I will begin running beta tests of Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 edition from February onward, as part of ORC Edinburgh, or at [ELG]. It’s one of several systems and worlds I work on, along with Infinity and the Mutant Chronicles. Most likely, they will be a series of one-off games. The venue(s) is/are to be confirmed, on a Saturday afternoon and/or evening or other club night as I’m planning to give the system a serious going over! I also will run some demos of Achtung! Cthulhu: Skirmish. It uses a bespoke Dystopian Wars rules set from the former Spartan Games, and is now part of Warcradle. Might be a good idea for me to paint those miniatures…
Here’s the pitch for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20:
Set against a backdrop of WWII, a band of Allied heroes fight the Secret War against the Nazi occult. Powered with ancient secrets and otherworldly allies, these dark factions seek to unleash horrific monsters and alien weaponry upon the world. Join the investigators of the British Section M, or the American-led Majestic, to uncover these dangerous cults and destroy the Nazis behind their lines.
The upcoming new edition is designed to run with Modiphius’ 2d20 System to enhance the terrifying, pulp-action of the WWII setting, which promises stories of audacious Allied heroes, evil Nazi villains, super secret bunkers, and inhuman conspiracies from beyond the depths of time and space!
The 2d20 System has been developed by Nathan Dowdell (Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of, Star Trek Adventures), from the original design by Jay Little for the Mutant Chronicles RPG (Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, X-Wing Miniatures).
For more information on Achtung! Cthulhu, see the Modiphius website at https://www.modiphius.com/achtung-cthulhu.html
I think it’s correct this last year has been something of a roller-coaster. There’s been a lot of ups and downs for me personally, and it is safe to say I’m very much in a better place – literally – than earlier this year. I moved out from my flat in Albert Street, which is going on the market next month. There’s a lot of baggage I had attached regarding that place, and I’m feeling far better away from it!
Conventions & Events
Anyway… I didn’t make the UK Games Expo or Conpulsion this year. Both would have taken a serious toll on me this time, given the way things were. The amount of personal stress and anxiety I was suffering was sending me off the deep end. Since then, I’ve become far more clear-headed and remain firmly grounded in this reality.
That said, I’ve been busy in a few other realities! I ran a few demo games of the Conan RPG and Achtung! Cthulhu at Red Dice Games as part of Free RPG Day. I had a lot of fun – as did the players, plus I caught up with a few old acquaintances during the day.
Tabletop Scotland was a blast. I didn’t feel the same sense of mental pressure that I’ve felt at other gaming conventions, possibly since it’s the first year to run. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about the event which takes place in Perth. It’s on again from 24th – 25th August 2019. I’d have loved to have caught up with more folks but it was such a fun weekend, running Infinity RPG, Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu – all of which were well-received and gave much-needed feedback and new ideas.
Dragonmeet (earlier this month) was really busy for me. Again, I still didn’t manage to catch up with everyone I wanted to. I may try and make it more of an extended trip next year and spend a bit of time pottering about London, and catching up with folks beforehand.
Much of my time this year has been involved in writing for the Infinity RPG. As well as writing a sizeable chunk of material for the Infinity GM Guide, I’ve also been responsible for outlining and writing the massive forthcoming Infinity: Shadow Affairs Campaign book. It’s been a fairly deep-dive into the Infinity lore for me, but I’ve hit the ground running, just like my character (yes, that’s me on p.488 of the Infinity core book!). As a result of my work upon that, there’s a fair amount of work I’ve done on the forthcoming Paradiso source book too. Looking forward to seeing both of those in print. More on Infinity later…
I’ve also been heavily involved in converting Achtung! Cthulhu to the 7th Edition of the Call of Cthulhu rule-set, notably both the Investigator’s and Keeper’s Guide. I’ve also been responsible for a chapter of the new Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 rule set, running several demos at Dragonmeet a few weeks ago. Lotta fun running that, along with the post-apocalyptic Devil’s Run game (which went a bit off-piste, but I enjoyed it). .
Mutant Chronicles has taken a bit of a back seat, although I’ve done some work towards some of the Siege of the Citadel, and converted some of the Dark Soul’s creatures to and from the game’s rules. Compiling the Mutant Chronicles Universal Index (plus the errata and timeline) were very useful in getting me up to speed in that respect. The Mutant Chronicles Universe is still very much alive. More on that later, too….
New for 2019…
As is my custom for this annual post, I’m trying to set out some clear goals (writing and otherwise) for myself over the next year. To be honest, quite a few have been carried over from previous years. So I guess that makes them traditional.
This year, I’d like to actually play some tabletop games of Infinity and Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish/Tactics – I’ve got a number of the starter sets (including the Combined Army one) like Red Veil for Infinity, and a load of miniatures for both now. I’d like to get back to painting miniatures again. Quite likely I’ll post any work in progress here. Aside from various discussions involving Dettol and airbrushes, techniques don’t look to have changed that much – I went to Wonderland earlier in the month and bought Milliput. Looks exactly the same, too.
I’ve a pile of the RAFM Kickstarter minis for Call of Cthulhu, and also the Battletech starter set. My Cthulhutech/Battletech mecha mash-up is still a pipe-dream right now, but there is a good place to start! In the past, the size of my old flat and lack of time (and application!) meant that I had no room or inclination to paint. That given, we’re considering a summer-house (or shed!) although we also have two outdoor 10×10 cellars that might easily be converted to a workshop/painting studio given a little work. They are pretty damp though…
Writing and gaming goals
Board gaming is also something I’d like to get into again. Games like Siege of the Citadel, Thunderbirds, Burning Suns, and Legends Untold are all on my hit-list to play. I’m avoiding X-Wing and other Star Wars games as their miniatures are hideously expensive. Got to admit though, I would like to have a go of whoever produces a new version of Talisman, Fantasy flight or not. Deep Madness also looks like it might be worth a look – I missed both the Kickstarters but it looks terrifyingly fun, and not as bulky as Cthulhu Wars… famous last words, perhaps.
My flat’s painter/decorator has also asked me to run a Pathfinder game for him and a group of his gaming group. I also got my dentist back into board-gaming, and quite a few folk at my work have expressed an interest. Yeah, you’ve read that right. I’m thinking I’ll go for the classic Rise of the Runelords campaign, or a least getting them started upon it. It’s been a while since I ran Pathfinder.
In the process, I’ve also considered combining my former sandbox (ahem!) Sands of Time Pathfinder setting and Against the Odds into a single setting, for use with the Conan 2d20 RPG rules – I’m quite keen on consolidating them in that rule-set, as Conan’s low-magic rules really make the setting far more dark (no fireballs, but lots of sinister necromancy!).
Regarding my RPG freelancing I’ve a number of writing projects for Achtung! Cthulhu (inc. the 2d20 version), Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPG in the pipeline, plus a few other projects I can’t talk about yet. Infinity’s Shadow Affairs and Paradiso took a huge chunk of my time last year, but it was well worth it. Looking forward to seeing the hard-copy, after it gets approved. I recently acquired Kult, the latest edition, using my points from the Modiphius store. This horror RPG comes from the same origins as the Mutant Chronicles and uses certain aspects in both. I may plunder it for some scenario ideas…
Speaking of aspects, it’s no secret that Modiphius are now publishing Vampire: The Masquerade after recent events required a realignment of White Wolf’s material (to put it mildly). Something I’ve been considering for some time is a source book for Edinburgh that can be used with horror RPGs. It’d be a fair bit of work and system free, but would collate Edinburgh ghost stories, places like Shrub Hill and the Heart of Midlothian, individuals like Burke and Hare, and Edinburgh setting across the eras (including references to the Dresden Files, Necroscope and other Brian Lumley material): provisionally entitled “Edinburgh by night”. I’d be interested in working with any writer on that – not a solo project!
To be honest my workload and events such as moving flat have caused me to neglect a lot of the Edinburgh Gaming scene (and page), and I hope to rectify that in the New Year. ORC Edinburgh continues to expand, although the lack of a central venue means it’s difficult for me to keep track of the games that are going on, and harder still to encourage new players to try something other than D&D. Attracting players to non-D&D games is something of side-project – games like Star Trek Adventures, Infinity and wh40k may provide a little insight, provided I have time. A few one-off (one-shots) games in a regular venue might be the way forward – that seems to be a major sticking point – with a experienced GM (like me, I guess) of some traditional RPGs may fire up the creativity of would-be GMs.
The Open Saturdays group are continuing to run some unusual RPGs of interest, such as Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA), Night Forest, etc. so that’s also a good alternative for those bemoaning the lack of non-D&D games. ORC once had a tradition of a lot of one-shot games, but the dispersal across “time and space” for want of a better term has been problematic (i.e. location and scheduling). Something towards that may require something other than my efforts though.
With that in mind, I’m seriously thinking of channelling my energies into creating an Edinburgh branch of The Role Play Haven, a non-profit Community Interest Company – possibly as a replacement to ORC. I’ve been asked to look into creating a Scottish branch and it would solve a lot of ORC’s existing problems. Notably in organisation, charity funding and more of a community feel regarding reserving possible venues. It’d have a central pot for funding venue bookings and locations, and also cover GDPR and a more formal structure, along with a membership fee. I’ll need to take a good look at how to implement it: a more organised structure and paid membership fee requires something of paradigm shift for ORC members. Pitching games is also something new. All requires careful consideration…
Given my other half’s ownership of the 5-star Craster Tower apartment, I’m considering weekend RPG away-day sessions. Spend the weekend in an elegant 1,000-year old haunted tower, in the middle of rural Northumberland and the only other building nearby is a pub… This would be great for some intensive weekend gaming (RPGs or LARPS). Given the decor, definitely a good option for murder-mystery weekends too. It’s close to Alnwick and the LNER East Coast line rail links and the A1. I know its a thing/fad to game in an unusual place. Will be interesting to trial a weekend one this year 🙂 – it wouldn’t be cheap, but there’s plenty of castles and ruins, Newcastle, Holy Island etc. and coastal walks nearby for those who want a break from gaming.
I’m hoping to blog more a lot more this year. Ongoing painting work may well help with that. Provided I can secure the space required for work-in-progress shots, as such. I intend to get the cellar areas re-purposed and usable for something at least.
I’m also always available for advice, writing gigs, and general geek-related discussion. Use my Contact Me page or send me a message on the ORC website.
It’s been a bit quiet on here recently. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The main reason is the lack of time, but there’s another contributing factor: I’ve had to slow down a little.
So what’s eating my time? Put simply, work is largely responsible along with poor health and trying to do too much. I’m very much aware of how stress can manifest itself, having suffered it to a great extent last year. I’ve talked before about managing my time, but last year it really became an issue, especially as I developed discoid eczema over 75% of my body. This in turn fed my stress levels which pushed them even higher.
At the time, I was running two RPG campaigns, attending ELG, attending Leiththeatre (amateur dramatics), running ORC Edinburgh, being a “gaming ambassador”, working 9-5, and doing freelance RPG work in my spare time. I’d also just left a toxic relationship, which – although brief – had affected me more than I thought. Looking back, something was bound to give sooner or later.
Since last year, I’ve managed to strike a work-life balance. My RPG freelance work does not impinge on my day job (it never did, though). Plus, I’ve been receiving photo-therapy which has cleared much of the discoid eczema. I’ve sadly had to wind down both my RPG campaigns as found I didn’t have the prep time. I stopped the am-dram stuff as it was two nights a week, which meant I didn’t really get to stop until 10pm.
So what the hell, you may ask, has this to do with gaming?
It’s about managing expectations.
Working on RPGs and managing expectations
It’s been said to me several times that I’m “living the dream”. From a certain point of view I am, but there’s a cost involved – which I’ll come to in a minute. I love writing for RPGs. There’s a fantastic buzz to seeing a finished product with your name on it, no matter your contribution. I think there’s a lot of folk out there believing RPG writing is a dream job giving them a chance to make a lot of money doing what they love.
It’s not quite like that.
The folks that write RPGs work hard, at every level – we’re talking editors, proofreaders, artists – not just writers and designers. The full-timers have to make a living from their work, and freelancers often have to work as hard. What you put in, you get out – and the currency is time. So here’s my thoughts for anyone considering becoming a freelancer or full-time writer on RPGs (some is common sense, but…).
- Be professional, if you want to be taken seriously. Treat it as you would any paid job. If you do get a Non-Disclosure Agreement, honour it. Conduct yourself as a business-person, rather than fan-person.
- Hit any deadlines set. Even better, get your work completed well before the deadline.
- You will be edited: accept it. I worked on a project with Forgotten Realms’ Elminster himself, Ed Greenwood, who told me “We ALL get edited.”- if your work is cut, deal with it.
- Always get a proofreader, and get used to “red ink” or comments. Someone who’ll read over your work – this is less relevant for established publishers who will have their own proofreaders, but if you’re self-publishing, this is a must.
- Treat it like a job, not a hobby. Set yourself proper goals to complete your work – milestones like “1,000 words by Friday”. Don’t be too stringent on yourself – you need downtime (see below).
- It’s in the nature of the RPG industry (just like real-life!) that people move on to other projects and roles. While you’re working on a product, keep your loyalty to the product – not a person. There’s nothing personal in it.
- Make sure you have some downtime to deal with Real Life™. Family, friends, films, a book…. whatever! Make sure you take some time out. If you’re going to sleep thinking about your work consistently, you’re overdoing it. Stop. Chill.
- Do what you can, not what you want. Manage your time: to use a cliche, under-promise and over-deliver if needed. For example: I’ve been involved with almost the entire Mutant Chronicles line for 3rd edition. Much of that was indexing and caption writing, but I also helped fine-tune some of the writing and proofread. I am fine with that. Since then, I’ve found myself doing more and more on the product line.
- Keep to the assignment. If you’ve been asked to keep to 20,000 words, keep to it. You may not get paid for any extra words. It can have a knock-on effect in layout, so be careful! If in doubt, ask. Some publishers may want to keep extra material for future products – so keep it in mind.
- Deal with rejection. If your work has a problem, publishers will let you know. If you have to redo something, then do it. Don’t sulk about it.
- Negative feedback is still feedback. What went wrong? So fix it, next time. Not everyone will like your work, so don’t worry about the one Dislike among a hundred Likes. Take ANY criticism and use it positively.
- Believe in the product. You may not need to know the rules set, but turning in a half-arsed draft because you can’t be bothered with the canon is a shot in the foot. Also be preapared to talk about it on social media etc. (but honour any NDA!).
- Invoice promptly. Budgets can be tight so make sure you invoice for either your time, or the assigned word count.
Have I missed anything? Probably. But anyhoo… I’ll be at the UK Games Expo in June. If I’m not running a game, I’ll be at the Modiphius stand (or the pub)!
UK Games Expo Games I’m Running/Ruining
10:00-14:00 Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden
15:00-19:00 Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-Midnight: Achtung! Cthulhu: A Light on the Mountain
10:00-14:00: Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-23:59: Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden
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.
It’s almost the end of summer here in Edinburgh. The leaves are already coming off the trees, and the Festival is finally ending. After a rotten personal start to the year, things have – by and large – sorted themselves out.
I’ve found it necessary to de-clutter, and got rid of some of my gaming collection earlier in the year. Thankfully, to people who will use them I hope. In a strange twist of fate this led indirectly to me being interviewed for a piece on RPG collecting, which I hope to see soon online.
ORC Edinburgh goes from strength-to-strength, although I find little time to organise things as much as I did. I’ve now lost count of the number of GMs running games. I am sticking to running both the Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu games. I’ve also set up some of the members as Moderators. Games Day was a great success with around 30 gamers turning up to play. We hope to repeat it again at some point but it’s not something I want to organise alone.
I went down to the Games Expo again this year. had a lot of fun working on the Modiphius stand, although I didn’t get to demo any Achtung! Cthulhu. It was far more focused on board games this year, with only a few RPG companies in attendance. I did get the chance to snag a slipcase of 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu there. I could have got it signed but it completely slipped my mind. AUGH!
I’ve pretty much gone off board and wargames for the time being. I don’t have enough space in the flat to store them, or to paint and assemble minis. I’m working longer hours and the freelance work I do eats up a lot of my time (but I love doing it).
I’m largely resigned to the fact that my days of being able to play games during the week are now over. Work has become pretty challenging, so I’m never really bored. Getting my work/life balance sorted has been a bit of a tightrope this year.
One of the high points of my year so far is getting my name on this little beauty of a book. Listed as a proof reader on most of the range and have also been logging the errors, writing the captions, doing the stats, and compiling the indexes.
I’m working on the final book in the Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter, the “Dark Eden” campaign, which I hope to complete this week (or at least the bit I’m working on!).
I also plan to write up some sample Heretics and the adventure, “A Life in the Day” for the Mutant Chronicles.
Both Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles games will resume (I took some time off from MC). I’m hoping to begin converting Shadows of Atlantis to 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu soon.
I’m hoping to be at Dragonmeet this year too. Better get organised!