Monday 30 November 2009

Dragonmeet 2009 - Photo Report

Well that's it for the year, my last convention of 2009. Here are a selection of pictures from the event. First off a view of the main hall from the balcony. It was quite busy this year even though I arrived late (thank you, TFL engineering works). The number of traders seemed about the same as last year but I noticed much more variety in the range of traders present. The foyer was also busy with lots of boardgames and card based games on display. I took several pictures of the Participation games including this Battlestar Galactica game.There seemed to be a lot of boardgames at this years show including this intriguing looking game, Kamisado.There was also a preview copy of the new 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay on display. The box looked packed full of items and the artwork was rich and inspiring... but at a RRP of £80 a little rich for my wallet.Also present were various LARPers which added a colourful feel to this varied event. These two were handing out cards for the Phoenix Games Club which ran several RPG participation games during the day.

I enjoyed this years event more than previous years, mostly because of the variety of games being demonstrated. I didn't spend much this year but spent more time talking to traders and getting a feel for the state of the industry. The Credit Crunch certainly doesn't seem to have dampened creativity with lost of new products launched this year or planned for next year. In fact this very subject was discussed by Carol Mulholland editor of Flagship in her last editorial. Carol was at Dragonmeet and I picked up a couple of back issues of this excellent independent gaming magazine from her stand.

All my photo's from this years event (33 in total) can be viewed on my Picasa page as usual by following this link.

Sunday 29 November 2009

The Plans of Mice and Men

I've not been very active on the painting/modeling front recently. Family life (and death) have been occupying most of my free time for the last few months. Most evenings have consisted of a round of phone calls and other chores and frankly by the time I'm finished, I'm finished, if you know what I mean. The final straw came when I sat down and made an accurate tally of the models I have painted so far this year. Here it is:

28mm Fantasy/Foot - 9
28mm Fantasy/Mounted - 1
28mm Fantasy/Creature - 1
28mm Fantasy/Terrain - 1

28mm Call of Cthulhu - 1
28mm Warhammer 40k - 1

15mm WWII/Infantry - 0
15mm WWII/Vehicles - 13
15mm WWII/Terrain - 8

That's a grand total of 35 models in a year. Pathetic! So this week I was determined to get back on track and do some painting.... I got as far as undercoating some models before the plan fell apart. Sigh.

Here's a link to my painted mini gallery, most of which date from this year. I'm making an early new years resolution to significantly add to this gallery over the next 13 months. After all the original reason for starting this blog was to encourage me to paint more. If I am to achieve that goal I need to pull my finger out and get busy.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Reveille 09

Tomorrow is Reveille 2. This is the Lincombe Barn Wargames Societies annual show in Bristol. The show will be held at Downend Folk House, Lincombe Barn, Overdale Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 2RW. Doors open at 10am with tickets at £2 for Adults, £1 for concesions and under 10's Free.

Confirmed Tradres include:

Friday 27 November 2009

Smoggycon 2009

A quick reminder that tomorrow (Saturday 28th November) is Smoggycon in Middlesbrough. Organised by the Middlesbrough Gamers Club this event opens at 10 am at the Southlands Leisure Centre. Admission is only 50p and the event will feature a Bring & Buy, Trade stalls, participation & demo games, a competition & Tournaments. There will be free car parking at the front of the Leisure centre.

For more info go to the clubs website where you can download a programme and map of the show.

Dragonmeet 2009

Tomorrow is Dragonmeet, my last Convention of the year. Dragonmeet 2009 will open its doors on Saturday the 28th of November 2009 at 10am. Once again Kensington Town Hall will be hosting London’s foremost roleplaying and collectable card gaming convention.

"Dragonmeet 2009 promises a day jam-packed with games for you to play. Whether you want old favourites or something new, there’s space for all and everyone can join-in; on the day you simply sign up for the games you want to play. "
This years special guests include:
  • Andrew Looney (Looney Labs)
  • Brennan Taylor (IPR/Galileo Games)
  • David Devereux (Author)
  • Erik Mona (Paizo Publishing/Pathfinder)
  • Gareth Hanrahan (Game Designer & Author)
  • Gregor Hutton (Game Designer; 3:16 - Carnage Amongst The Stars)
  • Jeff Richard (Moon Design)
  • Jon Hodgson (Artist)
  • Jonny Nexus (Author)
  • Linda Pitman (Artist)
  • Mark Barrowcliffe (Author)
  • Robin D. Laws (Author/Game Designer)
  • Simon Washbourne (Barbarians of Lemuria)
  • Stephen Deas (Author)

I'll be there, camera in hand, and will post my pictures on my return.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Thanks for Following

Today of course is Thanksgiving in the USA. Given that many of my readers are from the US I decided it was appropriate to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all my readers (and especially the Followers) for supporting my blog over the last 11 months. Your continued support and feedback has kept me motivated and is very much appreciated and welcomed.

Where ever you are I would like to wish you and yours a safe and memorable Thanksgiving.

Powerpoint Map Making

I've tried several purpose built programmes over the years to create maps of cities, towns and even whole campaign settings. Universally the ones I have used have been excellent, but very hard to learn. In fact I have often felt like I was training to acquire a new skill for work rather than knocking together a map for my D&D campaign. Although the end results looked amazing the amount of time and effort that had to be put in to achieve those results was massively disproportionate to their use in the game itself. One city map I made for instance took over 40hrs labour. That's work, not play.

Then I realised I could make relatively simple maps using nothing more complex than the drawing tools in Microsoft PowerPoint. Its surprising what you can achieve using just the basic shapes available. It may take a little experimentation and fiddling with the formatting of items etc but the results can be quite impressive. The main advantage of using such a simple system is it is quick and easy to learn and all that is needed is a little bit of creativity and patience. The other advantage is that once you have created one standard 'house' for instance you can copy and repeat it very easily.

Here are some examples of the sort of results I have achieved using PowerPoint. This was my map of the Bronze Citadel, a city of Hell for my last campaign. I didn't need individual houses just an overview of the regions of the city and the location of specific buildings and streets.

The second map is of Freetown a walled town on the Plains of the Abyss. I imported some small jpg's of buildings taken from other maps and then re sized and positioned them as needed. All the elements of a map made like this are easy to move and re size so its very easy to correct mistakes or evolve a map over a period of time.
Both maps only took an hour or less to create, much less than the equivalent in an established mapping programme. Yes they are basic and lack the artistry you'll get from a proper package but I'd rather be spending my time writing a good story than being a cartographer.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Gibberish in the Workplace

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a meeting at work with one of our long established clients. I was primarily there to advise on issues relating to billing and to take the minutes. The problem is my attention kept on wandering and I started making notes on proceedings as if I was making notes during a game. My handwriting is appalling at the best of times but during a game it gets worse, compounded by the abbreviations and symbols I use as my own personal shorthand. The end result looks like it was written by a very drunk spider writing in Russian or something.

Now I'm back at my desk and I have to interpret this gibberish. But unlike after a game (which I enjoy and remember vividly) I'm finding it hard to recall all the details. It would probably have helped if the meeting had involved a combat encounter or a skill challenge but the biggest challenge I faced was staying awake. I suspect the customer might not have been impressed if I'd pulled out my dice bag and got everyone to roll for initiative. Certainly the use of a +3 Vorpal Sword might have energised the meeting but I doubt if it would have won us any additional contracts.

So here I sit trying to write a Customer Contact Review. My notes are unintelligible, my memory clouded and try as I might I can't shake the temptation to record the XP and date of the next game at the bottom of my report.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Scary Pictures

This is 'The Croglin Vampire' painted by Les Edwards and its probably one of the scariest vampire pictures I have ever seen. I was first acquainted with this picture from the pages of the Call of Cthulhu RPG (2nd edition I think) and it gave me the creeps just as much back then as it does now. Like many great pieces of art there is a story behind this work.

The Vampire of Croglin Grange is one of the best known vampire stories in England and first appeared in print in a book by Augustus Hare in 1896. The story goes that just after the English Civil War (about 1650 ish) the Grange was let to 2 brothers and a sister (the Cranswells) and at first they loved their new home. However during the hot summer the sister took to sleeping with her shuttered window open, whereupon she was attacked and bitten by the Vampire. Her screams roused her brothers who chased the apparition away.

The next summer the incident was repeated and this time one of the brothers shot the creature in the leg and then tracked it back to a crypt in a nearby churchyard. Upon investigation a single undisturbed coffin was found to contain a corpse with a fresh bullet wound to the leg! The body was duly buried and the incident never repeated.

The story bears an uncanny resemblance to the first chapter of Varney the Vampyre the popular story by Montague Summers and originally published in 1847. Its possible that Hare 'borrowed' the story from the earlier work by Summers but as is the way with these things the story of the Croglin vampire has become woven into local myth and folklore. Either way it makes a good story and proved the inspiration for one of Les Edwards scariest paintings.

Monday 23 November 2009

The Stupid, It Burns!

You know who you are!


Wargames Illustrated 266

The December issue of Wargames Illustrated landed on my doormat this morning. This months issue is a Vietnam special and coincides with the release of a limited range of Flames of War Vietnam figures.

  • The opening article is The Battle of Ia Drang and is inspired by the book and subsequent film of the 7th cavalry action in this valley, We Were Soldiers.
  • Further articles in this issue provide FOW army lists for both the 7th Cavalry and the Tieu Doan Bo Binh infantry Batalion of the Peoples Army of Vietnam.
  • Hot L.Z. Mission is a a scenario for recreating an assault landing in a contested landing Zone.
  • The second scenario on offer is Indian Country Mission in which the troops on the ground need to hold out until their air support arrives.
  • The Ia Drang Battlefield focuses on the scenery and topography for replaying the battle.
  • AWI Unit Tactics is an follow on article from last months Special.
  • There are two painting articles in this months issue focusing on Painting Helicopters and Painting Uniforms for FOW Vietnam.
  • The Italians can Rob my Country when I am dead! is the first of a two part article about the Ital0-Ethiopian war of 1935-36
  • Colours 2009 a review of the show in Reading
  • Warning! This Hobby may contain nuts is a very funny look at the people and pitfalls of this strange hobby of ours.
  • The US FOW Nationals is a look at the event in Pennsylvania.
  • An Introduction to Dipping is, well, self explanatory.
This is probably the most FOW dedicated issue of the magazine since its relaunch under the ownership of Battlefront. However the quality and variety of the articles in this Special caught my interest. Focusing on one core theme each month does have its drawbacks but this issues focus on Vietnam definetly hit the mark for me.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Web Comics

I like web comics. I follow dozens of them, not all game related although most are. There is some great humor out there and here is a selection of my current favorites (the list is growing all the time).

The Unspeakable Vault of Doom is a quirky but very very funny Cthulhu Mythos inspired comic. True, stories of cosmic horror and tales of the old ones seem like a strange subject for comedy. But if you like your humor in five dimensions, this is the comic for you. If H.P.Lovecraft were still alive I think he would definatly approve of this tribute to his work.

The Order of the Stick is probably one of the longest running story arcs in comic form on the net. There are plenty of in-jokes about the rules and contradictions inherent in D&D that will make any player chuckle. There are also some great moments of slapstick guaranteed to make you guffaw - embarrassing if you're reading the strip at your desk in work. OOTS strips have been collected together into a series of excellent books (each with bonus material) which would sit nicely on any gamers shelves.

XKCD isn't a 'gaming' comic at all. Its mostly about maths and science but you'd have to be dead from the neck up not to enjoy the humor. One of my favorite strips has to be this tribute to Gary Gygax. As well as some great visual gags this strip is also full of excellent observational humor about the absurdity that is the human condition.

Billed as the Gamers comic strip it features the hapless Wargamer Larry Leadhead. Written with an insiders understanding of wargaming humor and sympathy for our poor dice rolls & shaky grasp of the rules. One of my favorites is why painters should never paint their last miniature. As with OOTS there are several book compendiums of Larry strips that you can purchase online. I feature a Larry Leadhead strip at the foot of this blog.

Another favorite of mine, and a web comic I have been following for years, is Dork Tower by John Kovalik, a fellow Brit now living in the US. John describes his comic thus "DORK TOWER is for anybody who’s ever played Dungeons and Dragons, who’s ever gone to a Star Trek convention, anyone who suspects that Anime is more than just a passing fad, or anyone who KNOWS one of these people." John has a large web presence with a Blog, a twitter page, and a Facebook page! He's also a very nice chap and not only signed my copies of his books but drew me a personal Igor portrait (my favorite character from the strip).

Last but not least are two comics, Nodwick and Full Frontal Nerdity, by Aaron Williams. Both have been around for a long time and, in the case of Nodwick, debuted in Dragon Magazine (issue #246 - April 1998). Nodwick is the long suffering Henchman in a disfunctional group of adventurers that most gamers will instantly recognise. Capable of carrying the huge ammounts of loot aquired by his companions nodwick is also employed to find (read 'trigger') traps. He spends a lot of his time being put back together again by the party cleric, Piffany, with the aid of large rolls of Duct tape.

There are lots of great webcomics that I also read (such as PVP and The Legend of Bill) but these ones are my personal favorites and keep me ammused (and sane) during the long dull work day!

Saturday 21 November 2009

The Friday Night Massacre Club

My gaming group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, met again last night and this time we resumed our D&D campaign. All our characters are perilously close to leveling up but our GM is notoriously tight with the XP.

We played at a different venue this time, at the GM's house in Rayleigh as opposed to my place in Dagenham. This isn't a problem but it does highlight the wide scattering of our players across London. It's something of a logistical nightmare trying to organise anything out of the ordinary for our group. Last Nights game for instance necessitated several rounds of texts and emails plus some last minute phone calls and three pickup points!

I'm not complaining (OK I am, but not in a negative way) because I think we have a good balance group and everyone gets on very well.

Our player characters have now entered the Temple of Orcus in a bid to defeat the Dark Elf and her Orc minions and rescue her halfling slaves. Our 'plan' (if you can call it that) is to destroy as many Orcs as possible before the alarm is raised and then to press on to the final kill. Our progression through the upper chambers of the Temple has been opposed but not in any organised way. Unfortunately the Shadowfell is close in this location and death brings it's own hazards.

Whenever we killed an Orc (and we were getting through them at a fair rate) the GM rolled a % dice... and when he rolled 10% or less the corpse was consumed by a Rot Scarab Swarm which then went on to attack our PC's. While the Orcs were easy to defeat the Rot Scarab Swarms were not. The end result was a tough and long winded fight as we splatted clumps of the swarm with hammers, shields and booted feet.

All in all a very fun evening as we went on a killing spree. And we leveled up to 5th so we all went home with a smile on our faces.

Friday 20 November 2009

Warfare 2009

Just a reminder that tomorrow is Warfare in Reading. The show will be held on 21st and 22nd November 2009 at Rivermead Leisure complex, Richfield Avenue, Reading. The two day show continues to be one of the UKs premier wargaming events with a wide variety of Competition games, 70+ Traders, Demonstration, Participation games and Society stands, plus a large Bring & Buy.

Entry is £4 and doors open at 10am. Check out the website here.
Unfortunately I won't be attending this event myself due to other commitments but I look forward to reading the show reports and looking at other gamers photo's after the event.

Inn the Tavern

Anyone who has ever played D&D will recognise the tavern as a regular launching point for a campaign. Even the one time I played a Sci-fi RPG it started in a tavern. Its become such an iconic plot devise it has almost taken on the aura of a cliche. But I think this is a great pity because I believe the Tavern or Inn as a location can be so much more than a place for meetings or a bar room brawl (fun as they are).

  • Give the Tavern a special character all of its own. The furniture, smell and decor make each bar a character in and of itself. Take the time to describe the interior of the bar and inject some well needed personality into the location.
  • As well as the inside give some thought to the outside of the building. The first impression of the players may give them some idea as to what type of establishment they will find within. A dark & dirty building hidden in a back street is not going to play host to the local rotary club. Similarly a bright clean busy tavern in the main street of a city isn't likely to be the base of operations for the local thieves guild.
  • Speciality food and drink can be a great way to add colour to a local Inn. After all aside from meeting your next employer one of the key reasons players go to a tavern is for food and sustenance between adventures.
  • Pretty much every bar I have been in (in the game world) had a great bear-like barman and a busty wench serving the drinks. Try to add a little variation by taking a stereotype and turning it on its head.
  • Make a tavern something beyond a glorified job centre. Lost of interesting things happen in a bar, not just adventurer recruitment. Meetings or business partners or long lost friends. Secret trysts between lovers or the plots of great houses. Old men warming their bones by the fire and young men listening to stories of adventure.
  • Gambling is a major pastime in any Tavern. Games of chance from many cultures will be played in dark corners or in back rooms and large sums of money may change hands.
  • An Inn is just as likely to be a place of commerce as it is drinking. Deals are being stuck, trade goods bartered and caravans planned. In a city tavern many of the patrons are more likely to be merchants rather than adventurers.
  • The Tavern is most likely the only public space in a small town or village that can be hired for meetings. Most reasonable sized Inns will have several 'function' rooms to rent. The players may want to hire a room to plan their next adventure or discuss their next move. All many of shifty deals and schemes may be hatched in the back room of a bar, away from the prying eyes of the Watch.

The Tavern has become a Cliche but this is because its such a versatile location. Hopefully this article has given you a few ideas for spicing up your local watering hole and reinventing the most used location of them all.

Thursday 19 November 2009

A Quiet Day

Not much to post today as I'm attending a family funeral and other than this quick post won't get near my computer till tomorrow. It's also likely that after the pub based Wake I'll not be in a suitable condition to write anything intelligible anyway. Normal service will resume when I sober up.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The Elephant

I recently read a translation of a fourteenth century Byzantine story called Entertaining Tales of Quadrupeds. Written in 1364 the author describes various beasts but for me the most interesting was the description of the Elephant:

"The Elephant then came to centre stage and he addressed the whole assembly thus; Just like a tower, safe and fortified, a fort impregnable, firm in the end, thus too stand I, robust beyond compare. Thus bastions are built on me, made of boards, and solid towers, also, out of wood, soundly fortified. Soldiers in those towers stand resolute, fiercely combat their foes, and overpower and defeat them all."
(Source: A Medieval Miscellany by Judith Herrin - Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999)

The description reminded me of a model I painted about 18 years ago. I'm not sure who made this model but I remember going to Oxford Street to buy it. Looking at it now its not a very animated war elephant but still a grand centerpiece. In fact I used it a couple of years ago in the climax of a D&D campaign as my players helped defend the city walls against an attack by Dark Elves and their undead allies.
The real War Elephant has been used continuously throughout history but especially by the Indians. They were also adopted by Aleksander (Alexander the Great) and are most famously associated with Hannibal and the Carthaginians. Useful for crushing infantry formations they were also used to break up cavalry charges, because horses hate the smell of them and panic in their presence.

A War Elephant could charge at 20mph and their thick hide and sheer mass made them invulnerable to all except the most experienced infantry. Even the disciplined soldiers of the Romans could not stand against an elephant charge, although they later adopted the tactic of severing the Elephants trunk to induce panic and cause the beast to run amok. Many cultures designed elephant Armour to protect the body and legs of the animal whilst it attacked the enemy. It was also common for a Howdah (the wooden structure described above) to be built and used as a mobile weapons platform. Often archers would shelter here but some armies even mounted heavy weapons such as large crossbow platforms (similar to the ballista) to fire long armor-piercing shafts to kill other enemy war elephants.

Aside from anti-elephant weapons other tactics were also used as a countermeasure against such seemingly unstoppable foes. Disciplined cavalry could induce an Elephant to panic but horses needed to be specially trained for this as the pachyderm smell often scared them. There is also one intriguing (if unverified) account of the use of War Pigs against elephants. Allegedly the squeal of a pig can induce panic in a group of War Elephants and on one occasion flaming pigs were supposedly used to disperse a besieging force that included a large contingent of the beasts!

There are lots of examples of War Elephants in miniature. Pretty much all manufacturers of Ancients miniatures do a version of such an important heavy weapon. Some of my favorites are the 15mm scale elephant by Corvus Belli and the 28mm one by Old Glory. Of course if fantasy (and Lord of the Rings in Particular) is your thing then you can't ignore the War Mumak of Harad by games Workshop.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Alternatives to Flock

I'm not sure how much gets spent by gamers each year on basing materials, but I bet its a lot. There are lots of manufacturers selling a wide range of materials for the modeler and wargamer. Some items (like 'leaves') are quite specialist but much of what we buy can be substituted quite easily for materials we have already in our house or garden. Here are a few unusual alternative basing materials for your miniature.

  • Cloth - Cloth with rough fibres can be glued onto a base to simulate carpet.
  • Matchsticks - Cut to size & glued flat then sanded they make nice looking floorboards, especially if you use wood stain to darken them.
  • Beach Sand - Its more irregular than processed sand and comes in a variety of colours
  • Small twigs - They need to be cleaned, thoroughy dried in an oven and then preserved with varnish. Once given a dull coat they look very realistic!
  • Animal bones - Some small bones can be recoverd from chicken carcuses. Even your Sunday Roast has a role to play in your hobby!
  • Bits of cheap jewelry - Don't tell the wife but her jewelry might make good base decoration. Small chains or even paste jewels can be used to enhance a model.
  • Beard Flock - As suggested by my daughter when I didn't shave for a few days. Not sure how practical this is but its and intriging idea - "grow your own flock"
  • Ground Coffee - Actual ground coffee beans not instant coffee. This has to be sealed properly once glued into place.
  • Tea leaves - Dry out your teabag and use the tealeaves as mock leaf coverage
  • Spices - (There's a theme going on here) - Oregano is a famous alternative basing material.
  • Vermiculite - An absorbant packing material that also makes great looking rocks.
  • Kitty Litter - Apparently these make good looking rocks. Make sure you use clean litter!

I've used of these (except the Kitty Litter) items at one time or another. They look good, they cost next to nothing and your recycling stuff that might otherwise end up in the bin. So do your bit for the environment and save the planet, one base at a time.

Monday 16 November 2009

Mind and Hearts Control

I've been on the lookout for some suitable Propaganda Posters that I can shrink down and use as detail on some 15mm buildings for wargaming with. In the process I have found that I'm rather partial to a bit of Propaganda. Especially when its done with humor. I found the following poster while idly browsing the Web and it has to be one of my favorite examples of the art from WWII.
The use of humor to convey what is in fact a very serious message is masterful in this poster. The image of Hitler in his Swastika boxer shorts both reduces him to the level of the man in the street (as opposed to some semi mythical monster) then humiliates him. The result is a very funny cartoon that conveys its message and bolsters moral in the same tidy package. The same can be said of this poster to promote the use of condoms.
Both posters are a world away from the stirring and patriotic images employed by Germany and the USSR during the war. But the use of black humor to convey a serious message seems to me to be a quintessentially British thing to do.

Blowing a Hoolie

Its windy outside right now. The weather is quite rotten even by British standards, which are pretty low. The wind is gusting and rattling the roof tiles and the rain is horizontal (not a good sign). Horrible as it is, this is also a good time to be inspired when writing a game. Weather is often an invisible factor in a game, much like encumbrance and light sources in dungeons. But it can actually make a game more interesting and give a location some much needed character.
  • Heatwave - Hot temperatures can make everything an effort. Layers of clothing such as leather armour can be unbearable to wear. Even at night it can be hard to get any rest reducing a characters reactions and effectiveness.
  • Severe Winds -Wind is noisy, impedes movement and makes almost any action harder to perform. In severe wind its almost impossible to create a fire without shelter.
  • Thunderstorm - The most obvious threat comes from lightening, especially if the characters are wearing metal armour! Lightening strikes can kill outright but even if it doesn't severe burns can be inflicted. Metal items such as jewelry can even be melted into the skin of the victim.
  • Fog - Fog or Ground Mists can reduce vision to a matter of inches. Its very easy to get lost or disoriented in such conditions and of course it is near on impossible to see an ambush or hazard until your nearly on it. Even sound can be muffled by thick fog making directional hearing very difficult.
  • Heavy Rain - Heavy rain reduces vision dramatically. The spray caused by heavy rain can even create a fog like effect reducing the range of effective sight to a few yards. Its also very noisy and will muffle all but the loudest sounds.
  • Wind & Rain - Combined you have a miserable situation for anyone caught outside. The windchill will drop temperatures and will force freezing cold water (in temperate climates) into every part of an adventurers gear. In Tropical climates cold isn't a factor but damp clothing will rot quickly unless dried thoroughly.
  • Flash Floods - Even if the sun is shining where the PC's are it might have been raining heavily somewhere else. If that was in the mountains for instance then the result can be flooding that literally comes out of nowhere with virtually no warning. That comfortable camp in the banks of a small stream might not be all that comfortable after all.
  • Cold - Cold can sneak up on the players during overland treks. What might be bearable conditions during the day can deteriorate into severe cold of an evening. Night time temperatures can be anything up to 10-15°C lower than daytime temperatures. The effect on a person will depend on lots of factors such as clothing, shelter, heat sources, altitude and activity levels.
  • Hail - Hail can be both noisy and painful. Usually hail is associated with ice cold rain or strong winds. Hail can be tiny but it can also be large and very painful if it hits exposed flesh. Extremely large hail can even cause serious injury to anyone not under shelter.
  • Hypothermia - Prolonged exposure to cold conditions can induce hypothermia. Rain and wind can accelerate the process. The effects can be reversed but not until the characters get warm.
The weather can turn a journey to a temple or lost dungeon into an adventure in itself. Certainly crossing the wilderness unprepared will never be an option your players take again after you have hit them with a storm in the middle of the night.

(There were several spelling and grammatical errors in the original post so I have corrected and re posted.)

Sunday 15 November 2009

In Flanders Fields

On Friday my eldest Daughter went to Ypres in Belgium with her school. Some parents were unhappy about this trip but I was glad the school didn't wimp out and water down the experience. I did WWI History when I was at school but the class next door – which included my future wife – skipped WWI in favour of "the History of medicine"… She managed to go through her whole school career without ever learning about either World War. Needless to say I was determined that this wouldn't happen with my kids.

I asked Sarah to write a few words about her trip and what it meant to her combined with some of her pictures.

"My trip to Ypres was one I’ll never forget. Although my stay at hill 62 was brief, it gave me an insight into life in the trenches that you can’t really get anywhere else. The trenches themselves have not been tampered with, and looking about some of the shell craters are so close that I can easily understand how terrifying it was. I definitely wouldn't have liked to live there for long, as most of it was submerged in a foot of water, in the dugouts the lighting is so poor, the footing is treacherous, and it’s so wet it wouldn't surprise me if there were a few broken ankles from the men who lived there.

I also visited Tyne Cot cemetery, were row after row of grave stones stretch back, many of which were nameless. It’s was one of the biggest eye-openers of the day, and it genuinely surprised me that there were so many headstones. I know that I, along with the rest of my classmates, found the entire experience moving, and I agree with my friend when she said that ‘Although it’s sad, this is the most peaceful place I have ever visited.’

We finished the day at Menin Gate Memorial, and although the gate is massive in size, every inch is covered in the names of soldiers whose bodies were never found. Before we left we laid a wreath of poppies by the gate and I was asked to read out a poem; we were not the first to leave a wreath, and I was glad to see the masses of poppies that were laid to remember the men who died here, even after all these years."

Saturday 14 November 2009

Writers Block

If you're a GM writing a game (or a gamer writing a blog) sometimes you will hit a brick wall. The ideas will cease to flow and getting the words out will feel like your trying to pass a gallstone the size of a rock. Writers block can strike at any time and is unmerciful in the face of a deadline. So how can you get round this? Here are a few tips I have used on several occasions to beat the dreaded blank page.

  • Brainstorm - Take the original idea and run with it. Grab a sheet of paper, write a keyword in the centre and write down all the words that pop into your head.
  • Take a break - Don't force it out, you'll do yourself an injury. Sometimes all you need is a break away from the page or keyboard. Take a short break and think about something else for ten minutes.
  • Keep a notebook - I always carry a notebook of some kind around with me. If I have a good idea I write it down. Often this will be a little as a title but it might also be more detailed notes on an encounter or plot theme.
  • Be Inspired - Play some music or look at some pictures or at rulebooks for inspiration.
  • Be Busy - Work on more than one thing at a time and flip between them when you get stuck. This change of tack fends off boredom and might throw up some unexpected crossover ideas.
  • Re-read your work - Sometimes going over what you just wrote can provide you with a fresh look at the concept you’re trying to communicate.
  • Write in Pencil - This is a strange one but I've done it, and it works. Write your last few sentences down on paper using a pencil and watch the words flow again. Changing your writing medium can unlock your mind and writing on paper is at a different speed and uses different parts of the brain to typing on a computer.
  • Surf the net - The Internet is a wealth of ideas and stimuli. Google random stuff, read blogs, look for pictures and just ramble through the strange other dimension that is the world wide web. Inspiration is just a click away.
  • Write about Writers Block - If all else fails write about writers block and how to overcome it.....

Above all remember this excellent quotation:

"At least half of all writing involves just sitting and staring into space. Letting your brain out to hunt down ideas, bringing them back all warm and bloody between its teeth."
(re quoted from WWdN: IN Exile)

Friday 13 November 2009

Leadbelt Wargames Convention

Tomorrow is the first Leadbelt Wargames Convention in Nottingham. The show will feature three tournaments - Flames of War: 1750 points Late War; Warhammer Ancients: 2000 points; and Warmachine: Steamroller 4 - 750 points.

Confirmed traders include Wargames Inc, Heresy Miniatures, Hasslefree Miniatures, Warlord Games, Instant Armies, Northstar Military Figures and Tumbling Dice.

Doors open at 10am and Entry is £3 (children £2).

Oh God O'clock

I've had to get up at an unspeakably early time this morning because my eldest daughter has a school trip to Ypres. They are visiting the preserved battlefield trenches and the Menin Gate Memorial. I'm not sure if they will be visiting the Tyne Cot Commonwealth war cemetery but I hope they do. Combined with the fact that it is the week of the Armistice ceremony I think this trip has the potential to make a real impact on children for whom WWI is ancient history. I've tasked Sarah with taking lots of photo's (I'm even trusting her with my camera) and I'll post any good pictures here after she returns. Now I'm going back to bed for a couple of hours!

Thursday 12 November 2009

Greedy Eyes

D&D Miniatures have become a central part of our game nights. Our current GM has been buying lots through EBay and recently decided to take the plunge and become a seller himself. The aim is to raise a little cash with his spare models to fund further purchases of specific miniatures for future games. Unfortunately he ran into a little 'local trouble'....

I was sorting through my "For Sale" models yesterday, and made the mistake of leaving the box where my son could see it.
Son - "Wow, are these the models you're selling, can I have a look?"
Evil GM - "Sure, but be careful with them"
Son - "Oh, I like this one (a Beholder Lich), that's really nice" (looks at me plaintively
Evil GM - “Yes, that is nice, but I'm selling it” - I'll get at least £5 for that.
Son - "Wow, this ones nice, I really like this one" (looks at me with big innocent eyes)
Evil GM - "Yes, that's a pit fiend, very rare" I will probably get between ten and twenty pounds for that
Son - “Ah, this one is fantastic, I'd really love this one”
Evil GM - “Yes, but they are all for sale son”…that's a Salamander Firetail, I'll probably get around £5 for that

At this point my son wanders off and I breath a sigh of relief. Then he comes back having counted £5 out of his money box "Can I buy that one dad..."

So now I feel really really mean! Obviously I refused to take his money, and try to steer his attention to something else. It's not that I don't want him to have nice models, it's just that at his age they are just stuff to play with, and the rarity and perceived value is irrelevant. He'd be just as happy with two 50p Troglodytes or Giant Centipedes.

I know I was being sensible not letting him waste his money, and if I am running this as any kind of a business I can't give my most valuable stock away just because he thinks it's a nice shiny thing... So why do I feel like such a heel?

I can foresee the day coming when he buys his own models and comes home one day to show me the Aspect of Orcus he's just found. And when he refuses to sell or swap I know that flapping sound I hear will be the chickens coming home to roost.

If your interested in seeing what the Evil GM is selling on EBay check out this link.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Armistice Day

The BBC have put together an audio slide show featuring veterans memories of the War to end all Wars.

The BBC have also featured a number of other interesting articles for the anniversary. These include The Bloody Nightmare of the Somme and What is Grave of the Unknown Warrior?

Testing Customer Service

I've started work on a new FoW platoon, this time for my US forces. I'm working on the M10 3" GMC Tank Destroyer Platoon that I got when I took out my Wargames Illustrated Subscription.

Unfortunately my pack was missing a part - the turret counterweight - for one of the M10's. The open-topped turret housed a 50 caliber cannon, which fired armor piercing ammunition. This gun could penetrate 88mm of armor at a range of 1000 meters but the weight of the gun required a large counterweight in the rear of the turret. This boxed set contained two M10's but only one counterweight.

Fortunately Battlefront have a parts replacement service. I've heard that they are pretty good at sending out missing parts so here I am checking the service out! I'll keep you posted when and if I get the missing counterweight.