That promised ‘every three days’ schedule isn’t really working out, is it?
Let me explain, and then perhaps your ire will be cooled, a little. Not that it should go entirely unspent; content was promised you, and has been withheld, and certain dues must be paid and reparations made if that’s to be forgiven. I hope that comes to pass, in time.
The thing is, I moved house two months ago in order to get busy. Work was drying up, and if I were to continue the practices of eating food and living indoors (practices for which I confess a certain ingrained fondness, born out of habit as much as actual value), not to mention keeping Hark in Goblins and hair dye and whatever else she subsists on (tea and pastries, mostly, it seems), I had to seek out a fresh wellspring.
It hath been sought, and it hath gushed. I have written at least two dissertations’ worth of exemplary material for various bodies in the last two months; I have taught a young man half a century of social history in a week, amending the damage done to him by the professional neglect of others; I have regular invigilation work, and an evening class to teach.
I have also been playing games, shocking as this assertion may appear to you.
Any given week pans out with a game or two of Warmachine at its head. I’m playing in a Slow Grow league up at Dark Sphere, recognising in my well-concealed heart that painting my Mercenaries was not going to happen unless some reward rested upon my doing so. It’s going quite well – the gaming, and the painting too.
On the painting table, I’m attempting to pile up weathering techniques and defeat my previous Mercenary army for sheer character. So far I’ve been experimenting with salt crystals, water, layers of paint and a stiff brush to produce chips that are actually chipped, rather than painting on after the fact.
I also have ambitions involving the customary upwardly-flicked layers of muck on the feet, shields et cetera, and ground charcoal for soot on those parts of the models where fumes and foulness are to be expected. Furthermore, I’m planning at least two theme forces within the collection, colourschemes to match – this dark, vaguely Prussian blue affair for Magnus and his ex-Cygnar colleagues, and a richer, royal purple for the two Vanguards, many of the solos, and this gorgeous bit of stuff, once she’s released. It occurs to me that I might be legitimately accused of playing Cygnar without sullying myself by actually playing Cygnar; at this stage I’m not willing to deny the accusation.
On the battlefield I’m two for two so far, though both victories were close and more down to errors of judgement on my opponents’ parts than any competence on mine. I am quite impressed with the list so far, though. Given that models already painted are off-limits for the duration (unless stripped and re-done from scratch), and that my Renegades are both already done, I’m leaning to play the Warlord without them. It might be thought of as a fool’s errand, but so far I’m thinking not; it’s encouraging me to get him upfield rather than pretend he’s from Cryx and hang back relying on nodes and shells to do the dirty work, and he’s not half bad in a punch-up if he can just put a move on and get there.
Mr. Croe and his partners in crime are mostly incompetent, but with occasional glimmers – the elimination of a key solo by Croe himself, or a hail of shots into Kovnik Joe, which he palms off onto the buffed-up Winter Guard that nothing in my army would ever hit if it targeted them, have warranted their presence in both games. Of greater significance are the Mule and Nomad: the one has yet to land a direct hit, but its drifting shots appear blessed by some Scion in return for dark favours; the other relishes Magnus’ ‘jack bond, rampaging about cleaving things up with four focus and the wild abandon of something that’s still cheap enough to be disposable. Would I rather spend those six points on a Renegade? I don’t know. I think the combination of extra focus, Backstab and Shred is a promising one, but I also think a bonded, Backstabbing Reach heavy might make an interesting choice of Reinforcement for a Bad Seeds Theme Force.
We’ll find out, I suppose; I’m hammering epic Magnus so I don’t embarrass myself at Live and Let Fly. Tickets for the Warmachine tournament are almost gone; the Magic event is, I believe, still accepting; there will be demonstrations of other games afoot all day. Frankly, if you’re in Ross-on-Wye that day and interested in either the playing of games or the supporting of the Air Ambulance and MacMillan Nurses, you should pop over anyway. Bring spare money; we’re auctioning again, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ and by ‘auctioning’ I mean ‘heckling people until they give all their money to charity’. Hopefully this year I won’t be so foolish as to overcaffeinate, underhydrate, and give myself heatstroke before the auction’s even over. We shall see.
I’ve also, for my sins, been playing Warcraft again. It seems that I’ve found a new lease of life in that department, too. Rather than attempting to interest myself in endgame content because it’s what people I was rolling with had tied themselves to, I’ve cut some ties, transferred some characters, and am once again rocking things up Horde-side. Furthermore, something very strange has happened; I’ve found an exemplary RP guild, who are putting out a quality of play which knocks for six some of the tabletop groups I’ve been involved with. The standard of play is requiring me to flesh out my characters as characters, rather than backstories with a few quirks attached to them; I may go so far as to say some Feelings have actually been Felt.
It’s raised a pulse in my twitching creativity, too; there’s some prose fiction, some poetry (for which I apologise; Nivienne, my main RP character, is the sort of person to whom songs by The Pretty Reckless make perfect sense – I try not to encourage her, but it’s better for her than the drink would be), and I caught myself trying to sketch one of my characters on the train the other day. Sketch. I never sketch. I never draw if I can help it. I removed myself from art classes at the age of fourteen, with a vigour and glee that I’ve seldom been able to muster since. What the hell is happening to me?
(No, you don’t get to see any sketches yet. Them’s mine. Maybe when I’ve gotten the hang of anatomies and perspectives a little bit more, hmm? I’m sure this uncharacteristic burst of artfulness is bound to continue; learning a new art form, particularly a visual one – since I’m the sort of person who wanders around museums reading the placards rather than actually looking at things – is the sort of challenge I haven’t set myself in a long time.)
It’s an unaccustomed thrill, this playing in other people’s RP events rather than mastering my own; I certainly have plans for the new-to-me medium of WoW RP, but they’re going to wait until I’m a bit surer on my feet, and until the current guild activities have been played to the hilt.
In the meantime, I’ve been taken back to Constantinople. The Dark Ages Vampire game is lurching and twitching into life again, with a six-month jump in the action to the actual fall of the city after six months’ siege. Many of the city’s vampires, sensing the end, have been getting out while the going’s good or called away to conflicts elsewhere; those who remain are too proud, too invested in the city, or simply too stubborn to high-tail it out. In the absence of many elders, the player characters are drifting toward centre stage; they’ve only been eight months dead, but are already recognised as holders of domains and persons of status and responsibility, at least temporarily. It remains to be seen how well this will hold up after the fires have come.
We’ve been running this ‘un over Skype, since half the group are still Wolverhampton-based. Sessions have been short, thus far, but that’s probably good; it keeps us focused and lets us gradually acclimatise back into the loop of playing these PCs and NPCs. We’ll probably go for a longer weekend session at some point, to cover the actual business and workings of the siege.
One advantage of running over the PC is the ease with which ephemera like rules, maps and images of characters can be shared. I have a Dropbox account, which is gradually filling up with maps of Constantinople, illustrations of armour and costumes, pictures of Isabelle Adjani – in a moment of weakness, I gave her lovely aesthetic to Mary the Black, which at least gives me an excuse – and of course rules material. Handing this stuff out at least means we all have a visual reference for what’s where and who’s who, which helps to manage some of the issues created by not running games for people in the same room. I still think I prefer the tactility of actually having gamers together, spellbound by the play in hand (shut up, it’s like that when it’s good, and I’ll take three weeks of ironic chitchat if I can have the occasional moment that moves the group to tears…), but… this’ll do. Mostly.
One thing that Skype has brought to my attention – we’re all too Frugal to shell out for Skype Pro, and Google Plus is proving ill-suited to the networking limitations of my new home – is how much work my face and gestures do when I’m GM-ing. When I’m a creature of voice alone, the work of characterising an NPC becomes a good deal harder. I can voice-act competently from a script, but having to improvise, and improvise everything through my voice or stop-start to give descriptions of gesture and expression, is proving more of a challenge than I’d thought. The WoW is helping; the medium is limited entirely to typed dialogue and descriptions, plus a few provided emotes for the most universal or absurd of gestures, and it’s forcing me to use my Words, and blow the dust off a once-fearsome descriptive prowess. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been writing again? It would seem logical.
Anyway, that’s why I’ve not been blogging very often of late, and not really having much inclination to – but I think, with three authors, most of whom can talk FOREVER, we don’t quite have to shut the doors just yet. GAME OVER is now moving to a weekly update schedule – one post every Sunday sounds good to me, Sundays are boring and some semi-intelligent thoughts about gaming, expressed and length, would certainly help keep me going. Forget the routine of posters; it’ll be me, Hark or Lex, whoever has something coherent and interesting to say.
Oh, and on that note – my new series at the House of Paincakes is called Games Anatomy, and receives a new post every Saturday, in which I stake out the basic mechanics of the RPGs I like/dislike and then explain why I like/dislike them. Give that a read if you can’t get enough of me.