was also the audience – there was the occasional chuckle at a joke or sad noise at an annoucement of a band member’s death, but little else. I’m reminded of seeing Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey at a film festival in Sydney, with the hilarious contrast of the audience being half tweed jacket wearing David Stratton wannabes and the other half looking like… well, me.

13580523_907695662675802_8702796923274474296_oSelf portrait by the author.

What really got me was they barely seemed to move duing the film, outside of looking for the toilet. I don’t understand people who can listen to music and not be moved by it. Take the opening riff to ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ or the chaotic shrieking of ‘Funhouse’ – how are you not up and rocking out? Reminds me of seeing Metallica a few years ago where there was a guy sitting a few seats away who barely moved through the show, not even when The Four Horsemen kicked in. Not for Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, not even Seek and Destroy. There was a point there I wasn’t sure he was breathing… Look, I’m probably taking it too seriously, an accusation that’s been leveled at me before and to which I say guilty as charged m’lud. But this is some of the finest music comitted to tape and to sit down and not move while it’s playing is something that SHOULD NOT BE DONE.

If you’re  a Stooges fan, it’s well worth checking out. If you aren’t, buy the albums first and then check this out. Of course, you should have the albums already, but I’ve been known to judge people on how many Ramones albums they own, so I’m not exactly unbiased.

3.5 Street Walking Cheetahs out of 5.

*If I want that I’ll re-read Motley Crue’s The Dirt.
** A fact acknowledged by no less an authority on the matter than Lemmy himself.

*cue opening theme*

It is a time of hope in the galaxy. The Rebel Alliance has struck a mighty blow with the destruction of the Empires dread new weapon, the DEATH STAR, but even as the Rebels celebrate, the Empire is far from defeated. The spark of rebellion that was close to being extinguished now blazes brightly across the galaxy. In the remote Lesaan system, a brave band of Rebels seek to strike a blow to help end the Empire’s tyranny…

There was an animated discussion over how many fingers Mon Calamari have and how that impacts upon their ability to flip the bird. I should be expecting this sort of thing more from my players and yet…*

So, the game itself? Well, there’s the Mon Cal commando (Who unfortunately didn’t have time to watch the film leading up to the first session), the Jawa Force-User (Who might have read the journal that Obi-Wan left for Luke, but he made sure to put it back), and a pair of human saboteurs (Apologies for the lack of details, but they took their character sheets home with them), all hoping to blow stuff up in the name of the Rebel Alliance.

It started with them looking at an Imperial installation they’d been ordered to investigate, as Intel had word that something was being cooked up there. Blowing it up was the ifrst idea, with dropping a starship on it from orbit an early idea. (That was suggested in one of the player’s other games, though in that game the idea was to drop a capital ship on the base) This got switched to smashing a truck through the wall and hoping that blows up the fuel depot (I’m happy they chose that option, as the widespread ecological devastation that would have resulted was a little dark for the first session), a slightly more sensible plan (Especially as the Mon Cal was somewhat horrified by the idea of going in through the sewers). Team Alien went to steal a truck, while Team Human went to mug some Army Troopers for their uniforms. Both plans went relatively well (Even with the pickup line being incredibly close to “Hey, do you want to go to that alley so you can see my boobs and I can stab you?”), thankfully followed by a pair of stun bolts and a quick cut to party members changing clothes bit. The law was alerted to the theft, but I’ll admit to dropping the ball on that GM wise.

Hotwiring the truck had a bit of a delay, with the Jawa accidentally plugging his R2 unit into the wrong socket (NOTE: That was not a euphemism).  Team Alien then ran for the other side of the Imperial base while Team Human waited (With the fire extinguisher from the truck) for the explosion and planned to ingratiate themselves with the fire-fighting effort. The truck hit the fence, smashed partway through and went kaboom. Team Human raced to join the fire-fighting efforts, while Team Alien tried to sneak inside in the confusion. Some failed sneak rolls and an attempt at telekinesis later, Team Alien were busy getting shot at**. Meanwhile, Team Human had made their way inside and found themselves in R&D, which turned out to be a bio-weapons facility.

After changing into hazmat suits, they proceeded under cover of a surprise inspection, asking for a tour of the lab which the lead scientist was happy to give. He explained that they were developing a substance (Hey, I couldn’t resist trying to add a little enigma to it) that targeted non-humans,  though they hadn’t worked out all the issues yet, namely being that some humans were still affected. Team Human left, informing Team Alien of their discovery, with the party being happy they didn’t just drop a ship on it from orbit. Anyhow, they’re on route to try to bail out Team Alien and hopefully destroy the facility without releasing the substance. They might even rescue the test subjects in the lab while they’re at it! We shall see…

Things I need to do for next session:
Relearn the system, especially the different between the Persuasion and Con skills.Also, possibly fold some skills together.
Have more people shoot at the PC’s. There was an express lack of gunfire and for that I blame only myself.
Not worry so much. I don’t need as much opening flavour text, or detail, and while I thought I wouldn’t have enough plot, I’ve still got a fair bit left. It’ll need expanding for next session, but it’s good to know I’ve got a start.
Also, if I’m going to write an opening monologue (Like the intros to Clone Wars, not the text crawl from the films), then I should remember to deliver the bloody thing.

Lastly, damn it feels good to be running this game again. It’s been a long time, a long time…

*It was decided by the GM they have 5 fingers and can flip the bird.
** There was some fucking awful dice rolling that session. The surprise was it wasn’t just mine!

Changes…

So, Team (Almost All) Dual Wield  won a convincing (albeit slightly strange, even by their standards) victory over the forces of evil (Continuing to mightily sass the Watch as always) and now both laden down with cash and having (sadly inaccurate) street theatre made about their exploits are trying to decide what next. Sadly, that’ll have to wait – owing to a combination of one player’s looming unavailability, the fact we’re at a nice climactic point and my knack for crises of confidence, I’m putting that game on hold for the time being and switching to another. After some consultation with the group, we’re going old school. How old? A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

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That’s right, way back to the late 90’s with West End Games Star Wars RPG, aka ‘Bring a bucket of D6’s.” I spent a lot of time playing it as a kid, and it still gives me that warm glow of nostalgia. First thoughts are how retro the book looks (That now ancient 2 column format combined with the cheesily photoshopped advertisements), but that’s kinda charming these days. The system has it’s quirks and things that are of their time (I have vauge memories of trying to use the Force at higher levels and rolling huge numbers of dice), but I’ve still got a lot of love for it. It was the first RPG I purchased after all, with an almost complete set of books for it sitting on the shelf and those few I don’t have are at the D6 Holocron. I was contemplating messing with the skills slightly (Merging the combat and parry skills mostly), but I think I’ll leave alone for the time being and see how it goes in play.

I’m really looking forward to the game, having gotten the itch to play Star Wars again after Rogue One. Different reaction to Force Awakens, which left me both grieving and with a whole load of questions to be answered (What happened post Jedi? Whats the current political situation? Who are the Knights of Ren?) while Rogue One made me want to pick up the dice (And blow stuff up). Therefore, the campaign is based around Rebel Alliance Special Operations, or as one of my players put it, the A-Team in space. I’m starting to write up details and plan ahead, but really I’m just hoping I can avoid the mistakes that plauged the last game. Mind you, I’d settle for not being in a blind panic writing adventures at the last minute. Granted, some of my best work has resulted from that, but it’s an approach I try not to take too regularly.

So, another game on the way. A band of Rebel misfits, out to steal from, cause chaos for and bring down the Empire, preferably with a lot of explosions. By the Force I’m looking forward to this, even if one player’s character is a Force sensitive Jawa who’s learning from having read the journal Obi-Wan Kenobi left for Luke Skywalker (He didn’t steal it, just read it) and another’s is Arnold Schwazenegger’s character in Commando, but Mon Calamari. My players…

PARKOUR! The Movie.

AKA Assassin’s Creed. This is less a review, and more a collection of random thoughts concerning the film. Also, there be spoilers.

I came to the film not having played the games much outside of Black Flag (Cause you know, pirates.), but I know the basics. It seems to be represented pretty well, though I don’t know if the Templars grand council consisting entirely (As far as I saw) of old white people was a subtle political jab or a case of you work with the extras you have, not the ones you want. Cause you know, when have old white people ever wanted to stop people from having free will?

I’d say I was certain that gaming tables and LARPs will soon be deluged by players wanting to play good assassins, but I’m fairly sure that already happened about the time of the first game. Also, it’d have to be a much better film to have that sort of impact – there’s good reason cons were jam packed with Ledger Joker cosplayers for years after The Dark Knight. (There’s an urban myth floating around that at a UK LARP event following the release of Fellowship of the Ring there were no less than 9 characters named Legolas) Ahem. I digress.

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I continue to not be able to put aside the logic (or lack thereof) of a group of assassins who have a recognisable uniform and a signature weapon. Still, it’s far from the greatest logical leap needed for this film, which has the Knights Templar searching for an apple that contains humanity’s genetic code in order to ‘cure’ violence. Oh, and they have a magical device that let’s people live through their ancestors memories. It could be said that it’s Jeremy Iron’s best genre film, but that’s damning with very, very faint praise. That and it’s not that terrible. It’s still not great, but he’s done worse movies – one only has to look at him in Star Wars Episode IV Eragon. As for the film as a whole, it could have been far, far worse (See also Super Mario Brothers).

Characters don’t really get much to do – Fassbender glares stoicly and grunts his lines while bouncing around in a CG harness, Irons all but sleepwalks through it with his voice rarely being raised above a monotone (I think it’s meant to convey something about his lack of emotions showing his devotion to the cause, but it just seems like he’s heavily medicated) and Marion Cotilliard tries bravely, but seems more a plot device than a character (See also Natalie Portman in Thor: The Dark World). On the bright side, Brendan Gleeson is always lovely to see, though again he’s more plot device and exposition spouter than character.

It’s also an oddly bloodless film given it’s body count, with people getting stabbed, garotted and pierced with arrows, crossbow bolts and knives, but barely a drop of blood is shed, outside of a few major incidents involving characters with dialogue and even then there’s far less than could be expected. Speaking of knives, in the scene where Fassbender’s 15th century ancestor and his compardre (Who’s name I don’t recall being mentioned, despite her and said ancestor’s involvement) escape from the fires of the Inquisition and Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemeda anything!), where the hell did all those knives they threw come from? Had they not been searched well enough, or where they magically picking up them from all the people they’d killed? It’s a mark against the film that I spent more time pondering that through the Ye Olde Jason Bourne style chase scene, along with the unintentionally hilarious moment when as they’re about to escape they dramatically draw their hoods up*. Speaking of that, I’ve a lot of respect for the CG and/or costume department wizardry that kept said hoods up while the cast were crashing, stabbing and bashing about the place.

So. Not the worst film I’ve seen (That title is currently held by The Smurfs 2 – we’re never letting my niece choose what movie we see again) and there’s some nice visual moments (The flyovers of medieval Madrid are lovely), but this isn’t the film to do for video game movies what X-Men did for comic book films. Especially given how much the ends screams sequel. I also can’t confirm an after-credits sequence, as I badly needed to pee and wasn’t willing to risk it. Still, it’s not a Marvel film, so I don’t think I missed anything.

2 and a half impractical wrist blades out of 5.

* Though not as funny as the dramatic “I’ll be back” in Terminator: Salvation, a moment that cause my wife to burst out laughing in the cinema.

A catch up of sorts.

Being introduced to someone who’s wearing nothing but ugg boots and shorts and holding a freshly sharpened machete, well that makes an impression. Sure, it’s the sort of impression that makes you think you’ll soon be buried under the patio, but I’m sure I’ve made people I know feel like that on occasion (At least I hope so). He turned out to be eccentric, but friendly (and mostly harmless) and we spent a good 45 minutes or so shooting bows and talking traditional archery. That’s what’ll stick with me the most about that trip. I also got to ride a horse for the first time in over 10 years, an experience that, while enjoyable, reaffirmed my belief that cavalry is not a job I’m suited for.

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Yes, I was quietly singing ‘Over the Misty Mountains Cold’ at that point.

Who? What? Oh, an explantion. I spent most of the Christmas season visiting in-laws in New Zealand, a land that continues to be utterly charming and not just cause we ate at a restaurant that had cats roaming the grounds. CATS ROAMING THE GROUNDS. Why more places haven’t cottoned on this I’ve no idea, but you’ll have me as a client from day 1. I like cats, in case you hadn’t guessed. It was up there with the place that advertised something called a ‘Caveman Platter’, which was one of the most amazing things I have, and will ever, eat. Still, there were no cats, which knocks half a star off.

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KITTIE!

I discovered the works of Joe Abercrombie, purchasing Half a King on a whim and reading it within a day. Apparrently it’s more young-adult that his usual “ALL THE GRIMDARK” fare, but I enjoyed it and plan to purchase more. I also picked up Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, and while that was hilarious and well worth reading, it’s tinged with more than a bit of sadness now given her passing. While it’s an inevitability that the icons of our youth will pass, that didn’t make things any easier to bear. Many words have been written and tears have been shed in her name, and we shall linger no more in pain and grief.

fisherHell, I’d be happy to go out that way myself. Wife might complain though.

Staying in that universe, Rogue One was a delight. Grim and blood soaked by the standards of the Star Wars universe it’s true, but it was telling a different sort of story than the usual lightsaber wielding high adventure. To quote a friend of mine, ‘They went full Dirty Dozen.” and he wasn’t wrong in that regard. It’s not a take on the universe I’ve seen before, but I saw it described as ‘putting the war in Star Wars‘. At first glance that seems stupid, as Wars in in the title, and the first opening crawl we see begins with “It is a period of civil war.” But the more I thought on it, the more it seemed correct. The other films in the saga, yes, even Empire,  are space opera first and foremost, but this felt more like a war film than any other part of the saga, with the possible exception of certain episodes of The Clone Wars.

After The Force Awakens made stormtroopers seem effective again, to me, this restored Darth Vader to the terrifying figure he was pre “I hate sand.” We didn’t see him much, but when we did it meant something and that something was DO NOT FUCK WITH VADER. And points to the writers for that beautiful burn, one almost equal to the ones covering his body, a line so wonderful I’d kill to have written it. Seeing him rip through the Rebel troopers like an unstoppable machine, it was the Vader that was talked about, had been hinted at, but we’d never really seen. (See also the recent run of Darth Vader comics, which show Vader taking levels in Scheming Bastard) All the more effective for it’s brevity – it’s very much the old saying of ‘the more effective the monster the less you see it.’

After having seen the film again, my initial hype lessened slightly, but that doesn’t mean I think it was any less good. I did spend more time looking out for scenes that were in the trailer that didn’t make the film (And the shout-outs to Rebels), but then K-2SO would say something awesome and/or snarky and all would be well again. Oh Alan Tudyk, bless you. Hopefully we’ll see that footage, or parts of it, at some point. The Blu-Ray better have the mother of all deleted/alternate scenes packages…

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What, too soon?

I’d say there was probably one or two too many shout outs to the OT (Red 5’s appearance ties with trying to work out just how did R2 and Threepio get onboard the Tantive IV in time?), but I can’t blame the filmakers for doing so. Mind you, if I said I didn’t immediately want to start playing Age of Rebellion, or any form of Star Wars RPG, well I’d be lying harder than Federal Parliament. It wasn’t a perfect film, but damn it was good. And for those keeping track of my film costume wish list, you can add Chirrut’s costume and several of the Rebel senator’s cloaks to that list. 🙂

Staying with gaming, more writing has been done for Hyborian Tales, for which I probably need a new title. I also went location scouting recently, and thanks to friends of mine now have a location for the game. Close to shops, public transport and with toilets nearby even! A test day is being planned, but that won’t be for another few weeks. Team (Almost all) Dual Wield recently confronted the mysterious mastermind who’s been concocting devilish deeds of a nefarious nature and may be able to defeat him, assuming they can stop sassing the City Watch. It’s building towards a big finale, which will take place next Monday night. No pressure…

Anyhow, it’s past half 11 and I should sleep now. Night all. Rest well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

*squee*

The very rich, having fundamentally missed the point of urban living, have long been frustrated by the fact that it’s impossible to squeeze the amenities of of a country mansion – car showroom, swiming pool, servant’s quarters etc – into the floor space of your average London terrace. Those without access to trans-dimensional engineering, a key Time Lord discovery, have had to resort to extending their houses into the ground. Thus proving that all that stands between your average rich person and a career in Bond villany is access to an extinct volcano.
Ben Aaronovitch – The Hanging Tree

Why yes, I am excited to have this book* – I didn’t realise it was out yet. For those who’ve no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the latest in the Peter Grant series, about a young London policeman who winds up working for the last Wizard in the Metropolitan Police. You could say it’s CSI: Hogwarts or a British Dresden Files, but those are terrible comparisons, even more so cause I’ve not read any of the Potter books to compare them to. So yes, between that and the trade of Vader Down (Which has dialogue I’d pay good money to hear James Earl Jones recite), I’m a happy reader at the moment.

*The author wrote two of my favorite 7th Doctor stories, Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield, so I might be somewhat biased.

“Let the following commence!”

My players see it as a badge of honour when I stop the game to write down something they’ve said. I am pleased with this.

Monday night saw the return of Team (Almost All) Dual Wield! Sadly it also saw me spend a lot of the game trying not to cough up a lung (Something I’m still doing), so this recap will likely be shorter than normal. If I’ve missed anything, I apologise to my players and ask them to please help me fill in the gaps.

Having just had a group of young nobles pointed out to them by the barman, a conversation was struck up, and it seems as if the Black Star thieves was a small scale smuggling network for a group of rich patrons*. They may have known the missing noble who might have started this, Denius, who seemed changed when they last saw him. They swiftly vanished, which led to the Rogue getting the Wizard and Ranger (now called Team Drunk) to watch the bar and look for anything strange (Having given them some coin), and the Fighter (Now called Team Door) to watch both the door (Which went nowhere but side to side) and Team Drunk  to make sure they (AKA the wizard) didn’t burn the place down. The Rogue  put in a call to find the Paladin’s sister (AKA his secret identity) and Team Sneak were on their way! While they were tracking the nobles (Who’d attempted  to disguise themselves under cloaks), the Wizard and Ranger got roaringly drunk on booze and cheese (Actual cheese, not booze cheese. Though that’s an idea now that I think of it…) Both their players may have been on sugar highs thanks to the pineapple concoctions they were drinking which may have affected things, but I’m sure something strange would have happened regardless.

A drunken request at the bar for some Justice was put in, and shortly after a familiar member of the Watch, Sergeant Gounar, appeared. A by now very drunken wizard (He’s a Gnome and beer comes in pints) may have accidentally started to cast something, only for the Sergeant to pick him up and aim him out of the window at which point Team Sneak felt something of a disturbance in the Force. Team Drunk were gently escorted to the local drunk tank with a surprising minimum of fuss. Handcuffs were broken, though the cell bars weren’t and cheese was thrown at other inhabitants. Mercifully everyone was in seperate cells at that stage. The Fighter collected a claim ticket for them, and will hopefully return in the morning to collect them, giving the Ranger time to throw more cheese in the by now sleeping Wizard’s mouth. Also, the Ranger might have cast the spell to find her Animal Companion. (Actually, that might have happened in the bar, but things are blurry.)

Returning to Team Sneak, they followed the nobles to a warehouse in the Sea Ward of the city, and having failed to fully observe the secret knock, Batman’d it up the side of the building** and observed through a convenient skylight. An argument ensued between the nobles, with some concerned about what they’d gotten into. They were proved right when the one with the most bass in his voice (AKA the leader) proceeded to stab the lead doubter in the throat. At that, confusion reigned, and a discussion about intervening between the Rogue and Paladin led to them being spotted and dramatically bursting through skylights*** into battle! Things went better for the  Rogue, at least at first, with some Flynning from the Paladin. Stabbings ensued, Persuasion rolls were made (With the Rogue failing one so badly that the leader didn’t think they’d kill him – it was that sort of a night) but eventually they prevailed.

More conversation ensued, with it being revealed that the smugglers were infact working for the nobles, bringing in luxuries and small contraband. They’d also heard of the missing noble, saying he was acting strangely. The dance of bargaining for their lives continued, with the leader about to rat them out when all of a sudden – *CLIFFHANGER SCREAM*

A slightly odd set of cliffhangers- conversation, cheese throwing and snoring, but it seemed to go well. I’m still getting used to a city based investigative campaign, but my players make all my nerves worth it. They’re an incredibly fun bunch to run for. Plots are coming to a head, and a confrontation seems soon to take place! *crashing chord* Will they meet the mysterious missing noble? Will they find out who their even more mysterious patron is? Will the wizard have to take another bath? Tune in to find out!

*Names were mixed up and things were slightly rewound, leading to the first Doctor Strange reference of the night.

**Sadly a minor celebrity didn’t poke their head out of a window. Probably a good thing as they would have been rumbled.

*** Yes, there was the faint sound of a Eagle. I’ve been replaying Black Flag recently.

By Crom, Ymir and Set!

So, been quiet for a bit. Unexpected but welcome employment has meant I didn’t run D&D last week. Have no fear, Team (Almost All) Dual Wield will return Monday night! Been tired and sore, but punching the clock at 5’oclock and not having to think about work anymore is a glorious feeling. Also, money. Outside that, there’s been more thinking on Hyborian Tales. What do I hope to achieve with it, why am I doing this?

So I can run an event that allows me to share my love of Robert E Howard’s work, possibly even a type of event that hasn’t been done here before (Or if it has, I haven’t heard about it – I’m not omniscient). I first heard about HT around 2006, and have been reading Howard since the early 2000’s, so I’ve been wanting to take part in an event like this for a long time. Given it last ran in the UK in 2008, playing’s not really an option, which means running it. Getting permission from the original creator went a long way towards that, but now the real work begins. It’s going to be a lot of work, but by Crom, I want to put that work in. Even if it falls down in a heap, I want to run this. I love the stories and the system, and want to share that with people.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”
Queen of the Black Coast

The game originally ran as a weekend event, with three short adventures (Play 1, crew 2) and 2 communal tavern nights. The idea is to run day games at first with 1, maybe 2, adventures, but I hope to run weekenders in the future. Crawl before you walk and all. My Lovely and Talented Wife has volunteered to work on logistics (An area of game prep I lack skill in) which has freed my brain up a lot. As before, any offers of help/expressions of interest as welcome.

So, curious and want to know more?

Souce material wise, there’s no better place to start than Howard’s original stories. Collected volumes of the Conan stories can be easily found in bookstores and online. I recommend the following stories to start with:
The Phoenix on the Sword.
Queen of the Black Coast.

Beyond the Black River.
The Hour of the Dragon.
Rogues in the House.
It was hard not to nominate The Tower of the Elephant, The Scarlet Citadel or The People of the Black Circle. but when you have to narrow things down, hard choices have to be made. As for other Howard work, Worms of the Earth, The Shadow of the Vulture (Starring Red Sonya of Rogatino, which inspired Roy Thomas to create the chain mail bikini wearing version) and Red Shadows (The first Solomon Kane story) are well worth reading, especially Worms. If the book has L Sprague De Camp mentioned anywhere as author, then it’s probably been edited by him. Don’t touch them. De Camp both re-edited Howard’s tales to form an extended canon and re-wrote non-Conan work as Conan stories. Points to him for keeping the stories in print, but those points are then lost for keeping the originals out of print for so many years. I’ve not read much of other author’s attempts at Conan work – the only one that comes to mind is Robert Jordan’s novelisation of Conan the Destroyer, and remember it being almost as wretched as the film.

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”
Beyond the Black River

As for the films, I adore 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, despite it’s many faults.* It’s Conan is thick-headed, slow witted and lacking the literary version’s pantherish speed and cunning, but the atmosphere and score more than make up for that. It’s nigh impossible for me to hear Anvil of Crom and not want a sword in my hand. As for it’s sequel, Conan the Destroyer, it’s a wretched piece of dumbed down garbage that makes a mockery of the character and the audience, the score being one of it’s few saving graces.** Moving to 2011’s Conan the Barbarian, starring Jason ‘Khal Drogo’ Momoa, it deserved better. Momoa did a fine job with what he had and if they could have cropped the ‘revenge for the death of his family’ subplot that was never in the original stories, it might have been better. I’d hoped he’d get another shot, but with Arnold apparently set to reprise the role, that seems to have been abandoned. Plus, bonus Ron Perlman. As for the TV series Conan the Adventurer, well, I own the box set but haven’t been able bring myself to watch further than the pilot.

“Aye,” he growled, “I am a Pict, a son of those warriors who drove your brutish ancestors before them like chaff before the storm!–who flooded the land with your blood and heaped high your skulls for a sacrifice to the Moon-Woman! You who fled of old before my race, dare ye now snarl at your master? Roll on me like a flood now, if ye dare! Before your viper fangs drink my life I will reap your multitudes like ripened barley–of your severed heads will I build a tower and of your mangled corpses will I rear up a wall! Dogs of the dark, vermin of Hell, worms of the earth, rush in and try my steel! When Death finds me in this dark cavern, your living will howl for the scores of your dead and your Black Stone will be lost to you forever–for only I know where it is hidden and not all the tortures of all the Hells can wring the secret from my lips!”
Worms of the Earth

Turning to gaming, Mongoose’s now out of print D20 game was frequently fantastic despite being D20, though the border art made them uncomfortable to read in public, especially the 2nd edition books. (Ian Sturrock, the original Hyborian Tales author, wrote the rulebook.) I’ve not been able to find copies of either the TSR Conan RPG or the GURPS sourcebook, but I’ve heard decent things. As for upcoming games, the free quickstart for the new Conan RPG seems interesting, but I’m not a fan of the system so much. Given the calibre of the people involved though I’m more than willing to give it a shot.

The clangor of the swords had died away, the shouting of the slaughter was hushed; silence lay on the red-stained snow. The bleak pale sun that glittered so blindingly from the ice-fields and the snow-covered plains struck sheens of silver from rent corselet and broken blade, where the dead lay as they had fallen. The nerveless hand yet gripped the broken hilt; helmeted heads back-drawn in the death-throes, tilted red beards and golden beards grimly upward, as if in last invocation to Ymir the frost-giant, god of a warrior-race.
The Frost Giant’s Daughter

As for other films that capture a Howard-esque atmosphere, the likes of The 13th Warrior The Sword and the Sorcerer, John Carter and Solomon Kane (Based on the Howard character) all have their moments, especially James Purefoy’s performance in Kane, if only to contrast against his scenery chewing in Carter. Then again, you could say I’m not a fair judge, given I own both the first two D&D movies and The Scorpion King 3. It’s an awful film, but has Ron Perlman in a mullet wig. Yes, I’m easily amused. You didn’t already know that? I’m aware given my track record for games that any attempt at something grim and bloody will turn out more like an 80’s B-movies, but I think I’ll be OK with that. As with my tabletops, so slong as the players enjoy themselves, I’m fine.

“Dead!” he muttered.

Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.
“Men shall die for this,” he said coldly.
Red Shadows

So yeah. Those stories lit a fire in me like few other things and the chance to base a LARP event around them has me keen. As I’ve said, it’ll be a lot of work, but I want to do this. Finding a venue, writing adventures, props, costume, weaponry, briefings. It’s all stuff that’s new to me (I’ve only written tabletop games before) and it’s pretty damn daunting.  But, no effort, no game. So, it’s gotta be done. Time to do what I’ve been talking about…

“A kiss?” she cried hysterically. “You think of kisses at a time like this?”
His laughter boomed above the snap and thunder of the sails, as he caught her up off her feet in the crook of one mighty arm, and smacked her red lips with resounding relish.
“I think of Life!” he roared. “The dead are dead, and what has passed is done! I have a ship and a fighting crew and a girl with lips like wine, and that’s all I ever asked. Lick your wounds, bullies, and break out a cask of ale. You’re going to work ship as she never was worked before. Dance and sing while you buckle to it, damn you! To the devil with empty seas! We’re bound for waters where the seaports are fat, and the merchant ships are crammed with plunder!”
The Pool of the Black One

Well, for now. Must dash – have to go pretend to be a robot spaceship captain!

*The toast I gave at my wedding was ‘To what is best in life!’ Thinking back on hearing my family repeating that continues to bring me great joy.
**I use it as a motivational tool when cleaning the house – when the house is clean I can turn the movie off.