Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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UK Games Expo

Writing goals for late 2017

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.

Breaking Radio Silence!

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

Friday

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

Saturday

10:00-14:00: Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-23:59: Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden

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!

Looking back at RPG Convention Season 2015

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 followed this up with Conpulsion. The review of this here on this blog has apparently lead to some changes, and I’ve been interrogated quite thoroughly about it at an ORC Edinburgh pub meet:).

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!

Setting some goals – The Things To Do List!

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.

TyrannyOfDragons

Try putting leashes on Tiamat and taking her for a walk – that’s how I often feel right now!

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 DragonmeetUK 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.

 

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