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....