Sunday, 31 January 2021

Gaming in Jan 2021

  • 3 Jan - Wasters (Post-Apocalyptic OSE) - On-line
  • 6 Jan - OSE - On-line
  • 13 Jan - OSE - On-line
  • 17 Jan - Wasters - On-line
  • 20 Jan - OSE - On-Line
  • 27 Jan - Illmire (OSE) - On-Line


My first game of the year was our fortnightly forray into the Wastes - Seph's post-apocalyptic setting for OSE. 

In our last session we'd made a big score.  So big that we couldn't get it all back to the Safe Zone.  Our plan for the day, then was to go a retrieve what was left.  If the cache was no longer there, we had other targets we could move on to.  But we were fortunate: we found the loot and were able to retreive it after defeating a guard-dog and combat-drone.  We then managed to get it home after encounters with another group of Wasters and a crazy old hermit.  In truth, we were very fortunate: we were rolling extremely well.  In previous sessions we'd had a casualty rate of two or three PCs (and more retainers), but in this case we got through unscathed.  

Due to drop-outs this turned out to be a one-on-one with me and the GM Seph.  I played three PCs (and a hireling), who took on what seemed a simple mission - to go to a designated area and stir up the hornet's nest.  It went quite well, save for an incident in which my Ronin was killed by a robo-Barista.

Heybrook - OSE

  • 6 Jan

This was the last session in the story-arc I've been GM-ing since 2 Dec. 

Gwendolyn, safely home again

The party (only one from the orignal roster still standing) had loads of loot to get back to the village, but I diverted them by having the apothecary’s apprentice captured and held ransom for its return.  I was half-expecting them to leave her, but the prospect of upsetting 'Mother' was a bit too much even for them.

By my reckoning the little trip into the woods to help the apprentice forage for herbs cost the lives of five PCs and two retainers (plus another two retainers mia somewhere).

  • 13 Jan

There was appetite for me to continue GM-ing, so we started another arc.

This time our party was hired by a father to find out what had happened to his son, who had run off to join a cult.  They had very nearly got to the Temple when they ran into a pack of Dire Wolves.  Carnage ensued: one PC and two retainers managed to break away during the fight and flee as the barbarian made a Last Stand.
  • 20 Jan
The survivor of last week's massacre went back, recruited a new party (getting retainers is proving harder for some reason!) and decided to re-attempt the mission, partly in order to loot the bodies at the site of the wolf attack.

Retracing their steps proved simple enough, avoiding encounters less so.  Last week the party wisely steered clear of a Wicker Man, this time they decided to poke it: combat with Bramblings ensued.  In a great stroke of luck, the Magic User was able to use his Ring of Animal Control to involve a Giant Lizard in the fight.  Nevertheless, morale within the party was low and one retainer was caught trying to sneak off during the night.  He was stabbed and set floating down the river...

The Evils of Illmire (OSE)
  • 27 Jan
As I was unable to GM for this Wednesday evening session, it seemed a good time to hand over the reigns to another player who had a campaign ready.

We stated that the party had to leave the Heybrook district rather sharpish given the suspiscious demise of several of their retainers...

And so Simon started his Illmire campaign.  This 'Mini-Mega Hexcrawl Adventure Zine' was the fruit of a Kickstarter run last year.

Sadly, I was having real problems with my computer which (combined with the fact that I hadn't slept the night before) meant that I had to drop-out while we were still exploring the village.  It was perhaps just as well, as they didn't finish until almost 2am!

Books & Stuff (NS, No 11) - Reading in Jan 2021

Finished Reading

Robert A Heinlein, The Worlds of Robert Heinlein

A small collection of stories by Heinlein that seems to have passed me by in the 40 years that I've been reading him.

Most are pretty indifferent stuff.  The introductory article on sci-fi writers as prophets is interesting enough, as is the final story 'Solution Unsatisfactory' which has an important part to play in Heinlein's 'future history' chronology.

MR James, Collected Ghost Stories

The Master.  What more can one say?  

I really enjoyed this, both old favorites and some that I hadn't come across before.

Currently Reading

Julian Whitehead, Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II

The title is something of a misnomer.  On reading it, it turns out that this is actually a study of Charles II intelligence-gathering machine.  Fascinating stuff, and well-written.

It seems to have also appeared with an alternative title, which is why the picture differs from my description.

WH Hodgseon, The Casebook of Carnacki: The Ghost Finder

A little early to comment on this one, as I've only just started it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Books & Stuff (NS, No 10) - Reading in 2020

I know it's rather late to do a review of 2020, but I'm a rebel...

Goodreads, which I use to track these things, informs me that I read 46 books in 2020.  That's pretty good going - no doubt a result of Lockdown. By my count it's 27 fiction and 19 non-fiction, more of the latter than I expected to be honest.  For those who want the full list, I restarted a monthly round-up of all my reading in May 2020, so delve into the back-list.

In the past I tried to give my top-ten (sometimes giving separate lists for fiction and non-fiction), but I always found that tricky, so this year I'm again going to give highlights rather than shoe-horn things.

Susanna Clarke

My first book of 2020 was a re-reading of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, not a small undertaking but one that I enjoyed greatly.  It rates as one of favorite books.  At the time it came out, the merger of historical writing and fanasty was quite novel.  There have been many imitators since, but not many of them have been able to carry it off: the secret is that Clarke has masterty of both genres and brought something new to each of them.  I followed it up re-reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a collection of short stories set in the same universe as Strange and Norrell.

Strange and Norrell came out in 2004 and Ladies in 2006; fans had been impatiently waiting for the next work since then.  It came out in September 2020.  After avoiding reviews and other publicity, I read it in November.  My initial opinion of it can be seen here.  Suffice to say, I enjoyed it: it rates as my BOOK OF  THE YEAR.

Joe Abercrombie, The Shattered Sea Trilogy

  • Half a King
  • Half the World
  • Half a War

I'm a long-standing fan of Joe Abercrombie.  This trilogy, published in 2014 and 2015, was written and marketed as 'Young Aldult Fantasy'.  I'm not quite sure what that means, perhaps there was less gore and sex than in Abercrombie's other works, but they (and other 'adult' themes) were still there.  Certainly there was no diminishment in the qualtity of his writing.

I read them in March and would certainly recommend them.

Mainly Non-Fiction in April and May

April and May saw a few non-fiction books that are worthy of notice.

William David Compton, Where No Man Has Gone Before

This is part of the Official History of the Apollo Programme produced by NASA, focussing on the science programme.  As such, it might be expected to be quite dry.  Instead, Compton does a very good, readable job of explaining how the expectations of the science community were meet, dismissed or managed in the light the limits of enginnering.  

Of particular interest is the on-going struggle over astronaut selection between those who primarily wanted the appointment of test pilots and those who wanted scientists on the moon.  Naturally, most of the hard science was planned for the latter missions, so the early cancellation of the programme saw much alteration of plans in order to get as much done as possible.

Peter Hunter Blair, The World of Bede

This is an excellent introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, religion and the life and works of Bede.

The book was first published in 1970, so I'm sure that it's been superceeded in many aspects.  But for someone who, like me only has a general knowledge of the subject, it was great.

J S Weiner, The Piltdown Forgery

This is another old book, in this case published in 1955.  The thing of note is that this is the first book-length account of the exposure of the fraud by one of those who made the initial expose in 1953.   

Again, it might be thought to be a dry subject, but the fact that my copy is a 1955 edition from the old Boots Travelling Library, shows that there was huge public interest in the case.  It makes good reading as a dectective story, a study in vanity and hubris, and for those interested in 1940s-vintage forensic techniques.
Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth

There have been libraries' worth of books written on Tolkien of course.  The advantage Shippey has is that he knows and understands the influences on Tolkien and, unlike many of us, he actually understands the philology that is at root of his creative process (from 1979 to 1996 Shippey held the Chair of English Language and Medieval English Literature at the University of Leeds that Tolkien held in the 1920s).

Joan Druett, In the Wake of Madness

I first got to know Joan in the 1990s, when I could lay a tenious claim to being a maritime historian.  It was therefore a great pleasure to read this, her account of a 1841 mutiny on an American whaleship in the Pacific.  It was a great scandal at the time and did much to influence Herman Melville's writings (he was serving in the whaling fleet at the time).

Joan did a great job in ferreting out contempory accounts and documents, and tells a story of brutality and racism that was glossed over at the time and since, while at the same time telling us a lot about how whaling on the far side of the world shaped New England society.

Michale Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

This account of Jewish boys in 1940s New York fighting Nazis through the medium of comic books is a great read.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001, and deservedly so.

I'm not a comic-book fan, but this is obviously heart-felt homage to the Golden Age.

J D Davies, the Matthew Quinton Series

  • Gentlemen Captain
  • The Mountain of Gold
  • The Blast that Tears the Sea
There is a a lot of naval fiction written, a lot of it fairly bad (and like bad science fiction it always seems to come in series) so, as a rule it's not a rabbit-hole I tend to go down.  However I made an impulse buy in a charity shop of Gentleman Captain, the first book in this series.  I suppose there were two reasons: first, because by being set in the Restoration Navy, it was a different period from the usual Napoleonic or Tudor tale; and, secondly, because I was vaguely aware of Davies as a respected historian of the period.  It was enough to pique my curiosity, and worth it.  

The series follows Matthew Quinton, a member of an aristocratic Cavalier family - exiled during the Commonwealth - who return on the Restoration.  Matthew opts to join the Royal Navy and is appointed a 'Gentleman Captain'.  The series charts the (not insignificant) tensions between the 'Gentlemen' and 'Tarpaulins' - those who owe their appointment to the belief that the aristocracy are natural leaders and those survivors of Cromwell's navy who earned thier appointment through merit.

There are seven books in the series (plus two in a prequel series about Matthew's grandfather in Drake's navy): I've now read the first three (and am up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War and the Battle of Lowestoft).

Naval History

As anyone who follows this blog should know, I have an interest in naval and maritime history.  However, like many, that was initially prompted by accounts of Napoleonic Wars at sea.  Thus, apart from the obligatory books on the Armada or Samual Pepys and an interest in the exploration voyages of Anson and Cook, I hadn't read much of earlier periods.

Now one thing I was aware of from what little reading I had done, was that the Restoration was a fascinating period.  For anyone who wants proof of that, I'd point them to Claire Tomalin's outstanding biography, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.  Of course, the resolution of any civil war is bound to be tricky, but the sheer amount of intrigue and politicing during the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution is staggering.  That one of the reasons the Davies' Matthew Quinton series is such a good read.

So, I've decided to read up on the subject.  As a result in the latter half of 2020 I read a number of books on the navy in the period 1640 to 1740.  I don't think any one of them deserves pulling out for this hightlights post, but it was a significant feature of my reading in the year.

Ghost/Horror Stories 

  • Robert W Chambers, The King in Yellow
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Tales of Unease
  • H P Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • M R James, Collected Ghost Stories
I've never been what you can call a horror fan, but over the last year or so, I've become interested (primarily through RPGs based on the Lovecraft Mythos) enough that I read enough during 2020 for it to be worth mentioning.

All four of these books are worth recomending.  The King in Yellow is a mixed bunch, my view from May 2020 is here.  The same link gives you my take on The Tales of Unease; basically that familiarity with Sherlock Holmes makes one forget how good a writer Conan Doyle was and all the other stuff he wrote.  I've not read a great deal of Lovecraft, but if it's all of the quality of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I've a treat in store (sadly, from my other reading I know it's not).  For me, however, the Master is MR James.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Wasters No 4: "Click and Collect" and a Massacre

Played 3 Jan 2021 (On-line)


Games Master 



Mieville - Level 1 Sentinel 

Retainer - “Polecat” Level 1 TechWiz 



Jiro – Level 1 Infiltrator 




Wispa – Level 1 Infiltrator 

Retainer – Melodie, Level 0 character 



Snips – Level 1 Infiltrator 




Following the events of the last session, the Plan was to return to the stash of loot we’d been unable to carry out.  If it was no longer there, we could carry on and complete the original mission of jacking the Butch Killers’ muscle car. 


In order to add extra carrying ability and firepower, Mieville and Wispa each hired a retainer. 

 Almost as soon as the Crew entered the Wastes, they spotted a drone flying in circles, seemingly diorientated.  As we debated whether to shoot it down or use Mieville’s jamming tech to drive it away, we apparently registered on its sensors, and it came towards us.  We identified it as a civil delivery drone as it swooped down and dropped its load, rather too close to Polecat for comfort.  Wispa shoot it out of the sky.  As the infiltrators warily checked the parcel, Polecat examined the wreckage to see if she could salvage anything of use (she couldn’t).  After a lot of prevarication, the parcel was opened, only to reveal a decade’s-old food delivery.

In the next block we spotted another group of wasters, but were easily able to skirt around their camp without being seen. 


And so, we were at our target – the ruined residential building where we had found the stash.  We carefully retraced our steps through the building and were able to reach the apartment without any trouble.  Once there, however, we encountered the guard-dog we’d met before.  This time it was far less friendly.  It proved much tougher than we expected.  Mieville’s attempts to subdue it quietly failed, and after a short close-quarters struggle it was killed in a burst of gunfire. 


The stash wasn’t where we’d left it, but we were able to make out drag-marks into the bathroom.  Listening at the door revealed nothing but the sound of a fan so, after checking for booby-traps, we went through.  Too late we realised that the noise was in fact a drone's engines.  And this one was combat-equipped.  But again, co-ordinated firepower proved successful.   


We were now in possession of the ten sacks of loot we’d come to collect.  We began our slow, heavily-ladened way back. 


Paranoid with so much loot in our possession, we were on the lookout for any trouble and so were again able to notice the crew of rival Wasters before they saw us.  We took up a defensive position, with Jiro, Snips and Wispa climbing up inside buildings to get the benefit of their sniper abilities.  The initial plan was for Mieville, Polecat and Melodie to shout a warning and intimidate the other crew into leaving us be.  However, everybody was on heightened alert, and instead as soon as the gang came into view, Mieville opened fire.  It was a turkey-shoot.  Before they knew what was happening, all five members of the rival team were dead.  We stripped them of their weapons and ammo and moved on. 

We were almost in the Safe Zone when we spotted a lone figure.  This turned out to be one of the lone hermits who wander the Wastes.  This time we did opt for parley and intimidation.  He was almost too crazy and paranoid for it to work, but he reluctantly and warily moved on, allowing us back to safety without another death on our hands. 


The pay-out was good, but the ambush of the fellow Wasters neither of our retainers didn’t go down well with our retainers, who both left us as soon as they were paid. 


We were extremely lucky in this session.  In contrast with the previous three sessions (which had each seen two or three PCs killed), not one of us was wounded.  Our combat dice-throws were particularly good – the combat drone didn’t get chance to open fire, and the Wasters were wiped out in our surprise round. 


Pay-out was good, both in terms of Dollars and XP.  Wispa was able to move up to Level 2, and we established a pool of looted equipment for future use.  We were also able to buy a suite of Cybertech enhancements that was on offer in Club Lavender for future use.  

However, there may be some repercussions.  Polecat’s alignment didn’t allow for her to stay with us after the massacre (though she waited to get paid, and took some of the Waster’s weapons when she left). 

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