Getting Game Monday, Jun 27 2011 

Masks of NyarlathotepMim is the karaoke queen. Though her thyroid has nerfed her singing voice, she’s still managed to warble her way into Rising Star Karaoke’s grand final. But to get her there, we’ve been putting in long Friday nights in the tune mines at Chatswood RSL.

We usually don’t get home till around 4am, though, and that means that I’ve been too tired to play D&D4e at Blacktown Games Day this month. I probably won’t make it back until Winterfest, and of course, I haven’t been around to GM as I promised last post. Both suck greatly.

On the other hand, I’ve signed up for a weekly Call of Cthulhu game at Ministry of Game at St Ives, which is a hell of a long way to travel, but hey, it’s Call of Cthulhu.

What’s more, it’s the classic campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep. I ran the first scene for a group about a decade ago, before the group imploded, and I’ve been waiting on The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion before I try it again. But I’ve also longed to play the damn thing for almost 20 years, and it looks like I might finally get the chance. Understandably, I’m very, very excited at the prospect.

Apart from that, not much to report. I’ve been too busy running around and studying and settling in, sadly, to write the scenario I’d hoped to enter into Chaosium’s Halloween Adventure Contest. It’ll either have to wait for next year or find its way into a monograph to see the light of day; it’s pretty intrinsically tied into Chaosium’s Lovecraft Country supplements, and it’s not the kind of thing I could sell to another publisher like Miskatonic River Press.

I’m (glacially) gathering research materials for another monograph, but it’s such a huge undertaking that it could well be years before I can even start writing it. By then, though, Scrivener for Windows should be stable and feature-laden enough to take on the task.

And that’s about it. On the subject of games, though, I’d like point you towards Asylum: Exit Australia, a web-based simulation of the travails of a refugee suffers when seeking a safe, new home.

TV network SBS commissioned the game to support their series Go Back to Where You Came From (which I’ve not seen yet, but intend to as soon as I can make time). Design house Chocolate Liberation Front—how’s that for a name!—has obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the game’s design. Although its production quality is impeccable, I hesitate to call it good; I think harrowing is a more accurate assessment. Nevertheless, go play it now.

What’s Been Happening? Part I Sunday, May 1 2011 

Blue Mountains

It’s been nearly two months since my last blog entry, but they’ve been a very busy two months indeed! Entirely too busy, in fact. And by busy, I mean stressful.

It became clear that Young wasn’t working out for us, so we resolved to move back towards Sydney. For a start, Mim couldn’t get her regular prescriptions written without paying a $65 consultation fee (for a $5.60 medication on the PBS), and we wanted to be closer to Mim’s daughter Charmaine.

So whilst we looked for new digs, Mim and I stayed with an old friend of hers in Blacktown, a harrowing experience to say the least. Our host’s driving talents nearly cost us our lives, and despite our near miss, I still came away with cracked ribs—which I wasn’t allowed to mention publicly, lest it jeopardise our accommodation. (Needless to say, our host wasn’t all there.)

Shortly thereafter, Charmaine broke up with her boyfriend, and moved in with us. And shortly after that, our erstwhile benefactor had some sort of mental shortout and tossed all three of us out onto the street, leaving us to live in our car. Via SMS. Via her daughter. For 36 very tense hours, she locked our cats—without food, water or ventilation—in her back room, and we weren’t even certain we’d ever get them back.

We’d just managed to secure a place in the Blue Mountains, and fortunately—I can honestly never express adequate gratitude—our friends Chris and Nikki let Mim, Charmaine and I sleep in the lounge room in the interim. Once we’d finally retrieved them, Arthur the Rabbit graciously allowed our babies to borrow his hutch. By the end of the week, though, we were headed up into the mists.

Meanwhile, the NSW state election raged, but Mim and I were powerless to help numerous old friends who ran for office. Although many succeeded—notably the new Members for Kiama, Menai, Oatley and Coogee—their fortune has done little to assuage our guilt. Sorry, guys. Next time.

For the next week, we lived on blankets and inflatable mattresses, which our friends Ali and Samara generously lent us. However, cats and inflatable mattresses don’t mix. Try telling that to six distressed moggies: rather than have them cry all night outside our door, I spent the week sleeping on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, huddled around the oven for warmth.

Chris and Nikki once again came to the rescue, donating their old lounge. Later that night, however, Mim found her leg trapped under our car’s rear tire and was rushed off to hospital. As painkillers helped Mim explore unplumbed corners of her consciousness, Chris and I dashed to Young and back to pick up a trailer load of essentials. Including our bed, which Mim serenaded on our return. At length.

I’m beginning to worry about Mim’s relationship with that bed.

To be continued…

Further Links from the Pile Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

Yes, even more links. I can feel my PageRank shrivelling away into a nub.

The Real World:

Roleplaying:

  • RPGNow has an earthquake relief bundle: $20 gets you over $330 worth of gaming PDFs, with the proceeds going to the Red Cross to assist victims in Christchurch. And Two Scooters Press offers this bundle to delay a single mother’s impending blindness from retinitis pigmentosa.
  • 2011 looks to be a busy year at Chaosium. Another edition of Call of Cthulhu is on the way. We’ll get a Cthulhu Invictus Companion and a new, expanded third edition of Cthulhu by Gaslight. We might even see the second edition of Beyond the Mountains of Madness in English! (They’re also looking for ideas for a hardback to be released later this year. I’d like to see a revised Shadows of Yog-Sothoth finally released.)
  • Miskatonic River Press’ epic Cthulhu Invictus campaign, The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, is on its way, too.
  • James Maliszewski looks to Chaosium’s new Call of Cthulhu as the very essence of how to release a new edition. And maybe he’s right: CoC players are uniquely placid about edition changes.
  • Campaign Mastery features a very in-depth, continuing series on pulp gaming, a must-read for fans of Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu.
  • Runeslinger (from Casting Shadows) looks at chases in Call of Cthulhu, and the value of running away.
  • If Call of Cthulhu (and Trail of Cthulhu) are a little too complex and rules-heavy for your tastes, KORPG Games offers Call of d6-lite, a simple, one-page alternative.
  • The blog Exchange of Realities certainly looks worth delving into, dealing as it does with the intersection between fiction and roleplaying techniques.
  • Geekcentricity defends mediaeval gaming, and shows the benefits of quasi-historical settings over pure high fantasy.
  • Planet Algol reveals the real reason why there are no Dwarf women.
  • JP Chapleau delivers a cogent opinion piece on the future of D&D 4e, the RPGA and the Living Forgotten Realms campaign.
  • The Red DM delivers an equally cogent plea for game designers to adhere to the KISS Principle, over at The Red Box Blog.
  • And in a similar vein to Inkwell Ideas’ link from Sunday, the awesome Chuck Wendig reiterates that worldbuilding is a kind of masturbation. (Oh, and I like italics, too.)

Of course, there aren’t many old links here, but I suppose that’s what you get for going from the top of the pile… So yes, there’s still plenty more to come. In the meantime, check out The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets’ 20 Minutes of Oxygen.

More Old News Monday, Feb 21 2011 

Gulfstream G550

Image via Wikipedia

Further to yesterday’s collection of links:

The Real World:

  • Are cities governed by predictable mathematical relationships? Physicist Geoffrey West thinks so.
  • The New York Times compares IMF indicators of advanced economies.
  • The Australian government has spent more than $5.5 billion over the past decade to reduce carbon emissions. They aren’t getting very good value for money.
  • A billion dollars will buy you a Maybach 62 Landaulet luxury car, a Gulfstream G550 personal jet, a 104m yacht, a 7-bedroom mansion near Silicon Valley, an island in the St Lawrence Seaway (complete with a castle to use as a summer home), and a Patek Caliber 89 watch to time how long it takes to travel between them all—with enough change to stay in the Imperial Suite of Paris’ Park Hyatt Vendôme for 112 years, should you get bored with your surroundings. And then things get really obscene
  • Even if you don’t own a Maybach, you can use SQL injection to avoid speeding fines. (For the less technically minded, the camera reads and executes the text across the car’s front bumper; it’s a command to erase the camera’s entire database of stored number plates!)
  • Michael Lewis provides the inside dirt on the Irish economic collapse, over at Vanity Fair.
  • Movies get a lot of things wrong about serving in the military. Cracked.com examines just five of them.
  • National Geographic explores the catacombs of Paris; meanwhile, the Japanese government plans to excavate the research headquarters of Unit 731, the secret biowarfare R&D group infamous for live testing on prisoners in WWII.
  • The public, third-party release of 3D printing designs for Settlers of Catan pieces has raised new questions about intellectual property and games.
  • A British immigration officer tried to rid himself of his wife by putting her on a terrorist watchlist whilst she was visiting relatives in Pakistan. His actions were only discovered three years later, when he went for a promotion—when the routine security check revealed that he was married to a terror suspect.
  • Are you geeky? Are you hungry? Then head over to The Necronomnomnom and get cooking! (Just save me some, okay?)

Roleplaying:

Bonus Link: Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death. And, yes, there’s plenty more where these came from…

A Message of Peace Wednesday, Feb 9 2011 

Well, it’s taken me a few months to blog about it, but back in September, I wrote a poem. And it won a prize.

Every year, the Australian Chapter of the World Peace Bell Association, headquartered in Cowra (where Australia’s Peace Bell stands), holds a poetry competition. This year’s theme was “A Message of Peace.” This was my entry:

Silence reigns, our arms laid down, and flames now cooled to ashes,
No frenzied screams, nor violent words, nor blood to vex the senses.

Borne through desperation to tarry, eye-to-eye,
To plot conciliation and bury wounded pride,
Two men sit and weigh their words,
And watch and wait and ponder—
For neither wish to give their ground,
Nor relinquish any plunder—
Their tongues, concealed, like blunted swords,
Their brows are knots of anger,
But their armies are exhausted,
And their terms now put to paper.

With a flourish, sowed the seeds of battles yet to come,
Divided lands and chattels by means which flattered none,
For though rhetoric named them enemies, they wilfully conspire
To enact a foul betrayal, to kindle smothered fires—
As we watch and wait and wonder at the aftermath of war,
Rebuild our lives and learn to live, bereft of cannon’s roar.

Perhaps, then, comes a time for a betrayal of our own:
To smash the fears of hollow men; to tear their ruses down;
To wound their wiles with whispers; to shamelessly unite
To thwart their plans for bloodshed; to quench their flames of hate;
To raise no hand in anger, nor with heedless words condemn
The innocents of other lands to sate our violent whims;
To stand with pride and honour, and pardon past abuse;
To boldly cleave together to advance the cause of peace.

Hindsight may acquit the men—their aims may turn out faithful,
Their virtue unimpeachable, their tongues be naught but truthful—
But how great the cost, should we be wrong, our hope and trust misplaced,
Our soldiers marching back to war, our lofty ends disgraced?

No! We are better than the hollow men! The burden falls to us
To bear upon our shoulders our just and solemn trust,
For in our darkest hour, our deeds alone affirm
That amity shall rise once more, and peace, undaunted, reign.

For some arcane reason the Australian chapter of the World Peace Bell Association chooses to separate entries from its local area into a separate category (possibly *ahem* due to its close affiliation with the local Council…), which meant I couldn’t qualify for the big, Fairfax-sponsored prize in the Open category. Nonetheless the Poets Union (who judged the competition) had this to say:

Commencing with a well-constructed image of the peace-makers at the negotiating table, the poet lets us know in no uncertain term that, though enemies, these leaders ‘willfully conspire/ to enact a foul betrayal to kindle smothered fires’ of war. He emphasises the possibility of betrayal of the people by the leadership and calls on us all not to blindly hope and trust, because the result will be ‘our soldiers marching back to war’. His final triumphant stanza uses all the power and muscle of rhyme and rhythm for its persuasive strength to bring the poem to its superb conclusion.

And I won first prize in the local category. Better yet, though, were the expressions of the local National Party dignitaries as they squirmed through the obligatory reading…

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