Playing and not

It’s the final day of the Horus Heresy campaign I’ve been playing in, and I’m not going. I haven’t made quite as many games this year as I’d like, but the ones I have made were good fun. The best thing about this campaign I think was the sense of immersion and continuous narrative the organiser created. Everyone who plays has to sign up to this wiki where you make a profile page for your army and track results. The map was a system of planets and when we are all standing around at the start of each day advising our elected warmaster and pointing at the map of planets it feels like a bunch of generals, and if you squint you can see enormous astartes warriors, grizzled auxilia commanders and mechanicum cyborgs in place of the (mostly) bearded and (universally) T-shirted gamers.

You also get one of these little dog tags for each day you play, which gives a once-a-game minor advantage you can use in future events with that army only. Very cool.

I’m not going because my son had a biopsy under general anaesthetic on Wednesday, and his mother had root canal the day after. We’re all a bit drained.

But it’s getting towards the end of the year, and I naturally start to want to recap what’s happened. Gamewise my D&D campaign has continued, since 2014! It’s the longest continuous game I’ve ever played in with the same PCs, which is something to be sure. I played two SAGA games with my brother and then he tried to get me to play Age of Sigmar but Such Things Have Yet to Come to Pass.

I’ve ordered some Picts from Westwind in the UK on the strength of a discussion about Arthurian SAGA I had at the House of Paincakes. I figure even if I never play, it’s a manageable project I’ve always wanted to do so that’s OK. At this stage I’m planning on taking my Irish warband to Southern Fury, a SAGA mega-battle, at Cancon next Australia Day weekend in January.


My fianna (hearthguard) and Irish warlord for SAGA.

Outside gaming, I’ve been art-ing quite extensively. I read a book (I think I mentioned it before) called the War of Art, and one of the sentiments the writer put forward was that trying really really hard to be famous at something creative is self-defeating; success is a by-product of skill, which is a by-product of hard work. It’s a tough balance to strike, to work and work at something while trying not to think about where you expect to take it. But you know what, damn me if it isn’t starting to work. Someone saw my Instagram account and I was invited to showcase at a RAW event. It’s this international artist collective thing where you sell tickets and show at an event in your hometown, and then you can show at any other RAW in the world. So I’m keeping my head down, painting, and going to life drawing clubs at the pub when I can. Getting better, sometimes not as fast as I’d like, but better nonetheless. I’m determined not to jump the gun and make a store and a website and a facebook artist page and all that until it’s actually time to advertise something concrete, like this RAW event. Basically I don’t want two things:

I don’t want to be one of those Deviant Art types with a hundred pictures of wonky elves bragging about how they’re a self-taught artist. I want my art to be under my control, to be able to pick my style based on what the work needs and do it.

And I don’t want to have a bunch of empty, deserted online artists pages and profiles and etsy stores because I jumped the gun and thought I was ready for sustained professional engagement with the world when in fact I wasn’t.

Both those things are tempting though 😀

See you next time,


26 thoughts on “Playing and not

  1. Von says:

    Firstly: congratulations, man! That sounds impressive, and connections are the road to… well, damn near anything in this world.

    Secondly: I have left a trail of profiles on “find a tutor” or “find a freelance writer” websites because I made the mistake you are being sensible enough to avoid. Frankly, I need agencies; I’m neither good at nor interested in networking to a level where I can promote myself.

    Thirdly: Arthurian SAGA. My body is ready. I’m sure one of the warbands will be suitable for nailing together some Cornishmen and doing proper honour to my homeland (pay no attention to the Welsh on this one: Arthur was a Cornishman and that’s an end on it, mebyon Kernow bys vyken, goin’ up Camborne ‘ill comin’ down, mine’s a pint of Doom Bar etc. etc.). If not, I’m sure Tomahawk mentioned something about period updates (backdates?) for Byzantines and it’s probably about time I put some of those together.

    Fourthly: those moments when reality blurs and you’re not a collection of spoddy layabouts are incidents of Trve Magick (kill me now) if ever such things existed. I’m often afraid to admit how real things can get in a well-run RPG session, for instance. Witness the oft-repeated tales of players sleeping with the lights on for a week or a GM lapsed in his chair wondering where the hell that NPC came from and whether he needs psychological help. I’m half curious if the other people involved experience those things like I do (complete with disclaimer that no, Von isn’t actually psychotic, he’s roleplaying… “honest guv’nor”, says I with a nervous wink, because they can never know the truth…) and half reluctant to EVER admit to losing sight of what’s Real. I mean, that’s escapism! That’s forgetting that this is a game, played with other humans who must be respected! The cardinal sin!

    Fifthly: I haven’t looked for your book yet, but I’m going to, next time I have cause to walk more than the mile into the village and back.

    • beat ronin says:

      Well then, firstly: thank you! I’m feeling pretty good about it, now I just have to try not to think about it too much, lest I find some reason why it’s too hard/not a good idea and chicken out.

      Secondly, I think that’s not uncommon, at all. I have some writerly ones floating about myself, from before. I also have a friend who is a talented, hard-working and experienced artist with online stores and stuff, and he told me he’s planning on doing a Masters and becoming an art teacher. Because he doesn’t have the temperament or knowledge to market himself to the extent required. I think there are a lot of online marketing tools out there, and they mostly come down to the old internet adage: if you can’t tell what the product is, it’s you. By which I mean, the only people making any real money are the owners of said “community” marketing sites. I’m thinking of saving up some money (a couple of grand maybe), and if it looks like I could transition to art as my sole income, I’ll use that money to hire a marketing professional to set me up. People feel like they can do it themselves because they know how to use facebook, and I rarely see that work.

      Thirdly, could Romano-Britons count as Cornish? Or were they more Gaelic than Briton? Those dialect fragments you tossed out look like Welsh… but not. I’m going to base my Picts with square bases this time I think, so they can be used in other games too if needed.

      Fourthly: I don’t have those moments often enough in my game, which I suspect is because I’m a lazy DM who still basically runs games the same way he did in high school, only with (barely) more sophisticated stories. And I’m OK with that. But when they do happen, yes it’s pretty hair-raising. And again yes, I think it’s easy to notice a connection between an RPG game and a magical ritual, if you’re so inclined; and best not to mention it to players who aren’t.

      Fifthly: no rush. Like I said, I’ve been wanting to read it for ten years, a bit longer won’t matter. And you might not even be able to find it, it’s 30 years old.

      • Von says:

        Firstly: ah yes, forethought, the thief of confidence and the stab in the back for aplomb. (That might sound better the other way around, I ‘unno.)

        Secondly: you might be right there. I know my agencies make a hell of a lot more money than I do (although I make quite enough given the amount of work I have to do, which is… startlingly little).

        I’m trying to trade favours rather than buy services these days. If someone wants a manuscript edited and happens to be a pro-quality figure painter, I’ll happily trade my edit-fu for their paintbrush wrangling. I wonder if you couldn’t find a marketer who happens to like oil paintings and offer them a fancy commission for a one-off start-up service?

        Thirdly: I’d say more Gaelic. The language has some common ground with Welsh and even more with Breton. I’m not sure about the Romano part; what I remember from history lessons says the Romans didn’t really get past Exeter because the moorland was a sod to build roads over and frankly, there wasn’t enough down there worth conquering.

        Fourthly: for me it depends on the game. I can make it happen with World of Darkness games fairly easily, but then I ran fairly edgy/deep World of Darkness games at high school. Harder to do with D&D. Virtually impossible with Iron Kingdoms.

        The overlap between magick and roleplaying is pretty strong; there’s an alternating current there coming right up through the 1990s, post Satanic Panic. You may already know this – do you?

        Fifthly: Fair enough. I’ll keep an eye out.

        • beat ronin says:

          I have no bones to pick with actual agencies who get you jobs and then take a commission. That’s great. Although it’s surely a sign o’ the times that go-betweens make a better living than the people they’re a-going-between. It’s just like in offices; Human Resources departments seem to grow in size and power all the time, mysteriously immune to the personnel cuts everywhere else.

          Oh no I just had a premonition of a world where 75% of us admit that our jobs are bullshit and become HR people, just eternally hiring and assessing one another.

          No, what I mean are these sites that supposedly give you self-marketing tools or a forum to market yourself in, but basically amount to signing up to a profile no-one ever sees. There’s no easy way out: either you do the boring hard work of marketing yourself and finding work, or you pay someone to do it. An agency is paying someone, and look! Now you have work to do. Yay.

          “The overlap between magick and roleplaying is pretty strong; there’s an alternating current there coming right up through the 1990s, post Satanic Panic. You may already know this – do you?”

          No, I don’t, not really. Tell me more. My interest in magick is mostly scholarly so is probably not very current. I know chaos magick is the thing these days, and I can see why. I think it makes a sort of sense theoretically. Not that it needs to make sense.

          • Von says:

            When I was freshly out of university, the first time, I worked in a call centre for three months, doing salesmanship and hunting decision makers for software/hardware companies. Everyone – and I mean everyone – on my floor had the same goal – “to get out of here some day and work in recruitment”.

            The world of your prophecy is already here.

            As for those self-marketing tools: yeah, I know the ones you mean. I have accounts on about half a dozen for private tuition, and they’ve yet to earn me one lousy month’s rent between them.

            In ref: magick – well, it’s a chaos current, so that’s OK. There were quite a few chaotes working for White Wolf, for instance, judging by the amount of Discordian sentiments sown throughout the first and second edition books. Quite a few people who’d end up being affiliated with the DKMU too – the ‘reality buster’ crowd who appear among several of the vampire clans, the Marauder ‘villain tradition’ in Mage and so on all belong to that “rip down reality and substitute your own” thread.

            Chaos magick being a Thing signifies the end of reality busting. Once VICE is reeling you out every month you know you’ve been tamed and broken.

            • beat ronin says:

              It’s a bit of a hydra though isn’t it, the whole short-circuiting consensus reality thing? The greyfaces can stomp on one head and another will rear up. I think things like Pastafarianism are a manifestation of the same sentiment, or urge or whatever it is.

              I reckon the humour component is crucial. You can never let them know if you really believe it or not, or if you’re just having a laugh. Probably better if you don’t even know yourself, really. I know I don’t.

  2. The Warlock says:

    Seconding congratulations, you must be feeling pretty ecstatic ^_^ Having seen some of your art, it’s quite neat that you can host those events and then get an invite to international ones.

    Arthurian SAGA, you say? Let us ride….to Camelot! The Roman Empire at this point in time being in the decline 😦

    Teeing up a game of regular SAGA soon due to getting bored of the sci-fi and fantasy offerings outside of Malifaux. Thinking maybe Welsh as hit and run tactics is something foreign to an unrepentant orc+gobbo player.

    Regarding success, there’s always that lag period between the hard work and the payoff and that nothing is instantaneous. Still, in order to be good at something one must first suck at said thing. I’m glad you used ‘wonky elves’ as your deviant art example as there’s a lot of crazy, messed up stuff on that site.

    In random news: Meg Maples is doing an intermediate class in Brissie this coming March! I think she’ll also be at Cancon as well, though haven’t asked much about that.

    • beat ronin says:

      Hey Warlock, yes I’m pretty stoked 😀

      I hope you enjoy SAGA. I haven’t played it much but I think it’s a pretty great game. I was going to email you: if you want to play in Southern Fury I have some Vikings you can borrow, but they aren’t all painted and I don’t have the dice for them. But hopefully you’ll enjoy your test games and feel like grabbing your own dudes (wait that sounds wrong).

      And that’s very true, there is always a lag. In the past I’ve always made the mistake of expecting recognition right after the work, and giving up before the lag is over when no-one is patting me on the back. This thing I’m doing where I act like there’s no aim besides skill increase for it’s own sake seems to prevent that mistake, because you aren’t waiting for the back-pats.

      What you just said about in order to be good at soemthing, you first need to suck? The mrs. said it to me the other day, she said she read it and thought of my art path I’m on.

      Meg lives in Sydney now! I think. She comes up to Canberra once a month to one of our stores and does private classes with people by the hour. Pretty sweet.

  3. katecorwen says:

    That campaign sounds v exciting. Perhaps you could share the rules mecganics at some point?

    Hope the biopsy turns out ok.

    With regards to art, prints are the thing. Make some prints, different sizes, greetings cards etc and when you’ve got a dozen different designs open the Etsy shop.

    I envy artists, as a musical instrument maker I have to make every instrument I want to sell, can’t just make one and sell copies!

    • beat ronin says:

      Hi katecorwen, thanks 🙂 I hope it gives us some answers.

      And that’s really good advice about the prints. I only have twelve paintings, and only three or four are what I would say are successful artworks. I need to make a bigger pool of work and then make prints of the best ones. I’ve got heaps of drawings at least. Prints aren’t cheap to make, but you got to spend money to make money I guess.

      And yeah, you need a 3D printer! Print out a few bodhrans 😀

    • beat ronin says:

      Oh and I’ll get back to you with the campaign rules, he wants it to be an international thing so it’s set up so you can join the wiki from anywhere and your local area becomes a segmentum of the galaxy.

  4. Thor says:

    It’s too bad life decided to get in the way of the campaign, sounded like a great time, but that’s life. What can you do?

    Congrats on the art. You must be excited to have been selected, and maybe a bit nervous? Getting your stuff seen and out there is an amazing opportunity.

    • beat ronin says:

      Hey Thor, yeah, that’s life. It was pretty chilled anyway, there was a pool of nearly fifty on-and-off players in the campaign, so it didn’t let anyone down when I didn’t make a game. Would have been nice to play in the final act though.

      I wasn’t nervous at first but am starting to feel a little apprehensive. I’ve never set up a showcase before. Just got to keep working and try not to think about it… Or remember that the worst thing that could happen is everyone who sees my stuff is indifferent, and that’s the same result I’d get if no-one saw it anyway, so nothing to lose right?

      • Thor says:

        50 in the campaign? Wow. That’s impressive!

        Exactly. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting it out there.

        • beat ronin says:

          I should explain that there are some very specific circumstances. Canberra has a very strong and large local community, and the campaign organiser is very dedicated and go-getting. Being a CSM player you might even know him, he’s dono1979 on Bolter and Chainsword. He’s managed to devise an immersive campaign system and organise it via facebook where people can drop in and out at any stage.

          You pick a broad side (loyalist or traitor), and there are one or two floating players at every event who can play as either side where needed. Canberra is an hour and a half from Sydney, and he’s connected the two cities by rotating events between them, encouraging players to travel. There were fifty or so people registered. I went to four of the monthly days, and the best attended one had about thirty people, the least only six. But it all works. I’m really impressed with what he’s achieved.

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