Saturday, 30 October 2021

Gaming in Jul-Aug 2021

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.

  • 2 Jul  - The Evils of Illmire campaign (OSE) - on-line
  • 9 Jul - Wasters (OSE) - on-line
  • 16 Jul - Wasters (OSE) - on-line
  • 23 Jul - Wasters - Elite (OSE) - on-line
Evils of Illmire

Our group has undertaken to clear a lake of Fishmen.  To do this, we're first making friends with the local Froglings (who will give us the materials necessary to breath underwater).  They want us to clean out a nest of Mantismen.  Last session we had reconnoitered the Mantis Mound (which proved to be a lot more substantial that we'd anticipated)
  • 2 Jul

After a quick return to the village in order to regroup, we decided not to be subtle and to do what accounted to a full frontal assault on the mound.  Surprisingly, we were able to fight our way down to the lower chambers (we'd killed off half the warriors in our previous visit), where we confronted the Queen in her egg chamber and defeated her.

And here our Illmire campaign ground to a halt.  As of the end of Oct we haven't had another session.  In a way it's our fault - we'd gone more or less straight into the Big Problem and only had the side-campaigns left.  Nevertheless, I would recommend the Evils of Illmire campaign, and want to run it sometime (and get to see some of the bits I'd missed!).

  • 9 Jul
Our crew of Wasters (including a small pack of dogs we seem to have accrued) got the job of recovering surveillance cameras which had been placed in a trading post established by The Radient Family, a cult we'd had run-ins with before.  We had the usual tricky time traversing the Wastes to our target (with a hireling and a dog being killed before we got there).  Our Sentinel jacked into the net to gather info from the cameras and was about to disable them when the GM clarified that the job was to go in and physically remove evidence of the surveillance.  This was going to be trickier, as we'd counted at least 30 cultists...
  • 16 Jul

Having gone into the shop and made a pig's ear of trying to knock the lights out and ransack the place, we ended up doing a night-time raid through the back.  This was tricky, but fortunately most of the cultists in the dormatory were low-level members and fled when the shooting started.  Nevertheless, one of our PCs, a hireling and a particularly characterful dog were killed in the firefight.

The late Phat Dog

This proved to be my last mission with the Old Crew for the time being, as that game returned to Sundays.

Wasters (Elite)

As long-term followers will know, the Wasters campaign is by way of a play-test of a hack of Old School Essentials, transfering it into a Cyberpunk/Post-Apocalytic world.  Although a few of our PCs had reached 5th Level, the author (our GM) wanted to try out the higher levels.  So the Friday night sessions of Wasters morphed into an Elite version and, equipped with 300,000 XP, a couple of us rolled up some 9th and 10th Level characters.
  • 23 Jul
The Job was to position probes around a block to observe the haywire bots there.  

This block was further into the Wastes than we'd been in previous sessions, and getting there didn't prove easy.  Almost as soon as we started we had an encounter with a group of corrupt cops who tried to shake us down.  After some failed negotiation, we managed to defeat them, only for the gunfire to bring another patrol down on us!  We didn't ascertain whether these ones were corrupt or not as, given that we were standing over the smoking, irradiated bodies of their colleagues, they didn't stop to talk.   Cops are tough, but we found that at these new high levels, we could punch it out with them.

We then had no less than three encounters with gang members (albeit that one group were children) before getting to the target block.  We managed to deploy three of the four probes, tackling nano-sludge and a military-grade soldier bot along the way.

As we were setting up the third, an instruction boomed out "You are in a Restricted Area!  Leave Now!  You have 15 seconds to comply!  14...  13..."  Three enforcement bots were 90ft away.

And there things stood for over a month, as the next session (and my next RPG session) wasn't until 3 Sept.

Books and Stuff (NS, No 21) - Reading in Oct 2021

Currently Reading

William Dampier, A New Voyage Round the World

Dampier's account of his meandering voyage around the world, more often than not employed as a buccaneer (he was later recruited to lead a naval expedition, but could shake off his piratical ways).

This might end up being a slow read, not because it's not interesting, but because of the format.  Nevertheless, I'm giving it a go and it is a ripping yarn.

This edition has been sat unread on my shelves since I bought it on publication - I'm shocked to find that was back in 1998!  A cautionary tale...

Finished Reading

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

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.

Michael Moorcock, Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles

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...).

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).  
  • 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'.

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