Category Archives: Dungeons and Dragons

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.

fianna

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,

Jimmy

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Moving house and a new D&D game

I’ve just finished packing all of my miniatures, painting and modelling gear away in boxes in preparation for moving house.  Our lease is up and we are getting out of our current place, which has never suited us.  I’m doubly glad, since the landlord has reacted badly to news of us leaving – even though I warned him it was likely several weeks ago. My partner has never been happy with how often he wants to come over and make repairs, or work on the garden, or something. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s a relief to deal with a real estate agent again.  Renting privately involves too many emotions and vested interests. At least it has this time.

Anyway, since I won’t be doing any painting for a while I thought I’d mention that I’ve been secretly running a D&D game again, with the new 5th edition rules.  The players are: my partner; two of her old friends from art school; and the guy I shared my office with in the philosophy department back when I was attempting my PhD. Only my partner has played before, but the other three are enthusiastic and so far are playing like old pros.  It’s a really good group.

The new 5th edition rules are pretty snazzy too, I should say. They may be my favourite iteration of D&D so far, so expect a Ronin Review soon…

The death of my D&D game, and other news

A lot has been happening to me lately, both within the realm of this blog’s scope and outside of it.

Firstly, my D&D campaign has stalled.  One of the player’s partners is very sick, and so they are moving to Queensland to be closer to her family.  This is a very hard time for them, and obviously the game is of no consequence in the face of such things. Still, it’s a little sad.  The campaign was just getting off the ground, and was shaping up to be perhaps the best I’ve ever run.  This is always a risk with role playing games.  They can be very emotionally investing, like tuning in to your favourite TV show (mine is Orphan Black at the moment by the way – haven’t enjoyed a show this much since Buffy), but even more intense.  And in my experience they more often than not peter out, always ending before their time.

Maybe when things settle down for them we can play by Skype or something.

I also have some good news.  Since I quit my PhD I’ve been scrounging up low/unpaid work on the side as an editor and proofreader, which I really enjoy. I’ve started proofreading an upcoming cyberpunk skirmish game by a British designer, and am really excited to know that my name will be in print as an editor.

I’ve also been selling off my 40k stuff, and while I didn’t get as much as I’d hoped for my Iybraesil Eldar, one of the bidders contacted me and commissioned me to make him a female Ulthwe farseer on a jetbike.  I’m pretty stoked: I know not everyone likes my dirty painting style and let’s be honest, there are commission artists out there far more skilful than I am.  But it really made me happy to get his email, and to know that I’ll be paid for doing something creative.

Finally, just a little thought to finish off.  I’ve been playing Shadowrun Returns on my laptop and it’s really fun.  It even has a level editor!  I love messing with them.  Anyway, it’s made me realise that what I really want is for Infinity to be Shadowrun, only without all the silly elves and orks and magic.  I want a modern cyberpunk RPG that isn’t science fantasy.  But then, Infinity almost is an RPG.  You could certainly play it that way.

I guess that’s why I keep wanting there to be a viable and widely accepted Mercs faction.  Instead of being someone’s military, I want to be a team of shadowrunners: street scum – maybe even ateks – hired to do illegal black ops.  With cyber-enhancements and mirrorshades and cargo pants and leather jackets.  That would be fantastic.

Note: if you read this yesterday (13 March), I just edited it a bit because I realised it might have come off as a criticism of Infinity, which is not what I meant.  I think I just became aware that while there are many similarities, Japanese and Western cyberpunk are not quite the same.  The Western genre tends to be more dystopian and focuses on stories about low-lives.  Infinity is a great game, but the clean, ordered, military focus puts it firmly in the Japanese style of cyberpunk.

When the City Falls

It’s been a little while since I’ve mentioned my D&D game.  In fact it’s been a bit angsty around here hasn’t it?  Sorry about that.

Anyway, I thought I’d bring it up, because last night’s session went really well.  It was one of those games where I anticipated the player’s actions but they didn’t realize that I’d anticipated them, so it was full of dramatic moments.  The party (who are official operatives of the floating city of Khiroa) had been travelling at breakneck speed along a highway, trying to make it to a coastal city to retrieve an important artefact.  They kept meeting refugees along the way, fleeing in the wake of a great tsunami that had demolished most of the settlements along the coast.

When they arrived at the city, they tried to bluster past the guards who were processing the refugees by flashing their Khiroan triad badges.  The guard captain looked at them and said “that would be a lot more impressive if your city hadn’t fallen into the sea three days ago.  What do you think caused the bloody tsunami?”

You should have seen their faces.  All three players were stunned and it was just a really rewarding moment as a game master.  One of them said “everyone in our town is dead?!” as though they were real people she actually knew, and the rest of the game I never let them find out conclusively if the rumours were true or not.

I’m really looking forward to the next game now…

Finding New Ways

The first session of my new D&D campaign went really well.  In the past I’ve always set aside a whole afternoon and played into the night with beer and other refreshments on hand.  Everything was in-session: levelling up, buying equipment, everything.  The ability to do this has become a distant memory for me and my circle, so instead I took a firm hand and limited the game to two and a half hours.  Distribution of experience and skill-selection and other “downtime” activities now take place at home during the week for my partner, and in a weekly Skype meet for the other two players.

The session turned out to be perfectly timed, with the players getting through everything I had hoped they would in the time available.

My friend KyoheiZero acquitted himself very well, and seemed to grasp the principles of role-playing straight away.  And by principles I don’t mean the rules, I mean the unspoken social contracts and conceits that make the game wobbly if not everyone is committed to them.

I’m looking forward to continuing with this new style of play.  I’m pleased to be able to find new ways to play as my life grows and changes, instead of just letting my games become treasured memories and trappings of a former life stage, as so many friends have done.

All the best,

James

A New Adventure

This wednesday I’m running the first adventure in a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  We’re playing 3.5 Edition, as that’s the one everyone’s most familiar with and I quite like it.  It’s a small game, with only three players so far, but they’re an eclectic bunch.  First up is my partner of many years, who is one of those players with a recurring character.  She runs a thief named Barron Jones whose identity is passed from master to apprentice, like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride.  I’m excited to see the newest incarnation in action.

Then there’s my friend KyoheiZero who has never played D&D before but devours video games and table-top wargames.  He’s having trouble envisioning how the game will play out, but he’ll see soon enough.

And finally my friend Chimpomagee, who is an old-school D&D player in the body of a twenty-three year-old Computer Science student.  He devised his character concept first, and then rolled his abilities and took them exactly as they fell in order, for more interesting role-playing.  Haven’t seen anyone do that in years.  He has been running a campaign of his own for some of his other friends who were also new to traditional RPGs, and is still amazed by the fact that you can suggest anything you like and there are no imaginary walls for your character to hit.

I’ve run a lot of games over the years, but I’m particularly excited about this one.  Nervous too.  These days I have no time to get lost in details and I think that’s a good thing.  I’m going in with a clear head, a page of notes, a hand-drawn map of a tower and the sense of a blank world ready to be coloured in by the player’s stories.

Let’s see how we go…