Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Babylon5

Archive & Ideas Dumpster

This is where I shove the random ideas I’ve had, projects that were ultimately dumped, and schemes that never came to fruition!

NovaGamesBanner

At one point, a friend (Dave Westwater) and I formed a Play-By-Mail games partnership, called Nova Games. This lasted for several years, but the two of us found that it was getting harder and harder to manage that and our regular jobs. We created a number of Play-By-Mail games.

2halvesBanner

2 halves was a football (soccer) management simulation run as part of Nova Games. Created by Dave Westwater, this ran successfully for some years, written in C and running on an Amiga! I did most of the graphic design work and helped out, and it was a nice little earner for a while, until Dave’s computer packed in.

Glorytothelance

RPG of knightly chivalry inspired by the Pendragon RPG and Arthurian legend. This PBM was Dave’s hand-moderated (i.e. no computer automation) game, run as part of Nova Games.

Portal

The Milenya Chronicles were to be a large computer-moderated series of epic games where players could run characters like Dragons, powerful wizards, city overlords and the like (nowadays this would be very much like an MMORPG, or World of Warcraft), developed as part of Nova Games.Originally four games were planned as part of Nova Games:

  • Blood & Fire, where you play a Dragon
  • Blood & Steel, you take the role of a warlord
  • Blood & Honour, you become a heroic knight and warrior
  • Blood & Mana, you are a master of the arcane arts, a wizard and mage.

Dave and I had a number of games planned, all of which would merge together. It was ambitious – too ambitious – we managed a playtest of the Dragon game, Blood & Fire, but it became clear that the complexity was beyond us at that time. Some of the prose was pretty purple too, as you can see below.

Here’s the blurb from the old Nova Games website (the vortex was created by Jason Paul Macartan of MindShift Design):

Where are you? What happened? Clouds of blue green mist swirl around you as you try to make sense of where you are, and more to the point, who you are. Then you hear it. A cold, but eerily beautiful voice that echoes down deep into your very soul.

Greetings, my friend. Thou hast journeyed far through the Æther. I sense that thou wilt travel farther still before thy journey is complete. Thou seeks knowledge? Of what is to be? Ah, but the key to the portal of knowledge lies in the past. See, already the Æther knows thou. Tarry a while. Time means little here, for we are the Milenya, and thou may be the One to assist us in what is to come.

“From the Milenya came the Realms of Life. From these Realms of Life, the Milenya created the Worlds. Lost in the joy of their creation of the Realms, the Milenya became careless and less vigilant. In their celebrations of creation, they attracted an Evil from within the Void. For It the Realms of Life offered a gateway – an escape. It issued from whence It had been imprisoned since time began, and had consumed entire Realms of Life in its unending, insatiable hunger.

“Shocked at what had been wrought, the Milenya resolved to forever keep It locked away using their very beings. Their energies formed the walls of the prison, giving up their existence to the perpetuation of creation. Their light shines still upon the Worlds of their creation. Timeless and eternal, the Milenya look upon their creation from their starry prison with sorrowful eyes. One by one their glory fades from the Void.

“Follow thy destiny, traveller, for thou art part of what is to be. What is to happen is yet to be Chronicled. Whatever path thou chooseth, and whatever manifestation, follow thy heart. To thineself be true.”

The voice is gone. You suddenly have the feeling of complete solitude. The blue-green mist called the Æther, curls around, caressing your face. Its touch brings knowledge. Swirling away from you, it illuminates a world, shining like a jewel in the night, and you are carried inexorably towards it. The sense of loneliness disappears, as you somehow recall the name of the world.

Darcosia.

As you travel towards it, you are changed. Into what can only be guessed at. At your approach, a shadow falls upon the world, extinguishing the light. And in the Void something laughs… and waits…

Welcome to the world of THE MILENYA CHRONICLES

In most games you begin the game weak and defenceless – but not these ones! Unlike many other generic fantasy games, you’ll need far more than a magic sword or fireball spell to defeat your opponents in our world. Raw cunning and skills in diplomacy are ranked particularly highly on the list of requirements to survive, but a little prayer to Lady Luck may help more than you think.

The Milenya Chronicles are our inter-linked series of games set in the mystical land of Darcosia. These games are a new concept for PBM games, and our intention is to bring the great fantasy epics to life. The Milenya Chronicles offer you the chance to play incredibly powerful entities, all with their own goals. We challenge you to come up with any other PBM game that allows you to play Dragons, Wizards, Warlords or Knights within the same game. Picture this:

Another player attacked your city with his army last Turn. You’ve called on a few favours with some of your player allies. Now, a Dragon, a Mage, two Knights, and three armies are out to teach your would-be attacker a lesson he will never forget. And in the background, your politicians are already at work, negotiating with mercenaries and your opponents enemies.

So, behold the world of Darcosia and plunge straight in at the deep end. Cutting-edge technology and Artificial Intelligence brings the world to life. Each being has its own distinctive personality – their own abilities to love, hate, plot, hoard and even breed. On Darcosia, attacking that small band of goblins could be a BIG mistake. They may be allies of the Great Wyrm Cortelus and the city-state of Argak. Both of whom have very long memories, and some very powerful allies.

In Darcosia, there are only two types of people: the rulers and the ruled.

Which will you be?

MandragoraOld

At one point I was quite an avid Play-by-mail gamer. These games are played by sending in turns by postal mail or email (PBeM). Inevitably, I decided to run a few games of my own as part of Nova Games (see the FAQ).The first game I created, the Mandragora series: Shadows Lengthen, was a single-character hand-moderated game that was incredibly time-consuming to run (during 2002-2003), and I eventually had to shut it down after a few months. It is worth pointing out that most hand-moderated PBMs do fold – the time involved is considerable if you’re not doing as a full-time job. Even then, the financial returns tend to be minimal. The original blurb is reproduced below:

The Mandragora series is a role-playing game set in the island kingdom of Lonaraban, a place of intrigue, treachery, and dark magic. In it, players take the role of one of the inhabitants of the Isle, the Mandragora.

The Mandragora are a race magically created centuries ago to participate in a devastating war, by the War Wizards of the Etruscan Empire. With a need to create highly magical yet tough soldiers, the spell-casters turned to the most feared and magical creatures on the planet: the Dragons. The creators were wiped out in the War That Shook the Earth. However, their creations, the Mandragora survived, and in the years of famine and war that followed they roamed the lands searching for a place where they would no longer be persecuted or slain by a human populace that feared and mistrusted them. Eventually, their travels led them to the island of Lonaraban, a heavily forested isle of steep cliffs and towering mountains. As their SpellWind craft skimmed into the bay, the Gold Mandragora Matriarch leading the expedition named it Kal’ashiraah, or Bay of Hope, in the High Mandragora speech.

Over the years their culture developed and cities were built. Their numbers increased, and each sub-species found their own caste. With the Gold Mandragora as their leaders their society flourished – and their Dragon heritage became more apparent. To this day, greed ambition, and treachery define a Mandragor’s standing in their society.

Choose from a variety of different roles – from the deadly Black Mandragora TunnelRunner to the mystical Silver Sacred Ones – and experience a whole new world…

This is the world of the Mandragora Series.

The series is a new type of play-by-mail game, split into months-long ‘episodes’. Each player takes the role of a single character, leading to a far more in-depth and detailed development. The world is dynamic, and your character’s actions can affect future episodes in a variety of ways.

The second game I designed was Ties of Blood. Having learnt my lessons from Shadows Lengthen, I made this a more controlled game. However, despite planning everything so well the playtest never took off as few people took me up on the offer.

Both game  manuals and game materials available for download.

TOBbanner

Ties of Blood was a more carefully planned game than Shadows Lengthen. I’ve given some thought to converting it to a board game.. The original blurb is reproduced below.

Ties of Blood is a fantasy PBM game of politics and intrigue, “the Great Dance”, in the island kingdom of Lonaraban, the home of the Mandragora. In Ties of Blood, players have the opportunity to take the leadership of the main political power bases of Lonaraban – the Imperial and Noble Houses that vie for power. A number of the game materials are available for download.

The objective of Ties of Blood is simple: to win the Imperial Throne of Lonaraban, by any means necessary. To become Empress will take skill, diplomacy, and cunning. The current Empress may be old, but misses very little and your Matriarchs (the leaders of your House) will need to use all their resources at their disposal to elevate the Head of the Noble House to this exalted position.

The only way to do this is to get the Three Hundred of the Shirr’haim to pass a motion of no confidence in the Empress, and thereby impeach her House. The Three Hundred comprise the Shirr’haim, which translates to human speech as “Place where items of great import are spoken of”. Not only is this the name of the Senate, it is also the capital city: both are the same.

This game will feature a huge number of political manoeuvres (including dirty tricks such as blackmail, arson, inciting riots and outright warfare), a notoriety score used to define how long a house “can get away with it”, rules for magic use in politics – including Dark magic!

The Ties of Blood Boardgame

I decided to start work on developing Ties of Blood as a board game.

The objective of Ties of Blood is simple: to win the Imperial Throne of Lonaraban, by any means necessary. To become Empress will take skill, diplomacy, and cunning. The current Empress may be old, but misses very little and your Matriarchs (the leaders of your House) will need to use all their resources at their disposal to elevate the Head of the Noble House to this exalted position.

The only way to do this is to get the Three Hundred of the Shirr’haim to pass a motion of no confidence in the Empress, and thereby impeach her House. The Three Hundred comprise the Shirr’haim, which translates to human speech as “Place where items of great import are spoken of”. Not only is this the name of the Senate, it is also the capital city: both are the same.

This game would feature a huge number of political manoeuvres (including dirty tricks such as blackmail, arson, inciting riots and outright warfare), a notoriety score used to define how long a House “can get away with it”, rules for magic use in politics – including Dark magic!

Much of the features of the original PBM will feature, although I will have to make quite a few modifications obviously! I planned to:

  • Convert the map of Lonaraban to a board suitable for the game.
  • Create playing pieces to represent Mandragora Scions and other personalities.
  • Cards that represent random Events and Advantages.
  • Create a Notoriety score-keeper.
  • Create a House record sheet.

Downloads

Wargames

Warhammer 40,000 (WH40k) Planetary Invasion

This was one of my best, and worst ideas. After reading the the Chapter Approved supplement for Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader (the 1987 edition, not the Black Industries RPG), I decided to run a game that dealt with a planetary invasion by Eldar.

At the time, Chaos was hated by all the players so it would be Eldar vs. the Space Marines of the KIL Chapter (not my choice of name). I built up an elaborate number of scenarios, from attacks on defence laser emplacements, to street fights. However, exams interfered and we never got a chance to play.

Looking back now, I was a bit overambitious, but it would have been cool.

Bleak Midwinter setting for wh40k

This was eventually shelved, but it wasn’t a bad idea at the time. (Bill, October 2014)

Bleak Midwinter was an idea that I’ve had percolating around in my head for a while (and I’ve mentioned it before): a proper crossover campaign, set in the Warhammer 40,000 (wh40k) universe. I’m not talking about just a couple of games involving Space Marines from the Deathwatch RPG, and an Inquisitors cell from Dark Heresy. Oh no, I was thinking bigger than that (possibly even involving characters from Black Crusade, and Epic scale as well!).

Here’s the plan – a series of wh40k RPG games running at ORC and elsewhere, together with a series of wh40k battles, perhaps being run at Edinburgh League of Gamers (aka [elg]). Ambitious? Very much so. And that’s why I’d need some help with it (see below) – I’d need folk to run and play the games, but also to organise the tabletop battles as I’ve no direct contact with any of the Edinburgh wargame clubs. I’m thinking I could organise things so we could probably start running the games in January 2012!

My concept is that Bleak Midwinter is set within the Midwinter Expanse,  a nebula known for its White Dwarf Stars. It would feature Space Marines, Rogue Traders, as well as Acolytes of the Inquisition as the plot gradually develops, leading to large scale battles as the events unfold (each battle or adventure spins off a new plot or battle). We could see large scale space battles, hive worlds erupting into violence and a whole host of things happening that would make a fantastic campaign for all involved.

However, I’d need help. While I appreciate that Games Workshop (GW) would probably jump at the chance to help, I’d rather Bleak Midwinter remained in the hands of the gamers as it were, rather than become a marketing tool. This is a pretty ambitious project, so for obvious reasons I’m going to need some assistance. Here’s how I’m seeing things, breaking them down to their simplest requirements:

  • Writers to help create the adventures.
  • Volunteers to help plan the battles.
  • I’d d appreciate some help creating the campaign itself.
  • Someone to approach the Edinburgh Wargaming clubs to see if they’d be interested.
  • GMs to run the games.
  • Volunteers to run the battles.
  • Someone to keep track of what is going on.

Obviously, I’ve got a major plot arc for Bleak Midwinter in mind, but there’s no reason why events have to follow it. Note that I’m not planning to make money off this; the only donation I’m looking for is time! :)

RPGs

I’ve run a lot of RPGs over the years, but not all have worked out.

Babylon 5 RPG Campaign

Being a lifelong fan of Babylon 5, I made the decision to run a short B5 campaign at ORC. I obtained the Mongoose Publishing B5 RPG (2nd Edition). There were a few sticking points:

  1. Character creation in the Babylon 5 RPG takes ages. It took so long that we were still getting ready to play 90 minutes later.
  2. The Babylon 5 background is so detailed that the RPG is only really suitable for die-hard fans.
  3. The d20 system is a bit of a pain to use with B5.

It was a good idea for a campaign I had (or seemed like it): the PCs are assigned to an ultra-secret division of ISA Intelligence tasked with preventing the misuse of technology gleaned from the Shadow War. This would mean travelling around and coming into conflict with the Drakh and hostile alien governments.

The idea for the first game was that someone was using a hunter-killer to kill certain people on Babylon 5 – the Drakh agent concerned was trying to conceal the location of a de-activated Shadow cruiser near Coriana 6, where the great battle between the ISA, Vorlons and Shadows occurred. A Drakh fleet were on their way to collect it, but the agent was covering his tracks.

The hunter-killer was one of my better ideas. A tiny biological chameleon that flew to its target then detonated a mini-bomb; it was untraceable to bomb sensors, and coded to a specific DNA sequence. Naturally when the PCs found that the victims were being killed by something that was out of phase they started thinking that there were Shadows in the room…

When the PCs arrived at Coriana 6, the plan was for the Drakh ships to arrive at the edge of the system, giving the PCs little time to find and destroy the Shadow Cruiser…

The game went OK, but I don’t think it would have worked out as a campaign.

Raunia RPG

The Raunia RPG was a gestalt of different systems: Fighting Fantasy, my own and a system that a school mate, David Tynan had sketched out. I’ve still got the original notes from the late 80’s, with some of the maps. I cringe a bit when I look at them now. It never really went beyond a couple of games with my then gaming group – we were going through a WH40k Epic scale Adeptus Titanicus/Space Marine phase.

Marvel Superheroes RPG

This has its own page here. One week in and half the players couldn’t bothered turning up.

RPG Meta-plot: is it needed?

Meta-plot is one of those concepts that you either love or hate. Basically, the term is often used in RPGs and elsewhere to describe an over-arcing plot-line or extended storyline. You can see examples of meta-plot in the media too – the Shadow War in Babylon 5, Lucifer rising in Supernatural. Game of Thrones is one huge example of epic meta-plot, with lots going on and not all of it related to specific characters.

Yet RPGs often have a problem with meta-plot. Sometimes, even the sheer weight of meta-plot material can kill a product line. This is roughly what led to the White Wolf  “reboot” of the World of Darkness (Vampire, Werewolf etc.) – they had loads of supplements and source-books that had largely bled (for want of a better word) the creative opportunity for GMs. Wizards of the Coast had quite a history of doing meta-plot resets, e.g. From the Ashes and the Greyhawk Wars series that rebooted Greyhawk for A&D 2nd Ed. Sometimes it is easier to start afresh and might also generate fresh revenue and invigorate a product line I suppose!

Players only appreciate meta-plot when they are active participants to some extent. It also often assumes some prior familiarity with a setting on the part of your players – and that in itself can be hard work for someone new to a particular setting. Here’s some examples.

Babylon 5 RPG setting

Gods, where would you start with Babylon 5 for someone unfamiliar with the series? Even watching a couple of episodes wouldn’t really bring someone unfamiliar with B5 up to speed with 5 years of plot. You’d have to be really hard-core fans of the series to make it work, unless you set it before the formation of the ISA and coming of the Shadows. The sheer volume of plot and events make it inscrutable to anyone who hadn’t watched a season or more!

Cthulhutech RPG meta-plot

You could say that the whole setting of Cthulhutech is one big meta-plot. I’m eagerly awaiting Dead Gods and Burning Horizons for Cthulhutech. One is likely to be a Storybook that features meta-plot and the events of 2086, the other “splat” book for the Rapine Storm faction (a cult of Hastur that purges/scours the earth for the arrival of the Great Old Ones). The Storybooks are interesting in  that it gives your players a chance to participate in some of the major events/revelations of the year as part of the CT meta-plot. However, there’s  a lot going on across the globe and its unlikely that your players would be at the Fall of Juneau or Shanghai. In my own Through the Looking Glass games, I’ve hinted at what’s to come, but can’t really bounce the players across the planet (or space in the case of Burning Horizons!) to a new location every session!

Ashes of Freedom (D&D)

Contrary to popular  belief at ORC, much of the meta-plot for the Ashes of Freedom D&D game at ORC did not come out of any long-term planning on my part as such. It worked as a result and I could tailor the plot toward the PCs actions. Yes, I did have a few ideas for the long-term, but fitting it around the players worked far better. Also as the world was my own creation it meant that I didn’t feel compelled to preserve it, or avoid any events. To be perfectly honest, some of the plot was derailed from the first session so I had to come up with some new ideas quickly!

To answer my original question: is meta-plot needed? No – never let it get in the way. If you want a simple dungeon bash, for instance, you might not need it. Live free, and only use meta-plot when you want to give the game some flavour, or involve the players in some new conspiracy!  Kill off a significant NPC? No problem. The PCs thwart the invasion that might have led to the founding of a empire of a thousand years of peace and prosperity? Oops! The whole party gets wiped out? GMs, it’s your game: you can do what you want with it.

GM Burnout

“It’s better to burn out than fade away!” The Kurgan, Highlander

I think there comes a time when everyone “burns out”, creatively speaking – be it storytelling, writing or GMing. I feel it every few years when I’m running RPGs, and I reckon I’m not alone in experiencing it. Creativity isn’t like a tap – you can’t turn it on or off as needed. I’ve often found myself in the position where I’m completely stumped for an idea, only to have an epiphany later on – sometimes its better to take a step back from a problem or project and just rethink things – I’m not just talking about RPGs: sometimes in IT you can create additional problems by over-thinking something (a PC may not be connecting because of a dodgy cable not a TCP/IP stack)! I’ve also found that my mental state also has some bearing – unsurprisingly, if you’re under a great deal of stress or feeling down, your problem-solving and thinking processes tend to suffer as a result. At the moment, I’m thinking of just taking my time and not rushing things: I’ve a lot on at work and it can be difficult to concentrate on some of the other stuff I need to sort out at home, gaming or otherwise.

To be honest, RPGs are a good way to relieve stress. In the past I’ve had what one of my friends calls “Black Moods”, where I feel pretty rotten, and depressed. That’s depression with a small D: clinical Depression is no joke – however I think it is too often abused as an excuse (often misdiagnosed and drugs are over-prescribed by GPs who can’t be bothered). I’m not denying that at some point I may have been Clinically Depressed, but that was a long time ago. Sometimes these moods hit me (not for a few years though) but I’ve learned to ride them out – if you look back through my blog entries you’ll spot some of the times when they hit me! RPGs and the creative process help considerably with these moods  I’m not one of these people who post their mental status on social networking sites (at least I hope I’m not!), seeking validation through cryptic comments; or playing for sympathy, so that everyone is compelled to ask what’s wrong.

Enough of my psychobabble! The main focus of this RPG article is the phenomenon known as GM Burnout. I’ve been an occasional victim of this, as mentioned above.

Recognising GM (and player!) burnout

Once you reach a certain age, or level of experience as a GM, it becomes difficult to find the time to either create new adventures or settings. Certain game systems become too advanced, or too simplistic. You just go through the motions sometimes.This is what happened with me and D&D: I don’t like 4th edition as it’s just somewhat basic and seems geared towards using a battle map and miniatures. 3.5 is too munchkin now: there’s very little “role” involved in what is essentially a paper version of a PC game (feats, etc.).

As a GM, you’ll spot the signs of burn-out in yourself by these:

  • You’re having trouble coming up with new ideas.
  • You regard the game as a chore rather than a leisure activity.
  • You’ve lost your enthusiasm for the game.
  • You become annoyed at the slightest thing during your games.
  • Player/PC antics no longer amuse you.
  • You find yourself cancelling games as you have other things to do.
  • You want to run another game but don’t know which one.
  • You have to regularly cancel games because players can’t make it.
  • You’re running multiple games and are finding it difficult to concentrate.
  • The game just doesn’t work for you.

You can usually notice it in players too, with much of the same “symptoms”, for want of a better word. Often they’re committed to two or more games – possibly as a GM  too.

“Case Studies”

Here are some of my own cases of burnout, or other failures (and what went wrong!).

Against the Odds: I used D&D 4e for this. Looking back upon it this was a mistake – I didn’t think about how the game would pan out using a system that focuses heavily on combat, rather than investigation or intrigue. Consequently I got frustrated and ditched it.

Ashes of Freedom: again D&D, but 3.5&4e  this time. However, the first time I ran AoF (when 4e came out), I got a bit sick of the system (and one of the players threw a bit of a hissy fit too when he couldn’t get his own way), plus I had two groups and one lot changed nearly every week. However a little later I returned to AoF using D&D3.5. I did overcommit myself to creating a 3.6 version as well, but it WAS a popular game. It reached a natural end, with some pretty good action sequences, and I was needing  a break anyway – I realised I was getting close to burnout.

Babylon 5: great idea, crap implementation, rotten PR. The d20 edition of the Babylon 5 RPG doesn’t work as it stands. Unfortunately, I thought I could craft this great campaign, with a story arc that could match JMS. Unfortunately it was not to be: other popular games were on that day; the setting required too much metagame knowledge/series background; and the system was pretty poor and didn’t really run well. Looking back, I could have done something with it I guess, but I was feeling a little restless: wanting to run an RPG, something other than D&D. I think I was definitely burned out as a GM at this point.

The New World: despite this setting being incredibly popular since, the first outing proved to be an unmitigated failure. In its first incarnation, it was designed to be an ORC shared campaign. A group of DMs worked over several months to hammer out a setting and plot line, and on D&D day we had three different DMs running a game. Then the other GMs lost interest (or couldn’t be bothered), and I was left carrying the game – I got pretty sick of that so the New World was put on ice for a few years – it’s still used frequently by other DMs at ORC and elsewhere (including some of my ideas 🙂 so its not a total loss. After this event I didn’t run anything for a while, as I was pretty hacked off. I felt vastly disappointed. It was a game where there were plenty of folk wanting to play, but few willing to run.

PBM games: I definitely suffered GM burnout with these. Shadows Lengthen took so much of my time that despite the fact that it made some small amount of money that I just got tired of running it. Ties of Blood looked really good on paper, but failed to garner enough interest. I just gave up on it as a result.

What to do

The best thing to do is take a break – the time involved depends upon the individual. If you’re running an existing game, tell your players that you want to take a break for a while. Maybe let someone else run, and you can relax and actually be a player for a while.

Try running a different game and keep it to a short series i.e. a mini campaign. If you’re short of ideas, it can be a good idea to carry a small A5 or smaller notebook everywhere. You’d be surprised when (and where) you can find inspiration!

If the game itself isn’t working, that’s more difficult: it’s best to give some serious thought to if you can see it continuing in its current form. If you can’t, give your players an ending to remember! If there’s no way you can see the game going on, be as dramatic as possible in the game’s conclusion – all the gloves are off: PCs die, NPCs change loyalty, the villain(s) die(s), the world ends, etc. Aim for a whammy!

NOTE: I know this is kinda written like a medical crib sheet, but I thought it might be fun to write it like that. Obviously RPGs are a leisure hobby – treat it that way!

Dark Age of Technology

Seriously, that’s what its starting feel like.

We’re continually bombarded with information on the news with absolutely no way of checking the veracity. Nowadays all that is important are rumours and speculation; instead of informed and objective reporting. Often on the news there are “people on the ground” or “as it happens” who are asked for their opinions of what is happening when it is obvious that they have no idea. It seems there are no correspondents any more, instead the media rely on Joe Public to send in barely articulate emails or resort to talking heads about what is going on.

At the moment, we can see this happening with the nuclear debate. The media have whipped up a  frenzy about the problems in Japan – they were screaming earlier that staff had been evacuated from the plant for instance. That’d be a bloody good idea if, oh, there were explosions going on? Then there’s the whole business about it being safe: these problems were caused by an earthquake and a tsunami. There’s an element of risk in everything: you could fall out of your bed while you were asleep or trip over the kerb – this was a unique combination of circumstances. Out of this scaremongering comes demands for nuclear power to be written off as an answer to the energy needs of an increasingly tech-based society.

To me, that’s part of the problem: we’re becoming so reliant on technology that we cannot function without it. We’re becoming tech-addicts, looking for the next “fix”.Mobile phones intrude on our lives daily – I wonder how many people could function for a week without one – both in our personal and work lives. Social networking has become a social problem of its own with cyber-bullying and relationships destroyed. Wikipedia is used to support facts – although these facts can easily be distorted and may be subject to whatever prejudices there are at the time. New items are reduced to factoids and talking heads. We’re pushing the boundaries of ethics with the genetic code but haven’t found an answer to poverty and hunger. We can map the stars but no human has left Earth orbit.

To me, we’re starting to reek of cultural stagnation. We’re told of new drugs that allow improved cognitive functions for those suffering dementia, only for them to be used by students to improve their memory. Even the language we use to talk to one another has changed to such an extent that grown adults are reduced to talking in child-speak or the broken English in texts or emails. No one pays much attention to the consequences of their actions. Considering the imminent shortage of fuel and power, I wonder how many more luxury items like games consoles and TVs will sell. Given the choice between keeping warm and eating, or the latest Halo game, I know which I would choose.

Games like Eclipse Phase and modern pop culture talk about Transhumanism: the truth is we’ll not be ready until we figure out where the hell we are, who we are, and what we should be doing as a species, not an individual or group.

I’ll leave off with a little snippet from Babylon 5, that pretty much describes how an advanced culture (the Vorlons) would view a race on the verge of acquiring an anti-agathic drug (i.e. once that prolongs life, and eliminates disease).

You are not ready for immortality

– Kosh Ngranek, Babylon 5 episode Deathwalker

Imagine if we had one today: an overcrowded world with limited resources.

Anyway: enough ranting. I’m off to prepare a handwritten summary of my notes from a Windows 7 implementation meeting.

Happy New Year 2011

Note: those of you who remember or have seen Babylon 5 will (hopefully) recognise this sort of summary; a sort of foreshadowing.

It was the dying gasps of 2010: a month had hung on too long for everyone. The chaos of the big freeze has left us cold, leaving us all bad-tempered and charity was in short supply. In EH7 people are celebrating, but it doesn’t feel like their hearts are in it.

The Public sector purge had begun, but I’m pretty certain that no one is going to pay much attention till it hits them in their own wallet.

The Cult of Celebrity gained a few more adherents – I don’t even know who Stacey Solomon is, yet she’s a celebrity? I wish that this whole pathetic grasping need to be recognised would die a death: Big Brother, you had your time, just… move on.

As for me? Well, I’m around for a while yet. I’m still running the ORC site and themandragora.com and will be for a while yet!

One thing I’ve learnt in the last year: it is far too easy to judge (or be judged by) your friends by proximity. Life moves on. I’ve been friends with a lot of old school mates, but there’s only a few that I recognise as true friends: I’m 37 (not that it makes a difference), and many of my contemporaries have families. Family comes first (direct or otherwise). Remember that, understand it, and appreciate it.

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