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!
So I’ve been following the “Grand Tour” of RPG convention season this year. I started off with Dragonmeet 2014 in December, a one-day con in London at Earls Court.
I took myself down to the UK Games Expo, and managed to miss being in every Modiphius Entertainment pic as detailed by Marc Langworthy at in his Post Expo Debrief over at http://kplangers.com/. I was elsewhere running games in the building for about half the time, including Mutant: Year 0 when it won Best RPG. I also helped flog some stuff on the stall and ran some demo games there.
Most recently I went to Q-CON. It felt less like a RPG Convention this year. I didn’t enjoy it quite as might as I could have thanks to my insomnia, so that’s on me. The accommodation was pretty basic and I didn’t get much sleep thanks to the noise. I also lost my voice on the Saturday night!
Things I’ve learned – although I covered some of this before in my Surviving the UK Games Expo post, it works for any Convention (plus I’ve updated some of the things):
- If you’re staying in a hotel, find somewhere cheap (the Hilton was brutally expensive), and there’s often cheaper accommodation to be found nearby online. Find somewhere close though.
- At the Games Expo, get breakfast early! You’ll not be able to enter the main trade/event halls before 9am but at least you won’t be hungry.
- If you’re planning on buying stuff, make sure you’ve some ready cash – in case the cash machine(s) on site run out.
- Don’t bank on eating healthily – food trucks are popular now, but some venues will have a pub. Hotel restaurants are often pricey too. Leave yourself some time though. They get busy and are usually not prepared to deal with the numbers! Or find a place to eat nearby. Take business/contact cards with you. I gave them to nearly all my players – and all were happy to take them (bar one). See below!
- While running a game one of my players was almost constantly playing some game on his phone, and wasn’t paying attention (to me or the players). At the end of it, not only did he discard my card but he said he found the game “confusing”. The rest of the players had enjoyed themselves immensely. Bloody ignorant. He’d done it in another GMs game too. GMs should call a player out on this kind of thing if the rest of the group are becoming exasperated with it.
- By respectful of other GMs, it’s not a shouting match where the loudest group have the most fun. Unless they’re playing a WH40K Ork game called Waargh Trek.
- On the other hand, speak up as a GM. Many shared games rooms are loud.
- Be on time (players and GMs!), and be ready to move to another location if there’s an accessibility problem for players.
- Have a chillout place available if it gets crowded, and take an hour to “decompress”.
- If you’re staying in student halls, expect basic facilities and noise. They’re cheap for a reason.
- Bathe daily. You’ll need to: it gets very warm and everyone sweats.
- Get a convention T-shirt or two. Not only is it a reminder, but you can use as a standby if you’re short of shirts (see above)!
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re running a game.
- If you’re planning on collecting Kickstarter rewards or buying games, take a big case or drive (beware of parking costs). Alternatively post your games back separately from a nearby Post Office (cheaper than £20 for an extra Easyjet baggage allowance).
- Don’t schedule yourself to run games the entire con. Take some time to walk around, play, and network.
- Be enthusiastic about a demo game, but don’t be offended if someone criticizes it or isn’t interested in it.
- Venue staff, not just stewards, need to be polite and respectful – you’re still customers.
- Cosplay is not consent (I’ve never seen harassment but it does exist).
- Don’t badger gaming personalities in the bar if they’re in there for a quiet drink.
- If you’re an organiser of a convention, expect and act upon criticism.
I’m not sure how many conventions I’ll get to next year: the accommodation and travel cost does mount up. Plus I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to attend and prepare for them. Still, I may get some time away. I’ve been offered a press pass for Conpulsion, and I’ll be at Dragonmeet this year though. I think I’ve covered everything and everywhere in individual reviews and posts elsewhere under Conventions.
Feel free to make any suggestions for other “Survival Tips”in the Comments!
Someone recently called me one of Edinburgh’s gaming celebrities. I’m kind of amused by that: I certainly don’t consider myself that way! Yes, I run a blog and may be fairly well-known around town, and I do try and keep the various gaming communities in the loop. I see myself as fulfilling more of a function than any aspiration to fame. I do have some aptitude for self-promotion though, it appears.
It’s no easy task being something of a local RPG pundit and organiser, and occupies quite a bit of time and effort on my part. Sometimes it feels like putting leashes on Tiamat and taking her for walkies. You can get caught up in things and it becomes very easy for others to expect you to maintain a certain “level of service”. There’s also a certain amount of information overload too, and trying to keep track of everything can be exhausting…
So. This something of a “place holder” post for me for the months ahead. August is a time when it’s fairly quiet at ORC, so I’ve a free weekend. With the Festival on I usually use the time to “recharge my batteries”. I’ve started to get the feeling I’m taking on too much and need to try and focus on achievable goals. So what I’m going to do below is list my current goals and priorities. They’re not all gaming-related, but it all helps. This might also be what I need to get galvanised into action (not in order of importance)…
- Actually write the damn novel I’ve been planning for years. More of a long-term goal really, but could do with outlining the plot in Scrivener.
- Finish the three Cthulhu stories I’ve outlined. They’re laid out in Scrivener.
- Begin my Open University degree – the BSc in Criminology & Psychology I planned on doing starts very soon.
- Get the bathroom of the flat redone – that’s going to hurt the cash flow a bit.
- To attempt to catch up old friends more often.
- Get the oathofshadows.net website live.
- Get the FB and Twitter feeds for Oath of Shadows online.
- Create content for oathofshadows.net.
- Get some of the more useful articles of the blog anthologised in a PDF with bookmarks.
- Get in more regular exercise. I occasionally walk for 30 minutes (about 1.5 miles) every lunchtime, do 30 minutes of weights and cycle 5km in 15 minutes. I should be doing that every day, really.
- Participating in more boardgames at [ELG] on Wednesday nights, although this may be scaled back a bit if I’m too busy.
- Participate in a game of Descent every fortnight. We start our first game tonight.
- Plan my next Achtung! Cthulhu game. Most likely Assault on the Mountains of Madness.
- Finish the Tyranny of Dragons D&D campaign. I’m uncertain if I’ll go to the second volume. I’m distinctly underwhelmed so far.
- Run Horror on the Orient Express – likely after ToD finishes. Will incorporate some Achtung! Cthulhu into it, but will be a bit of work.
- Write some new adventures for demo at Dragonmeet. I already have one for Conan…
- Research the Infinity universe. It does look interesting.
- Spend my store credit at 6s2Hit, the local wargames shop and actually play a few games there.
- Look at doing more demos of the Mutant Chronicles, Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant: Year 0, and DUST Adventures at cons. I’m really looking forward to getting the books for MC and DUST.
- Create a Mutant: Year 0 Edinburgh setting and Ark. I’ll likely post it up here when I do.
- Be more active in playtests of the Infinity RPG, Conan, and John Carter for Modiphius Entertainment.
- Have a chat with the Conpulsion organisers after my recent review sparked their interest.
- Try and get to Dragonmeet, UK Games Expo and Q-CON over the next year, as well as Conpulsion, but to participate in more than just running games.
- Try and develop some more interests outside gaming. e.g. photography etc.
- Maintain the ORC Edinburgh site, get more folk to the pub meets.
- If needed (and given a product), playtest and write some more game reviews!
- Keep blogging – I must try and get more specific posts organised.
- Get in a demo of Firestorm Armada.
- Try to strengthen links with other Edinburgh gaming communities. This may be harder than it looks due to time.
- Get some more RPG freelance work (I’ve a few things possibly coming up.).
- Get “Special Projects” organised! I’m keeping quiet about these until they become a little more certain. One of them is a pretty big deal.
I think it might be worth checking back on this post in six months. I doubt if I’ll hit all of these goals, but I’m interested to see how I get on.
It’s been a few weeks since Q-CON 2015, at Queen’s University Belfast. I’d hoped to get this written down while it was still fresh in my mind, but circumstances conspired against me!
It’s only a short flight to Belfast , but I got the ridiculously early (cheap!) 7am flight. After the nightmare of queuing for ages for the security checks at Edinburgh airport, and running the length of the terminal, I was seriously regretting taking the early flight. I loaded my case with games stuff and sent that through to the baggage compartment first (the new baggage check-in process works great at the airport).
I caught up with an old friend on the plane – Benn, who also works on various Modiphius products (including the Mutant Chronicles, DUST Adventures, and Conan). We got the shuttle bus into Belfast. It’s pretty good – £11.50 return, and there’s plenty of space. The bus station isn’t far from where I stayed last year, at the Ibis Hotel. It also has a shopping precinct nearby where you can get coffee or toiletries.
As I’d pre-registered, I only had to wait a while before collecting my badge/convention pass. We were at the head of the queue, but there was still a fair bit of confusion – two queues formed: one was for pre-registered attendees, the other wasn’t. Didn’t matter too much to me as I was at the front!
I got a lift to the Elms, the nearby student village where I was staying for the duration of Q-CON. It’s about 10 minutes walk from the convention. The room was clean and functional – en-suite bathroom and shower (which was awful – cold and cramped), and a communal kitchen area. I’m not sure if I’d stay there again though. The doors were constantly banging closed – not just the front door but guest room doors, especially annoying late at night. If you wanted breakfast you need to book in advance, and it cost £7. I didn’t bother – there was a supermarket (Centra) that sold hot food like sausages-in-a-bun on the way. Plus there’s Maggie May’s and Doorsteps nearby.
I wasn’t feeling too hot on Friday, so pretty much chilled out in the room in the evening. I didn’t get much sleep due to the constant slamming of doors. Despite Saturday being fairly damp, I remained dry and set out to run my games. Benn got himself into my Mutant Chronicles game, so that made for an interesting experience! I didn’t make too many mistakes – I’ve run Straffar Gatan 39 many times now, but the pressure is on when one of the writer-developers is playing!
Mutant: Year 0 went very well. It’s a nice easy game for people to pick up. Initially I thought there’d be no one wanting to play, but it filled up with a group of 6! Lots of fun with the mutants taming a Bitterbeast and raiding the ‘esco shelves. I’d hoped to run the Infinity RPG as swell (the game is very popular in Belfast), in the evening slot. Sadly my voice had largely started to give up on me – instead I wound up at the Pub Quiz, run by local Edinburgh gaming guru Marc Farrimond (poor chap had been sick all week).
Sunday was almost as busy, with me running Achtung! Cthulhu first thing. I’d hoped to run the second part of the Mutant Chronicles adventure, the Fall of Von Holle, but didn’t have any players but one (it was kind of an afterthought!). I also got the chance to catch up with the two Blackstaff Press authors I met last year Kenneth Gregory, who wrote The Polaris Whisper and Laurence Donaghy, writer of the Folk’d series [amazon template=image&asin=085640912X] [amazon template=image&asin=0856409189].
Regarding the convention itself, I enjoyed myself more last year I think. Last year was very much more lively for me, but it was my first proper gaming con. Sadly there seemed to be fewer games running this year, and there weren’t as many traders selling gaming stuff. The focus appears to be shifting more to the cosplay aspect of the convention, and the traders hall reflected this. I think there’s fewer gamers than cos-players at Q-CON, but it did seem a bit more quiet than last year.
The CCG and wargames have largely over-spilled into a separate hall, just like the RPGs. Half of the RPG area was taken up by Pathfinder Society games, as there’s quite a following for it. Not something I’ve much time for sadly. I would have liked to have seen some of the games being demo’d too (e.g. Firestorm Armada), but was unlucky – they’d either finished or had left for the day.
For cheap accommodation the Elms was pretty good value, especially compared to the Ibis the year before, but I think that next time I’ll go for hotel accommodation again. It was noisy and a bit too basic at the Elms, particularly late at night. Other than a few minor irritations, I largely enjoyed myself at Q-CON 2015, and made a bunch of new friends. Also, can someone tell me the name for that weird “statues” game the cos-players do?
I’ve been doing quite a bit of work prepping for the 2015 UK Games Expo in Birmingham (at the NEC) later on this week. I’ve offered to help the Modiphius team with the setup and will be running some demo games, so will be heading down on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, it’s not far from the station to the Hilton and exhibition hall.
I’ve few minor misgivings about the trip. One is that I maybe should have left myself some time to sit down and actually play a game, and to actually get around the Expo and see stuff. The other is pacing myself. Starting early in the morning on Saturday, my last game finishes at midnight. There’s a one-hour slot between games, so I’ll need to make sure I feed/hydrate myself properly. I expect Sunday morning to be fairly quiet, so will likely see if I can do some demos then at the Modiphius stand if needed.
After Q-CON last year, I learned from my mistakes and am taking a second case to the Games Expo and Q-CON I picked up a fairly cheap solid case from John Lewis. Last year I had to post some stuff back home ‘cos there wasn’t enough room, with the novels I had bought, and WarZone: Resurrection rules. While I recall, I must get the new Laurence Donaghy novel, Completely Folk’d at Q-CON.
As well as the requisite clothing and toiletries, I’m taking the following:
- Strepsils. I’ll need them.
- Dice. Not just the regular ones, but the Mutant: Year 0 dice too.
- Pencils and scrap paper.
- Achtung! Cthulhu miniatures.
- Achtung! Cthulhu Terrors of the Secret War.
- Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (to carry stuff around).
- Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper and Player books (I’ll be coming back with the Guide to the Eastern Front too).
- Achtung! Cthulhu The Trellborg Monstrosities
- Go tokens (and the movie counters) for use with Cliché, Mutant Chronicles, etc.
- A set of playing cards for Cliché.
- Mutant: Year 0 rulebook
- Mutant: Year 0 map
- Savage Worlds rulebook.
- The Worlds Greatest Screen GM screen.
- Call of Cthulhu rulebook.
- Binder with notes, character sheets, rules etc. for Cliché, Mutant: Year 0, Mutant Chronicles 3e, Conan RPG, and the St Nazaire material.
- Netbook and cat 5 cable (backup of PDF rules and to keep updated).
- Phone charger
I’ve still to finish prepping the Cliché adventure and character sheets. I really do need to knuckle down on that.