Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Top Three Gaming Moments

And as the resurrection of the blog continues, we return to another Bottom of the Glass tradition - the gaming moments of the year. This year has been pretty much dominated by one game - D&D4e - but there have been other highspots as well.

Honourable Mention: 3:16
I'm tempted to say that it is a sign of the narrow range of my gaming this year, that this game makes an honourable mention because it wasn't exactly the greatest game in the world. I should really have said '3:16 ... the last hour' because it was at that point that I 'got' the game and it really kicked up a couple of gears and became a pleasure to play. Something as simple as adding media cameras to the troopers helmets was the trick. Its based on Starship Troopers right? Throw in the satire and it worked far better.

Honourable Mention: Rise of the Zulu
Again, not the most stellar game in the world but a real pleasure to run because it was an open playtest style game with a group of players who, in the most part, had played and really understood D&H perfectly. More than playing the game it was really cool just to be able to talk about the rules and the intent behind the rules and play around with some concepts with a really cool group of people. A great way to start Furnace this year.

Honourable Mention: Dead of Night
It had been a long time since I played DoN and I had never played the new second edition. Its good. Really good. The scenario was like mana from heaven to me. Sort of Cthulhu meets The Hunt for Red October. The players were all great - I got to bellow orders at Andrew, in character, which was both entertaining and cathartic! The game played out well although I winced sometimes with some of the rather entertaining physical feats that were manifested - like ejecting the reactor from a nuclear submarine ala Star Trek.

Number Three: Dresden Files
I think, to a degree, this game taught me a good few things. First - if you are going to pitch a game, deliver that game rather than defaulting to your usual high powered, high stakes adrenaline fest game. Two - I have a high powered, high stakes adrenaline fest default game and I'm quite good at it! Three - there is a level of systems mastery that comes with playing games and cannot be delivered by reading them (I only really got the game in the last couple of sessions) and Four - planning a good 'trad' delivery game requires time. Time which I may not have. It was great to be at the head of the table for my home gaming group again after such a long time but really it gets number three because of what it taught me rather than for the quality of the game.

Number Two: Lady Blackbird
Ah, now this? This was much better. The sort of seat-of-the-pants gaming experience that has become my bread and butter over the last couple of years. It was a different gaming group set up with Ben added as well. The system and the set-up really worked well for me, and the freeflowing nature of the narrative was excellent. I loved running this and I would love to return to some different iteration in the future. In fact....hmmm

Number One: D&D4e Epic Tier
Waaaaaaaaaaaay out in front, its not even funny, the final third of the City of Kings. I've written before about the quality of this game but I recently re-read the GM's blog about the game and it all came flooding back to me. It was sheer quality from start to finish and really capped off an excellent campaign. It will be exceptionally hard to top it. Ever.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Gaming Resolutions - The Results

Its that time of year again, where I address last years gaming resolutions and set some new ones. I should really make a subtle new sub-resolution of 'write some more in your blog!' as well, as I have been terribly lax of late. So without further ado, lets see how I have done this year, shall we?

1. Maintain the momentum of Omnihedron Games (SUCCESS)

Aye, no problems here. All of the games have sold like hot cakes, funding my trip to GenCon and more. I've knocked out another Miscellany which has sold well. I've done some work on Rise of the Zulu and Vive Le Empereur (A French book) but most of my recent energies have been focused on Duty & Honour 2nd Edition which will be the rules capstone for the game system as a whole. Add to this that BtQ picked up a couple of places in the Indie RPG Awards (Runner Up in Best Support and second runner-up in Best Game) and it is currently placed for the finals of the UKRPG Game of the Year and well ... things have been good.

2. Balance the time pressures of work and gaming (SUCCESS)

Gaming has flowed this year, with D&D wrapping up very nicely indeed and that leading into a Dresden Files game from me. We should kick off some Gamma World tomorrow and we even squeezed in some Lady Blackbird. Hell, I even ran a non-Omnihedron game at Furnace! Now, however, I want more. Work is becoming more manageable and soon my night classes will drift away into the occassional tutorial. If I can plot some stuff around WoW raiding, I definitely want to get some more gaming in next year, one way or another.

3. Exploit Google Wave (SUCCESSish)

I ran a Google Wave game of Beat to Quarters and it was good, but like so many online games, it faded due to real life commitments from some players meaning that they could not contribute as readily as they would have liked to. Looking at the technology as well, it was quite good but in the end we were using it like a message board with a built-in card flopper rather than something actually useful. Of course, the entire point has become moot as Google have retired Google Wave and put it into some sort of unsupported software care home, which I think is a shame really. However, I made a go of it.

4. Be More Selfish at Conventions (FAIL)

Conception: Slots 12, Played 1, Ran 1
Conpulsion: Slots 5, Played 0, Ran 1
Games Expo: Slots 6, Played 0, Ran 1
GenCon: Slots 'many', Played 0, Ran 0
Furnace: Slots 5, Played 2, Ran 3
Dragonmeet: Slots 2, Played 0, Ran 0

I ran one more game and played one more game than last year. So this has to go down as a massive fail. I can put it down to a number of things - certainly my feelings of responsibility for sales on the CE stall contributed a great deal as did my generally being a mug when it comes to calls for referees. GenCon sits there as a stark and confusing stat. I had a good time at GenCon this year, but it coincided with the explosion of my dislike of convention gaming and really, finding a non-Living game there was difficult. Ironic, I know. The indie side of things seemed virtually impenetrable.

5. Avoid Toxicity (SUCCESS)

I think this one has been a definite success. I have only really interfaced with one public forum - UK Roleplayers - and I have made a concerted effort to present a positive, forward thinking and constructive face on it. I have abandoned a number of other fora and feel so much the better for it. I have been in a position, on a number of occassions, where I have written a post and then thoughtfully deleted it. Not through fear of reprisal but more through consideration of their tone and content. It is so much better being nice.

So, three and a half out of five. Not too bad. Circumstances dictate that at least one of these will not be an issue in the future. The dissolution of Collective Endeavour to about half its size and my decision to give the convention circuit a year off in 2011 mean I will be focussing my gaming at home. Thats got to be a good thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


You can tell the reason why I have not been posting here recently, by the date of the last post. Just before the beginning of college term. This is reading week, hence I can breathe!

There will be more soon. Until then, enjoy the silence

Friday, September 03, 2010


This summer I travelled to the USA with a companion. We sat next to each other on the plane and occassionally, our legs touched each other. We shared tense moments in an airport discovering our flight was delayed but relaxed that evening during a late supper in a deserted restaurant in our exclusive stop-over hotel. We shared a room .. for five days. We laughed, we joked, we even had a time and a place to rendevous should fate mean our paths parted. On the return leg my luggage was lost and my companion waited, patiently, for me to solve my issue.

Of course, my companion was a man and therefore, under the rules of the day, we may have taken part in an 'improper relationship'

What a load of shite.

The furore over the relationship between the Foreign Secretary William Hague and his advisor is such a ridiculous framing of the continued deep-seated homophobia that runs through this country that it makes me furious.

We start with the idea that two men cannot be friends without their relationship being 'improper'. We then move on to the idea that two men sharing a room is somehow 'improper'. Not a bed, mind you - a twin room! We then drill down into some of the more murky depths of the insinuation - that somehow a gay man's relationship with another gay man is a threat to national security in a way that a man and woman could never be. Oh no. That somehow by hiding this 'non-fact' that William Hague is somehow showing a lack of integrity?

It gets worse. Max 'Leech on Modern Society' Clifford suggests that questions need to be answered why a multi-millionaire would need to share a room? Well, I'm not a highly trained journalist looking to cover all the angles (/sarc) but I can think of half a dozen possible reasons off the top of my head including the not unreasonable prospect that William fancied someone to have a chat to late at night?

Because, you know guys, being in the same room as someone does not mean you have to slip your slender majority into the opposition benches!

Has there been any implication that the impropriety within the alleged relationship might be adulterous? No. Not at all. Its all about the G-A-Y.

In my mind, the only improper thing around here is the sad mirror this throws up on our society.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Much Money Makes You A Customer

As many of you know, I quite like professional wrestling and on occassion I have been known to 'e-fed' - a sort of wrestling based group fanfic. I have also been playing a browser game called 'The Wrestling Game' for over two years now and nestle quite nicely in amongst the top 200 or so players in the game. Its fun, mindless and costs nothing apart from time and a little attention.

Years ago, I started playing a facebook game called 'Wrestler' which, with a little more interactivity, attempted the same thing. It was OK, but like many of these games it really only rewarded time-sinkable players and I grew a little bored and abandoned it. Cut to a couple of years later and I stumbled across 'Wrestler:Unstoppable' (essentially Wrestler 2.0) and started playing it. Its quite good, I enjoy it - mindless, free fun etc.

However, for some people it isn't free. As with most FB games nowadays, an area of the game has been monetised to generate income. By taking part in matches you earn coins, which can be spent on new costumes, training slots etc. However the really cool stuff costs Wrestler BUCKS which can be got in two ways: buying them direct or signing up to survey companies, installing (and deleting!) FB apps etc.

Its not hard to do the second method, carefully, and generate a few bucks. However its far easier to just push a few buttons and grab them using paypal, should you want to. Well, why would you? Aha! The roleplaying side of the game - the federations - costs bucks to set up. Thirty, I believe. In real money that constitutes almost £2.50 worth of investment. To get a few special items, a fancy nameplate for your character and a nice background - cosmetic things - will cost you around 120 bucks, or a wallet tearing £8.

Seriously, you would think people were mortgaging their homes!

"We cannot afford this!"
"You are forcing us to spend REAL money!"
"I cannot believe that all the cool stuff costs bucks!"

Its the same refrain that comes from the Zynga stable of games as well.

The fly in the Wrestler ointment however, appears to be that the player base quite liked v1.0 and were mighty miffed when it was closed and 2.0 was opened. All that time and effort into developing their characters has been wasted. Now they are 'investing' in this new game, they have a voice, some ownership, a 'right' as 'consumers' to have their words listened to.

And of course, because it is the internet, their 'word' means telling the owner - a guy called Jon - exactly what he should be doing to 'save' his game. His dying game. The game he is killing before them by his stupid decisions and moreover, the game they HAVE PAID REAL MONEY (£3) to take part in!!! That makes them PAYING CUSTOMERS (I don't know the mark-up for a trumpet volley, but it should accompany that phrase) and therefore they have RIGHTS and if you ignore their rantings you are BAD BUSINESS and you are KILLING THE GAME.

You know, his game. The one he has invested his real money - and probably a damned sight more than £3 into. And he should listen to all of you, the vast majority who are still, eight months on, demanding a rollback to v1.0....

I often wonder about the mob mentality of the internet. I often wonder what turns a rational human being into an entitled wanker just because they have a keyboard in front of them. If you bought a pint and some crisps for £3 would you then think that you had the divine right to bellow at the directors of the pub chain about their choice of juke box tracks? No, not really.

But you can on the internet. Bless it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Porn-acus is Over!

If ever a TV show got the award for 'Most Uninspiring First Episode Only to Create Awesomeness' then it would have to go to Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Or Pornacus, as we call it.

Mrs G. and I watched the first episode with almost detached indifference. It was there, doing things, but nothing really grabbed us. It looked like a Rated-R version of '300' done by someone as a college film project and really nothing to write home about. It was only as a freak of circumstance that the series had stayed on our SKY+ planner that we watched the second episode and then were hooked for the rest of the series. Once the show hit the gladiator school, it was addictive viewing.

Its hard to pinpoint what has made the show so good. Obviously it mixes action, intrigue, sex, romance and adventure into one heady rollercoaster ride, but thats not really it. Maybe its because it does it all with such gay abandon. The violence is truly viscerally violent. The action borders on superheroic on occassions, especially with the patended salmon leaps. The intrigue slips beyond twirling moustaches and becomes a genuine web of ambitions and lies. The sex is ... unforgiving. Brutal and wanton and omnipresent. The language is a mix of pseudo-theatrics peppered with coarse swearing. And it keeps you on your toes. Plot threads are raised and dealt with in blistering speed. Characters live and die on a whim, appropriately, and it has an almost Game-of-Thrones-esque disregard for the lives of popular characters.

In fact, its hard to see how they have squeezed so much into only 13 episodes!

The characters have also been a pleasure. Obvious props go to the scheming John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as his desperate wanton wife, Lucretia, flanked by her scheming (and equally evil) nemesis Ilithyia. The niaive Varro, noble Doctore, manipulative Ashur and fallen Crixus all made their mark. And of course, the title character is awesome as well.

What hit home to me in the last episode was that in the midst of the bloodbath, the real conflicts were essentially social.

- Could Spartacus persuade Crixus to be part of his rebellion?
- Could Spartacus persuade Doctore to cast aside years of servitude and rebel?
- Could Ashur trick Doctore to escape?
- Could Spartacus persuade Varro's wife that he was innocent?

The fighting was superfluous in the end - set dressing to the main event which were these conflicts and the one-liners between the various characters as they died, escaped or rebelled.

And in the end, only two of the main characters* died at the end of the show (and then, one was still twitching!) despite it appearing to be a complete cast TPK scenario. Genius. A true feat of televisual sleight of hand.

There is a prequel coming, Spartacus: Legends of the Arena, and then Season 2, now that the actor that plays Spartacus has recovered from cancer. Personally, I cannot wait. Oh, and DVD in Sept. too. Excellent.

* I don't count the Gaul brothers as main...


I have had the pleasure of sharing the Metro this week with two gems of Geordie football knowledge. They are only on the train for a couple of stops but the pundit style gems that have come from their mouths have made my day. For example:

Manchester Utd 3-0 Newcastle United

BBC View: Manchester United made the perfect start to their title bid with a comfortable victory against promoted side Newcastle at Old Trafford.

SuperMetroFootballPunditView!: Newcastle should have easily beaten Man Utd. With the squad Newcastle has, it should have been easy. If they cannot beat Man Utd away, they are doomed to relegation.

Or how about this one?

Young Boys 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur

BBC View: Tottenham's dreams of qualifying for the Champions League group stages hang in the balance after a first leg play-off defeat by Young Boys

SuperMetroFootballPunditView!: Utter disaster for Spurs showing them up for the relegation candidates that they are. Must mock my Spurs-supporting work colleagues about their impending Championship status when I get to work.

Its all totally without a hint of irony either - just two blokes talking very solemnly about football and they way they see the league playing out. Its addictive!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too Hot? Too Spicy? HOT! HOT!

Holidays can do a lot of things for you. They can allow you to experience new cultures, taste new foods, meet new people and even, if you are lucky, relax. I've pretty much managed all four whilst I have been away in Tunisia and not always to my benefit.

The chance to live in an Arab country, even for just a week, has been illuminating. First off, it wasn't all that bad! Obviously we were in a tourist resort but I never once experienced any anti-western feeling. Indeed, it was a very international experience, with British, French, German, Italian and African tourists all mingling. I even found myself slipping into my pseudo-esparanto tongue mixing three parts English with one part French and one part German. Of course not everyone was nice. The place was crawling with 'vendors' - all willing to sell you rubbish for inflated prices - and bartering shopkeepers who start at ridiculous levels (£20 for a £2 toy) in a hope to catch a fool. Relentless is not the word for these guys and you have to learn a firm NO! quickly to avoid annoyance. It's not always that easy as they are masters of open questioning and many of them have bribed the hotel staff to have access to the actual hotel lobby, passing themselves off as hotel entertainment staff.

I think that one of the starkest things to understand here is that whilst not quite third world, the area we were in was very ... desolate. Broken buildings, dust track roads, barely functional cars and nearly no municipal sanatation. Dead cat in the street in full rigor mortis? No worries. Huge empty hotels overgrown? Of course! Aggressive taxi drivers that driver death traps? Par for the course. However on the other hand, we saw not one beggar, unlike at home. The prices for commodities such as fruit and fish are set by the government, as is the exchange rate of their closed currency. It felt contented and 'safe', safer than many areas in Newcastle.

I think what struck me the most was the desperate and predatory nature of their commerce. We visited the medina in Sousse, which was beautiful begat this 9thC ancient walled city contained was, essentially, a massive series of souvenir and fake stalls. Tat as far as the eye can see. It was hard to think that these people relied on gulliable tourists to make a living although that would explain their attitude and persistence.

Of course this probably isn't helped by asshole tourists. We encountered a delightful family from Glasgow who demanded they had their own regular table in the restaurant. We made the mistake of sitting in their territory once and the father exploded at the staff. Full on f-ing and blinding about the useless hotel, the crap staff and them 'fucking towelheads'. For his whining he got a designated table and complimentary water and our shared waiter got a bollocking. And Muppet Boy eyeballed me all week, clearly wanting to make something of it. Silly thing is, if he had asked, we would have moved. The waiter was awesome, laughing with the kids, charming Christine and telling me all about the food and the weather ( it was bloody hot - in excess of 42 degrees). On our final night, the muppets had their own table and we had flowers, table settings, water laid on and the full works. Right next to them. Oh how we laughed. Needless to say, he got his tip!

And I relaxed. No, really! No Internet. No phone. No tv. Well, no tv for the first five days and then we relented. One English channel, MBC Action, which showed subtitled (in Arabic) shows like CSI, Heroes, Bones, The Unit etc.

I read mostly, ploughing through four Dresden Files novels and some background reading on the reasons for the Anglo-Zulu War. I even put pen to paper on some outlines for DFRPG adventures and a BTQ campaign book. Most of all though, I had time and space to do nothing, with no real need to worry about anything, even if jut for a few fleeting days. Very cool.

So was it a good holiday? Of course it was. It was very different from my expectations and that was a good thing. I did reflect, as I was sat opposite the mosque in Sousse, watching a man trying desperately to sell photos with a sparrowhawk whilst listening to some Arabic drumming, thy in two week time, I will be in the middle of the USA, draping myself in American popular culture. It should be quite the juxtaposition, I think

ps. I wrote the above the night before we left. On the plane coming home, I was sat in front of two couple who whinged and moaned about EVERYTHING on their holiday, from the moment they arrived until the moment they left. It was like a comedy sketch - complaints about the foreigners not all speaking English, about them serving them foreign food, about the presence of flies, about the 'funny money', about the quality of everything, the lack of english TV channels, the heat, the sand, the rooms - even the way people looked at them around the pool. Remarkable.

The End of Time Itself!

In my life, I think it is fair to say that I have GMd far more than I have played in roelplaying campaigns. Therefore the instances where I actually finish a campaign as a player are few and far between. As a group, we finished Pendragon at a natural finishing point, but we didn't finish the campaign. We wanted to play the Great Pendragon Campaign but in the end we got to the crowning of Arthur. It was awesome, but fell short of our goal. This month, we finished our two year D&D 4e epic and I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that it left me a little speechless at the end.

The campaign itself has been documented here so I won't go into the detail of the story. Rather I want to discuss what I felt went on around the table and the way that this has changed the way I look at campaigns.

Regardless of how much you try to dress up the functions in new fangled terminology, the GM still informs much of the structure and the detail of a campaign. Andrew has done a superlative job here, conjuring a world with a deep mythology, engaging environment and stimulating characters in jaw dropping detail and morever consistency. Indeed it is that level of consitency that faces Ian and I, as the next two GMs (and Ian moreso that me, I admit) as the first hurdle. As a group, for ten years, I feel we have striven to raise our gaming barrier again and again. Andrew has really pushed it this time.

He doesn't get all of the credit however! I think everyone around the table contributed massively both on terms of creativity and also patience and willingness to stand back and let someone else have the spotlight when needed. The characters stories were told from humble beginnings to mythic endings because they were given space to breathe and grow. A willingness to find story level compromise when the obvious resolution could have caused undue conflict helped, as did a willingness to remember the themes of the story and the characters. Add to that a willingness to thrown some fuel onto Andrews bonfire through some brainstorming sessions and it all worked really well.

So how does this effect us? Well, for me at least, I get the feeling this may be the 'last great campaign'. As we grow older it's becoming increasingly difficult to get the timings right for regular games and committing a year or more to one game simply becomes more and more unlikely. I'm not for a moment suggesting that I won't play in any more campaign games, just that these long games may be a thing of the past.

I think it's also safe to say that we have firmly established our group style. I don't think this has come solely from this game but it has been crystalised. It would be useful for future GMs to reflect on this and see what worked so well.

I think one of the lessons that we can also learn, almost contradictory to that previous one is that we aren't as stuck in our ways as we thought! Figures? Maps? Battleboards? Two years ago we would have scoffed that they were worthless ephermra - now we love them. I don't care that my figure for Morn is some sort of uncommon bugbear, in my eyes he represents Morn, He Who Stood, the Unfettered God, Immortal Champion and Protector of Humanity. I wonder if we will be seeing figures and zone maps in FATEing Suns or Dresden?

Well, another page turns in the old roleplaying hobby - its an exciting period now, as we settle into a new game.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Fortune vs. Caution

I remember when I got my iPhone. New Years Eve 2008. Now I don't remember the date because I got the phone then, that would be very silly. No, I remember getting the phone then because of the date and thus how easy I thought it would be to remember when my contract expired. End of June 2010. It seemed like so far away then...

I am also not usually the most lucky of people when it comes to getting free stuff. You know, when all of those building societies were handing out dividends in the 90s? I always had money in the wrong account, or a couple of quid too few to qualify or whatever. Never quite in the right place at the right time.

And then today I discovered that O2 are doing a limited time upgrade from the normal iPhone to the new iPhone4. It would appear that for once, I have the chance to be right at the cutting edge! The question is, should I?

I have been exceptionally happy with the performance of my iPhone. I pondered getting one for a while, swapping out my old Orange smartphone with its slide-down keyboard. In the end it was very much the right move. The main use for it is for mobile internet and it works great for that, especially with 02's properly unlimited access plan. I've even rediscovered music over the last year and I have acquired quite a nice collection of old albums from my youth. In general its just the right bit of kit for what I need - and it does calls too.

So it would seem that I am a shoe-in for the iPhone4, yeah?

That would seem sensible, except I'm never really too happy as the early adopter. Second wave? Fine by me, but the cutting edge is a place for those with a tolerance for bugs and 'waiting for the update' cyber-warriors. Its always a gamble. Is it one worth taking to save the hassle of the post-offer upgrade business?

I think it probably will be, if only for a bit of a treat for myself. Its about time I truly became one of the cool kids ... it had to happen one day.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

AP: Lady Blackbird (Part One)

Lady Blackbird is a stand-alone pdf produced game by John Harper. You can find it here -

This was our first midweek game for ages, so it was a bit of a watershed. Turned out to be a good evening all round.


Nigel as Captain Cyrus Vance
Ben as Lady Blackbird
Andrew as Snargle
Dave as Naomi

Scene One

The characters are deep within the damp, rusting detention cell of the Hand of Sorrow, with Naomi chained to the wall by her slave-control pegs in-built into her collar bones, suffering as a result of a prior beating. (Narrated by Dave, showing his inner masochist). Snargle tries to aid the bodyguard but fails and only makes matters worse. He is ordered by the Captain to open the door but fails at that too and attracts the attention of a burly, heavily armed Imperial marine. Blackbird takes the lead and entrances the marine into changing her cell as she wasn't really supposed to be on The Owl and there has all been a terrible mistake. When he comes to take her to his private chamber she waits for the door to be opened and then unleashes magical hell, frying the two marines. The crew escape after cutting down Naomi, and Snargle makes amends for the earlier failures by successfully mimicing the guards to put the ships Captain off the scent. In the background of the transmission however, he hears someone talking about a spike in thaumaturgical energy in the detention levels and the alarms sound.

The crew try to find their way through the ship to the Armoury, but Vance has never been on one of these Mark Seven cruisers and ends up leading them to the gym. Desperate for a distraction, he uses his Warpblood power to teleport Snargle to the engine rooms... Meanwhile, Naomi tires of his incompetence and hoists him from the ground, threatening him if he doesn't know where to go. At that moment the marines arrive and she throws the Captain at them. [I ruled that his Warpblooded Secret should also allow him a little bit of bullet-time action] and he flies through the air shooting the marines to bits. Awesome.

Snargle, on the other hand, is in the highly corrosive atmosphere of a battlecruiser engine room. The ships use the gases of the Lower Regions to fire the fluids which power the engine turbines and he has to get into a saftey suit or it will kill him. He fails and finds himself desperately trying to break the engines before he passes out. He succeeds in not only stalling the engines but also taking out the ship's main power, sending in plumeting deep down into the corrosive gases of the Lower Depths. Claxons wail, warning tannoys announce falling hull integrity and it all goes very submarine drama!

The crew reunite on the hangar deck where they see their ship and an Imperial shuttle being prepped. The shuttle turns out to be for a House Twilight sorceror who appears (He was the voice on the bridge) and recognises Blackbird immediately. He fires some 'black stuff' at her which Naomi intercepts, taking the magical bullet and falling (presumed) dead. They bundle her on board and make to start the engines .... but they are out of fuel! Snargle reckons they can slide out of the bay if the ship angles down enough and then use the gases to jump start the engines. The ship does angle down more ... as a Sky Squid attacks! The ship falls from the bay, the engines start and the ship flies away to be met by more Squid. It turns tale, flies through a cloud of squid ink, back at the battlecruiser leading the other squid to the larger prey. Succeeding, the Owl erupts into the clean pseudo-atmosphere of the Wild Blue and makes its way to Haven.

Refreshment Scenes

Blackbird casts her mind back to her magical training and what she knows about House Twilight. They are a nasty bunch and the black stuff (it was described as carboniting in the blood) was the way they created their ghouls, which they mind controlled. To have it removed would require the attentions of another House Twilight member and Cyrus knew one on Haven... [Naomi was deemed to be able to move around now and was no longer presumed dead... she was just Vulnerable]

Cyrus had his own flashback scene to his time during the Navy and noted that Captain Hollas of the Hand of Sorrow was a lieutenant at the same time as he was and they were both involved in the rebellion which presuaded Vance that the Imperial way was not for him.

Snargle flashed back that he was once in slavery himself and that the former Pirate King (the one that Uriah deposed) had bought his death mark and now used him as an agent. He now lived in Haven and he would have to deliver some illict cargo to him.

Scene Two

Arriving at the planet of Haven, the crew descended past the yachts,merchant vessels and refuelling dirgibles to hit the sprawling city.

Snargle went to see his former master, named Lord Adonis, and arrived just to overhear three bounty hunters (an ex-Imperial marine, a robot and a gene-engineered snake woman) being offered a 50k credit price on Vance;s head. After they had gone, he tried to negotiate his future discovery - and betrayal - of Uriah's location in the Remnants as a price for the release of his death mark. The (former) Pirate Lord suggested that Snargle take a magical tracker beacon, which would plot the route through the Remnants and allow him to lead his fleet against Uriah. If he succeeded and survived the onslaught from the Pirate fleets broadsides, he could have his death mark back. A shit bargain, but one that Snargle took. Now he had to get back as soon as possible to tell his friends of the bounty hunters.

Back at the inevitable bar-cum-pleasure palace, Vance meets with an informant (a Goblin called Fraggle) who works as a courier for the Trades Union but formerly was smuggled out of Ilysium by Vance. He pays him to set up a meeting between them and the renegade House Twilight mage, Nicodemus Retch. They meet the mage in his decadent quarters surrounded by mind controlled slave girls. He shows the power of House Twlight nightblooded magic by sending one of the girls plunging to her death. No-one tries to stop him (Naomi is under orders not to reveal her possession in front of him so she is swaddled in cloth like a desert planeter)

As they barter over the price of teaching 'Nat' (ie. the disguised Lady Blackbird) the secret of the black magic, they make a mistake. Blackbird offers Nicodemus the chance to show her his power by removing the curse from her 'slave' - Naomi - but Nicodemus cannot understand how a commoner like her would have a slave or indeed how the magic had been applied and then the slave was not in the presence of her master. At his moment Snargle arrived to warn them of the bounty hunters who had just started tearing up the bar downstairs (the bar was huge, a massive multi-story tower). He persuades Nicodemus to help them, the mage removes the magic from Naomi and then she punches a hole in his head for what he did to the slave girl!

Snargle helps the now-freed sex slaves to escape only to be confronted with the Snake Mercenary, who turns out to be a gene-spliced slave cut with goblin genes. Snargle tries to persuade her that if he is killed the (former) Pirate King would be pissed, but she reveals that she has another master, House Twilight, and that she wants the Goblin dead. What follows is a Sword in the Stone style shape changing duel where Snargle is trying to lose the hunter and succeeds.

The rest of the crew see off the missile-launching robot with a combination gun fire, magic and masonry! Naomi notices the Marine sniper just before he takes a shot at Vance and the Captain takes him down with a hail of bullets.

With Naomi cured, the Owl leaves Haven quickly.

Will Lady Blackbird ever reach Uriah?
Will Captain Vance, now revealed as an Adept of the Warpblooded, show his true feelings?
Is Naomi truly freed from the influence of House Twlight and why are they involved in this mess?
And as Snargle activates the tracking device, will he really betray the Pirate King, killing thousands for his own freedom?

Tune in next time on .... Lady Blackbird!

The post game discussion rotated around these things

1. Damned fine game
2. There needs to be a consensus about the speed at which XP is gained. We played in pretty fast and loose, with three players earning two advances and one getting only one. It either has to be a free-for-all grab fest or a slower, reflective end of session thing.
3. Trait whoring a go-go, but the use of traits to inform the context of tags meant that this was rarely a problem.
4. The steampunk thing never really caught on and seemed superfluous. Magic in Space seemed an easier hook for us.
5. Snargle is a terrible name and will be changed to something less like something from the Thundercats.
6. Naomi seemed pretty one-dimensional and might get swapped out for Kale in the next game. Personally, I think she has potential, especially if we were to focus a little more on her background and former exploits.
7. They now have many enemies.
8. The game generated a metric fuck ton of background at the table and my patented scrap of paper was full.
9. We will be playing it again.

Lady Blackbird gets the seal of approval. Good game.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What to do with WoW sans Raiding?

'LFM DPS VoA25, /w Achiev and GS 5500+'

The constant refrain in the recruitment channels (ie. Trade) now on WoW tells the story of the game's progression. If you are not in a raiding guild, you have to resort to PUGs (which are plentiful nowadays) but PUGs have become far more picky about their membership now that they are armed with the tools to measure prospective members. Achievements and Gear Score. Now, of course, I could simply lie about the Achievements and link other peoples, but that would be deceitful and it doesn't feel right for me. So what to do? You could run dozens and dozens of heroics to get Emblems, but I have done that before and they are all pretty much dull now for me. Mindless and unchallenging.

Well, one question would be why do anything? Without access to raid content, you are gearing up a character to do what exactly? Stand around Orgrimmar and whistle? That has happened before when my lack of time commitment has jarred against raid requirements and it is essentially frustrating.

The answer to these questions came from the most unlikely of sources - the random battleground feature. This is a new PvP feature for the game which does for battlegrounds what the Find Group function did for instances. And its brilliant! The queues are lightning fast - under 5 mins max - and the rewards are plentiful. The bonus honour combined with the recent reworking of the PvP equipment system means that with a little application you can rack up some decent equipment pretty damned quick! In three days I have snaffled three i232 and i245 items (shoulders, bracers and legs) which are the equivalent to the stuff I could get through emblems but so much faster.

The battlegrounds are also quite fun. The asshole contingent are diluted now and I'm seen all of the new battlegrounds that I had missed before. Isle of Conquest is pretty dull but Strand of the Ancients is excellent and now rivals Eye of the Storm as my favourite battleground. Moreover, now when I play, I am improving myself for a purpose - to become deadlier (well, lets be modest, more annoying) than I was before.

I'm enjoying it - a lot - far more than I ever thought I could enjoy PvP. I'm even considering chancing my hand with arena somehow...but that might have to wait until the future!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Elephant in the Gaming World

Work on my new game books proceeds at a glacial pace. The Duty & Honour Miscellany is about a third done, with some adventures to write up and then the more involved task of researching the British army in India. Duty & Honour: Rise of the Zulu is ... in note form. Thats the most polite way to talk about it. I'm dedicated to writing it, but I'm also dedicated to doing it right - which will take time.

Beyond my normal work-related time crunch issues (ahh, marking, my old friend) there is something else, over there, on my laptop. Looking at me. Staring at me. Looking pleadingly through a holographic simulation at 0.6c on an intercept vector with my imagination. Yes folks, its that time of year again - the Honor Harrington as an RPG dither!

To bring everyone up to speed, I am a fan of the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. Not an obsessive fan, but they are easily one of my favourite series of books and one of the few that I have read and re-read over the years. I've also made it no secret that I have always had an eye on my Empire! games being the dry-runs for a Harrington inspired space game. The urge to scratch this gaming itch waxes and wanes but its strong at the moment - and far more inspiring than the aforementioned historical books.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to do those books, its just that whenever I settle down to do something for them, my mind drifts to how I could use that titbit in a space game. When I watch some space-related TV, I'm converting the situation into Empire! style stats and constructs. Its exactly the same sort of deconstruction that tipped me over from my original game idea of MI666 onto what would become Duty & Honour.

The other question in my mind is - if I do pull the trigger on this one, do I do it 'properly'? Do I pursue the licence? Do I immerse myself in the lore and technical depth of Weber's creation or do I use it as inspiration and create my own toolkit version? When I did D&H, the pursuit of the Sharpe licence was too much, too soon - and rightly so. Now, could this be the big one? I don't know - but its something thats definitely on my mind.

Somehow, I need to put this to bed, one way or the other.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Issue with Comics

Do you see what I did there?

My recent bout of apathy towards Kick-Ass and the subsequent conversations with my friends have made me think very hard about my relationship with comics.

One of my most vivid memories of being a kid was my fifth birthday, when I went by myself to the corner shop and told Rosa, the woman who ran it, that I wanted to change my order from Barnaby Bear to The Avengers. I can even remember my first issue of the Avengers - it was the reprint of Avengers #85. I was hooked.

35 years later, I am still buying comics. I have a loft filled with literally 1000s of comics. I taught my children to read using the names of characters from JLA/JSA crossover covers. When I was an impoverished student, comics came before beer in importance (pity many of those comics were early Image efforts - it was the 90s!)

In recent years, two things have impacted heavily my comics reading. The first is simple financial expediency - a period of redundancy made me re-evaluate the value-for-money I was getting from comics. They are a bloody expensive hobby to support issue-by-issue so a lot of my titles have been dropped, some changed to 'trade paperback only' purchases. The second is a little more touchy. In 2004, Marvel published the Avengers Disassembled storyline to revitalise the Avengers franchise. I've probably bored many of you with my thoughts about this turn of events, so I won't bang on about it here, but the subsequent transformation of my beloved Avengers into the Bendisverse creation it is now was not to my taste. I persevered for as long as I could, but in the end, I did the unthinkable and dropped the title-pretending-to-be-the Avengers. That took out a considerable chunk of my comics buying.

Currently, I only get two families of titles - Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps and JSA/JSA All-Stars (although the latter is under close scrutiny)

So much of comic-dom seems so dry and lifeless to me nowadays. I feel like I quite literally have seen it all before. There is, as the Bible says, nothing new under the sun.

This apparent apathy has leeched into other areas. I have baulked at the idea of running superhero games in the past, because in the end I have always felt that it just wouldn't be the experience I wanted it to be. I think the number of conflicting ideas in my head would be too much, somehow. Its a silly block really, considering the method-GMing that I undertake on most occasions, burying myself in the media of the game I am running!

It has also made me wonder what to do with my comics mountain in the loft? It needs to be sorted out (the fact that it has not been in years is a sign that they are no longer so high on my priority list!) but after that? Could I be in the position to maybe liquidate some of that collection? The horrors!

Monday, April 26, 2010


My WoW account was hacked this weekend.

As I was playing it, the game froze and then disconnected and when I went to log back in, I suddenly had an authenticator attached to my account. Bugger.

So I had to do two things - first, get rid of whatever miscreant device had infiltrated my system and second, negotiate the choppy waters of Blizzard customer service. The debugging was pretty easy as a quick update and malware scan found the little bugger straight away. That got smushed. For securities sake, I switched to another computer to do my Blizzard business and then things slowed down a little.

I'm sure its not the case, but the Blizz helpline is apparently (according to the part of the website I looked at) only open during office hours on weekdays. Harsh. They do have a webform though, which looked fine, until it asked you for your CD-Key and the answer to your special question. CD-Key was easy ... Mr Pack Rat FTW! I needed to waltz around my account for a while to get a hint of my secret question. If I hadn't been able to do this, they would have required me to fax over a copy of my passport. Faff!

Anyway, I made my protestations and waited for the wheels to go into motion. Now, I hit the next snag. Phishing emails. I get around 2-3 WoW related phishing mails per day and they are just spam-foldered and daily deleted. How do you differentiate between the phish and the helpdesk? Well, Blizz have a nice way of doing it involving changed passwords and very plain information about each step of the process. Sorted.

So I'm back (now with added authenticator of my own) and everything on my character reimbursed. EVERYTHING. Even the scraps of fur that the twats had sold. I was impressed.

So, how do I feel? Well, a little silly for being hacked - although for the life of me I cannot work out how, considering my lack of internet adventure - and not in the least bit traumatised. I thought I would be, but I'm not. Its just a thing that has happened.

I think, in its own way, thats kind of healthy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Creative Tsunami

There are some things that I really have to avoid. One of them is watching the ITV news, as I may be forced to put my foot through the TV screen. Another is going to one of those Big Lukes 'Eat all you can' American Meat eateries, as I may gorge myself to death. However, above all else, I need to avoid 'genre' magazines - specifically things like SFX, SciFiNow or Previews.

The problem with these things is that they light a burning fire in my head. The assault of ideas, imagery and easily digestible information is like ... well, you know in those silly films where they try to brainwash the hero by pinning his eyes open and then flashing loads of images of war and death and evil into his mind? Thats the effect it has on me. It fills my head with all of the possibilities that are out there, waiting to be exploited and explored. Not in a 'Oh, I must go to the moon tomorrow!' way, but rather in a creative way.
Throughout my life I have always struggled with the perceived mismatch between my desire to create and my ability to do so to my satisfaction. Am I a perfectionist? No, not really, but I can be terribly hypercritical of my own work on one hand and yet exceptionally defensive of it on the other. You know, *I* am allowed to call my stuff (whatever it is) crap, but nobody else can! Certainly, the former has been the main reason why I stopped drawing when I went to Uni - I was never going to be a comic book artist so what was the point? Its been the reason why I have failed to pursue a number of creative avenues and the excuse on why I have failed to complete a number of others. The entire Omnihedron Games experience has been an exceptional one for me, if only because I have actually carried something creative through to completion.
And yet, I still get these overpowering urges to create. Something. To write, draw, design, build something. They may lay dormant for some time but then they erupt again, stimulated by something which catches my eye or ear or whatever.

Today's culprit was SciFiNow and its commentary on the phenomenon of paranormal romance - which you will all know is a favourite of mine. Gah, I want to play with that stuff in some way. I know its in there, something, bursting to get out but I cannot seem to get an outlet which satisfies.
And why? Well, this particular urge came at 9pm at night, after a 12 hour teaching shift in the middle of a three day, 12 hours per day session which has to be followed up by marking and research for my last college assignment (yes, another one...) and then writing up notes for my latest D&H expansion.
If Perfect is the enemy of Done, then Time is the arch nemesis of Creativity in my world.
But it still doesn't stop the build up and the frustration.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Golden Rules and Pitching

Following on from my previous post an excellent discussion has taken place regarding future games for my gaming group. As an upshot of this discussion, the following Golden Rules were formulated:
  1. GM enthusiasm drives the games that are brought to the table.
  2. Buy-in via collaborative campaign so what's important to the player / character is present in the game
  3. Narrative arc / focus is present which may manifest in 'seasons' for longer campaigns
  4. If it's narratively complete, don't go back! We tend to consume / burn up ideas / concepts rather than get comfortable with them and return
  5. Playing with regularity

As we now have a pencilled in end date for the D&D campaign, the conversation was also had about who would referee. In the end, with Andrew and Nigel coming off the back of looooong campaigns it came down to either me, Ian or Dave when he returns. As we are also looking at games with an initial arc of around 8-10 sessions, this choice is essentially 'who goes first' and thus might require a little 'pitching'.

There are two games currently which are sitting in my 'to play' pile: The Dresden Files and Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. (What? No D&H? No BtQ? - I keep my playtesters fresh and keen...) Well, when I say sitting, DFRPG is not even bought yet, although its purchase is inevitable. I thought I would, in public, run through these and see how the Golden Rules apply. It might help the process.

Rule #1: GM Enthusiasm - I'm going to assume that my love of urban fantasy will latch onto the Dresden rules and produce wonderful babies. Dr Who is back on the TV at the moment so enthusiasm for that will probably increase as well. Generally, I've not got a problem with enthusiasm if I feel that the players are into the game too.

Rule #2: Collaborative Buy-in - This is really a given for our group and I think this might be where Dresden (a game which has collaborative building built into the ruleset) edges out Dr Who. Both have pre-determined worlds and I think I would have to cherry-pick some of the initial Dresden stuff to introduce it slowly, whereas Dr Who is pretty much there and in our face.

Rule #3: Arc Structure - Not a problem. Never a problem. I think there is an awareness needed that the length of the arc (8-10 sessions) does mean that the scope of the game and the arc doesn't need to be as all encompassing as previous games. End on a cliffhanger? Possibly.

Rule #4: Accept Burn Out - I'm not sure that, given careful planning, you could easily burn out Dr Who or Dresden out in 10 sessions. I think thats a strength of the semi-established backgrounds - you can delve into one area and have other things left to look at later.

Rule #5: Play with Regularity - Hopefully, this will not be a problem. As the new academic year approaches, I have less work to prepare which should be able to free up time for prep. Dr Who wins here, as from what I gather Dresden has a bit more prep than Who. If the game is enthralling, I think we will have no problem with regularity.

Well that's put it all down and really, it doesn't get it any clearer. Dresden will probably have me more enthused but Who would be easier to run.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Best Game Ever?

So we played D&D on Sunday. Nothing strange there, we do it every other week. What was strange was whilst the players walked away from the game we were in some state of utter shock. Was that one of the best sessions of the game we have played? Yes. Was it the best game I have ever played in? Quite possibly.

So, what brought this around? Lets see.

The story revolved around the heroes - God-killing Demigods now, set on a path to end this reality and shape the new one in their image, we were leading our massed armies against a corrupt risen Primordial with fatal intentions. We had to cross a desert, battle with our forces, breach a trans-dimensional oasis and twat the Lord of Life and Sun into so much celestial pulp. That was the quick version. Now it gets interesting.

The first thing that made the game awesome was that we had a choice to make. Kill or Banish. Kill and there would be consequences - we would be killing one of the fundamental forces of reality. We've already done for the Primordial of Dream and now no-one dreams. Banish and he would be back again and that was really not part of the plan. However, we also had the chance to redeem his corrupt soul, but that might sunder the oasis. It was very complicated and involved some proper thought. It was good.

Then consider the battles - a skill challenge, but a truly epic one, in two parts. The stabilisers are off in this part of the campaign and it shows. My fighter was hurling rocks down the throats of draconic monsters to save stranded dwarf Battle Golems from a deadly swamp etc. Really great imagery. We aced both skill challenges (six successes, no fails). Our house rule is that if we ace a skill challenge, we can establish a campaign truth. These are AWESOME editing tools. We had two. This was always going to be good.

The first one we used to allow Artemis, the God Hunting Ranger, to be able to 'become one' with the Oasis, overruling the GMs previous statement that we would lose it when we killed the Primordial. The PC could step in and take his place. Instant awesome and bless Andrew for agreeing. We used the second to dictate that when he did that, the roots of the World Tree (Which was based in the Oasis) showed the way to the other 'safe havens' that we knew existed - these are essentially our secret weapons in our battle and now we have them in our sights. Its big, high risk stuff. However, the GM added that the Oasis was now a God Free Zone and those of is with Avatar or DemiGod epic destinies were banished. Poignant.

And still we aren't at the awesome.

Two years ago I wrote the Sun/Moon myth of the world based around my old god, The Unfettered God. Hidden Moon was tricked by Th Unfettered God to always be chasing her love, Blazing Sun. Since then we have discovered that TFG was a false god, a demon and all his oaths were false and worthless. Morn (my character) was his paladin and a couple of sessions ago I utterly destroyed him.

Hidden Moon appears before the battle and asks Artemis (the ranger) to save her husband, Blazing Sun, the son of the Primordial from the upcoming slaughter. This came out of the blue and Andrew had to remind me what I wrote. After that it just became a rollercoaster. In the midst of the battle, Morn reveals that she is no longer bound by the tricked oath and she can be together with her husband. We defeat the tainted Blazing Sun and instead of killing him, I release him too from his oath and he ascends to the heavens and for one day only, the Sun and the Moon appear in the sky together, reunited in their love.

Awesome enough for you? You ain't seen nothing yet!

So we continue on, kill the primordial (in a very fruity three phase battle), take the Oasis and generally bask in our awesome. Andrew then drops the bombshell. As the Sun Lord has passed, the world wakes up to perpetual twilight. The sun is diminished and its light no longer touches the world - only the moonlight. And then we realise the impact of this. We had just reunited these aeons-parted lovers for one moment, only to tear them apart eternally due to our actions. We had reflected earlier that everything we touch seems to end in pain and destruction and wow, this one really was.

To cap this off, I think we all just clicked when it came to at the table play. This was big stakes stuff and it really did feel right. After reflecting a little about how things played out, two things struck me.

Firstly, this was so nearly a game of Fate. We were, effectively, playing a game of Aspects and Compels but in D&D. If we could make something more complicated, or awkward, or awesome, we were and in many ways we dialed it up to 11.

Secondly, and this might be a totally wide of the mark call, I believe Andrew, the GM, may have been playing a very good game of 'sit back, listen to the players as they randomly spout idea after idea and then reflect their awesome back into the game'. If he was, he played it superbly.

I remain quite detached from the story at the table when I play. I am not the sort of person that gets 'scared' in a horror game etc. but for the first time EVER I was emotionally moved by this session. Highs, lows, love, betrayal - it had it all. Next session, we deal with the Dragonborn Emperor which should be an equally difficult session - the words 'God Emperor' were mentioned with regard to our Dragonborn PC. Be afraid.


ps. Yeah, this was D&D 4e, the game you cannot roleplay in. /facepalm

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And now the End is near....

I haven't posted a lot about our D&D 4e campaign because it is covered elsewhere in excruciating detail, but something struck me about it this morning - the fact that it is coming to an end soon.

Now we know all about this, we have talked about it and in our game planning sessions we have got a pathway of intent laid out to carry us to Level 30 and the End of Time. However, the approaching doom has brought some matters to the fore in my mind.

The first is that there is a finite amount of time to do anything I want to do with this character. I'm not even sure there is anything I need to do, but the pressure of time has made this more apparent in my head. The last thing I would want to do would have the campaign end and something being left loose and flopping.

The second is that we will inevitably start thinking about what we are going to play next and more importantly, what formats our games are going to take. History tells us that we run highly successful long term games (City of Kings, Buffy, Pendragon, Crescent Sea) and have a patchy track record when it comes to shorter campaigns. However, we have a decided desire towards shorter campaigns, I think. As we get older, we have less time to prep and with a table of GMs, we all are willing to have a go. I think we're going to have to have a good hard think about the structure of these games and how we are going to produce things that are (a) runnable, (b) satisfying and (c) sustainable.

The third thing is simply a recognition of the amazing job Andrew has done of taking something as mechanical as D&D4e and turning it into something so smooth and utterly enjoyable. This masterful display of GMing has made me think long and hard about some of the 'theory of roleplaying design' stuff and wonder just how much of the impact at the table of a game is actually down to the players themselves and their ability to play with each other and riff off each others strengths whilst compensating for the weaknesses. This also speaks to the degree that a group, through their underlying social contract will house rule a system, almost instinctively, to suit their needs. For us its things like random death, experience points, money and encumberance - we simply can't be doing with them at all. It might be different things for other players. Hmmm... consider me pondering.

Regardless, this Sunday we go to kill a Primordial and put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons again. Great game.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Glamour of Glee

Best show I'm watching on TV at the moment? Glee, by the proverbial country mile.

The question that has been running around my head is why? I think I may have cracked it.

On the surface, its a perfect show for me. Its about American High School Sporting Competition (a particular favourite of mine - see 'Bring It On', 'The Mighty Ducks' and other hidden gems) and it mixes that with musical stuff - and we all know how much I love musicals. Its funny and uplifting and I can watch it with the kids and they love it.

All of that is cool, but thats not the secret.

I think the secret lies very much in the shades of grey that exist in every character. The show has a veneer that it is about goodies (the Glee Club) vs the baddies (the Cheerios) but thats just not the case - a good few members of the Glee Club are still Cheerios! Mr Schuester is the White Hatted good guy teacher - who happens to be falling in love with the school counsellor. Sue Sylvester is the boo-hiss baddie - except when she isn't, like the latest episode looking at disability. The lead good girl is a self-serving ego-maniac, the lead boy is a two-timing dimwit, the greyness is everywhere.

Even two of the less prominent characters - Artie and Tina - have some grey sides. Tina fakes her stutter (how shallow) but Artie now doesn't fancy her because she was faking a disability, but the way he puts it, it sounds more like its because he only fancied her because she was disabled and now she isn't.

These shades of grey make the show wholly unpredictable. It's wholly understandable that the self-centred heroine, Rachel, would consider being with Noah, the bad boy football player who really loves Quinn, the pregnant cheerleader, who is going out with Finn, the idiot football player who secretly loves Rachel because ... its Glee - and nothing is ever set in stone!

Monday, March 08, 2010

300 Posts and the Sun in Shining!

You can feel something in the air. People are smiling, laughing and joking. The world is a brighter place. The oppression has been lifted, the future is laid out before us and it is good. Today is a better place than yesterday and the day before that. What has brought about this wonderful emotional epiphany?

The sun is shining.

Now I have occassionally cracked a joke about the weird shining disc in the sky but this is the real thing. Its a bona fide spring day and boy does it feel good. The weather has been officially shitty since about October last year and this is the first day I can remember where I saw blue sky and felt like it was right. Its stupid but true - it makes a massive difference to the way I and it would appear many other people feel.

Of course, this is probably it and tomorrow it will go back to dull, with a side order of crappy - but today, this glorious wonderful day, its bright and sparkling.

(And yes, this is 300 posts on the blog. Thats a lot of shite)

Friday, February 26, 2010


In honour of my New Years resolution, I will not be talking about any of the following topics:

  • People complaining about poor weather in the winter
  • The proposed BBC cuts and how they make me want to punch someone
  • The inevitable witchhunt over our poor showing at the Winter Olympics (see #1..)
Why? Because I have already exploded at the TV twice today and I'm all ranted out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Storm in a D-Cup

..or how slow a news day was it yesterday?

So I'm reading the Metro this morning going into work and I scan across an article about a student from Oxbridge (that fictional higher plane that links Oxford and Cambridge despite them being nowhere near each other) has written a sex diary blog about her exploits in bed. It is, the papers say, the next Belle de Jour and images of Billy Piper in a v-necked jumper, Ugg boots and a pashmina drinking Skittles raced around my head.

So I exercised the wonders of modern technology and hunted down this cesspit of human depravity on my iPhone. It took a while because the newspaper didn't give a URL and when I searched for it, I found a lot of newspaper coverage - Guardian, Mail, Telegraph etc. Eventually, I found the site in question.

It has three posts on it - and the majority of the content had been relayed to the reader through the exerpts from the press.

Now we all know sex sells, and posh, literate totty who doesn't mind a quicky sells even better in the broadsheets (bringing back memories of halcyon days for the journalists, no doubt) but three posts?! Its not like its even explicit stuff.

Post 1 is 'I have OCD, I was a latecomer to sex, here's what I intend to do here.'
Post 2 is 'How I lost my virginity in a dignified manner'
Post 3 is 'Rugby lads - ok in bed, wanted anal, as if?!'

I am, of course, just jealous. Said 'closet nympho' has managed in three posts to generate no doubt a gazillion hits and will spiral into 15 minutes of fame. Clearly what I need to do is post something other than gaming and anti-media 'why can't we all be sensible' rantings and start talking about something more smutty.

No takers?

I'm stunned....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Long Strange Trip is Over!

Today, I finally finished the 'What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been' achievement in World of Warcraft. Rather than wooshing around Azeroth on my Albino Drake, I now really do WOOSH around on my 310% Violet Proto-Drake. Moreover, it caps over a year of doing all of those little holiday quests that populate the game occassionally.

Some of the quests and achievements have been a lot of fun. Some have been downright bollock-burningly annoying. I've traveled over every inch of the map, delved into myriad dungeons, eaten bizarre foods, juggled near invisible batons, been riotously pissed, pledged my love and honour literally dozens of elders. Of all the things I have done is WoW, this act of sheer tenacity is the only one that I would even consider an 'achievement' - if you ever can have one in a computer game.

Of course, now I am going to have to find something else to do but Catacylsm will be out sometime this year and that may well start a longer, stranger trip.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Living in a Google World

Another day, another Google product - this time, Google Buzz (a sort of Google-ised Twitter-cum-Facebook Status Update). The advance of the Google empire across the digital world seems to be an unstoppable force. I wonder however, whether it will reach the immoveable object of public suspicion?

The computer literati have a history of suspicion when it comes to having One Big Company controlling all of their resources and this suspicion is mirrored in legal circles by various attempts to dismantle these alleged monopolies. I am, of course, nodding towards the various amounts of litigation against Microsoft and the rise of the small but vocal advocates for 'alternate' browser systems to Windows.

I was pondering yesterday whether the spread of Google was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Consider this - could you do a complete web-based project using only Google products? They provide a search engine, a chat function, a collaborative tool, a groups tool, a blogging tool, a social networking tool, a shared calendar tool, a photo library tool, a map tool, a video library tool, a website creation tool and even an online checkout tool. Assuming you don't have to do any image manipulation, yes, I reckon you could create a complete web-based project of some degree of sophistication using just the Google tools.

I'm normally the last person to complain about these sort of things as I find it a little funny that you have people profiting from a capitalist society complaining that someone (Microsoft) is a far better capitalist than they are. Sob sob boo hoo. However, something doesn't sit right with me that Google should have this level of integration but for the life of me, I cannot think why. I'm posting this on a Google blog, powered by a Google browser all generated by an account for a Google email. Hypocrite? Moi?

Then again, it might just be that everyonehas managed to link their Twitter, Facebook and Buzz feeds together so that everywhere I turn, I see the same bloody messages!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

GenCon .... HO!

And its on!

My (early) 40th birthday present to myself - a trip to GenCon US 2010 - is now fully booked. Its going to be an interesting trip. I stumbled across a really rather cheap flight today - £460 return, which is faaaaar better than the other £660 fares. The catch? Well, we fly from Heathrow at 6am (so thats staying up overnight then...) to ... Rome. And then from Rome we fly to Chicago and my old favourite of O'Hare International and then onto Indianapolis. Vice versa on the way home. The 45 minute internal transfer at Rome might be a bit tight, but thats half the fun (memories of Chicago '07 remind me of how fast gamers can move when needed!)

No Travelodge on the state border this time - we're booked into a hotel just down the street from the convention centre and again, its a bit cheaper than expected, which is awesome. Ticket for the con booked too - all we need is insurance, a cheap ticket to London and clearance to travel to the USA.

And this time around, I am adamant that I am not going to be ill in any way, shape or form!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Terminating Facebook?

Its funny how things tend to come along in bunches. I was talking to Dave (who is doing his PhD on some complicated marketing thingamebob that has stuff to do with online games) about termination costs on Saturday night. We have the best, more interesting conversations, you see. We were talking about the methods that companies use to increase the termination costs of their products, especially online products to hold onto customers.

This week, Facebook changed its interface again. It moved a few bits around and altered the way that some things worked and there is an extra click here or there. Those people addicted to the various online games that are played on Facebook will have known this was coming because they have been altering how the games interact with the site over the last couple of months, probably due to load issues.

And, like every other time that this has happened, there has been an uproar of people bemoaning the changes that have been made. They are accusing Facebook of changes for changes sake, terrible design choices, ignoring the needs of the user and above all else returning them to the deluge of 'Bobby has just planted some Elephant Corn in FarmTownVille' messages. (Although why, for the life of me, the people that play the games simply don't ignore the offers to post these messages, I do not know.)

And I pondered this for a while, reading the vitriol that the users were pouring onto the newsfeeds and I thought 'Why not just stop using it then?'

And then I remembered - termination costs.

I think a lot can be said about us that we can hate a product (well, for this week anyway, until we all get used to the changes and they become the norm, until the next change comes along) so much that we set up a group to attack that self-same product and yet we simply cannot bring ourselves to cease the usage of that product.

Them's damned high termination costs.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My Fiery Cockles

As has been noted here before, I am not a great fan of running games at conventions. To be more accurate, I'm not a fan of the prospect of running games at conventions - the execution of the game is always more gratifying than the build-up. With this in mind I tried to approach Conception with a degree of nonchalance. I hadn't prepared any games and I was going to try to avoid running anything. Oh, I know - bad designer, no biscuit - but sometimes you just want to kick back and not have to worry. I did take my patented generic convention kit of bits and bobs so I could throw something together if needed though and as it happened I did end up running a great game of BtQ as a sequel to my previous Sharpe/Hornblower game from Furnace.

Anyway, this post isn't about me, its about the amazing array of wonderful people who were also running Duty & Honour/Beat to Quarters games. Throughout the convention there was a steady stream of mainstream D&H being ran as well as a number of alternate versions including a WWII Prison Camp escape scenario and a Goblin Tribes scenario. Yes, goblins!

I'd never quite experienced anyone else running one of my games at a convention - it made me nervous - but in the end there were so many that it just became a relentless wave of gaming. What made it more apparent is that the nature of the games and the tension of the card flopping can cause these games to get a little ... noisy. There was much cheering coming from the D&H tables.

I'm still trying to put a finger on the feeling but it really vindicated my publishing aims to see my game being openly enjoyed by so many people. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who took part in any of the games and especially the guys who stepped up to run the games. IndiePete suggested it would warm my cockles? I think you guys made them hotter than that!

Lady Blackbird

In the first of a few post-Conception posts, I'd like to address Lady Blackbird.

I'd heard about this game tangetially over the last couple of months but I dismissed it as a 'joke' game akin to Sea Dracula, but when I actually saw it in play and read it online it is far far more.
In a 15-page pdf, the game delivers characters, system and specific kicker situation for 1-6 sessions of play. It even manages to squeeze in an advancement system as well. The setting is a steampunky-magic-science-opera thing which is beautifully realised within the document. There's art - colour art - that adds to the package. Its really quite inspiring. However, what makes this sing to me more than anything else is that it is Part One.

Part One!

There will be more stuff and there should be. There are little nuggets of implied backstory within the text - Noble house names, for example - that may be addressed, and promises of further expansion options for the characters. There will be other adventures and I imagine if they are anything like this, they too will advance this newly formed world.

Something like this really excites me as it is a model that is totally new to me and yet isn't. Its a format that has worked for many years in comic and TV format and the drip, drip, drip of information is reminicent of both CCGs and MMOs. From a setting point of view, it allows for a slow burn of creativity and gives the players of the game room to work around the setting thats there and appreciate it fully.

I've been searching for the solution to modular game publishing for a while now. I love the idea of simply publishing a small amount of something over time rather than in massive chunks. This seems to scratch that itch exceedingly well and whats even more impressive for a product of this quality is that the author, John Harper, has not tried to monetise the entire affair. The game is available for free download.

I still haven't played or ran Lady Blackbird but from a conceptual point of view, it excites me no end. Have a look at it and see what you think?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rickets, Paedos and Home Invasions

So, apparently, there has been an upsurge in the incidence of rickets amongst children in the UK and that has been blamed on ... computer games. What a shocker! Apparently, instead of children staying indoors and playing dark and satanic console games, they should be frolicing in the fields, running around in the brilliant sunlight and playing football, cricket and other wholesome activities.

What a wonderful concept eh?

Of course, on virtually every point its utter tosh. Firstly, have these doctors ever looked out of the window? Its not without some truth amidst the sarcasm that we ask each other what the strange glowing sphere in the sky is - I'm bloody sick of being in a dull, grey country with shitty weather. That these scientists are from Newcastle makes this even funnier. Of course, I am being a little hyperbolic, but we don't exactly have a surfeit of sunshine at the moment.

And of course, we still have all of these playing fields and wonderful facilities for our children to use. Or not as the case may be. I met with some of my old school friends recently and we agreed that almost every place we played when we were kids has now been built over with houses or offices. The back lanes that we played football in are now double-parked with very expensive company cars, nose to tail. My children have a garden, but the next accessible piece of playspace is about two miles away.

So take them? Yeah, thats possible I suppose. Of course, in the time when you have to take the kids to their daily frolic in the 'sun' you also have to hold down your job, move around their after-school club activities, do their homework, do one of YOUR five 30-minute exercise routines a day, cooka nourishing family meal packed with the requisite 5-a-day and .... at this point, the clock explodes. Of course, I also snigger at the idea that every parent in the North Shields. Royal Quays and Meadowell area turned up at the park at the same time. It would be carnage.

Well, what about letting the kids 'play out'? Thats a prescribed activity nowadays, as regular readers know. I laughed until I hurt at Charlie Brooker's latest Newswipe re: the 'terror' media and the various hysterical episodes they have visited upon the masses. The fear of paedophiles is still everywhere and the concept of your child disappearing is so chilling, so present and so likely (?) that you simply don't take the risk. Even beyond the Clear and Present Danger of Kiddy Fiddling Inc. there is still the danger of playing with balls (aka weapons of property destruction) and laughing and shouting (anti-social behaviour 101)

Indeed, any grouping of young people is now considered a terrible danger. I was sat in my living room on Saturday when a group of teenage boys passed the house. They were 'hoodies' and having a laugh and lark about with each other. My wife was on red alert, like a meercat ready to protect her young. I asked her what was the matter and she pointed to the youths. I asked, curiously, whether they looked like they were going to turn, form an organised phalanx and storm our house? Indeed, have any group of youngsters in modern history simply decided to randomly attack a brick building like so many modern visigoths? No. So what was the problem? Was the prospect of home invasion imminent? Should we have raised the hearthside terror level to 'severe'?


You want kids to play out and become healthy? How about building some more play areas? How about stopping drawing upon their time with 101 other things? How about becoming more tolerant of the things that kids do when they play - balls, noise, walking and how about setting up a massive solar mirror to bring some more sunshine to our blighted isle?

And why do I think the latter is more likely than any of the former?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Console Gaming - Five Years Late

I have never had a games console. OK, I tell a lie, for a few months when I lived in Rugby I had a SNES. It was a total impulse buy because I was bored shitless living on my own and I only ever had one game for it - Super Mario Somethingorother.

Since then I have never touched another console. PC gamer all the way. That was until yesterday when I inherited a PS2 from a friend who was moving house. The game came with Guitar Hero (I & II) and some old-school racing games. I am about as musical as a brick but Guitar Hero has proved to be doable. However it has been an absolute smash hit with the girls, who have regular battles now whenever our backs are turned.

And the one thing that has always caused me to back away from the console has not transpired - it has not caused TV-schedule nightmares. Instead of the house being filled with iCarly or MTV hits or some other rubbish, its now filled with ROCK! Indeed the acceptance of the console has spawned Mrs G. to suggest we bought some more pre-owned games - and boy, PS2 games are damned cheap.

So we snaffled up Star Wars Lego, Madden 2007 and Super Mario Somethingorother for a tenner. Of course, in order to play them I am going to have to unplug the girls from their new rock addiction.

So readers, what PS2 games are the MUST HAVE games I have missed over the last decade?

In Search of the Greatest Chili Sauce

Its time again to brew a batch of chili sauce and this time I think I'm nearly there. I love sweet chili sauce but I also love hot sauce and I rarely find one which manages to do both. With this in mind I undertook a mission a couple of months ago to make my own.

The trick, it seems, is in the mix of chilis. A lot of sauces I have read use capsicum peppers and tomatoes for body but I find that they meddle with the sauce too much. I prefer to use meaty medium heat chilis and lots of them, like a kilo of them. I add to that minced Birds Eye chilis and some Scots Bonnet too. That delivers the heat. Minced ginger, a little lime rind, coriander seed and some pepper corns for flavour and some whole cinnamon for aroma. White vinegar and jam sugar make up the rest of the mix. Heat it, reduce it, let it cool and bottle it. It really works.

If this batch works out OK, I reckon I have got it sorted. Next trick - the perfect 'brown' sauce.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Flight of the Excalibur - Dr Who Adventures

So the first session of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space has been executed and it was a success. The girls were thrilled and the story as I planned it rolled out in pretty much the way I imagined.

The Doctor and Donna were dragged onto Camelot Base, the staging platform on the moon for humanities first attempts at FTL travel in 2099. This is the first step for the Great Human Race as they spread out into the galaxy and fulfilled their destiny. A little psychic-paper fueled subterfuge gets our heroes to the main control centre where they meet the science team and generally find out about stuff and then things start going wrong. The medical doctor forgets all of her knowledge. The technician forgets what he is saying on the tannoy announcements. The sympathetic chubby engineer forgets the code to get out of the sealed radiation chamber and has an hour to live and then everyone forgets who each other is and why they are there. Chaos, one hour before mankind's great leap.

As it transpires the memories are being stolen by black shadowy creatures called Harvesters. They try to suck the memories from Donna but her 'Indomitable' trait saves the day. She flees from the monsters just as the Doctor realises what they are. They are the foot soldiers of The Hunger, one of the Pantheon of Discord (see The Trickster from Sarah Jane Adventures) who the Doctor trapped in limbo. If they can feed on the memories of a Time Lord he will gain the knowledge of how to escape his prison and feed on time.

So, how do they escape? The Doctor uses the station's computer to channel all of the massive bank of information about this most famous crew from the media streams from Earth to rebuild their memories. Meanwhile, Donna (!) stands off against the Harvesters and reminds them that they couldn't drain her, she has their number and this is the wrong place, wrong time! And then Emma rolled like a god powered by a fair whack of Story Points. The Harvesters disappeared on a 'Yes, But...' result.

The Doctor and Donna then watch as the renewed but rather confused scientists execute the launch of the Excalibur and humanity makes its first steps to interstellar flight. As they disappeared in the TARDIS, the 'but' occured as space began to fracture slightly and The Hunger whispered a dread warning to his nemesis.

The girls were thrilled. They managed to do a lot of Doctor Who-isms through the entire two hours of the game and they reveled in the situation. The mismatch between the characters was palpable in the game, but in the end it didn't mean much to the experience. The real downside in my view was the strange emphasis placed upon the character playing the Doctor.

We all know HOW the Doctor should be played and its not actually easy. In the show, the Doctor actually powers a lot of the exposition, so you need to have either a player who is very happy to power the setting with a lot of dramatic editing or a GM who can prepare a lot of cheat sheets - but that doesn't seem right. Similarly, if the players cannot come up with something suitably 'Who' as a way to get out of the problem that they are facing, it falls a little flat. I'm not a big one for the 'Spend a story point for the clue' method. It smells of authorised railroading to me.

The system delivered a great game, but I'm not quite convinced that having The Doctor there is necessarily a great thing. That said, the orders are already in for the next episode so I had better get my thinking cap on.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Time Lord Conundrum

I have in my possession the wonderfully produced Dr Who Roleplaying Game. It is not, in any way, shape or form, a wonderfully innovative game. It smells more than a little of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG (and as those in the know, know, thats a damned good thing in my book!) but it does offer a doorway into one of the great compelling fictional universes.

I'm running a game for the girls on Saturday and I think its pretty much a given that sooner or later the game will make a run out with the gaming group in one way or another. This has had me thinking about how to structure a realistic Dr Who experience at the gaming table. Its not quite as easy as it looks at first glance.

1. No Combat
That doesn't sound so bad when you say it, but when you think about it hard, it actually removes a large number of pretty staple encounters used in games. It does, however, open up what you can do with the bad guys. Balance? Why do you need balance? The monsters can be as dangerous as you want - its not like they are going to discombobulate the PCs? They're going to do it to the NPCs but the PCs will run or talk or whatever.

2. The Best Baddies are Never Obvious
Whatever the bizarre situation the game presents the players, it is rarely what it seems. The spooky possessed kids are not actually spooky or possessed, the ghosts roaming the streets are not actually ghosts, the smelly politicians ruining the country are not .. you get the idea. Thats a genre staple that you can do a lot with, but it relies upon the players buying into the conceit. Of course, you can always call their bluff!

3. The Multiverse is your Playground
Once you put the words TARDIS down on the paper, you open up the doors to anything, anywhere. You want a historical game? Have one. You want a futuristic game? Have one. Modern game? Have one. Alien planet? Space ship? Cavemen? Yes, they're all yours. You can literally have your game anywhere. Again, that sounds wonderful but how many times do we rely upon the surrounding setting to enrich a campaign? What would happen when that setting is so fluid? Where does the stability go? Well I reckon it makes you put a re-emphasis on the characters rather than the ephemera, which isn't necessarily a bad thing!

4. Truly Iconic Assets
There will be a pressure to building up throughout any campaign for that time when the referee utters that immortal Dr Who word - 'EXTERMINATE!' - but what happens when you do? Thats a pretty heavy legacy you are playing with there and your players are going to expect something massive and potent. Thats quite scary but also potentially explosive. I'm struggling to think of a genre that has a bad guy that is so accessible and yet so iconic in quite the same way. The Klingons? Nah. Sith Lords? Not really. Cyclons are too ubiquitous. Daleks are special sauce.

5. The Technobabble Game - worse than the Investigative Game?
I've probably ranted somewhere about my dislike for the faux inevitability of many investigative games but a different flavour of the same problem may be the technobabble game. Dr Who is thoroughly drenched in boffin-heroes using their brains rather than their brawn to jury-rig a dual-phlange-left-hand-gizmo-bracket to solve whatever problem they are facing. Put the ability to do that in the hands of a relatively creative player and you have the potential for some rather fruity chaos. So what will you have to do? Have wrinkles in reserve, complications and other such madness.

So you have a game where violence is never the answer, you usually obfuscate your bad guy behind at least a couple of layers of intrigue, you have a totally fluid campaign backdrop, you have to be prepare for technobabble solutions and you have some of the most iconic bad guys in fiction waiting in the wings.

Yeah, thats pretty daunting and a different way of thinking about things - but thats also pretty damned cool.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Gaming Resolutions 2010

Well, this is going to be a lot harder than I thought because a lot of my longer term goals have already been completed. I've published my games, I've squirreled away the money to go to GenCon this year. I'm in a pretty decent place when it comes to gaming - certainly better than anywhere I have been in previous years. So, lets see what we can come up with?

1. Maintain the momentum of Omnihedron Games
I have noticed, of late, that my attentions have began to stray elsewhere. I have plans (I always have plans) but I have been sticking them on the backburner. I think the problem has been twofold. I have 'done' my job on D&H and BtQ and in some ways I don't see a need to revisit them. However, there are things that I still have to say on the topic. I haven't published an almanac in ages and I have a definite yearning to bring the games into the Victorian era, especially the Anglo-Zulu War period, if only in a short supplement.

2. Balance the time pressures of work and gaming
Of course, one of the great motivators behind getting my games out was that I did it as a way of staying active during a period of unemployment and loose employment. Now that I have a full-time job again and a one with weird hours and practices, I have to try out some pretty aggressive time management. I have an insane amount of marking to do at virtual every turn and that needs managing. I have a course that I am studying which I need to make time for too. I think what I might try is a method that my friend Ian has used - take the timespace for our D&D game and set it aside as a gaming time, regardless of whether we are playing or not. So every other week, I do some writing and games stuff. We shall see whether that plan survives impact with Mrs Gow!

3. Exploit Google Wave
I am running one game on Google Wave at the moment and hopefully it will reignite after the Christmas lull. As an experiment and a proof of concept that you can game on that platform, it has been a success for me. Now, almost solving #2 in #3 I'm going to try to move some of my creative juices onto Wave. I want to get one more Wave game going, probably Dr Who and see if I can sustain it through the year.

4. Be More Selfish at Conventions
Funny one this. Consider the conventions I went to this year.

Conception: Slots 12, Played 0, Ran 0 (I was very ill through most of the convention)
Conpulsion: Slots 5, Played 0, Ran 2
Games Expo: Slots 6, Played 0, Ran 1
Furnace: Slots 5, Played 2, Ran 3
Dragonmeet: Slots 2, Played 0, Ran 0

Now I could balance this with 'Amount of Money Earned on the Collective Endeavour Stall': Metric Fuckton.

However, I think I need to gain some balance between running, playing and stalling. I recognise that it is important to run games if you want to sell games but I find running con games exceedingly stressful until I actually sit down to run them. The idea is worse than the actual execution, if you get what I mean. So my resolution is to spend a little less time on the stall and a little more time at the gaming table, on the players side. Balance in all things.

5. Avoid Toxicity
As an extension of 'The Hypocritical Oath' post below, I am going to have to re-evaluate my interactions with the wider online gaming community. One of the things that I have found very difficult to work with over the last couple of years is that by publishing a game you have made a statement which in some cases is seen as an unbending and unchanging fact. I get called on perceived inconsistencies between what I say and what I have published, in some of the most bizarre situations. I don't mind it, but it is a constant drip-drip reminder that I am seen not just as a community member anymore, but now as a publisher and a designer and a seller and a number of other things and all the complications that this brings. However, this tendency to combine me with my game leads to some people with ... poor feedback skills ... breeching my tolerances. Already I have bowed out of participation in many forums because of this and I hope I can continue with others, but I simply cannot be arsed with some of the shite that flows around the internet anymore. Ignoring it is one thing. Not getting involved is another. Regardless, I'm not going to let that toxicity poison my life anymore.

So there we go. I may revise that last one, as it was a real struggle to come up with something.