Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Freelancing

A Silent Spring!

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

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

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

So, gaming-wise…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragonmeet 2015: D-3 Days

Sorry, it’s been a bit quiet around here for a while – I’ll come to the reason for that shortly! Dragonmeet is on this weekend, a London convention that I attended last year for the first time. It’s only one day but I enjoyed it last year – plus there’s a pub meet for the following day. It’s also a chance for me to catch up with the Modiphius crew again after the UK Games Expo. They’re a nice bunch.

I’m heading down on the Friday afternoon (4.5 hours on the train), a bit of a long haul, but am quite looking forward to it. I’m running demos of Achtung! Cthulhu, and the Mutant Chronicles. I’ll be running them at the Modiphius stand. You can book a slot to play on the day at Dragonmeet – space is limited to four players though, so you’ll need to be there early!

The Achtung! Cthulhu scenario, “Under the gun,” may be the first time it has been run by anyone else. Written by none other than Graeme Davis – one of the team who designed Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay RPG (WFRP), it should be a lot of fun. I’ll be using Call of Cthulhu for it. The Mutant Chronicles scenario is one I’m doing myself, “A Life in the Day,” which I’d better get writing! A Luna City Police Department game (AKA Luna City Blues), I’m writing it to try and demonstrate the various aspects of the 2d20 system.

I’ve recently started both a Achtung! Cthulhu campaign, alternating with a Mutant Chronicles one. I think I may have sold them too much on the games. Or my players are trying to kill me. Modiphius do some discounts at conventions, so the players are sending me to get the following:

2 x Achtung! Cthulhu Investigators Guides
4 x Mutant Chronicles Rulebook
Mutant Chronicles Players Guide
Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide
Achtung! Cthulhu Horrors of the Secret War
2 x Achtung! Cthulhu Shadows of Atlantis Campaign

Oof.

The reason for the silence is that I’ve been asked to write for the 2d20 system (Conan, Infinity, Mutant Chronicles, John Carter on Mars) by Modiphius Publishing. It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve already prepared indexes for sourcebooks regarding Capitol, The Brotherhood, and Cybertronic. I also helped proofread, contribute to, and index the Dark Symmetry Campaign book, which looks great. I’ve spent the last few days indexing the Dark Soul source book. It’s the one dealing with the bad guys: the Dark Apostles and the Dark Legion. I am also in charge of something I’m calling BRIMSTONE LIBRARY (a universal index to all the Mutant Chronicles material produced by Modiphius). I’ve also been accorded the opportunity to compile the official errata for the MC core book.

I’m enjoying the experience, and if I’m honest, it’s always something I’ve want to do – but real life always got in the way. If anyone reading this is at Dragonmeet, come say Hi – I don’t bite, but you may leave with a few books as a result…

Dragonmeet Flyer

Dragonmeet Flyer

Writing Considerations – October 2015

I’ve been really busy these last few weeks, with one thing or the other. Much of it has been spent organising gaming stuff, but the majority has been trying to make a reputation for myself as a freelance writer/developer. I’ve recently indexed three supplements, and although it’s not “creative” it does encourage a certain amount of proficiency on my part. I’ve also taught myself to proofread. It’s a useful skill to have, although the speed I read at means I have to usually read a paragraph twice. Again, it’s a handy skill to have in that respect. One that I can continue to apply. I’ve a relatively good grasp of the English language, both grammar and vocabulary. None of these are formal qualifications, so I always feel a bit surprised when folk ask me for advice.

First off, I don’t consider myself an “expert” on writing. I’m technically proficient, that’s all. There’s entire books and University Degrees dedicated to creative writing. All I can offer is a few tips here; they may be of some use (or not). These are only suggestions, but they work for me! Everyone has different ways of writing, so these may – or may not – be for you. Fair enough.

I don’t write for fun. There. I’ve said it. I write for a reason. I’m either being paid to write a certain number of words; or I’ve a definite goal in mind. I’m sure there are those who can find fault with this, but for me there’s a certain discipline in it. It’s far more of a challenge as a result, and you feel a proper sense of achievement on completion. Plus, deadlines encourage you to actually beat procrastination; something I’ll come to later. When I’ve tried writing for “fun” I’ve wound up with a lot of unfinished projects.

If you’ve a specific word count, try to keep to it. If it is a paid-for number of words, it’s unlikely you’ll get paid for any extra. If you don’t turn in enough though, you may not get the full amount. It’s a balancing act. I find it handy to block out sections of the text under headings, along with a rough word count for each. Chapters should be the same length in fiction, less rigidly so in non-fiction. Summarise each chapter. Scrivener (see later) is great for this; so’s MS Word. Blocking out these sections is the best way to help plan things out. Plus, if you get stuck on a section, you can come back to it later.

If you’re doing something that involves researching a topic, do it with due diligence. Don’t make assumptions; it’s the absolute worst thing you can do. I remember a source book for an RPG based in the UK that labelled Glasgow as Scotland’s Capital. It’s not, in case you’re wondering. Don’t just rely on Wikipedia either; find out more via books or existing research. I did this for my Prayer for St. Nazaire Achtung! Cthulhu game and it gave me a huge number of ideas as a result of the research I did.

Now we come to what I call ESP: Edits, Self-doubt, and Procrastination. As Ed -Forgotten Realms, Elminster – Greenwood , once said to me.

We all get edited. – Ed Greenwood

True dat. It doesn’t matter how competent you think you are, there’s stuff you’ll miss when you write. Capitalisation. Spelling. Run-on sentences, etc. Just running something through a spelling or grammar check doesn’t always pick up any errors. For that reason, always get your work read over by someone else before submission – it may be a colleague, peer, significant other, or mate. Don’t be offended by any criticism. Negative criticism of some aspect of your work is a flaw you haven’t addressed yet.

Self-doubt usually kicks in when there’s a negative review. However, it can also be something akin to professional jealousy/envy (“I wish I’d thought of that!”). Sadly, that’s the risk you take as a writer. If in doubt, keep polishing your work until you – and others – are happy with it. Never take things personally when it comes to negative criticism; it can cripple you emotionally and leave you feeling hurt and angry when you do. Do what you can with what you have; don’t be afraid to rewrite. Most published authors were rejected by publishers until they get the right “mix”.

Procrastination next. So you’re a new writer, doing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). You’ve never done it before. But you can’t get started. Ever wondered why? You’re writing a bloody novel. In a month. It’s like a marathon, but you’re feeling unfit. My advice: until you’ve written a few long (20,000 words +) stories, avoid it. Write at your own pace (if you’re not writing to a deadline); never hurry. As I said before, if you have a problem, move onto another section and come back to it. Plus it’s worth carrying an “Ideas book”; usually a small notebook that you can jot ideas down in. If you are writing to a deadline, you’re going to need to put some time in!

I’ve also been asked about software to recommend when writing. I usually use the best software available: the one between my ears (well, wetware I suppose)! Software-wise, Microsoft Word still has the lead on most other Word Processing packages (and is a standard format). Scrivener is a great way to organise your work. It has a bit of steep learning curve, though. It is well worth a look and will allow you to integrate, say, Word documents – and actually publish a book. Dropbox is also useful for a Work In Progress (WIP) –  the ability to restore earlier versions is definitely a great feature!

So that’s kind of it. In summary, you’ve got to feel comfortable in what you can do – and remain dispassionate to a certain extent. Hope this has been of use!

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!

Q-Con 2014 Belfast – possibly my first RPG convention

Q-Con is definitely on the cards for me this year. I’ve not been to a proper gaming convention (aside from Claymore, a few years back). There’s no way I could afford to to go to GenCon in the states. Here’s the blurb from the official Q-Con website.

Q-Con is the annual Gaming & Anime Convention hosted by QUB Dragonslayers, the Queen’s University Belfast Gaming and Anime Society. Q-Con XX was our most successful year to date with a footfall of 7,000 over the weekend – this year we’re upping our game yet again! – See more at: http://www.q-con.org.uk

This year, a group of us Edinburgh folk are heading over for a weekend of gaming in Belfast. Q-Con is a popular convention and it looks like there’s quite a few of us making the trip. As well as participating in some games with any luck, I’m also planning to run some as well. Probably the following:

  • I’ve become a Silvershield for Modiphius, and possibly plan to run a Mutant Chronicles game (I backed the Kickstarter), and definitely a game of Achtung Cthulhu!
  • I’ll probably take a Call of Cthulhu scenario, possibly the New Forest one that is tried and tested now – the one with the Wamphyri!
  • And I’d be remiss if I didn’t take along The Void as well. There’s a chance I’d be running another game too, but it’s early days.

Someone remarked recently that I’m something of local gaming “Celebrity”. Personally, I’m no that fond of the term. It implies some sort of claim to fame, or notoriety. I’m just someone who gets things done. Most of the local gamers (mainly those who play RPGs) know who I am. I’m active on a number of fronts for ORC Edinburgh, but I’m starting to wonder if I should be more “outreach” especially at Q-Con or similar.

There’s some benefits to this. Notably, I get better known along with ORC and the Edinburgh Gaming scene. It might also mean a bit “networking” on a professional basis. perhaps getting to know more of the publishers and designers.  I have had my work published before and wouldn’t pass up the opportunity of further freelance work. I’ve got to admit I did pretty well last time finishing ages beyond the deadline. My work did need editing, but as Ed Greenwood once said to me “Everyone gets edited”. Sage advice (HA!) from Elminster himself.

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