- 3 Sep - Wasters Elite (cyberpunk OSE) - on-line
- 17 Sep - Wasters Elite (cyberpunk OSE) - on-line
- 3 Sep
- 17 Sep
I only read two books this month: British science-fiction first published within two years of each other (Earthlight in 1955 and The Black Cloud in 1957), though set a couple of hundred years apart. They make an interesting comparison.
Clarke (1917-2008) and Hoyle (1915-2001) were contempories, and both renowned populisers of science during the White Heat period (linked in many minds for their non-RP accents - Clarke from Somerset and Hoyle a Yorkshireman). History has been kinder to Clarke, who's widely regarded as a visionary; Hoyle, though not forgotton (but note I feel it necessary to link to his Wikipedia entry, and not Clarke's!), is best remembered for being on the wrong side of too many important arguments (which may have overshadowed his other work and cost him a Nobel Prize). Part of this was down to his belief that "it is better to be interesting and wrong than boring and right".
Clarke wrote more about concepts than people - Brian Aldiss wrote that his problems were always ones that could be solved by engineering. When I went through my big Science Fiction phase in my teens I read some of his books, but wasn't inspired by them - they were rather worthy bull dull. The Concept in Earthlight is the colonisation of the Moon (though the futility of war pops in). The 'realistic' descriptions of the habitats there were apparently inspirational, and a crater near the Apollo 15 landing site is named after the book.
I picked up The Black Cloud expecting it to be hard-going. I'd bought it as an oddity, not really expecting it to be readible. Surprisingly, it was far more interesting and readible than the Clarke. Both books are based in observatories and the scientific establishment. The Black Cloud, set in 1964 (a decade after writing) starts as a procedural, scientific novel with the discovery of a cloud of dust rather closer to the Solar System than is confortable, it outlines the series of natural disasters that would then occur, before introducing a sudden twist. A maverick professor of Astronomy at Cambridge (a post Hoyle held) is wrong for interesting reasons, high-handed with politicians and personal liberties and thereby saves the world (he's also the only person in either book who has sex, but that's another matter).
On balance I certainly preferred Hoyle's book - "interesting and wrong" rather than "boring and right"!
I'm sorry I haven't kept up-to-date with these reports (and even less so with the write-ups of actual sessions). I can't help but think they are of minimal interest to those who weren't involved. Partly, the reason for not keeping up was that in the Summer the games I was playing dropped off (as you'll see, I didn't manage a single session in August). The easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK should have made gaming easier, but as Real Life intervened, it became as difficult to pin people down to a Discord game as it had previously been to get a face-to-face schedule together!
And I was at blame here as well. A shift in job responsibilities meant that from the beginning of July I have been working on Sundays. So not only did I have to drop out of the Wasters game we'd been playing (happily it continues), but when my old group reconvened in our FLGS for delves into the Barrowmaze, I had to miss that too. What was most galling, was that they are on alternative Sundays, so in theory I could have made both!
I'm writing this at the end of October, and it seems that I've settled into a new schedule, so I'm going to try and catch-up here.
As I said last month, this study of Charles and James's naval policies is one I've been looking forward to reading for some time. And it was worth it. It really is an excellent, well-written book, not in the least bit dry.
I've not read any Michael Moorcock and thought that a Doctor Who book by him might be a way in. Perhaps my lack of a grounding in his other works was an issue, as apparently he's liberally mixed his own multiverse into the Doctor Who setting. Given his reputation, I kept expecting something clever or interesting, and was quite disappointed when it was neither. A rather dodgy pastiche of PG Wodehouse didn't help (if I want poor Wodehouse parody, he wrote enough himself...).
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).
So, some comparision photos (click to enbiggen). Minis from Crooked Dice, first posted (with their chums) here.
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.
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...
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.
|It started as a nice trip out|
|Who lives in a house like this?|
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.
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).
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...
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...
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).
OK, so I have failed spectacularly in keeping up with the RPG-a-Day posts.
But I think it was worth the attempt, and I'm going to carry on with the words (perhaps not all of them) as prompts for posts. At my rate, this will give me material for the rest of the year!
Also, I've got my hostages to fortune...
On offer are 12 minis (for £38.00) from Andrew May of Meridian Miniatures and other projects (with a strong Kickstarter track record), more or less directly copied from the marginal illustrations of medieval manuscripts (do follow the link and compare the minis to the source materials). It was fully funded in half an hour, and unsurprisingly so.
Here's one of those tempting Kickstarter that's produced a delicious idea, but you wonder if you'll ever use. I think the answer with this one is that if you had the figures, you'd damn well create a scenario to fit!
Idea: party of adventurers after a hazardous journey through the wilderness are glad to know that their next stop will be at the Abbey of San' Umberto, renowned for its hospitality to travellers (and, the more learned of your party point out, its magnificent library and scriptorium). But when you arrive, the usual welcoming party isn't waiting...
Now, would you play that as a medieval fantasy (think Dolmenwood or The Midderlands) or a Cthuhlu Dark Ages? And would you let you're players know which it was?
|It was the cockatoo on the spine that did it...|
|Bolton the Mage|
Today's word is an easy one for me as it allows me to rehash one of my favourite RPG stories. When my FLGS group celebrated the first anniversary of our delve in Barrowmaze I decided to have a hard-copy made of the progress we'd made.
|End of Day 1|
|...and a year later|
I was annoyed when Snappy-Snaps got in touch to tell me that it wouldn't be ready at the time they'd promised, and thus I'd have to pick it up on the way to the session. When I got to the printers, it turned out that the lad who'd took my order had confused centemetres and inches. That ruler lying on the map is a foot long...
Last week, someone posted on the Old School Essentials FaceBook group about all this. "Why do you grumpy old sods hide things from your players?" he said*. "I give my players the whole map and let 'em at it!". Well good for him, and good for his players, That's the game they want to play. Exploration (of the 'dungeon') isn't their priority. But I found it a bit odd. I'm old-school in my approach. I like mapping and record-keeping. Why is that?
*Not really, but words to that effect.
Well there are those who will insist* that Dungeons & Dragons is primarily an exploration game (and by that they don't mean exploring one's character or motivations!). So, when played in that Old-School** way, mapping is an essential part of resource-management.
*Ad nausium sometimes.
**Note I use the initial capitals here that I avoided in the previous paragraph.
For me, it's because maps and imagination are closely linked. I've posted before about R L Stevenson's 'Land of Counterpane'. Technically the poem's not about maps but the link is there; and I'm not the only one who has lain in bed looking at cracks in the ceiling and instead seen rivers and coasts.
|Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
My introduction to fantasy was Narnia. Not The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I picked up a copy of that in the school library because I liked the picture of the ship, but it also had a map! Even better was the one in Treasure Island which had all sorts of strange symbols on it. I've always loved coasts and islands.* The first book I bought with my own money was Enid Blyton's The Island of Adventure**. For years afterwards I'd doodle island maps.
*Inevitably our holiday desitnations when I was a kid.
**In a secondhand bookshop opposite Exeter Catherdral while on one of those holidays. I must have been about 8.
My next literary map was of Middle Earth, and I'm sure I don't need to write much about that one.*
*Partly because once one starts, where do you stop?
Of course, it all got rather out of hand in the fantasy genre. All the sub-Tolkein writers determined that books had to come in threes*, have over 800 pages* and must start with a map. Joe Abercombie** famously reacted against that and resisted having maps in his books (but they're just too damn useful!).
**Who I rate very highly. Follow the link and read his eloquent and amusing dismissal of crap maps.
So why do I like maps and record-keeping in my games? I'd like to say that it's because of all this. But really, it's because I'm anal. There is a joy in making the unknown known. I know that capturing the butterfly and pinning it to the page is unnecessary, but it's a question of control. I must be a micro-managing control-freak.*
*No accident that I became an archivist then (and though I was bad at it, that was solely due to vice and laziness).
After posting this, I was reminded of my first book-with-a-map. How could I forget the Hundred Acre Wood! My Mother used to read Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner to me in bed.