Feb 202013
 

I left you yesterday with possibly more information than you’d ever need about me, and I plan on piling a lot more on you today, along with another announcement about some more writing I’m doing. So far you know that I’m a massive role player, but that I also have a lot of other geek level interests too. This is the story how one of them changed my life, and with the help of a second meant I got to write a very interesting dissertation.

The story starts with me leaving school and deciding to move away from scholarly pursuits; I’m not too sure why, but looking back it was just a decision made because I had no bloody idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I am now a fully qualified mechanical/production engineer. I did not enjoy that job, and since then have mainly been working in retail, including some time spent as comic book store manager. About five years ago I was thinking about what the hell I should actually do with my life and after a wee bit of soul searching I left my full time “reasonably” well paid job as a bookseller in an international chain and decided to go to university to study history.

I had been reading history books for fun and inspiration for my gaming at the time, and realised that I could do something with this passion for the past. About a year into my studies the financial world went to hell in a hand cart, and I was stuck studying for a humanities degree with very little real world application. I stuck with it though, and I now have a degree in History and Heritage. Regular readers will no doubt be aware that I use this knowledge as often as I can, just so it didn’t go to waste.

In my final year, I took on two final year projects; the first being a heritage assignment in setting up a permanent exhibit at a local art gallery. The second being a study into how extreme metal bands integrate their history and heritage into their music, and the effects that can have. These covered such things as the early nineties Scandinavian church burnings, but also Taiwanese metal band Chthonic and how they use their music to talk about a heritage that is getting rewritten by the Chinese.

Since graduating, I’ve been struggling to find a full time job, and as such I’ve had a fair bit of spare time on my hands. And this last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to use that spare time to talk about extreme metal. A friend who runs an online metal-zine knew I had started writing and asked if I would be interested in doing some reviews. After a bit of time to think – more on that tomorrow – I agreed, and my first review has gone live. Due to the nature of the website, I can’t send you a direct link, but the Denouncement Pyre review under the ‘CD reviews’ banner is all me!

I will hopefully be able to send off one review a week from now on, and it will usually be ‘black metal’ bands that I’ll be taking a look at. So if that’s your cup of tea, you should bookmark the site, or add it on Facebook to keep up to date on reviews and other announcements.

Stay tuned for more Shortymonster news tomorrow, when we discover just how bloody lazy I can actually be…

Feb 192013
 

Thank you dear readers for the taking the time to read this little blog I write. Without a readership, I’m just talking to myself, and that’s plain crazy. Some of you may be curious why I do write this blog, as at no point in the last seven months have I gone into any details about why I decided to share my thoughts with anyone with an inclination to read them. I’m going to rectify that this week, and also fill you all in on some other little things I’ve got going on too, basically because over the last seven months, my life has changed quite a bit.

To begin with then, I’m a gamer. I often use his to describe myself more than any other word. ‘Geek’ night also cover it, but I’m geeky about a variety of things, such as comic books, history and extreme metal, but my biggest passion is for role playing games (with a side order of card/board/computer games too). So when I decided I wanted to write about something, it made sense to concentrate on the thing I identify with the most. Why then do I identify as a gamer?

For those who don’t know me personally – and based on the daily views I get, I think it’s safe to say my readership has grown beyond my friends – I’m a short, (They call me Shorty for a reason) skinny, bespectacled individual who was often an outsider growing up. This lends itself well to slightly more cerebral pursuits as I had less distractions growing up. I don’t think I had what I would think of as close friends until I was about fifteen and discovered war gaming and the social scene built up around it. Since then – with a few noteworthy exceptions – all of my close friends have been involved in the hobby in one way or another. Almost every girlfriend I’ve had has been a gamer in some way too. Without gaming, I’m not sure if I would be the socially aware man I am today, as it wasn’t until I met large groups of fellow gamers that I had to learn how to behave around large groups at all.

That last bit by the way, is a big screw you to all the people who think that gamers are socially awkward by default. It turns out that in a society that numbers 60+, there are no more than a small handful of us who have any sort of social failings; probably no more than you’d get in any group of that size. No, we’re all fairly well balanced people, who just happen to enjoy role playing.

So that’s why I chose gaming as the thing I wanted to talk about. As to why I felt the need to write a blog in the first place? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next thrilling installment for that.

I did promise an announcement though, and this one comes straight off the back of me writing a gaming blog. Some months ago I offered a free NPC to any one of my readers who wanted one; all they needed to do was give me a very basic idea of what they needed, and then I let my creative juices flow. For the last week I’ve been going back to those NPCs and doing a bit of re-writing. I’ve removed any reference to any intellectual property and made each and every one of them system neutral. Then I tidied up some language and grammar issues, and reformatted the lot into one pdf. i even added a new one, as I’ve been thinking a lot about playing a certain type of character for the last couple of weeks, and wanted to share.

That entire document of 16 pages is now available from DriveThruRPG for the low low price of $0.99. Of course, you can just grab them all for free by scrolling through the comments of the aforementioned article, but you’ll have to put up with spelling errors and some rambling thoughts between them. And you won’t get the shiny new NPC either. This is in fact my first of (hopefully) many more pdfs that I’ll have for sale at next to nothing on DriveThru. An experiment into how easy it is to get stuff up there, which will eventually lead on to a monthly product line of system neutral adventures.

I’m sure all GMs have ideas floating around about games they’d like to run, or even short adventures they have completed and would love to share. Well, I’m going to share them, and as each one goes live, I’ll let you all know where you can find it. See you tomorrow for the continuing saga, and another announcement about another project I’m involved in.

Jan 212013
 

Regular readers of the blog will know that I love taking part in the RPG blog carnivals. TheyRPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300 give a great opportunity to rethink something in a new light, or take the time to consider something completely new. As a writing exercise, they can really get the creative juices flowing too. Usually though, I drop them as mini blogs near the weekend to keep my readers entertained for the weekend, and also to give people a new excuse to head on over. In blogging terms, I’m still pretty new at this and need to everything I can to build up an audience.

This week though, I couldn’t help but take the time to do Kobolt Enterprise’s blog carnival its full justice, as it fits in nicely with one of my own new year’s resolutions. You see, when I started this blog, it was partially to get some practice at writing for other people. I have always enjoyed writing, and would look forward to any opportunity to do so, even from a very young age. Up until recently though, unless you happened to be in a game I was playing, you would never see what I had to write. I love writing player diaries, and on occasion I have had people tell me that they find them very enjoyable to read.

These people are friends though, and it’s easy to convince yourself that that’s the only reason they have for being so positive. And when you start thinking like that, it’s very easy to convince yourself that no one who isn’t a friend would ever want to take the time to read anything you’ve written. The blog has given me the confidence to try this out though.

Sure, I’m no blogging superstar just yet, but the feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. So as the end of last year approached, I thought about what I could do to put some more writing in front of people and see what they thought of it. Truth be told, I’m having a lot more fun writing the RPG blog than I thought I would. It turns out that spending years either side of the screen has given me some experiences that not only do I enjoy writing about, but others seem to have a grand time reading. So, I will not be stopping writing the RPG blog, in fact, I won’t even take space away from it on this site. Instead, I’m going to reopen the doors of my old WordPress account, and use that as a vehicle for sharing my prose fiction.

Don’t worry though if you only come here for the role playing talk, a lot of my ideas are inspired by what happens around a table, or by conversations that take place on this – and other – blogs. I won’t bombard followers of this blog with links to the other site; I don’t want people put off by what at present is simply a vanity project. What I will do is subtly mention when something new goes up over on the other site, and point people towards it if they want to take a look. If you do decide to take a look, I would love to hear what you think. And I don’t mean that I’m looking forward to gushing praise. I mean that no matter what you think of it, I want to know. I have been writing in a vacuum for some years now, and that doesn’t do a writer any favours at all. What I need is input back.

With no further ado then, I direct you towards my new home for fiction, with a story that comes on the back of something that bugs me more than a little bit, and was heavily inspired by a certain blog post from a few weeks past. I present to you my new beginnings as a writer with, Last Night, it all Went Wrong.

Dec 312012
 

I hope you have all had a great holiday so far. I’m not sure if I have, as I’m writing this early, as I’m fairly sure that the spirit of the season – in my case, rum – will affect my ability to maintain a blogging schedule. So what I have for anyone out there who decides to check up on me today is a short list of three things that I want to accomplish in the new year. Lets start with the one that concerns this blog shall we.

The last six months have been fabulous for me. I’ve been a gamer for a very long time, and most of my close friends have been brought into my life because of this hobby. The blog has given me the chance to make a whole bunch of new friends, digitally so far, but with luck I will meet some of you someday, and share a drink or two as we talk level based game play pros and cons. So, I am going to commit to maintaining my weekly schedule for the whole year. Every Monday a new RPG related post will pop up on this page for your reading pleasure, or your money back. I’m also going to reinvigorate my old WordPress page, for a slightly different purpose; I’m going to try my hand at prose fiction writing.

Having tried a few different things in the past, I think that designing role playing games and adventures might not be within my skill set. I still have plans for the card game – more on that later – but when it comes to creating role playing things, I much prefer a free form creative process which means the adventures make little to no sense when committed to paper. What I have always enjoyed doing though is writing stories. For a long while now I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge, so come the new year, I’ll be putting something up – hopefully once a week, but I may revise that later – over on the other page. A lot of what I write is role playing inspired, or at least genre fiction, so I hope a few of you will head on over on occasion for feedback. I mean that too, like it or not, I want to know what people think…

Secondly, and this is just for me, I want to get back into shape. I moved house recently, and shifting things out of the house was notably harder on me than moving it in a couple of years previously. I know that time marches on for us all, and I’m going to be 35 in less than a month (28th January, if you want to send me something ;p), but I think that with a bit of effort I can make some improvements, and that’s no bad thing.

Finally, and this one is a bit more of interest to my readers than my physique, I’m going to spend the year concentrating on getting my card game off the ground. I’ve made some good contacts over NaGa DeMon, and had universally positive feedback. That’s not enough though if I want to make a go of this. So, I’ll be getting a better working version of my game ready to print and play, along with forking out some dough to get a professionally made promo set for me to take on the road. I will be doing what I can to hit as many places as possible that will let me play my game, and with luck, putting copies of it into the hands of others who will do the same for me. By next November I hope to have my eye on a kickstarter project for it, or have it in the sights of an actual game design/development company, so I can start work on an expansion. This one is a lofty goal, but as the great one once said, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this little post, and if you’re a regular here, thank you so much for your continued support. I hope to keep providing content for you that you want to read, and are happy to share.

Happy holidays from the Shortymonster!

Dec 232012
 

I have touched gently upon the subject of women in gaming before. It’s not something I talk about a lot, mainly because in my life it isn’t that big a deal. I game as part of a large role playing society that has a pretty healthy gender mix (still very much dude-heavy, but far from a sausage fest), and we’ve never put up with the kind of sexist/misogynistic behavior that I’ve heard about elsewhere. That being said, we still buy rule books, and I still get wound up by how women are represented in them. It’s not just RPGs though, so if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go on a little bit of a ramble right now.

I love watching strong female characters in action. I do however feel a little let down when they’re portrayed by tiny waif like creatures who look they’ve never eaten a meat pie in their lives. As an example, I find it hard to believe that this character is an absolute kick ass hard assassin.

Seriously, she’s tiny and has bugger all muscle tone and definition. I understand that a trained fighter can use leverage and perform amazing feats without being the strongest person in the world, but think back to how many times you’ve watched a movie or a TV show with a kick ass female lead, and they’ve been as sylph-like as Summer Glau.

Now, doesn’t Michelle look like she can handle herself just a little bit better in a fight. And yet, she is rarely cast in a lead role as an action star, instead ending up as part of the backdrop. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great in those roles, but so often is overshadowed by women with a slighter figure, who for some reason are seen as been better suited to that kind of role.

Lets go one further shall we. I’m sure a lot of my readers have seen the rather wonderful

sci-fi action/horror flick, Aliens. Do you remember this character? She kicked all kinds of ass, and held her own against the xenomorphs when surrounded by butch colonial marines. She looked and acted the part perfectly, but died while the rather incapable and more photogenic Ripley lived on. This happens a lot, and if you look at female characters as depicted in RPG rule books, you’ll almost always see the kind of thing. Male characters come in all shapes and sizes, but not so much female ones (I don’t want to get into a debate on costumes right now, but one phrase will sum up my opinions pretty well: Boob-windows?).

If I was an adventurer, I would be looking for compatriots who looked capable, not pretty. I have played a wide variety of characters in the past, and only one whom I actually described as handsome. It was a 7th Sea game, and it made sense for him to be a bit of ladies man. Other than that I’ve played all manner of grizzled adventurers, and con-men. They’ve been scarred, short & chubby and sometimes, just plain ugly, and no one has ever decided that they would rather not have me in the party because of it. So why is it assumed that female characters have to be hot to get accepted?

I’m not talking about all the time here, and of course there are exceptions, and ground is being made in a lot of arenas, but this is still certainly a problem.

One more example, and the reason my mind turned to this subject. I watched the latest

Batman film recently, and before it even started, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it as much as the others, for one simple reason: Catwoman. Her story has been told before, and there really is nothing new to add to it, and I think Nolan just covered the basics without doing anything exciting with this character. And it is a dull, and cliched character. She is a skilled acrobat, and that’s kind of cool, but when a fight starts, I’ve never quite gotten how she poses a threat to Batman. She is always portrayed as just a slim as the other examples above, but here she is in Nolan’s movie. Lithe? certainly. Able to kick the crap out a guy in body armour who has had years of the finest combat training? Maybe not.

And here I come back to gaming again. If I was looking for a cat burglar to join in a caper I was on, I would be a hell of a lot more concerned with function than form. Anyone who turned up to the job in stiletto heals for instance, would  be laughed out the door. I love the idea of Catwoman as an actual thief. Someone who has to keep themselves in the kind of shape you’d need to be in to do the things she can do. have you ever seen a professional freerunner? Those guys are built like brick outhouses, and they need to be to hold up their entire body weight for as long as they have to while on a run. And to be able to fight, they need muscle mass for that too. All in all, I think it’s time for RPG games designers and artists to take a long hard look at how they represent women in their games.

Give them archetypes that make sense, that show that they are just as capable as the male characters, and really should dress in a manner appropriate to the job they will be doing. As always, comments and discussions are more than welcome, even if you don’t agree with me.

Nov 182012
 

Just over a month ago, I rolled past the 10,000 hit mark on this blog, and if you missed it, I offered anyone of my readers an NPC that I would write for them. Just a description and a background, but no stats, and let them use it in their games.

Well, over the course of the month, 34 of you wonderful people took me up on my offer, meaning there are now 34 more free range organic Shortymonster official NPCs in the world. You can check them out by clicking this link and scrolling down through them. For now that is. I’m about to start work on getting them down onto a pdf document – with images and everything – each character tagged for its primary genre, and others that it could work in with a little tweak. Some of them are setting specific, so I will also be tagging those too.

This wouldn’t have been as successful without some support from stars of the RPG online community, a few of them I have already thanked here. A couple of others are also worth mentioning, so check them out too.

The Tower of Archmage has opened up the chance to contribute to one of their latest design ideas on their blog. With the NPC I created for them being one of several star port merchants, if you have any other ideas, head on over and get in touch.

The Dragon’s Flagon is another blog with a distinctly OSR feel to it. That being said, those amongst you like myself who find themselves somewhere between old school and new school can still take a lot from his writing.

So, was this a good idea? I ruddy loved it! It was a great way to stretch some creative muscles, and I’ve heard back from a lot of people that they loved the ideas I gave them. Not only did the NPCs have a bit of background information about them, I also tried to include at least one hook in each too, as a little bit of inspiration for plots. I actually found out this morning that a friend of mine has taken the NPC I created for him and used it to get a lot of his plot ideas tied together. I had so much in fact, that I think I will do this again.

That means that each November will be free NPC month here at Shortymonster. The same deal as before; you don’t have to ‘Like’ my Facebook page, or subscribe to the blog, just drop a comment bellow the article in question, with as much or as little info as you think I’ll need, and I’ll write something up for you.

In terms of what it did for the blog – and I can’t stress enough that it wasn’t just this – A little over a month ago I had 10,000 views in just over four months of blogging. As I write this, that number is over 18,000. That’s a hell of a climb in one month.

Once more then, thanks to everyone who has helped out with this, either through sharing my offer with your own readers, asking for an NPC for me to write, or just heading on over to see what all the fuss was about. I’ll keep on blogging as long you lot keep on reading, and once a year – to let you know how much I appreciate you all – I’ll do this all over again.

Nov 162012
 

This blog isn’t even six months old, but I’ve already learnt a whole bunch about the hobby I love, that playing games in it for over 17 years never taught me. Most of these are just odd little words and phrases, but I thought I would put them down for other people who want to get involved in this awesome online community, but have no idea what a whole bunch of the stuff that gets talked about even means. The headings will link out to larger articles on the subject, if people want to delve deeper than this list dares to go.

OSR: Old School Renaissance. Basically it boils down a gamers who have a preference for old school RPGs. What constitutes an old school RPG? That’s a little harder to pin down, but the basic ethos seems to story over rules, and the freedom to make the game the way you want to play. I admire the movement, but I cut my teeth on more modern games, and haven’t really played anything old school bar a short delve into Hackmaster. A great game which quite rightly gets a fair bit of praise from the OSR folks.

Grognard. At its most literal, it means ‘old guard’ or old soldier. In my time gaming, I’ve recently been referred to as a member of the old guard of the gaming society I’ve been a member of for almost two decades. In RPG terms though, it can mean someone who has a fondness for older editions of games who have been playing for a long time, and who would probably think of themselves as being part of the OSR.

GrognardlingAt first I thought this was some kind of Grgnard/halfling husbandry incident, but it turns out, it’s actually a name for people who love old school gaming, but are fairly new to the hobby.

Flail Snail. More than just a rather peculiar fantasy RPG monster, it’s also a way of gaming that allows for cross system characters to end up in the same party. I really like the sound of this and might give it a go at some point.

Murder Hobo. This is something I had experienced, but had no idea that there was a name for it! Imagine a bunch of player characters who see the world as their own playground, and the most fun games involve killing anyone who looks at them funny, and moving on before they have to face the consequences. What you have there is a pack of murder hobos.

Hex Crawling. This is actually a old way to game, but one that had managed to completely pass me by, apart from a vague understanding of it being like a dungeon crawl, but above ground. I can’t really do it justice, here, so please follow the link. Suffice to say, it has interested me a lot recently, and I think as way of running an RPG it has a whole heap of benefits.

The Secret Santicore. Sadly, this has closed for the year, but it’s a great little idea. Everyone asks the Secret Santicore for something RPG related, and offers something back. magic then happens, and people get what they asked for! I’m sure there’s more than that, but i don’t want to spoil the magic for the kidlings. Seriously though, this is such a great idea, and sums very effectively what I love so much about the role playing community online. people creating things for other people, just for the joy of creating it.

So there we go. A far from exhaustive list, but feel free to add anything else you like to the comments below, or even correct me if I have misunderstood anything.

Nov 112012
 

For November, Triple Crit is taking the reigns for the RPG Blog Carnival, and their topic of choice is about how the writing process affects, or is affected by the game. I have stated in previous blogs how little I actually write down when I’m GMing. This has lead to a separate writing project stalling pretty much completely. When I ran a long campaign that I recently considering turning into a published adventure, it was very hard indeed to get down in words the choices that the players made, as I had so little to do with most of them. This is because I ran a lot of the game on the fly, and knew that if I had stuff written down I could end up getting bogged down in following my own plot. I think I would like to get back round to the project once I have a bit more writing experience under my belt, but at the moment I have a few other projects up my sleeve that are taking up time, and have a higher chance of baring fruit, creatively  and when it comes to them seeing the light of day.

Today then, I want to talk about writing done as a player. In the balance of things I think I have spent more time on the player’s side of the screen, and this has done me a lot of favours when it comes to GMing. I tend to run the kind of game I would like to play, and people seem to respond to that in a highly positive way. When I’m playing a character that I can sink my teeth into, the notes I take during play – that usually exist only as a reminder of names and places to me as a player – end up being the basis for longer prose pieces that I write up just for the fun of it. Until recently, I never entertained any idea of them seeing print in any format other than a thread on a forum. But right now, with the blog and a few other writing projects, my confidence as a writer is growing. A big obstacle to publishing adventures from a game though is that you own so little of the intellectual property you’re writing about.

If I was to include any of the adventure, the GM takes credit for creating the basic plot. If I write about a published game world, all of that belongs to other people. Even the other player characters were the creation of other minds. My latest shot at this though could actually work. A couple of friends of mine are in the final stages of writing their own system and game world, and have given me permission to use characters/places/kitchen sink from the world they have created. I need to get the rest of the players on board to letting me put words in their character’s mouths, as one thing i didn’t do was record the session to recreate the conversations verbatim.

This here is what I’m currently thinking about turning into a real bit of writing. Please don’t judge it too harshly, as it was written just for fun. The character who narrates this is actually illiterate. The idea eventually became he was telling the story to journalist after the end of the adventure. Within a few months of game play, it became pretty obvious that we were involved in something big, and that people would want to know what actually happened.

As a bit of practice I have in mind a basic little story of the character’s past, his time spent in the army. This way I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes and the other players can take a look at what I’ve got and see if they’re comfortable with me writing about their creations. For now, this little tease will have to do, but I promise to share anything I write up with all of you.

Nov 092012
 

When I last left you I had completed the Excitement deck and shared a few choice samples with you, along with the rule book so you know what the heck it all means. Or at least, that was the plan. Go and take a look if you missed it…

Since then I’ve mainly been working on the Adventure deck. I say mainly, I also came down with a pretty bad man flu and spent an evening watching a Google+ hangout as some great people play tested an awesome game. But mainly the Adventure deck. This took a lot longer to square away than the Excitement deck, even though it’s smaller. The reason for this is that I wanted a whole bunch of unique Adventures, where as a lot of the Excitement cards made more sense as duplicates. In the original idea, I did have duplicates of Adventures, with the plan being the players would ‘race’ to be the first to finish each one. You know the drill, once someone has mapped the source of the Nile, doing it again later just isn’t as impressive. Sure, they could still head out there, and might even discover something new and shiny, but the main work has already been done and the achievement celebrated.

I had worked out ways for people coming along after the fact to have an easier time of it, but reap less rewards, but it just seemed a needlessly complicated way of dealing with exploration. Instead I have created nine unique Adventures per continent and then nine other open Adventures than can be completed anywhere but with less rewards and a slightly higher difficulty. Not only did this take time as it stretched my creative muscles a bit more, but the Adventure cards have a bit more information on them, and a few more numbers that need to be balanced. Click this link, and you’ll see what I mean.

It also gave me a few opportunities to try out some extra ideas, such as differing rewards or individual difficulties depending on the nature of the Adventure. All in all it was time well spent, and I hope that the changes I made – including simplifying the language and doing away with often repeated sentences in favour of basic terms – will speed up the game play. The last thing I need before I can try it out though is a set of characters.

I decided to keep it to the six I had in mind originally, but worked out differently based on the rules revisions. A lot of this is the same as I did to the Adventure cards. removing full sentences in favour of modifiers to a game effect. This mean they should be smaller cards – three to a sheet instead of two – without looking cluttered. I’m hoping the balance issues will be swifter to work out now I have a better handle on it, so with any luck, I should have a Monday update that includes some files to download that will allow people to actually print and play the game themselves.

I hope there’s at least one of you out there who is interested enough – and can fit it into their own busy NaGa DeMon schedule – to take a look and let me know what they think. Without play impartial play testing I’ll never know if this works as well as it does in my head.

Nov 022012
 

 

I love a good blog carnival, and with the nights drawing in here it seems fitting to join in with this one, hosted by the lovely people at Dice Monkey. The premise is a simple one, just something that can be used in RPG with a winter theme. With that in mind, I have decided to explore some of the perils of winter in a Neo-Victorian horror setting: one of my favourites. Although I’m sure there’s plenty of fun to be had as the nights draw in, my mind turns to the things take advantage of the shadows.

The Nights are Getting Longer. That means that there’s more time for skulking nocturnal predators to hunt. Feral vampires that stalk the Underground for victims are seen more and more on the streets. The chittering and howling that warns that they are close all the more prevalent, as well to do folks hide inside with a roaring fire. The man of the house leaning forward to increase the gramophone volume to better drown out the screams of pain.

Even more worrying is the threat of the cognisant leeches  They know how to blend in with polite society, and can been seen at early evening gatherings instead of only turning up late at the Gentleman’s club. The long dark helping to protect their identity as mass murderers and agents of corruption.

Snow Mixed with Smog. Pollution is what London breathes as it pumps through the engines and industry of this Modern age. Walking out without a full face respirator is a sure way to enter the grave early, and in considerable pain. But as the toxic filth in the air, solid as soot, mixes with the icy precipitation, it enters the water table. Gets in the eyes. Covers the homeless as they lay sleeping in dark alleys… Come the morning it looks almost beautiful, as it settles white with no pollutants to stain it. Within hours though, it is a grey sludge, covering everyone who walks through it, seeping into clothing through the smallest of gaps, and melting to reveal the corpses of those who met their ends during the night…

Hunger. With winter shutdown for most factories, and the spirit of giving and philanthropy put on hold for a season of indulgent excess, those on the lowest rungs of the social ladder find it the hardest to keep their families fed. At night, in the pitch darkness, the Ghouls hold their meat markets. For a few coins, a bag of greying flesh can be purchased, taken from hands that more resemble claws. It’s probably a bad idea to question its providence. At this time of year, you’re lucky to get hold of horse meat, but somehow the Ghouls can always provide. And next winter, there will likely be a few more of their number, though they cannot reproduce…

Silence. The snow and the fog muffle all noises in the city. For those in the west end, with manor houses and high walls topped by barbed fences, this is a luxury. The sounds of industry hidden from their delicate ears. For others, it allows the predators of the city to move unheard. To get right up behind you, so the first things you notice are the breathe at the nape of your neck, and the cold steal tickling your Adam’s apple. And with footsteps muffled by fresh snow fall – your sight and hearing hindered by thick fog – you get no warning at all as hands more bone than flesh take you firmly by the collar, and teeth close around your skin with inhuman strength….

Winter is coming, it’s going to be a dark one.