Sunday, November 30, 2008


DragonMeet 2008

The worst part of DragonMeet is that it is always over for another year so quickly. I know it's not practical for a one-day convention to start before 10am or end after 6pm but, still, it's not long enough. Thankfully, the franchise is being extended next year and will appear in Swindon (March) and maybe a couple of other places.

Today started well - I'd bought a ticket in advance and reached the hall at 9:30am. This year was well organised - they'd handed out "goody" bags and ripped our ticket stubs while we were in the queue, allowing us to speed through to the all-important game sign-up sheets.

The first game I put my name down for was Call of Cthulhu. "I know you", said the person signing their name below mine and Dominic de Bechi introduced himself. I hadn't heard from him since he was a subscriber to my Green Goblin fanzine back in the late 80s and early 90s. All I could remember was that he came from Wolverhampton - postal addresses are the sort of thing that stick in the mind when you write a fanzine. With him was Charles Hammond who I'm sure read a few of the issues too. Nice to see people that I've known from years ago are still active in the hobby.

The game itself was a moonbase rescue mission where communication had been lost and we needed to investigate what had happened, maybe rescuing the dozen miners in the process. Simple props, like photos of the base, no doubt taken from a film or computer gane, really helped atmosphere (of which there isn't too much on the moon - b-dum tish). Roleplaying had an added challenge when my character ended up as a paranoid brain-in-a-jar, a pleasant change from being eaten by creatures of another dimension. Great fun overall although we seemed to end earlier than expected. Maybe we ran away screaming (some of us carried) too efficiently.

With time on my hands (and all the sandwiches I prepared last night consumed), I went shopping but bought no dice, games or rulebooks. I did, though, take up David Griffith's offer of a £5 signed print at the long artist's table at the back of the trade hall. The unhallowed beholder lich looked a perfect inspiration for my Ascent D&D campaign. I just need little creature ideas like this every now and then to provide the root for a whole tree to grow from. At the moment I am nurturing copses of young trees - growing a forest takes such a lot of time and, more importantly, focus.

Here's a picture of the miniature figure that David drew for Wizards alongside a scan of the print:

After interrupting David's work on a large sketch long enough to buy a print, I moved on to Linda Pitman, an artist who'd had work appear in Mongoose-published products. I didn't buy anything - even the black dragon sketch - bit I did have a nice chat and a promise to check out her website at

The rest of the table seemed to be taken up by the Horsley family (where I expect even the baby is a dab hand [I'm sure a joke is trying to get out there]) but Ralph was busy so I started another fruitless search round the trade hall for cheap 3rd ed D&D books I didn't already have. I expect that the traders have managed to dump a lot of their stock since 4th ed was announced in May. To be fair, there aren't many 3rd ed books I do need, which is an obvious problem for any business. There are a lot of D&D books on top of the beer fridge and the plastic crates containing them are now full. I'm slightly worried that more purchases will crush the fridge. Good thing the floor in that room is concrete.

I did pick up an Xmas present for someone - maybe they'll like it. Even if they don't, I'm sure I'll benefit from the purchase anyway, having tried it out.

Back to the game signup desk for the afternoon lists, I notice a full Paranoia game. This was a great disappointment to me as I look forward to playing this game. Not many conventions have people running it so DragonMeet is where I get my fix. Denied. The programme did have a mention in the table assignments - I should have been more thorough. Looking at the signup sheet, the 6 names all seemed in the same handwriting so it looked like a group of six friends had bagged the prize. Maybe this was the same sextet that had turned up for the morning Cthulhu game I was in - the organisers (or somebody, anyway) had put out two different sign-up sheets for the same game.

So, instead, I tried a Burning Wheel King Arthur session (run by Paul Drussel) where the main historical characters (Guinevere, Morgana, Mordred, Lancelot, Palamedes, Urien, and Sir Percival (the 8th player didn't turn up so Merlin was an NPC)) are competing with each other to bring the Holy Grail to the King (or not). The game started with everyone coming upon the location of the relic in an enchanted forest simultaneously. A game of tag then ensued as characters got in each others' way. My Morgana even used her witchery on Mordred to stop a fight between him and his step-father, Urien. Tactically a bad move although maybe in character. After a chase through the woods to Camelot and negotiating our way past Merlin, we all eventually reached the throneroom where the disgraced Lancelot handed over the Grail to the King. Sadly my attempts to poison the celebratory wine to allow me to take all the credit came to nought.

The game mechanics I found a little heavy on the dice - you do need a small bucket of six-siders to play this, depending on the character's attributes. I have a natural aversion to games that just use d6 as they remind me of tabletop army games, which is kind of funny. At least it doesn't make me feeling like I'm LARPing.

One aspect of the rules which was interesting was the attempt to tie storytelling and dice-rolling together. For a complex situation, such as getting past Merlin, a series of "attacks" would be chosen (such as 'rebuttal'), each with a short sentence explaining what the character was saying or doing. Eventually, the verbal contest would result in one side or the opther conceding. Apparantly this system is useful when roleplaying the encounter instead may drag on for way too long. I've seen enough of those in my time so maybe it's a good compromise.

To be continued...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I've given my Xbox a blog.

Well, more accurately, my GamerTag. So whenever I defeat some game and reap the achievements, the world will know!



12 points above Reading.

Here's the 2nd tier table arranged by points rather then position to give you a feel for how well Wolves are REALLY doing.
It must be 20 years since we had such a great start (and then "only" 42 points in the same number of matches).
Before the bleak wasteland of the Hayward era...

46 Wolves
43 [[BIG SPACE]]
40 Birmingham
--- Automatic promotion, no questions asked ---
34 Reading {boo, hiss}
31 Sheffield United
30 Burnley
29 Cardiff,
--- Play-off agony and despair ---
28 Swansea, Preston, QPR
27 Ipswich
26 Crystal Palace, Bristol City
25 Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday
24 Coventry, Barnsley
21 Blackpool
20 Norwich, Southampton
19 Watford
--- Doom and gloom ---
16 Charlton
14 Doncaster
13 Nottingham Forest


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Woodley Reindeer

The Winter carnival in Woodley is pretty much what you'd expect for a small town - stalls selling bits and bobs for presents, second hand books, burgers, and what-have-you, some small-time musical entertainment from the back of a lorry, and a grotto for Santa.

The last bit was for us the main attraction and what convinced us to walk into to town as we fancied seeing the advertised reindeer.

Did you know reindeer meat is very tasty? Sadly there was none on sale today.

Also, reindeer food (dried lichen) looks exactly like packing material and makes you wonder at first if they are eating the wrong thing by accident.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Kazakhstan ... denied.

Sadly, just like my failed trip to Novosibirsk, a potential customer site visit to Kazakhstan has fallen through.

As I was unsure of what to expect (if the trip had gone through) I did perform some research - basically spamming my colleagues at work - and thought I would share my findings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Solid Space

I'm slowly ripping old audio cassettes to MP3 so that they are no longer lost to our listening pleasure. It's pretty tedious - about an hour a tape including all the editing and messing about. Should be all over by the start of the London Olympics.

Got as far as Solid Space's "Space Museum", a tape I bought after seeing it mentioned in 2000AD back in 1982. It's a classic album and one we loved listening to (and still do). So I had a look on the Internet - as I have done occasionally over the years to see if it's mentioned anywhere - and, amazingly, someone has put a track up on YouTube. Even eBay has the tape on sale and some kind pirate has ripped the tracks to MP3 for me to download. Christmas has come early!

It's only recently that I've become aware of the literary influences behind the songs. I've taken them at face value, interpreting them as I saw fit at the time (a geeky teenager into SF and Cthulhu) so maybe quite differently to that intended by the band. For example, "New Statue («Morning Song»)" is part of Sylvia Plath's poem about motherhood set to 80s synth music.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Still 100%

I don't buy and sell on eBay as often as I used to but it's nice to keep the rating climbing (up 132 over the last 12 months).

100% over the last 12 months means no negative feedback. (In fact this is 100% since I started but eBay's statistics only cover the previous year.) Shows what working in customer support does for your attitude.


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