Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Shiny! Lightbox

It's a long time since I had any newly-painted figures to post here, but many mini-painting blog-owners will tell you that one of the worse things about sharing photos of  WIP and finished mins is the actual photography.

So when I went into my favorite charity shop and saw a light box (apparently designed to photograph cupcakes!), it was a quick purchase.  It doesn't appear to be branded, but it looks as if you can buy something similar very cheaply (£5-£10).

Very easy to set up.  The LED lights run off a USB.

So, some comparision photos (click to enbiggen).  Minis from Crooked Dice, first posted (with their chums) here.

Fig. 1

This was photographed in natural light (outside in March 2017 on a wheelie-bin) using a camera.

Figs. 2 & 3

Taken inside on a dark October evening using my phone.

It's interesting that use of the two provided backgrounds should produce such different images.  

Fig. 4

After spending 30 seconds' more care in staging the photo.


I'm not sure there's a huge difference.  One great advantage is that I won't have to wait for natural light of course.

I suppose the conclusion to draw is I need to hone the actual photography skills and that more playing about experimentation is required.  

And, who knows, this might prompt me to do some painting...

Monday, 18 October 2021

Miskatonic Repository Con 2021

The weekend of 15-17 Oct 2021 saw the Second Miskatonic Repository Con.  I took part in last year's event and enjoyed it very much.  MiskRepCon is a virtual con celebrating the Miskatonic Repository, the online collection of user-made content for Call of Cthulhu supported by Chaosium, the CoC publishers.  Details of the Miskatonic Repository and several hundred products (mainly scenarios) can be found on DriveThruRPG here.

Last year I only took part in one game - a play-test of Bill Adcock's 'Without Warning'.  That's now available (and currently on sale cheaper than a cup of coffee).  I'd recommend it.

This year I thought I'd commit a bit more and booked to take place in three games, all of which were to be hosted by their authors.
There were also a number of panels geared towards those who want to write and publish their own material (only one of which I caught live).  They were recorded and will shortly be available on YouTube (I'll put links to them when that happens).  From last year's experience and from the one I did hear, they will be worth watching.
  • Respect in Writing.  Panelists: Lynne Hardy, Helen Gould, Oscar Rios, and Sam Riordin. "Topics include sensitivity, respect in writing, research, and steps that creators can take when presenting communities outside of their own with respect and consideration."
  • Agents of Chaos: The Chaosium Ambassadors Panel.  Panelists: Allan Carey, Nick Brooke, and Bridgett Jeffries. "Topics include Print on Demand, branding, creative and most effective marketing methods, compliance, community resources, pricing, etc."
  • Dramatic Structure in Scenario Writing.  Panelists: Sean Branney (HPLHS), Michael Fryda (RPG Imaginings), Lynne Hardy (Chaosium), Mike Mason (Chaosium) "Topics: Elements of a plot, building tension, developing strong characters."

So, what did I make of the experience?

Well, unfortunately, events conspired against me.  I only got to play in one game out of three.  The first was cancelled as Sean Smith was ill, and unforseen circumstances at my end meant that I missed the last.  This was particularly galling as I'd caused the cancellation one regular game to make one and had taken a day off work for the other.  But, as everyone knows, Real Life gets in the way.

"The Kolakalee Thunderbird"

This was another chance to playtest new material from Bill Adcock, so isn't yet available with Bill's other works (don't worry, when it is published, I shall be plugging it!).
You are the cast and crew of "Haunt Hunters: Coast2Coast", a middlingly-successful paranormal investigation TV show. You're actually a spin-off from a more successful show, so you get the less-impressive hauntings, bigfoot encounters, UFO sightings etc., and get told to make good TV out of them. Mostly you're used to running around yelling "what was that?" and pretending there's something just out of sight.
This is a kind of initial set-up that we've seen before (for example, it's not a lot diffent from Brian M Sammons' "Forgot-Me-Not" scenario which I've played).  But there's a reason for this: it's because the investigative [sic] film-crew are for modern CoC what the hard-boiled gumshoe teamed up with a dilettante partner is for the 1920s or the war-veteran FBI agent for the 1950s - a damn good shortcut to various skills and motivations.  Interestingly, Bill let drop the fact that he's thinking of writing three linked scenarios for The Haunt Hunters, which would be fun as there's a huge scope for character development (or devolution!) in CoC.

Back to the plot...

It started as a nice trip out

Like most of Haunt Hunters' hottest tips, this one came from YouTube.  A shaky, poorly defined video clip appeared to show a large bird which had apparently be seen by tourists at the Kolakalee Springs Family Fun Park (an attraction in the Everglades that had seen better days).  Encounters followed, including the unfortunate Pork Belly Pot Pig (the petting zoo's star attraction), an island which was touted to us by a tour-guide as "the spookiest place in these parts", a surprising abscence of gators, and a house in the Everglades that was much, much spookier than the island.

Who lives in a house like this?

Great fun was had!  Hopefully the scenario will be published soon, and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing its partners.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Books and Stuff (NS, No 20) - Reading in Sep 2021

 Finished Reading

James S A Corey, Abaddon's Gate

The third book in 'The Expanse' series.

The answer to what the Protomolecule is doing on Venus seems to be closer with its creation of an artifact that is placed in the Outer Solar System.  But as the planetary governments posture and scramble to be on-site, it becomes clear that the problems they are going to face are ones they're bringing with them.

Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard

A collection of some of Pratchett's non-fiction writings, many autobiographical.  There's humour here (I laughed out loud a couple of times), but also musings on writing and the nature of fantasy.  And of course, towards the end, he was writing a lot about dementia and assisted dying,

Julian Whitehead, Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II

This is a book that has been sat by my bed for a while (I see that I started reading it in January).  The fact I haven't been reading isn't a reflection on the book itself - which I found excellent.

This is a chronological study of the many threats (both real and imagined) to the Restoration of the monarchy, Charles's own reign, or Duke of York's right of succession.  It does so by examining the intellegence-gathering functions of the various Secretaries of State (not above plotting themselves).

Fredrich Durrenmatt, The Judge and His Hangman

According to the blurb this is genre-bending and a precursor of post-modernist fiction.  Well, perhaps -  I don't know what impact it would have had when it was published in 1950.

To me it wasn't special, and  (with nothing to back it up) I'm sure had been done before.

Currently Reading

J D Davies, Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II & The Royal Navy

This I'd been looking forward to reading.

The Restoration navy is neglected both by general and naval historians - and when Charles and James's role is mentioned it's as dilettantes, only interested in yatching and gingerbread decoration.  

But Davies is an authority, and perhaps only he can only shift the prism of Pepys's writings to demonstrate that the kings had a real knowledge of naval matters and were behind many of the developments in 'Pepys's Navy'.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Adversity Games

This post is going to be a heads-up and plug for Adversity Games.  I have no connection with them other than being a playtester for their currently-in-development cyberpunk RPG, Wasters. 

The reason for the post is that AG have just had two major milestones.

The first is that their first Kickstarter is in the course of fulfilment.  Nightlancer is a cyberpunk tabletop game for up to 4 players - with solo, competative or co-operative options - set in a dystopian future (Birmingham, actually).  In it players are "living out the career of an underworld operative in a world turned to hell, struggling to escape the corrupt society and find freedom".

Nightlancer was 205% funded on Kickstarter last year.  As well as being delivered to backers, it's now available through the Adversity Games website (there's no news there about wider distribution, but there is a page for making enquiries).  Details of the game, a Wiki about the Nightlancer universe and a shedload of reviews (video and otherwise) can be seen on the Nightlancer page of the website.

And the website is the second milestone that I'm flagging - it's just been relaunched.

As well as the section on Nightlancer there is info on other games in development (including Wasters).

Monday, 13 September 2021

Books and Stuff (NS, No 19) - Reading in Aug 2021

I'm sorry that this is a little late; but to be honest, I doubt if any of you were on the edge of your seats waiting to be updated on my reading... 

Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral

After their long circumnavigation and service in West Africa, Aubrey and Materin are closer to home in this book.  Aubrey is concerned with Parliamentary business (no least opposing the enclosure of the common where he is lord of the manor).  At sea, they are employed in the tedious blockade of Brest with a superior who just happens to have an interest in the enclosure.

And above all is the deadful spectre of a looming peace, with Aubrey close to the top of the Captains' List and in danger of being retired as a 'Yellow Admiral'.

Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days

Well, the peace didn't last for long.  With Napoleon's return to France, a semi-official mission to Chillie is cancelled and our pair return to active service in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.  Much time is spent trying to prevent a shipment of gold from North Africa intended to buy allies for Napoleon in the Balkans.

Maturin goes on a lion hunnt.

Jill Murphy, The Worst Witch, The Worst Witch Strikes Again and A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch

Jill Murphy died on 18 August, so I read some of her Worst Witch stories.

James A Corey, Calaban's War

After watching the first season of 'The Expanse' on dvd (which ended on somewhat of a cliff-hanger), I decided to re-read the second book in the series.  

[It didn't take me long to realise that TV show had played cut-and-loose with the chronology of things - so I had to read the last third of Leviathan Wakes to fill the gap.]

In this book it turns out someone has weaponised the Protomolcule and that the planetary governments are intent on war - on the basis that it's best to sort out local differences before tackling any threat from outside the Solar System.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

24 August - Ancient


If I'd kept up with the RPG-word-a-day, one of today's choices would have been 'Ancient'.

I would have chosen this one because today is my 54th birthday.  It's also the 9th anniversary of this blog.  It's hard to avoid the feeling that the time (or at least peak) of blogs has passed (and that podcasts are on the way out too), but that's probably just my extistential crisis talking...

Monday, 23 August 2021

On Cheap DVDs

It would be surprising if my readers haven't noticed that streaming tv is now a Big Thing.  Perhaps only those of us who work in Charity Shops (Thrift Shops for those of you in North America) will have realised the corellary - we're now getting bags and bags of DVDs every day.  As a result most are selling them at 'please-take-them-away' prices (in our case five-for-a-pound).*  Even tape cassettes sell for more.**

*Sometimes the message doesn't come across.  A lady commented to me that we seemed to have a lot of DVDs.  "Yes", I replied "We can't sell enough of them - they're five-for-a-pound."  "Good", she said, "I'll bring you some in". 

**We can't even sell DVDs or cassettes to those bulk-buyers who give us 5p-a-kilo for books

But, of course, that provides an opportunity.  I've got an completist friend who's now got almost all the MCU films (and many of the tv series) on offer.  I'm not as committed as her*, but even so, I'm now up-to-date with that output.

*Being 30 years older, I value my time and storage space a little more.  I won't be spending 20p on 'Ironman 3' in a hurry.

In such a completist mode, I recently got all the 'Star Wars' DVDs.  I watched 'Solo' for the first time and realised what a turkey it was - and why Disney hasn't got a "Star Wars Anthology" series to rival the MCU.  On the other other hand, I the next night I watched, 'The Last Jedi' and enjoyed it.

As an aside, my favorite rendering of a Star Wars film is just 5mins 36 sec long...

When First Lockdown dawned I bought the complete 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' in order to recapture some 90's vibe.  I didn't watch them all, mainly because it's no longer the 90s (which made it creepy watching as a 50-odd-year-old).*

*But also because I got caught up in the whole continuitiy issue with 'Angel'.  And then the things came out about Joss Wheedon being a dick (see "creepy" above).

In prep for Second Lockdown I bought box-sets of "Blake's Seven".  What can be wrong with watching a beloved series from my adolescence?*

*I don't know, I still haven't got around to it.  But don't worry, it's definitely blog-fodder!

This week I've been watching the first season of 'The Expanse'.  Those of you who follow will know that I've read the first couple of the book series that this is based on.  Despite the fact that the fact that the pictures are always better in your head*, this is a great adaptation, and I'd recommended it.

*My vision of Detective Miller (in his hat) would have been played by Dennis Franz c.1983. But I'm old - my picture of asteroid mining is still framed by von Braunn and Isaac Asimov.

The point is that if there's anything out there that you to watch cheaply, you can probably get it on DVD (and you may be able to chuck some coin to charity at the same time).

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