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.
Since I last blogged, things have been busy. I’ve had a lot on, and the day job has been fairly frenetic. So what’s been happening?
My freelancer work has seen me doing indexes for a number of Modiphius core books: Infinity, Conan, and Star Trek Adventures (my name is front and centre in the credits!). I’ve also compiled the Universal Index for the Mutant Chronicles Universe (download it for free, here), and collated the timeline (see here). I’ve also written for the Cartel Tactical Center fanzine for MC. It’s not something I’m always credited for, but I’ve been on board the whole Mutant Chronicles line bar the core rulebook and two supplements over the course of two years.
I ran a number of games at UK Games Expo, and also worked on the Modiphius stand. I was exhausted by the end of it, and the train journey back was a real trial. I was a running on fumes when I got back. Not sure if I can keep running demo games, but it was fun. I was probably more weary than I thought as I discovered one of my hearing aids wasn’t working – two days later, of course. Both the Dark Eden Setting book and Dark Eden Campaign I worked on were submitted for consideration to the ENnies, but didn’t make it to the nominations.
This has given me a few ideas on what’s up next.
After my disappointment with Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I’ve largely avoided D&D and fantasy RPGs in general. I’m hoping to go back to them next year, possibly running a Symbaroum game. It’s a dark Scandinavian RPG that my fellow Modiphians have raved about.
I am going to write an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign, an episodic campaign that I hope to maybe see print. I’m going to start it in a few months with a new group at ORC Edinburgh. I plan to use the 7th edition rules to run it, but also plan to make the conversion available. I plan to finally get the Mutant Chronicles scenarios down in words rather than in my head… Notably “Life in the day”, “Ice-cold in Eden”, and “Rising damp”. Also, there’s the final errata log for the MC product line.
I suspect there’s more indexing work coming my way from future books, as well as possibly the Living Campaigns for both Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles. I’ll continue to write for both Modiphia (the free quarterly magazine from Modiphius) and CTC. I also intend to finally construct the Achtung! Cthulhu and RAFM miniatures I own. It’s only been two years.
EDIT: I’ll also be writing up notes on converting Achtung! Cthulhu to 7th Edition.
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
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.
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!