24 Jul

Continuum 2018

Intro

I went to Continuum 2018 20-23rd July 2018 at John Foster Hall, Manor Road, Leicester University, Oadby. I have been going to this and the previous version “Convulsion” for about two decades, with probably a 50% attendance rate. It’s a great con for meeting friends I see rarely, for scratching the Glorantha itch, and for many years I often just played in large Gloranthan freeforms written and run by folks such as Simon Bray, David Scott, Nick Brooke and others. In recent years the con has shifted back to more table top gaming, sometimes with some hiccups along the way vis-a-vis game availability. It’s friendly con and time in the bar is time well spent. However this year I continued my recent trend of tabletop gaming right through in a kind of geek Iron Man challenge.

I am not going to name names since I might leave someone out or misname them, my memory isn’t what it was when I was younger.

Night of the Toad: OpenQuest

First I did something I have not done in 4 years, I ran a game at a con. I have always been very anxious about running con games, don’t ask me why, and I had stopped. On the other hand I really love the Crucible of Dragons setting from D101 games, written by Simon Bray and Paul Mitchener. So I ran the “Night of the Toad” adventure from the setting book, and we had a blast. The players contributed much fun and decoded the plots, and we had a great climactic ending.

Pherae, the Crucible setting

Black Ziggurat: 13th Age Glorantha

Then I played in a 13th Age Glorantha game run by Guy Milner. It was the “Black Ziggurat” from D101, and whilst I thought the scenario was a bit ‘meh’, it was delightfully brought to life by Guy and also by the sheer wonderfulness of 13th Age which melds beautifully with Glorantha to make for epic adventuring. Plus, in a short game, a simple scenario is best.

13th Age Glorantha

Uncle Ugly’s Underground: T&T

I have never played Tunnels and Trolls (T&T) on a tabletop. I have played T&T for 38 years using the solo gamebooks. Parse that for a while. At Continuum 2018 I played it for the first time ever at a tabletop, and one of the very first T&T dungeons ever: Uncle Ugly’s Underground. I had always worried that the rather odd T&T combat system would not work well at the table but it works fine! I was very happy, Dave Elrick’s GM-ing was relaxed and competent, the dungeon is 197* bonkers and huge fun. Wow.. so happy.

RuneQuest: Glorantha (RQ:G)

Simon Bray ran a good game of RQ:G for us Saturday afternoon.

Runequest: Glorantha

It was bitter sweet. Runequest has been by preferred gaming engine for decades and I have a deep and abiding love for Glorantha. Runequest 6 (now Mythras) was/is the zenith of d100 sophistication in gaming for me with OQ (see above) as it’s cut down accessible side kick.

Simon tabs ran a great game, the adventure will be wonderful as a campaign adventure. But RQ:G is a monument of over complication, backwards compatible with RQ2 and yet with layers of other sub systems and new approaches. At times there were 4-5 sub systems all of which could have resolved a situation, and all would have generated different outcomes with different probability. Skills, you want skills, RQ:G has reams of them, it took me minutes to find Dodge. No, not for me, and such a shame since it’s so beautiful. Mind you that doesn’t stop me buying stuff and running it with Mythras, OQ, Heroquest or 13th Age!

Tales of the Loop

My old friend Darran Sims ran the Swedish RPG of young kids, adventure and mysterious government installations: Tales of the Loop. It’s based on an art book that preceded Stranger Things but it’s clearly in the same place. The game allows players to mutually recapture their youth, in our case early 80s Britain, and then tangle with government experimental bases. It’s great and Darran is such an excellent GM. I’ll play it again as one off, but whilst the nostalgia is catching, so is the memory of just how angsty being a tweenager was/is.

Tékumel: Béthorm

Nigel C had offered the first game set in the mythical world of Tékumel. Mythical in that, for a certain kind of non mainstream roleplaying geek, this is the world we all were in awe of as too cool for school, and never ever run. Too deep, too complex, too many attempts to codify it into a ruleset.

Well, this was the year to end all such failures to launch. Tékumel, run using Jeff Dee’s Béthorm rule system is ace! Easy to understand. Flavoursome enough. Enough and not too much background. It may be a book so drily written to turn your little Tsolyaní heart to dust on reading, but at the table it shines.

As for cultural complexity, or setting depth? Have you looked at Glorantha or Forgotten Realms or Warhammer 40k recently? Tékumel is actually quite simple. Great game, great adventure, I even managed to get my priest’s head bitten off.

Béthorm character sheet. Just 3d10 required.

Star Trek Adventures (STA)

Dav ran STA for us. A 2d20 game from Modiphus. Third 2d20 game I have played, usually with a GM who is literally crying with the difficulty of reading the complexity of the system at the table.

They have all been fun, easy to understand, and good systems to model the genre. STA was the same. “The rulebook is a nightmare to decipher..” – GM. “This game models the themes of Star Trek well” – Tom.

So, the lesson might be – let someone else take the pain of decoding the Modiphus rulebooks and just play! Great accessible scenario from Dav which he then gave me to run for Trek friends. What a star!

Star Trek Adventures character sheet

Shadow of the Demon Lord (SoDL)

This was almost the game too far. SoDL is a great game from Kevin Schwalb about the apocalypse. That is, the apocalypse of a fantasy world. The apocalypse is different every campaign, and every campaign is made up of 11 adventures, with character advancement of 1 level per adventure.

It’s a blood stained love letter to Warhammer, with a system that is simpler but similar to 5e D&D. Oddly it can also deliver very varied characters despite being nominally class based.

I have always wanted to play. The prevented characters were awesome, grotesque and wonderful. We had a blast roleplaying.. but we were overpowered by opposition and when my character died at about 23:30 I went to bed.

Shadow of the Demon Lord character sheet

In Summary

Great con, well balanced between table top games, freeforms, boardgames and drinking in the bar. It’s the con where I catch up with people I only see every 2-4 years at Leicester. I love it.

19 Jul

DUSTY, the musical

Now I have a confession. I started to listen to Dusty Springfield when I had listened to death all of Duffy and needed to move on. My love of Soul made Dusty Springfield a great next step and over the last four years I have listened to all and every album she did. But I knew very little of her life.

So when I saw a musical was coming to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle I jumped at the chance.

Dusty

DUSTY

Well.. I was in tears by the end.

This is an excellent musical, if you like soulful music and a witty book written by a writer who’s cut his teeth on Coronation Street, as well as a stunning portrayal by Katherine Kingsley, and good supporting work by Rufus Hound, then go see this.

PS: I have since read up a little on Dusty and the musical applies creative licence as to her  girlfriend, who in the musical is ‘Lois’ but in real life was fellow singer Norma Tanega. [Dusty had several other girlfriends and one tempestuous marriage to an American actress Teda Bracci.] For whatever reason, and perhaps since Norma is still alive, they have applied artistic licence there. Norma seems to be more of a folksinger to my ears, and she’s there on Spotify as well.]

 

 

17 Jul

Heaton!! First Night, a totally impartial review (not)

Opening night! So, so proud of the magical, multimedia extravaganza that is Heaton! Written by Peter Dillon, performed by the People’s Theatre, and inspired by the Great Exhibition of the North, it is truly a-maz-ing! Catch a preview on BBC Look North; those out of region go here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bb2nd1

Book: https://www.peoplestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/heaton

 

The Parsons Family

Votes for Women! Florence Nightingale Harrison-Bell

“The evening was a rollercoaster of film, music, dance and superb acting … a huge round of applause to all those involved” – NE Lifestyle Magazine

M.C. George Stanley, theatrical entrepreneur, in association with Shoe Tree Arts proudly presents Heaton!

Heaton: where Charles Parsons developed the steam turbine, giving the world cheap electricity; where social reformer Florence Nightingale Harrison-Bell campaigned for women’s rights; the birthplace of Ove Arup who built Sydney Opera House; where suffragettes set fire to Heaton Park Bowling Green Pavilion; home of Colin Veitch, Newcastle Utd’s most successful captain, co-founder of the People’s Theatre, and where today the Freeman Hospital is at the cutting edge of medical technology.

Inspired by the Great Exhibition of the North, this feast of drama, music, dance and film celebrates the lives and achievements of these pioneers, all intertwined with the love affair between time-travelling fictional couple Freddie and Catherine.

 

15 Jul

Delian Tomb works again

There is an introductory D&D scenario that has been adopted and *adapted* many times. Matt Colville in his excellent “How to DM” videos describes writing an adventure which he call the “Delian Tomb“.

In his version the Blacksmith’s daughter is kidnapped by Goblins and the players rescue her from a tomb. He did publish notes and so on, but I scribbled and drew as he talked, so my version is variant. I mean, in mine it’s Pete who was kidnapped, his Mum a Lancashire housewife. I have a different cast at the Gorgon’s Grog Tavern and so on.

I ran it today at Travelling Man Newcastle at the LGBTQI RPG day.

So it was time to mix it up again. Whilst Mum thinks Peate has been kidnapped, in fact they have gone off with their goblin pals from the Dreamcatcher tribe to hide them from the rival Magpie tribe.

Trapped in the tomb between a giant toad and undead, Peate was teetering on the cusp of their wild chaos magic emerging and becoming a 1m90cm electric generating afro haired gender fluid sorcerer.

Let’s say it went very well. Thanks to Wulf, Matt and Thomas for their great roleplaying of Raethis, Dendran and Loxley. Your trust and laughter made it. If I have mispelt names I apologize.

I want to play Peate now.. the players unanimously advised him to follow his path with the goblins.

… Kobolds next time…

14 Jul

UCU success, Lords of Waterdeep is great fun, had a good BBQ

UCU wins right to strike for migrant workers

After months of campaigning by UCU, including most recently the threat of legal action, the home secretary Sajid Javid has announced that he will be changing the immigration rules to ensure that migrant workers will now be able to play a full part in legal strike action without fearing the impact on their immigration status.
This is a big win for all trade unionists, not just those in UCU and it has come about as a direct result of our campaigning work. Thanks to everyone who wrote to MPs and in particular to members from overseas who took strike action despite these concerns.

Lords of Waterdeep is great fun

Paul, Andrew, Nigel, Alex and I had great fun playing Lords of Waterdeep on Friday night. It was really nice to boardgame, which is such a prep-free form of gaming opposed to rpgs. The game has just enough bells and whistles and ins and outs to be intriguing but with an essentially simple core engine.  I wanted to play it after I was rather delighted to hear that the new D&D adventure is Waterdeep:Dragon Heista guide to Waterdeep and a city heist adventure creation engine. I love city gaming, so it got me all fired up to explore Waterdeep in boardgame form.

A boardgame and a can of beer

Gaming and Lager

a boardgame

Lords of Waterdeep

BBQ

We had Conor, Kate, their sons Eugene and Tristan with Emmanuel, Catherine and their daughter Farai round for a BBQ. It was a very very hot and sunny day and the BBQ went well and Farai had a dip in the tub, and the boys really enjoyed Super Mario Smash Bros on the Wii. I got a bit faint and dizzy a few times, I need to keep an eye on that.

 

11 Jul

NWG innovation festival, the England world cup exit, and Liminal occult

I am trying to update my blog more often.

Today I went to the Northumbrian Water group innovation festival at Newcastle Racecourse. My invitation had been quite confused and the joining instructions were extremely poor. The infrastructure provided: the tents; the food; the facilities; were excellent. Despite the chaos I think that the “sprint” that I was involved in about transport will come up with some interesting ideas for the main patrons of the event who are largely the utility providers in the north of England. They all run extensive fleets of vehicles from cars, vans, trucks through to heavy equipment. As such there are many different routes to sustainable transport that they need to follow. I made some good contacts and I believe that I will follow up with some of them. #GetNorth2018 #InnovationFestival18

I I have recently started watching football and enjoying it. Anyone who knows me well and though have astounding this is. I think the last time I was actually invested in a football match I was 9 so that would be about 1974. however I have got invested in this world cup and I was really sad to see England being beaten by Croatia. The score was tantalisingly in England’s favour for a very long time. I have promised to not pretend to know anything about football so I won’t say or comment on the result. I am just sad that football is not coming home on this occasion.

I also played an online game of Paul Mitchell’s new role playing game called Liminal. it’s a game based on those who exist on the boundaries between the magical world and the mundane world. So very much like the books of Ben Aaronovitch or Charles De Lint, and many others. it seems to be a very light system essentially a variant of The Traveller 2D6 Roll High system. As such a Fade Into the background very quickly and is easy to understand. the value of the game when it’s published will be in the very large amount of material and source books written by an awful lot of my gaming friends. I look forward to the novocastrian supplement from Neil Gow.

05 Jul

ERTICO H2020 Workshop

The UK is still in the Horizon 2020 programme until Brexit happens. So we have a short window of opportunity when we can still participate in Research and Innovation projects.

The university is a member of ERTICO which is the ITS Europe organisation. I and my colleagues Paul and Simon attended the workshop brainstorming potential proposals and I think we both found it very productive.

The dinner for the event was very early so I was able to return to my hotel and play in Paul Mitchener’s Liminal game online. we are using the tavern discord server and I have to say I’m slightly disappointed in the audio quality of discord.