Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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RPG Retrospective – 2016

I have mixed feelings about 2016. I reckon everybody has now. I’ve had a load of setbacks, but have also upped my “game” this year considerably. Not all of these setbacks were gaming related, but they impacted on both myself and my gaming nonetheless.

I made the official jump to being a freelancer last December (as in, HM Taxman now knows I do freelance writing). On the plus side it means I can be taken a little more seriously and can also factor the costs of doing business into my tax return (probably a minus!). I will be paying voluntary National Insurance contributions. Ethically, and morally, I don’t agree with finding ways to hide money from the taxman. We’re all likely screwed anyway, thanks to the current political climate in the UK and abroad…

OK. Back on topic. Time has also been a casualty this year for me. As well as holding down a full-time job (with extra duties and responsibilities – and pay!), the freelance work has taken a huge chunk out of my ability to devote time to the hobby. This is a natural progression of things I reckon. Last year I’d hoped to become more of a gaming “ambassador” trying to get the disparate gaming groups of Edinburgh to perhaps try to talk to one another. I’ve put this project on hold for now – I cannot devote the time to it. A number of people commented on how busy I was, but I didn’t realise how much until my health took a bit of a body blow. When something you enjoy stops being fun, stop and take a breather.

With that in mind I had to make a few changes.

Convention-wise, I didn’t go to Conpulsion, Q-CON, or others this year. I attended the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, but that was the only two. There’s a significant cash outlay in both travel and accommodation for conventions outside Edinburgh. The state of the pound means it’s unlikely I’ll attend GENCON or ESSEN. If I’m honest, these are actually working trips – I’m either helping setup and help on the Modiphius stall (5am start for Dragonmeet!), and/or I’m demo’ing games. There’s something very rewarding about having players come back to your games from previous years. Even more so when they buy the game based on the session you ran.  😀

I also turned in a selection of Doomtroopers for the Cartel Tactical Centre, a Mutant Chronicles/Warzone fanzine. I’m writing a regular column called the Damnation Dossier, using Her Serenity’s Agent Sir William Heron nom de plume. I’ve a loa of NPC ideas for MC.

Most of my freelance work relates to the Mutant Chronicles. I’ve done the indexing, captioning, error checking and stats for much of the line. I call it “Chroming”. It’s hard work, but the buzz you get when it’s done.. . The Dark Eden Setting book was a true marathon for all involved.

I’ve had to reduce my weekly sessions of ORC games to fortnightly. I’m running Achtung! Cthulhu Shadows of Atlantis. I’ve a good group. We spend half the time delving into history, which I’ve really come to enjoy. It’s not Call of Cthulhu as such, but something pulpier. Sadly, the enervation of time meant I had to stop running my Mutant Chronicles game, which was fun while it lasted.

Long time subscribers to my blog may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned ORC. It’s still going strong. I have simply gone to the next level. I covered this in a previous post –  see http://www.themandragora.com/orc-edinburgh-moving-on/

Goals for 2017

For 2017, I’m trying to strike a compromise. Take time to get a breather, when it’s needed. I’ve worked pretty hard over the last year (not just gaming-wise), and I’ve a better idea about what I can do. But I’ve a bunch of ideas.

In that regard, I plan to write adventures down, not just have them in my head. I’ve a nice number of notebooks that contain “figments”, for want of a better word. Not just Mutant Chronicles, but Achtung! Cthulhu too. I really want to get the ideas down and out there. I’ve an idea for an Achtung! Cthulhu campign that I really need to spec up.

I’m hoping to play more boardgames: I tried to get more involved at ELG over the year, but time was limited. I backed “Siege on the Citadel” which should come as no great surprise. It’s something of a quandary, as I don’t really like competitive games, but enjoy the social aspect.

I’ve few ideas to help the Modiphius Silvershields programme. It’s early days yet, but I’m hoping that the ideas I have may give it a bit of a boost. Volunteer GMs are a resource to be cherished by games companies. I’m not talking about organised play like Pathfinder Society or Adventurer’s League, but GMs that give up their time to run their own games.

Infinity is a game I’d like to get into, after buying Operation: Red Veil. As regards the RPG, I’m an NPC. I’m not sure if I’ll get heavily into it. Way too much background fluff, and I plan to stick to Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu for demo purposes. I can’t really run any more games – even Star Trek, although I’ll manage a monthly sojourn to Black Lion.

Convention-wise I plan to go to Conpulsion this year, as well as the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet. Possibly Claymore too. I’m not sure whether it’ll be as player or GM, but I’m planning to take the opportunities as they crop up. Either way, I reckon the work will be worth the reward.

One of my final reflections is that I’ve become something of a local gaming celebrity. I’m not a guru or an expert. I AM NOT A CELEBRITY. I’m a guy that has some gaming experience and can talk to people. That’s all.

Anyways: Happy New Year.

A Silent Spring!

It’s been pretty quiet here recently. There’s a number of reasons for this, and I’ll come to them shortly: it’s a mixture of good and bad news. Simply put: I’d had a lot of plans but some are going to have to take a back seat. I’ll be attending the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet conventions this year, but no other conventions.

Again it’s down to time – and sanity. I’ve pushed myself to the limit over the last six months, for a number of reasons, most of them personal. They’ve no place here, but suffice to say, I’ve had to compartmentalize things and take some steps.

The following is somewhat bullet-pointed, but it helps me get things ordered in my head.

So, gaming-wise…

I’m running two fortnightly campaigns at ORC now: Achtung! Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis, and the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign (the latter of which I helped write in a tiny fashion). I’m enjoying running both. I’ve good players, decent attendance; and as they’re already published, easy to prep for.

I’m doing freelance work for Modiphius Publishing on the Mutant Chronicles line – the indexes and occasional demented captions in most of the supplements are mine (as well as some of the proofing!). I’ve also been helping stat up the Dark Eden Supplement. I’m hoping to pick up more freelance work in the months ahead. I’m finding it very rewarding, as well as giving me a creative challenge.

I didn’t make it to Conpulsion this year, sadly – nor will I make Q-CON owing to a prior commitment. I hope to, next year; if time and finances permit. I will be at the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, of course! Looking forward to doing a bit more networking this year at them, plus I enjoy meeting other gamers. Not signed up to run anything this time, so I might get to actually play some games this time around.

My Edinburgh Gaming page still proves incredibly popular, so I’ve been keeping that updated! On the down side, I’d hoped to try to get the disparate gaming communities to talk to each other more, but I just haven’t had the time. I try to do it when I can though, but I step back from the politics now: it’s still very entrenched in old rifts and personal vendettas.

Over the years, I’ve been asked to review products or publicise Kickstarters and game launches. I’m of two minds about these. Often, it’s someone looking for free publicity or product evangelist for products that aren’t even ready. Also, getting time to do a playtest or demo review session can be tricky. On the other hand, it’s pretty good fun to do.

ORC’s Games day at the Kilderkin was a big success. There’s stuff we could do differently, and more effectively, and I/we’ve learnt from it. Not sure when we’ll do the next one, but next year I think! We had a lot of new visitors. The Kilderkin has also hosted the Conpulsion’s after-party and the Board Gamers took over the pub at one point. I like to think that I may have had something to do with that.

I ran a fun game of Conan (mid-Kickstarter) at Tabletop cafe , just up the road from the Kilderkin. I hope to run more demo games there soon, when time permits. Good food and drink, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere. I need to visit there more. As part of the Kickstarter, I’m going to be drawn in as a stat’ed NPC in Conan: Adventures in the Hyborian Age. I’ll also be appearing in art and as an NPC in the Infinity RPG.

The novel has been assigned as a secondary aim, along with any short fiction. I know I’m technically capable of writing them; just not temporally! It’s one of those things that I may revisit in future months, but for now, it’s on the back-burner.

I’m part of the Modiphius Silvershield scheme that allows GMs to get credit from running games – in my case, I ran a lot of games last year, so have built up some considerable credit. I also get points for referring new business. You can get 10% off Modiphius products in their store (both PDF and print) by using this link r.sloyalty.com/r/uc3wlqcchb8R

I’m taking my freelance work seriously enough to register with the Inland Revenue for Self-Assessment. Morally, and practically, it is the right thing to do. I’ve done it before, during my Nova Games era. There’s a chance I may or may not have to pay more tax; but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get any tax rebate. I’m certainly not paying for an accountant to do it.

I’ve managed to ask some members of ORC Edinburgh (the gaming community I help run) to take on Moderator roles for the site, so I can start taking a step back from that side of things. It’s an easy transition to make, thankfully. I’ve lost count of the different groups now, or what games are currently running and/or looking for players. ORC is now so big, it’s become difficult to keep track of things, in that respect.

I’m not doing any war gaming or board gaming now, I’m afraid. I don’t have the time during the week, and need to maintain a “normal” life as it were. Plus, I seem to have trouble dealing with some of the more complex ones – I think it might be a side effect.

I’d hoped to get a chance to play some starter games of Cassus Belli’s Infinity game (the miniatures are absolutely amazing), and Battletech. I’d been thinking of trying to develop some of the Cthulhutech setting into the Battletech rules for some time now. I’ll get around to it at some point, I reckon.

I’m still awaiting the RAFM Cthulhu minis from their Kickstarter, and the Cthulhu FATE book, Into the Shadows. I’ve got doubts I’ll ever see these, as it seems anything Cthulhu-related on Kickstarter is doomed to “eternal lie”… but at least the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu shipped (which I should get from my FLGS)!

I’ve tried to do a lot over the last six months and it has caught up with me spectacularly, so I think it’s for the best that I “clear my head” of the extraneous clutter.

In other news…

I’m reducing my time on social media. It can easily consume a huge amount of free time or attention. I’m on Google+ and LinkedIn, but hardly use them. I am still on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier if you spend 15 minutes on there, rather than getting involved in the minutiae! In moderation… I should probably update my profile on LinkedIn anyway to reflect the changes in my professional circumstances (and the About Me part of the site)!

I’m moving out of the flat (briefly) for renovation work, which could take a week or more. Had another aqueous insurgence (water ingress) in January! I can’t say it’s not a stressful place to be in (in every sense of the word), but things are moving forward. Looking ahead to getting it over with: every stage completed is one step forward. Still, it’s a bit of an “embuggerance”. I’ve got to get quotes for removal and storage and have to make it clear to the loss adjuster I’m NOT going to be staying in the flat while they rip down the plaster-and-lathe ceiling.

My day job has recently thrown up a number of challenges. I do a lot of work with virtualised machines (VMware) and field sites. The Chief Executive at my work has personally congratulated me on the work I do supporting the science. I’m becoming far more comfortable with the High Performance Cluster running Scientific Linux at my work. I’ve also manage to remove Flash Player and Quicktime from our PC estate of 1500+ computers. By the way, if you haven’t removed these, you should! Flash in Chrome is “sandboxed”, but not in other browsers like IE or Firefox. Quicktime is longer supported or patched by Apple, and is now insecure.

I need to reorganise this website: make it more simple. There’s too many pages, and this site has evolved, content-wise. It’s gone far beyond what was a simple RPG setting site. In fact, it’s been largely sidelined in recent years, as I’ve become more focussed on Edinburgh’s gaming community, conventions, and freelancing. That’s pretty easy to sort, thankfully. Not sure if I’ll keep using this site theme, though.

I’m also heading down south for the May Bank holiday, to Craster Tower, a 5* accommodation. It’s owned by my other half’s family, so I thought I’d give it a plug! Plus I’ve never really been anywhere 5* 🙂 My girlfriend used to work as an Archaeologist on Ernest Shackleton’s base camps in the Antarctic so we’re heading to London for the Shackleton Centennial service at Westminster Abbey. I’ve been reading up on him, and her experiences there might be very handy when I run Beyond the Mountains of Madness or Assault on the Mountains of Madness (Achtung! Cthulhu).

All in all, feeling I’m in a better place than six months ago!

Open Games Day 2016

As de facto High Heid Yin for the Open Roleplaying Community (ORC Edinburgh), I thought I’d mention we decided to try and get more folk in to play RPGs. We’re open to anyone who wants to play RPGs in Edinburgh, but not everyone can get into a game. Also a number of GMs would like to run – or play – games but never get the chance to. So we (ORC) decided to try and attempt to run a day of RPGs, not only for the GMs but also for folk that have never played an RPG before. We’ve always prided ourselves on being welcoming to gamers of every age (which is why I’m face-palming myself for forgetting the Kilderkin in an over 18 only bar).


We’re having an Open Games Day on 23th January! http://orcedinburgh.co.uk/

Open Roleplaying Community (ORC) Edinburgh are having an Open Games day where people can sit down and play an RPG (or two) with some of the ORC GMs.

We’ll be in the back room of the Kilderkin pub on the Royal Mile from Midday until late on Saturday 23rd of January. Some of these games will be running at 12pm and 6pm – others may be drop in or out!. Games on offer include (for some games, GM availability is limited):

  • Pathfinder (from 12pm)
  • Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars/Dragon Age (from 6pm)
  • Mutant Chronicles/Achtung! Cthulhu (Call of Cthulhu) – both 12pm & 6pm
  • Mordheim RPG (Warhammer)
  • D6 Star Wars/Dark Heresy/Saturday Morning Cartoon Hour/Shadowrun/Mutants and Masterminds
  • Paranoia
  • Dungeons & Dragons (5th ed Lost Mines of Phandelver)
  • Trail of Cthulhu
  • Call of Cthulhu/Savage Worlds

Where multiple games are offered it depends on what the majority want to play!

Interested? Then come along – all welcome, especially those that have never played an RPG before. For more information on ORC, visit the ORC website at http://orcedinburgh.co.uk

Dragonmeet 2015 – London ILEC

Dragonmeet 2015 was great fun. It’s safe to say that I had a great time. It’s a busy 1-day convention held in London, at the ILEC Conference Centre, usually on the first Saturday in December. It looks like it has outgrown the venue this year and will relocate to another location next year, though.

There were a lot of industry folk there and I had a great time trying to spot faces, and everyone was friendly – it’s billed as one of the UK’s friendliest conventions, and it is.

I’d decided to head down and help out on the Modiphius stand on the Saturday and help set it up. The night before, it began snowing (it took three buses and two hours to get home!). There was a severe weather warning. And a beer delivery truck crashed on the road leading to the station’s Calton Road entrance. Things did not look good.

I needn’t have worried. I was able to get to the station in plenty of time. I reserved a ticket on the 11:30am train down to King’s Cross, which would get me to London for 15:50. Just as well I reserved a seat – the train was very busy at that time of day. The North of England was covered in water on my journey down – my sympathies to anyone who got flooded. I know how bad it can be, all too well!

I was helping setup the stand at 5pm. The train was on time, and then I experienced what I’d been dreading – the Tube. Rush Hour seems to start at 4pm around Leicester Square and Covent Garden. As I found out on the Piccadilly Line. We were jammed in so tight that I couldn’t actually move my arms or shift position. It’s very claustrophobic, and I realised that I could either get out at Earl’s Court and walk to the hotel – or hop on the District Line to Brompton. I do like the fact that you can use contactless cards on the Tube!

Unfortunately my sense of direction was banjaxed, and I would up on the Eastbound District Line, going back the way I came. 2o minutes later I got to my hotel, which was right next door to the ILEC, the Hotel Lily. It worked out £5 a night cheaper than the IBIS Hotel. I could have actually walked from Earl’s Court – it only took 10 minutes when I did it on the way home!

The hotel was… well, combine Crossroads with Hostel, and you’ve pretty much got the Hotel Lily. Lifts so tiny that I thought I was going into cryo-sleep. Handprints on the walls could have been chocolate, mud, blood, or worse. Black mould on the tile grouting in the bathroom. The shower had little pressure and the water was largely lukewarm. Also the room hadn’t been properly cleaned in a while – the shower curtain hadn’t been cleaned. Breakfast was OK though. The bedding was at least clean, but the mattress was lumpy. There were also four beds in the room. I’ll not be back.

I spent 5 hours on Friday night hauling boxes of books around and getting the stall set up. We finally got things finished, and headed to the pub. Those of you who saw the stand probably don’t appreciate just how heavy some of those boxes are! I was feeling the burn when I returned to the hotel. I was so tired I was straight out like a light. I didn’t even notice the draught from the badly fit double-glazing and noise of the traffic outside.

I headed over to Dragonmeet 2015 for 9am, an hour before the trade hall opened. There was the inevitable snagging, but we were ready. The only issue we found is that we couldn’t find the Achtung! Cthulhu miniatures (which surfaced when we packed away – naturally!). And a half-dozen copies of Achtung! Cthulhu‘s Three Kings were nowhere to be found (again, we found them later). Lots of people were picking up their Thunderbirds board games too.

All in all, I found myself enjoying telling people about the games at Dragonmeet 2015. As resident know-it-all, I guess I kind of surprised myself. I had fun running Achtung! Cthulhu, using the Under the Gun scenario and managed to keep to the two-hour limit! Much fun was had. After that I headed back to the stand and hopefully made a difference – in between searching for Three Kings and the miniatures.

The aisle space at Dragonmeet 2015 had been widened – last year, the space was a real challenge to move around in. It meant less space for traders this year but felt much easier to move around in for the punters. Unless you were on the other side, that is! I had a quick look round the convention – there was a lot going on – rather than heading to the pub for lunch, then sat down to run the Mutant Chronicles. I’d hoped to run it with six players but only had 5 pre-gens so regrettably had to turn some away. We all enjoyed it though – not bad for a scenario written on the train down… Sadly, it looks like a bunch of GMs were no-shows – which is a pretty crappy thing to do. I’m also not sure what happened with the sign-ups – we suddenly got over-subscribed for some games, particularly Conan.

One thing I was particularly keen to do was actually keep my games to a minimum to experience Dragonmeet itself. I KIND of did this – but spent a lot of time working the stand! At the UKGE, I was always running games, and it took a toll. It’s probably just as well – the trade hall closed at 8, but we didn’t have everything packed away until 10pm. It was hard work, but I felt a strong sense of achievement at the end! We were first in, last out. There was even a game of Achtung! Cthulhu going right until the end.

All in all, Dragonmeet 2015 was fun. I came home laden with books (but forgot to pick up one, Terrors of the Secret War, DOH!) on Monday. It takes a couple of days to decompress from these! Now, still thinking about the UKGE in May..

Looking back at RPG Convention Season 2015

So I’ve been following the “Grand Tour” of RPG convention season this year. I started off with Dragonmeet 2014 in December, a one-day con in London at Earls Court.

I followed this up with Conpulsion. The review of this here on this blog has apparently lead to some changes, and I’ve been interrogated quite thoroughly about it at an ORC Edinburgh pub meet:).

I took myself down to the UK Games Expo, and managed to miss being in every Modiphius Entertainment pic as detailed by Marc Langworthy at in his Post Expo Debrief over at http://kplangers.com/. I was elsewhere running games in the building for about half the time, including Mutant: Year 0 when it won Best RPG. I also helped flog some stuff on the stall and ran some demo games there.

Most recently I went to Q-CON. It felt less like a RPG Convention this year. I didn’t enjoy it quite as might as I could have thanks to my insomnia, so that’s on me. The accommodation was pretty basic and I didn’t get much sleep thanks to the noise. I also lost my voice on the Saturday night!

Things I’ve learned – although I covered some of this before in my Surviving the UK Games Expo post, it works for any Convention (plus I’ve updated some of the things):

  • If you’re staying in a hotel, find somewhere cheap (the Hilton was brutally expensive), and there’s often cheaper accommodation to be found nearby online. Find somewhere close though.
  • At the Games Expo, get breakfast early! You’ll not be able to enter the main trade/event halls before 9am but at least you won’t be hungry.
  • If you’re planning on buying stuff, make sure you’ve some ready cash – in case the cash machine(s) on site run out.
  • Don’t bank on eating healthily – food trucks are popular now, but some venues will have a pub. Hotel restaurants are often pricey too. Leave yourself some time though. They get busy and are usually not prepared to deal with the numbers! Or find a place to eat nearby. Take business/contact cards with you. I gave them to nearly all my players – and all were happy to take them (bar one). See below!
  • While running a game one of my players was almost constantly playing some game on his phone, and wasn’t paying attention (to me or the players). At the end of it, not only did he discard my card but he said he found the game “confusing”. The rest of the players had enjoyed themselves immensely. Bloody ignorant. He’d done it in another GMs game too. GMs should call a player out on this kind of thing if the rest of the group are becoming exasperated with it.
  • By respectful of other GMs, it’s not a shouting match where the loudest group have the most fun. Unless they’re playing a WH40K Ork game called Waargh Trek.
  • On the other hand, speak up as a GM. Many shared games rooms are loud.
  • Be on time (players and GMs!), and be ready to move to another location if there’s an accessibility problem for players.
  • Have a chillout place available if it gets crowded, and take an hour to “decompress”.
  • If you’re staying in student halls, expect basic facilities and noise. They’re cheap for a reason.
  • Bathe daily. You’ll need to: it gets very warm and everyone sweats.
  • Get a convention T-shirt or two. Not only is it a reminder, but you can use as a standby if you’re short of shirts (see above)!
  • Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re running a game.
  • If you’re planning on collecting Kickstarter rewards or buying games, take a big case or drive (beware of parking costs). Alternatively post your games back separately from a nearby Post Office (cheaper than £20 for an extra Easyjet baggage allowance).
  • Don’t schedule yourself to run games the entire con. Take some time to walk around, play, and network.
  • Be enthusiastic about a demo game, but don’t be offended if someone criticizes it or isn’t interested in it.
  • Venue staff, not just stewards, need to be polite and respectful – you’re still customers.
  • Cosplay is not consent (I’ve never seen harassment but it does exist).
  • Don’t badger gaming personalities in the bar if they’re in there for a quiet drink.
  • If you’re an organiser of a convention, expect and act upon criticism.

I’m not sure how many conventions I’ll get to next year: the accommodation and travel cost does mount up. Plus I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to attend and prepare for them. Still, I may get some time away. I’ve been offered a press pass for Conpulsion, and I’ll be at Dragonmeet this year though. I think I’ve covered everything and everywhere in individual reviews and posts elsewhere under Conventions.

Feel free to make any suggestions for other “Survival Tips”in the Comments!

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