Campaign noticeboard

My all around workload is significantly reduced this year and it is my very great desire to actually get an RPG campaign off the ground.

This post is just going in here for me to send links to potential players so ignore it as you will. On the other hand, feel free to comment or even put your hand up for a spot.

Here’s my thinking so far:

  1. Planning to start probably early April. I’m still looking for a rental at the moment so I’m giving myself plenty of time to get into a new house and then get organised too. Thinking of fortnightly sessions probably on Fridays nights. I don’t think I will have any problem getting a full table (I have three sons and a brother who are very likely player candidates) but I am keen to try my hand at some G+ Hangout sessions. This may just be a way to get extra players to the game or I might think about running secondary sessions through Hangouts only.
  2. System is yet to be set. I’m keen to use something that everyone can get access to the rules to easily and freely. Most potential players have some D&D experience so I’m thinking Swords & Wizardry (OD&D), Labyrinth Lord (Classic aka “Basic” D&D) or OSRIC (1E AD&D), all well house-ruled. Alternatively we could go for something rules-light like Risus or I also wouldn’t mind getting to try Fate Core (or FAE). Let me know your own preferences in the comments or contact me directly.
  3. I’m open to other suggestions but I’m thinking that I will set the campaign in a pseudo-historical Earth setting that has been taking form in my mind (on and off) over the last many years. Thinking of centring everything around a megadungeon of some sort. Might even use the early releases of Dwimmermount.
  4. I’ve got some big ideas about communication during the campaign and I would like to make a nice central place for discussion outside of game time. I’m thinking of a G+ community but if we all just added each other to a “Game” circle that would probably work just as well. In case you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, it might be worthwhile setting up a Google+ account if you haven’t yet, between hangouts and communications I’m planning to make good use of it.

That’s as far as I’ve got… So please add to the comments, let me know what you think or what you want. Game on.

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When is enough enough?

As I’ve freely admitted in the past I’ve got a bit of a problem with being an unrepentant grammar nazi. I’ve managed to resist the urge to cross out all the greengrocer’s apostrophe’s in all the signs while I’ve been here in Bali (it’s very big of me isn’t it? Allowing non-native English speakers to make mistakes?).

On the other hand, I just found this picture that I had taken when I was working in Carnarvon two years ago:

The reason I took the photo? Because my first reaction was to think “That’s ‘AN ugly c**t’, stupid!”

I think I have a problem.

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More Creative-Commons image goodness

When I create blog posts I always like to have an image on the page just to break up the text flow and make the place look that little bit more interesting.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of an artist (or an artist at all if the truth be told) so I’m dependent on other people’s work. I could just do what an unfortunate number of other online folk do and just copy-and-paste from wherever I find it. Instead, I make use of the Creative Commons Search engine. It searches for all sorts of media that have been clearly licenced with any of the Creative Commons licences. You can choose which site to focus on (I find flickr the most useful) and you might be surprised just how much “stuff” is out there to use.

I usually manage to find images that I like but which don’t always fit the purpose for which I am searching. I bookmark them or something with the aim of coming back to them but you know where those sorts of aims end up. So instead, like I have done once before I’ll just share some of my favourites here, some with intelligent comments and some without.

Most of these images are licenced under a Share-Alike Attribution licence and I have hyperlinked back to the image’s flickr page as my method of attribution. Thanks to all the talented artists and photographers who do such interesting work and like to share.

This image reminds me of going for walks with my children. They can’t manage to go anywhere in the bush without picking up a stick. At least this woman has managed not to turn it into a pretend light-sabre.

Wow! Real life mermaid.

I’ve never made it to any sort of SF or fantasy or gaming con. And definitely never dressed up for the occasion. But I want to.

Bob the Skull online!

No idea why I saved this one. Probably looking for gargoyles of some sort.

A black-winged angel. What else is there to say?

Is this a jester? A demon? What? Another one I could tag with a big bag of don’t know… Ok, it’s a jester, the flickr page says so!

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“Finally good for something”

I got a new tattoo this week. Not something terribly noteworthy, but tattooist said something interesting that I thought was worth sharing.

As he was finishing up the shading, he said that my skin was taking up the ink really well. In fact, he described it as like “butter into hot toast”. Now aside from being a slightly off-putting and creepy sort of image, I decided that at least my freckly, Anglo-Celtic, sunburn prone, skin cancer timebomb skin was finally good for something.

What it effectively meant was that he didn’t have to spend extra time scrubbing the ink in properly, I got out of the chair quicker and I can see already that it’s healing up nicely and quickly.

And in case you are wondering, the word is “feliĉeco” which is Esperanto for “happiness”. It is there as a reminder for me of… well, lots of things really (perhaps that could be a subject for another post). That is why I got it on the arm where I did, so I can actually read it.

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Poetical Playlist

I sat down this morning to put some of my recent happenings into writing. For some strange reason, I thought that it was a good idea to write a poem.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a poet. I don’t consider myself a particularly good prose write either, but I reckon I can write better paragraphs than stanzas (you can see some previous efforts here and here).

I started off with just a list of single words. It made an interesting list, but I couldn’t get very far with making lines out of each of the words. I was sitting in front of my computer at the time and I realised that I had many songs that matched up with each of the words on my list. So I did some searching and came up with a list of appropriate songs to match the story of my life this year. Now, some of the songs aren’t necessarily a great match but their titles are. Don’t read too much into any of them but I was hoping that it might read out (ie spoken) reasonably well.

I’ve linked to a page for each of the songs if you are interested in who they are by or what they might sound like, so feel free to click onwards if you feel the need.

So without any further introductory nonsense, here’s my first ever poetical playlist:

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Welcome back everyone!


It’s been a long time between drinks for those of us here at the Very little blogging, web-paging, linking, foruming or any other sort of internetings have been done for well over a year.

Much has happened, people have moved, changed (inside and out), left jobs and schools, started new jobs and schools (sometimes more than once) and all sorts of other interesting things.

In the interests of a clean slate and a the chance to get things going again without any excuses for procrastination (well, any more than normal), I have decided to archive my old blog: Can You Spell Cacophony and replace it with this site. Actually, this site will be for my standard and boring ramblings about life, work, family and any other chips on my shoulder. I have already created another blog: Out The Bladesage Gate, which will be for my gaming, writing and wordbuilding exercises (and related nerdery), but it has taken a little while to get going. Watch this space.

In case you are wondering, “What do you want?” is a tilt towards my late father with whom I would always have a race each time we spoke on the phone to ask (as rudely as possible): “What do you want?”. To which of course the correct response would have to be: “nothing from you”! Still miss you Dad, and all your stupid emails that started with FW:.

You might be looking at this terribly boring theme and wondering what I am doing, but there is method to my madness. It’s plain (as per the name), it’s simple and it has very few options. I have regularly said that one of my hobbies is “fiddling with my wordpress blog and very rarely writing anything for it” and that is what I am trying to deal with here. If I can leave off all the fancy options and pretty pictures and widgets and plugins, then I might actually get around to writing instead of fiddling… I’m not much of a writer really, but I’m a hell of a lot better at writing than I am at web developing. Let’s leave it there shall we.

So thanks to anyone who made it to the end of this post. Read it here: My goal is to write at least one post a week (even if it’s not much more than a couple of links) on either this site or on The Bladesage Gate every week. Eventually, I want that to be at one on each, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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Spitting the dummy, 2010 edition

I think this is a great illustration to add on to my last post about unfollowing on Twitter.

The past week has seen a firestorm in a part of the net that I regularly lurk around. I didn’t even notice it happening and only know those involved by name and reputation. So I am not pretending to know any details or to pass any sort of judgment on any of the players.

The fallout is interesting though. One of the players is relatively well known in the scene. It seems that someone upset him. A great deal, if this last twitter post is anything to go by:

And to judge by the link from the twitter profile, he was serious

I know children who would have trouble topping a dummy spit like that.

Gotta say, I understand the urge to pick up my marbles and go home. But surely a more sensible (not to say mature) response would have been to:

  • turn off comments on my blog (leaving the useful information there for those not involved in annoying me in the first place)
  • protect my tweets (perhaps blocking certain followers at the same time)
  • unsubscribing from offending RSS feeds
  • never going back to certain forums
  • Say nothing. Nothing at all.

All of which would at least leave the door open for a gracious return to the fold (if desired) once the fires have all died down. Rather that using the fire to burn all of his bridges.

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To Unfollow or not to Unfollow?

To the best of my knowledge, unfollow is not a real word.

On Twitter, it is. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that anyone really understands the importance (if any) of the word. I include myself in that statement.

To the uninitiated, when you follow someone on Twitter it means that everything they tweet (except for their replies to other people) shows up on your timeline. It doesn’t mean that they see anything you have to say. They can (of course) choose to follow you and then they will.

Unfollowing on the other hand is simply the reverse. For whatever reason (and there are many) you decide you don’t want to see that person’s tweets any more. You tell that to Twitter and no more unwanted tweets on your screen.

One of the great things about Twitter (as opposed to something like Facebook) is that it can be as one-sided as you like (the term asynchronous gets used). If I’m interested in what @williamshatner has to say, I can follow him. I’m sure he has no interest in my self-obsessed tweets, so he is not following me. He could if he wanted to, but he has almost 190,000 followers so he’d probably get a bit lost if he followed them all back. And The Shat is a minnow of the Twitter world.

So here I get to the dilemma. If I am following someone and they are following me, I can unfollow them. And I have done on a number of occasions. But not without a great deal of thought. When there is a two-way follow going on, normally that means you have some sort of relationship with that other person. Even just a virtual one. And breaking it on one side only is one of those yet-to-be-defined areas of etiquette.

Here’s a few examples (names change to protect… well, me. Mostly):

  • Daniel, who I met through twitter. Saw one of his tweets in a search in an area of interest and started to follow him. Through @replies he noticed me and followed back. We shared a number of interesting conversations. But eventually I realised that he was taking up half of my timeline and most of his tweets were retweets. With some hesitation, I unfollowed. The world has not ended.
  • Alison, who I knew pre-twitter through another online forum. Unfortunately, her behaviour on Twitter was much different to that on the other forum. Couldn’t go two tweets without badmouthing someone. Unfollowed.
  • Davy, another Tweep who I share a common interest with. Only recently hooked up on Twitter, but unfollowed already. A rabid anti-Christian with a selection of tweets that really made me want to fight back. The last thing I need is to start a flame war. Unfollow.
  • And just to show my lack of bias: Acme Christian Ministry. Only followed for a short time before realising that they kept using a URL shortener that pulled up all sorts of annoying ads. Sent them a couple of @replies to ask them to change to something less obnoxious which were not even acknowledged. Too annoying. Unfollowed.

A little disclaimer: I did not write the above to show everyone how bad the above are. They’re not. I was trying to illustrate the reasons why Twitter users might not want to follow others any longer. Some are personal, some are important, some aren’t.

Since I discovered Twitter last year, I have regularly commented that it is fun. If you have people in your timeline that are interfering with your fun, then quietly let them go.

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Head out the Bladesage Gate

The front gate to the magical fortress town of Bladesage is now open.

Please join me as I expand and explore a fascinating world of conjurers, dread beasts, brave adventurers and the marvellous spirit of a community rebuilding itself after apocalypse.

Our companions on this journey will be Swords & Wizardry, Mythic Game Master Emulator, National Novel Writers Month, Script Frenzy, Project52 and anyone else I can dragoon into service.

Bladesage is a graft from my personal blog, Can You Spell Cacophony? and you will find my initial posts over there (Here Comes The Bladesage, The Conjurers’ War and The Locusta). No doubt I’ll transplant them over here eventually but I figure it’s a bit of a cheat with respect to Project 52, so perhaps not just yet.

So thanks for your company. Please subscribe to the RSS feed and don’t hesitate to leave a comment anywhere you feel the need.

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I really love vampires #fatfib

The above title was from a retweet that appeared on my timeline recently. It was tweeted by a literary agent and retweeted by another. Why would two people who are prone to receiving fantasy fiction have such a low view of such an important resident of Western fiction?
I got thinking about Vampires and their presence in literature last year when a friend tweeted a link to an this article: Why women love vampires and men don’t.
There are two main points in the article that I’d like to have a look at:

  • Women love bad boys and the chance to change him, writer says
  • Writer says a vampire is a monster, who looks, acts, and talks like a man

Without getting into a debate about what women do or do not love, I’d just like to say that these particular points are somewhat contradictory. No, perhaps contradictory is a bit too harsh. Just that perhaps the second point is so much more significant than the first that the bad-boy-loving women don’t realise how little chance they have of changing the monster.
A couple of years ago, I finally got around to reading Dracula (I love Project Gutenberg). Dracula is (of course) the archetypal literary vampire. A bad boy? Most certainly. Going to be changed by any woman? I don’t think so.
Before we go any further, let’s just make this clear: Dracula is Evil. Not just a bad boy, evil. Flashman was a bad boy. Heathcliffe was a bad boy (or at least became one). Wickham was a bad boy. Not Dracula.
Having said that, I can see how the tendency to move away from the monstrous and towards the sophisticated and beautiful creature of the night started with Dracula. He played the part of a Lord well. He was polite and clever and interesting. He was well dressed. Mysterious. He was also very attractive to women, but that was as much his supernatural power as anything else. But it was all just for show. He only acted and appeared like that so that he could live among his prey.
James Maliszewski reviewed Dracula in his Pulp Fantasy Library reviews. He said in his conclusion:

I find vampires to be both attractive and repulsive: attractive, because the idea of nearly-immortal damned souls stalking the night is a terrifying one; repulsive, because too few people nowadays look on vampires as unambiguously evil … I think there’s still a lot of punch left in vampires but most of that punch comes from contemplating their status as thralls of Hell (whether literally or metaphorically) rather than as forever-young demigods.

Wil Wheaton was a little less polite:

I’m so old, I remember when vampires were scary and awesome, and they only sparkled in daylight before bursting into flames

Before anyone else says it, I’m not trying to say that all vampires should be exactly like Dracula. Vampires (of various varieties) have existed in folklore for centuries and almost as long in literature. Dracula was just the one (thanks to Stoker and also to Bela Lugosi) that captured the public imagination. I haven’t looked far but I haven’t found any serious mention of vampires (recent literature excluded) that are just mostly bad and actually quite good on the inside, like an undead version of the Leader of the Pack.
I particularly like the vampires of the Dresden Files. While there are various breeds of vampires (the Black Court being “Stoker-standard”) they are all monsters. They are all (as Butcher puts it) “supernatural predators” who are basically just out to eat us. On the odd occasion where this is not true (The Brotherhood of St Giles, the odd White Court Vampire like Thomas) they are really just the exception that proves the rule.
My point? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Dracula-stereotyped vampires are cool. They are true vampires. If you want to mess with the archetype, then do so in a cool and original way.
I’ll leave you with another @wilw tweet that was just too good to leave out:

Lost Boys was a little silly but still ultracool, and Near Dark is the best vampire movie ever made. SUCK IT SPARKLEDORKS.

A disclaimer: I have neither read Twilight nor seen the big-screen version. I’m sure I shall one day (and, just like Harry Potter, I will no doubt do so in secret to preserve my precious reputation) but I’m one who tends to avoid pop-culture (of any sort) while everyone is still talking about it.

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