Sunday, December 30, 2007

Duty & Honour - Spreading the Word

Well, its that time.

Duty & Honour has now finished it's latest revision after some very valuable initial playtests. The system has changed radically from the document as first presented and now appears to be far more robust, consistent and balanced system. The process has been illuminating and in some ways humbling as I have been forced to realise that what may be obvious to me isn't necessary obvious, logical or necessary for others. Theres a balance between, as I see it, moving towards the common denominator of current existing designs for eases sake and developing a game which is working and potentially saleable.

I've now cast my net open in a couple of other arenas for playtesters and I'm ready to kick my internal playtest campaign off properly. Those first couple of abortive attempts have been priceless and I am particularly thankful to Andrew, Ben and Dave for sitting through them and helping so much in that little bit of crisis management!

So whats the timetable for the rest of the project? Roughly (and I mean that because I know that this is going to need as much time as it needs...) I'm aiming to have this round of playtests finished by the end of February with an eye to a fully-fledged ashcan for Conpulsion in March (as well as some demo games etc) and then a further iteration at Games Expo in May. All other things being equal, if I didn't have a fully-rounded game by Furnace in October I will be exceptionally disappointed.

It's all very exciting.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bag and Indeed, Humbug

When did Christmas start becoming social and mental torture? When did it stop being a time of joy and happiness and start being a cross between a military logistics exercise and socio-psychological Russian Roulette?

I am usually a big fan of Christmas - I love the holiday, the songs, the traditions, the food and the general schmaltzy cheesiness of it all. Give me a dark night, Once In Royal Davids City, driving around judging the silly house sized Christmas lights, a whacking great plate if Lieberkucken and The Vicar of Dibley and I am happy. Usually.

This year seems to have been different. This year my patience seems to have worn threadbare with a number of aspects of the entire thing.

1. Tradition! (Quick Topol impersonation for those that care...) - Christmas is full of 'traditions' and sometimes we have to cull these traditions so that we can stay sane. One such tradition is that we 'always' go to the Christingle Service on Christmas Eve. 'Always' meaning for the last eight years. When we first started to go it was quite fun but in recent years it has become a turgid waste of time. I know some of you will be reading this and saying 'but Neil, it was always a turgid waste of time' but as part of a pre-Christmas ritual and a great way to tire out the kids! This year we bowed out of Christingle because I simply couldn't face it anymore and boy, did it cause a stink. Adults asserting control over their own lives? Surely not...

2. Venue! - Similarly we rotate 'Christmas' between my house, my parents house and my mother-in-laws house. Which means that only one year in three do I have control over how the game runs. Now, we have come to this situation because in the first year that Christine and I were together we tried to 'do' Christmas at both parents houses and ended up in some Vicar of Dibley style double Christmas Dinner style nightmare. Man can only eat so much turkey! I think after my Man died last year, my Dad will be happy just to tag along rather than host it himself so next year is mine, ALL MINE! Which means no more luke warm, over cooked vegetables, no more piss poor gravy, no more 'no salt, no fat, no seasoning' cooking, no more horrendous trifle and no more 'stuffing' that was simply the most disgusting slurry that I have ever tasted. Oh and this year we were graced by my brother-in-law and his wife on Christmas Day for the first time ever instead of the usual Boxing Day follow-up dinner (oh yes, two in a row usually - unremitting joy). Currently my sister-in-law has said under 10 sentences to me in 12 years. Do the maths everyone - yes, there have been at least two years she hasn't said hello or goodbye to me! Well, sadly, this year they arrived under a cloud as their recently acquired £600 pedigree kitten-cat-thing was very ill and at the vets and the poor thing died just as they sat down to dinner. Tears, sobbing and a tidal wave of platitudes ensued as they made a swift exit, stage left. Honestly, if it was on Only Fools and Horses you couldn't have written it.

3. Presents Part One - The Children - OK folks, lets keep up here. Lara is 10. She is growing up very fast. VERY fast. Favourite presents this year? CD player, Hoosiers album, Take That album, DS games, flying dragonfly RC thingy. :Least favourite present? Sylvanian Families dolls, Bratz dolls, craft things (Lara is the Anti-Art one) and other tat from Poundstretcher. Emma is 7 and guess what? She's growing up very fast as well but even she, as the 'arty one' cannot handle a literal fuck-ton of 'craft' tat. When will people learn that QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY. That the size of the present bag is SIMPLY NOT COMPARABLE to the way that the present will be received. And of course, most importantly that the presents that were bought last year are NOT the presents that need to be bought AGAIN this year! GAH!!!

4. Presents Part Two - Me - This may seem really quite selfish but I really REALLY get fucked off by the way people buy me presents. Its like they have some sort of memory loss thing going on. Lets see - I got 12 pairs of socks (cool), 3 t-shirts (which might fit), two litres of vodka (hurrah - just as I enter one of my tee-total periods) and of course, a ton of sweets. Oh and a novelty clock, a desk puzzle and some other chaff. (Note, sorry, that these were from other people - the stuff I got from Christine and the kids was exactly what I wanted). Now I have stopped trying to exhibit faux excitement as I receive presents that are quite blatantly presents bought for a 36 year old man rather than for me so this year FINALLY someone said it. I nearly exploded and really had to bite my lip. 'Well, you are so difficult to buy for...'


Has Forbidden Planet closed down since you went last year and got a gift voucher? Similarly HMV/Waterstones? Have these places being wiped off the map? Because I'm SURE I was standing in them not three days ago! Does my wife not have an intimate knowledge of my wants and needs and are you not in possession of a mouth and ears?! Have I not got enough acknowledged hobbies that you could dip into? I mean between the comics, movies, wrestling, roleplaying, history and cooking there's simply NOTHING that you could dip into there is there? Oh no. Hang on, you could just give me MONEY, like I have always asked for so I can feed my fund to go to GenCon. Oh no, money is a bad present because ITS BETTER TO WASTE MONEY ON SHITE I DON'T WANT THAN GIVE ME SOMETHING I DO WANT!! FFS!!!!!

Please don't pretend that you have put huge amounts of thought into a present for me when it is simply plain to anyone that you haven't thought one bit about me as a person and you have simply bought the Standard Man Package presents for someone my age. Some people might think that I sound ungrateful but I would retort that what do I have to be grateful about? One of the presents I got this year was a raffle prize - the ticket was still on the bottle. *shakes head*

5. Psychological Pressure - Finally I am sick of the pressure that is put on people at Christmas to do everything regardless of their circumstances. It starts with the presents and bloody Christmas Cards (a Christmas tradition that we have all but jettisoned). Then its the tree and the decorations (again, reduced to minimal numbers in our house). The food, the worry over whether something has been forgotten, the insane shopping, more worrying, the wrapping of the gifts (once again, something I have disposed of, on environment grounds .... honest!), the worrying and yes, the worrying. Why is everyone so bloody worried all of the time about Christmas. Hello? Time of joy? Peace on Earth (ha!), Goodwill to all Men? Not a time to be fretting about whether a certain word in a card is too informal or whether the gift that you have pondered over for weeks is something the person REALLY wants (just ask ffs!). The event causes a maelstrom of chaos that I can simply do without. Fuck it.

And this, dear reader, all pales into insignificance when compared to the mother of all anti-climaxes. New Year cometh. I might well get an early night.

BAH HUMBUG! I want my Christmas back!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the Darkness, Brucey is waiting...

We all have a hidden secret. We all have something that we don't think other people should know. Today, I'm going to out myself.

I love Strictly Come Dancing.

I don't know whether it is the dancing, the costumes, the glamour, the bickering fracas of the judges or what but there is something that keeps me coming back again and again. Whats sillier is that I never vote and I never watch the follow-up dance off thingy on Sundays. For me, its the process rather than the result that beguiles. Up until now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, an injustice of 'Whip up a Bat-Signal!' proportions is liable to be foisted on us this evening. If it does, I may just explode!

The three semi-finalists are Gethin, Matt and Alisha.

Gethin is a Blue Peter presenter. His schtick has been 'Oh God, I have to touch a woman! I'm so embarassed! How can I get over this major barrier and show my true self." Yes mate, I would have SO many problems putting my hand on a fit Danish dancers arse in the privacy of my own dance studio. He is good however, very good.

Matt is currently in Eastenders. His schtick has been 'ZOMG! I'm young and crap but plucky and the female judge fancies me. Oh and my partner is FIT AS FUCK! Look! She looks like Natalie Imbruglia crossed with a porn pixie ... oh and I fancy her' Last week he was atrocious and actually stopped dancing in both of his dances because he forgot the steps... more on that later.

Alisha is the former rapper from Mis-teeq ( She's the one that sounds like her Jamacian grandad when she raps. She has a simple schtick. She is better than anyone else in the competition by a country mile. Seriously, she is better than some of the professionals! She has broken the competition record for the number of 10s awarded by the judges.

So she wins right? WRONG!

She is fucked and here is why...

1. The judges have started to realise that she is a runaway winner and therefore their judgements on her have been ... hyper-critical. Whilst Matt can get away with murder and be touted as the second coming of Fred Astaire for basically standing like a tentpole and having Miss Fit Lass dance around him, Alisha gets 'Well, we expect so much from you ... and you didn't quite put your foot down hard enough on one step.' They still love her but they are feeding that very British notion that the leader should not be the winner. How DARE she be good? Surely she should be shit and then get better, not just be consistently excellent?

2. She simply doesn't fit the demographic of the people who vote on that show. She is a woman (the last two winners have been men. Athletic men in their mid-30s... ). She is mixed race and that has been highlighted on the programming by appearances by her black and white grandparents. She is exceptionally attractive. I cannot see the great masses of middle England turning out to vote for her when they can vote for that nice lad from Blue Peter.

3. The final, I believe, is a vote and in that aspect she is totally fucked. The writing was on the wall last week when somehow she ended up in the dance-off. That means she came in the bottom two after the rankings of the judges and the public were put together. The Judge scores were

Gethin 4, Alesha 3, Letitia 2, Matt 1 - and in fact it could have been worse because as Gethin and Alesha were tied it could have been 3.5

Matt won. Which means he MUST have come first in the public vote. This was after he totally cocked up both his dances and STOPPED FUCKING DANCING! However he is still in the competition because he happens to be young, nervous, a face from a highly rated TV show and paired with Sex-In-Tights.

Quite simply, the public vote aspect of the contest makes the idea that it is a contest a complete farce. In the final four, if you stop dancing, you should be out. Plain and simple. No amount of boyish good looks should get you through. I can see her getting through tonight as the judges should recognise the quality - although at least two of them seem to be so infatuated by the comeback kid natural of the two blokes that I could be wrong - but in the final she loses out for being too good and daring to be consistently good.

And then don't get me started on 'Who Dares Wins' - the best National Lottery Quiz slot ever invented! Genius.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Gaming Resolutions

I am not, in any way, a keeper of New Year Resolutions. I am, however, a firm believer in self-review and critique. Because of the strange work balance of my job the Christmas period in my world take up the same standing as the summer in many others. Loads of extended work followed by a longer break. Today I start my first real break for some 24 weeks. Its a time for me to relax, recharge and reflect on what is happening now and what will happen in the future.

As a part of that I like to review my core hobbies and see where they are going and what I want to do with them. So without further ado, and in a High Fidelity style, here are my Top Five Gaming Resolutions.

1. No More Games

A strange one to start with, I know, but at the moment I think I have reached gaming saturation. I am still playing in The Great Pendragon Campaign, I'm playing Cold City and I am playtesting Duty and Honour. Oh, and we have our boardgaming night as well. Thats a whole lot of gaming for someone who was used to playing once a month! I think that anymore will begin to fray the edge of Mrs Gows tolerances and indeed my ability to concentrate on other things. So enough of a great thing. Quality over increased quantity.

2. Go to more conventions

I really enjoyed the two conventions I went to this year - GenCon and Furnace. That said, the two couldn't be more different if they tried! I want to go back to GenCon again and this time be well enough and experienced enough to actually participate in and enjoy the goings on than I was this year. I don't view this years trip as a disappointment or a failure - just the fog of illness dulled me so much that I under-performed! Furnace was far more how I expect a con to be and I really enjoyed myself. Five great games, loads of great chat and networking. This year I want to get to more of these events. Conpulsion in Edinburgh is a must-attend for me and I am positive I will squeeze in a few more. Sadly everyone seems obsessed with putting the bloody things on in Dorset or some other French principality....grrrr! ( and NO, before some bright spark suggests it I am NOT organising a Newcastle convention!)

3. Finish Duty & Honour

I suppose this should be higher up the agenda really! With no set date I want to get D&H finished this year in at least an ashcan state. I'm not putting pressure on myself or my stalwart team of playtesters but I need to harness the energy and momentum that I have at the moment and push on through. The game has improved immensely since I first presented it and it still has a way to go. Put it this way, if I cannot sit down and play D&H by Furnace 2008 I will be gutted!

4. Resume by position as the Iron DM

OK, maybe not 'Iron' but 'Reasonably Sturdy Metal' DM would suffice. I cannot believe it has been two years since I last ran anything that looked like a substantial campaign. After four years in the hot seat some time off was needed but this long? Good grief! Sometime during this year I want to GM something structured, ongoing and substantial. Not a playtest or a one-shot. Something that people can get their teeth into. I'm feeling the urge again, gnawing at my imagination. I keep picking up 'Full Light, Full Steam' and other books and wondering what to do with them. I even glanced at Mutants and Masterminds!

5. Start gaming with the kids again

My starkest failure of the last year has also been my greatest success. My games of 'A Faeries Tale' with the girls were amazing and they have lit a fire under them that still smoulders. My Actual Play posts have even had some international plaudits on the Sons of Kryos podcast much to the girls amusement. However the pressures of work and other pursuits have meant that I simply haven't had time to get myself into the headspace needed to play 'faeries' with the kids in a meaningful fashion. I really want to start that off again and soon. I know Lara in particular was exceptionally excited that there was a Dr Who rpg coming up and who knows - by the time it comes out she will be 11 going-on 12 ... she might even be able to join in with the big boys!

So there you are - five things I want to achieve next year in my gaming. What are yours?


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Playtesting Phoenix

I just had a very exciting, nerve-wracking and mind-bending experience. Duty and Honour just had its first proper external playtest. And not just any playtest either. This one was in New-fucking-Zealand with GM being Malcolm (Cold City, astate) Craig. I mean, honestly, this is getting feedback from a bona fide games publisher. I was TERRIFIED.

And you know, it wasn't THAT bad. Sure some thing just didn't work for them and a lot of that had to do with my writing and a need to be more specific. There were some things that they tried that I didn't foresee in the game (what if there is no officer? what if they all play new recruits? etc.) and they wanted some sections expanded as well. There were some things that I simply hadn't included and some stuff that was definitely in the realms of 'Auther not Included'

However in the end they liked it - they liked the essence of book, the way that it made characters and stories and all that stuff. The innards of the book got a big thumbs up. It just needs sharpening (no pun intended), polishing and better organisation and writing.

Sometimes life presents you with glass half full, glass half empty moments. This could easily have been a half-empty moment but no, it's a half full. And thats a good thing.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Throw of the Dice

Well, I did something today that I have been promising myself I was going to do for months but have never really gotten around to - I wrote to Bernard Cornwell. I asked, very politely, if I could reference Sharpe in Duty & Honour. Not as a licenced product but just out of courtesy. There are numerous books on the shelf that do this - a lot of them source material that I cite in the game - and none of them are obviously licenced. We shall see what comes back. Even if it is an 'absolutely not - no way' then at least the question is answered.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Members of the D&H Family

And after no small amount of swearing, ranting, screaming and general bad temper I have FINALLY got my hands on all of the little Imperial Lego minifigs that I want. I have nine Bluecoats to represent the French, four Redcoats to represent the English and I have even got a little cannon, gunpowder and an ammo chest. I'll dream of getting some horses. Their shit is less expensive.

When Andrew and I tested out some of the skirmish rules on Sunday night, the Legos were really quite useful for positioning people on our imaginary little map. No neccessary but as a tactile fetish they were perfect.

So ... HURRAH!


Friday, November 09, 2007

One for the clever sods

Consider the new high price of petrol in the UK?
Consider the new high exchange with the dollar?
Consider the traditionally lower price of petrol in the US?

What relative price/exchange rate and volume would we have to see for it to become cheaper to buy petrol in the US and ship it over to the UK, than buy it on a Shell forecourt?*


* Yes, I know we wouldn't be ABLE to do it - its hypothetical!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Tale of Four Groups

There was a time when I struggled to get a roleplaying game together. Months - even years - went by without the pleasure of sitting around a table, chucking dice and enjoying the thrill of a good game. The barren years were ... well, barren. More frustrating were the barren weeks - those infuriating weeks when our group couldn't sustain a game past one week or even get it from the messageboard to the table. It wasn't good.

Now however the state of gaming nirvana has reached a new and palpably stable level. I'm now part of FOUR - yes, read that - FOUR gaming groups. Actually thats a slight misrepresentation of the facts. I am part of one pretty large group of gamers who have formed four groups that I am involved in. So, without further ado...

GROUP ONE - Sundays, Matt's House. Currently playing Pendragon with a side order of Spirit of the Century. Easily the longest group, stretching back around six years. We've played D&D, Buffy, Shadowrun, WFRP, Exalted and no doubt some more before we landed at the Great Pendragon campaign. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew, Matt, Ian and Nigel

GROUP TWO - Thursdays, Dave's House. Currently about to play Cold City. The smaller, experimentalist group. We've played a simplification of Primetime Adventures (yes, I did say simplification - its possible) as 'Ben's As Yet Unnamed Horror Campaign' or BAYUHC and we have playtested Ben's 'Liberty Comics Presents...' system. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew and Ben.

GROUP THREE - Sundays (the 'other' Sundays), Neil's House. Recently convened to playtest Duty and Honour for me. Exciting. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew, Ben and Nigel.

THE BOARDGAME GROUP - Saturdays (once a month), rotating venue. This is essentially the overarching collective group that we belong to. Everyone is welcome. Its a night to eat loads of snack food, drink a little and play some silly boardgames like Munchkin and Zombietown. So far the following have appeared at the gaming table: Neil, Dave, Andrew, Craig, Ben, Graham, Mark, Iain and Dave (Horni)

I just wanted to put this moment into evidence. How fucking cool is this much gaming?!


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Omnihedron Productions takes the next step

Baby step admittedly, but another step.

Grabbing the bull by the horns yesterday I rustled up a fledgling website for Duty and Honour under the umbrella. Today's job is to sort out the front page of the site index and then spin out another set of pages suitable for Ben's 'Liberty Comics Presents...' material.

I also sat down and did some of the maths about the monies needed to get this venture off the ground - including printing, artwork, promotional materials, convention attendence etc. and it is all very do-able. VERY do-able. All systems go!


Vacuum vs Purpose

I hate working in a vacuum. It really sucks.

Do you see what I did there? God, light entertainment lost a lot when I chose not to take the stage! Anyway despite my sometime epiphet as 'The Iron DM' I haven't actually refereed anything worthy of the name of a game for nearly two years now. A couple of one shot playtests and a few games of A Faery's Tale with the kids but no ongoing campaigns or such. There have been times that I have felt the surge of the creative spirit but in the end it is always tempered by tiredness and our gaming timetable. And the vacuum effect.

It always hits me whenever I sit down and address that gaming urge - whats the point? I have limited time and energy - why should I be wasting it on game development if I am not sure that it is going to be used? So much of what we do in our gaming nowadays is context-based that designing something 'in a vacuum' is pointless. How can you do anything without the characters there in front of you - as in virtually all of our gaming the characters not only drive the story but also the NPCs and the background! And you don't get the characters until your are in the GMing hotseat.

It even comes down to testing out systems. I have tried SO hard to test out the character generation for The Burning Wheel but without a context it is almost impossible. Without some lens to focus that smorgasbord of generic fantasy into the searing light of an interesting character it all seems ... pointless.

So why all of this self-reflective naval gazing?

Well as astute Bottom of the Glass readers will be aware I have been a tad pre-occupied of late with work and gaming issues. Work appears to have started towards a conclusion, one way or another, and gaming is working out quite nicely too. My involvement with The Collective Endeavour has really given me the focus to move Duty and Honour from the 'yeah, its a game that I'm working on' stage to the 'No really, this is actually happening' stage.

Which means I need to start playtesting! STAT! And that means I have to recruit a playtest group. Thats not a problem. 'Group Three' spawned in under a day with Ben, Dave, Andrew and Nigel answering the call to take the King's Shilling on our 'off-Sundays' from Pendragon. And INSTANTLY the vacuum is filled. Pfoof! (as Billy Gunn says in that Options advert)

So last night I settled down and started the research for 'The Cadiz Campaign' - my playtest campaign for Duty and Honour. And it had purpose and reason and felt like a valuable use of my time. Whacked my favourite episode of Sharpe on (Sharpe's Regiment btw - the one where they go back to England and pretend to be recruits - 'Black as BOG!' Love it!) and it was all systems go!


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Right lets get this update underway. First off I'll touch on a subject that I rarely venture to in my blog - work. Work is less than perfect at the moment. Hours are longer, work is more intense and the blame culture is in full flow. Moreover the minutae are overwhelming the bigger picture and it is strangling everything. As a result of that and two rather horrific viruses I have been almost totally unproductive. Inert. Living to work rather than working to live. That sucks.

So what have I been up to? Well, I have returned to WoW after a pretty long break. A new server (The Maelstrom) and a new guild (The Border Reivers) and a new character (Gorthe, a Warrior of all things!). Everything is very pleasant, the guild is an absolute pleasure and the commitment is almost zero. Alls good really - WoW is definitely a 'game' now rather than a lifestyle choice!

I've finally got my roleplaying game, Duty and Honour, into some form that can be properly playtested. I've been conversing a lot with the guys from The Collective Endeavour (see the links in my sidebar) which has been very productive. I like the vibe there and the collective nature of the contributions appeals to the old Leftie in me.

The game itself has changed quite a lot as it moves from being a set of chargen rules and a resolution mechanic and becomes a real game. So far it has been reasonably well received but there is a fair bit of work to be done yet. If anyone is interested they can download the alpha playtest documents here. If you have any comments I would love to hear them.

Fan fiction wise I have been formally given the Teen Titans to write at DCI, which is very cool. I still have Green Lantern on the burner as well. The site is moving along, albeit slowly, but my ability to write is severely curtailed by my lack of energy after work. It'll come.

Roleplaying-wise we are still playing Pendragon and motoring towards the magical sword in the stone moment. The stories of our original characters are coming to the end now and it is going to be a sad moment to see them ride off into the distance but there are lovely new characters ready to take their place. We have also just finished a very-alpha playtest of Ben's 'Liberty Comics Presents...' game and then we will be playing Cold City ran by Andrew. I went to Furnace, a convention in Sheffield, a couple of weeks ago and it was excellent. I played Monkey (a game in development), Mob Justice, Dead of Night, Conspiracy of Shadows and Burning Wheel. Yes, I know, indie games whore...

And thats about it really. Who knows what will come in the near future - I'll just keep on plodding on though.


Friday, October 26, 2007

News of my demise...

... well, you know the rest.

Loads of things are going on at the moment - most very poor, some excellent - but all of them are eating time which I could have dedicated to blogging about them. Oh the irony. I'm going to make an effort to catch up this weekend.

Still here

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Thats all I can say really...


Media Whore!

No, it's not another rant.

My interview with the Sons of Kryos has just been posted on their site. I'm the last one on the podcast. I don't say anything spectacular, I don't pimp my game and I really need to get a new accent. However it is there.

And yes, for those in the know, the irony of me wanting to 'soak my feet' in light of the subsequent infection etc. was chuckle-worthy.


Monday, October 08, 2007

The General Election That Never Was...

... mentioned by Gordon Brown. Ever. At all. What the hell happened here? Was it the final crescendo of the silly season? Is there honestly nothing else to be done than this. Did the PM ever mention having an election. No. Has he ever suggested it? No. Have any of his ministers mentioned it? No. So nobody in the Labour Party has said there would be an election.

So whats the fuss?

Ah they never said there WOULDN'T be an election! Well thats spectacular. I'm sure that Golden Brown (textured like sun) has better things to do than constantly placate the banal speculation of the media. I was watching the incredibly irritating SKY news on Friday and these things were trumpetted as 'sure signs of an upcoming election' - a statement on Iraq and the comprehensive spending review. Wow! At the start of the parliamentary session, the PM will have the audacity of speaking to the most contraversial foreign policy of the decade and matters of the economy, which is pretty central to the business of government. Oh, and the PM cleared his diary. Shock!

No, this was an election inseminated, gestated and coddled in the womb of the media. They want an election because elections mean sales. They created a no-win scenario for Brown. They started the speculation in time for the Conservative Party conference and let the Tories undercut Brown when Brown was really not in the position to undercut. He had to make a choice - election on the backfoot or 'bottle' a situation he never prescribed to. Wonderful.

Remember who runs the minds of the country kids. I'll give you a hint - they don't work in Westminster.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Under Pressure (do do do dododo do)

Well, where have I been? I've been shackled to my job for the last month or so. It's not my practice to talk about work matters on my blog (see my first ever post as to why) but needless to say it has been a shitty few weeks, I am not at all happy and it doesn't look like it's getting any less shitty soon. Hurrah!

Well, this has really taken the wind out of my sails when it comes to game design. I still have my milestone to aim for - Furnace 2007 - but in the end I come in from work every night absolutely knackered and usually quite dismayed at what has gone before. Not the best frame of mind to be entering a creative space. There's been precious little fanfic written recently either. In the end my life appears to have been put on hold for the sake of Freshers Week and the travails of the workplace.

I have been able to achieve a few things however. Reading is still well within my grasp and I have been scouring eBay and other places for research material. Sadly there aren't a lot of accessible books on life as a British footsoldier in Wellington's Army but I did discover Wellington's Victories which is winging it's way to me now. I have also been reading Harbours and High Seas and Every Man Will Do His Duty as well as Commanding a Kings Ship (which sits between the overly familiar Hornblower and the exceptionally wordy O'Brien). What was funny is that on my Facebook page, a friend of mine commented on my digital bookshelf that it was not the sort of stuff he expected me to read. And do you know what? He's right!

Despite the assurances of my parents, I have no great memories of being a great fiction reader when I was a kid. Comics? Oh God yes. Maps? I devoured them. Non-fiction books on war and soldiers and snakes and more maps? Yeah, absolutely. Actual novels? Simply not my thing. I remember reading 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings', 'Starship Troopers' and 'Citizen of the Galaxy' and a few more, but nothing like my peers. When I did start reading a lot it was pretty standard fare for a roleplayer of my age - Gemmell, Pratchett, Donaldson, May and other random stuff. Later, as I grew older I discovered a liking for SF military novels, like Honour Harrington and the Hope series and also a roleplaying resonance with Urban Fantasy like Laurell K Hamilton and Kim Harrison. However this was all rather, well, predictable. It's what happens when you only EVER look at the SF/Fantasy section of Borders. OK, I might make a foray into the Horror section but not often.

Once I ventured out of the SF section I discovered a massive array of books that I was really interested in. Books about the past. Books about real people and real things, even if they are told in a fictional setting. I've started to stalk the History section of Borders now and they have some very cool things. It's an entire new thing to do - although I am aware that I need to avoid letting my collectors gene loose on this or it could get messy!

I didn't have a very good History teacher at school and it never quite hit with me like it could have. Similarly I only ever had one really inspirational English teacher and he stayed for only a term. I was pretty much a maths and science bod, with a sideline in arty stuff. Maybe if things had gone a little differently I would have taken a different path and discovered this interest earlier on ... and not taken the path that lead to the hellhole of pressue I'm in today.

Yes folks, my problems at work are to do with having a shite History teacher!! You heard it here first.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A lesser man would go SQUEEE!!

I've been meaning to show this off for a few weeks but I have never really had the time in the midst of the pre-Freshers Week chaos. This is the rough for the cover of Duty and Honour. I'm really pleased how my cack-handed composition instructions turned out and even in the very rough state of the image, the way it just screams the game to me. It's certainly made it seem very really and very exciting. The artist who is doing it is a guy called Peter Frain and I expect to be pimping him to high heaven when I get the finished piece. Anyway, without further ado, the rough cover art!

Oh ok... SQUEEEEE!!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back in the (Sword) Swing of Things

Pendragon is back and back with a bang!

Sometimes my mind boggles at the way our GM, Nigel, manages to take the massive complicated morass of 'stuff' that has been shoe-horned into this campaign and consistently come up with a game that proves engaging, dramatic and most of all escapes being engulfed by the tome it is drawn from. There has been some critique on 'Story Games' regarding TGPC and whether it is too restrictive regarding the actions of the players. I think this session was a perfect example of how this is simply not the case at all!

Lets recap where we are. It's the winter of 504 and Britain is in turmoil. Saxons, Cornish and Irish are ravaging the country and there is still no real sign of a High King. Nanteleod, a welsh king, has been pushing through Wales and the north, but has not yet tackled the burgeoning Saxon problem. In response to this, we, the ruling knights of Salisbury, have been on a little expansionist push of our own, effectively annexxing Marlborough and casting glances at Oxford and the rest of Rhydychan (or however you spell it!). Our cause is helped by the Countess Rhyd-whatever being an ally and begging our Countess to help out.

Thats the metaplot - what about the actual game?

The main central piece of this game was the love triangle between Sir Aeryn the Younger, the half-fey manipulator Rhiannon and the scheming Sir Merrin. Aeryn loves Rhiannon. Rhiannon loves Aeryn. Merrin has a pact with her father, the King of the Forest Sauvage, to have her hand in marriage. She has no choice but to enter this loveless union. It's magnificent and totally Arthurian! If you want to get even deeper it's almost the antithesis of the themes that have been running through the storyline of my character, Brion - family, fidelity, children, love and faithfulness.

The marriage itself wasn't the centrepiece - it was the scenes around it. The initial rebuff of Aeryn as she broke the news, the cold, almost staged nature of Rhiannon's acceptance of the proposal, Aeryns conspicuous absence from the wedding, his night before the wedding final attempt to win her heart and Merrin's automatically controlling changes to her lifestyle - moving her to his castle, annexing the Tower of Babel and seeking to use his power as Chancellor to legitimise Aeryn's bastard son as his own ward.

You would think that he wanted to die a slow and painful death at the end of Aeryn's sword!

However, thats not all! The spring festival was attacked by British mercenaries hired by the Saxons to confuse us. All very bizarre. However, the battle was again just a ruse behind which a smorgasbord of personal issues played out. Merrin's desperate attempts to protect his bride-to-be at the cost of his own body. Aeryn's son rushing to Merrin's aid and being firmly put in his place. Aeryn himself single handedly taking the gatehouse and the archers, because he IS the best swordsman in the land. Guillame protecting his churchmen and his Countess - a theme that seems to be rising in prominence with him. And Brion? Him and Cullwch tearing through the courtyard back-to-back ('the Irish wrecking machine') and then him rallying the troops and driving the usurpers to their doom. All great stuff, especially as the 'no armour' situation added to the danger and suspense.

And that is just the first part of the year!

I still haven't written about the machinations of the politics that we have to get up to in order to keep our borders even passingly safe or the building programmes that have been undertaken. It doesn't take into account the plotting of battles or the balancing of troop movements or the consideration of treaties. Why? Because in the end thats window dressing to some of the great character displays that are being had in the game.

Character centred, character driven stories with a great deep background and something for everyone? I don't care whether it's labelled 'story' or not - it's a damned fine game!


Sunday, September 02, 2007

I Do Not Understand eBay

Maybe someone could explain, because it is beyond my small brain.

I'm currently looking for some LEGO Imperial Soldiers (as featured below) so that I can whip them out when I demo Duty and Honour, in case I need them. I have managed to pick up a slack handful of french ones from Tynemouth Market, but the redcoats are a little more elusive.

So on eBay, the motherlode appears. 25 Redcoats, 5 Blueboats, Flags and 3 cannon. This is it. This is the Auction of Doom. £0.01 starting bid, £0.99 postage, 7 days to go. Excellent.

Two days in, 8 IDIOTS have bidded and it's standing at £18.00.


I simply do not understand the mentality. Yes, I know that this lot is going to go for silly money because each of the figures individually sells for around £2.00, but there was a chance - a scant outside chance - that it could have been a bargain. I mean, the idiot known only to the internet as digger_1967 bidded £1.00 with five days to go. Why bother? Look at the other similar auctions? Do you honestly think you would snaffle this under the noses of everyone else for five whole days? No. And then we have ht2fred who bumped the bid up to £15.00. Well done. That would have been excellent work - with 20 seconds to go! But no, no - do it FOUR DAYS BEFORE THE END OF THE AUCTION!

Anyone who has used eBay knows that the 'action' happens in the last ten seconds of any hot bid and the winner will be the person with the fastest processor and the best click-speed or bid-bot. Bidding early only serves to bump up the inevitable end price of the lot. You're not going to scare anyone off with your £1.20 bids or even your £18.00 bid so early. You're just wasting your time.

And costing me money....


Friday, August 31, 2007

An Un-Civil Review: Civil War

I have finally got around to reading the tpb of Civil War, Marvel's recent blockbuster event. It's something that I have put off for a while because I really haven't been enjoying Marvel's product at the moment and this, alongside the debacle of Avengers:Disassembled, were the cornerstones of that lack of enjoyment. Still, it's unfair to judge something without having sampled so I read on.

To it's credit there are some rather good bits in the story. Any full page panel of Hercules, Mjolnir and Thor, loads of violence and the line 'Thou Art No THOR!' is going to get me slightly damp in the panty regions. Some of the language was good too - I particularly liked the two word interchange between Spidey and Reed Richards 'Amazing','Spectacular'. Not only was it a nice nod to the names of the Spiderman comics, but it was also a pleasantly acceptable rip from the end of Infinite Crisis#7 when Superman states (and I paraphrase) 'Its not about what you wear, it's about what you do, it's about Action'. I enjoy clever wordplay like that. It makes me smile. The art was also exceptional, with some excellent renditions of characters and good action sequences. I'll be looking out for McNiven's stuff in the future. And some of the characters came across REALLY well - especially Sue Storm, Spiderman and strangely, Tony Stark. Yes, I can accept that Iron Man is that much of an asshole. He always has been.

However, thats where the good bits pale into insignificance for me. And that little bit at the end is probably the most pivotal bit - for me - because I think that Civil War (and it's otherworldly cousin, Infinite Crisis) mark a sea change in modern comic books. I think certainly for Marvel it is a story that has opened a Pandoras Box, one that will be almost impossible to close.

In modern British politics, it is often said that the three main parties have very little to differentiate them for one another and the two main parties are so similar that if they changed government no-one would notice. I think for many years, editorially, this could have been said for Marvel and DC as well. Sure they did things differently on an operational level, but really they were following the same comics paradigm. Superheroes in superworlds with supervillains. It's almost as if Dan Didio and Joe Quesada sat down and decided that the status quo had to change. They flipped a coin. Didio took his company back towards it's Silver Age roots whilst Quesada jumped the rails completely, had Sentry punch out the Fourth Wall and planted the Marvel Universe firmly in the real world.

Thats the concept of Civil War - in light of an ill-timed attempt to capture some villains by a neophyte superteam hundreds of children were killed by an exploding villain. This tragedy triggers a reaction by the US Government to register superheroes and have them paid, trained and accountable to the taxpayer as federal employees. Some people agree. Some disagree. They fight. Shit happens and then in the face of members of the emergency services physically intervening, Captain America (the face of the resistance) stands down and the 'free' superheroes 'lose'. End of.

In some ways this is a fantastic read because it faces you with inescapable logic based on the workings of our modern society today. In a world where a young man wearing a hooded sweatshirt can instill fear and dread simply by his presence on a street, what chance harmony if that same young man could throw cars around? You would want that destructive potential trained, controlled and registered. You would want some say as to where that potential existed in your community. You would want to control it. We see this in our media and on our streets every single day nowadays and it is mirrored amazingly in the comic. There is one character, the mother of one of the children, who appears in the comic and makes these blanket emotional statements that you simply cannot argue against... but you have to. Something deep inside you tells you that there is something wrong here but you cannot put your finger on it. And then when 'Black Goliath' is killed whilst resisting arrest, she says that it was his fault because he was breaking the law and the finger begins to be put on it. Its that 'any means necessary' attitude. Thats what grates slightly. Thats what makes you sit, ill at ease.

And then the Pandora's box is opened up. The King no longer has his new clothes. Suspension of disbelief has occured because Millar has placed a veneer of real world morality upon a superhero scenario. You can't stop with registration. What happens next? If you can mirror issues such as teenage killings, gangs, gun control etc (all of which are analogised in Civil War) then really you need to be looking at issues such as immigration, world hunger, real natural disasters, military dictatorships, global warming - and I am sure we have seen some of this already before in Kingdom Come, Squadron Supreme and Rising Stars.

The problem is, all of them are either alternative reality or out of continuity stories. This is the mainstream Marvel Universe. This is arguably the biggest comics company in the world. It has to follow through with it. It cannot now ignore what it has done. Real world issues now effect the Marvel Universe and 90% of it's heroes are federal agents. Telepaths working homicide duty? Weather controllers averting tropical storms around New Orleans? Reed Richards and Hank Pym putting their minds to cures for cancer and the common cold? If YOU were the Head of SHIELD, what would YOU put them to work upon?

Its a sobering thought

And therein lies the problem, for me. The concept is very strong but almost too strong. There is no way that I can see that Marvel can legitimately retrace their steps now. There is clear blue comic shop between DC and Marvel. DC is printing (amazingly violent) traditional comics and Marvel would appear to have moved it's focus into the world of the pseudo-real. For me, thats not what comics are for. I have always been a big fan of keeping real world and comics world seperate. Answers to real world issues are too easy with superpowered solutions. It makes a mockery of our trials.

And indeed, nothing could be more apparent as a stamping of this than what happened to the moral centres of the two companies in these stories. In Infinite Crisis, the world is going to pot - it's dark, it's scary and really it's very bad. And then Superman comes to the rescue. Not just any Superman. THE Superman. As if to remind everyone of the moral code and fictional conventions that underpin the DCU. And in the reprecussions of Civil War what happens?

Captain America is killed. Shot on the steps of the Court House.

And who is the new popular moral centre of the MU? Iron Man, the instigator of the Civil War.

No greater statement could be said.

I'll revise my statements however. Civil War is not a bad story as a trade paperback. Any comic that can make anyone think this much about the implications and the themes of the story has to be pretty well written.

I will therefore retarget my ire at the editors. What a bag of shite. Guys, look. Its dead easy. When you have one of these big crossovers in one TPB, and you insist on writing the story so that the reader has to read some of the crossovers to get the bigger picture, please, for the love of god, do some extra exposition pages?

Why is Cable here? Why does he suddenly become a pussy half way through the book?
Thor? Clone? When? Where? How? PLEASE EXPLAIN?!

And my favourite...

Decades ago one of the more potent characters in the MU, Captain Marvel, died of cancer. He has, in the most part, remained dead. In this story, he returned in a one-shot special called 'The Return'. NONE OF THIS WAS MENTIONED IN THE TPB. We just got a shot of Captain Marvel, as part of a larger group of superheroes. WHAT THE FUCK?!

Choppy, shoddy, horrible HORRIBLE editing with no eye to creating a fully flowing story made this painful to read in places and it fails as a tradepaperback.

So there you have it - Civil War - quite possibly one of the most important stories ever told in the Marvel Universe IF they can maintain their stance on the very important issues they have raised.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Front Rank Fire!

Well, finally, I have managed to put together something that seems like a pseudo-playable document for Duty and Honour. OK, so the first thing that you read is a list of all of the bits and bobs that are MISSING from the game but thats a good thing. Why? Because it means that I managed to get my shit together enough to be able to see the wheat from the chaff, the proverbial wood for the trees - I now have my target and I am ready to rumble towards it.

You can download the file from if the urge grabs you. If you have any feedback, that would be awesome.


Monday, August 27, 2007

GenCon 2007: Highs and Lows

Well, one week after returning from GenCon I think I have managed to assimilate everything that has gone on enough to post about it lucidly. It was an absolute experience - and yes, I mean that in every way that it can be read. Some parts of it were pure, unadulterated awesome whilst other parts of it were confusing, frustrating and downright painful. So lets take the low road and the high road there and back from GenCon, shall we?

High Road: There's something quite empowering about a road trip, allowing a nice slow build of excitement towards the main event. Apart from a twin/double room mix-up, the arrangements for the journey went perfectly. All of the flights were relatively on time, all of the rooms were decent and not once did we get the 'I'm sorry sir, there's no-one booked under that name' look.

Low Road: Manchester Airport is a dive and their 'food village' is a joke. American Airlines is a very nice airline but in the end their seats are not made for people the width of Andrew and I, not the height of Pete. Eight hours of uncomfortable squirming and in-seat taichi each way made me want to lose weight more than ever. Add to that the ridiculously tight transfer time across O'Hare airport (you would think that two and a half hours would be long enough, wouldn't you?) and it wasn't as easy as we would have liked it to be. Still, a little drama never hurt anyone!

High Road: America is always an amazing place, but it is moreso when the currency has been pummelled into nothingness. £1=$2 makes a massive difference to the purchasing power we had over there. Nothing was too expensive. NOTHING. Want a top of the menu steak dinner? Thats £9. Want an extra round of drinks? Thats £1.50. Want to try that game? Thats just £10 so why not. Even the generic con tickets were only £0.75. Everything was a bargain. Oh, and the weather broke just as we arrived, taking the temperatures down from the humid high 30s to the dry mid 20s. Still hot enough to be pleasant, but not so hot as to be offensive.

Low Road: I shake my head at a country of excess. As many of you are aware, I am not a small person and I quite like my food. However, when I cannot finish a STARTER because it is too substantial, you know that there is something very very wrong. The portion sizes were just ridiculous and we were assure by the waitress that they were not sharing starters and that average mid-west yanks did indeed order a starter, main and dessert. I mean honestly! That explained some of the people we saw at the con. Anywhere when I can be considered average sized has to be a little over-consumed!

High Road: It was great to see all of my CCG buddies again - the Raw Deal players and the RD alumni that have graduated onto other games. I've waxed lyrical in other blog posts about the bittersweet nature of these meetings, but by now I have realised that I think I will be back again and I will see these people again. There was nothing quite like entering the RD room and being greeted so warmly by players despite my long hiatus from the game. I got to eat with Antigoth and Matt Hatcher and Jason Griffey. I got to chat to Zev again and I got to attend an MLX again. It was good times indeed.

Low Road: I'll say it here, publically - Raw Deal is in a whole world of pain at the moment. Seeing the Comic Images 'booth' and the presentation of the World Qualifiers in comparison to the presentations by companies like Sabretooth Games and UDE really underlined that there is something lacking. There was just no big game feeling to the events, no real investment in the games future and no ... heart. It was heart rending really, as the people that were playing were obviously still loving playing the game. I would say that something has to change, but I think it might be too late to turnaround such a dire situation.

High Road: Oh the Exhibitors Hall! It's more than I could ever imagine and then some. Want to see CCGs? New ones? Old ones? Yup. Want to play MMOs? Try the new WoW expansion? Play the amazing Pirates of the Burning Sea? See Age of Conan? Warhammer? Yup, thats all there. Want to try new RPGs? Oh my GOD! So many games. So many fookin games! And so cheap. The only way I can describe it is a shop twice the size of something like Memorabilia at the NEC with loads of demos and boardgames and nachos vendors and ... oh it was brilliant!! I could have happily stayed there for the entire convention. And indeed, I nearly did.

Low Road: Too much, too quickly - and my feet gave up. Despite wearing my very most comfortable shoes, I got a horrid big blister on the bottom of my foot, which became nicely infected. I was wondering why I could only manage to do one or two things and then need to sit down and rest. Not just rest because I was tired - really REST, because I was going to collapse otherwise. Well, I had a nice shivers attack on Sunday night and fevered until Monday morning. In the end I was diagnosed with a soft tissue infection of my toe that was crawling nicely towards my ankle. Nice. Needless to say that if I hadn't been laid low with this malady, I would have managed to do a load more stuff.

High Road: So what did I manage to do? Well, we had a demo of Cold City by the creator Malcolm Craig which really sold us on the game. Andrew and I also had a very nice man from BWHQ show is the ins and outs of Burning Wheel combat - unveiling the simplicity behind a very complicated looking system. I talked with a number of people that I have talked to online - indeed, the best thing I did was write 'You may know me online as Vodkashok' on my badge. I also got interviewed by the Sons of Kryos for their podcast, which was a load of fun. I played some Primetime Adventures which was great.

Low Road: I never really got to grips with Games on Demand, which is actually 'Games when Available'. I never managed to get myself to the Embassy for the evening games sessions. I never really played much at all. I did go out drinking one night which was a total mistake as my illness and a hangover nearly killed me. In the end, this GenCon felt like a scouting mission for a larger, more focused mission in the future. Now I know some of the tricks of the trade - like getting your badge on Wednesday, preordering Generics, getting EVEN MORE COMFORTABLE SHOES and most of all, getting a hotel nearer the venue - I reckon I can get a lot more out of it.

High Road: What else happened? Well, I was there, in the room, when 4th Edition was announced for Dungeons and Dragons. That was kind of cool. I had a very good chat with some of the indie games guys about the ins and outs of self-publishing which was one of my desires for the con anyway. And I had a really really good time. That was the main reason for going - to have fun. And despite my bodies great attempts to make things otherwise, I did. And I will again.

Oh.. and what did I purchase?

A Faery's Tale Deluxe - signed by the writer for the girls
10 Faery's Tale specific dice
GURPS Age of Napoleon - Duty and Honour research material
Giants - an Ashcan of a game of giants and their communities
Burning Wheel: Jihad - Its Dune. Even the BW guys admit it's Dune
Burning Wheel: The Blossoms Are Falling - BW does Bushido
Full Light, Full Steam - oh, it's brilliant. Just brilliant! Better than that!
Cold City Companion - more cold war goodness


Monday, August 13, 2007

The Matrix Revelation

I had a bit of a revelation as I was watching The Matrix with the kids at the weekend and it had to do with emulation, system and narration in roleplaying games. With full knowledge of what was coming, I sat ready to watch 'the lobby scene' and then I started thinking - how would you do the lobby scene in a game?

My initial thought was about the mechanics that would be needed to create the same effect in a game - the guns, the avoidance, the acrobatics etc. No, thats not going to work is it, because the very nature of most mechanics heavy systems would decimate any immediacy of the action. Then I turned to some mook rule system, but that too just seemed too clunky and indeed maybe a little out-0f-genre for the movie where anyone can be a danger. This naturally took to the other extreme and the idea of narration and the dread conflict resolution. But even then when I thought about it I could not see how the system would recreate that scene.

And then the revelation came. Of course the sytsem wouldn't be able to emulate or recreate that scene. Lets face it - how many times have you played through anything as good as that in a game? How many times has any given system delivered that impact and 'WoW!' factor? Never. I would wager.

Thats because it isn't the system that 'delivers the Awesome' - its the players.

And sometimes thats a thing I think we forget. The players are going to add that X-Factor to a game that will make it or break it. As a designer, we cannot build that into the game as everyone's Lobby Scene will be different - all we can do is make sure that the mechanics we do have don't get in the way of that marvellous invention. As Games Masters we have to recognise when a player is about the throw back his trenchcoat and blow seven colours of shit out of the game with a large Awesome cannon and we have to let them run with it. As players, we have to simply not accept the mundane in the games that we play. We have to push the envelope if we are going to deliver memorable moments.

To quote the film in question:

Trinity: Neo... nobody has ever done this before.
Neo: I know. That's why it's going to work


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sharpe Bricks?

Inspired by this thread whilst pottering around Tynemouth Market this morning, I spotted something amazing. When I got home, I flew onto the web and after a little search-fu, I found the rest. Oh My God!
You can get Napoleonic Lego Minifigs! You can get them in English red, French Blue and some Spanish looking ones too. Standard redcoats and 'command' figures. I have no idea what I can do with them, but I must be able to do SOMETHING.
Oh and you can also get some really REALLY cool 'Spirit of the Century' style ones too.

Blast from the Past!

Little trip down memory lane for the Gaming Guys. Found this hiding on some ftp space I was clearing out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

T E E N T I T A N S Teen Titans, let's GO!!

I rarely post on here about my fanfiction - the 'other' hobby - but at the moment I am about to engage with a new series, one that I have been waiting for ages to write. Teen Titans.

If you are asking 'who' I will explain - they are the DC universe's young heroes, starting off as the sidekicks group and growing into a sort of Justice League Junior. So you get hardcore DC continuity superheroing and some great teenage interactions.

I've been a fan of the Titans comic book for years, but it has never been a fanfic title I have wanted to handle until recently. Whilst I am a bit of a team title addict and most of my more popular fanfic titles have been either teams or ensemble titles there is a certain something about the DC mainstream titles that has been off-putting. Justice League is generally unavailable or like gold dust, I'm too close to JSA to be able to do a decent job, Legion is too complicated - Titans seems like the perfect fit. In addition to that, I love my teen comedy and teen sports films. Yeah, I know, they are trash but what the hell. There's something strangely famillar about them that reaches out to me. I think it's because I never really 'did' being a teenager that I find it so fascinating.

The trick, I think, will be to make my Titans wholly different from my other title, Green Lantern. GL is very mainstream to the sites continuity and I do a lot of things in order to forward the sites metaplot with that title. Indeed, sometimes that means that the characters lose a little intimacy as they are hurtling around the Universe. So I want to get Titans down and dirty a little. Something more character driven than plot driven.

Of course, I now have the best bit to come - choosing *my* Titans roster. Thats going to be interesting!


GenCon Countdown has Commenced

In two weeks time I will be packing for GenCon.

Lets just understand that sentence for what it truely means. 25 years after I started roleplaying I will finally be making my way to the biggest gaming convention in the world. Thats pretty damned cool. Moreover I will be in the position to not scrimp and save money when I am there, making it a true 'holiday of a lifetime'. I am very very excited.

I would be wrong if I didn't say there was a certain degree of pathos attached to the entire affair as well. The finances for this venture have come from a large slice of inheritance that has come my way since last year, which is sad. However I am sure that all of the family members involved wouldn't begrudge me my dream holiday on the back of it. I also resolved late last year, after I parted company finally with Comic Images, that I would never again see a number of my friends that I had made during my sojourns to Wrestlemania. Indeed, the realisation of internet acquaintance into real-life associate had an unexpected effect on me - I can understand how people can get hooked on their online sweethearts so much that they marry. So it is a good thing that I will be seeing so many of them again, but a bad thing that I might never again. Again.

Thats all chicken feed to the fact that I am going however. The travel arrangements are almost sorted (barring one stop-over hotel and some car parking) although I need to put together a little information pack for my companions so that we all have copies of the travel information. I haven't bothered signing up for anything as I'm pretty sure I will be able to find more than enough stuff to do in the ad hoc games department. I have suitable clothes, a good bag, a great mobile phone that can double as a note taker, a travel plug, a good inflight book, some allergy tablets and other assorted approved medicines. Things are looking pretty sorted.

Well, sort of. Of course there had to be one fly in the ointment. I have just had MI:666 returned to me after it's strange journey into the armed forces. Which means that I don't have my primary game ready to take with me. I have been working furiously on Duty and Honour and that is in far better shape, but as yet not really felt the full force of playtesting. I think they will have to wait - or at least travel over in a very unfinished form. Unless I can magic some extra time over the next two weeks.

My shopping list of games grows daily as well - Dictionary of Mu, Full Light Full Steam, Faerys Tale Deluxe, The Blossoms Are Falling, Zorcerer of Zo, Committee for the Investigation of Thingy and probably some others too. *sob*

And with that... SQUEEEEEE!


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hot, Damned Hot. No Really. Hotter Than That!

Well, I'm back from my first overseas family holiday in twelve years and all I can say is ... phew! Scorchio! Cyprus has been ridiculously hot this year. 'Hotter than living memory' sort of hot. 35-38 degrees C with virtually no wind, 60% plus relative humidity and not one single drop of precipitation. This is too much for a average Gow to handle. Hot is not good for me. I don't do hot. I'm not made for hot. It becomes a strange affair when fruit juice and bottled water becomes more important than beer. It is even stranger when the status of the ice cubes in the apartment is a matter of familial import. Indeed, the best buy of the weekend was the air conditioning in the room. £30 well spent. It was so hot you had to close the patio doors to keep the room cool rather than the other way around. Well strange.

On the positive side, it has to have been one of the most relaxing weeks I have ever had. I have never slept so much, never relaxed so much, never been able to put the stresses and pressures of life behind me so much. Which is ironic really as I knew that the results of my job regrading were lying in an envelope at home for me and I had the potential to have a couple of resignations sat on my desk when I got back. But there was NOTHING I could do out there, so fooey!

There are some inevitable ironies on these holidays. The first is that you travel a couple of 1000 miles to a different country and your kids make friends with two kids who live in Tynemouth. Like about a mile from where we live. You have to giggle.

The holiday did underpin a number of my views on this sort of package holiday in a tourist trap. I've resigned myself that I am still an old leftie at heart and my views on the role of the British abroad are pretty harsh. I hate the average british tourist and their stereotypical attitudes of cultural imperialism. I abhore the concept of going to the other side of the world, living (apparently) in a different culture for any length of time and then seeking out a 'Queen Vic' pub, a 'proper' fried breakfast and only every speaking in, and to, English. Cyprus makes this all too easy in that the UK used to administer it so everything is in English, they drive on the left side of the road, their beer comes in pints, their currency is the pound ... you get the idea! It seemed hard to find something honestly hellenic in the bloody place. Especially as the tourist area (Kato Paphos) is so detached from the old town.

Paphos itself is a strange place. It is not Ayia Napa! Nor is it a quiet docile village. It is the place where families go when their kids are in their middle teens, for that one last painful family holiday before they unleash their hormone-addled spawn on the flesh pits of the Med. Loads of teenage boys and girls wandering around with little thunderclouds above their heads DESPERATE to get pissed and shag each other, but totally unable to because their chubby little chava parents are adamant that they should sit with them at the pool bar and drink slushes. Comedy. On the other hand it is also the perfect place for the young couple away on their first holiday together. Last year they met, slurred at each other, rutted basely on the beach, vomited in unison and pledged their undying love over a split E. Now they return to Cyprus, holding hands, walking down the beach, eating in tavernas and radiating BOREDBOREDBORED around them. Again comedy.

Time share touts are another joy of Med holidays that I find almost a sport. We arrived at 06.00 and after a small sleep ventured out for food and water at around midday. We were blindsided by a couple on a scooter who asked whether we were English. Thinking, in our fuddled state 'hey, maybe these are nice people?' we said yes and they 'explained' that they were working for the Cypriot Tourist Board promoting return visits to the island as they were predicting a downturn when it enters the Euro. We were given little scratch cards and amazingly, I won the star prize! (who'd have thought it!) At this point my SCUM senses were flashing as the prizes were 'Camcorder' or '£300' or 'DREAM holiday' - I've been here before, when I was much younger and much more niaive, making a trip to Wooler to be given a bag of shite. However, to claim my star prize, I HAD to go NOW to the next resort and if I didn't I wouldn't get it. Oh there were other things flashing around but it was so blatantly obvious they were time share. I challenged them on it, and asked for ID (which they had left in their hotel...) and then they claimed that the Co-Op is a time share front. Really? Honestly? BWAHAHAHA. At this point I started playing with them when they suggested that they should come and take us to the tourist centre the next morning (hey, that deadline suddenly moved). Sure yes, come and get us. We'll be at the Water Park, but you can wait, fuckwit.

We ran into this scooter riding couple half a dozen times in the week. Each time I was nastier and nastier with them, but they had to maintain their friendly facade. Eventually on the last day, my fun having been had, I told them to fuck off. So much fun with so stupid a couple of tards.

The trip to the Water Park was loads of fun ... for the kids. I do not do risky, dangerous things. Normal laws of physics tend to break down when faced with my weight and general compressed mass. 'Kamakaze Death Slides' just fill me with dread. I did try to 'Lazy River' ride which resulted in some comedy moments as I tried to mount the inflatable tyre (nearly drowning Christine in the process) and then floated around the park. I was in the sun for around 10 minutes. I look like I have been blasted by a Death Star! I hate sunburn with a passion. Really, nothing annoys me more. It's avoidable and therefore embarassing. Grrrrrr. We also went to the Paphos Bird and Animal Park. Now I'm a sucker for a good zoo (and yes, I know how evil they are, but sometimes I have to balance that with the experience they give) and this was a good zoo. Until we got to the Parrot Show. I'm not the greatest fans of circuses and these ridiculous charades come just below them. Oh yes, how wonderful it is to see these animals do their nice 'learned by rote' routines, no doubt done through a nice session of Pavlov's Dogs-esque training. See the parrot count, bike, drive a car, put shapes into places and even feckin' rollerskate. The kids loved it. I hated it. It was embarrassing. I ended up taking sneaky stealthy pictures of the people behind me on my mobile phone. And played Solitaire.

Information deficit is something that I find very hard to handle on holidays. Without my multiple news channels and internet access, I find myself almost inert in my natural environment. I find it fascinating the information 'webs' that we have built around ourselves and our reliance on them. Apparently it has been quite wet here in the UK whilst I have been away. England managed to draw a test match against the odds when they should have won and Lewis Hamilton crashed? And other things may have happened. The flipside of this is that without TV and PC I had to go all old school and do the holiday reading, which this year was mainly a 1000 page non-fiction text on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War. Yes, that interesting! Actually it was and it gave me the brain-space to finally get the last two parts of my Duty and Honour game sorted in my head. Some frantic scribbling later and it now feels like a 'complete' game as I have cracked the 'what the characters do' side of the equation. Hurrah.

So here I am, back again and fully recharged and ready for two weeks of frantic work hell (oh, and having a new kitchen fitted) and then off to GenCon. Woot!!!!!


Nerd North East No More

Due to technical difficulties with the speed of updates of RSS and the absolute information hunger of the users, my little experiment in creating a blog based portal for our gaming groups has been deleted. Damn new technology for not working as it says on the tin!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Dollop of Neil Crack

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the latest cinematic load of crack for me to get all historically excited under my ruffled collar.

Hmmm... period drama goodness!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Communications and Communities

Sometimes you have moments of epiphany - moments that really make you think 'why didn't I think that before?'

This week, I have been attending a conference on 'new media' and 'web 2.0' specifically targetted at the student market. It was a very good experience, with excellent speakers, good delegates, loads of new ideas and no small amount of new lucrative business for my workplace. However, one of the best things that I received was the chance to sit for 48 hours and simply concentrate on 'building web communities'.

Web communities have been a significant part of my life for some years now. They have allowed me to communicate with hundreds of people from around the world, build online friendships that have blossomed into real life friendships and they have been the underpinning feature of my gaming life. One feature of these communities I have seen, however, is a distinct unwillingness to embrace change, especially when it comes to tried and tested methods of communication. I think thats a shame because there are some tools out there that really can enhance community interactions.

Just a few examples - the first being, well, blogging. The more I explore the features available on various blogging platforms the more I become convinced that they can easily replace the old concept of the personal or small group webpage. I have recently been working on a very simple website for my wifes Embroiderers' Guild. This is the first site I have designed for some years and I was bemused by the inappropriate nature of the design brief. The website is a static resource for a very limited amount of information, a short calendar and a photo depository. Oh and some links. Thats cool but ... well, why limit yourself. You can do all of the above with a blog and a or account. Of course what you also get is the ability to have comments and thus create a little interactivity and also many authors. This is all done with minimal IT knowledge, which is crucial for these endeavours or they simply become the purview of the Alpha Geek of the group.

Or alternatively, they could well just all join Facebook and set up their own Facebook group. They have the ability to create events (and generate attendence lists), share photos, create albums, have polls, have their own members pages and dozens of other things with relatively little effort. The same slideshow software can be used here to show the images that they hold so dear and they have a forum and discussion board as well. It's very useful and yet totally outside of that design brief.

And in both of these instances they can easily access RSS feeds - Really Simple Syndication - bring information from other websites onto theirs and creating a dynamic content that will give more reasons for their members to interact with their community pages and therefore generate more content. Content has always been the key to websites but contextualised content is now more important than ever. A website where the boss can pass information down is OK, a site where all of the supposedly equal members can talk and debate and share creates the community that they seek.

In the back of my head, I am applying this theory to the various facets of my gaming community and wondering whether there is a simple way that we can amalgamate our current forum, old pub forum, four blogs and at least three websites that we look at often (via RSS). That would seem to be a way that we could work smarter but is it wholly necessary - well, I guess thats something for the Comments?

Would it be better to have a 'one-stop' gaming group(s) solution whilst maintaining our own blogs etc?


Monday, July 09, 2007

AP: A Faery's Tale: Part 4 (b)

After a brief resume of the previous adventure, the girls settled down for the climax of their tussle with the Goblin King.

Queen Leanan was furious at the audacity of the Goblin King and summoned a full sitting of her high council to debate the response of Brightwood. All day Knights, Ladies, Animal Lords and Wizards arrived from the four corners of her forest and met in a ancient wooded ampitheatre outside of the village. Leanan explained that by actually trying to cause mortal harm to the Knight of Swallows, the Goblin King had broken the most ancient law of the Great Forest. A law that was older that the tallest tree and the deepest root. They had two choices - they could fight back to protect their forest or they could submit to this afront to them and carry on as normal. If they did the latter they would abandon the baby Princess to the Goblin King but they would not themselves break the law. If they attacked, they could rescue the Princess but they would break the Most Ancient Law and they would stand to lose their immortality.

Debate raged across the chamber, with the amassed Knights claiming that might would make right and the Ladies of Flowers claiming that they cannot just leave the baby alone but they also cannot risk their immortality. There was a heated debate going on between Jennifree and Sarah as well - Sarah, predictably, following a more martial solution to the problem, whilst Jennifree was trying to conjure something a little more cerebral! Finally she suggested to the Queen and the Captain of the Guard that they could turn the Goblin King's trick against him. If he had caused a distraction to allow his men to kidnap the Princess, maybe the faeries of Brightwood could themselves cause a distraction and snaffle the Princess back!

It was decided that this was the best plan and the inhabitants of Brightwood began their preperations. Meanwhile, the Queen met with Jennifree and Sarah and some of her most trusted advisors; The Captain of the Guard, the bravest Mouse in Brightwood Sir Squeek and Midgens, her royal magician (another portly and eccentric gnome). A plan was concocted (by the girls!) that they would travel to the borders of Darkwood with the Guard and then proceed alone. As Sarah could turn into a mouse herself, they would use a map (provided by Sir Squeek) of the small places in the Goblin Kings black tower and use that to find the baby. When they did they would place a silver wristband on it and say the magic word ('Leanan') to bring them all home safely. After gathering some provisions (including buttercup butter, acorn soup and blackberries) and a sturdy axe and shield for Sarah, they set off to save the Princess.

They travelled quickly through Brightwood, passing the Raven Rock and the house of the Old Hag and into Darkwood. They moved quickly, knowing that they were being followed by Rat-Things, spying on them from the shadows. Eventually they came to a crossroads being guarded by a two-headed night ogre!! The ogre (called Bigg'un and Little'un) challenged them as they approached, and was ready to bash them. Sarah decided she would distract the ogre by ducking through it's legs whilst Jennifree found her pipes and lulled it to sleep. The lulling worked, but not until Sarah had received a good thumping from a well placed club and was sent spinning across the forest - and nearly relieved of all of her essence! Moving passed the slumbering ogre they pressed on, eventually realising that there was nowhere safe to bed down for the night in the black oppression of Darkwood.

As they moved on, their path lit by faerie light, they realised - from the smell and the sounds of slurping gloop, that they were surrounded by Smelly Things (the elite spies of the Goblin King). Realising that they could not fight their way out, they decided to barter for their freedom. They tried to offer the leader of the Smelly Things food, but as it was all fresh, he wasn't interested. He asked what else they had to offer and eventually they got his interest with their map - him being a collector of secrets. They gave up their map and he let them go - but now their secret entrance was lost and they would have to pass through the Goblin Kings Riddle Gate.

At the Riddle Gate, the giant toothed maw in the door asked them the following riddle:

I am the sound of an animal and the skin of a plant - what am I?

Eventually, after some deliberation, they came close with 'baa' and the door winced at how close they were which twigged them on and they finally answered 'bark!'. The door laughed and swang open to reveal... the chief of the Smelly Things, Goblins, Ogres, Trolls and the Goblin King himself. Waiting for them!

(Meanwhile in the forest, the faeries of Brightwood began their distracting attack, dropping sticky blueberries on things, tying shoelaces together, making flowers grow from noses and purposefully tidying ogre dens!)

The faeries were captured and imprisoned in the Goblin Kings dungeons. Originally I said that they were behind a locked door but Emma decided that she needed some more Essence so she added the complication that it wasn't a door - it was a massive boulder, so massive that even she couldn't move it. Fair enough. She then (obviously having caught on to how the game works!) prompted Lara to spend on of her remaining Essence to have Granite (the troll champion) and Rocknose (his little son) appear in the prison room. OK... She then used her BOON over Granite to have HIM roll back the stone and set them free!!! Sneaky little bugger!

Rocknose was excited to see the faeries but Granite knew that he was going to get into trouble so he let them go but gave them a minutes head start - they ran!!!

As they made their way hurriedly through the castle, they noticed that everyone was streaming towards the central chamber. Sarah turned into a mouse and scooted in to see what was happening. In the chamber she saw hundreds of bad faeries gathered around a pool of bubbling sulphurous mud and on a dias in the middle of the mud stood the Goblin King and the baby Princess. Something was up! Sarah decided to make her run at the Princess whilst Jennifree somehow held off Granite.

However, things are not that easy - the Knight of Wolves smelled the faeries and a massive 'club the mouse' session started. The mouse, however, has Body 5 and Agile and was easily able to avoid the blows.

Meanwhile Jennifree confronted Granite and rather than fight him, used her Boon over him to get him to help Sarah!! Sarah turned into a Frog so that she could jump across the mud, but failed her roll horribly and sploshed into the icky mess, only to be scooped out by Granite and dumped on the dais. The Goblin King turned on her and tried to stab her with his wicked curved dagger but she dodged, snapped the bracelet onto the Princess and shouted LEANAN (scaring our cat rigid as a result!) and teleporting all three of them back to Brightwood.

Queen Leanan was ecstatic and after the Court brownies had check the child she transported everyone to the human lands and presented the Princess back to the King and Queen. They were overcome with joy and Leanan presented the two faeries who had so bravely rescued the baby - and announced them as the Princess' faery godmothers! They each gave the baby one of their Gifts to share - Jennifree gave the baby the Gift of Musical and Sarah gave her the Gift of Agile. And thus ended the first story arc of their game

As an ended, I explained that the Goblin King was furious but embarassed and that he would keep himself to himself for the time being. The next set of adventures would not involve the Goblin King. They hadn't discovered where Flynn was yet, and he wasn't with the Goblin King so where was he? That was something to discover. They were also allowed to either have 1 point added to a stat, 1 extra Gift or 1 charm. Sarah chose to increase her mind from 2 to 3 so that she was cleverer. Jennifree added the Clever charm to her already impressive array of cerebral talents.

They resolved that they would like the next set of adventures to have something to do with Silverwood and also to have something to do with their families, which have never been detailed yet. Emma wants to change her characters name so we discussed how this could be the outcome of the family storyline and she seemed happy with that.

So, has the roleplaying experiment worked? Absolutely - they are still loving it, still getting very into the characters and the adventures and still seem energised afterwards. If anything the person who needs to get more into it is me, as sometimes it just seems like one thing too many to be doing. However, once I get down to doing it, it's brilliant. We'll be on a short hiatus for now and then back again, maybe before GenCon. Oh, and I have orders - have to buy some faery's tale dice for them both! *rolls eyes*


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Geek Life's So Good!

I have to say, when I cast my mind around my current state of sublime geekdom, it's pretty damned excellent at the moment.

On the roleplaying front, I have never had it so good. I'm playing in THREE - thats right, count them, THREE - ongoing games. The Great Pendragon campaign is on a short summer hiatus but we are very much going to hammering it when September comes. The next episode of Thrilling Tales (Spirits of the Century) is coming tomorrow and it should be a rollercoaster ride of mayhem in the Hollow World. I'm also playing in a very different game of modded Primetime Adventures which we have named BAYUHC (Ben's As Yet Unnamed Horror Campaign) which is truly excellent. Above and beyond that, I've touched a load of other gaming communities through forums and podcasts, murmurings of CottageCon II have began targetting the autumn period maybe. And of course, I have my ongoing A Faery's Tale campaign with the kids.

And I'm off to GenCon (!)

My fanfic world is tripping along amazingly as well. I'm still writing for DCInfinity and the group is going from strength to strength. Moreover, the tight nature of the writers really really helps with the impetus to create. Everyone throws around ideas and shares thoughts about storylines and it just energises what we do. DCI has a very different schtick to many of the fanfic groups I have been involved with. Mirroring the real DCU, we have an issue that comes out every week which carries a real metaplot that runs across the titles. It's the most mature shared universe group I have seen, a real pleasure to work with.

Of course, not everything is perfect. I have had a MAJOR snafu with MI:666 by essentially having my master document kidnapped by the army (!!) and facing one of my real mental barriers - rewriting things that I have already done. Because of this it looks like I will be putting my energies into Duty and Honour for the GenCon playtest games - but hey, I set myself a goal of taking a game to GenCon, it just might not be the one that I thought it would be!

You'll notice no electronic media in the mix here? Well, I tried City of Villains alongside some friends but in the end it never really bit with me. There were some significant improvements over the detritus that was City of Heroes, but in the end it simply doesn't seem to have that thrust, depth and direction that WoW had. So thats a no go. Speaking of WoW I'm seriously feeling the twitch now. It's a trying time as I'm pretty sure reactivation of my account would be swiftly followed by castration. Still, I have a load of other things to keep my mind settled.

Geek life is well good at the moment. Lets keep it that way.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

AP: A Faery's Tale, Part Four (a)

Shadows over Brightwood

Jennifree and Sarah are attending the celebrations in Brightwood Village to commemorate the birth of the new princess in the land of the humans. The entire village is drinking, eating, singing, dancing and playing to welcome the baby into the world. Jennifree is playing her pipes and singing a tune for her friends whilst Sarah is continuing to amaze people with her dancing.

During a break in the festivities Sarah finds the sobbing Humphrey (her rabbit friend) who has broken a tooth on a rock (which he thought was a carrot) that he found when he was digging out his new burrow. The two faeries go to move the rock and discover a jagged piece of blue and gold metal as the offending object. Realising that this was not something usual, they take it to Queen Leanan's palace to have it examined.

At the Palace, Professor Tinker - a balding eccentric gnome academic - identifies it as a shard of elf armour from a time before the Wood existed. It must have been buried under Sarahs house for hundreds of years. He recommends that the faeries take their find to Flynn the Blacksmith on his floating island where he can forge it into something for them. They agree and prepare to travel off to the blacksmiths. Incidentally as they leave the palace, they find the Cook in a great deal of distress as all of the palace's milk has curdled, suddenly. Sarah says it must be the hot weather whilst Jennifree blames the metal and says that it must be cursed.

The pair pick up some nut soup to take on their journey and then travel by moonbeam out to Flynns island. When they arrive they discover that his forge is deserted, the fire having been allowed to go out and that there are signs of a struggle, with Smelly Thing residue around the Smithy. They agree that Flynn must have been kidnapped by the Goblin King. There was then a flash at the area where the moonbeams arrive and upon investigating, they discover a wounded sprite has arrived by moonbeam. The knight, who they identify as the Knight of Swallows, one of Queen Leanan's errant guardians in the woods, has a poisoned tip of a thorn dagger in his chest (not unlike the Thorn Sword that the Knight of Spiders used in the last adventure). Jennifree deftly removes the tip and uses her faerie dust to stabalise the knight, who tells them of being attacked by a huge horde of goblins, being overpowered and being stabbed and poisoned. He only just managed to stagger to a moonbeam station to come to his friend, Flynn, but now he has gone too.... He sleeps.

The two faeries make him comfortable whilst they wait for the return moonbeam and then rush him back to the Palace where he can be tended. He grants them a boon for saving his life. Brightwood itself is in turmoil as strange things are continuing to happen in the forest. Despite it being the first few weeks of summer, the wind is blowing chilled as winter and already brown leaves are falling off the trees. Flights of angry dragonflies have been seen heading north into the lands of Darkwood whilst the animals that live on the border with the Goblin Kings lands have began to migrate south, telling of goblin incursions along the border and all manner of strangeness occuring. Wolves can be heard howling from the north - wolves in Brightwood? After some investigation, the faeries are told by the locals that this weirdness is either a plot by the Goblin King, a curse that has been brought down upon the Wood or a portent of a dark and evil future for the new Princess. None of which are particularly good!

Leanan asks Sarah and Jennifree to travel deep into the south of Brightwood to some of the oldest parts of the forest and see out the ancient settlement of Oakenbark. There they will find The Old Man of the Woods, an ancient tree spirit who will surely know what these happenings mean. After evacuating Knakfree and his family into the safety of Sarah's house, they set off and travel deep into the wood, far beyond anywhere they have gone before. The weather breaks and torrential rain begins to fall, making the going even more precarious. Eventually they arrive at a deep ravine, filled with a MASSIVE old fallen oak tree, long dead and hollowed, which forms the home for many faeries in the settlement of Oakenbark. After discussing their mission with some of the dwellers, they are shown to the roots of the old giant oak and find the tiny, wizzened figure of The Old Man of the Woods. His beard is made of old leaves and creepers and his finger and toes are like roots. He listens to their tale and then thinks hard until he shouts out this prediction.

"Beware the Goblin King! Beware the King fo Darkwood. He has two faces and two hands. One here and one elsewhere!!"

And then he falls silent.

Travelling back with this strange portent, the faeries stumble across the Knight of Wolves and his pack, scouting out the approaches to Brightwood. The wolves smell the faeries and are released to pursue them. Jennfiree flies up to avoid them but relishing the chase, Sarah speeds off through the undergrowth and eventually loses them.

Arriving back at Brightwood they find a horrific sight. Dragonfly riding goblins duck and dive over the village, skirmishing with sprites riding swallows and bumblebees. Worms are writhing out of the ground chewing on the houses and being shooed away by the animals and faeries. Packs of wolves patrol the forests around the village, menacing it. It seems like a full blown invasion!! On the hill overlooking Brightwood, three knights - the Knights of Spiders, Wolves and Worms stand and watch, commanding their minions. But where are the spiders?


Jennifree is bitten by a spider and nearly succumbs to the poison. Sarah loses her temper a little and picks up the spider, hurling it into the others that are closing in. Gathering her friend into her arms she uses all but her one last essence to power her Travel Magic and get them into the Palace amidst the battle. When they arrive, Leanan takes them to her scrying pool and the reason for the attack becomes apparent.

An image of the Goblin King appears, all spindly, gnarled and dripping puss. He laughs at the puny faeries and as he does so his forces withdraw back into the woods. It was a ruse, a feint - a distraction. No faeries were hurt. No damage was done. The image pans back and the Goblin King runs a spindly claw down the cheek of ..... the baby Princess! He has kidnapped her and taken her to his dark kingdom. His distraction has worked and now he can turn her to his side! Bwahahahahahahahaa!

To be continued.

And then the whinging started. Oh the kids might like a TBC at the end of an episode of Dr Who but they simply where not satisfied that they would have to wait for a week to rescue the baby from the Goblin King. There were words and very nearly a fully blown tantrum! I had to explain that this was what happened sometimes in a roleplaying game and that it meant that you could do something longer by splitting it up. When I had assured them that they WOULD be playing again next week and that it WOULD be about rescuing the baby, they allowed me to leave the table.

I was pleasantly surprised that they could handle what was in effect a very dark episode of the game - almost Empire Strikes Back levels of darkness. The idea that Darkwood could actually attack, military style, Brightwood is something that I don't want to ever do again (as I think it would spoil the feeling of the game and turn it a little too generic fantasy) and there will be reprecussions for the GK for the act. He obviously thought the resulting kidnapping was worth it. The geography and the supporting cast grows and the requests for a map of some sort have grown louder. Time to exercise my artistic muscles in another direction I think!

Next week - Assault on the Goblin Kings Castle (if the plans that were being made this morning are anything to go by!!)