Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff


Procrastinating timey-wimey stuff

I’m going to be pretty candid with myself here. I think I’m largely failing right now as a writer, or even game designer. This doesn’t really upset me, as I can pretty much pinpoint the cause of my failure to get on with any writing – now that I know what the reason is! Ultimately: it’s all timey-wimey – my failure to manage my time successfully and/or profitably. There’s also the fact that maybe I’ve taken on too much over the last few years. So let’s put things in perspective – these blog posts are perhaps the most consistent writing I’ve done this year.

Causative Factors

I work a 9-5 job (with an hour’s travel both ways), and have extra responsibilities there now. I run the ORC Edinburgh website and this blog. I run two RPG campaigns on alternating Saturdays. I’m a Modiphius Silvershield and have travelled to a number of conventions across the UK, which can sometimes tie up a weekend. I live alone and have to eat, not to mention keeping the place maintained. And unless I fancy spending the rest of my life alone, I need to at least socialize with people (and even date!). One of my biggest problems is that I often get stuck in a pattern of behaviour – this can be useful at times, but can be an issue in certain circumstances.

Health-wise, I also need to exercise occasionally. I do a half-hour walk at work every day, 5km in 15 minutes on an exercise bike, and finally weights for 15 minutes. Not onerous by any means, and I’m in relatively good condition as a result. I’ve also not been sleeping well – I sleep very restlessly according to the Sleep Clinic at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – and this has had some effect on me as you can imagine. While not quite full-blown insomnia (I may get anything from 2-5 hours of sleep), my sleep patterns have given me some very strange dreams. Despite what people think, it doesn’t mean I’ve more time to get things done. If anything, it slows me down!

These factors have all pretty much come to a head in the last week, and I realised that although I’ve failed to do much as a writer this year. I’m actually failing forward as result: turning mistakes into milestones.

A brief history of my “failing forward”

A few years back I did some freelance work for The Secret Fire RPG, including a large section on demonic lore for The Way of Tree, Shadow & Flame supplement (I also did some of the fiction and places in the RPG). As a freelancer, I was paid very well for it, and finished way ahead of the deadline. At the time I was lucky enough to be able to take some leave from work to do it. I know from this that I have both the ability and skill to actually write clearly, coherently, and well. Given the right reasons, I can actually sit down and do it!

Also, earlier in the year I submitted a draft story to Black Library (who publish loads of WH40k stories) but nothing came out of it. No problem. I wasn’t disheartened, or annoyed because I’d heard nothing. Many authors are rejected initially by publishers; or maybe I was just unlucky in that competition. Either way, it was good to have both a deadline and clear goal, rather than “just write”.

I’ve not exactly been totally idle though. I’ve actually sat down and laid out the framework for three Cthulhu Mythos-inspired stories and a notebook full of concepts and ideas for my fantasy/crime novel. The Scrivener application is very useful for this, although it has a bit of a steep learning curve. I tried writing the first chapter, but took a second look and realised it was utter drivel. I’ve not been back to it since. Negative criticism (self-induced or otherwise) can still be constructive.

I’ve also been using published campaigns for my RPGs, which cut down on my prep time. So far these outcomes have all been very positive, although it may not appear like that. So, with that in mind, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Conclusions and resolutions

While I’d like to do more writing, I’m fairly certain that it may have to take a back seat for now. I tend to procrastinate a lot, and often still doubt my own abilities: I think I’m far more self-confident these days though. I’m in a pretty good place emotionally and am currently seeing someone too. It’s a little outside my comfort zone and ideal for getting my out of the pattern I’m in.

I’ve a number of projects ahead:

  • To get to Edinburgh League of Gamers  (ELG) – I’ve Battletech and Deadzone. I’d also like to try DUST and Firestorm Armada, and get to more of the Wednesday night boardgames nights.
  • Two secret projects that are still in the planning/discussion stage, both gaming.
  • My Criminology & Psychology degree begins soon.
  • I’ve taught myself proper proof-reading to a certain extent, although I’m not professionally qualified. Not sure what I’ll do with this yet.
  • I’ve the short stories and novel to develop.

If I do start writing again, it’ll be to a deadline (even if it is self-imposed) – perhaps NaNoWriMo later this year. With that in mind, I’m “micro-managing” my evenings when I return from work. It’s a system that works well for me, even if it is becoming an established pattern (which I suppose works in its favour).

  • Monday: chores, laundry, recycling, etc.
  • Tuesday: shopping, food preparation – large meals for freezing etc.
  • Wednesday: Writing. whether it’s fiction or RPGs.
  • Thursday: RPG preparation.

Essentially this leaves me Friday and the weekend free, although I can easily mix some nights around. Obviously my course may cause me to swap things around a bit, too. There’s a a few downsides to this. While the stuff I did with Leitheatre was interesting, it cut seriously into my evenings – two rehearsals on week nights meant I’d not be home until 9pm. And during the one-act play – I worked on it four nights solid (rehearsal, stage rehearsal/setup/take-down, rehearsal, performance) as floor manager and stage hand. Plus I didn’t realise how much I’d forgotten about lighting and sound since college! While it was fun, I’m stepping back from that for now. I’m also planning to cut back on the social media a bit – I spend far too much time on there I think.

I’m not sure I’ll do the convention circuit next year in the same way after Dragonmeet 2015 later this year. I think I’ll spend a little bit more time networking – I may not be much of writer or games designer, but I’ve found I do get on well with people in gaming circles. Plus it’d be nice to enjoy the conventions themselves! I’ve also taken a bit of a step back from ORC Edinburgh over the last few months as well. It’s now pretty much running itself as community, and the site doesn’t need as much patching and downtime as it used to. Plus the occasional pub meets are well-received, if not always well-attended! I’m fading into the background a bit on that score as a result – but I’m becoming better known in Edinburgh’s gaming community (and beyond!) too.

With that in mind I think I should be able to achieve something writing-wise. I may never be a great game designer or writer, but at least I’m trying!

RPG retrospective 2013

RPG retrospective 2013 is the latest in what has become something of an annual tradition for me. I’ve let the GMs and players over at ORC speak for themselves on the ORC website, but its been quite a year for me.

Personal achievements

I’ve not written so much on this blog this year, as to be quite honest I’ve not had time. What content I have put up has hopefully been of some use to anyone using the site. I hope to try and blog more over the next year, but will try to include more quality content, both specific gaming content, and otherwise.

Games I’ve been running this year included PathfinderAD&D and WFRP, and Wildfire’s new RPG, The Void (part of the Cthulhu Saga, a review of the game can be found here). The Pathfinder game I ran was part of the Ronin GM idea I had. I used the Sands of Time setting I made up (some of the places are detailed on the ORC wiki here), an Egypt-meets-Cthulhu, style setting. I only ran it for five or six sessions and although it proved a lot of fun to run, I didn’t really achieve aims I had for my role as  “Ronin GM”, although a few people that had never played RPGs or Pathfinder got the experience! I’ve described the Void RPG elsewhere, but it has potential.

AD&D has been something of a cathartic experience. It’s nice to have a simple dungeon bash that doesn’t challenge GM and players yet remains considerable. I’ve run it using AD&D before and its surprising how easy it came back to me, and even new players find it fairly intuitive over 3.5/4e. It also had the first PC fatality I’ve had in a game for quite a while. The group has finally got a full complement after a few folk dropped out during the year, and the new mage seems to even the score a bit. Expect a more detailed description on how I’m running the mega-scenario “The Temple of Elemental Evil” in a future post, or posts.

WFRP has gone from being bleakly grimdark (and po-faced) to something that hopefully has been fun to play and run – after my mistakes running Shadows over Bogenhafen (detailed here), Death on the Reik has been a joy to run. A number of fantastic experiences have been had by the players and the Queen of the Reik (under Captain Priscilla) now feels like home to the party. Heart of Chaos and Legacy of Praag were two of the encounters I came up with to spice up the adventure. I’ve chosen to skip “Something Rotten in Kislev” after Power Behind the Throne, choosing to run Drachenfels instead. SRiK isn’t a good module, and I got bored just reading it.

EDIT: I also ran Fires of Perdition, and, although it ran for a short time, was immense fun to both run and play. This was a mash-up of the Only War rules with the PCs as members of the Adeptus Arbites. Set in the Hive city of Perdition, on the world of Crucible, it was pretty much a knock-off Judge Dredd setting (more info on the setting here). If I ran it again, I’d definitely try to be little less epic – the players said they enjoyed playing a “street level” judge without the whole Chaos-warp-doom that pervades so much wh40k.

Other achievements? My freelance work on demons (and the artist’s interpretation) finally appeared in the supplement: Fragment 1: The Way of Tree Sword, & Flame, working alongside designers such as: George Strayton, Logan Bonner, Tony Reyes, Thomas Reid, Bill Smith, Ptolemy Slocum, Ron Corn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Curtis, John Adamus, Steve Winter, and Jim Ward. I recently appeared on Hazard Gaming’s Penny Red podcast, as part of their “Inside the Roleplayers Studio” series. I was recently interviewed by about my part in the Nova Games PBM partnership, for Issue 2 of the new PBM magazine “Suspense And Decision” (yet to be published).

I’ve backed a lot of RPG Kickstarters over the year (and other games). I’m especially looking forward to getting Deadzone setup and running (although I’ve a few gripes about the mini construction). Also the “Horror on the Orient Express” boxed set for Call of Cthulhu and “Rise of the Drow” Pathfinder campaign are due for release next year.

RPG plans for 2014

As well as running WFRP and AD&D, I’d like to get cracking on my novel idea. I’m not having troubles with ideas of the plot, it’s the actual linking them together and getting the words out of my head 🙂 .I’ve also decided to run a game session on Sunday evening called Survival Sunday; where we play Shadows of Esteren, The Void (the Stygian Cycle in all likelihood), CthulhuTech, and of course, Call of Cthulhu. Once “Horror on the Orient Express” arrives I’ll be running that.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

William Heron’s 40, ‘K?

It was my 40th birthday earlier in the week. The last twenty years seem to have passed so quickly, but its quite a long time when I think about it. In that time I’ve changed careers form Audiovisual to Computing – I probably wouldn’t have been the best AV guy anyway given that I was diagnosed with a sensorineural hearing problem. I’d probably had it for years, perhaps when I had the mumps or a fever as a child. Basically, it means that I can’t hear mid-range frequencies like human speech as easily a normal person, but the rest of my hearing is pretty good. I’m definitely not the same person I was 20 years ago. Hard times make for hard lessons, but I’ve managed to stay upbeat over the years. I’ve stayed relatively healthy, although I think my sanity has undergone a stress test occasionally. All things considered,  despite a few bumps in the road recently, I’m pretty good. Plus I still have all my hair – and also 100% free of preservatives, colourings, or additives.

I’ve travelled around a bit. I’ve never felt the temptation to go backpacking, but I do like arriving in a new city, and more often than not getting lost in it. I’ve been to both sides of the Pacific,  but never crossed it. I’ve been to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Tokyo, Antigua, Prague, and Rome so far; and I’d love to visit more, in the EU and elsewhere. As usual, as is so often the case, its expensive!

Speaking of new experiences, I’ve done a lot more gaming in recent years, as this blog illustrates. I’ve not been much of a console gamer, but do own an X-box 360, although that’s largely consigned to running DVDs these days. I prefer the cooperative kind of game, where you can work together – or short arena games with friends, like Left4Dead or Halo. Loved Batman: Arkham Asylum too. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t want to play Batman…

Ironically my two RPG campaigns that I’m running these days are from the 1990s. The Enemy Within campaign for WFRP, and also AD&D 2nd Edition. You’ll find some of my suggestions for running these elsewhere in my blog, too. Its ironic that these games still work well for modern players, despite today’s insistence on catering for munchkins and power gamer style games. In the last ten years I’ve run a lot of other RPGs too: D&D (both 3.5 and 4e), Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhutech, Marvel Superheroes, Pathfinder, the Wh40k RPGs, and Star Wars (both D6 and Star Wars). Some I’ve enjoyed more than others, some my players enjoyed more than I did!

The biggest problem I find these days is time: I’d love to run games like Shadows of Esteren, The Void, Eclipse Phase, Star Wars Edge of Empire, Werewolf, and 13th Age. I’d love to play these too, but as well as the time, its often the case that I can’t find someone to run. It takes a time commitment to be a GM, and to be honest, not many folk can do that. I’ve seen it happen a lot at ORC unfortunately. Someone starts a game, then can’t find the time, or they find themselves over-committed. For this reason I try and tell folk to keep to 1 or 2 games a week, be they a player and/or a GM.

I’d hoped to start writing a novel this month, but although I have a notebook of ideas, and hoped to start using the Scrivener software to get it organised. I’ve failed to begin NaNoWriMo again! Having said that, some of my stuff has been published, in THE SECRET FIRE RPG, and the first supplement, THE WAY OF TREE, SHADOW, AND FLAME. That was also the first time I did some proper freelancing. I also did some voluntary proof-reading for ACHTUNG, CTHULHU! from Modiphius Entertainment. Proof-reading maybe the way forward for the time being, as the time needed to develop my own games just ain’t happening. If I can get the custom, it might also be a good earner.

I’ve no idea what the next few years will be like. There’s nearly always something for me to do. There’s likely going to be a few DEADZONE, BATTLETECH, and possibly even BURNING SUNS games in the pipeline. I’m not much of a boardgamer, but reckon I should be able to get into those games without too much hassle. WH40k is too expensive! I suspect I’m going to be busy over the next few years, so things are going to be interesting! I’ve been a gamer for over 25 years now. Gonna keep rolling those dice for at least another 25 with any luck 🙂

Reaper Minis Assemble(d)!

Years ago I was something on a miniatures gamer playing wh40k mainly and Warhammer Fantasy Battle ( I never had a chance to field my 5,000 point Undead army though). I’m kind of drifting back into it although I’d prefer Deadzone over wh40k these days (after being involved in that Kickstarter!). Months back I got involved in the Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter too. Today I got around to assembling the minis – and there’s  a lot of them. I’d read up on the materials you need a little and I learned the following:

  1. Use Superglue or other cyano-acrylate glue to assemble the larger pieces (see below), not normal model glue – the plastic is different apparently.
  2. You may need to straighten some of the straight edges such as sword or staffs where miniatures have been compressed in transit. Carefully use boiling water to straighten them.
  3. check how the parts fit together before assembling them, there are no instructions on the bigger pieces.

The minis are all good quality with hardly any flash (residue from the moulding process). I went for three of the larger models – Cthulhu, Kaladrax Reborn, and Nethyrmaul the Undying.There were a number of smaller models that needed assembly: the tail of one of the demons was particularly annoying, extending below the base of the mini. Other than that, only a half -dozen of the minis need straightening.

  • Cthulhu was easy to assemble, although fitting the legs to the base was a struggle. They eventually fit and the rest was a breeze for this piece.
  • Neythrmaul was a nightmare. I should have assembled the head first. There’s two jaw pieces and the tongue – which isn’t immediately obviously form the box. The two shoulder sections didn’t quite align properly until I applied considerable force to click them together and there’s still a slight gap in the rib cage.
  • Kaladrax is a big heavy piece, but was fairly straightforward – the tail (in 3 pieces) was tricky and is likely to come off if knocked – it didn’t fit together so well. I had to carefully check the picture to check how the hipbone pieces fitted. I built the dragon’s (or dracolichs) torso, head and claws first, mounted it on the base then added the wings and tail. It’s bloody massive.

Anyway here’s the complete lot.

Reaper Minis - Bones Kickstarter

Reaper Minis – Bones Kickstarter