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The Failings Of D&D

I may get a bit “ranty” about Dungeons & Dragons, it’s the system I learned to role-play with, it’s the backbone of some of my greatest creations, and yeah I’m prepared to admit that it’s the game that changed my life. I have dabbled in other systems, run a few of them, modded some for my own purposes, and even had a stab at creating some* but I am under no illusions that it is the perfect system.

I know so many people who are simply no longer interested in D&D itself. Either they’ve embraced Pathfinder and never looked back, or perhaps Savage Worlds, Exalted, Big Eyes Small Mouth, some people actually enjoy GURPS. And it’s certainly not because D&D is a bad system, but it has some serious gaps in the kind of stories and styles of gameplay it can support. (more…)

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E3 – A Brief Moment To Get Excited

My interests over the last few years have rather shifted onto tabletop rather than video gaming, a trend you might have noticed. And after years of false promises, over promising, console spitting-fights, and months and months of disappointing results, E3 is starting to get something of a yoke over its shoulders. What should be a time of exhilaration and optimism is held down by burdensome negativity that is simply not the fault of the expo.

But… (more…)


What Is Alien?

We were very excited about NASA’s recent discovery of organic matter on Mars, stronger evidence than we have ever had of the presence of life in the red planet’s history, and perhaps even now. And sure, that life is nothing more complex than a light dusting of bacteria, but it’s hope for a future off-world, and even more incredible, it cements the notion of alien life. That’s life within our own solar system, so it’s no Faster-Than-Light travelling alien sapience that look like somebody’s been gradually improving the same sloppy prosthetics job over the last couple of decades, but it’s a start.

Science fiction writers have considered the possibility of how our interaction with alien life might go. Though the real tragedy is that the War of the Worlds destruction-by-disease is the most likely outcome, we can dream. Here’s a rough breakdown of the more optimistic possibilities. (more…)


UKGE 2018 – Best Bits

UKGE was huge this year, and Chris and I were two incredibly busy people all weekend, it’s a wonder either of us had chance to talk to the other. In fact if we hadn’t perhaps we’d have seen everything, played more games, chatted with more developers, designers, dug into the playtesting tables to find some new nugget of talent among the up and coming game designers who find their break at events like UKGE, or refine their ideas to try again next year, and maybe we’d have squeezed in a few more seminars.

Perhaps we’d have found the fabled “Press Area” that we’re reliably told exists somewhere. (more…)


UKGE 2018 – An RPG Heavy Year

This weekend (1st to the 3rd of June) was UKGE, which saw a tremendous turnout of nearly 22,000 geeks and nerds, a dramatic increase on last year and it showed in the density of packed halls of the NEC on the Saturday. Even the Friday was a bustling affair, with space enough to breath and manoeuvre, but every stand was still surrounded and occupied with interested punters, tables filled with gamers.

For me, this year was all about the RPGs. I went in knowing that I wanted to meet up with Will from Inked Adventures, whose gaming accessories I recently reviewed, and whose designs I also incorporated into the design of the Shropshire Dungeon Master business cards. I also had the opportunity to meet up with Creighton Brockhurst from Raging Swan (I may have mentioned I’m a fan) to talk writing and role-playing for half an hour between shopping and seminars. (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury May ’18 – May The GeekOut Be With You

Y’know what, I need to start writing down some of the quotes that crop up at GeekOut Shrewsbury. Then never quoting any of it on the website; this is supposed to be accessible to all ages and you people have dirty minds. Some of these games are for families, and there were young minds present, fortunately not old enough to be impressionable.

I’m at UKGE this weekend, so expect some images of that to come, for now here’s a catch-up on Thursday’s GeekOut Shrewsbury.

(more…)


On Practice

Recently I got into a brief conversation on the nature of practice. In fact it’s a topic that keeps popping up lately, someone else I know was crowd sourcing ideas on how to get in to writing when you lack confidence in your ability to do so, and I found myself considering some advice that works for me, but might not be all that great for anyone else. Here’s what I didn’t say:

“Write. Keep writing. Don’t stop until you hate yourself for doing it. Then stop, because tomorrow you’re going to do it again.”

I have forgotten the last day I spent without writing anything, I carry a notebook in my manbag, I have a notepad installed on every mobile device I own, at work I carry notepads that get consumed faster when writing notes than on actual work related purposes, and even when I’m ill, or depressed, I’ll excise my frustration through words, or simply force myself to put pen to paper, hand to keyboard, black to white in some form so that I can say “today I created something”.

It works for me, I’ve looked back over some of my old work and, while I appreciate a lot of the ideas behind some of my old pieces – even on GeekOut – I still mark several differences in my writing style since I began. Even now I’m writing this at… let’s see, 00:51, ten-to-one in the morning, having woken up at an obscene hour to start the day, desperately constructing a quiz for tomorrow’s (today’s) GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet, printing the bomb defusal manual for Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, and getting the daily duties done like eating a real meal and not just coffee and another cookie.

I do it because it makes me productive. It forces me to strive, and to accomplish, to complete projects that I set out to achieve, like the books I’m working on, the company I’m trying to set up, something more than watching all of Deep Space 9 so that I can draw judgemental comparisons to Babylon 5. And dammit I have kept to my schedule of work, producing regular content for GeekOut, beavering away at side-projects, and getting things done.

I wrote the comment above, and deleted it, in that dramatic “hold down the backspace button even though you don’t have to” fashion. Why would I encourage someone wanting to enjoy an old hobby to dive so fanatically into it in the way I have? If they had the mad devotion to writing I have then surely they wouldn’t need the advice, and if they take that advice they’ll soon lose interest in writing.

I don’t draw for example. I can draw, and I’ve no doubt I could get good at it if I devoted myself to the task, but why would I do that when a quiet doodle every now and again helps me relax after a month of hard written work? I enjoy it enough, and tend to destroy my sketches once they’re done to my satisfaction, but I take no pride in the work or set much store by the end product. It is fun.

Ultimately, if you enjoy something enough that you are willing to exhaust yourself to do it, then you are going to get good. That goes for writing, drawing, programming, the physical activities, or even public speaking. Bur don’t motivate yourself out of a good thing. Keep your hobbies as just that, and only let your passions consume you.

… Yeah, that’s what I should have wrote at the time!


The Shropshire Dungeon Master Update V – British Ironwork Centre

So, it’s a busy week at the moment, and not looking likely to get quieter for some time. Part of the mad dash has now been and gone as of this Saturday, Dungeons & Dragons played at the British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry, in support of Hope House and Severn Hospice, a pair of local healthcare charities.

This is an event I’ve been working towards for some time, in fact there have been a lot of elements of setting up the business that have rather fallen by the wayside alongside the preparations for this, this week’s GeekOut Shrewsbury meet, and UKGE, and fighting off the classically bad-timed mental health episode. Interest in the event was incredibly high, although actual engagement was low, and attempts to fill up the table for the day were tough, and while a few people who secured spaces were sadly unable to join us, those who played were truly fantastic. (more…)


Review – Hidden Folks

Here’s an old idea made new, another game derived from a series of puzzle-books, but this time instead of choose-your-own-adventure games, this time it’s a hidden object game a-la Where’s Wally (that’s Waldo if you’re across the Atlantic), the classic red and white master of hiding in plain sight, the must-have test of your children’s observation skills and patience.

Hidden Folks seizes the concept and turns it into something that is both addictive and strangely adorable. Layers of interactivity, vast scenes in which to seek tiny details with dozens of similar-looking items scattered everywhere, it’s wonderfully simple, and drives you back day after day for just one more game. (more…)


Jeffrey Combs!

I’ve been devouring my way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine of late, and it’s rekindled an unexpected fondness, and a habit of mind to pay respect and homage to those lesser known actors who deserve nothing but the utmost deference. Today, Jeffrey Combs, a regular on Star Trek in a wide variety of prosthetics and make-up, but also a face that appears in considerably less make-up across a wide variety of science fiction and horror films and TV shows. (more…)