Dec 122013

That night was a time for quiet reflection for almost all of us. Drazar was happy to talk to me, but other than a brief conversation with Brand, kept to his own company. We spoke on a few matters; he thanked me for rushing to his defense, but I was quick to point out that I would do that for anyone in our traveling party. Still having him think well of me was a good thing, I just wished that everyone else was willing to think the same way about everyone else. We still had a hell of a road ahead of us, and without knowing exactly what faced us, I was still expecting more trouble on the road and keeping everyone from each others throats was essential.

He also confirmed my suspicions that he was of half Daemon stock, and that was why he wore the mask. I thought to myself that the more sensible course of action would be to get his arse the hell away from Pelosia, but he must have his own reasons for staying so close to their border. As we spoke I tried my best to remove the wards that prevented him from entering the hospice. Using my dagger for a purpose it very much wasn’t intended for, I pried away a paint covered board from each side of the doorway, but he was still unable to make his way past the boundary. “Thank you for the effort, but the wards remain and I am not sure it would be safe for me to try to cross. If you would be so kind as to bring some food out for me?” I nodded and patted him on the shoulder as Valerius stomped his way back into the hospice.

I was still happy to avoid him so let him pass without word, but before I had even gotten to the food pot, he was stomping his way back out, carrying the helmet of Fedenzo towards the hole that him and Brand had been digging. As I was making my way from the pot, Skuza’s man Geru was making his own towards it. Usually such a thing wouldn’t even be worth drawing attention to, but he had clearly been told what had happened. “Pardon me”, he says, talking slightly louder than required and occasionally bumping into things, “for my hearing is not what it once was. Also my eyesight has deteriorated considerably this evening, so I haven’t been able to see or hear anything interesting at all for several hours now”. I smiled at his antics, making a point to speak up myself when replying and then taking the time to steer him away from tables he seemed determined to walk into to prove his sightlessness.

I was half convinced that Skuza had coached him to behave as he did, but even if he had made the decision on his own, I couldn’t rightly blame him. I wasn’t too happy about executing witnesses, but even the hour or so since the fight had ended had cooled my head down on the subject and I  was beginning to see the sense in it. I’m not sure if I would have done the deed myself, but it was getting harder to stay angry at Valerius for doing what had needed to be done.

With a nice big bowl of broth filled I made my way back outside to see them bringing the bodies down from where they had been hanged. I would have liked to have helped at this point; the poor women had done nothing to deserve what had happened to them. Valerius was taking control of the operation however, and had taken the time to seek help from the New Raphelian, but had not even spoken to me. Maybe he saw this as an act of penance for himself, or just didn’t want to be anywhere near me. Either way, I again steered clear of him.

Knowing that Drazar would be unable to pass into the hospice to sleep in a bed, I made up a fire by the wagons and sat with him as we watched the men work. As we did, Catranasia came out from within the hospice. She was wearing a rough woolen cloak, but was carrying a sack’s worth of stuff in it as she stumbled into the darkness. She had made her way to the Nun’s chambers looking for medical supplies and had apparently hit the mother lode. Caderyn had seen her too, and was quite happy to lend a hand and get all the goodies loaded into the back of a wagon. If they saw the massive mace that was in there, neither commented or drew Valerius’ attention to it in case he decided to bury that with the dead knight too. Slightly mercenary I know, but I needed a big pay day after this job, and that mace would be worth a small fortune if sold to the right buyer.

It was at this time that Drazar sat and spoke to the Yerwian. I only caught a few words here and there, but from what I could discern they were talking about things Daemonic. I wasn’t sure why Drazar had thought that Brand would know more than he did about his condition, but they spoke for some time, so I guess he knew more than he let on.

With watches set – I remember taking the time to remind everyone when they were expected to be awake and whom they were to rouse before returning to bed as a few of us would be bedding down under the stars – I made my way back outside to the wagons and the fire, and curled up beneath one of the wagons. I kept my steel inches from my hand as I slept. I wasn’t so much expecting trouble from outside, but still hadn’t quite shaken the feeling that Valerius had one more body that might might like to throw into the hastily dug grave.

*     *     *

A shout woke me some time later, but since I was still an hour or so from ready for my shift to start I wasn’t awake enough to take in what was said. I just grabbed the hilt of my Basaedo and rolled out of my blanket toward the noise.

I could just about make out the darkened shadow of Caderyn running towards the stables. It wasn’t far from where the wagons had been arranged into a crescent so I quickly made it to my feet and began to run after him. Valerius was by the door, holding onto a length of rope keeping it closed. The Dummonii had covered the ground quicker than I, so I missed the start of the conversation, but it seemed there was someone in there, and Valerius suspected it was another nun.

The furthest I had even gone into the hospice was the ground floor, but the Pelosian had apparently taken the time to explore more thoroughly and had noted more beds than hanging bodies. As the two of us were there now as back up, he let go of the door so that it could be opened and shouted into the building, “Come out now, there’s nothing to be scared of”, but the only reply was the noise of the tether kicking up a fuss. Walking slowly towards it, I raised my left hand and placed it above the beast’s snout, making soothing noises, and within a few seconds it had stilled. Turning away – with my hand still in place – I looked up to see the grubby face of a young lady leaning over the the loft space and staring down at us.

“Please, come down”, said Valerius, in the closest he seems to have to a soothing voice, “We are not your enemies, and we will not treat you as such. You must be cold and hungry, we have food and a warm fire. Tell us your story”.

It was very much as we expected. Fedenzo has arrived with injured men, and had executed the nuns after they had admitted under torture that they offered aid to the Dummonii. They hadn’t needed to be tortured to give up such information, but it seemed the knight had wanted more, and had suspected them of performing dark rituals. After who knew how long, they were dragged outside and hanged until dead. The young woman had been out of the hospice when they arrived and as such had managed to stay hidden.

I don’t know if Valerius had convinced himself that this was all still some sort of misunderstanding, but hearing it from the girl was surely the proof he needed we had done, I had done, the right thing by putting an end to Fedenzo. Either way, by the time morning broke he had seemed to have lost his bitter edge somewhat.

Before that though, I had my own watch to stand, but rather than drifting off into a half sleep like I had done in the past, I decided to spend my time on something useful. Up until a few years back I was still in possession of my early notes for the Di Gregori Distracting Refraction, but I was made an offer it made no sense to refuse. It was the first time anyone else had been taught the most important aspect of casting the rune, and my handwriting stated it, if not exactly clearly: cast & step. I kept that bit to myself for many a year as I wanted to keep the advantage if I ever faced off against someone else who had learnt it. These days though, it doesn’t make that much difference.

I had roped in Brand to help me, and equipped him with a long thin branch that he could use to swing at me. Or at least where he thought I was. I cast it several times, making sure that I was aware of the angle that the light refracted at so my own blows would hit their mark. That morning I was still far from certain, swinging wide almost as much as Brand did, but the practice was well taken. I also realised that there was a pleasing side effect.

The rune was supposed to centre on me, creating an oval disk slightly bigger than a tower shield that would turn the light away, making it appear as though I had moved, hopefully causing an enemy to strike at empty air while I attacked from a position of surprise. Because I had centered it on myself though, on my aura apparently, it had fully encircled me.

This would mean that even people standing behind me would think I was standing where no one was, giving me even better protection. The practice casting ate up most of our watch, but still allowed Brand the time to prepare for his morning rituals. By now, we were all used to the wailing and gnashing of teeth, but we had an extra body with us, and Valerius was tasked with calming the poor thing down after her sleep was so rudely interrupted.

After breakfast we began getting the beasts of burden ready for another day’s travel, and I was more than happy to help. Geru did his best, but whenever he noticed anyone watching him, would be sure to stumble and occasionally take the time to walk into something he could plainly see. I don’t hold it against him that he was worried we’d kill him in his sleep, but it was taking up valuable time.

Skuza seemed like even he had hurried that morning. He had clearly not taken the time to bathe or even shave himself before we made our way out of the hospice. He looked more ill than I had ever seen him, and not the coughs of shakes of a nobleman away from his home comforts, but like he was actually sick. His skin was grey, and the eyes sunk into his face in dark pools. He walked slowly, with Vitus on his arm and a thick looking winter cloak wrapped tightly around him in spite of the already warm morning.

His wagon master seemed like the night’s sleep and some time to reflect on the previous evening’s action had been just what he needed. He wasn’t exactly ready to smile and offer us a drink, but he said a lot without ever opening his mouth by nodding to each of us as he led Skuza to the relative safety of his carriage. Maybe not an acceptance of what had happened, but at least an understanding of its necessity.

With everything squared away we were good to go, but there was still the matter of the young girl and the remaining injured soldiers. She seemed happy to stick around and try to offer help to those who needed it. Hopefully she would be able to survive without all the medicine that Catranasia had stolen, and with Pelo on her side, anything was possible. It seemed that his blessing hadn’t extended to the men though, as most had passed during the night. Of the few that remained, the old chap who lost his eyes seemed happy to stay too, to help administer to the fallen and maybe even don the grey cloaks of this order. Good luck to them, thinks I, but I was pleased to put the damned place behind me.

*     *     *

The air was so warm that morning that the muddy ground around us was steaming as the water evaporated. The track was rutted and uneven, and on occasion Caderyn and I had to slow our pace for the wagons as we trekked back the way we came to the fork in road before making our way to Maidens Play. The water vapour rising from the ground quickly mixed with the thickening fog, and before long we were lucky to see more than a dozen or so yards ahead of us. It carried on this way for a while, until we started to close in on the swollen river.

What we saw cutting slowly through the mist was enough to defy belief at first. The carved wooden figurehead of a ship appeared to making its way slowly along the road some distance away from us.

As the mists parted, we saw the whole picture, ship and all. The entire thing was lifted off the ground on four gargantuan wheels, and pulled along by a small army of slaves to the beat of a deep drum. Something so crazy, so audacious, would have taken a particular kind of mind to envisage. There were few people in these parts stupid or stubborn enough to attempt such a thing, and one name was coming to my mind above all others, but I hoped I was wrong.

Thorgrim the Difficult“, says Caderyn who had stopped at my side to take in the spectacle, and had similar thoughts to my own.

“Shit”, I agreed, “Thorgrim the bastarding Difficult. If that is him, and who the hell else could it be, we have no chance in a fight. Do we run for it, or try and make an offering”? Caderyn paused to think about this, his eyes locked on the unusual sight ahead of us. In a few seconds we had both come to the same conclusion. The knight’s huge mace was still in the back of one of the wagons, and might make a worthy offering. Of course I’d heard the stories about his usual weapon of choice.

He had once had three brothers, and they had all distrusted one another, possible down to the traditional Hutzlunr viewpoint with regard to families. Thorgrim was the biggest bastard of the lot of them though, and so had arranged for them all to be executed. Before that he had a Vytch – one of his several wives by all account – tear their souls from their bodies and had them bound to his Hutzaxe.

He spoke to it too, asked its council no less. Hell, there were even stories that he’d left the damned thing in charge of his army when he had other business. Crazy men are notoriously tricky to deal with, and this one was a head above even the worst that the Margomarissi had to offer.

Our decision was made for us though, as we could see a few tether and even a couple of chariots heading towards us at speed. They didn’t look like they were wanting a quiet chat about the weather, but luckily they were coming from a direction we could move away from and still make it to the river crossing at Maidens Play. If we were fast enough and had a good deal of luck.

As Caderyn and I ran back to the wagons and jumped up to grab some ropes to keep us in place, Fjorlief was on the ground, communing with nature to make the hormorn run like greased shit. They got moving quickly, and then Skuza’s carriage rattled up to speed following it, and Catranasia did her best to catch up, with me gripping tight to the rear wagon, trying to keep the animals focused best I could.

We weren’t far from the crossing by this point, but even with Earth Power coursing through them, the beasts were never going to outrun the tethers or the chariots. the best we could hope for was an easy run and that one of them might lose a wheel or throw a rider. They were already closing the distance though, and there was little we could do but hope.

Apart from Drazar that was. With his own Earth Power he could do something, but he would need to be on the ground. The thought had obviously occurred to him as he dropped from the wagon, probably grinning behind his mask, and landed without seeming to hurt himself too much, then quickly shrunk away in the distance as we moved on.

The ground was still harsh as we bounced our way along the road. The speed and rough terrain was surely causing some damage to our wagons, and I could only imagine the colours and quantity of vomit that must already have been covering the inside of the Boss’s carriage. I could see Valerius climbing on top of it though with his bow in hand and already strung. He must have thought he could at least get a shot off, and Caderyn wasn’t to be outdone by the Pelosian with a Dummonii bow, and was clambering with a lot less grace onto the top of the first wagon.

Behind us we could hear cursing in the Hutzlunr tongue, and see the tethers start to pull away from the chase as their riders berated them loudly. This was the half-Daemon doing what he could to help, and he wasn’t done yet. A few moments later one of the chariots had flipped over, crushing the two beasts pulling it and almost certainly crippling the driver. The other chariot wasn’t slowing down though and at least one more tether was still closing.

The men who rode with and fought alongside Thorgrim were all storied men. It might seem like a strange concept to you if the most excitement you get is a giddy little thrill at the casino once a mune, but for people who live to kill, their name is very important, and how people think about them, even more so. So to ride with Thorgrim, you needed a name with a story attached to it, a reason why people called you thus. And these stories were always bloody, always brutal, and usually true. If even the couple of them still heading our way made it and managed to climb onto a wagon, engaging us one on one, our blood would join the rain and mist, making mud of the road.

Drazar had given me an idea to even the score somewhat though, so I acted quickly, without thinking too far ahead. The two bowmen were in position, and the Pelosian was already drawing the string back, an arrow knocked and pointed at the man on the tether. That just left the other chariot, and I could do something about that. The range of my runic attacks were tiny though, and if I waited for them to close to within it and missed, the chariot would already be upon us. So I braced myself, and let go of the rope, keeping my Basaedo away from my body as I dropped and rolled clear of the wagon’s wheels and the stamping feet of the tether.

I turned and saw over my shoulder the look of confusion on Caderyn’s face. I had no Earth Power so no reason to be on the ground, and I imagine he would have been happier if the other trained swordsman was still around if the archers failed to bring down the fucker swinging a hatchet who was now very close indeed to the rear wagon.

No, I had no Earth Power, but if I wanted to be useful, I needed to be close to the animals pulling the chariot. I had one rune learnt that could bring down one of them, and after watching Drazar at work, I knew that would be enough to halt the entire thing. I moved away from the middle of the road and waited, the shape already formed in my head that I would need to carve into the air in front of me.

As it thundered towards me I got my first look at the driver. He was wearing a loose looking mail shirt and padded armour elsewhere, which gave me some hope.The Basaedo is a thrusting weapon, and the point could easily punch through the mail and into his flesh.

The rest of him gave me a moments pause; his face looked disfigured, but not from any scars. It was lumped and swollen in places, and just looked wrong. I would find out later why this was, and why my steel didn’t cut through him as easy as it should if he was only wearing loose mail armour.

The Hutzlunr Vytches brew magic potions for their men. These make them bigger and stronger, berserk and immune to pain. They also often disfigure them, and toughen the malformed skin, turning it into a form of natural armour. And he was smiling.

He had seen me, but then I wasn’t really hiding, and was angling the chariot to run me down, seemingly not caring that I was holding my ground rather than ducking into the undergrowth as he flicked the reins to increase his speed. I was happy to keep eye contact with the ugly grinning sod as my fingers formed the curved rune and I threw the phantom rope forward towards the front legs of the beast on the right. All I could do was hope that it was so fixated on keeping up its speed that it would be unable to move away from the entangling cords.

As I felt the rope make contact I kept my eyes locked on Smiler and pulled my fist back in one swift movement, tightening the rope and bringing both legs together in an instant. It fell forward as its back legs crashed into its front, and the other creature wheeled around, centered on the fulcrum that was the chariot’s yoke as they both crashed into the ground. And of course, Smiler had just sped them up hoping to crush me beneath their talonned feet and the momentum drove the chariot over them both, flinging him up and forward, smashing him into the road with a thud.

I had managed to avoid the flying vehicle, but Smiler had some luck all of his own and had managed survived the crash. He was already getting to his feet, be it slowly and gently. I don’t doubt that I could have just ran back to the wagons and left him to walk back as a failure to Thorgrim the Difficult, but Smiler had pissed me off. I walked towards him, and thrust my steel hard into his leg, hoping to keep him on the ground and retain the advantage.

The Basaedo went through the armour easily, but his toughened skin stopped it from dealing as much as damage as I would have liked. This was going to be a real fight, I thought, as he drew himself up to his full height in front of me, the movement pulling the tip of my steel free, letting blood run from the wound.

As all this was going on, the rest of the caravan weren’t doing much better. The hatchet-man was damned hard to pin with arrows, and only a couple even came close. He had managed to jump from the tether to the rear wagon by now, and by all accounts had done so with ease and style. Like I said, storied men are not to be trifled with.

While the archers carried on trying to bring him down, he had jumped onto the seat and kicked Catranasia to the dirt. She was damned lucky to avoid a serious injury, but also to find Drazar. He had somehow managed to catch up with the wagons – Earth Power no doubt – but could do little else from where he was. No, it was Vitus who saved the day on that wagon, with some help from Valerius.

He jumped off his own quickly moving tether and managed to land next to Hatchet-man and remove him as a threat. By this point he had a couple of arrow shafts in his left arm courtesy of Valerius, so all it took was a couple of solid blows from the caravan master, and down he went, shouting his hatred of archers as he fell.

That just left me and Smiler. He had pulled a length of chain from around his waist and was swinging it in tight circles as he came for me. It was lucky that I had my dagger in hand as it was, but he was too quick, and before I knew what was happening he had whipped the chain out towards my legs and the blow landed hard. Staggering backwards I just about managed to keep my feet and returned the blow as quick as I dared. I wanted to end this quickly, but after his first strike I knew I couldn’t live through many more so had to fight carefully.

I wished I had put more time into the new rune, but even casting something simple could have given him an opening here, so I just aimed low and went in again, trying for the already wounded leg. This time I felt the blow strike deep and he cried out and stepped backwards, pulling himself away from my steel. Turning my stance I readied for his counter, but the crash must have taken more of a toll than it seemed and he took two more steps backwards before falling comically onto his arse into the mud. He sat there for a second, that damned smile back on his lips as the air left his lungs for the last time.

My legs were bruised and shaking as he fell all the way back, and I knew I was in no fit state to run to catch up with the wagons. Hopefully Smiler had something about his person that would make the delay worth while.

Oct 302013

This is the first of my weekly series of in game diaries of the character Kantrel di Gregori. These adventures are set in a game world created by a couple of friends of mine, and you can find out more information about the game and its upcoming Kickstarter campaign by heading over and checking out their Facebook page.

These stories of the beginning of my life as a duelist take place when I was but a young man, before I had bothered to better myself mentally and acquired the ability to write, so they are based on little but memories and shared stories. I will however do my best to present them as accurately as possible, with the bare minimum of hyperbole in there, just to sell myself as the hero of these tales.

By now you will know about my family background, and how mush I railed against it. You also know that I was making my way to the Margomarissi  to gain experience and coin so that when I returned, it would either be as a wealthy professional, or in a wooden box. Life does seem to get in the way though, and due to a series of errors of foresight, and not inconsiderable bad luck, I arrived as the campaign season was beginning to wind down. It had been a deathly hot summer that year and it took its toll on the combatants, meaning hostilities ceased earlier than usual, leaving me at a loose end.

I decided to supplement my income for the winter months by taking on work as body guard for anyone who had the coin and wished to slum it in the low towns with all the rest of us scum. I thought this would be dull work as there were few villains willing to take the risk against someone of my not inconsiderable height, but it turned out to be more fun that I ever imagined. She was named Toanna, or at least that’s what she told me. I think she saw in me a lot more than I ever intended, and might very well have worked out something about my breeding long before I had a chance to tell her the truth. I quickly stopped hiding such things from her th0ugh as our friendship grew into something so much more.

I never knew exactly who she was, but since I kept certain details about myself from her, I couldn’t think any less of my little Doe for her secrets. All I knew was that she was Dummoni, and from a family with money. Maybe they had gotten suspicious about our relationship, and only saw me as I meant them to – a hard up sell sword with barely a tin Parvus to my name – and moved her away before she could say goodbye. Maybe she had just grown bored of me and left? At the time though, I was young and cock-sure, and set about finding her. It took a few weeks, as these things will when you haven’t the money to bribe the right people, but eventually I found out that she had made her way to Tuthom-Pothrie.

It was a dangerous place to be with the war just wrapping up for the Autumn and before the yearly peace talks had even begun. I knew I had to find her though, regardless of the danger. My youthful vigour once again coming to the fore, along with the unshakable belief that I was indestructible, as all young men must feel at one time or an other. My luck had turned though as I easily found out about a caravan team leaving Solius-On-the-Mountain two days from then. It was too early for most of the traders to make such a risky venture, but my employer was without options.

Eduardo Skuza was a man with not an ounce of luck left to him. Once an important trader and Pelosian of note, he had lost almost everything in a very short period of time. With caravans lost to bandits, landslides or just plain vanishing, he was desperate and had just one way to return to his former glory. He would take what little he had managed to secrete away from his creditors, bundle it all into a couple of covered wagons, hire anyone foolish enough to join him in this craziness – with a promise of a share in the profit he would make – and get to Tuthom-Pothrie before any of the other traders. This would allow him to sell his wares at the price of his asking, and hopefully allow him to return to his former glory.

I was quick to accept after talking to his caravan master – a tough Pelosian known as Vitus Leale – as I understood that at least half a dozen men would be on the trip to protect his master. The following morning, as I woke with the dawn, eager to be on our way, I was to be disappointed. With the exception Vitus and myself, there was but one other trained warrior. He looked the part to be sure, with more weapons hanging off him that lice off a doxie’s bush, but just the three of us wouldn’t look enough to deter any sizable group of thugs and cut-throats. Still, if we stuck together and fought well, Caderyn – a Dummoni if the warbow slung over his shoulder was any indication – Vitus and myself might just get through it.

The others were a strange mix of of various races, including a man from New Raphelia, and hardly any of them even had a shared a common tongue with which to talk to each other. But we make do with what we have, and barring a two hour wait whilst our illustrious employer got himself bathed and powdered ready for the road, we were off in fairly good time. Sadly, the rain had started coming down hard as we were stood with  little to do but consider our genitals, and that meant I could barely see more than a dozen yards of clear space in front of the lead wagon as we made our way down the narrow cliff side path, and could hear little but the drops falling on my head and ears.

And those bandits I had been so worried about, well they obviously had seen that the weather gave them the advantage and decided to take a shot at getting our cargo away from us.

Mar 262013

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300Kobalt Enterprises are hosting this months RPG blog carnival, and I’ve been wracking my brain to think of something suitably epic to qualify. True, there have been some excellent moments in games I’ve been in, and I don’t want any GMs to feel bad for not being the one who got a personal mention. That is why I have made a very self referential decision and decided to show off about one of my moments of epic GMing.

I know this is going to sound big headed, but please, bear with me. As I wrote recently, I was not the easiest gamer to get along with back in the day. I thank all of my current friends for sticking with me as long as they did, giving me the time to grow into the capable and socially aware gamer/GM I am today. The reason than I’m picking a moment of my own GMing for consideration is that it came during this rather bloody awkward phase of my life. I had bought my first full RPG system, the original Deadlands game, and had been running it for a few months with mostly positive results. I then decided to try something a bit different, and if it had gone wrong, it could have been catastrophic. What I did was simple in its way. I invited the players to tell me stories instead of having me tell them one for the night. It was a bit more involved in than that, and if you want the full details, and maybe even to try it out for yourself, then head on over to Stuffer Shack where I wrote about it as part of my weekly column.

It went superbly, and I can’t thank the players enough for joining in. It might seem like quite a bit of extra effort, but trust me, the pay off is worth it. So there you have it, a moment of GMing epicness, and it came from a rather annoying young man who had only just discovered the thrill of being a GM. Take from that hope, all new GMs, that when you have a crazy idea about doing something that seems totally off kilter, it could just end up being something that people still talk about for years to come.

Feb 232013

So there we have it, the long overdue story of how this blog came to exist. There are actually a few other projects I’m involved in that I didn’t have time to share through the week, so listed below – with links for those interested – is everything I’m doing, and everywhere else you can find me online, and maybe even in the real world. I’ll start with the ones already mentioned, just to get them all in the same place.

Reviewing music for an extreme metal webzine: The Legions of Steel. As an aside, if you’re in a new and upcoming metal band, drop me a line and we’ll happily sort out an interview (Skype) or if you have a promo, we’ll rock a review for you.

I’ve released my first DriveThruStuff product, and I will be aiming to drop one new Adventure a month. The publisher page can be found here.

I also manage a stand-up comedian, and I’ll be pimping gigs and other appearances through his Facebook page.

I’m onto stage two of my first fully functioning card game, and everything you need to help me play test it can be grabbed through Dropbox.

And now for some stuff you might not know about.

I have taken up a weekly column over at Stuffer Shack. The dude who runs the site went the extra mile in offering support and encouragement when I first started out, so I’m very pleased indeed to be able to work with him. The first post went up yesterday, and you should check back each work for more.

Me and my best mate – whom I mentioned yesterday – have recorded our first podcast. Since he is a very busy man, lecturing at various universities and speaking at conferences, he hasn’t managed to get it edited and uploaded yet, but when he does, it can be found here.

The fiction that I mentioned writing also has its own home, but if you’ve been following this blog since its inception, the address should look familiar, as all I’ve done is go back to the old WordPress page to publish it. I’ll be trying to keep up with one new piece a month on here, so check back regularly.

These last two don’t have links yet, as there are more details to work out, but they are moving on at pace.

I mentioned the hobby of airsofting on a Monday, and as soon as some contract details are worked out, a mate of mine will be opening his own venue. I will not only be helping to build the arena, but also coming up with some MilSim style adventures and plots that will be run there. I will post details when I have it, as I will almost certainly be helping out with marshaling too, so you might be able to pop down and say hi, if you live relatively close.

And finally, me and another mate – guitarist in kick ass post-rock band Civil Protection – are about to embark on creating a documentary film on fringe religions. This is his baby, and I’ll just be along for the ride, coordinating as need be, but it should be fun, and once we have more details, I’ll let you fine people know.

And now for something even more ethereal. I received a message in the comments section of this very blog from another blogger, one whom I’m a big fan of as we share similar tastes in extreme metal, and have both been lucky enough to get in on the MYFORAG play test. He wants to run something by me. I’m more than a little intrigued…

So that’s that. On Monday we will return to a more sensible blogging schedule, and I’ll just pop links to my other projects on Twitter, Google+, or – and this is where most things end up – the Facebook page for the blog. Thanks for sticking with me through this strange little week, but thank you more for reading the blog at all.

Feb 222013

Well, if you’re going to keep coming back here, and I’m going to keep on talking! I left you yesterday with a decision I needed to make; what was I going to do to try and improve my lot in life and maybe even pay the bills? It swiftly occurred to me that the one commodity I possessed in a large quantity was time, so I just started to think of ways to fill it. I had always enjoyed writing, and thought I’d start there. I used to enjoy drawing too, but I was never excellent, and these days the most I do in that direction is a few basic tattoo designs, which were never of the kind of professional quality they’d need to be to make me any money.

Having spent a long time working in book shops I knew that the road to getting a book published was a lot longer than most people realised, but that there were ways to keep the mind busy on that long trek. I started looking into sci-fi and fantasy magazines that would take unsolicited submissions for fiction – of which there are plenty, you just need to spend the time looking for them – as this would be a great way to get a portfolio together to take to a literary agent. While doing so a friend suggested to me that starting a blog is a great way of honing your skill and testing the water for a potential audience.

I was very lucky indeed in that the friend in question was my best friend, who just happened to be a professional social media consultant. Stand up and take a bow, Mr. Richard Bassinder. (seriously, click the link for some great tips, and if you want to up your online profile, and can afford him, he’s very very good indeed) We sat down one afternoon in one of our favourite watering holes and over a few pints of ale worked out what I needed to do. It was from this conversation that the blog took shape. We are both gamers, and realised that talking about what I knew would be best, and once I got used to writing regularly I should expand the blog into fiction and other things.

Before I got round to the fiction thing though, I found myself having a great time as a role playing blogger. I quickly ended up with a sponsor, and a readership I could be proud of. All along I was also finding out just how nice a community the online role playing lot are. I started joining in a few community activities, one of which led to today’s announcement. The National Game Design Month – NaGa DeMon for short – was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I knew that I still didn’t have a novel in me just yet, and since – after a very strange dream – I had the bones of a card game idea in my head, I thought I’d go for it. So I spent all of November writing rules, formatting cards and expanding on a basic structure of the game I had in mind. By the end of the month I had even managed to play a couple of games of it.

The response was mostly positive, but I knew I still had a lot of work to do. So after the Christmas break I went back to it, fully armed with the feedback of several play tests and some ideas of my own about how to streamline the rules and speed up the play time. Yesterday I put the finishing touches to Version 2.0 of my Neo-Victorian game of Exploration and Glory, and if you want to take a look, it’s all available as .pdfs through the link. I present to you: Excitement and Adventure!

There’s a few files in there, but if you don’t have the time or printer ink to run off a full copy for yourselves, then any feedback on the rules would be great. This isn’t the final look of the cards, just a basic idea for another round of play testing. I do have someone working on making it all look much prettier, and as soon as we have that sorted out, I’ll post the details on this blog.

Well, the weeks almost up, and that does bring you pretty much up to speed. There are still a few other projects that I’m involved in that I haven’t had time to slot into this rambling history of me, but if you’ll indulge me, I’ll bring them all together for one final update at some point over the weekend. I make no promises as to when, as we have family visiting and a fiftieth birthday to attend.

Until then, I just want to say, to everyone who reads this blog, comments on it, talks about it to their friends, or just made me feel like I was part of this wonderful community I now belong to: Thank you. Deeply and truly, thank you. I don’t want to enter the realms of hyperbole and say that you’ve saved me, but you have instigated a massive and complete turn around in my life, and for that I think of you all as friends!

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.

Oct 092012

Today my gaming society gets together and each GM gives a pitch for a full academic year long game that they want to run, and hope to get enough interest to make it happen. We’ve sadly had a body drop out for personal reasons, so with the field shrunk I should be fine to run my post-cyberpunk game set in Warren EllisTransmetropolitan universe, using the Cyberpunk 2020 rules. below is a little bit of prose that I’ve been working on as a teaser for prospective players. It basically gives a tiny bit of background about the characters’ origins and the world they will be playing in. What I haven’t done is go into detail about the style of game play – as I want that to be decided upon by the players as a committee - and the types of character they can play. The beauty of starting a campaign this way is that the players will be every-man characters, meaning they will get the chance to play pretty much anything they want, within the scope of the game. Which basically limits them to ‘human’.

I know most of you won’t be at the meeting tonight, but feel free to read it anyway, and as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments box below.

You all had your reasons to take a spin on the roulette wheel of cryogenics. Those reasons are your own, but with the money out of your account and a detailed form filled in you were hopeful for what the future would hold. In the future, they would rebuild you. they could even make you a better you. Never liked the way your chin looked? Fine, take that picture of the person you always wished you would be and clip it to the form. Maybe even just a younger version of yourself, giving you the chance to live your life again, to avoid some mistakes, or just make sure that this time, your youth wasn’t wasted on someone young.

And then it happened. Your clock ran out. Luckily you were close enough to a hospital and had your will prepared, and after the postmortem was carried out, your head was detached and inexpertly flash frozen and sealed in its container, your paperwork stuck to the side in a clear plastic envelope. Your hopes and dreams, and your brain, thoroughly damaged by the flawed freezing procedure was placed on a shelf with dozens, hundreds of others. People like you, who threw a coin into the wishing well that is the future.

And then the day came. A day of wonder that could only happen in a future so far removed from what you could understand of the present, that to you it was just so much science fiction. They rebuild you, all of you, from the flawed respiratory system that has been the cause of countless childhood deaths by choking on food, to the human eye, a camera so complex as to stagger belief, yet made out of such simple materials as jelly and water. And as the last layers of epidermis form, and hair – wet from the chemical solution your second birth takes place in – starts to colour, the signals are bundled up from your old brain, and prepared to jump start your new head meat. You come around in fear for your life, already starting to swallow the liquid as the glass fronted door of the chamber opens automatically. Your body is unceremoniously dropped to the floor. A cold floor. hard tiles with someone else’s biological matter still staining them.

You enter the future alone, unsure what you’re doing there, and within seconds you’re vomiting onto the tiles like so many before you. It takes the assistant five minutes to notice the process has been completed, and by the time he walks into the room to look down at your naked vomit stained form – thinking about what he would do to you if the activities in this room weren’t recorded – you’ve gone into a mild shock. A grey and brown dressing gown is dropped around your shoulders as you’re asked questions to jog your memory. You answer as well as you can whilst pulling it around yourself, using the edges to wipe yourself clean as you speak, your mind beginning to come to terms with what’s happened. You’re told there’s a taxi waiting outside to take you to a hostel, that your money will be refunded in line with inflation, but without interest. They would never be able to work that out…

All these things make sense to you. Words and concepts that make you feel secure. ‘Just how different could the world be’, you think as you close your eyes and breath out as the front door is opened for you, ready to breathe in the future. Eyes closed tightly, waiting to open to allow you to take in the sites so few people from your time would ever get to experience.

The sights, smells, and sounds are now only remembered as a cacophony. The werewolf having sex with a Chinese business man. The child with half the skin on her face apparently scraped off sat watching a TV screen in the sidewalk. You think the show was called ‘Sex Puppets’, but that can’t be right. The guy with a floating digital camera behind his head talking to a women eating what was clearly the cooked arm of an Afro-Caribbean child. The adverts for Ebola-Cola, for a U.S. President called the Beast, for an enclave where feudal japan is lived and relived while people from outside watch on. The police dog talking to a drug dealer.

You don’t remember the taxi journey at all. You barely remember the first month at the hostel apart from the beatings as every penny you had was taken from you by the gangs of veteran revivals who have banded together to pray on the weak. You were lucky you recovered quickly, before you were put out on the street for business. You found a few other lost souls, all wearing someone else’s cast off clothing who no longer whimpered themselves to sleep every night. With nothing else to do, you shared stories of the time you came from, fighting back the influence of this future that seems so wrong. The only thing you seem to have in common is the time you came from. But that association is enough to keep the gangs away, to give you breathing space to take stock, and maybe, just maybe, find your place in this future.