Wednesday 30 November 2011

Music Memories

When I started out gaming in the 1980s I was never bothered about music in my games, but I used to always listen to it when I was designing stuff.

I used to write up a lot of stuff for my basic red box D&D games, fantasy adventures in which I'd try to emulate my two favourite fantasy things at the time, the John Boorman movie Excalibur and the HTV show Robin of Sherwood. I designed a fantasy version of middle England and I'd listen to classical music while I did it. I've still got my notes here - I'll scan or photograph them sometime and put them up.

The music of choice was Beethoven, and I'd usually listen to his Fifth Symphony. It's a famous piece but most people can't get past the dot-dot-dot-dash V for victory opening. The rest of the piece is incredible. In fact, it's become so embedded in my memory as a piece of music associated with my 1980s roleplaying and basic D&D in particular that every time I hear it, it sends me back to the tiny box room that was my bedroom, and the hours I spent under a lamp scribbling notes, drawing maps and imagining grand adventures in my make believe country. It was a grand time, when creating and designing were just as important as the game itself.

I've been a bit lacklustre in my creativity lately, mainly due to time constraints, but I'm wondering if putting on some Beethoven might stoke my creative fire.

Hey - it worked twenty plus years ago.

Sunday 27 November 2011


Here's an update about what's happening at Gammacon 2012:

Angus Abranson of Cubicle 7 has kindly donated an adventure for the wonderful Starblazer Adventures game. I want at least four players for that so let me know if you're up for it! It'll be a first time for me with the FATE system!

Kyle Daniels will be there on the day, creator of 'Braggart - The game of heroes, lies and unfortunate fish...' with demos and copies for sale.
Braggart Card Game
UK Distributor of Board Games and Card Games

Hopwood Games will be joining us, with the charming Andy Hopwood doing demos of his games MIJNLIEFF (winner of the Best Abstract Game Award at the UK Games Expo 2011) and Niche.
Hopwood Games

Jedi News, the largest UK Star Wars fansite with 6 million monthly hits and all kinds of sway in the Star Wars community will be there for charity and promotional work.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey passed away on Monday 21st November 2012.

And I’m not sad about it.

Her Pern books were the first novels I read that catapulted me into a world that I could escape into on my own. I shared Star Wars with my friends, Lord of the Rings with my brothers, but Pern was all mine and nobody read that but me, and in 1986 I fell into the pages of Dragonsong. I ate up the Harper Hall series and then went back to the first book, Dragonflight. I was hooked. It was 1986, I needed a place to escape to, a place that was just mine, and here it was.

In 1987 I took the plunge and wrote a letter to Anne. I poured out my sixteen-year-old heart and gushed to her about how much I loved her books, how they moved me and how I would love to write myself. I posted it and thought nothing of it, just enjoying the cathartic experience of finally releasing the pent-up emotion the books had instilled in me.

A month or so later, I got a reply. From her. From Anne. From the woman that had created this wonderful world. She appreciated my words, she loved the fact that I loved the books, she told me of other books that I should try and she wished me luck with my own writing endeavours. She typed the letter, wrote my address on an envelope and licked a stamp to get it to me. I can’t tell you how amazing I felt, how special she made me feel by taking the time to answer my letter. She had no doubt done this a thousand times but, at sixteen, I didn’t care. I knew that for a few moments, while she read my letter and wrote the response, that I was her focus, the only person in the world she was thinking about. She had spent time thinking about what I had written and she had taken even more time to write back. Anne McCaffrey did something for me that nobody else has ever done – she told me that it was okay to like what I like and that I should be proud of it.

From then on I absorbed her other books religiously; Dinosaur Planet, the incredible The Ship Who Sang, the beautiful Restoree, the Crystal Singer. I read them all. I loved them.

Ten years ago I packed her books delicately away and I haven’t touched them. Last week I was looking at random websites and there was a mention of her book The Ship Who Sang and I thought, ‘Wow, it must have been more than a decade since I last read a Pern book’ and I decided that once I had finished my current read I’d dig them out and dust them off. Yesterday, I read that she has passed on. I have cried for her and I will mourn her.

But I will not be sad. I absolutely refuse. Because if I’m sad about her passing then that is how I will remember her. I’ll think of her and feel sad that she has gone. All I want to do is remember what joy she gave me, what happiness, what wonder she unleashed into my sixteen-year-old head.

In fact, it’s not that I won’t be sad. It’s that, after everything she did for me, I simply can’t be.

Bye, Anne.

Monday 21 November 2011

Dungeons and Dragons Online

The online game I'm getting a kick out of at the moment is Dungeons and Dragons Online. It's set in the world of Eberron (admittedly not my favourite place to adventure - give me Forgotten Realms!) but it's a well put together game and lots of fun. The best thing about it, it's free! Well, not completely free, you have to pay for certain aspects, but there's enough free stuff to keep in gameplay for hours.

This is my good dude Bulward Whitehair (level 4 Fighter) getting tangled up with a bad dude. Check out the D20 on the right! Nice little addition, that.

The locations and vistas are excellent.

The graphics settings can go pretty high and it runs on my 3GB RAM machine really well. It's a well designed game and is very nice to look at, with a pretty intuitive user interface. It's all left click for interaction and combat, and it's not turn based so you don't have to just sit and watch the action unfold.

Although it doesn't feel like an open world the way World of Warcraft or Rift do, there's plenty of things to do. It's a bit more like the game Guild Wars, where there's a central area (in this case, Stormreach) where the players gather, and once they go out into instances the game becomes private. It's a neat system.

It follows the rules for D&D 3.x pretty closely and you even get a little D20 die rolling in the bottom right hand corner! You primarily go off on dungeon adventures, and they can get a little samey, but there are wilderness adventures, too.

All in all it's a good, fun game, and I like it as a pick-up-and-play game, just to kill half an hour or an hour if I've got the time spare. It's well designed and looks and plays great and, even though you might tire of it after a short while, it's good while it lasts. I can recommend it.

And it's free!!

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Eh? What?

Has it really been a month since I last posted? Wow. Time flies when you've got better things to do, eh?

I've been hard at work on my GammaCon, the gamer's convention.

And I've been doing other things, too, such as:

- Beta testing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Don't ask because I can't tell.
- Playing in my mates Pathfinder campaign. Is it fun? Yes. Have we got anywhere in the 8 months we've been playing? Erm... no.
- Working on Gamma Con and all that entails.
- Writing. Bit of this, bit of that. I've got a lovely new screenplay to play with and I'm looking at my older works for inspiration.
- Starting to fall in love with Traveller, the original game. It's lovely and simple and the Mongoose version appeals to me. Looking forward to running a dark science fiction game, inspired by classic movies such as Alien and Outland.
- Reading classic Harry Harrison.
- Catching up on recent movies. Jonah Hex? Rubbish. The Green Lantern? Terrible. Thor? Pretty good. Inception? Brilliant.
- Catching up on old movies. I watched my favourite movie Alien in HD for the first time. Wonderful wonderful film.
- Lamenting the death of my PS3. You could have waited for me to finish Killzone 3, you piece of crap!
- Trying not to get too excited about The Hobbit movie.
- Or John Carter of Mars.
- Or Prometheus.

So, yeah, I live a thrill-a-minute life.