Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Things I'm Looking Forward To In 2014

With the year almost over, it would usually be time to reflect on what has happened in 2013, but I'm trying not to dwell on the past because it tends to get me depressed. Instead, I'm going to spend this entire week looking ahead to 2014, starting with what stuff I'm looking forward to that's coming out next year.

1. Doctor Who: Series 8
We'll have a while to wait for this - it's not expected to air until August or September - but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's looking forward to seeing how Peter Capaldi fares in his first season as the Doctor. Also, for the first time since McCoy we get a Doctor with a Scottish accent. Yay!

2. Sherlock: Series 3
How long have we been waiting for a new series of Sherlock? Too bloody long. I'll probably have to watch the first episode on iPlayer on Thursday or Friday, since I'll be at a New Years party and won't be able to get home again until the 2nd, but I'm looking forward to finding out how Sherlock faked his death. Also, Watson has a moustache now, like in the original stories. Nice touch.

3. Hannibal: Season Two
I marathoned the first season in two big chunks, but I'll probably try and pace myself a bit more this year. As much as I love dark crime drama, too much at once puts me in a downer mood. And speaking of downers, last season's cliffhanger...augh! I can't wait to find out what happens next.

4. Marvel movies
We've got two more Marvel movies coming out this year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailer for Winter Soldier looks awesome, so I'm definitely looking forward to that. As for Guardians, I'm not too familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, but I'm interested in seeing ex-Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan playing a villain in it.

5. Firefly RPG
Margaret Weis Productions already released the Serenity Role Playing Game, but that was based more on the film than the series. Now they're releasing the Firefly RPG, which is licenced by Fox rather than Universal, and is more closely based on the series itself. It also uses the Cortex Plus system, which is a lot different from the original Cortex system that the first game used. It's got a lot in common with Fate, with characters having Distinctions which they can tag for an extra dice to roll, or to give the GM something to exploit in exchange for plot points. I know, I know, I've got enough RPGs as it is - and I still haven't played a lot of them - but this is one RPG I definitely want to get when it comes out. I may even pre-order, budget allowing.

6. Timewatch RPG
I mentioned this before in a previous post, but Timewatch is the latest in the Gumshoe family of RPGs from Pelgrane Press, and they'll soon be going live with their Kickstarter. I'll be backing it to at least the level where I can get the PDF and physical copy when it's released. Depending on what other rewards they have (and how much cash I can actually spare) I may go higher.

7. Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #15)
I'm a big Harry Dresden fan, and after where the last book left things, I'm looking forward to seeing how Harry deals with the new status quo. One things for sure, it's gonna be awk-waaaaard.

8. The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross (Laundry Files #5)
The title hasn't been finalised yet, and the release date is still tentative, but the next Laundry Files book should be out at least some time this year. Without spoiling things too much for new readers of the series, Bob's circumstances changed at the end of The Apocalypse Codex, and it'll be interesting to see where that takes him in the next book.

9. Interstellar
Not much detail about this movie yet, except that it involves the discovery of a wormhole and a scientific expedition through it. Still, I haven't seen a Christopher Nolan film yet (with the possible exception of Insomnia) that I haven't loved, so I'll definitely be going to see this when it comes out.

10. Student Nationals 2014
Each year, a different university hosts the National Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships, otherwise known as the Student Nationals. Gaming societies from universities across the country attend and compete to win each year. It's basically like a gaming convention, with a competitive element to it. I used to attend yearly when I was still in uni, but since graduating I've dialed back my attendance to once every two years or so. I'm hoping I'll be able to make it there again this year, and it should be a lot of fun.

Honourable Mentions
The Hobbit: There And Back Again
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
Since I haven't seen The Desolation of Smaug or Catching Fire yet, I feel that looking forward to the next installments in both movie series is getting a little bit ahead of myself. Still, once I've got round to watching those, I'll probably be looking forward to the sequels. Maybe.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

[Geekly Weekly Report] Initiating hybernate mode...

Sorry, I haven't posted in about a week, because on Tuesday night I started coming down with a cold and I've been trying to shake it ever since. Not that there's been much to report in terms of geekiness in my life since my last Geekly Weekly report anyway, so this will be a short post. Tuesday GUGS was pretty quiet, so there was no RP there this week. Well, there was, but I wasn't running it and, honestly, by then the cold was making itself felt so I just made my way home.

I picked up another couple of e-books, 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline and 'Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel' by Cathy Yardley.  And David gifted me a copy of 'Papers, Please' on Steam which I've played a little bit of.

Mostly though, I've not had a lot of energy in me this week so I've spent a large chunk of it in bed. I think the worst of it is over now, but I'm still feeling pretty fatigued. What little bursts of energy I did have, I spent on looking for jobs, or on prep work for an Ashen Stars one-shot I want to run at some point in the new year, or on brainstorming ideas for season two of my DWAiTAS campaign. Or on the occasional tweet here and there.

Anyway, I'm going to take another week away from the blog to recover and spend Christmas with my mum. If I'm feeling up to it, I may post my thoughts on The Time of the Doctor on Boxing Day, but no promises.

I'll be back next week with news of my plans for 2014. In the meantime, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

[RPG News] Timewatch RPG: Kickstarter Coming Soon!

TimeWatch is the latest game to use Pelgrane Press's Gumshoe system; players take on the roles of TimeWatch agents policing the timeline, investigating cases of temporal sabotage and working to set things right.

I'm a big fan of the Gumshoe system, even though I haven't yet had an opportunity to play or run it. However, I think I can make use of this new iteration as a 'Series B' to my DWAiTAS game, drifting the setting to the Whoniverse and having players as agents of the Temporal Security Agency.

The Kickstarter campaign hasn't started yet, but I'm definitely going to chip in when it does. I won't be looking to run the spin-off campaign until summer at the earliest, so hopefully (assuming the Kickstarter campaign is successful) backers will at least have the PDF by then. If not, it still sounds pretty cool anyway, so I'll back it regardless of whether its release schedule ties in with my own GMing plans.

If you're a fan of investigative RP and time travel, I recommend you join the mailing list linked at the bottom of Pelgrane Press's blog post about the game (linked above) to find out when the Kickstarter goes live.

Monday, December 16, 2013

[Geekly Weekly Report] Writerly e-books, The Hobbit and other stuff...

I'm later with this post than I intended to be, but since there wasn't really any RP to write-up an actual play of this weekend, I think I can get away with posting my geekly weekly report today instead.

Bought a few more e-books on Kindle this week, starting with Cormac McCarthy's 'No Country For Old Men'. It's one of the books on my 2013 A-Z reading Challenge list and it was reduced to £1.79, so I went ahead and grabbed it. If possible I'd like to clear that, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Snow Crash from my reading list before the New Year, but we'll see how things work out.

I also bought a couple of writer's advice e-books: 'The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within' by Alan Watt, and 'The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression' by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The latter had been recommended by listeners in a couple of the I Should Be Writing feedback episodes I've been listening to lately, and it appealed to me because conveying emotions in interesting ways - showing, rather than telling - is one of the weaknesses in my own writing. As for 'The 90 Day Novel', it's been on my Amazon wishlist for a while, and having just participated in 30 days of novelling madness, I thought I'd try this out; three months seems a bit more of a 'normal' time scale for novel writing than a month.

My 'Night Vale Community Radio Intern' t-shirt arrived this week too, just in time for my birthday.

Achievements Unlocked
I covered the roleplaying side of last Saturday with my recap of Doc's darkly comic superhero session, but I also played a game of Happy Fun Times Where Nothing Bad Ever Happens Ever Betrayal at House on the Hill. I played Peter Akimoto, who was cruelly shunned by Flash (played by Heather) which is probably why he turned traitor and trapped the rest of the gang in the house with his own nightmares made flesh. I thought for sure I'd be finished, being a weak and defenceless wee boy, but my win condition was a cakewalk, so I achieved it in no time.

After Saturday GUGS, Heather and I caught up on the last few weeks of Agents of SHIELD. There's still been very limited progress on the season's arc plot - yet another oblique reference to Tahiti being a 'magical place' - and the May/Ward hookup seemed to spring up out of nowhere. I knew there was some sexual tension between Ward and Skye - possibly one-sided on Skye's part - but May/Ward caught me by surprise. Maybe I just missed some hints in the previous episodes. I haven't seen the latest episode ('The Bridge') yet, but so far the series is still just okay. It seemed to be picking up steam in the last few weeks, but it's still not Grown the Beard, so to speak. I continue to live in hope that it will, but I'm really concerned that it's going to be too late if and when it does.

On Tuesday I ran the finale of my DWAiTAS campaign, Exiles of Time. It didn't pack quite the bang (either emotionally or plot-wise) that I would have preferred, but the Exiles managed to retrieve the Staff of C'Toni - which they now know is one of eight keys which, when combined together, form the Key of Infinity - from Anith's nanite-corrupted brother, Prince Adar. They also had to contend with one of their own team when an entity he had become infested with in a previous session briefly took over and turned him evil. They learned that a war is being waged across multiple universes and that it has arrived in the Whoniverse. And they lost their friendly NPC after she was corrupted by nanites and became one of the Enemy. They've got her locked up, so maybe they can interrogate her next season or something. We'll see what happens when we start again in the New Year.

Over the course of last week, I marathoned my way through season three of Warehouse 13, since it was about to be dropped from LoveFilm's Instant service. I also got to watch the first couple of Christmas specials and Season 4.0 on Netflix while visiting my friends David and Angela over the weekend (more on that later). Seasons three and four took a shift in tone from quirky and fun to dark and tragic. I'm not sure how to feel about that because, on the one hand I like dark storylines, but on the other the usual playful tone of the series is how they can get away with a lot of the absurd artifacts that feature in the show. That said, I like the new recruit, Steve Jinks, and the chemistry between him and Claudia. I also love that Claudia has come into her own as a proper field agent with him as her partner. (It was also great seeing Brent Spiner guest-starring as Brother Adrian in Season 4.) And in spite of the shift in tone I still love the characters and the world they live in is still one of 'endless wonder', so I'll definitely stick with it and check out season 4.5 as soon as I can.

Instead of attending Saturday GUGS, this weekend I visited my friends David and Angela. David started off the weekend by introducing me to a few videogames. The first was 'Grand Theft Auto 5', which had a lot of content that I didn't explore fully, because I spent so much time just free-roaming and raising hell.

He also showed me 'The Stanley Parable', a narrative-based first person exploration game where you play an office drone who mindlessly followed instructions to push buttons on his workstation until the day instructions stopped coming, and he stepped outside to find all his co-workers gone. Throughout the game your situation commented upon by a narrator, and whenever you come to a point where you can choose which direction to take, the narrator suggests which direction you should go. There are multiple endings, based on the route you take, and the game is both surreal and thought-provoking, with the narrator waxing philosophical about choices and free will. You may also wish you could find and kill the narrator after the first couple of tries.

Another game he showed me was 'Papers, Please'. It's a puzzle game in which you play an immigration inspector at a border checkpoint for the fictional dystopian country of Arstotzka. You play through each day, inspecting peoples' papers and checking for discrepancies, approving or denying entry based on your findings and, in some cases, detaining suspicious individuals. As the game progresses, criminal and terrorist activities prompt tighter border controls, giving you more criteria to check and resources to check them with. It's more fun than it sounds, and I'm seriously considering buying it on Steam when I have some cash to spare.

Since David opened my Christmas present, a copy of Forbidden Desert - the sequel to Forbidden Island - we decided to give it a go. It was pretty cool; it has similarities to its predecessor, but there's a lot more going on in this game. Instead of losing tiles to flooding, they get moved around and covered over with sand tiles by the sandstorm when players draw from the storm deck. These sand tiles block off routes, and stop you from excavating the tiles they cover, but you can still dig up the sand and uncover them again. Instead of having to collect enough cards to retrieve treasure, you have to excavate tiles on the board to reveal clues which will lead to the scattered parts of a flying machine you need in order to escape from the desert. Once both clues are uncovered, the part appears on the map. Your characters also have water tracks, which are reduced when a 'Sun Beats Down' card is drawn from the storm deck, and must be replenished by excavating water tiles to prevent death by dehydration. We lost when we ran out of sand tiles to cover the desert with, meaning we were buried by the sandstorm, but it was still a pretty fun game.

We had also played Pandemic earlier and we actually won that, probably because we started at the Introductory difficulty level. That said, we started Forbidden Desert on the Novice level and it didn't help us any.

On Saturday night, we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Having read the book the year before, I was a little annoyed at the amount of padding added to the story for the film. Generally, film adaptations have to cut certain things out, rather than add new material. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to see Smaug's capture of Erebor depicted on-screen in the prologue, and I can hardly complain at seeing Cate Blanchett return as Galadriel, but a lot of the extra material seemed unnecessary. Especially the framing device of old Bilbo writing out the tale for Frodo as he prepares to leave the Shire once and for all. I can see the Hobbit taking two movies to cover faithfully, but three? That aside, it was beautifully filmed, well acted, and Howard Shore delivered yet another epic score for the first installment of this new trilogy. Overall, I enjoyed it, I just wish they could have fit more of the original story into it.

Well, that was my geeky week. I'm not expecting there to be much geekiness between now and the New Year, with GUGS stopping for the holidays this week I'll be spending most of my spare time at home until it starts again. I'll probably use the time to catch up on some reading, do some DVD marathons, maybe play through the Mass Effect trilogy like I've been meaning to do for months.

I'll have another post up tomorrow. See you then!

Friday, December 13, 2013

[Writer's Musings] Writing Longhand: Pros and Cons

Recently, I've been considering converting to writing all of my first drafts longhand. There's a couple of reasons for this, the biggest being that mum is getting increasingly panicky about the electricity bill, leading to repeated and heated discussions about how much time I spend on the computer. I've tried rationing myself, setting specific blocks of time each day for blogging, writing, job-searching and more leisurely activities such as IRC chat and streaming video on LoveFilm. But that still all mounts up to an average of eight hours per day, and even then there are days when I lose track and go over my allotted computing time. So the first pro of - and my main reason for considering switching to - writing longhand is that it saves energy.

My second reason for considering the switch is plain old nostalgia. Back when I started writing in high school, I didn't have a personal computer to do all my work on, and I think I was probably more productive as a writer back then. Probably because I didn't have the rabbit hole that is the internet to suck me in and distract me from getting the work done. Which brings me to another pro of writing longhand, that it cuts down on the distraction of the internet, not to mention any games, videos, etc., which might be on one's hard drive.

A third possible pro is that it reduces the problem of editing as you go. Sure, you can still cross out words that don't fit and add notes between lines or in the margins, but it doesn't interrupt the flow of your writing as much as stopping to press backspace or highlight whole lines of text to delete.

Another point in favour of writing longhand is portability. Yes, I know, these days we have these handy devices called laptops for that, but if you only have a desktop and can't afford to buy a laptop (or if, like me, your laptop won't work without a mains power supply) then carrying a hardback jotter to write in is a good alternative. and there's just something nice about buying yourself a fancy new notebook to work on a new project with.

The next point can either be a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. Once you've written your manuscript or blog post longhand, you will eventually have to type it up on computer to make it ready for submission or publishing online.  On the face of it, that might seem like a nuisance and a time sink, but look at it another way: typing that work up on PC is basically your first edit of novel/short story/whatever in question. At least, when I'm editing my work, I find it helpful to print off my work and edit by pen; if I'm writing longhand, that part of the editing process has already been dealt with.

Now let's talk about the cons. I wrote the first draft of this post (and yesterday's post) longhand, and my writing hand was cramped up by the time I was done. RSI is an occupational hazard of writing whether you're typing on a keyboard or putting pen to paper, but you definitely feel it more when you're writing longhand. As with typing at a computer though, this can be dealt with by remembering to take regular breaks and give your hand a rest.

One of the other cons I've heard mentioned with regard to writing longhand is that some people have trouble reading their own handwriting when it comes to the editing stage. My own handwriting has been referred to as looking like a chicken walked across the page after taking a dip in a puddle of ink, but I can still read it myself (most of the time). This isn't true for everybody though. Some people may also find that they type quicker than they can write by hand, or vice versa.

Those are all the points I can think of, but at the end of the day I think this is one of those things where your mileage may vary. Personally, I'm strongly considering the switch for purely practical reasons, but you'll have to decide whether it's a good fit for your own work or not. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments, as I'd be interested in hearing other points of view about this.

(Note: I'm not going to have time to type up my Geekly Weekly Report today, so I'll post it on Sunday. See you then!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm 30 Years Old Today, Yay!

I wasn't sure what I was going to blog about today, until it occurred to me that it's my 30th birthday and I should probably do a shout-out about that or something.

Thirty years, yay me! I hadn't really thought much of it until today, and when I did it hit me a bit like a punch in the gut. I thought back on the last fifteen years of my life and felt a twinge of despair that...well, I don't know where I expected to be by now, but it certainly wasn't where I am right now. But then I told myself that it's no good looking back in regret; better to think ahead to the next five to ten years.

Let's start with what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to let growing older stop me from enjoying the things that I enjoy doing. Too often, geeks like me are told that they are too old for the sort of things they're interested in. Like playing board games, video games, roleplaying games, watching anime (or 'cartoons' as some are wont to call them), and so on and so forth. But, to quote Doctor Who, there's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes. We're only as old as we feel on the inside, and I intend to stay young at heart for as long as I can manage.

As for where I want to go from here, well, ideally I'll have got myself a job within the next couple of years. I'm going to need to come up with a new action plan for how I'm going to find work, because what I'm doing at the moment clearly isn't working. People can keep telling me that it's not me, it's the state of the country right now, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try changing things up a bit on my end.

On the writing side of things, I want to have got something published within the next five years, maybe a couple of somethings. By the time I'm forty, I hope to have multiple works published. After NaNoWriMo this year, I know that writing is still something I enjoy doing, I just need to give myself permission both to do it and to suck while writing the first draft. Like so many amateur writers I worry too much about getting things perfect on the first draft, and never finish anything as a result. I just need to loosen up a bit more and let the words flow.

I haven't put together a proper five/ten year plan yet, but hitting the 30-year milestone has encouraged me to sit down sometime soon and work one out. But for now, I have cake, we'll be ordering chinese food for dinner (mum's treat), and I'll just take it easy for tonight.

See you later folks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

[Behind the Screen] DWAiTAS: The Exiles of Time - Season 1 Retrospective

Last night was the 'season one' finale of my Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign, since this was the last week that all of my players would be able to attend Tuesday GUGS before the Christmas break.

Now that I've been running the game for a semester, I felt it was time to have a look back to see what was good, what I need to improve upon, and what I did completely wrong and should never ever do again.

The biggest problem with the campaign this semester was that my story arc for season one ended up focusing on an NPC, rather than the PCs. That was a big mistake on my part, motivated by a variety of factors, but I'm not going to make excuses here, it was a bad call and I know it. Once I realised this, I got to work on trying to write her out of the campaign, but even then, that ended up being the focus of the finale. It's no wonder that at least one of the players felt she was a Mary Sue, because that's what she wound up becoming, much to my own horror. This isn't to say that an NPC can't be the focal point of a campaign arc - I had just played in a campaign which was about our party grooming a young heir to take her birthright as new governor of a province and hopefully avert a war, and it was awesome - but I think it requires a more seasoned GM than myself to make it work.

Another problem - and part of my motivation behind the NPC-focused story arc - is that my portrayal of NPCs is still sorely lacking in depth. In the campaign I had just left, we encountered a supporting cast of NPCs with distinct personalities and motivations, and we became emotionally invested in them, either loving or hating them. I wanted to create NPCs with that kind of external life, but it never quite worked out. My NPCs still felt like cardboard cutouts with little purpose beyond revealing information or complicating the PCs' lives. So, that's something I still need to work on.

I also need to develop a more focused approach to running sessions. A lot of the sessions this semester have felt very haphazard, with players talking over each other or going off on tangents, and there were moments when I almost felt overwhelmed by it all. I don't think it's a problem with the players themselves, since the exact same thing led to my meltdown while running the Spirit of the Century campaign last summer. Other GMs just seem to be better at managing the roleplaying conversation and keeping things focused and on track than I am. I'm not sure what I can do to manage things better, so if there are any GMs out there with some tips on how to remedy this, I'd appreciate the advice a lot.

I'm getting better at establishing initiative order during extended conflict, but I still run pretty rules-light. That's not a bad thing, per se, but the PCs do get away with doing things that they really shouldn't be able to do, and a large part of that is down to me fudging rules in favour of the players. The biggest example is letting PCs use technology that should be far beyond their ken, such as the TARDIS. I'll need to spend some time over the Christmas break reading over the rules again and familiarising myself with them a bit more.

The bottom line is that there was a lot that didn't work in the campaign this semester, but it can't all have been bad, because the players are still up for returning for a second season. So, what did work then?

I found that a more improv approach to session prep worked better than my old method of writing up a bunch of notes for sessions. Back when I was running Stargate, I had time to do that because I only ran once a fortnight, but for a weekly game I had to keep things simple and just came up with a plot, a list of locations, a list of NPCs and stats for the most important NPCs and then ran things on the fly from that. I could probably stand to make my planning a bit more structured, but it's been working okay so far.

I also experimented a little with 'asking questions and building on the answers', a philosophy I picked up from the Apocalypse World school of roleplaying, and it gives the players a bit more freedom to affect the game universe. I may use this tool a bit more in season two.

Also, despite its flaws, this first season of the campaign has set some plots in motion for the next season or two. I have one or two villains I can bring back as foils for the party, and there was a significant threat that wasn't resolved in the season finale.

Looking ahead to season two, I'm going to start working in the PCs' backstories a bit more. There wasn't time this semester, since I needed to establish the status quo first, and it took the first three or four weeks to get PCs backstories worked out, so I'll dedicate more of next season to the PCs' histories and how they relate to the main campaign arc.

Something I'd like to arrange for next semester is a guest GM session or two. Blair has mentioned a couple of different scenarios he could jump in with at some point, possibly even a crossover with his own Star Trek campaign, so I'll see about sorting something out with him. I'd also be interested in inviting Doc to do a session as a guest GM at some point, since the campaign arc I'm running follows on from his own Marvel campaign, but that will depend on whether he can get a week off from James' campaign to do so. It might not happen, but it's something I'd like to try out.

Either for season two or three, I would also like to do some crossover scenarios as well. One that's been specifically requested is a Welcome to Nightvale crossover, and I'm more than happy to work that in somehow; I just need to come up with the right scenario for it. Another request was for Tony Stark to make an appearance, but the player who requested that has left the campaign for the time being.  I would also like to do a crossover with the new Rocket Age RPG from Cubicle 7, which uses the Vortex system which is used for DWAiTAS as well, so it's cross-compatible.

With the introduction of the Temporal Security Agency late in the recent season, I now have a means of introducing drop-in PCs, so I'm going to work on making up a pool of 'playable NPCs' that can be taken from there if a new player needs to join the game on short notice. I'll also try and work in playable NPCs specific to each scenario, which is a practice I started the campaign with, but didn't maintain past session two.

Season one of the campaign has proved to be a bit of a bumpy ride, but hopefully I can build upon the experience to make season two truly awesome for the players. I'll get to work on prep for season two soon.

Monday, December 9, 2013

[Actual Play] Glasgow Avengers: Klepto Christmas Basterds

This Saturday was our GUGS Christmas party and, to get in the festive spirit, we hosted a variety of Christmas-themed one-shots. I had the pleasure (and horror at certain points) of being in Doc’s game: ‘Glasgow Avengers: Klepto Christmas Basterds’. The game was a lot of fun, but the humour was quite dark. And I must have been in a weird mood (or the beer just went right to my head) because I have no idea why the Munitionist decided to accost two random elves for not looking happy enough. Or why it escalated so badly. I’m truly sorry, guys. Anyway, on to the actual play...

Drop-Bear (played by Blair)
Elasti-Knight (played by Phil G)
The Fractured Friar (played by Sam V)
The Magenta Munitionist (played by me)
Quantabella (played by Heather W)
Super-Rab (played by Coops)

The Glasgow Avengers qre rudely awoken by their boss/landlady to go patrol Buchanan Galleries for their Santa Day, with orders to go incognito, so as not to upstage the big guy in the red suit with a white beard (with shades of ginger poking through).

Of course, nothing ever goes smooth when you’re in the superheroics business, and no sooner have the Avengers arrived than a rather odd group of terrorists lock down Buchanan Galleries and hold its customers hostage. The terrorists are led by a bearded elf by the name of Rickmanus, who has with him the Reproachable Snowman, the razor-beaked Penguin, another trigger happy elf with a big gun, and other assorted elf mooks. Plus some stuffed teddy bears that turn into grizzlies at the tug of a bow.

As the Avengers do battle with the various elf goons with their magic dust that either stops time or dissolves matter, as well as their grizzly bears, Rickmanus announces that the elves are displeased with how parents and department store Santas are getting all of the credit that they feel is owed to themselves and their glorious leader (Santa, of course), and they will use Buchannan Galleries to set an example. He then sets off pre-installed devices which start pumping dust out through the air vents.

The Fractured Friar saves himself and the team from getting caught in the dust cloud by warping reality and teleporting them outside. As this is a decidedly unpleasant experience, Super-Rab projectile vomits at everyone except for the Munitionist and Elasti-Knight, who have the presence of mind to dodge. As he had already previously vomited the contents of his stomach on Quantabella (thanks to the Munitionist hose feeding him Budweiser, which he had an averse reaction to on account of it not being Tennants), most of what was expelled was bile. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience for all involved.

The Avengers bust their way back inside and taking the escalator to reach the floor where Rickmanus and his lieutenants are preparing to execute Santa. At Super-Rab’s request, the Munitionist draws a weapon from her infinite arsenal to ‘unlock’ the door to the store where the terrorists are holed up. Since she was just looking for something to blow open the door, to her (and everyone else’s) horror, the gun she produces fires a squirrel at the door which explodes upon contact. The door is destroyed amidst a shower of squirrel entrails and the Munitionist throws away the offending weapon in disgust. Quantabella thinks it’s pretty neat though, and picks it up to keep for herself.

The Avengers each face off against Rickmanus’ lieutenants and an assortment of mooks, with Super-Rab taking on Rickmanus himself. Unfortunately, Super-Rab discovers that Rickmanus is much stronger than his small stature would suggest, and finds himself getting a right kicking.

Quantabella, having previously decided to save a blast of pure serendipity (generated while attempting to make Super-Rab be wearing boxers instead of a man-kini), uses this to make all of Rickmanus’ muscles cramp up, giving Super-Rab an opening to exploit.

The Munitionist faces off against Trigger Happy the elf in an Old West-style showdown, they draw simultaneously, but Happy grins as the Munitionist takes an extra second to aim the odd gun with a dish on the end that she produces, allowing him to fire first. She sidesteps and the bullet whips past her hair, and she fires her ray gun at Trigger Happy.

The ray causes him to shrink down to a third of his previous size, at which point Elasti-Knight - during his battle against the Penguin - pins him to the floor by driving the Penguin’s nose through the fallen elf’s shoulder and through the floor, sticking it in place.

Quantabella uses her probability-altering powers to make it more likely the heating is set too high, and the Irreproachable Snowman soon melts into a watery puddle.

Meanwhile, Super-Rab had seemed to gain the upper hand in his fight against Rickmanus, and had started running circles around him to create a vortex. However, Rickmanus recovered enough from Quantabella’s attack to put a finger out and proceeded to give Super-Rab a super-wedgie, snapping Rab’s undies back at him, producing an audible pop, after which Super-Rab was left curled up in a ball while still floating in the air. It also caused the other male members of the Glasgow Avengers to be paralysed in sympathetic horror.

The team soon recovers though, and as Rickmanus stands over Super-Rab, ready to finish him off with a sprinkle of corrosive magical dust, Drop-Bear and Elasti-Knight recover and team up with Quantabella, with Drop-Bear giving Elasti-Knight enough momentum to throw his shield at air-rending speed and Quantabella firing a probability beam at the shield in flight to make sure Elasti-Knight had sharpened the rim to a razor edge. With their combined powers, they fire the shield at Rickmanus and neatly cut him in half, saving Super-Rab’s life, if not his fertility. No big loss there, but still...OUCH.

Pat is less than impressed with the mess her Avengers have left her to tidy up, but security footage will be doctored to cover up any...questionable actions on the Glasgow Avengers’ part. But the important thing is that Christmas is...well, saved but perhaps not unsullied by their intervention. So, we’ll call that a win, yeah?


Please note that neither this blogger nor GUGS condones the use of suicide bomber squirrels. No real animals were harmed in the making of this RP session, because it’s just a game, after all.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

[Geekly Weekly Report] Evil Captain Jack, Hannibal season one finale and other stuff...

It's Saturday once again, and that means it's time to do a quick recap of what geeky stuff I've been up to this past week.

I bought The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss since I've heard about it from a few different people and - while I'm pretty sure I won't be able to complete my A-Z Reading Challenge before the end of the year - it starts with an N, so it can go on my A-Z reading list. It was also on a Kindle sale for £1.49, so why not, eh?

I also downloaded the track 'What Are You Going To Do When You're Not Saving The World' from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack to Man of Steel. I haven't seen Man of Steel yet, but I heard this song in the trailers, and it was pretty epic. So I decided to just download it, since it was only 99p.

Achievements Unlocked
Last Saturday I finally got round to running my playtest of Mike Sands' pre-written scenario 'The Meddling Kids in...Too Many Draculas' for Monster of the Week.
I feel like I could have benefited from organising the notes so that I could reference different NPCs and locations more easily, and the multiple Draculas did get to be a bit of a handful, but I managed to wrap up the session and the players all seemed to enjoy it, so I'll call that a win.

On Tuesday, I ran the first part of the season one finale of my Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign, 'The Exiles of Time'. We said goodbye (for now) to Aru, as her player needed to leave the campaign, and hello to two new characters: a time agent called Howard Phillips, and the Temporal Security Agency's catkind CMO, Sister Ian. The Exiles learned a bit more about what's going on (the Doctor has been taken out of time and the universe is broken because of it), responded to a distress call from a research station on the event horizon of a black hole which seems to have something emerging from it, encountered an evil Captain Jack Harkness who bleeds silver, and finally ended up chasing him to the other side of the event horizon on board a ship that Anith identifies as the flagship of her homeworld, which is supposed to have been destroyed. The session ended with them facing an A'Kraithan Imperial Guard patrol prepared to blast them into oblivion.

After that, we played three back-to-back games of The Resistance. I was a loyal resistance member in the first two, but a spy in the third. During the second game, I had staked my non-existent Doctor Who DVD collection (yeah, I know, shock horror, I need to fix that one of these days) on my being loyal. This set up what should have been a perfect bluff for the third game, where I again staked the DVD collection on my loyalty, thus convincing the resistance players that I was loyal. And it would have worked if Heather hadn't played her success card face up during the third mission, leading Luke to do the same. As I was a spy, I couldn't afford to let this mission succeed. So I was forced to play my fail card face up, since the players would know anyway. Which screwed things over for me and my fellow spy, Maggie, since I had earlier implicated Alex as a spy when I got the opportunity to look at his loyalty card. Once they knew I was a spy, they knew I had to be lying about Alex, so suspicion fell on Maggie and we lost. Which sucked, because that would have been the perfect mindscrew for everyone if I had gotten away with it. And for once, I found I actually enjoyed being the spy, up until the point where all my machinations fell apart.

Sadly, since Tuesday I've been feeling a bit under the weather, but I did manage to finish off Hannibal season one in a marathon viewing session on Thursday night. I love the cinematography on the show, and I enjoy surreal dream/hallucination sequences, which the latter half of Hannibal season one has in boatloads. The latter half of the season is also an emotional rollercoaster, as you're forced to watch Wil Graham's sense of reality slowly eroded away, and the finale was a real kick in the nuts which left me cursing Bryan Fuller's name, and wishing season two was out already.

As I'm writing this, it's Friday evening and I'm still not feeling 100%. Hopefully I'll be feeling better by the time this goes online, and I'll be on my way to GUGS for the Christmas party. There's gonna be RPGs and co-operative board games, party games and all that jazz. Should be fun, just as long as I'm in a fit state to go.

Anyway, see you later folks!

Friday, December 6, 2013

[Writer's Musings] Post-NaNo Fatigue

I've been listening to old episodes of Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing podcast while also listening to the more recent ones in order to get myself caught up with it. Anyway, in one of the episodes I listened to recently (somewhere between 240 and 250), Mur talked about how milestones can be like speed bumps.

You tell yourself you're going to reach X amount of words, perhaps by Y date (say, for example, 50k words by November 30th) and when you finally get there your brain just curls up into a ball and says, 'Okay, we did what we set out to do here, now let me rest.' I'm paraphrasing Mur here, I can't recall her exact wording, and I've already deleted the episode from my phone (because of limited data storage space) so I'm not going to redownload it and listen back to get the exact quote.

The point is though: Mur was right. Once I hit the 50k mark last weekend, I felt mentally fatigued and decided to take a break. I told myself it would only be for a day, but a day turned into two days, and so on until here I am at the end of the week with no more work done on the fic than I did at the end of NaNo.

It's not that I'm not enthused about the story, I am. And as I reached the end of November, I'd found my stride again, the action was picking up and it was all falling into place. And then I hit 50k and everything just stopped. I whooped in triumph, I posted on Facebook that I'd won, I did a happy dance, all that stuff. And I took a break, and I'm still taking a break.

Part of it is exactly like what Mur described, just my brain needing a break to recharge. Another part is that I've been fighting off a bit of a cold this week. But there's more to it than that.

NaNoWriMo was like a holiday from my inner critic, where I could write whatever the hell I wanted. The inner critic still complained here and there about plot issues and grammar and whatnot, but he let me off with writing fanfiction. But now the holiday is over, and Mr Critic is telling me I should get back to writing REAL fiction again. And don't get me wrong, in the wake of NaNo, I'm more than ready to dive into my own original ideas and get some work done on those. But I also want to complete this fanfiction project. So now I'm trying to figure out how exactly I can juggle two different projects at once. That's probably a topic for another day.

The other thing is that a word count milestone isn't really a great target to shoot for. You could write 50,000 words and be nowhere near finished with your story (and, in fact, 50k isn't really a novel, it's more of a novella), or you could have wrapped up your story a while back and you've started working on something else just to fill the word count quota. Either way, once you reach 50k, you're not really finished. But you've hit your milestone, so your brain is like: 'Okay, whew, we did it...nap now.'
Maybe it's my harsh, inner critic talking here, but I kinda think 'No. No nap! Not until the story's finished.'

Anyway, I figure a week is enough of a break after finishing NaNo, so as of now it's time to get back to work.

If anyone is reading this blog who is a writer, I'd like to hear your thoughts on milestones and needing breaks afterwards. Does this happen to you too? How do you deal with it? Are word count goals really useful milestones to aim for? I'd be interested to hear from other writers on this, so please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading, folks. I'll be back tomorrow with my Geekly Weekly Report.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Characters I Would Like to Play (Again): Kaito Yamada (AdEva/Kuro)

Kaito was an original character I created for a forum/IRC-based Neon Genesis Evangelion RP several years ago. Since all of the canon characters I wanted to play were taken, I decided to create a classmate of the Evangelion pilots. Since I was watching Veronica Mars and had also re-watched Brick recently, I decided I wanted to play a teen noir-style detective.

Over time, he developed as more of a teenage Mulder than a gender flipped Veronica Mars expy, as the mysteries that he investigated tended to either be J-Horror inspired paranormal phenomena or top-secret NERV experiments gone rogue. And despite the risks of placing such a character amongst the canon characters, he turned out okay as a supporting character. and I later exported him to an Adeptus Evangelion campaign as a pilot. Sadly, that campaign ground to a halt.

However, if the opportunity ever presented itself, I'd like to try playing as Kaito again; this time as a character in the Kuro RPG setting. Here's my write-up of Kaito for Kuro.

Kaito Yamada

Age: 15

Kaiso: 3

DEX 2   INT 3
STR 1    PER 3
STA 1    CHA 2
REF 2    WIL 2

HIT 20 DEF 14
SWT 7  ACT 1
DT -7   MOV 2

Combat Skills
Hand-to-Hand 2
Academic Skills
Humanities 1
Social Sciences 2
General Skills
Athletics 2
Dodge 4
Sports (Tennis) 3
Communication 3
Empathy 4
Fast Talk 4
Deception 2
Lockpicking 3
Sleight of Hand 4
Sneaking 3
Investigation 3
Awareness 5 (Mastery)
Interrogation 4
Searching 4
Shadowing 4
Popular Culture 1
Spiritual 1

Contacts 2

Law Enforcement 3

Background: Kaito is the son of Yamada Daisuke, an inspector with the Shin-Edo police. Kaito moved to Kyoto with his mother at the age of 3, after his mother was forced to give up his newborn sister for adoption. His mother resented his father for allowing this to happen, and Kaito shared her feelings on the matter.

8 years later, Kaito’s mother was murdered; her killer was never apprehended. With no other family to take him in, Kaito was placed in his father’s custody.

Although Daisuke has tried to mend bridges between them, his work keeps him busy, leaving Kaito to his own devices.

Despite his bitterness towards Daisuke, the loss of his mother and her killer’s escape from justice has inspired Kaito to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Since returning to Tokyo, Kaito has become reacquainted with his childhood friend Idane Kimi, a Miko in training whose uncle is a colleague of his father's. As strange things continue to happen in Tokyo (now Shin-Edo) in the aftermath of the Kuro Incident, Kaito has joined Kimi's new student club, the Fortean Investigation, Research and Exorcism Brigade (or F.I.R.E. Brigade, for short), dedicated to investigating the growing levels of supernatural phenomena in the city, and serves as its vice president.

While his reasons for joining are mainly to spend more time with Kimi, he is also curious about the paranormal, particularly because he has come to believe he is being haunted by a spirit which may or may not be the ghost of his dead mother...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

[RPG Adventure Hooks] 1d4 Christmas Scenarios

As it is the time of the year when we all pay tribute to the gods of retail celebrate Christmas, I thought I'd post a few Christmas-themed plot seeds for some of the games I have on my shelf. Feel free to use them with the games listed, or adapt them to a different setting as needed.

Spoiler Warning: GUGS members may not wish to read these, as I may use one of them if called upon to run an extra one-shot at our upcoming Christmas Party this Saturday (December 7th). You have been warned.

Ashen Stars: Big Troble on Lapworld
Lapworld, a Synthculture world based on the old Earth tradition of Christmas, dedicated to keeping this ancient holiday alive for the people of the Bleed, but there's trouble afoot. Someone has been sabotaging the production line, threatening the shipment of toys to their offworld subsidiaries.
With an overworked population of 'elves' - some of whom may be genetically-engineered, some who may be down-on-their-luck Durugh or Vas Mal - threatening to form a union, a loveless marriage between the incumbent Mr and Mrs Claus, and the twisted ambitions of their adopted elf son Morty, who could be to blame for the troubles?

Kuro: Naughty or Nice
A serial killer in the guise of a Doreamon-faced Santa Claus is stalking the streets of Shin-Edo, killing people who have been 'naughty' in some way or other, leaving four lumps of coal as his or her calling card. It could be a droid gone rogue, or a disgruntled Tengu on a rampage. One way or another, someone's got to put a stop to it.

Monster of the Week: Look Out, Look Out! Jack Frost Is About!
A small-town community is terrorised by a creepy frost-bitten child who freezes anyone he touches, and can turn people into ice zombies. The only warning of his approach is his constant singing or humming of the rhyme 'Look Out Look Out! Jack Frost Is About!'...

Spirit of the Century: Christmas Time
Doctor Methuselah has laid siege to the North Pole and taken Santa Claus hostage, seeking clues to the Eternity Equation which he believes Santa possesses. After all, how else can he deliver toys to all the children in the world in one night, if not by mastering time itself? Can the Century Club retake the North Pole and rescue Santa?

Monday, December 2, 2013

[Actual Play] Monster of the Week - The Meddling Kids in...Too Many Draculas!

This one-shot has been a long-time coming, but kept getting pushed back either because the timing wasn't right, or illness/other commitments on the part of the players after we had done a character creation session. But we finally got most of the group together on Saturday and went ahead with the session.

Mike Cugley as Reg Collins (the Snoop): Reg is a semi-famous local reporter who specializes in cases of the weird and unexplained. Armed with his digital video camera, sound recorder and remote controlled camera drone, and his trusty multitool, Reg seeks out the vampires, the demons and forces of darkness in order to get a soundbite for his show.

Heather Williams as Laura (the Meddling Kid): Laura is a wannabe detective and a big fan of reg's work, even though she doesn't really believe in the supernatural. She's helping Reg out as an intern, along with her big brother, John.

Malik Took as John Doo (the Mundane): John is Laura's elder brother and helps out on Reg's show with her. Since he has a van, this usually means he winds up ferrying Reg and Laura around during cases.

Sandy McMallister as Aron Axe (the Spooky): Aron is John and Laura's weirdo cousin. He fell under Reg's scrutiny after using his strange powers to cast a hex on a snotty shopkeeper who was mean to him. Nothing harmful, but still not very nice, so Reg decided to keep an eye on him. But when Aron later used his powers to save Laura, when her stubborn disbelief in the supernatural nearly got her eaten by a monster, Reg decided Aron wasn't so bad. He killed the story he was making about Aron, and keeps him around because his skills are handy.


It all begins when Reg hears from his police contacts about some exsanguinated corpses turning up at the nearby House of Dracula theme park over the past week. Deciding to check that out, Reg and the gang pile into John's van and head out to the theme park where, upon arrival, they find themselves surrounded by 'Draculas' and assorted other vampire cosplayers. If there is a vampire at large in the theme park, finding them is going to be a pain in the ass.

They start their search at the Carpathian Coach Ride, where the alleged first victim was discovered - but the body vanished before authorities showed up - and question the ride operator. He admits that the ride has suffered some problems lately, first with the body that was sighted by visitors inside, then with a variety of faults which could have been fatal, but nobody has yet been hurt. While John sneaks in through the maintenance entrance, the rest of the gang get on the ride to see what happens.

On the coach ride, Reg suffers a near-miss with a scythe while on the ride, and then the coach switches tracks and hurtles towards a gap in the track. Reg and Laura jump from the coach - having unlocked the safety bar - and wind up on opposite sides of the track, while Aron remains on the train which - luckily for him - screeches to a halt just inches from the edge of the drop. They are then confronted by someone dressed in the style of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. He claims to be the real Dracula, and declares that this theme park is an insult to his name and that they should leave or face their doom.

Meanwhile, in the maintenance area, John opens a closet and has an exsanguinated corpse fall on top of him. Not a real one, though. It's a rubber dummy, but very convincing. Also, it doesn't look like this is where it should be stored.

The Lugosi wannabe disappears in a puff of smoke, but that doesn't stop Laura from running after him through the maintenance tunnels. Meanwhile, Aron is incapacitated by a vision of the theme park's hotel in flames. Laura thinks she's caught up with the Lugosi guy, but comes across someone in a different vampire get-up, this time in the style of Nosferatu. He's really committed to the role, too, because he lunges forward to bite her. She screams and runs away, bumping into a grumpy janitor by the name of Higgins, who leads her back to her friends and escorts them out of the building. John comes across Nosferatu next, and also runs, finding a fire escape and exiting the building.

At the entrance to the coach ride, Reg and his fellows explain what happened inside, and the ride operator opens up his board to check it out, only for it to give him and Reg a nasty shock. Someone has definitely tampered with the controls, and a check of the CCTV footage reveals the Lugosi impersonator - Reg has, by now, checked his own footage and is fairly certain the man they encountered was just a guy wearing prosthetics and a costume - opening up the panel and messing around with it.

A short while later, having been told about Aron's vision, Reg heads to the House of Dracula hotel to try and figure out where someone could start a fire from. He comes up blank, but little does he know that his wondering aloud about incendiary devices has attracted some unwanted attention from a shadowy figure, who thinks an incendiary device sounds like a neat idea.

Meanwhile, Laura is checking out the VampFashion Clothing Shop to see who has purchased costumes like the one the Dracula impersonator was wearing in the Carpathian Coach Ride. She finds a list of names, which includes janitor Higgins. She finds that interesting, given that Higgins claimed to despise the theme park's current horror theme. As she's leaving, she is awkwardly hit on by a guy with a passing resemblence to Robert Pattinson wearing glitter and doing the whole Twilight schtick. The Pattinson lookalike is then roughly shoved aside by a more punkish vamp cosplayer, who says he'll 'show him how it's done'. Laura is much more impressed by this guy, who introduces himself as Jerry, and he invites her to join him for a drink. She agrees, but activates a bug so that Reg can listen in on them.

When they arrive at the 'We Do Not Drink...Wine' Bar, located within the House of Dracula Hotel, the barman asks them both for ID, but Jerry leans towards him and says, 'Forget the sodding ID, just get us our drinks'. Strangely, the barman does just that. Laura starts casually questioning Jerry, but she's a little too blunt and eventually Jerry decides to just cut to the chase, sprouting fangs. Realising Laura is in trouble, Reg runs to the rescue, only to find her viciously kicking Jerry repeatedly in the nads. Jerry doesn't appreciate this, and sprouts fur and claws, becoming a wolfman. In the fight which ensues, the bar gets set on fire, but luckily Aron is able to put out the flames before they get out of hand. Jerry is staked and eventually burns away into ash.

Meanwhile, Laura has run away by this point, and runs into the Nosferatu guy again. She screams, bringing the others running after they've dispatched Jerry, and they notice that Nosferatu is completely monochrome and also flickering a little bit. Aron reckons this is a psychic construct of some kind, but Laura declares that it is not real, but a hologram projected by the real culprit, janitor Higgins, who has been posing as Dracula and using various other cheap tricks to scare away visitors and put the park out of business. Higgins, who happens to be nearby, admits that she's right, except for one thing: that projection ain't one of his. Higgins makes a break for it, and Laura splits from the group to chase after him.

As Nosferatu tries to attack the rest of the gang, Aron sets up a ward to hold it in place and then casts a spell to locate the source of the psychic projection. This shows them a cord which leads to one of the hotel rooms, which Reg unlocks with his multitool and sneaks in. They find a family - husband and wife, and two kids - sleeping soundly, except for the father who seems to be having a nightmare. Reg pours a glass of water from the sink and splashes it on the man, waking him up. After calming him down and assuring them that they mean no harm, they discover that the man - William McAllister - had been watching Murnau's Nosferatu a few nights ago and it had given him nightmares. They figure this triggered some latent psychic ability which created the psychic projection of Nosferatu, which hasn't been dissipated by McAllister's rude awakening and is still coming. Thinking quickly, Reg turns on the TV and switches to the cartoon channel - on which Count Duckula is currently airing - and gets McAllister to focus on that. As a result, Nosferatu transforms into Count Duckula, who promptly asks if they have any tomato juice.

Meanwhile, Laura chases Higgins to the maintenance entrance to the Carpathian Coach Ride. Despite her misgivings, she heads inside after him, only to find him lying on the floor with bite marks in his neck. Some blood drips on her from the ceiling and she looks up in time to see another Bela Lugosi-style Dracula in much more convincing make-up clinging to the ceiling with blood dripping from his lips. He drops down on her, but she pulls out a stake and drives it into his heart as he falls. She gets up and runs from him, back out of the building.

Reg and the others catch up with her in time to find this new Dracula staggering after her, clutching at the stake in his chest. She drives the stake home with a kick and the vampire disappears with a scream in a cloud of mist. With this last battle over, they hope that this is the end of the troubles for the park and head back to their van to recouperate. They don't see the cloud of mist return and start to reform, with Dracula's cackling in the air...


Post-game reflection
I really hate dealing with parties that split up. I always feel like I end up devoting too much time to one player or group of players and not enough on the other. I also wish I'd had more organised notes for this. Usually when I make up a scenario for MotW I use the preparation sheets, so the important NPCs and locations are all together on one or two sheets of paper. In this case I was using a pre-written scenario, so I kept having to leaf through a stack of papers to find the right names for NPCs/locations, and stats, which slowed things down at times. That's actually a problem with my games in general, organising my notes so that I can easily reference the relevant NPC sheets or whatever. I also neglected the actual Dracula NPC's side of things, so he showed up at the end as a sort of after-thought. On the whole though, my players seemed to enjoy the scenario, and we managed to reach a coclusion of sorts even though I had a sinking feeling about halfway through that the scenario title ('Too Many Draculas') was perhaps a bit too true.
I'll be getting in touch with Mike Sands shortly to give him some feedback on the scenario, and hopefully I won't have to wait as long before I can run his second playtest scenario. Although, with GUGS wrapping up soon for Christmas, I'm running out of opportunities to run it before New Year's. I guess we'll see how things work out.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Plan: December 2013

Although NaNoWriMo is now finished, I'll be continuing to work on the NaNoWriMo project and aiming to get an episode's worth of the fanfic done every couple of months, while getting some work done on my own original projects. I'll also be aiming to return to a more regular blogging schedule now that I don't have a 2000 word-per-day quota to fill. Hopefully, I should have the first draft of episode three finished by the end of this month.

On Mondays, I'll be doing actual play reports of Saturday GUGS roleplaying sessions, though with GUGS stopping for Christmas soon there probably won't be a whole lot of roleplaying to report.
For Tuesdays this month I'm going to be posting some RPG plot seeds, starting with some Christmas-themed one-shot ideas and then moving on to a three-part series: '36 Doctor Who episodes based on Radiohead Song Titles'.
On Wednesdays I'll post some thoughts on GMing as inspiration for GMing topics comes to me. My DWAiTAS campaign should be wrapping up for the Christmas holidays soon, so once I'm finished with that, I'll have a look back at how the campaign has gone so far and what I could do to improve the next 'season'.
Thursdays will still be general posts, maybe about RPGs, maybe about writing, or maybe reviews or something else entirely. I already know I want to post a review of Short Order Heroes, having received my Kickstarter backer's copy this week.
I'll reserve Fridays for posting flash fics or chatting about writing in general.
And I'll be continuing with the Geekly Weekly Reports, but I'll be posting them on Saturdays, rather than Sundays, as I'll need Sundays to get started on batches of blog posts for each week.
As we move on into the New Year, I'll finish off with a look back at the past year and a look ahead at what my goals and wishes are for the coming year, and what I'm excited about for 2014.

So, that's the Plan for the month ahead. I'll be back tomorrow with an actual play report of my playtest for Mike Sands' Monster of the Week scenario, 'The Meddling Kids in...Too Many Draculas'.

See you later!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

[Geekly + NaNoWriMo Weekly Report] I WON! (and other stuff)

I won! Yay, go me! YAAAAAAY!

NaNoWriMo: Week 4
Yes, sometime last night I crossed the 50,000 word finish line and won NaNoWriMo for the second time in five years of participating. Some days the words just flew from my fingers to the keyboard and other days I could barely string a sentence together, but I made it. As mentioned in my last post during week 2, I finished my second 'episode' of the Doctor Who/Evangelion fanfic and was struggling to write the third, so I mostly spent the remainder of my time writing bits and pieces for later episodes.

But in the last few days I finally got some forward movement going on episode 3, so I think I'll be able to finish it. And then I'll take a break and work on my own projects for a month or two, while editing what I've got done for the fanfic so far. My hope is that I'll be ready to start posting it on Fanfiction.net sometime mid-2014, and that I'll be able to get through seven to eight 'episodes' before next November, at which point I'll start work on the second half of the 'season'.

Things I've learned from NaNoWriMo this year: 
- Outlining helps a lot. Having a plan for the first three or four days worth of writing got me through the first week, and I got more written than I had estimated. When I reached the end of my outline for the first story, I didn't hit a brick wall right away, since I had gained some momentum by then, but when I reached the point where I had to write the next story I screeched to a halt. So, even if I didn't outline the whole story in advance, having a good chunk of the beginning planned out is helpful. In short, I need to get better at outlining. 
- 2000 words a day is not me. Don't get me wrong, on a good day, I can churn out 500 words every half hour, which will give me 2000 words in as little as two hours. But that's on a good day. Half the time during NaNo, I found my writing speed was closer to 500 words per hour, which meant it took four hours to write 2000 words. The lesson I'm going to take away from this is that, rather than aiming for a specific word count every day, I should aim to write for a set period of time (say 2 hours) during the day. 
- I'm more productive when I'm not using my desktop PC. The main reason for that is probably that there's less stuff on my laptop (or library computers), so there's less opportunity for procrastination. 
- My laptop isn't in quite as bad shape as I thought. To be fair, I haven't been using it for anything too intensive over the past month, but it's still held up surprisingly well through NaNo. I still wouldn't dare use it for stuff like watching videos or playing games too often, as this has led to the power cutting out (which is why I haven't been using it as much). However, after this past month, I think I might start using it in place of my desktop when it's time to get some writing done. 
- I still suck at characterisation. And I really need to work on that, because it's going to be a big problem if I want to write something worth publishing. 
- I'm still a writer. I've been worried for a while that I had lost the spark that I had back in high school that made me want to be a writer, but this past month has made me realise that it's still there. I still enjoy writing. My problem is that I still haven't learned to let myself suck in the first draft. Even during NaNo, I've been unable to completely silence my Inner Editor. He was still there, nudging me to correct this spelling mistake, or delete that sentence and retype it to make it flow better and, worst of all, telling me that the scene I'm writing doesn't work and it needs to be scrapped. With the help of Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing podcast (and the threat of my copy of Pandemic being held hostage) though, I managed to shrug him off enough to get on with things. 

I ordered the NaNoWriMo 2013 Power-Up mug, because I liked the whole 8-bit retro gaming theme of this year's NaNo and having a coffee mug with a videogame style 'caffiene level' indicator on it amuses me.

Then, after attending Mono and finding nobody else there for the write-in on Sunday, I stopped by Static Games and bought a copy of Forbidden Island as an early birthday/Christmas gift to myself. Yes, I know, I lack willpower. Leave me alone.

My mother also ordered the Nightvale Community Radio Intern T-shirt for my birthday, which will probably arrive sometime in January given that we took the cheapest postage option and its past the recommended order date for that postage type. Still, thanks mum! 

Achievements Unlocked
(Since I've missed a week, this summary of my geeky exploits will not necessarily be in chronological order, or complete.)
Me, Heather and a few others from GUGS gathered at her flat on the night of the 23rd to watch the 50th anniversary special on iPlayer after it aired. We had fish fingers and custard (which was okay), and we watched An Unearthly Child while waiting for the anniversary episode to finish airing. Then we sat down to watch The Day of the Doctor, and it was awesome. I sat down, expecting to be disappointed (because Steven Moffat) and found myself pleasantly surprised. Of course, the episode was a massive fan-wank, but that's kind of what you want from an anniversary special. There were loads of references both to classic Who and nuWho, we got to see the Time War, David Tennant was back as the Tenth Doctor and sharing screentime with Matt Smith's Eleventh, the Zygons returned...in short, it was everything the hype had me hoping for, but which I didn't expect to have delivered.

Yes, there were still problems, including at least one glaring plot hole that I didn't have the heart to point out on the night, but I was willing to let those slide for the general epicness of the episode as a whole. And yes, Steven Moffat employed a Big Reset Button yet again, but for once I'm interested in seeing what unfolds from that. Also, we got a teaser for the Christmas episode which...well, I'm sceptical about, once again. Because having four different recurring villains in one episode seems a bit like overkill to me. But we'll see. 

Having bought Forbidden Island, I played my first game of it with my mum after I got home from the write-in that wasn't. Mum wasn't quite sure about the game at first, but after a while she got the hang of it and we had a good time. We lost, but just barely, with three treasures captured, five tiles remaining and the water level at five. I played it another couple of times on Tuesday night, lost one game, but won the next with my group of players from the Doctor Who campaign. 

During the first session of our new Board Games League at Saturday GUGS, I also got to play two games I've never tried before (Alhambra and Nuts) and one which gave me a feeling of deja vu, so I might have played it before (Carcassone). These were all fun, though Carcassone took a few rounds to get the hang of. There's a copy of Alhambra in the GUGS locker that barely gets used, and since myself and several other players really enjoyed it, maybe that will change in future. 

The Doctor Who campaign has been on a bit of a break the last couple of weeks. The first week I did a very short, very silly improv session involving the characters trying to escape a prison on a world populated by dragonfolk, after Malik foolishly decided to tickle a sleeping dragon. I decided to do a comedy short because a) it was the week after Children in Need, and b) I felt I needed to concentrate on doing a census of what RPGs were running in my new capacity as RPG convenor. 
The second week we played board games instead, and I can only attribute that to GM burnout. I only have two more sessions (and possibly a Christmas special) to go before Christmas break, though, so I'll try and fight through the burnout and get the season completed. If the players still want to continue after that, then I've got a good few weeks (and plenty of character background, etc) to put together a whole second season's worth of episodes. 

Now I'm off to Saturday GUGS, where I'll hopefully (finally) be able to run my Monster of the Week one-shot I've been trying to run for about a month now. I'll also hopefully get my copy of Pandemic back. ;) See you later folks!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

[Geekly + NaNoWriMo Weekly Report] The Week 2 Crash, Night of the Doctor and other stuff...

Wasn't expecting a lot of geekiness in this week's report, as there was no Doctor Who session on Tuesday due to the GUGS AGM, but I did manage to squeeze in some geeky activities nonetheless. I can also report that, as of Tuesday, I have been elected as GUGS's new RPG Convenor. So, yay me!

NaNoWriMo: Week 2
Gaaaaaaaah! It's week 2 and, as my fellow WriMos will know, week 2 is hell. Week 2 is the point where people tend to hit a wall and things start to slow down a bit as people hit what Chuck Wendig described as 'the mushy middle' of their story. In my case, it's less a case of reaching the midpoint, and more that I've wrapped up the first of the series of stories I was planning to write. And now I'm just trying to get started on the next story. Without having got around to planning it at all.

The only real way forward is just to write and keep writing, even if I'm not happy with what I'm putting down in Scrivener. At some point, hopefully, something will spark my imagination again and I'll be blazing a trail towards 50,000 words. At the moment though, finding words to type is like pulling teeth.

To be honest, I'm not doing too bad, word count wise. The official target for today is 26,666 words, and I'm sitting on 25,319 words. I just need to write another 1500 words to stay on par. As I'm writing this on Friday night, hopefully I'll have churned out another bunch of words by the time you read this and still be on track.

No new purchases this week, though I did start reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It's a young adult novel - but I don't let that stop me reading books, since YA can still appeal to older readers -  and the first book in the 'Chaos Walking' series. The story is set on New World, where - as we are told by the protagonist, Todd Hewitt - a 'germ' released by an indigenous alien race called the Spackles killed all the women and half the male population, and also left the surviving men with the ability to hear each others thoughts, which is referred to as Noise. Then, within a few chapters, Todd's life is turned upside down. He's forced to run from his town by his guardians for his own safety, and told that what he thinks he knows about the world - what he's been taught to believe - is false. So far, apart from the intentional misspelling of certain words - meant to reflect the protagonist's own lack of education - and the talking animals, it's looking like it'll be an interesting read.

Achievements Unlocked
Before the student politics got underway on Tuesday, we had another short game of The Resistance. I was one of the spies again - I hate being a spy - along with Martin, and we played with Heather, Lauren and another girl whose name I seem to have forgotten. The spies won, and I managed to maintain doubt as to whether I was a spy or not, so I guess I'm getting better at that. I still prefer being a loyal Resistance member and trying to deduce who the spies in the group actually are though.

On Thursday, there was a nice little surprise for Doctor Who fans in the latest minisode leading into the 50th anniversary special. It's probably been thoroughly spoiled by the internet already, but if you haven't seen it, or heard anything about it yet, then you should go to the BBC's Doctor Who website and check out The Night of the Doctor. Since the new cover image on the video itself now spoils this upfront, I might as well tell you that it features Paul McGann, reprising his role as the Eighth Doctor for the first time onscreen since his debut in the 1996 TV movie. That's all I'm saying though, go watch it to find out more.

Later that evening, we had our first meeting of the new GUGS committee, after which some of us sat down in Jim's Bar to play a game of Pandemic, which Heather had brought along with her. We actually won, though I'm not sure we didn't accidentally cheat a bit to get there. Also, we had the Quarantine Specialist - one of two new role cards for the 2nd edition - which has a really powerful role ability allowing the player to just sit on a city and say, 'No, no new disease cubes or Outbreaks here, or on connected cities. Not on my watch.' It seemed a little bit broken, to be honest. I really want to just sit down with the instruction booklet at some point and fully familiarize myself with the rules, to be sure we're playing it properly in future.

There was a new episode of Tabletop this week, so I watched that. This time Wil and friends were playing Takenoko, which is a quirky point-buying game about the emperor of Japan, the panda gifted to him as a gesture of peace by the Emperor of China, and the gardener who has to tend the Emperor's garden despite this huge monochrome furry beast roaming around and eating all the bamboo. I had to watch it twice before I got the gist of how the game works and, honestly, it's another one that hasn't really gripped me with a burning desire to buy it. However, I felt that way about Ticket to Ride as well, until I'd actually played it myself, so we'll see. If someone happens to have a copy at GUGS sometime, and I get a chance to play, maybe I'll change my mind. Right now, I'm just a bit meh about it.

Since I think it's unlikely I'll be able to hang out with Heather after GUGS tonight, I went ahead and watched the latest episode of Agents of SHIELD as it aired last night.
'The Hub' was both a character development piece - with Ward and Fitz teaming up on a top-secret op, allowing them a chance to interact a bit more - and sowing some more seeds of distrust regarding the larger SHIELD organisation. Coulson is now committed to finding out the truth about his revival after the Battle of New York, and he and May are going to look into what really happened to Skye's parents, so I'm hopeful that there's going to be some more arc progression from here on.

That's all for now, I'll be setting off shortly to go and run my Monster of the Week playtest one-shot, so hopefully that'll finally happen this weekend. See you later!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

[Geekly + NaNoWriMo Weekly Report] NaNoWriMo Week 1, Pandemic and other stuff...

I'm a bit later with this report than I intended, but here's how the last week and a bit have gone.

NaNoWriMo: Week 1
As of about 6pm today, I have reached 21,534 words, so I'm already well over a third of the way towards the month's goal. I've just about finished writing the first 'episode' of the story. Some aspects of what I've written will definitely need fixing in a rewrite. There need to be a few more complications than I've included so far. And one of the scenes will need to be altered to leave things more ambiguous, so that it can be resolved in the next one. I haven't plotted out the next episode yet, so I'm going to need to figure things out as I go.

Now that I'm ahead on my word count, I'm going to try writing at a reduced pace for the rest of the month: 2000 words a day, perhaps pushing it to 3000 words on Mondays and Fridays to make up for reduced word counts on Tuesday. It's going to be tricky, since I don't have the next part of the story outlined, but I'll keep at it and just work out the story as I go.

Pandemic arrived on Tuesday (coincidentally the very same day I started suffering from a bit of a cold), so I took it into GUGS with me, where Heather Williams and I did a quick unboxing to check that all of the pieces were accounted for. Apart from having one more research station than the instruction book said there should be, everything seemed to be in order, so I have now placed the box in Heather's care until such time as I reach the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo.

Achievements Unlocked
On Saturday 2nd, we did character creation for the Monster of the Week one-shot I've been intending to run for a while now. It took longer than I expected, so by the time we were done, there were only a couple of hours of Saturday GUGS left, so we opted to play some board/card games and play the one-shot next week.

So, instead of playing MotW, we played some more Chez Greek - and I now realise that it's called Chez Greek because it's about university students living in fraternity/sorority houses - and then we had another game of Settlers of Catan, complete with obligatory innuendo jokes about 'getting wood'. I'd definitely like to give the Star Trek version a try, and may put that at the top of my 'As Seen on Tabletop' list on Amazon.

You may have noticed there was no GM report about Tuesday's DWAiTAS session. That's partly because I've been hard at work keeping my word count above par, but also because I haven't really had much to report in the previous entries other than grumble over what I felt went wrong with them. So, instead I'll be doing GM reports if and when a particular session raises an interesting topic related to GMing games.

That said, Tuesday's session went okay. The Exiles managed to rebuild the Dimensional Pathfinder, and figured out that they could close off the tear that let the Shattering infiltrate the mirror dimension and send them back into the Void in one swift move. But to do so, they had to widen the tear, so that everything that had been exposed to the background radiation of the Void would be sucked back through. Which would include most of them, because their stay in the Liminus had exposed them to the Void radiation. The only two who could safely carry out the task were Aru (who, as far as the PCs know, has never been through the Void) and the Daughter of Blood (who had wandered off somewhere).

Unfortunately Aru's player was absent with the flu and the others didn't want to take such a risk with her character without her consent. Using the PA system the Exiles call out to Daughter of Mine, asking her for her help in closing the tear in exchange for putting in a good word for her with the Doctor when they find him. After fleeing the sentient crack as it chases them through the mirror dimension, they rendezvous with Daughter of Mine and give her the Dimensional Pathfinder (having rigged it to cease functioning after she's used it to seal the breach). She agrees to stay behind and seal the breach, and they head back to their own dimension where Captain Baker of UNIT greets them, noting that the real scientific advisor has arrived. A few minutes later the cracks visible on their side recede, and there's a flash of light. As the situation seems to be contained thanks to the Exiles, Baker decides he'll look the other way. This time.

Before leaving, Robyn is reunited with her old friend Malcolm Taylor, who happens to be the scientific advisor brought in by UNIT. Except...he doesn't recognise her. And it's not because they haven't met yet - she knows they would be working together on a top secret project at this point in time - and Aru is able to tell with her psychic abilities that his memory hasn't been tampered with. So what gives? And, as they're leaving in the TARDIS, Pan has a vision of herself apparently fighting to the death against Malik. There was another thing that happened, but that was between Malik's player and myself. Suffice to say, character arcs are starting to emerge now, so yay!

Then yesterday was Saturday GUGS again, and as I mentioned I had been planning to run my one-shot of Monster of the Week, but one of the players was taken ill and I felt it wouldn't be fair on him to run without him, since they'd all made characters together the week before. So it was more of the same this Saturday, playing Chez Greek, Cthulhu Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx. We also played a bit of Liar's Dice. After GUGS, Heather and I played a short two-player game of Pandemic, which ended badly for us when the outbreak counter reached the maximum.

We also watched the last couple of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there's been a bit more development on the main season arc as well as Skye's character arc. I was also really concerned that one of the main characters who I've grown to like was going to die; despite Joss Whedon not being as involved in the creative process, I still expected his usual habit of killing off loveable characters to surface. I suppose the fact that I was worried about the fate of one of the main characters means I'm now invested in the series, despite earlier misgivings.

We also watched up to episode 21 of Attack On Titan which once again demonstrated its ability to keep us hooked with cliffhanger after cliffhanger, as well as its trend for introducing likeable characters before brutally killing them off. I did feel the assumptions the military and Armin make about the intelligent Titans were a bit of a leap; sure, they're saying what the audience is thinking, but would the characters jump to those conclusions as well? I'm not so sure. Despite that though, I am still enjoying the series. Episode 21 ended on a nasty cliffhanger, but we had to stop there because we were falling asleep on the couch. So, I'll just have to wait until our next TV/film night to see what happens next.

So that's everything that I've been up to since the start of the month, I'll try and be on time with the update next time. See you later!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

[Geekly Weekly + NaNoWriMo Report] NaNoWriMo Day 1, Chez Greek, Catan and other stuff...

It's been a week or two since I posted a Geekly Weekly Report, and I'm posting it today instead of Sunday because I'll be combining these reports with my NaNoWriMo updates, which I'm going to be posting on Saturdays because the last day of November is a Saturday. So that means I'll be posting my last update on the last day of NaNoWriMo, which works out quite nicely. I'll be writing these combined reports on Friday evenings, after I've filled my NaNo writing quota for the day, so it will cover geekiness from the previous Saturday up until Friday. Anyway, enough rambling about how I'm going to schedule these posts, lets talk about my NaNo progress, and what geeky stuff I've been up to since last Saturday.

NaNoWriMo: Day 1
As of about 11pm last night, I'm sitting on 4020 words, and it turns out I've exceeded the word count estimates for the scenes I've written. For the number of scenes I wrote last night, I expected to have written 2250; I actually finished up with almost double that, so that's a great start to the month's writing, I think.

I bought some more books on my Kindle: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (which is next in my A to Z reading challenge list) and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, which I'd heard of via the Writing Excuse podcast (and it was on sale for less than £1, so I figured, why not?).
I also ordered the copy of Pandemic 2nd Edition that I'll be putting on the line in my wager for this year's NaNoWriMo. Hasn't arrived yet, but when it does I'll be passing it on to Heather for safekeeping until I win.

Achievements Unlocked
First of all, I showed up at Saturday GUGS all prepared to run the pre-written scenario I want to playtest for Monster of the Week. Unfortunately, GUGS was pretty quiet on Saturday, and a lot of the people who were there had their own stuff to do. So instead of running MotW, I ended up playing some board and card games with Heather and Sandy. We started out playing Chez Greek - which is supposed to be a variant of Chez Geek, but I failed to see where the 'Greek' part came in - and that was more fun than I thought it would be going in. 

The idea is that you're a student at university, trying to slack off as much as you possibly can. You get a Major - which is basically like your Class card from Munchkin - which determines how much free time and income you have, and how much slacking off you need to do to win. The Major card also gives you a special ability that will help you out during the game. You have a hand of cards which you can play during your turn. There are People (who you can roll a dice to 'call' and ask to hang out, or play against other players if that person gives negative Slack), Activities (you can play as many of these as you have Free Time and if your Income allows you to afford the cost), Things (which you can buy if you have the Income and use some of your Free Time for shopping), and Whenever cards which can be used anytime to aid you or hinder other players. There are also special Whenever cards called Week cards, which affect everyone and remain in play until a new one replaces them. (So if it's midterms you have less Free Time because you've got coursework to get on with.) It was a lot of fun, even if some parts of it did give me some bad university flashbacks.

 After Chez Greek, we decided to play some Settlers of Catan. I'd only ever played Catan once, back when I first started roleplaying, and didn't really enjoy it all that much, but I decided to give it another shot after seeing it on Tabletop and thinking it looked more fun than I remember it being. I don't know why exactly, but after playing it a second time I found I actually enjoyed it a bit more than I did the first time. It was a bit of a slow starter, what with us trying to get to grips with the rules, but once we knew what we were doing I found I really enjoyed it. Even though it's a competitive game, there's less of a competitive feel about it than there is in other games. Sure, there are opportunities to screw over the other players when you move the Robber - but that's something you have to do, and if there's no unoccupied territory to move him to...well, nothing you can do about that, right? - and play certain Development cards, but you still need to trade with the other players, so you still want to stay on their good side to some degree. I probably won't buy the original Settlers of Catan, but I might pick up the Star Trek edition, because a) it's Star Trek and b) there's no wood in that version, so that will cut down on the dirty jokes, which got a little old after the first hour.

Moving on to Tuesday, I ran my game of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space and it became our first two-parter of the season when we ran out of time and I had to end on a cliffhanger. This week, an alarm on the TARDIS warned the party of an imminent 'reflection collapse' forcing them to land near an old-fashioned boarding school in modern day Britain and find a way into the dimension that exists on the other side of every mirror. Once there, they encountered a living crack which was infesting peoples' reflections and taking control of them (the reflections, that is, not the people), and a little girl who was imprisoned here by the Doctor to act as the dimension's guardian for her heinous crimes. They also found that when they crossed over into the mirror dimension their reflections crossed over into their own dimension. And the gadget they used to crossover got destroyed during a clash with the Shattered Reflections. Also, the living crack - which named itself the Shattering, merely for the convenience of the PCs limited tongue - intends to find a way to cross over into the primary dimension, which would probably be bad. And then the session ended with half the party trapped in a science lab while looking for parts to rebuild their Dimensional Pathfinder, with one of the Shattered Reflections, and the others left outside the room after the door was slammed on them. So, yeah, fun times were had by all. Well, I hope it was fun for all. 

Then, on Wednesday, I attended the NaNoWriMo kickoff party in Glasgow. There was the usual 'pimp-my-plot' game, where everybody wrote down their plot ideas for NaNo and then they got passed around the table for everybody to add their own ideas. I also met up with one of my old RP buddies and we discussed some of our plans for our respective games. Shona didn't reveal too much about her own Laundry campaign - because there's a chance she might have space for me in it, and I'm going to work out if I can afford an extra bus (and possibly subway) trip to Glasgow for it - but she did point me towards a rather intriguing (and disturbing) link which I might try and use for my own campaign. I also ran some of my ideas for season arc stuff in my Doctor Who game, and she seemed to approve, so YAY. 

We had to leave at about ten because the power went out for the block that the cafe venue was in, and I decided to just catch my bus rather than joining the others at an alternative venue, but it was great seeing people and discussing the month of insanity which lies ahead of us.